What The Witch of Endor Did

BIBLE Q & A, 8: 1 Samuel 28:3-20, What did the witch of Endor really do?

You all know the story, though we will go over it, a piece at a time. The question is, and it has been asked for centuries, Did this woman truly bring Samuel back from the dead, or was this a deceiving spirit, since “witches” cannot interfere with departed righteous dead?

I agree with John Macarthur here, and I am sure with many others, that the person Saul looked upon and spoke with was indeed the great, but deceased, prophet Samuel. Let’s look closer.

The motivation:

“Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land… When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.’ ‘There is one in Endor,’ they said.”

Fascinating that he would think that any contact with the spirit world was as good as another, as long as it was supernatural in some way. Request personal prophetic word That reasoning is not as far from us today as we might think.

Interesting that his servant knew immediately the whereabouts of such a person, though they had been banned by God and Samuel and Saul alike!
The method:

“So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. ‘Consult a spirit for me,’ he said, ‘and bring up for me the one I name.’ But the woman said to him, ‘Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?’ Saul swore to her by the Lord, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.'”

So there was a belief in those ancient times that life goes on. Somehow eternal life is not stressed as much in the Old Covenant as the New, but people had a sense that there was indeed life after physical death, and even though God had said not to pray to the dead or go to witches such as this one, an awareness of eternity was in their hearts just by the giving of the commandment.

Saul defies all the instructionsof God on this subject, and his own ban, then swears “by the Lord” that the woman will be unpunished. How reassuring could it be to the woman, for a person who is disobeying the Lord, to swear assurances to her by that same Lord?

The event itself

“Then the woman asked, ‘Whom shall I bring up for you?’ ‘Bring up Samuel,’ he said. When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!’ The king said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. What do you see?’ The woman said, ‘I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.’ ‘What does he look like?’ he asked. ‘An old man wearing a robe is coming up,’ she said.”

The woman here is comfortable with the nature of the request, even if not the illegality of it. She has dealt with familiar spirits before. Being a witch, and not a woman of God, she dealt normally with demon spirits who would impersonate the individuals called for, and bring needed cash into the woman’s coffers. It is not clear how the demons profited from this show, except that they gained this soul and others connected with the business, for Satan’s kingdom.

As she begins her incantations, prayers, or whatever, she is startled. Now she has done this before, many times. She is a professional. She knows how to contact the dead. Her reputation was established in the region.

But suddenly she saw, not some disembodied spirit hovering over her waiting for her direction, but someone actually coming up out of the earth, a resurrected corpse united to the very spirit of a man Samuel. Her blood-curdling scream was a desperate cry of help. She had never seen anything like this before. Like Balaam, her own demonic gifts were being super-ceded by a Heavenly force. Notice how she suddenly knew this man would only have come back from the dead if it were royally related. Upon taking a second look at her visitor, she realizes she has been deceived. Her description of what she has seen convinces Saul that he has had success.

Saul’s Plea

“Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ ‘I am in great distress,’ Saul said. ‘The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.'”

I am content that Saul is indeed speaking to Samuel. The woman’s shock, her description, and the free-flowing conversation that follows, are all indications that God has intervened here to speak a word to Saul, a word that resonates, or should, with all of us. God wastes no miracles. You’ll never see anything like this in Scripture again. It must be important, not just for Saul, but for us too.

When Samuel had walked the earth, occasionally Saul had been able to find a soft spot in him, a way for him to relent and see things Saul’s way. Not so. A man who is brought to the next spiritual level is not softened in his view of the will of God. If he walked with God here, he walks with and hears from the same God there. Saul misunderstood the next life.

There was absolutely no relief, no reason, in what Saul did. Disobedience, even though caused by desperation, do not bring about a change in God’s heart. God shows us here why He has put certain rules in place. Praying to the devil through his people here will bring nothing but torment. Stay far from the occult.

Samuel’s Response

“Samuel said, ‘Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors-to David. Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.’ Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words. His strength was gone, for he had eaten nothing all that day and all that night… ”

We wonder if Saul was “with” Samuel in the abode of the righteous the next day, or just in the place of death. That question is not answered for us. He was a wicked man, yet a chosen man. We leave his judgment in God’s hands. One thing for sure, consulting a medium brought him no light on the subject, only darkness and despair.

So, although there are stories in Scripture that talk of lying spirits that go about to deceive, this one is not of that genre. The very spirit of the prophet returned to earth in a body miraculously provided by God, spoke his truth, then returned to his rest. A fascinating glimpse into the spirit world, but one we would be best to avoid in any personal way. God’s Word provides all the answers we need about our soul’s condition and destiny.

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