2-2-1-8 Exorcism Of Demons
Throughout Old and New Testament times there was the belief that by calling the name of a god over a sick person, demons could be exorcised (cp. Acts 19:13). The name of the false god was held to have some mystical power. The true worship of Yahweh also placed great importance on the power of the Name of Israel’s God, e.g.: “May the name of the God of Jacob defend thee…Save me, O God, by thy Name” (Ps. 20:1; 54:1). The fundamental difference between the Name of Yahweh and that of other gods was that the Yahweh Name was both a declaration of His character and also a prophecy of His people’s eternal future; therefore it was a means of real salvation. However, Yahweh evidently did not devise a system of worship for Israel which shied as far away as possible from using the language of contemporary beliefs. He revealed Himself in a way which showed His supremacy over those beliefs. Understanding this paves the way for a correct grasp of the New Testament language of demons. Christ spoke as if pagan exorcists had power (Matt. 12:27); it was only indirectly that he taught his superiority over them. There is much emphasis on the use of the name of Christ to cast out demons/heal diseases (Mk. 16:17; Acts 3:6; 4:10; 16:18; 19:13-16; James 5:14). This has some similarity with the way in which the pagans repeated the names of their gods to exorcise what they believed to be demons. We can therefore come to the conclusion that in the demonstration of His power as being greater than that of other ‘gods’ and so-called ‘demons’, Yahweh is very indirect about it, and does so through alluding closely to the style and language which those false systems used. If this is truly appreciated, it will be evident that just because the New Testament sometimes uses the style and language of the surrounding paganism, this is no proof that those pagan beliefs have any substance.
The conclusion is that the Bible uses language which is riddled with allusions to surrounding pagan beliefs, in order to demonstrate the supremacy of Yahweh worship over them. Yahweh was not just another god who took his place amongst the pantheon of deities the Canaanite people believed in. The God of Israel was the only true God. He was therefore in active antagonism towards the claims of the other gods; hence Yahweh continually alludes to them in His self-revelation through His word. But His style is evidently not to criticize those gods in so many words. This would be altogether too human for the Maker of Heaven and earth.