Modern culture rarely uses the word divination. (Unless you're a Harry Potter fan.) Saying that “divination is a sin” is likely to mean nothing to the general population. That doesn’t mean modern people never practice divination—we just have different terms for it. Fortune telling, palm reading, astrology, Ouija boards, reading tea leaves or tarot cards are all forms of what the Bible defines as “divination.” These activities are prohibited by Scripture and for good reason. Divination is deceptive and dangerous (Acts 16:16; 1 Samuel 15:23; Deuteronomy 18:10).
The word divination is based on a Latin word that literally means “from the gods;” it’s related to words like "divine" and "divinity." The basic idea behind most forms of divination is the concept that some spiritual force is providing answers people would not otherwise be able to find.
Finding answers by spiritual means when we're at a loss for answers is not always a bad thing—so long as the spiritual being we speak to is the One True God (James 1:5). But then, that's not the kind of "divining" the Bible is referring to when it prohibits divination.
God is not required to tell us everything we want to know. And that’s partly why people turn to things like fortune tellers and tarot cards. They want information, but they haven’t gotten the answers they seek—or the answers they truly really want.
Despite what the word originally meant, "divination" doesn’t provide information from “the gods” or the One True God...at all. That’s why it’s so dangerous. God gives us many ways to learn, including nature, our ability to use reason, and His Word (Job 12:7-10; Romans 1:20; 2 Timothy 3:16). Yet, that doesn’t mean we can know everything.
Sometimes, we hit the limits of what we can know or understand. Curious or desperate people may look for more answers—even the unknowable things—and, in some cases, that leads them to what the Bible defines as “divination.”
By definition, divination is a means of asking for information from sources that are not God and/or don’t agree with God. When the all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful Creator gives us methods A, B, and C to collect knowledge, and we choose method D, we’re literally asking for information from someone other than God.
When it comes to Ouija boards, tarot cards, palm reading, and the rest, that means communicating with spirits. And if the spirit isn’t aligned with God, it’s not one you want to be talking to. (Also see: What does the Bible say about talking to the dead?)
At “best,” divination is a waste of your valuable time. There’s nothing in the Bible or in scientific research that suggests you can get any truth by means of divination. The majority of psychics, mediums, fortune tellers, palm readers, and such are either sincerely mistaken or deliberately lying.
Anguished people often keep asking questions to whatever "divine force" they can until they get the answer they want to hear that will ease their suffering. Con artists know this and make a lot of money manipulating the emotions of wounded souls. (See 2 Kings 17:17; Jeremiah 14:14.)
At “worst,” you might run into the tiny fraction of diviners who have legitimate contact with a supernatural being. But—spoiler alert—a spiritual being that defies God’s will is also known as a “demon.” And that’s NOT the kind of creature you want to talk to or take advice from. Those beings have no interest in helping humanity, and anything they say or do is ultimately focused on hurting us. (See Acts 16:16-19.)
That means there are only two kinds of answers a person can get from divination: random nonsense or manipulated deception. Neither of those is helpful nor beneficial to one's life.
God doesn’t tell us “divination is a sin” just to stop people from looking for meaning at the bottom of a teacup, playing with mystical cards, or willing a planchette to move across a Ouija board. Rather, God is warning us not to ask questions in ways that cannot help, for those ways may end up causing a tremendous amount of hurt and confusion in the end.
Divination is the Bible’s term for trying to get information through spirits or conjuring spirits. Divination includes reading tarot cards, palm reading, fortune tellers, Ouija boards, astrology, and everything related to finding answers by means of a "spiritual being" (who is not God). God gives us plenty of ways to learn, such as using our logical minds and studying His Word. Methods like divination involve looking for answers in places we cannot find them. At best, divination is a waste of time. At worst, it means truly contacting a supernatural being who is opposed to God and eager to harm humanity.
Jeff is a staff writer with Got Questions Ministries and used to be a mechanical engineer. When he's not accidentally setting things on fire in his workshop, or petting strange dogs, he loves helping people better understand God’s Word and how it applies to our lives. Jeff's calling is to untangle the "big picture" of Christian faith, making it easier to understand.