1 Samuel 28: “Saul Visits The Witch At Endor”
1.1. In our last study, we looked at chapters 26-27.
1.1.1. In chapter 26, we saw that David again spared King Saul’s life when King Saul yet again came hunting for David to kill him.
In chapter 27, we saw that after sparing King Saul’s
life that David’s faith faltered and he again went over to the land of the
Philistines and lived in the city of
1.2. In our study today, we are going to look at chapter 28 and the story of Saul going to the witch of Endor.
1.2.1. In this chapter, we see that the Philistine army assembles to fight against King Saul and his army. King Saul is very nervous as he realizes that the hand of the Lord has long since departed from him, and that the Lord has even told him that his kingdom will be taken away and given to another man (that will be David). The king senses that things are not going to go well for him and his army in this battle. He determines to inquire of the Lord about what to do and whether or not he will win the battle that will ensue. However, the Lord is completely silent and will give him no word through any channel.
1.2.2. Seeing that the Lord will not speak to him King Saul determines to try and to find a medium somewhere who will call up Samuel from the dead so that he can talk with him. He finds one and goes to her.
King Saul does have Samuel speak to him however the
word that is spoken to the king is not positive. He is told that he and his sons will die in
the ensuing battle and that
1.2.4. People in our world and nation today often turn to such occult avenues as tarot card readers, palm readers, horoscope charters, fortune-tellers, psychics, crystal ball readers, and the practices of transcendental meditation, out-of-body experiences, hypnosis, oriental ying-yang philosophy, and Ouija Boards. These are all modern practices of the type of “spiritism” we will see displayed in this chapter today.
1.2.5. There are many today in all walks of life who resort to various avenues of the occult in order to try to learn what the future holds for them. Not too many years ago it came out that even our President Ragan would consult an astrologer before scheduling any meetings or public appearances. He would first make sure that the stars were in line for a favorable event.
1.2.6. However, the scriptures teach and reveal to us that the occult and paranormal world is not where we are to look for answers. It is not God’s will for a Christian to look in any of the occult practices for the Lord has clearly condemned doing so. Plus, the world of the occult is controlled by two principles:
184.108.40.206. Fraud and deception by those who are using magic techniques and psychology to manipulate people into thinking they are having a legitimate spiritual experience.
220.127.116.11. The demonic world uses all occult practices to get people to look to other places than to the Lord for answers in their life. Some occult practitioners experience demonic manifestations and thereby demons draw people away from faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
1.2.7. Finally, it is a very dangerous thing to dabble in the occult world. Doing this a person opens himself up to the workings of Satan in his life and this can have devastating and even eternal effects in his life.
VS 28:1-2 - “1
Now it came about in those days that the Philistines gathered their armed
camps for war, to fight against
2.1. In our previous study, we saw that after David had again spared Saul’s life when he had gone right into the king’s camp and took the king’s spear and water jug, that David then became tired of the long trial that he was in with Saul hunting him continuously to take his life, and he decided to short-circuit that trial by taking his men and his family and going to live in Gath of the Philistines.
We saw then how disconcerting it was to imagine
David, the man after God’s own heart, the one who was anointed the next king of
18.104.22.168. Just as David went to serve the king of the Philistines to remove himself from his trial of being hunted by King Saul, we as Christians can short-circuit the trials that the Lord has designed for our lives by going and serving our enemy, the Devil. Many Christians do compromise in their walk in order to avoid standing out from others and being labeled and typed as a Christian, however in doing so they inherit a life of frustration instead of the fulfillment they could have in serving Christ.
2.1.2. We noticed how that whenever we Christians backslide in our walk that just like David our life begins to get very complicated. Well, in today’s study David’s life has now become more complicated than ever. This is a consequence of David’s sin.
David’s answer to the Philistine king telling him he
had to go to war was ambiguous and meant to deceive the king into thinking that
in the battle against
David is in the predicament of his life here. If he determines that he will not fight with
the Philistines then he knows that he will be killed by the king of the
Philistines. However, he also knows that
he cannot go to war with
2.4. There are always consequences in our lives as Christians, both good consequences for those times when we are serving the Lord faithfully and bad consequences for those times when we are disobedient and faithless.
2.4.1. Many times Christians begin to make partnerships with non-Christians in this world, just as David had done with Saul. However, whenever we make a partnership with non-believers (even just in befriending them), it won’t be too long before you will also be expected to reciprocate with them in some way but in doing so you will have to compromise your morals. That compromising will always have lasting consequences for your life. The scriptures teach us therefore not to be bound together with non-believers, for what fellowship has light with darkness and righteousness with unrighteousness?
2.5. We will see in the next chapter how that the Lord gets David out of this bind he is in however we will see that there will be dire consequences for his actions as well.
VS 25:3-6 - “3
Now Samuel was dead, and all
3.1. Saul had been so preoccupied with trying to hunt for David that he hadn’t really paid the kind of attention to Israel’s enemy the Philistines as he should have, and, now he was going to pay for it.
3.2. J. Carly Laney has written the following about this incursion of the Philistines against Israel, “The Philistines, resorting to a new strategy, marched into the Jezreel Valley where they could use their chariots, thus cutting off Saul from the norther tribes…The Philistines were camped at Shunem (modern Solem), a city in the valley of Jezreel situated on the south slope of the Hill of Moreh. The Israelite forces were camped five miles to the south at Mount Gilboa.”
3.3. We see here a note about Samuel that at first seems to be out of place. First of all, we had already been informed that Samuel was dead. However, what the author is attempting to show by noting this is that King Saul is on his own at this point in time and now “the chickens have come home to roost,” so to speak. Samuel was the prophet that King Saul knew he could always turn to if he wanted to hear from the Lord, however Samuel was now dead. Samuel had also then been sort of a buffer to Saul from the consequences of his sin. Saul now anticipated the fact that since God was not on his side and thus wouldn’t fight for him that he was at the mercy of an enemy that was much stronger and more able than he and his army. Thus, Saul was filled with fear and trembling.
3.4. Someone once said about war, “There are no atheists in a fox hole!” Well, fearing imminent death and the nation being conquered by the Philistines, King Saul now wanted to inquire of the Lord. However, the Lord had abandoned King Saul because Saul had abandoned the Lord. This is always the order. A man or woman first turns completely away from the Lord and then after the Lord has tried and tried to woo the person back to Himself He eventually abandons the person and turns him/her over to his/her own lusts. What a horrible prospect this is for anyone…
King Saul wanted to know what he should do with the
Philistines gathering together to come against
3.6. Every single avenue for inquiring of the Lord failed at this juncture for King Saul. He received no divine dreams, no prophet of God had a word from God for him, and the Urim and Thummim somehow would not work to reveal God’s will to him.
We see that previous to this that during the
lifetime of Samuel that Saul to his credit had removed from
3.7.1. Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon has the following entry for this Hebrew word “owb obe” which is translated “medium” here: אֹוב , אֹוב [ ’owb / obe /] n m . From the same as 1 (apparently through the idea of prattling a father’s name); TWOT 37a ; GK 199 and 200 ; 17 occurrences; AV translates as “familiar spirit(s)” 16 times, and “bottles” once. 1 water skin bottle. 2 necromancer. 1b necromancer, one who evokes the dead. 1c ghost, spirit of a dead one. 1d practice of necromancy. 3 one that has a familiar spirit.
3.7.2. Strong’s enchanced Lexicon has the following entry for this Hebrew word “yiddehonee” which is translated “spiritist” here: יִדְּעֹנִי [ yiddâ`oniy / yid·deh·o· nee /] n m . From 3045 ; TWOT 848d ; GK 3362 ; 11 occurrences; AV translates as “wizard” 11 times. 1 a knower, one who has a familiar spirit. 1a a familiar spirit, soothsayer, necromancer (meton).
4. VS 28:7-10 - “7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.” 8 Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.” 9 But the woman said to him, “Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?” 10 Saul vowed to her by the Lord, saying, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”” - Saul seeks for a medium so that he can bring up Samuel from the dead and inquire of the Lord through him
4.1. The woman whom Saul hears of is often referred to as “the witch of Endor,” however that title is a little misleading. What she does is more that of being a “medium,” as per the definition given above. As a “medium,” her primary function is to call up people from the dead and allow communication with someone who is dead. This was often done in order to learn what the future holds.
4.2. This woman had eluded Saul’s killing off of all mediums and spiritists and evidently had given up her occult practice.
4.3. In King Saul’s day, those who were mediums usually were just total frauds who utilized various mechanisms to make their customers think that they were actually bringing up a person from the dead. They might look into a crystal ball as they perform their incantations, however they would be the only one who would be able to see and perhaps hear the voice of the one brought up from the dead. Harry Houdini said that he had studied those who performed the various so called supernatural things done in spiritism and that he knew how to perform through deception 95% of everything that they could do.
4.4. However, we know also from the scriptures that at times that the Lord in His infinite wisdom and sovereign will allows Satan to create false miracles and signs and thus some of those who were mediums may have been able to perform miracles and signs that were demonic in origin. If Satan is allowed to get us to look for answers in places other than the Lord, then he is going to do so. Here are some scriptures that refer to false signs and wonders occurring which are demonic in origin:
4.4.1. From the Old Testament:
22.214.171.124. Deuteronomy 13:1-5, “1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.”
4.4.2. In the last days:
126.96.36.199. Matthew 24:24, “24 “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders , so as to mislead , if possible , even the elect.”
188.8.131.52. 1 Timothy 4:1, “1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”
4.4.3. At the hands of the Anti-christ who will rise to power during the 7 year tribulation of the book of Revelation:
184.108.40.206. 2 Thessalonians 2:9, “9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders.”
4.5. Likewise, though it is very popular in our world today, the Lord made it very clear in several sections of scripture that His people were never to resort to any of the avenues of the occult, including the use of mediums and spiritists (wizards):
4.5.1. Deuteronomy 18:9-14, “9 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10 “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 “For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. 13 “You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 “For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.”
4.5.2. Leviticus 20:6, “6 ‘As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.”
4.6. The scripture also specifically points out that it was wrong for King Saul on this day to seek out a medium:
4.6.1. 1 Chronicles 10:13, “13 So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it.”
4.7. The woman is initially afraid to perform this séance but when Saul promises her that she should not fear for she will not be fingered by him for performing this séance she agrees to do it for him.
5. VS 28:11-14 - “11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage.” - The woman agrees to bring up Samuel from the dead, and then Samuel appears
5.1. In our day today, as was mentioned there are many who are involved in various aspects of the occult as it is a big business, especially with our modern media outlets, and mediums today involved in “necromancy” (speaking to those who are dead) often refer to this passage before us as Biblical proof to substantiate their arts. However, what we want to consider is whether or not this woman actually was able to call up Samuel from the dead? Did Samuel really appear to her or not? There are several opinions in regards to these questions, including:
5.1.1. This was an hallucination of the woman:
220.127.116.11. There are numerous problems with this interpretation, including:
18.104.22.168.1. The prophetic message concerning the death on the next day of King Saul and his sons as well as the defeat of the Israelites at the hand of the Philistines came true.
22.214.171.124.2. Everything about this message spoken by Samuel seems to indicate that it was a true word that came from God, and, it appears to have come from Samuel himself.
5.1.2. The woman deceived King Saul into thinking that Samuel appeared from the dead:
126.96.36.199. There are several problems with this interpretation, including:
188.8.131.52.1. The woman is surprised by what she sees and screams because this séance did not go as she was used to them going. In other words, something supernatural really did occur. This was the real thing not some work of fakery on her part nor some demonic working of a familiar spirit (as she may have experienced before).
184.108.40.206.2. The woman never would have spoken to King Saul for Samuel using the words that were used. This was a word directly from the Lord, and it appears to have come from Samuel.
220.127.116.11.3. How would the woman have known about King Saul tearing Samuel’s robe, and of the words spoken to Saul by Samuel at that time?
5.1.3. A demon impersonated Samuel to King Saul:
18.104.22.168. There are several problems with this interpretation, including:
22.214.171.124.1. Though demons would gladly like to deceive someone with a supernatural experience that would cause them to be drawn away from looking to Jesus Christ for their answers in life, the demons would never have delivered this word to King Saul.
126.96.36.199.1.1. I know of one instance in the scripture where an individual was able through demonic inspiration to foretell the future and that was the young girl in Philippi in the book of Acts. After Paul was used to cast the demon out of this girl her employer could no longer make an income through her because the spirit had left her. However, why would the Devil want to foretell this prophetic word to King Saul of the death of himself and his sons as well as the defeat of the Israelites on the following day? There would be no gain for the Devil in doing this? Plus, it could easily backfire for the Devil and cause King Saul think soberly about his life.
188.8.131.52.1.2. Further, those in the occult always tell people things that they want to hear because it brings them back for more business. For instance, horoscopes and palm readings are always mostly flattering to customers. However, this word given to King Saul was a rebuke and it was a rebuke because of King Saul’s sin. This type of answer never occurs in the occult world. Plus, it was a last warning to repent and get his life right with the Lord for he had now run out of time. The Devil would never have given anyone words like this for his plan is always to keep people in the dark.
5.1.4. Samuel did in fact come back from the place of the dead and speak to King Saul:
184.108.40.206. The only problem with this interpretation is that it seems to contradict what the scriptures teach regarding people not being able to return from the dead (or come and go as they wish after dying):
220.127.116.11.1. Hebrews 9:27, “27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”
18.104.22.168.2. After people die their spirits cannot just come and go as they will, as today’s popular notion of people becoming ghosts after death implies. At this point in time, Samuel would have been in the place in Hades of Abraham’s Bosom and Jesus in Luke 16:19-31 and His teaching about the Rich Man and Lazarus taught that a person could not come and go from either compartment in Hades after arriving there (remember there were two compartments in Hades prior to Jesus’ resurrection, Abraham’s Bosom for God’s people, and a place of torments for those who were not God’s people), “19 “ Now there was a rich man , and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen , joyously living in splendor every day. 20 “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores , 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides , even the dogs were coming and licking his sores . 22 “ Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom ; and the rich man also died and was buried . 23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes , being in torment , and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom . 24 “And he cried out and said , ‘ Father Abraham , have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue , for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘ Child , remember that during your life you received your good things , and likewise Lazarus bad things ; but now he is being comforted here , and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this , between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able , and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘ Then I beg you, father , that you send him to my father’s house — 28 for I have five brothers —in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment .’ 29 “But Abraham said , ‘They have Moses and the Prophets ; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘ No , father Abraham , but if someone goes to them from the dead , they will repent !’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘ If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead .’ ””
22.214.171.124. The answer to this objection then is that in this particular circumstance, one which is unlike any other in all of the scripture, the Lord Himself chose to bring Samuel back from the dead. The Lord did this out of His great love and mercy in order to give King Saul one last chance to repent and get his life in order seeing as how King Saul would be killed in battle on the ensuing day.
126.96.36.199.1. The Lord on at least one occasion during our Lord’s life brought back someone who had died, for we read in Matt. 17:1-5 about Moses and Elijah appearing to Jesus and talking with Him upon the Mount of Transfiguration, “1 Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!””
188.8.131.52.2. I believe that the Lord would have forgiven King Saul on this occasion if Saul had been able to find it in his heart to repent of his sins. The Lord said in John 6:37, 37 ““All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.””
184.108.40.206. According to J. Carl Laney, the Jewish rabbis believe that this was a genuine appearance of Samuel.
220.127.116.11. This is the best explanation of this event.
6. VS 28:15-19 - “15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” And Saul answered, “I am greatly distressed; for the Philistines are waging war against me, and God has departed from me and no longer answers me, either through prophets or by dreams; therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I should do.” 16 Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has departed from you and has become your adversary? 17 “The Lord has done accordingly as He spoke through me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, to David. 18 “As you did not obey the Lord and did not execute His fierce wrath on Amalek, so the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 “Moreover the Lord will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the Lord will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!”” - Samuel tells King Saul that Israel will be defeated by the Philistines and that he and his sons will die on the next day
6.1. We see in verse 15 further evidence that it is in fact Samuel who has risen from the dead for Samuel complains about having been disturbed from his rest and delights there in Abrham’s Bosom.
6.2. King Saul wanted to know what he should do regarding the gathering armies of the Philistines. Should he attack? Would he be successful in battle?
6.3. King Saul acknowledges that the Lord had departed from him and no longer answered him by any means.
6.4. Samuel rebukes King Saul and asks the king why he is inquiring of the Lord since the Lord had departed from him? Then, Samuel tells King Saul that the kingdom has been torn apart from King Saul and given to another, his adversary (David), just as Samuel had told him would occur.
6.4.1. Remember, when Samuel had told the king that his kingdom had been given to another man and then King Saul grabbed Samuel’s robe and it tore that Samuel told the king that in the same way that Samuel’s robe had torn apart so King Saul’s kingdom would be torn apart from him and given to his neighbor, a man who was better than him (1 Sam. 15:28).
6.5. Samuel emphasizes to King Saul that the reason that Israel would lose this battle and King Saul and his sons killed was because King Saul had not been obedient to the Lord in the battle with the Amalekites and killed all of the Amalekites and destroyed all of their possessions.
7. VS 28:20-25 - “20 Then Saul immediately fell full length upon the ground and was very afraid because of the words of Samuel; also there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day and all night. 21 The woman came to Saul and saw that he was terrified, and said to him, “Behold, your maidservant has obeyed you, and I have taken my life in my hand and have listened to your words which you spoke to me. 22 “So now also, please listen to the voice of your maidservant, and let me set a piece of bread before you that you may eat and have strength when you go on your way.” 23 But he refused and said, “I will not eat.” However, his servants together with the woman urged him, and he listened to them. So he arose from the ground and sat on the bed. 24 The woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly slaughtered it; and she took flour, kneaded it and baked unleavened bread from it. 25 She brought it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they arose and went away that night.” -
7.1. The Lord had made up His mind and judgment was determined for King Saul. Saul knew this and fell full length upon the ground and was very afraid.
7.2. King Saul had been so disturbed about the impending battle with the Philistines when he knew that the Lord was not with him that he had not been able to eat all day and night.
7.3. The woman and the men King Saul brought finally talk the king into eating a meal before he left in the middle of the night.
8.1. As we consider this story of King Saul, we see how he had forced the Lord out of his life for so many years after he had been made king, and then when he finally went to inquire of the Lord it was too late for the Lord would not be found by Him. We need to learn from King Saul’s life and do as Isaiah told us to do in Isaiah 55:6-7, where he says, “6 Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”
8.1.1. Our Lord is always abundantly willing and able to pardon us of our sins whenever we turn to Him in genuine repentance. He loves to forgive us and call us His children.
8.2. If ever you feel that you want to know about your future or what decisions you should make in life, turn your eyes upon the Lord and look no further. Had Saul just continued to seek the Lord He eventually would have been found by him. In Matt. 7:7, Jesus taught us that if we will keep on asking that we will receive, if we keep on seeking we shall find, and if we keep on knocking the door shall be opened to us, “7 “ Ask , and it will be given to you; seek , and you will find ; knock , and it will be opened to you.”
8.2.1. The present tense in the original Greek language of the text for these verbs emphasizes the continuous action of “keeping on” doing these things.