Most Rev Emmanuel Asante, one of the African Bible scholars who contributed to the Study Bible, Very Rev Professor Martey, immediate past Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana
Most Rev Emmanuel Asante, one of the African Bible scholars who contributed to the Study Bible, Very Rev Professor Martey, immediate past Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana

Fetishes and charms - Bible by Africans for Africans

The Africa Study Bible explains why God admonishes against the use of fetishes and charms – either in African traditional religions or in the Christian church. Why does a pregnant woman put a Bible under her pillow?


She feels confident that God will never allow anything bad to happen to her or her baby during the night, if she has a Bible so close. When the Bible is used this way, it has become a fetish. If people think that God or a spirit works through a physical object, that object is called a fetish or charm.

Objects used as fetishes can be worn, hung on doors, laid in fields, or even tied under the steering wheel of a car. Some people mistakenly believe fetishes have the power to protect life or bring good luck. Fetishes are also believed to guard against bad spirits and prevent attacks from malicious people. Fetishes are an important part of traditional African life and religion.

In most African traditional religions, people used fetishes to try to influence their gods so that the gods would manipulate circumstances in favour of them or try to control the forces of nature. Fetishes were used for protection and healing and also to wield power over others.

What the bible says

The Bible instructs us not to use fetishes. “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against all your magic charms. . . . I will tear them from your arms” (Ezekiel 13:20). The use of fetishes violates the second commandment because it creates physical objects to represent God or his power. As such, they divert attention away from the true object of our worship.

Fetishes are tied closely to fear – fear that something bad will happen. However, even when people use fetishes to try to harm you, do not fear. The Bible promises that no power, including the power of fetishes, can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37-38). The God of the Bible is all-powerful, mighty and fearsome, the only true God. He is the only one who can truly protect us (Psalm 46:1-3). The God in whom we put our trust provides all that we need to overcome all evil forces, including any fetishes used against us (Luke 10:19).

Some people talk about God as if he can be influenced in the same way that African traditional religions used fetishes to try to influence their deities. Such people sell products that allegedly have powers – products such as “holy water,” water from the river Jordan, oil or handkerchiefs or other objects that have received an anointed person’s blessing. This is similar to the use of fetishes in African traditional religions.

However, such products do not honour or bring glory to God. Both those who sell them and those who use them are often only seeking to manipulate God for their own selfish purposes. The ‘pastors’ who advise people to use such objects hardly ever mention that “God is protecting you by his power” (1Peter 1:5).

Free and sovereign God

Our God is fully free and sovereign, and no ritual, object, or incantation has any influence over his actions. God is not bound in any way in how he answers our prayers by what we do, what object we use, or the position of our bodies. He will listen and then act for our good and his glory.

The New Testament never instructs us to use special objects in our service to God. Unfortunately, many people have been tricked by this incorrect practice. As Christians, God is our protection and the only person in whom we should place our confidence. He alone protects us and provides for our needs according to his mercy (Psalm 23; Matthew 6:25-34).

Although our cultures may tempt us to use fetishes, as Christians, we should always, like David, say, “Pull me from the trap my enemies set for me, for I find protection in you alone” (Psalm 31:4).

The Africa Study Bible reveals the truth and beauty of God’s Word through African eyes. It explains parallels between the culture of the Bible and the cultures of Africa and helps the reader understand how to live as a Christian in today’s world. More than 350 scholars, leaders, pastors, and teachers from 50 countries across Africa wrote in five languages to produce this “unprecedented” study Bible.


In addition to 58 longer articles, the Africa Study Bible includes 66 book introductions, 298 Touch Points which show where the culture of the Bible and of Africa meet, 82 Learn Notes which explain the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, 569 African proverbs and stories which parallel Scripture,1,262 Application Notes, and a Narrative Timeline which highlights God’s work in Africa. Learn more at

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