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1 Samuel

 

Chapter 28

The Witch of Endor

 

The subject of this chapter is Saul, King of Israel’s consultation with the witch of Endor. Let’s first be very clear, we are not talking about the small forest moon of the Star War’s universe where the Ewoks live. No, Endor was a Canaanite city first mentioned in Joshua (17:11) as a city allotted to the tribe of Manasseh, though the city actually lay inside the borders of Issachar (consul a biblical atlas for reference). This consultation provokes many questions, as we will see.

Let’s skip verses 1 and 2 since they deal with matters of David and serve as a preface to chapter 29.

28:3: Now that Samuel was dead, Saul, even in desperation, could no longer turn to him for a word from the Lord.

“Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.” These are terms that refer to those who presume to communicate with the dead. “Expelled” or “put away” (KJV) might mean that Saul had them put to death and likely at Samuel’s command. If so, then this would have been in keeping with the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, 27).

28:4 – 7: Shunem, where the Philistines camped was located in the Valley of Jezreel, and Gilboa, where the Israelites were camped, was about five miles to the south (see atlas). Saul was so afraid of the pending battle that “terror filled his heart.” You see, Saul’s continued disobedience had left him completely estranged from God’s presence and God’s protection. Saul “inquired of the Lord” likely means he did so through some alleged priestly person present at the time. But God did not answer in any way; so Saul turned to a medium – a forbidden source of counsel, as we have just read.

In reality, who was Saul turning to? He was turning from God to Satan. To use another Star War’s analogy, Saul was turning to the “dark side.” Our question today is: “Did the witch of Endor really bring Samuel’s spirit back from the dead?” Several explanations have been offered by commentators, including the following (and let’s keep these in mind as we read):

1)      God permitted the spirit of Samuel to appear to the woman.

2       The witch was a fraud but made contact with a demonic spirit by whom she was              deceived and controlled.

3)     The witch actually did summon Samuel’s spirit up from the dead.

Let me say up front, this third explanation is untenable – it is indefensible and it is inconsistent with the Word of God. If this did indeed happen, then it is the only instance of such a thing in Scripture. Or is there another explanation? Before we answer, let’s look at even more Scriptural background. Read God’s warning concerning such conduct: Deuteronomy 18:9 – 14.

Necromancy is defined as the act of predicting the future by consulting with the dead; and we see this everywhere today: There’s a fortune teller’s shop just west of the square in my own home town, there’s a popular show on cable TV, Hollywood stars have their own personal mediums, and many people purchase horoscopes routinely; the list goes on. But as we just read in Deuteronomy, the Word of God absolutely condemns this sort of thing, and God has judged nations in the past because of this. God even put His own people out of the covenant land for turning to these abominations (2 Kings 17:17 – 18).

In the New Testament account of Lazarus and the rich man, found in Luke 16:19 – 31, Jesus made it clear that the dead were not allowed to return to the living to warn them of the torments of hell. The Apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). That’s what we are seeing today. So you see, Scripture warns us of the danger and predicts that these sorts of practices will continue all the way up to the time of the end.

28:8 – 14: In verse 10 Saul said that the woman would “not be punished” for consulting a spirit. Notice that Saul “swore to her by the Lord,” even though he was engaging in a practice that was a denial of God’s sovereign control.

The frightened old witch said she saw a supernatural creature – “a spirit coming up out of the ground.” She also described the creature as an old man wearing a robe. If we read this carefully, we realize that Saul did not see this spirit. To be sarcastic, I guess Samuel was the only old man in Israel that ever wore a robe? Of course not, this was typical and common attire of the time. But of course when Saul heard this, he jumped to the conclusion that it was Samuel, and when he did the spirit answered as Samuel. Cannot Satan use a false spirit, that is, a demon, or even himself to impersonate anyone he chooses? Certainly he can; after all, Satan is the great deceiver. All the way back in the third chapter of Genesis, when God questioned Eve, she said that the serpent deceived her. Jesus called Satan “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). You see, Saul laid himself wide open for Satan, and Satan moved right in. 

28:15 – 19: God had abandoned Saul, and Saul was dreadfully afraid of his pending battle with the Philistines. It is interesting to note here that Saul did not get any new information from his little encounter with the spirit world. Back in chapter 15 we read that before his death, Samuel had already predicted all of this would happen because of Saul’s unfaithfulness to the Lord, specifically regarding his failure to destroy the Amalekites and their king, Agag. So Saul did not gain any comfort, any direction, or news from the spirit. The phrase “tomorrow you and your sons will be with me,” as spoken by the spirit to Saul, simply refers to the grave – they were going to die.

28:20 – 25: Saul’s “strength was gone.” This would suggest that his sinful actions in seeking out a medium resulted in his complete physical and emotional collapse.

As a result of Saul’s continued disobedience, God brought judgment upon him: “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (1 Chronicles 10:13). My friends, there is always a consequence for sin (disobedience).

Back in verse 6, Saul made it clear that God was no longer speaking to him; subsequently, Saul no longer spoke to God. When heaven became silent, Saul turned to hell. I believe this encounter was an impersonation by a demonic spirit, not Samuel. The dead cannot communicate with the living and vice versa. This encounter was satanic from beginning to end.

Our lesson today comes from the Gospel of John. Jesus, in speaking to the Jewish leaders said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to life, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:24 – 29).

Our Lord Jesus and only Jesus can speak to the dead; everything else is satanic and the work of the devil.