Posted by: edhensley | February 28, 2010

Saul, the Witch of Endor, and Samuel


1 Samuel 28 (New International Version)

Saul and the Witch of Endor
1 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces to fight against Israel. Achish said to David, “You must understand that you and your men will accompany me in the army.”
2 David said, “Then you will see for yourself what your servant can do.”
Achish replied, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”

3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.

4 The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all the Israelites and set up camp at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6 He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 7 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.

8 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.”

9 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?”

10 Saul swore to her by the LORD, “As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this.”

11 Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”
“Bring up Samuel,” he said.

12 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!”

13 The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?”
The woman said, “I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.”

14 “What does he look like?” he asked.
“An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said.
Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.

15 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 turned away 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.”

16 Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? 17 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. 18 Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. 19 The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.”

20 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 night.

21 When the woman came to Saul and saw that he was greatly shaken, she said, “Look, your maidservant has obeyed you. I took my life in my hands and did what you told me to do. 22 Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way.”

23 He refused and said, “I will not eat.”
But his men joined the woman in urging him, and he listened to them. He got up from the ground and sat on the couch.

24 The woman had a fattened calf at the house, which she butchered at once. She took some flour, kneaded it and baked bread without yeast. 25 Then she set it before Saul and his men, and they ate. That same night they got up and left.

I have included this passage because I was bothered by it while a Christian. I always wondered how a mere woman could conjure someone’s spirit out of heaven (since it is assumed Samuel went to heaven and not hell). Is not God in control of souls after death? If Samuel could be conjured up then, could some person today conjure up Moses or Peter?

I am not the only Christian to have questions about this passage. I found the following question and answer at biblestudy.org: http://www.biblestudy.org/question/why-did-king-saul-use-witch-to-contact-prophet.html

Q. In the book of 1Samuel it states the witch of Endor conjured up the prophet Samuel for King Saul. By whose power did she do this? Was it by the power of God or the devil?

The respondent lists some of the verses I did above, and then makes the following claim:

I would begin by saying that I don’t believe the vision that appeared to Saul through the Witch of Endor was really Samuel. Let me explain this statement.

There is NOTHING in this text that indicates the “vision” was NOT Samuel! Yet the entire response on this website is that the vision could not be Samuel because that would contradict other sections of the bible.

The response mentions several verses from Leviticus and Deuteronomy that basically say “don’t tolerate witchcraft.” Here is the last part of this response:

Although we are not told specifically that the witch of Endor was using the power of Satan to do her “consulting of the dead”, we are told that she was possessed with a “familiar spirit”, i.e., a demon, and by the scriptures quoted and many others, we know such things DO NOT come from God.

Whatever or whoever it was that Saul saw in his vision, it certainly was not Samuel for Samuel was dead [1Samuel 28:3]. We also know that the dead “know nothing” and have no part “in any thing under the sun”.

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun. ” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, NIV)
Whatever or whoever it was that Saul saw in that vision, it (he) told Samuel that Israel was going to lose its battle and that Saul and his sons would be killed and Saul’s kingdom handed over to David. That is exactly what happened (see 1Samuel 31:1-6; 2Samuel 1-5). God controls all things. Perhaps He controlled the vision that Saul saw, but I think it more likely that the demon in the witch of Endor took delight in taunting Saul, the King of Israel.

According to this Christian response, if the vision were truly of Samuel, then it would contradict Ecclesiastes 9. Christians do not want to admit the bible has contradictions, even when it is obvious. So the Christian simply asserts that this vision was a demonic hallucination. However, there is nothing in the scripture to indicate that it was anything other than Samuel’s spirit. How could this passage be so consistently misleading?

Furthermore, if it were a demonic spirit as this Christian says, then how could the demon know the future? Does not only God know the future? Did God tell the demon this knowledge? The Christian respondent does not consider the further contradictions he has created by changing the entire meaning of this passage in order to eliminate a contradiction.

It would be a lot simpler and smarter if Christians would just admit that there are contradictions in the bible. Then they would not have to look like idiots trying to explain away all the nonsense.

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Responses

  1. It is crazy how you take just pieces of the Bible to quote and only consider the verse you use to make a point….? When it is very important to know the whole logic and why, what the purpose of that verse was in the context it was given in…but, you don’t do that. You just take what you want and bend it to work for your points. Then yeah of course the Bible is wacked out! The Bible is a way for us to understand what God is and that real people have been through everything we have been through already, just a different time in history. Instead of computer porn they had idols and orgies. Customs and cultuires change. But, one thing that remains is LOVE, God, Holy Spirit, the church to be active partakers of the world and not just attenders of the Sunday and Wednesday service, set apart, and humble. Now when you speak of things it seems you relate those that do not set their selves apart from the worldly ideas of right and wrong…”Christians.” It seems you never actually consider those that wake up ministering by their lives that maybe there is something out there way bigger than just nothing. If the world has been here so long…then why did it take only two hundred years for America to become so powerful? But, yet our world is billions of years old. Get real. We would be living on other planets by now if this world was that old. Stop picking and choosing the parts of the Bible you want to show some conflict with and study the whole scripture about that one point, not just a verse here and a verse there.

    There are times when I wonder if this is all real, but then I feel that tug of peace pulling me in. Nothing is that horrible because from everything that has happened to me that was bad…When it was over something twice as wonderful replaced it. You know why? I trust by faith, the unseen, and that is all I need to be thirsty no more. Don’t get me wrong, I still like shopping and looking good and having all those nice things. It just isn’t what I wake up craving first thing. What I crave is to get my mind right so I can be the best person I can be for the world today and for myself.

    If we all died tomorrow and found out there was no God…oh well, at least I was a good person while I lived.

    But, I know there is a God because He lives in me everyday.

    • God is perfect, therefore is Bible should always be perfect. The universe is perfect, everything in the universe obeys the same laws perfect laws in perfect harmony.

      Is it asking too much for Gods word to man to not be perfect ? How can God require several takes to give different laws to man in the space of 3000 years and yet the universe has managed to coexist for billion years in perfect harmony ?

      The fact Ed can find troubling text is an admission that they are the creation of man. How can you criticize others when there are obviously text inserted by man for his greedy benefit. If God cannot protect his word from change, how can we be sure that any of it is authentic ?

      Im afraid Christians are under a delusion and created some thoughts that are quiet different from whats actually taught or spoken of in the Bible. By ignoring the text pointed out in this blog, you are creating a new religion in just the same way all the other Christian faiths have created their own. This is not a surprise given that Constantine directed the bishops at Niceasa to select and canonize the books that are part of the Bible.

      Have you ever thought of verifying your Christian beliefs with whats in the Bible ? There is a reason why the Catholic Church banned the BIble from being translated into the language of the common man and wished for it to remain only available to a select few in Latin. The simple fact is they used the Bible to manipulate the weak, poor and unlearned. Do we not see the same today, just take a look at all the fools who die as martyrs because some holy man told them to do so ?

  2. I do not take pieces of the bible and misrepresent them. That is what churches, preachers, and Sunday school teachers do.

    This blog encourages people to read the entire bible cover to cover. It reveals verses that are rarely read on Sunday.

    Please notice that my post was about SAUL. Your reply does not include the word SAUL at all! Please keep your replies relevant to the verses!

    You are just preaching. Most of your preaching is nonsense, such as the comment that America becoming powerful in 200 years is evidence for a young earth. What does that have to do with this passage?

    Please keep your comments relevant to the verses, or I will no longer publish them.

  3. This is a good one and before I get started I must say I am not educated enough to give a complete answer but I will try. As far as contradictions…who knows really. We all as Christians want to believe it runs smoothly and as I learn more and more the contradictions seem to disappear. As for this I must say that God determines all things and according to
    Job 1:6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.
    So, obviously Satan has companionship with God if you will and the other angels. Then it goes on to say in verse 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
    We all know God already knew this but to continue in verse 7 ..Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”
    God allows Satan to roam the earth. Just keep this in mind as I change tracks. I am going to pull some info out and then put it all together.
    While we cannot determine what exactly happens in this passage- whether the spirit truly is Samuel or a demon playing the role of Samuel- we can note a few things. First, this passage confirms that a spirit world does exist. Second, the spirit confirms the message Samuel spoke in his life- the kingdom will be taken from Saul and given to David. Third, the spirit predicts the death of Saul and his sons. This comes to pass just as this spirit says. Saul discovers the truth, but only by seeking it in the darkness. Rather than continually seeking God’s direction and believing what Samuel had spoken from God, Saul chooses to find his answers from a dark source. Too late to rectify his wrongly placed loyalties, Saul pays the ultimate price.
    I found this in my women’s study Bible and found it interesting and thought I would share it with you. Now it is important to understand that demons are described in the Bible as fallen angels over whom Satan rules. Therefore, how can Samuel be the one talking to Saul if this is so? They are spirit beings who attempt to thwart the purposes of God. So, maybe this can channel back as to one of these fallen angels trying to cause destruction to Saul. Remember that Satan converses with God…Demon possession refers to a demon residing in a person and exerting direct control and influence over that person. Most biblical scholars believe that Christians cannot be possessed by demons because they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. However, believers can be the targets of demonic activity. Demon possession can result in physical disease and in some cases, metal derangement. Eventually, the Bible predicts, all demons will be cast into the lake of fire along with Satan.
    Study Bible 28:6 He inquired of the Lord. Presumably through the agency of a priest. Saul seems to sense disaster in the approaching battle and seeks divine revelation concerning its outcome. Dreams. Direct personal revelation. Urim. Revelation through the priest. Since the authentic ephod and its Urim were with Abiathar, who was aligned with David, either Saul had fabricated another ephod for his use or the author used a conventional statement including the three visual forms of revelation to underscore his point. Prophets. David had a prophet, but after Samuel’s alienation from Saul no prophet served Saul.

  4. “So, obviously Satan has companionship with God”. Many Christians would disagree. Many skeptics would ask to see a picture of them together.

    “this passage confirms that a spirit world does exist. ” This passage no more confirms a spirit world exists than the Koran does.

    “While we cannot determine what exactly happens in this passage- whether the spirit truly is Samuel or a demon playing the role of Samuel…”
    In parts, your response is similar to that of the apologist I quoted earlier, so I will just repeat a short part of my answer:

    Ed: “There is NOTHING in this text that indicates the “vision” was NOT Samuel! Yet the entire response on this website is that the vision could not be Samuel because that would contradict other sections of the bible. “

  5. One interpretation is that the medium was attempting her familiar ritual stuff, and was very surprised when the real spirit of Samuel appeared — the assumption being that her conjuring had never before resulted in a real spirit appearing. It could be understood from the text that God, in his sovereign power, allowed the spirit of Samuel to appear and prophesy truthfully Saul’s condemnation. The appearance of Samuel was not by the power of the medium of Endor. This is based on the apparent scream of surprise when she saw Samuel (28:12) – why would she scream if that was what she had expected. Saul then had to direct her with questions to get information from he on who she saw.

    To me it seems clear that the Bible is claiming that the spirit was actually the spirit of Saul. But given the medium’s astonishment and scream that a spirit actually came up from the ground (you think she would have been used to this as a medium) and that Saul had to pull out from her the details of what she saw (again, you’d think as a career medium she’d be very good at telling folks what was happening), it is not a stretch to assume then the possibility that this was something the medium had never before experienced, and that it was not by her power, but by God’s, that Samuel appeared to speak judgment against Saul.

    • “To me it seems clear…”

      If it were really so clear, then I would not have been able to provide reference to a Christian apologist who says the exact opposite of what you say.

  6. Should have typed, “it seems clear that the spirit was actually the spirit of Samuel” (not Saul).

  7. I am so tired of people who deny the validity of sound arguments that show biblical contradictions on the grounds that they were taken “out of context”. Most fundamentalists claim that the Bible is to be taken literally and not figuratively which means that to them the biblical statements stand on their own and mean what they say. When one statement says “There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female”and in the same chapter says “Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female” there is a contradiction and no amount of contextual arguments can change that. There are hundreds of such examples but Christians cannot accept that lest they look like the ignorant people that they are.

    • I agree 100 percent. Most Christians replying to this blog are doing exactly as you say.

  8. Ed, we get that you’re angry, but maybe it’s time to give up and find something else to be angry about.

    • First of all, your comment does not address the verses discussed. In my about section, I wanted to address the verses, not other issues.

      I decided to address your comment, because this is a common lie told by many religious people about Atheists. I am a software engineer for UPS, and my wife is the same for Coca-Cola, so you have probably used some of our products or services in your life time. You have probably used a light bulb, phonograph (or its modern descendent, digital music), or gone to the movies, all made possible by the Atheist Thomas Edison. You have probably used computer programs and modern computers, both made possible by Atheist Alan Turing, who also decoded the German Enigma Machine in World War II, giving you the freedom to post your false comment to this blog. You have probably enjoyed the movie The Wizard Of Oz, not realizing that every word of every song was written by Atheist Yip Harburg, including Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which was rated the top song of the century by the Recordgin Industry Artists of America. You probably have female friends and relatives who vote, thanks to the efforts of Atheists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Atheists have done this and so much more for the world, yet most religious people are unaware of their accomplishments.

      You have made an assertion that I am angry. You have not provided any evidence to support that. You follow that with a version of “Why don’t you just shut up.” We hear this all the time. It is not that we are angry. It is that we care about truth. Knowing the truth helps others not to hate us. I am a very happy person with 4 children who has traveled the world and lives an upper middle class American lifestyle. It is a shame that you decided to make a false statement about me without doing any investigation. That is more of a reflection on your character than it is on mine.

  9. hi ed , I is by chance that I read this blog. you sound like a very intelligent person and thanks for all the things the “atheists” has done and made. I find it interesting that you spend so much time and energy on something you don’t believe in.whatever you decide to believe, it is a shame that you don’t believe that God loves you. atheist or not ,God so loves you that Jesus died for you.and no matter how much atheists has accomplished in this world, until you can name the atheist who created this world,we all have too bow down to the one who has created it all. GOD ALMIGHTY, who loved us all so much that He gave His son Jesus to die for us, including all unbelieving atheists.

  10. The truth is the truth no matter what anyone says about it anyways!

  11. I always wondered about these verses, but what I wondered was- the Bible says not to consult the dead. It does not say it is not possible.

    Upon reading this scripture I find it odd the medium screamed, I guess she was not too successful at channeling the dead. She says she saw an old man in a robe and then it– says Saul knew it was Samuel. I would like to know what is so distinctive about an old man in a robe ? Sounds like a typical outfit for someone of that time to be buried in.

    Really I have wondered a lot about this Scripture in the years I was in a fundy high control religion. The fact that the scripture goes on to have Samuel address Saul and give him accurate information may indicate the information came from God. It rather reminds me of Daniel and the Hand Writing on the wall. Daniel interputs it for the king and he dies that night.
    I think it was God’s judgment against Saul coming from God. Was Samuel actually there? It could be, God is capable of doing this if He wished. It is clear in this that Saul is condemend. I dont’ know why God could not have just told him that ( b/c Saul prays) but Saul is so desperate he resorts to something he knows is forbidden. Sort of like God knows he is evil and in his final hours he forces him to do something very evil to prove it- like consulting the dead.
    I wish someone would give more information on this. It has long been a scripture that I have found confusing.


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