1 Samuel 28:13 - The king said to her, Don't be afraid: for what do you see? The woman said to Saul, I see a god [ELOHIM] coming up out of the earth.
It should be obvious from the details given in the scriptures that the ELOHIM who claimed to be Samuel was not, in fact, Samuel risen from the dead. Practically all of the commentators, even those who believed in the immortality of the soul, before the twentieth century, explained that this spirit was not really Samuel, but a demon. The Bible story of King Saul's "seance" with the witch of Endor, a necromancer or spirit-medium, as related in 1 Samuel 28:7-20, is an illustration of what is claimed to be performed in our own day. The mediums of modern spiritism are identified with those who anciently had "familiar spirits." Some translations call them witches or wizards. Today they are often called "spirit mediums." Of course, in many cases these "mediums" are frauds, but in other cases the evidence does indicate a true contact with the spirit world. The claim made by these spirits usually is that they are the "ghost" or "spirit" of a dead person. In the case of the spirit medium at Endor, that which she brought up assumed to be Samuel in same manner as do the same spirits now assume to be dead friends of living men.
We should first note that the record does not state that this ELOHIM came from paradise, nor from heaven, but, in accordance with Hebrew belief concerning death, he appeared to be coming up out of the earth. -- Genesis 3:19; Psalm 104:29.
But why would Saul be so deceived by this spirit that appeared? Let us go back to the earlier verses and see.
1 Samuel 28:3 - Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. Saul had put away those who had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.
This relates that Saul was at one time in obedience to Jehovah, and of Saul's obedience to the command to remove those with familiar spirits, wizards, and sorcerers from Israel. (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6,27 Deuteronomy 18:10,11) The very fact that Jehovah did not approve of these activities should be an indication of the demonic influence in such activity.
But Saul lost favor with Jehovah through several acts of disobedience. (1 Samuel 15) Although he stated his repentance, evidently his repentance was not actually from the heart, and Jehovah realized this; thus, we read:
1 Samuel 15:35 Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death; for Samuel mourned for Saul: and Jehovah repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
Thus, there was a spiritual barrier between Samuel and Saul until the day that Samuel died. So the question might be asked, Why would Samuel come forth from the dead to see Saul, if he refused to do so before his death?
We read further:
1 Samuel 19:9 - An evil spirit from Jehovah was on Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand; and David was playing with his hand.
The scriptures often speak of things that Jehovah permits, or allows, as being from Jehovah. We should not think that Jehovah is keeping the evil spirits in heaven and that these evil spirits are directly in his service.
Returning now to 1 Samuel 28:
1 Samuel 28:5 - When Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.
Saul thus inquired of Jehovah, but the scripture lets us know that Saul was still not in Jehovah's favor:
1 Samuel 28:6 - When Saul inquired of Jehovah, Jehovah didn't answer him, neither by dreams, nor
by Urim, nor by prophets.
The question is raised, If Jehovah refused to answer Saul in these means, should we expect that Jehovah would have raised Samuel from death in order to speak to Saul? Would Jehovah be in agreement with what he condemned?
1 Samuel 28:7 - Then said Saul to his servants, Seek me a woman who has a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. His servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman who has a familiar spirit at Endor.
At this point, we should not think that Saul thought Samuel was still alive somewhere in a spiritual paradise. It appears that his thought was perhaps such a woman could use her power to raise Samuel from his grave.
Although the law with reference to these mediums was very strict and the punishment death, there were some who were willing to risk their lives because of the gains which could thus be obtained from people who believed that they were obtaining supernatural information from their dead friends -- just as with spirit mediums today.
1 Samuel 28:8 - Saul disguised himself, and put on other clothing, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, Please divine to me by the familiar spirit, and bring me up whoever I shall name to you.
As stated before, Saul had sought to wipe out all such who would commune with such spirits, as Jehovah had commanded, so he felt he needed to disguise himself in order not cause an alarm when he came to see this woman.
1 Samuel 28:9 - The woman said to him, Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: why then lay you a snare for my life, to cause me to die?
The woman evidently did not give her services to just anyone, but probably only to those whom she trusted. Thus when this stranger came to her, she became afraid that Saul would find out about her, and have her put to death.
1 Samuel 28:10 - Saul swore to her by Jehovah, saying, As Jehovah lives, there shall no punishment happen to you for this thing.
Here Saul actually swears his disobedience to Jehovah in the name of Jehovah himself.
1 Samuel 28:11 - Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up to you? He said, Bring me up Samuel.
Most spirit mediums today would not ask, "Whom shall I bring up", because of the prevalent belief that the dead or not actually dead, but alive in the "spirit world". They might refer to conjuring up someone from the spirit world, but they do not usually think of bringing someone up from the dust of the ground. This further shows that this spirit medium that Saul went to see was knowledgeable of the Hebrew belief.
Samuel 28:12 - When the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, Why have you deceived me? for you are Saul.
Here a spirit appeared, that the woman perceived this spirit as Samuel. At this point, evidently the spirit revealed to her that the stranger was Saul, and she became afraid.
1 Samuel 28:13 - The king said to her, Don't be afraid: for what do you see? The woman said to Saul, I see a god [elohim] coming up out of the earth.
Evidently, Saul did not see or hear this elohim, but the spirit could be seen, probably by means of some kind of mental projection perceived as an apparition, by the woman. Thus, Saul asked the woman to describe what she was seeing.
1 Samuel 28:14 - He said to her, What form is he of? She said, An old man comes up; and he is covered with a robe. Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.
What are we to think of this? Are we to assume that Samuel is an old man in the spirit world, covered with a robe?
Someone might say, this scripture says it was Samuel, so it must have been Samuel. The fact that the scripture speaks of this "elohim" as "Samuel" is done in an accommodating manner, even as angels were often spoken of as "men", although in reality they were not men. Some translations put the word Samuel in quotes, to signify this.
1 Samuel 28:15 - Samuel said to Saul, Why have you disquieted me, to bring me up? Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answers me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I shall do.
The spirit here does not say, Why have you brought out of paradise, or from heaven, but in accordance with Hebrew belief, he asked why he has been, as this translation put is, disquieted? The Hebrew word rendered "disquieted" can mean to disturb, as from one resting in sleep. Again, the spirit is accommodating the Hebrew belief that the dead know nothing, and are like asleep, resting in death. It is similar today of spirits who pretend to be dead loved ones. They will usually appear in harmony with what belief the deceived one is willing to believe. Thus to a Muslim, a spirit pretending to a loved one who has "passed on" might speak of seeing Mohamed; to a Buddhist, the spirit might describe things in harmony with Buddhist thought, etc.
The fallen spirits are not only well-informed in respect to all the affairs of earth, but they are adepts in deceit. In answering Saul, the manner and style, and as nearly as could be judged the sentiments of the dead prophet were assumed -- the better to deceive. (Thus these lying spirits always seek to counterfeit the face manner and disposition of the dead.) The response was, "Why have you disquieted me, to bring me up?" This answer corresponds to the Jewish belief -- that when a person died he became unconscious in "sheol," the grave, waiting for the day when the day are to arise. (Job 14:12-15,21; Psalm 90:3; Ecclesiastes 9:5,6.) Hence the representation is that Samuel was brought up from the dust, and not down from heaven; and that his rest or peaceful "sleep" was disturbed or "disquieted." -- Psalm 13:3; Job 14:12; Psalm 90:5; John 11:11,14; Ecclesiastes 9:10.
But Saul answers in accordance with his disobedience, that Jehovah has left him. Possibly, he felt that Jehovah was being unfair in not answering him, and that he was thus justified in disobeying Jehovah further in seeking out that which Jehovah had condemned.
1 Samuel 28:16 - Samuel said, Why then do you ask of me, seeing Jehovah is departed from you, and is become your adversary?
The spirit shows here the crafty wisdom (witchcraft) of the Serpent, and the spirit lays the ground for acceptance by Saul by asking this question, even as the serpent laid the ground for acceptance by asking a question of Eve. See our study on Witchcraft.
1 Samuel 28:19 - Moreover Jehovah will deliver Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines; and tomorrow shall you and your sons be with me: Jehovah will deliver the host of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.
If this spirit told the truth as claimed by some, and the "orthodox" theory be right, the disobedient and wicked Saul would next day be with righteous Samuel. If Samuel was called by this spirit medium from "paradise", or an alledged compartment of sheol, then this ELOHIM was claiming that Saul would be with him there the next day. If, however, this consulting of familiar spirits was contrary to God's express command: "Don't turn to those who have familiar spirits, nor to the wizards; don't seek them out, to be defiled by them: I am Jehovah your God. " (Leviticus. 19:31), how could God's prophet who had denounced this as wickedness, be a party to it now that he was dead, and still be in the truth? (John 8:44) And whether called up willingly or unwillingly, he would in either case have become subject to the powers of darkness in this intimacy with one that was deemed guilty of death, because of this kindness.
In truth, however, this was an evil, lying spirit who impersonated Samuel. These wicked spirits eagerly avail themselves of every opportunity to bring mankind under their foul sway, deceiving those who commune with them as to their identity, notwithstanding God's command:
Deuteronomy 18:10 - There shall not be found with you anyone who makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices sorcery, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer,
Deuteronomy 18:11 - or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
Leviticus 20:6 - The soul that turns to those who have familiar spirits, and to the wizards, to play the prostitute after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.
Saul was surely aware of the above commands of Jehovah: he knew that he was in the most deliberate and willful manner acting contrary to these commands in consulting the spirit medium of Endor; and God visited upon him the threatened punishment for this transgression.
1 Chronicles 10:13 - So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against Jehovah, because of the word of Jehovah, which he didn't keep; and also because he asked counsel of one who had a familiar spirit, to inquire [thereby].
This settles the point at issue. Saul sinned in asking counsel contrary to God's command of one that had intimacy with a spirit to inquire of it. Therefore it is plain, not only that it was not Jehovah's prophet that was consulted, but that it was an evil spirit -- the same in kind as those cast out by Jesus and his disciples. That they were of this same class of fallen spiritual beings, is conclusively proved by the similarity of description in the case described in:
Acts 16:16 - It happened, as we were going to prayer, that a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling.
Acts 16:17 - The same, following after Paul and us, cried out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation!"
Acts 16:18 - This she did for many days. But Paul, becoming distressed, turned and said to the spirit, "I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" It came out that very hour.
This corresponds very well with the account in 1 Samuel 28, when Saul said to her: "Please divine to me by the familiar spirit, and bring me up whoever I shall name to you." The divination practiced by the Witch of Endor was of the same nature and through the same agency used by this damsel out of whom Paul cast the unclean spirit or demon.
King Saul was well aware that there were numerous of these mediums residing in Israel contrary to the divine injunction and his own law, and his servants apparently had no difficulty in finding the one at Endor. Saul disguised himself for the interview, but through some means she recognized him as Saul, but evidently not until she saw the ELOHIM. Hence her particularity to secure a promise and oath from his own lips that no harm should befall her for the service.
The methods used by the evil spirits through the medium at Endor were similar to those in use today. They caused to pass before the medium's mental vision the familiar likeness of the aged prophet, Samuel, wearing as was his custom, a long mantle. When she described the mental (or "astral?") picture, Saul recognized it at once as a description of Samuel; but Saul himself saw nothing -- he perceived, from the description, that it was Samuel. Easily convinced, as people under such circumstances usually are, Saul did not stop to question how it could be that Samuel looked as old and as stooped as he looked in the present life, if he was now a spirit being and far better off; nor did he inquire why he wore the same old mantle in the spirit world that he had worn when he knew him as an earthly being. Saul had been forsaken by Jehovah and was now easily deceived by these "seducing spirits" (1 Timothy 4:1), who impersonated the prophet and spoke to Saul in his name, through their "medium," the witch, necromancer, Spiritist.
Saul was easily deceived into thinking that the Prophet Samuel who had refused to visit him to have any further converse with him while alive, had been forced to commune with him, by the wonderful powers of the witch. (See 1 Samuel 15:26,35.) Saul's own testimony was, "God is departed from me, and answers me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams." -- 1 Samuel 28:6,15.
Any rightly informed person should readily see the absurdity of supposing that Samuel would hold any conference whatever with Saul under the circumstance. (1) Samuel (when living) was aware that God had forsaken Saul, and hence Samuel had no right to speak to him and no right to give him any information which Jehovah was unwilling to give him. And Samuel would not do so. (2) It is thoroughly absurd to suppose that a spirit medium under condemnation of Jehovah and prohibited of the right of residence in the land of Israel could have the power at the instance of a wicked king, whom God had deserted, to "disquiet" Samuel and to bring him "up" out of sheol. Was Samuel down in the earth, or was he afar off in heaven, or was he in a compartment of sheol called "paradise"? and had the witch the power in either case to command him to present himself before King Saul to answer his question? Or is it reasonable to suppose that any spirit mediums have the power to "disquiet" and "bring up" or in any other manner cause the dead?
The "familiar spirit" of the witch, impersonating Samuel, foretold nothing which Saul himself did not anticipate. Saul knew that God's word had been passed that the kingdom should be taken from him and his family, and he had sought the witch because of his fear of the Philistine hosts in battle array for the morrow. He expected no mercy for himself and his family, God having told him that David would be his successor. He even anticipated, therefore, the statement which was the only feature connected with this story that indicates in any degree a supernatural knowledge; viz., "tomorrow shall you and your sons be with me: Jehovah will deliver the host of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.." (1 Samuel 28:19) The well-informed demons knew full better than did Saul the strength of the Philistines' position and army, and the weakness of Saul's position and army, and that he himself was already panic stricken and making this inquiry of the spirit medium because he was distracted at the situation.
Any one familiar with the warfare of that time would know (1) that one day's battle would probably settle the question; and (2) that the death of the king and his household would be the only logical result. Nevertheless, the "familiar spirit" erred, for two of Saul's sons escaped and lived for years. It is even denied by many scholars that the battle and the death of Saul occurred for several days after the visit to the witch. If the events described in 1 Samuel 30 happened in between the time that Saul visited the spirit-medium, then the scriptural account seems to indicate that at least two days had passed before Saul's death. Additionally, the spirit had foretold, "Jehovah will deliver Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines." (1 Samuel 28:19) However, Saul was not actually delivered into the hand of the Philistines as the spirit foretold, because Saul took his own life before the Philistines found him. -- 1 Samuel 31:4-9.
It is not surprising that Satan and the fallen angels, his consorts in evil, should know considerably more than do men, concerning many of life's affairs. We must remember that "by nature" they are a higher, more intelligent order than men; for man was made "a little lower than the angels [elohim]" (Psalm 8:5): besides, let us remember their thousands of years of experience, unimpaired by decay and death, as compared with man's "few days ... full of trouble," soon cut off in death. (Job 14:1) Can we wonder that mankind cannot cope with the cunning of these "wicked spirits," and that our only safety lies in the divine provision that each one who so wills may refuse to have any communication with these demons? The Word of Jehovah is, " resist the devil, and he will flee from you.." -- James 4:7.