While I was on my way home one day, I saw a sign for a Christian camp called “Camp Kesem.” The name almost brought me to tears with laughter. Why, you ask?

Kesem (קסם) means “divination” in Hebrew. In biblical parlance, divination is the attempt to foretell the future through the generation and interpretation of signs and portents. It was a common practice in ancient cultures and is portrayed both positively and negatively in the Hebrew Bible.

While Scripture condemns a wide range of diviners and practices in divination (see, e.g., Deuteronomy 18:9-14), it also approves of divination (קסם; kesem) for certain purposes. For example, “Urim” (אוּרִים) and “Thummim” (תֻּמִּֽים), elements on the high priests’ breastplate (חשׁן; hoshen), are approved divinatory devices that God encourages the kohanim (כֹּהֲנִים; “priests”) to use in determining the divine will (cf. Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 14:41; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65). We don’t know exactly what these items were or what they looked like, but apparently the Urim and Thummim were acceptable divining items.

Divination was also prevalent throughout the Second Temple period, especially in regard to healing the sick and seeking the protection of households. The Aramaic incantation bowls attest to this practice. While those Jews holding to biblical ideals would have rejected the use of magic bowls, many still believed this type of divination could encourage the Lord to protect them.

Were the kids at this Christian camp learning divination? Surely not. But the name of the camp is certainly concerning from a Hebraic perspective! This is why it’s important to know the definitional background and cultural meaning of Hebrew words if modern readers are going to rightly understand the Bible.

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63 COMMENTS

  1. ahaaa.. that last paragraph in blue ink is totally correct in my lack of knowledge.. children allowed to go there..? to learn evil stuff.. even divining rods to look for water was a part of divination.. this newspaper is full of such interesting information.. woww. i am amazed at what i have read so far.. shalom, helena
    • Why do you think it is evil to divine for water? Don’t get carried away by some of these preachers. Some of them will have you so twisted up you will be thinking up is down. You have a good name, Helena.
    • I'm a Messianic Priesthood holder and have Tremendous Respect for the Jewish Culture and Hebrew language. But many Christians do not! So I am going to use this example to help encourage them to
      learn more about it!😇
      Thanks Shalom 🙏
  2. Thanks Professors for this wonderful writing. Please can you give examples of Yeshua our perfect example using divinations at any instance or an approval of it in his words or teachings. Thank you
  3. Divine describes something that is coming from God or has origin in Him. Divination is an act of consulting with spirits.

    If we are in prayer, are we not consulting with help of the Holy Spirit ( He intercedes for us); so meditative prayer in some ways can be termed divination but a good or holy form of it. Communicating with our Source/Creator and Father and getting guidance is by most definitions a form of acceptable divination. We are not seeking help from mediums or sorcerers but from God Himself via the Holy Spirit.
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