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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Exodus 22

Exodus 22:18

18. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

18. Maleficam non pateris vivere.


18. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. In these passages the punishment of those is appointed who should in any respect violate the worship of God. We have lately seen how severely God avenged apostasy from the faith; but now He touches upon certain particular points when religion is not professedly forsaken, but some corruption is introduced, whereby its purity is affected. The first passage denounces capital punishment upon witches; by which name Moses means enchantresses, or sorceresses, who devote themselves to magic arts, either to injure persons by their fascinations, or to seek revelations from the devil; such as she was whom Saul consulted, although she might be called by a different name  65 Since such illusions carry with them a wicked renunciation of God, no wonder that He would have them punished with death. But since this pestilent crime would be no more tolerable in a man than a woman, it has been probably supposed that the law was directed against women, because their sex is more disposed to superstition. Certainly the same enactment is made respecting males in De 18:1,  66 only the punishment is not there denounced, but God merely prohibits any of the people from being an enchanter or a witch. Now it is clear that all the kinds which are there recited, are here included under one; so that God would condemn to capital punishment all augurs, and magicians, and consulters with familiar spirits, and necromancers and followers of magic arts, as well as enchanters. And this will appear more plainly from the second and third passages, in which God declares that He “will set. His face against all, that shall turn after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards,” so as to cut them off from His people; and then commands that they should be destroyed by stoning. Wherefore, since it is not just that men should escape with impunity, when the infirmity of women is not spared, nor that dissimilar sentences should be pronounced in similar cases, the same punishment which was decreed against witches and enchantresses, is now extended to either sex, and to all magical superstitions. In the words also “that turneth to go a whoring,” the atrocity of the crime is again expressed, the similitude being taken from immodest women, who seek with wandering glances for the indulgence of their lust. Moses, therefore, signifies that, as soon as we begin to cast our eyes this way and that, and do not keep them fixed on God alone so as to be content with Him, that sacred union  67 is violated wherein He has bound us to Himself.



It is said of the woman, (1Sa 18:7,) that “she had a familiar spirit,” (אוב See vol. 1, p. 428; the word here used is מכשפהfrom כשף, praestigiis uti. Taylor’s Concordance.


See ante, vol. 1, p. 426, on Deuteronomy 18:10.


Le mariage spirituel."—Fr.

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