In Genesis 44:5 (NASB)

Is this not that from which my lord drinks, and which he indeed uses for divination? (...)

and in Genesis 44:15 (NASB)

Joseph said to them, “What is this thing that you have done? Do you not know that a man who is like me can indeed practice divination?”

Both of these passages combined seem to indicate that Joseph practised divination (which is what makes me disagree with the marked as accepted answer to this question).

In Deuteronomy 18:10 (NASB)

There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, a soothsayer, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,

Could God be ok with some types of divination? (Like Joseph's type)

  • 2
    The only way in which Joseph could explain his gift to the people of Egypt was to couch it in terms which they would understand. The reference to 'cup' and 'drinking' is surely an allusion. (Up-voted +1).
    – Nigel J
    Jan 16 at 14:28

Joseph was pretending (as a ruse) to make himself look like a typical pagan ruler so as not to raise the suspicions of his brothers. Of course he would claim that he used the special cup for divination. According to Barnes (as per comments in Gen 44:5) and the Cambridge Commentary, such "hydromancy" was common for ancient rulers.

However, Joseph was a prophet of God and had the spiritual gifts of

  • interpretation of dreams as evidenced by the baker and butler and Pharaoh's dreams
  • administration as evidenced by his administration of Potiphar's house, The jail, and being prime minister of Egypt.

He did not need divination and would have known that such was forbidden by worshipers of the true God of heaven.

Again, the claims about cup and divination was part of Joseph's ruse to discover the truth about his brother's characters and whether they had reformed in the previous 22 years.

Nothing in this story really suggests that Joseph actually used divination. Gill (on Gen 44:5) arrives at a similar understanding:

as Joseph never practised any thing of this kind, so neither would he dissemble, or make as if he did; though it must be owned that the Arabs in Egypt at this day pretend to consult with the cup and divine by it

  • 4
    “He did not need divination and would have known that such was forbidden by worshipers of the true God of heaven.” Would he have known? The “law” hadn’t been given to Israel yet.
    – ARich
    Jan 16 at 20:04
  • 1
    @ARich - that is obviously true but most of the basic laws such as prohibitions of murder, idolatry, false gods and divination, etc, were known well before Sinai.
    – Dottard
    Jan 17 at 20:48
  • 1
    @ARich - look carefully at the Noahide covenant in Gen 8 & 9 and the Jewish understanding of that.
    – Dottard
    Jan 17 at 22:57
  • 1
    @ARich - I think that would be the productive subject of another question. In this case the act of divination is a denial of the sovereign power and authority of YHWH and thus would have always been a sin. Just as Cain was held responsible for murder before the 10 commandments or Noahide covenant.
    – Dottard
    Jan 18 at 2:23
  • 1
    @TiagoMartinsPeres李大仁 - what might be useful and the subject of another question is the extent to which Torah laws were known before Sinai to which I would be happy to respond.
    – Dottard
    Feb 9 at 20:22

In Genesis 44:5 Joseph told his steward to go after his brothers and charge them with stealing “the cup his master drinks from and also uses for divination.” When Joseph’s brothers were brought back Joseph asked them “Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?” (NIV)

What Joseph said to his brothers was intended to suggest that his brothers had committed a crime by supposedly stealing Joseph’s cup. At first glance, it looks like Joseph practiced divination but we must put his words into context. Joseph resorted to duplicity and subterfuge in order to trap his brothers. His accusations were false and there is no evidence in the Genesis account of Joseph’s life that he was into divination. All Joseph wanted was to get his family to come to Egypt and avoid the famine that God had foretold in a dream.

Although the Egyptians and other pagan nations used divination, practised sorcery and interpreted omens, it was strictly forbidden to Israel (see Leviticus 29:26 and Deuteronomy 18:10, 14). Worth noting is the fact that the events in Genesis 44 were pre-Exodus and therefore before the Mosaic Law was handed down by God to Moses:

>The Lord said to Moses... Do not practise divination or sorcery (Leviticus 19:26).

The answer to your question is no, God does not condone sorcery.

Oops! I had not seen Dottard's answer before I posted this.

  • Thanks for helping me understand. This part of your answer is very helpful......Worth noting is the fact that the events in Genesis 44 were pre-Exodus and therefore before the Mosaic Law was handed down by God to Moses:
    – Bagpipes
    Jan 17 at 12:58
  • 1
    @Bagpipes You are most welcome. I always learn something new when I look into these questions.
    – Lesley
    Jan 17 at 17:22

Absolutely. He even commands it.

Leviticus 16:6-10 NASB

6 Then Aaron shall offer the bull as the [i]sin offering, which is for himself, so that he may make atonement for himself and for his household. 7 He shall then take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 8 Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for [j]the [k]scapegoat. 9 Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make it a [l]sin offering. 10 But the goat on which the lot for [m]the [n]scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness [o]as the [p]scapegoat.

Also, Acts 1:23-26 NASB

23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all people, show which one of these two You have chosen 25 to [a]occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they [b]drew lots for them, and the lot fell [c]to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

There are many more examples on the Wikipedia page for Cleromancy in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

  • Also casting lots in the book Jonah; Urim and Thummim -- David and others used divination.
    – Robert
    Jan 17 at 22:08

In Genesis 44:5 (NASB)

Is this not that from which my lord drinks, and which he indeed uses for divination? (...)

There is no reason to believe that Joseph actually employed any form of divination. We need to know the circumstances under which the statement was made.

About 13 years earlier his brothers sold him to slavery in Egypt, Joseph did not reveal himself to them but instead decided to test them. He obviously wanted to know the genuineness of their repentance, he wanted to find out whether​ and to what degre they loved their brother Benjamin and their father, Jacob, who was especially fond of Benjamin. Thus, Joseph resorted to a ruse.​

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