Should “Suffer not a witch to live” in Exodus read “poisoner” instead of “witch”?

Question: I have heard that the passage in Exodus which reads "Suffer not a witch to live" was a mistranslation and that instead of "witch" it should have read "poisoner." Is this true?

Answer: No, it's not true. The King James Bible is absolutely correct. The words in their widest use simply refer to a witch or a sorcerer. And the ancient languages Akkadian and Ugaritic prove this. Here are two commonly used sources that verify this:

Strong’s Concordance
kashaph {kaw-shaf'}, Strong’s number 3784.

“Meaning: 1) to practice witchcraft or sorcery, use witchcraft 1a) sorcerer, sorceress
Origin: a primitive root; properly, to whisper a spell, i.e. to inchant or practise magic"

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

1051.0 (kashap) use witchcraft.

(1051a) (keshep) witchcraft.

(1051b) (kashshap) sorcerer.

The author of the article writes1:

“This verb and its related nouns mean the same as the Akkadian and the Ugaritic (sorcery)...

“The pharaoh of the exodus had those who practiced this variety of the occult in his retinue of advisers (Exodus 7:11). They are grouped with the (wise men) and (see “magicians”).

“These sorcerers were outlawed in Israel. In Exodus 22:17 the feminine form appears and in the long list of Deut 18:10 the masculine the penalty was death.

“Among the sins of King Manasseh was witchcraft (2 Chronicles 33:6). This is the only occurrence of the finite verb form.

“Another occurrence of the participle is in Daniel 2:2. Like the pharaoh, King Nebuchadnezzar summoned his "sorcerers" along with his "magicians" enchanters and Chaldeans

“Malachi saw these sorcerers being judged in the end along with adulterers, liars, and oppressors of widows, orphans, and foreigners (Malachi 3:5).

" Witchcraft, sorcery, soothsayer, spell. This masculine noun occurs six times in the OT, always in the plural (2 Kings 9:22; Isaiah 47:9, 12; Micah 5:12 [twice in Nahum 3:4).

" Occurs only once, Jeremiah 27:9, "sorcerer."

What is the Hebrew word for Poisoner?

Actually, there is no word for “poisoner” in Hebrew. However, there are two words for “poison”.

2534 chemah {khay-maw'}, translated “poison” in Deuteronomy 32:24,33; Job 6:4; Psalm 58:4 and 140:3.

7219 ro'sh {roshe}, translated “poison” in Job 20:16 or rowsh {roshe}, translated “gall” in Deuteronomy 29:18; 32:32; Psalm 69:21; Jeremiah 8:14; 9:15; 23:15; Lamentations 3:5, 19 and Amos 6:12.

We do not have to try to find “deeper” meanings in the Greek or Hebrew. God has seen to it that we have a clear translation in His preserved words in English, the King James Bible. May God bless you as you read and trust Him to open your understanding.

1 I have edited out or simplified some of the technical words and terms in this article.

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