The Hebrew word ʼash·shaphʹ (Aramaic, ʼa·shaphʹ; rendered “astrologers,” KJ) is properly defined “conjurer, necromancer, enchanter.” (A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, by Brown, Driver, and Briggs, 1980, pp. 80, 1083; Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, by Koehler and Baumgartner, Leiden, 1958, pp. 95, 1055) To conjure means “to swear together” by oath or invocation, as when one solemnly calls up or calls upon so-called spirits of the dead. A necromancer literally means “a diviner of the dead, one who attempts to foretell and control future events through communication with the dead.”
Any manner of purported communication with the dead was condemned by God. “And in case they should say to you people: ‘Apply to the spiritistic mediums or to those having a spirit of prediction who are chirping and making utterances in low tones,’ is it not to its God that any people should apply? Should there be application to dead persons in behalf of living persons?” (Isa 8:19) Though outlawed in Israel, the “mistress of spirit mediumship in En-dor” whom unfaithful King Saul visited was one who contacted the demons as a conjurer of the dead.—1Sa 28:7; Le 20:27.
Conjurers flourished particularly among the Babylonians. Daniel and his three companions who had been taken captive to Babylon, after being given a special three-year schooling in the tongue of the Chaldeans, proved to be “ten times better [in wisdom and understanding] than all the magic-practicing priests and the conjurers” in the realm.—Da 1:3-20.
About eight years later, Nebuchadnezzar called in all branches of diviners, not the conjurers alone, and demanded that they first reveal a certain dream he had had and then give the interpretation. (Da 2:1-3, 27) The king was suspicious of them, for he said: “It is a lying and wrong word that you have agreed to say before me.” He also was well aware of their stalling for time, hoping that circumstances would change. So, in order that he might have some guarantee that his wise men were able to give a true interpretation to his awesome vision, Nebuchadnezzar insisted that they first tell him the dream. “Tell me the very dream,” the king declared, “and I shall know that you can show the very interpretation of it.” (Da 2:4-9) When the conjurers and their fellow diviners failed to come up with the answer, the king angrily ordered that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. However, Daniel learned of the king’s edict (which would have included Daniel and his companions), so after “the secret was revealed” to him by God, Daniel hastened to tell the king, disclaiming any credit for himself, for as he said, “it is not through any wisdom that exists in me more than in any others alive that this secret is revealed to me.”—Da 2:19-30.
Decades later Belshazzar was shocked by ‘handwriting on the wall’ that he could not read. After “calling out loudly to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the astrologers,” the king made a most generous offer: “Any man that will read this writing and show me its very interpretation, with purple he will be clothed, with a necklace of gold about his neck, and as the third one in the kingdom he will rule.” (Da 5:5-7) These conjurers, along with the rest of the spiritistic diviners, failed, and again Daniel’s God Jehovah gave the interpretation.—Da 5:8-29.