What about all the magic in the Bible? Most of these things just don't seem possible. How did Moses turn his staff into a snake? Even if Moses produced this magic by the power of God, how did the Egyptians do likewise?
Sticks and snakes
When God was ready to deliver the Israelites from the land of Egypt, He told Moses to perform a miracle before Pharaoh to try to convince him to let His people go. Here is the description of the events from the Old Testament book of Exodus:
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "When Pharaoh says to you, 'Perform a miracle,' then say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,' and it will become a snake." So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts. (Exodus 7:8-11)
It is pretty clear from the description that Moses was just following directions and was not directly involved in transforming a stick into a snake.
Is magic possible?
True magic (not just sleight-of-hand) is impossible for human beings to perform. However, spiritual beings who exist in extra dimensions can easily perform acts that are impossible for those confined to our four space-time dimensions. According to the Bible, the beings capable of such feats are God and the angels. In the Bible, the feats themselves are called "miracles" or "signs." Since God told Moses to throw the stick, we assume that He was the one who actually performed the miracle and not Moses.
What about the Egyptians?
Although it is clear that God performed the miracle for Moses, how were the Egyptians able to perform those same signs? It seems unlikely that God would cause the Egyptians to perform the same miracle. However, the Bible clearly indicates that angels (both good and bad) are able to perform miracles and signs.1 Presumably, the demons (fallen angels) or Satan himself (another fallen angel) performed the miracle for the Egyptians. So, it would seem likely that the miracles of the Egyptians were real, not performed by the power of God, but by the power of demons. The demons would not want the Israelites to leave Egypt, since this was one of God's continuing prophecies,2 which would eventually culminate in the coming of Messiah. By encouraging Pharaoh to oppose the Israelites, the demons thought they could possibly thwart God's plans. It would not be the last time the demons would attempt to block God's plans. Satan himself (the ruler of the demons) entered Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus to the Sanhedrin (the ruling Jewish leaders), eventually resulting in His crucifixion.
Even though performed by "magicians," the "magic" found in the Bible are really miraculous signs performed by the power of God or angels. Although the Egyptians performed the same miracles, they did so most likely through the power of demons (fallen angels).
- The Extradimensional Nature of God
- Prophecies of Jesus Christ as Messiah
- Who is Satan?: What Does the Bible Say About the Devil?
- The demons are able to perform miracles!
- The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, (2 Thessalonians 2:9)
- For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. (Matthew 24:24)
- But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." (Matthew 12:24)
- They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. (Revelation 16:14)
- Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. (Revelation 13:11-14)
- But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. (Revelation 19:20)
- The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this
land." So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
"Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you [Isaac] and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham." (Genesis 26:3)
There above it stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you [Jacob] and your descendants the land on which you are lying." (Genesis 28:13)
"'And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.'" (Exodus 6:8)
- Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. (Luke 22:3)
We are what we think.
- 04/14/2015 02:11 AM
What Is Biblical Inerrancy? (Part 1)
Last month, I discussed canonicity and how we got the Protestant Bible (see part 1, part 2, and part 3). This week, RTB editor Maureen Moser rejoins me for a conversation about biblical inerrancy—a topic of much debate and importance … Continue reading
- 04/07/2015 02:12 AM
World Religions: The Buddha and the Christ
Among the world’s great religious leaders, only two had such a profound impact that contemporaries inquired as to the very nature of their being.1 People wondered whether Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) and Jesus of Nazareth (the Christ) were more than … Continue reading
- 03/31/2015 05:56 PM
God Incarnate: Jesus Christ’s Unique Identity
There’s no denying that Jesus Christ ranks high among the most controversial figures in human history. Orthodox Christians believe that Jesus Christ is both true God (the second Person of the Trinity) and true man (the Incarnate Son of God). … Continue reading
- 03/24/2015 02:27 AM
The Resurrection: Christianity’s Most Dangerous Idea
Originally published in Reasons to Believe’s ezine, New Reasons to Believe, vol. 2, no. 3 (2010) “Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”1 This line—from my favorite book in … Continue reading
- 03/17/2015 02:55 AM
More Deaths in the Name of God—or No Gods?
Originally published in Reasons to Believe’s ezine, New Reasons to Believe, vol. 2, no. 1 (2010) Great evil has been done in the name of Christ. This charge, a frequent objection to historic Christianity raised especially by the new atheist … Continue reading
- 03/10/2015 02:02 AM
God as the Source of Knowledge
Originally published in RTB’s ezine, New Reasons to Believe, vol. 1, no. 1 (2009) Does the Bible indicate where knowledge comes from? Since evolutionary processes can’t guarantee true beliefs naturalism as a worldview faces insurmountable problems. For its part, the … Continue reading
- 03/03/2015 02:08 AM
World Religions: The Sage and the Savior
Among the world’s great religious leaders, two became far-reaching moral instructors of humanity. Confucius (the sage) laid down the ethical foundation for much of Asian civilization. Jesus of Nazareth (the Savior) taught moral lessons that distinctly shaped the ethical nature … Continue reading
- 02/24/2015 02:31 AM
How We Got the Bible, Part 3
This week we’ll be finishing up a series on the biblical canon, a topic that has been a source of discussion, debate, and controversy since the beginning of Christianity. We’ve covered the doctrine of divine inspiration and standards for recognizing … Continue reading
- 02/18/2015 12:07 PM
How We Got the Bible, Part 2
Last week RTB editor Maureen Moser and I began a discussion of the biblical canon, including the doctrine of inspiration and the criteria for recognizing canon, particularly for the New Testament. But as we noted, the branches of Christendom view … Continue reading
- 02/10/2015 02:22 AM
How We Got the Bible, Part 1
Earlier this year, scholars announced the discovery of what might be the oldest known copy of the Gospel of Mark (see here and here). A fragment of Mark’s book was found on ancient papyrus used to create a mummy mask. … Continue reading
Last Modified February 17, 2011