What does Exodus 22:17 really mean?

Exodus 22:17 is about the seriousness of witchcraft and sorcery, warning against allowing those practices to exist among God’s people.

17 You shall not permit a sorceress to live.


Setting the Scene for Exodus 22:17

In Exodus 22:17, the scene is set in a small village in ancient Israel. The sun is setting, casting a warm golden glow over the dusty streets lined with simple clay houses. A group of villagers has gathered in the central square, where a small fire crackles in the center, sending tendrils of smoke into the evening sky. The air is filled with the sound of children playing and the distant bleating of sheep.

Among the villagers are the elders of the community, distinguished by their long white beards and weathered faces. They have convened to settle a dispute between two families over a matter of dowry. The families stand on opposite sides of the fire, their faces tense with emotion as they plead their cases before the elders. The village chief, a wise and respected man, listens intently, his brow furrowed in thought as he considers the arguments presented before him.

As the discussion continues, the villagers look to the chief for guidance, knowing that his decision will bring resolution to the conflict and restore peace to their community. The scene is a testament to the importance of justice and fairness in ancient Israel, where disputes were settled through dialogue and mediation rather than through violence or retribution.

What is Exodus 22:17 about?

A strong statement that may seem harsh at first glance is seen in this verse from the Book of Exodus. It is essential to understand the historical and cultural context of the time when this verse was written. The ancient Israelites were surrounded by various practices of sorcery and witchcraft that involved invoking spirits and seeking power outside of God. Hence, this command was part of God’s plan to protect His people from harmful influences and keep them focused on Him as the ultimate source of power and guidance. Believers can see this verse as a reminder to prioritize their faith in God above all as we reflect on it. It serves as a call to steer clear of practices or individuals that may lead us away from following God wholeheartedly. This verse in our modern context can caution against seeking power, control, or guidance from sources that are contrary to God’s teachings and principles. Rather, it encourages us to trust in God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and protection in all aspects of our lives.

So, as we ponder on this verse, let us consider how we can align our beliefs and actions with God’s will and choose to walk in His ways. Influences or practices in my life that stray me from following God faithfully – let us ask ourselves. How can I deepen my trust in God’s power and guidance, instead of seeking it through other means? May this verse remind us of the importance of seeking God’s will above all else and trusting in His plan for our lives.

Understanding what Exodus 22:17 really means

In the Book of Exodus, amidst a collection of laws and regulations given to the Israelites, we encounter a verse that addresses the prohibition against allowing a sorceress to live among the people. This directive is part of a broader set of social and moral laws aimed at fostering a community that is both just and holy. The seriousness with which such practices were viewed is further emphasized in related passages like Leviticus 20:27, Deuteronomy 18:10-12, and even in the New Testament in Galatians 5:19-21, where sorcery is condemned as contrary to living by the Spirit.

While the cultural context may have evolved, the underlying principle of steering clear of practices that distance us from God remains pertinent today. This extends beyond literal sorcery to encompass any behaviors or beliefs that compromise our faith or lead us away from spiritual wholeness. Just as the Israelites were called to uphold standards of holiness, we are likewise challenged to maintain spiritual integrity in a world filled with distractions and temptations.

Imagine a community where individuals are deeply invested in each other’s spiritual growth, where gentle guidance and correction are offered out of love and concern for one another’s well-being. In such a community, the prohibition against sorcery serves as a reminder to safeguard our spiritual health and to actively discourage practices that hinder our relationship with God. The phrase “shall not permit” underscores the gravity of the command, highlighting that it is not a mere suggestion but a mandate to be followed diligently.

The term “sorceress” denotes someone involved in occult practices, and the severe punishment prescribed in the verse underscores the importance of maintaining spiritual purity. By delving into the historical context, exploring related passages, and grasping the underlying principles, we glean insights into the enduring relevance of this ancient directive. It beckons us to cultivate lives that align with God’s will and to foster communities that uphold values of faith, integrity, and mutual support in our modern context.

Can we discern good from evil in our lives?

The verse from Exodus 22:17 speaks about the importance of discerning good from evil in our lives. It reminds us of our inherent ability as humans to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong. This discernment is crucial for making wise decisions and living a morally upright life. We can choose to align ourselves with goodness and righteousness by understanding and identifying good and evil, leading to a more fulfilling and purposeful life. Discerning good from evil in the context of this verse requires a deeper reflection on our thoughts, actions, and intentions. It involves constant self-examination and a willingness to acknowledge and confront the darker aspects of our nature. By striving to choose what is good and right, we not only benefit ourselves but also contribute to a more just and harmonious society. This verse serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding moral values and seeking goodness in our daily lives. Our spiritual and moral development fundamentally relies on our ability to discern good from evil. It empowers us to make ethical choices, cultivate virtues, and strive towards a higher standard of living. We can navigate life’s challenges with integrity and lead a life that is pleasing to both ourselves and to a higher power by embracing a mindset that values goodness and righteousness.


Just as we follow the instructions of our superiors at work for a successful career, let us also heed the guidance of authority figures in our personal lives. By showing respect and honor towards those in positions of authority, we contribute to a cohesive and structured community, enriching our relationships along the way. So, how will you actively display reverence and compliance towards the authorities in your life for a more harmonious existence?