What examples do we have in Tanakh of non-righteous individuals being able to "tap into" the supernatural realm?

By "tap into", I am referring to any indication that even non-righteous individuals can prophesy, perform stunts, etc. Any supernatural occurrence counts.

For example:

1) In Exodus, Pharoah's sorcerers are able to mimick some of the supernatural stunts done by Moshe and Aaron.

2) The Torah describes Balaam as a Prophet.

3) In Deuteronomy 13, the Torah states that even if an individual can perform a supernatural sign it is not necessarily a sign of vindication.

Are there any other examples?

Note: I understand that many rationalist Rishonim tend to downplay the occurrence of miracles. If however, a miracle is the most obvious pshat, I'd like to hear it.

  • #2 isn't a good example; there's a difference between using sorcery to "tap into" the supernatural realm, as you put it, and prophecy. G-d definitely appeared to Balaam. Nobody – not even righteous prophets, with the sole exception of Moses – can "force" a meeting with G-d. Even among your examples of using sorcery, I'm not convinced that this question isn't too broad; there are many, many such examples in Tanach.
    – DonielF
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 3:27
  • My intention was to include even prophecy.
    – Big Mouth
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 4:05
  • 1
    This best example is definitely the troops o prophets sent by Shaul. הגם שאול בנביאים??
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 4:13

3 Answers 3


In Shmuel Perek 28, King Shaul consults with a witch who seems to have the power to speak to the dead, even though doing so is forbidden by the Torah. See Shmuel 28:7-20.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch_of_Endor

  • Saul did not really speak to Samuel. It was a trick.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 1:31
  • @Jonathan That is a debate among rishonim. As is the example op gave with Egyptian sorcerers. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 2:04

One curious and very profound example was Pharaoh Necho of Egypt, who “tapped into” supernatural revelation from God. The “good” King Josiah lost his life at the hands of Pharaoh Necho (II Kings 23:29) because King Josiah could not believe that God would have ever communicated with a pagan king much less provided him supernatural divine revelation.

II Chronicles 35:20-23

20 After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt came up to make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to engage him. 21 But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you.” 22 However, Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to make war with him; nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to make war on the plain of Megiddo. 23 The archers shot King Josiah, and the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.”

Josiah was one of the “good” kings of Judah and lost his life by the arrow of an Egyptian archer (II Kings 23:29) for disobedience to the word of God. That is, King Josiah could not believe that a pagan king could have “tapped into” the power of divine revelation.


In his Guide of the Perplexed (2:25,) Maimonides admits that it is possible that G-d created the world out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo,) or from preexisting material. He felt that it is easier to believe that G-d formed the world from preexisting matter, but he prefers creatio ex nihilo since it fits with the principles in the belief in miracles. 

Is Maimonides rejecting the view of Aristotle, his favorite philosopher, whose views he generally accepts? Or was he using what Plato called "a noble lie," an untruthful statement for the multitude? Many scholars feel that Maimonides believed that G-d does not interfere with the laws of nature G-d created. When he says that he accepts this belief due to his belief in miracles, he is actually hinting to his wise readers that he accepts the views of Aristotle, as he usually does. Thus, while he writes in Guide 2:25 that he believes in miracles, the educated reader should mine his writings for his true views.

Since miracles, as according to Maimonides do not occur, it follows that no one was ever able to "tap into" the supernatural realm." Not everyone will agree with this list but I list them because they are thought-provoking. The list is the following:

(1) Moses’ staff was a trick that the Egyptians were also able to perform; some say they were able to put the snake to sleep and make it appear to be a staff until thrown on the ground. If it happened it was a trick. The Torah states that even the Egyptian wise men could do the trick.

(2) Balaam as a Prophet. However, Maimonides understands that prophecy is a higher level of intelligence.

(3) King Saul was tricked by the witch of En-dor. Saul was driven by emotions for his drive to conquer.

  • Guide for the Perplexed 2:25 If we were to accept the Eternity of the Universe as taught by Aristotle, that everything in the Universe is the result of fixed laws, that Nature does not change, and that there is nothing supernatural, we should necessarily be in opposition to the foundation of our religion, we should disbelieve all miracles and signs, and certainly reject all hopes and fears derived from Scripture, unless the miracles are also explained figuratively. The Allegorists amongst the Mohammedans have done this, and have thereby arrived at absurd conclusions.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 2:54
  • See also here.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 3:00
  • @Alex Maimonides admits that it is possible that G-d created the world out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo,) or from preexisting material. He felt that it is easier to believe that G-d formed the world from preexisting matter, but he prefers creatio ex nihilo since it fits with the principles in the belief in miracles.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 3:11
  • 2
    While one is entitled to argue that Maimonides means the exact opposite of what he says, one who argues such should at least acknowledge what Maimonides says and then present compelling evidence that Maimonides meant the exact opposite. To simply post an answer that makes the bold claim that he believed that there are no miracles – which is flatly contradicted by the simple meaning of what he writes – without providing any substantiation for the claim, doesn't seem very compelling.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 3:16
  • 1
    Maimonides never says that miracles don't occur; he writes very clearly in his Mishneh Torah that, for instance, Chanukah and Purim were miracles (Megillah and Chanukah 1:3 and 3:4); that G-d performed a miracle to save Abram from Haran (Idolatry 1:3); that miracles can happen to any individual, and one blesses G-d upon them (Blessings 10:9), etc. etc. What you might be thinking of is that Maimonides holds that there's no such thing as sorcery, and that it's all sleight of hand. (I do agree with your interpretation of 1 and 3, just not with how you introduce them.)
    – DonielF
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 3:33

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