Should Witches Be Killed Today?
The practice of witchcraft has been in existence for a long time. Equally, killing of witches have been a practice that has been occurring since antiquity. It has been estimated that tens of thousands of people were executed for witchcraft in Europe and the American colonies over several hundred years.The early Christians in Europe were the once first recorded in history to have had encounters with the witchcraft.
Their perception of witches as evil creatures inspired the Halloween figure exhibiting different kinds of images from a wart-nosed woman huddling over a cauldron of boiling liquid to a hag-faced, cackling being riding throughout the sky on brooms wearing pointy hats.
From scriptural perspective, one of the earliest records of a witch is seen in 1 Samuel, thought to be written between 931 B.C. and 721 B.C. It was recorded that King Saul sought the witch of Endor to summon the dead prophet Samuel’s spirit to help him defeat the Philistine army.
However, our focus on this article is on a famous verse that condemns witches—Exodus 22:18, it says, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” This is probably the biggest reference point for ardent witch-hunting criminals all over the world. Sadly, many of this witch-hunting are done in churches where the Christians ardently pray for the death of witches.
Without a doubt, this idea leads them to see nothing wrong in physically executing someone whom they believe to be a witch. One sad story of witch-hunting recently occurred in India. BBC news website states that the police in India are searching for suspects in connection with the murder of a woman and her four children who were accused of being ‘witches’. 
The main accused, who has been arrested, claimed to be ‘witch doctor’. He has accused Mrs Munda and her children, who lived in a tribal settlement in Sundergarh district, of ‘casting spells’ on another family in the same village.
Is Witch-Killing Justifiable?
If you observe closely, you’ll notice that the arrest of the witch-hunting witch doctor in India seemed to defy the scriptural rule that says to kill witches, thereby making the man justified in his action and arresting him somehow how shows rebellion against spiritual authority. Hence, that begs the question, “Should withes be killed today?” Because during the bible says, people seemed to know nothing was wrong with killing witches, after all, you might say, “God said to kill them.”
Are we still supposed to obey God or obey the law of the land that prohibits taking the life of another man? Without a fuss, let’s just admit that there are many things that were believed in a certain biblical and historical period that clearly doesn’t hold water today anymore.
Of course, no one should be encouraged to engage in witchcraft, in the same way no one should be encouraged to engage in stealing, cybercrime or any kind of morally and/or spiritually degrading activity. Nonetheless, should we take the law into our hands and kill a fellow human? What if we’re actually misinterpreting the bible, given the scriptures were originally written in Hebrew and it’s possible the translators made mistakes in translating the word “witch”. The idea of possible misinterpretation and mistranslation of that popular bible verse that has led to numerous burning and public executions of witches might sound ludicrous, but a little study will prove otherwise.
First, the original Hebrew word used in Exodus, translated as “witch”, is mekhashepha. But what that word actually means can only be proposed at best, because no one really knows. When the book of Exodus was written thousands of years ago, we cannot know, leaving us only with modern interpretation as opposed to accurate, straight-forward translation.
Several scholars proposed different translation. First, the root word, kashaph, is translated as muttering by a group of scholars because they believe a witch is one who practices magic by using occult formula, incantations, and mystic mutterings. However, others translated the word as “to cut”; implying cutting herbs.
In the Septuagint, mekhashepha was translated into pharmakeia, which is translated as “herbalist.” However, Reginald Scott, a British scholar translated pharmakeia to mean “poisoner” in his book The Discoveries of Witchcraft.
Looking at these different translations, might Exodus refer to herbalists or poisoners, instead of witches? The word mekhashepha also appears in Deuteronomy 18:9-10 where those whose practices God considers to be abomination. This isn’t necessarily because those practices make them sorcerers; it puts them in the same category.
The main reason why these practices are regarded as an abomination is because they’re pagan practices, not because they practiced magic. Magic could not have been a total anathema to the Jewish people for because Jewish magical text existed during the Palestinian, Babylonian and Cairo Genizah periods. Also, there was generally accepted magic; the problem was that some used it for evil. Otherwise, King Saul wouldn’t have been able to employ the services of the witch of Endor 1 Samuel, because he’d probably have been killed already—maybe by Saul himself.
The Latin Vulgated Bible explains this by translating mekhashepha as evildoer, not “witch” or “sorcerer”. This shows, as earlier hinted, that practitioners were either good or evil. Hence the division between white magic practiced by diviners and black magic practiced by sorcerers.
As a result of this, taking the bible literally where it said “suffer not a witch to live” will automatically include those who practiced white magic. Of course, the ancients abhorred witchcraft too, but not totally. The 18th century B.C.E Babylonian code of law sentenced on anyone who used magic to harm another states: “If anyone ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he cannot prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.”
Looking at a definitive translation of Exodus, we cannot know if the verse in question meant poisoners, herbalists or people who used magic for evil. Therefore, the witch-hunting that Europe suffered was based on superstitious nonsense with no basis on Bible or reality.
Coming back to the 21st century, since, Exodus have been successfully misinterpreted, mistranslated and misapplied, and because we cannot change past events, we must therefore address the subject of witch killing with an assumption that the translation “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” is correct. By the way, there is an argument that “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” isn’t the same as “Thou shalt put a witch to death” because we could deliver them from their diabolism without necessarily taking their very lives. But we’ll leave that argument alone for now. Hence, let’s assume that the bible accurately said to kill witches in the Old Testament—Exodus. But does that mean we’re free to do the same under the New Testament?
In the Old Testament, a lot of killings were carried out which was perfectly legal. For example, those who did any work on the Sabbath day were meant to be put to death according to Exodus 31:15. However, when Jesus, the Christ came on the scene, he changed everything. He condemned killing people for going against the commandments of the law, even when they made arguments like “Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned to death”; he wouldn’t budge. He went ahead to challenge those religious, blood thirsty Pharisees who wanted to kill the woman caught in the act of adultery with his own counter-argument: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Clearly, Jesus’ argument proved stronger than theirs because they all dropped their stones and left her unhurt.
The Old Testament God Vs. New Testament God
Jesus is the revelation of the father in the New Testament. Revelation is progressive. It doesn’t matter what you believe but God doesn’t kill people today; neither does he want anyone to be killed. A witch is first a human made in the image and likeness of God before anything else. God would rather prefer that everyone comes back to him. [God] is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 2:9).
This then begs the question, is God in the Old Testament, who asked us to kill witches, different from the God in the New Testament? Because of how he related to people in the Old Testament, many people believe God is a wicked, petty sensitive individual that hates witches and sinner, too, and surely cannot wait to kill them. For example, In the book The God Delusion, noted atheist Richard Dawkins describes the God of the Old Testament as “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Is God the same way today? Or was he ever this way? A good Old Testament reference to God’s attitude toward witches and wicked people is seen in Ezekiel 18:23. In this scripture God was recorder to have stated: “Do you think I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live” (NLT). This sound very similar to Peter’s writing in the New Testament—2 Peter 2:9. And that explains that some people might have got God completely misunderstood.
Our relationship with God is dynamic, not static. The same rule applies with our revelation of him. A parent, for example, might permit a younger child to behave in a certain way—even when that behaviour is not ultimately the parent’s will—because the child simply doesn’t know better. Later, however, as the child grows and becomes more responsible, higher standards are imposed. In the same way, many practices permitted in the Old Testament (polygamy, for example) are later regarded as outside of God’s will for his people. As God’s people grow, so do God’s expectations.
Now, let me clear the air right away: I am not a witch. I’m just a child of God that believes God’s desire isn’t that witches are killed; he loves witches and wants them alive and saved. Otherwise he’ll have killed Saul who later became the great apostle Paul.
Let’s stop witch hunting. It doesn’t depict the nature of God which is love. The bible today asks us to love our enemies (Matt.5:44). We ought not to let the wickedness of the wicked make us even more wicked. We can only change the world through love, not hate.
Research has shown that people are not motivated to change through fear as much as they are through love. Fear doesn’t motivate toward constructive action, it only motivates towards even more destructive action. People challenged with fear see it as a challenge indeed; they always want to prove that you’re not scary enough to stop them. Therefore, if you want to stop witches, show them God’s nature of love, not Satan’s nature of hate. God surely has more power than Satan, so does love, because God is love.
© 2019 Matthew Joseph