Bible Notes: Ancient and Modern Necromancy, alias Mesmerism and Hypnotism, Denounced

Originally appeared on

Hebrew: Isaiah 29:8 It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.

This verse is remarkable for the precision of its metaphor. Like a deft surgeon, it opens the understanding to how deception operates in human experience and removes its allure. Isa. 29:1-8 is an oracle in which Jerusalem is in trouble, perhaps through corruption of her festivals with strange Canaanite practices. The warfare against mount Zion is partially a metaphor for the conquest of Israelite worship by the vast majority of pantheistic nations. Mount Zion is the height upon which David founded his capital city of Jerusalem and there the Temple was built. Isaiah also called Zion by the name Ariel (ar-ee-eyl’) in v. 7, a word that has three possible meanings: the hearth of the Temple altar, or My Light is God, or My Lion is God. The Temple Mount certainly stood for true worship, and Isaiah’s point is that nothing can be gained by suppressing true worship. Idolatrous practices are like dream states, imitating satisfaction but leaving the soul famished. Nefesh (neh’-fesh) is a word having many meanings in Hebrew, including soul, life, creature, desire, appetite, breath (throat, neck), mind, emotion, or individuality, but in this case it corresponds nicely to the unassuaged sensation of hunger or thirst.

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