Why shouldn't people communicate with the dead?

According to Deuteronomy 18:9-12, such practices as divination, sorcery, interpretation of omens, witchcraft, casting spells, and consulting with the dead are detestable to God. Leviticus 19:31 says, "Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them," and Leviticus 20:6 warns that the Lord will set his face against those who prostitute themselves by following mediums and spiritists. According to Leviticus 20:27, a man or woman who was a medium or spiritist was to be stoned to death. Biblically, there are different forms of necromancy, or consulting with the dead. One was conjuring the spirit of the dead directly from the grave, such as when King Saul had the witch of Endor consult with the deceased Samuel (1 Samuel 28:6-20, 1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Another is listening to conversations of spirits, mentioned in Isaiah 65:4. A third form is possession by spirits who speak through the medium, such as the woman of Philippi in Acts 16:16-18 who could predict future events and who followed Paul and Silas around proclaiming them as men of God. The reasons for not consulting the dead are as follows:

  1. First and foremost, God forbids it. Such acts are foreign to the God of Israel. The Lord warned the Israelites not to practice the religious customs of those who inhabited the lands they were going to inherit. One example was Manasseh, king of Judah, who erected altars to Baal, made Asherah poles, worshiped the stars, built altars to false gods in the Lord's temple, sacrificed his son by fire, practiced divination and sorcery, and consulted with spiritists and mediums, which caused the Lord to burn with anger and brought the Assyrians to take him prisoner by a hook in his nose (2 Kings 21:1-18, 2 Chronicles 33:1-20).

  2. According to Isaiah 8:19-22, why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Why not inquire of God, who forms the spirit of man within him (Zechariah 12:1) and who alone gives life to the dead (Romans 4:17)? If God does not answer directly, then the Scriptures should have the answers (Isaiah 8:20). As Saul found out when God did not answer him, consulting with the dead only disturbed the deceased, fueled his existing fears, and brought further destruction. The dead know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5), they reside in darkness (Psalm 88:3-12, 143:3, Isaiah 3:6, Lamentations 3:6), in silence (Psalm 115:17), and lie in anguish and mourn only for themselves (Job 14:22, 26:5). Even if the dead could be consulted about their mistakes in life, it would not benefit the stubbornness of the living (Luke 16:27-31). Instead, consult Christ, who is Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:9).

  3. When consulting the dead, it is a spirit realm that is being contacted (Isaiah 14:9). Spirits are often evil and dangerous. Jesus cast out evil spirits from people (Matthew 8:16, 10:1, Mark 1:23-26, 7:25-30, Luke 4:33-37, 6:18, 7:21) and recognized that unclean spirits were the cause of some illnesses (Mark 3:10-11, 9:17-29, Luke 9:37-43, 13:10-13). There are spirits of prostitution that lead people astray (Hosea 4:12, 5:4), spirits of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2), spirits of impurity (Zechariah 13:2), of stupor (Romans 11:8), of torment (Acts 5:16), of deception (1 Timothy 4:1), and even spirits of dizziness (Isaiah 19:14). There is also the spirit of the antichrist in the world, which imparts false prophecy (1 John 4:1-3). Spirits will use mediums as hosts to operate through and communicate with the living, even if not directly invited. Sometimes when the spirit leaves after it is done, it may return to inhabit the body with other spirits more wicked than itself (Matthew 12:43-45, Luke 11:24-26). Spirits have been known to work in teams to increase their power over the living, such as the spirit named Legion who inhabited the man from the tombs of the region of the Gerasenes, whom Jesus cast out into a herd of pigs (Mark 5:1-13, Luke 8:26-33). Other spirits have been known to single-handedly overpower several men through one host, such as the man possessed by an evil spirit who severely beat the seven sons of Sceva in an attempt to cast it out (Acts 19:13-16).

  4. Who knows the plight of the dead? If the spirit of the deceased resides in hell, then a chasm has been fixed which it cannot transcend to the earthly realm (Luke 16:26). Other spirits may intercede and mimic the dead, or God himself may send an evil spirit to deceive (Judges 9:23, 1 Kings 22:21-23, 2 Kings 19:7, 2 Chronicles 18:20-22, Isaiah 37:7), torment (1 Samuel 16:14-23), or destroy (Jeremiah 51:1, 1 Samuel 18:10-11, 19:9-10). It is better to call on the Spirit of God, whom God gives without limit to those who ask (Luke 11:13, John 3:34) and to those who obey him (Acts 5:32) -- the Spirit that gives life (Job 33:4, Psalm 104:30, Ezekiel 37:14, John 3:6, 6:63, Romans 8:2-11, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Galations 6:8, 1 Peter 3:18), the Spirit of wisdom, knowledge and understanding (Isaiah 11:2, 1 Corinthians 12:8, Ephesians 1:17), of righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:6); the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13, 1 John 5:6), of justice (Isaiah 28:6, 42:1, Micah 3:8, Matthew 12:18), and of freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17); the Spirit of rest (Isaiah 63:14), of grace and supplication (Zechariah 12:10), and of rebirth and renewal (Titus 3:5); the Counselor (Isaiah 11:2, John 14:16, 26), who encourages (Acts 9:31), who instructs (Nehemiah 9:20), who leads on level ground (Psalm 143:10), who drives away demons (Matthew 12:28), who can renew your own spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27), and who is everywhere and from whom we cannot hide (Psalm 139:7-12). It is the Spirit who knows both the thoughts of man and the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:9-14), and he who unites himself with God is one with him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17, Ephesians 2:22). When we do not know what we ought to pray for, it is the Spirit of God that intercedes in our weakness with groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26-27).

  5. When asked to allow one of his disciples to go and bury his dead father, Jesus replied, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead" (Matthew 8:22, Luke 9:60). From this it may be inferred that those who consult the dead are themselves dead in spirit. According to Romans 8:10-15, the body is dead because of sin and those who do not have the Spirit of Christ have a spirit that enslaves them to fear, but not fear of God, for "The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble" (Proverbs 19:23). It is not simply out of curiosity that people consult the dead, but out of ignorance, futility, and fear. If they knew better, then they would "fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell" (Luke 12:5, Matthew 10:28).

            "When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness." (Isaiah 8:19-22)
            "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast from me your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:10-17)