I see in scripture (see citations below) some instances of evil spirits. How did the priests (I'm guessing it was the priests as they also dealt with instances of leprosy) deal with people that were possessed or tormented by evil spirits?

Deut 32:17, Psa 106:37, Lev 17:7, Isa 13:21, 2 Chron 11:15, 2 chron 18.22 "an evil spirit from the Lord terrified [Saul]" (1 Samuel 16:14–23).

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    Can you please cite where in Scripture you saw that? Also, please indicate what makes you assume that the Priests were the ones who dealt with these 'spirits'.
    – Double AA
    Sep 4, 2012 at 3:42
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    When you say "Scripture", do you mean TaNa"Ch? And when you say "priest", whom do you mean? In Judaism, the person called a "priest" is not the same as in the Catholic Church, for example.
    – Seth J
    Sep 4, 2012 at 3:51
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    @DoubleAA added some scripts above and a quote from wiki. The only reason I figured the priest would handle the issue is because the handled issues like leprosy / other, also not sure who else could.
    – ironman
    Sep 4, 2012 at 3:58
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    Most of your citations describe worshiping demons, not demonic possession. The article on Dibbuk at the Jewish Virtual Library has some potentially relevant information.
    – Ted Hopp
    Sep 4, 2012 at 4:15

3 Answers 3


You cite a number of verses, but none of them touches on your question ("How did the priests… deal with people that were possessed or tormented by evil spirits?") except Ⅰ Samuel 16:14–23. There, the "evil spirit" is exorcised (if you will) not by any arcane ceremony, and not by a kohen ("priest"), but by the playing of music. (See verses 16, 23.) Seemingly, the "evil spirit" was a form of depression. This is, indeed, implied by the M'tzudas David to verse 16, who writes that "because of the joy of the sound of the music, the dread will pass". (That it was "from God" (verse 17) means just that — that God instilled it within Saul — but nonetheless it seems to have been some sort of depression, and nothing that begs arcane explanation.)

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    The reason for my question is because I can't find a direct reference in the scripts were I see that priest ever did cast out evil spirits, hence my question states did priest ever cast out evil spirits. Not sure why, again my question has been down pointed. I'm about to give up on this site. My references are to those showing evil spirits, not the casting out of them.
    – ironman
    Sep 4, 2012 at 5:27
  • I know that David used music in this case, but was not David considered a priest too? Are you saying that anyone who plays music could do this? Also you state that the evil spirit was a form of depression, are you saying that he didn't have an actual evil spirit , but just a chemical imbalAnce of some sort? If so, what about the scripture 2 chron 18 . 22? Could this spirit have been dealt with the same way?
    – ironman
    Sep 4, 2012 at 5:39
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    @ironman99, David was not a kohen ("priest"): such people were all descendants of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, whereas David was of the tribe of Judah. It seems anyone who could play the right music well enough could do it, yes; God willed that David would fit that bill in order to bring about his later success in life (Gersonides to Ⅱ Sam. 1:27, note 19). Yes, I'm saying that the "evil spirit" was indeed depression or similar, which I suppose (I'm no doctor) means a chemical imbalance. I've never studied Chronicles, alas, but off the cuff, no, it doesn't look like the same thing.
    – msh210
    Sep 4, 2012 at 6:36
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    you didn't see the beginning of the chapter, chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16331/showrashi/true where Rashi explicitly says The word of the Lord to my master: Our Rabbis interpreted it as referring to Abraham our father, and I shall explain it according to their words (Mid. Ps. 110:1): The word of the Lord to Abraham, whom the world called “my master,” as it is written (Gen. 23: 6): “Hearken to us, my master.” In other words, this is not a reference to David but to Abraham. Sep 4, 2012 at 12:18
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    @ironman99, I understand your frustration, but keep in mind the nature of the site vis a vis your question. I'm sorry, but Judaism and Christianity are not the same religion and do not share the same beliefs. And, I have it from some Christian friends, that Hollywood versions of exorcisms and demonic possessions are not in line with their beliefs either. My point is, you are citing versed stating that people worshiped idols and false gods. That does not mean they were possessed in some way that means some ritual by some specially designated person needs to remove some evil spirit.
    – Seth J
    Sep 4, 2012 at 15:57

I found a relevant section in the Jewish Encyclopedia:

Josephus ("Ant." viii. 2, § 5) relates:

"I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal, in the presence of Vespasian and his sons and his captains and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down, immediately he abjured him to return into him no more, still making mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it, and thereby let the spectators know that he had left the man; and when this was done the skill and wisdom of Solomon were shown very manifestly." See Ba'aras.

Exorcism in Rabbinical Literature. Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, a contemporary of Josephus, alludes to the practise of exorcism by saying: "Has an evil spirit never entered into you? Have you never seen a person into whom an evil spirit had entered? What should be done with one so affected? Take roots of herbs, burn them under him, and surround him with water, whereupon the spirit will flee" (Pesik., ed. Buber, 40a). R. Akiba (d. 132), in speaking of diseases, uses the technical terms of exorcism ('Ab. Zarah 55b). Simon ben Yoḥai drove out the demon Ben Temalion from the daughter of a Roman emperor (Me'i. 17b).


I'm going to attempt an answer here that will mirror the answer provided by msh210 and the comments made by Ted (and me). In a nutshell, you are asking a question not based on the verses you cited.

  1. The verses cited do not discuss demonic possession. Those discussing demons are condemning people for worshiping false gods.

  2. The verse cited that discusses "priests" and "possession" and "casting off" is discussing the Priests and Levites who were cast off by the king from the land they possessed.

  3. The verse that talks about Saul, which you have interpreted to be discussing his being terrified by an evil spirit, is talking about his being filled with dread because he had lost G-d's support and he knew it. His advisers told him that he was possessed by an evil spirit sent from G-d, but he knew in his heart that his reign was over, and he was terrified of what was to come (and, it turns out, rightly so). He asked for someone to play music to calm him down. David was known in the camp for his talent, so they chose him to play music. He was not a priest, and he was not chosen because he could perform an exorcism. There was no ritual being performed here.

In short, I do not believe the Priests (Kohanim) ever performed a ritual exorcism of demons possessing a human. In this answer I am attempting to point out that the idea is not borne out of the verses cited as the basis for the question. I hope this helps to clear up any confusion in the verses.


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