of false prophets (Deut. 18:10, 14; Micah 3:6, 7, 11), of
necromancers (1 Sam. 28:8), of the Philistine priests and
diviners (1 Sam. 6:2), of Balaam (Josh. 13:22). Three kinds of
divination are mentioned in Ezek. 21:21, by arrows, consulting
with images (the teraphim), and by examining the entrails of
animals sacrificed. The practice of this art seems to have been
encouraged in ancient Egypt. Diviners also abounded among the
aborigines of Canaan and the Philistines (Isa. 2:6; 1 Sam. 28).
At a later period multitudes of magicians poured from Chaldea
and Arabia into the land of Israel, and pursued their
occupations (Isa. 8:19; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chr. 33:6). This
superstition widely spread, and in the time of the apostles
there were "vagabond Jews, exorcists" (Acts 19:13), and men like
Simon Magus (Acts 8:9), Bar-jesus (13:6, 8), and other jugglers
and impostors (19:19; 2 Tim. 3:13). Every species and degree of
this superstition was strictly forbidden by the law of Moses
(Ex. 22:18; Lev. 19:26, 31; 20:27; Deut. 18:10, 11).
But beyond these various forms of superstition, there are
instances of divination on record in the Scriptures by which God
was pleased to make known his will.
(1.) There was divination by lot, by which, when resorted to
in matters of moment, and with solemnity, God intimated his will
(Josh. 7:13). The land of Canaan was divided by lot (Num. 26:55,
56); Achan's guilt was detected (Josh. 7:16-19), Saul was
elected king (1 Sam. 10:20, 21), and Matthias chosen to the
apostleship, by the solem lot (Acts 1:26). It was thus also that
the scape-goat was determined (Lev. 16:8-10).
(2.) There was divination by dreams (Gen. 20:6; Deut. 13:1, 3;
Judg. 7:13, 15; Matt. 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). This is
illustrated in the history of Joseph (Gen. 41:25-32) and of
Daniel (2:27; 4:19-28).
(3.) By divine appointment there was also divination by the
Urim and Thummim (Num. 27:21), and by the ephod.
(4.) God was pleased sometimes to vouch-safe direct vocal
communications to men (Deut. 34:10; Ex. 3:4; 4:3; Deut. 4:14,
15; 1 Kings 19:12). He also communed with men from above the
mercy-seat (Ex. 25:22), and at the door of the tabernacle (Ex.
(5.) Through his prophets God revealed himself, and gave
intimations of his will (2 Kings 13:17; Jer. 51:63, 64).
occurs only in the superscription (which is probably spurious,
and is altogether omitted in the R.V.) to the Second Epistle to
Timothy. He became emperor of Rome when he was about seventeen
years of age (A.D. 54), and soon began to exhibit the character
of a cruel tyrant and heathen debauchee. In May A.D. 64, a
terrible conflagration broke out in Rome, which raged for six
days and seven nights, and totally destroyed a great part of the
city. The guilt of this fire was attached to him at the time,
and the general verdict of history accuses him of the crime.
"Hence, to suppress the rumour," says Tacitus (Annals, xv. 44),
"he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most
exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who
are hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that
name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate,
procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius; but the
pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again,
not only throughout Judea, where the mischief originated, but
through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and
disgraceful flow, from all quarters, as to a common receptacle,
and where they are encouraged. Accordingly, first three were
seized, who confessed they were Christians. Next, on their
information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the
charge of burning the city as of hating the human race. And in
their deaths they were also made the subjects of sport; for they
were covered with the hides of wild beasts and worried to death
by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and, when day
declined, burned to serve for nocturnal lights. Nero offered his
own gardens for that spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game,
indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the habit of
a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot; whence a feeling
of compassion arose toward the sufferers, though guilty and
deserving to be made examples of by capital punishment, because
they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but victims
to the ferocity of one man." Another Roman historian, Suetonius
(Nero, xvi.), says of him: "He likewise inflicted punishments on
the Christians, a sort of people who hold a new and impious
superstition" (Forbes's Footsteps of St. Paul, p. 60).
Nero was the emperor before whom Paul was brought on his first
imprisonment at Rome, and the apostle is supposed to have
suffered martyrdom during this persecution. He is repeatedly
alluded to in Scripture (Acts 25:11; Phil. 1:12, 13; 4:22). He
died A.D. 68.