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Elymas was a Jewish sorcerer blinded by PaulThe short story of Elymas (also called Bar-Jesus), which takes up a mere seven verses of scripture (Acts 13:6–12), is filled with contrasts from start to finish.

Paul and Barnabas encountered Elymas at Paphos after traveling through the island of Cyprus. Elymas, a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet, was an attendant of the Roman proconsul in Paphos. As Paul and Barnabas tried to share the truth of the gospel with the proconsul, Elymas tried to turn him from the faith. So Paul rebuked Elymas and told him that the Lord was going to blind him for a time, which is exactly what happened.

After that, the proconsul was amazed and believed in the Lord. Three stark contrasts stand out in the story: First, as a Jew, Elymas was supposed to worship the Lord and refrain from practicing divination and sorcery (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10–13; Ezekiel 13:9, 20; Micah 3:6–7), yet he was doing these very things in the service of the Roman proconsul. Second, Elymas was characterized by deceit and trickery (Acts 18:10), yet he wanted to turn the proconsul from the truth of the gospel.

And third, Elymas was no doubt employed by the proconsul, because he offered special knowledge and power through sorcery—yet in the end Elymas himself was blinded and needed to be led by the hand.

Elymas is described in the Bible as a “sorcerer,” which is actually the Greek word magos. This is the same word (plural, magi) used for the “wise men” who came from the East, probably Persia or Babylonia, to worship the young Jesus (Matthew 2:1–2). By Roman times, magi had become associated with magic and divination, and many of them had flocked to the Roman Empire to profit from their practices.