What did the Jews do when a person was tormented by demons?
Now the Spirit of the LORD had left King Saul, and the LORD sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear. Some of Saul’s servants said to him, “A tormenting spirit from God is troubling you. Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again.” (1 Samuel 16:14-16)
In Jewish theology, the scholars believed that everything came from God, even tormenting spirits. They had very little insight on Satan and the kingdom of darkness. Thus, soothing music was sometimes used to stabilize a tormented person. This was, in fact, the reason David was first introduced to King Saul.
The Jews also had exorcists who traveled from town to town. These men were basically fortune tellers, conmen, and magicians who put on a show and received money for their services. Spells and enchantments were uttered by them to heal sick people and to cast out demons.
It’s interesting to note that these exorcists did use a name to command the demons to leave people. As stated by Josephus, the historian, the name used by the exorcists was supposedly that of Solomon because the king wrote a book on magical healing and exorcism.
“In the name of Solomon, we command the demons to leave you!”
How successful were these Jewish exorcists?
A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” (Acts 19:13)
Obviously, the income for the Jewish exorcists had dropped quite a bit when Jesus and the apostles arrived on the scene. To compensate for their losses, the above group quit using the name of Solomon and began using the name of Jesus in their exorcisms.
What then happened to the seven sons of a leading Jewish priest named Sceva is one of the funniest stories in the Bible:
But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered. (Acts 19:15-16)
Why did this happen to the seven sons of Sceva?
(Continued in Part 4)