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Journey Out of Time
The Calling Up Of Samuel
(1 Samuel 28:5-19)
When Saul saw the armies of the Philistines,
he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when
Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither
by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by the prophets.
Then Saul said to his servants, Seek out for me a woman who has
a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and
enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is
a woman who has a familiar spirit at Endor
So Saul disguised himself, and
put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and
to the woman by night: and he said, I pray you, divine unto me
by the familiar spirit, and bring up to me him
whom I shall name to you. And the woman said unto him, Behold,
you know what Saul [the king] has done,
how he has cut off those who have familiar spirits, and the wizards,
out of the land: why, therefore do you
lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die? And Saul sware to
her by the Lord, saying, As the Lord lives,
there shall no punishment happen to you for this thing (verses
Then the woman
said, Whom shall I bring up to you? And he said, Bring up Samuel.
And when the woman
saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman said to
Saul, Why have you deceived me? For you
are Saul! And the king said to her, Do not be afraid. What did
you see? (Verses11-13a.)
She said, I saw gods ascending
out of the earth. And he said to her, What form is he? And she
said, An old
man is coming up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived
that it was Samuel, and he stooped
with his face to the ground, and bowed himself (verses13b-14).
Samuel said to Saul, Why have you
disquieted me, bringing me up? Saul answered, I am very distressed:
for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed
from me, and doesn't answer me any more,
neither by prophets nor by dreams: therefore I have called you,
that you may make known to me what I
should do (verse15).
Then Samuel said, Why then do you
ask of me, seeing the Lord has departed from you, and is become
enemy? (For the Lord has done to him, as he had said by me):
for the Lord has rent the kingdom out of your
hand, and given it to your neighbour, even to David. Because
you obeyed not the voice of the Lord, nor
executed his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the Lord has
done this thing unto you this day.
Moreover, the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the
hand of the Philistines, and to-morrow you
and your sons will be with me: the Lord also shall deliver the
army of Israel into the hand of the
Philistines." (Verses 16-19).
event has proved a most difficult one for commentators. Saul
is introduced as a man completely out of
fellowship with the Lord who thus no longer responds to his prayers
even when he presents his
entreaties through approved channels. He consequently decides
to seek supernatural access to the mind
of God by another means. He is informed by his servants of the
existence of a medium inhabiting a placed
named Endor, some fifty miles due north of Jerusalem but not
far from his then encampment.
The commentators give divergent
views as to what happened. Matthew Henry suggests that it really
Samuel who was called up from the dead. With this, some apocryphal
literature (Ecclesiasticus 46:20)
seems to agree.
Others have said that Satan posed
as Samuel. They base this on the use of the word gods
(in verse 13), a
word far more frequently rendered in the singular though it is
almost always written as a plural form.
Sometimes it merely signifies
a very important person, such as a judge or one "to whom
the word of the
Lord has come" in a special way (see Psalm 82:6 and John
Jameison, Fausset, and Brown(2) take an opposite view,
namely, that it was not really Samuel who was
brought up from the dead. They base this on three considerations.
(1) The woman was practicing an art
absolutely forbidden by God, and God would not, therefore, resort
to such a method of communication with
Saul. (2) If God
refused to answer Saul personally through the proper channels,
it seems highly
improbable that his intention to remain silent would be circumvented
by improper means; and (3) the
fact that she appears to have been the only one to have actually
seen the apparition could very well have
been a subterfuge to secure her own safety by claiming that she
was indeed speaking to Samuel even if
she was, in fact, deceiving Saul.
Many suggest that it was a satanically
inspired spiritual being of some sort posing as Samuel and
speaking with Samuel's voice. Such a situation is reported even
in modern times where loved ones are
supposedly both seen and heard. In this instance, Saul did not
actually see Samuel at all. Indeed, this is
almost implied by the fact that he asked the woman to describe
Samuel (verse 13), as though he sought
confirmation of identity. He speaks to the medium in the past
tense as though the vision had already
vanished: "What did you see?" It is true that
verse 14 reads, "What form is he of?", but the
verb is not
supplied in the original and should possibly be was rather
than is in order to agree with verse 13. So
also in verse 14, the witch would have said, "an old man,
coming up, and he was covered with a mantle"
(the verb in italics once again being supplied by the reader).(3)
The content of Samuel's message
to Saul (verse 15) might seem to present a problem. Jameison
that "the vagueness of the information imparted" somewhat
reduces the difficulty since "much of it could
have been reached by natural conjecture as to the probable result
of the approaching conflict." Many who
profess to be mediums or oracles have shown remarkable foresight
in making their predictions. Such was
1. "I have said, You are gods; and all of you are
children of the most High." Psalm 82:6. "Jesus
answered them, saying, Is it not written in your law, I said, You are
gods? If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came. . . ."
John 10:34, 35
2. Jameison, R., A. R. Faussett, and D. Brown, Commentary on the Whole
Bible, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, revised edition by Herbert Lockyer,
1961, at 1 Samuel 28.
3. Rotherham (The Emphasized Bible) makes this read as a past tense.
The NEB has neatly avoided the problem, thus tacitly acknowledging it:
"Like an old man coming up, wrapped in a cloak". So also The
Modern Language Bible (Berkeley). The LXX at 1 Kings 28:14
(which in the King James Version is 1 Samuel 28:14) almost implies
a figure "dressed up" in a cloak (
which is a perfect passive participle of ,
a Classical Greek form meaning just this.)
the case with Ursula
Shipton in the early fifteenth century, and somewhat later Merlin
Ambrosius, and a
little later still, Thomas Gray (author of "Elegy Written
in a Country Churchyard") who wrote a "prophetic"
poem which appeared under the title Luna Habitabilis in
1737.(4) The witch
of Endor may quite possibly
have been both well informed and highly intelligent: and she
must have been well aware that she was in a
dangerous position. Not only was necromancy forbidden on pain
of death (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31 and
20:27; Deuteronomy 18:1011(5)), but King Saul himself had expressly forbidden it
(1 Samuel 28, verses 3, 9
Jameison concluded by noting that
many eminent commentators believed Samuel was indeed sent
personally to rebuke the king. On the other hand, Bullinger,
commenting upon the words "the woman saw
Samuel," observed that this could have been nothing more
than "the materialization of a deceiving spirit
4. For more on this, see the author's : "Some
Striking Fulfillments of Prophecy" (Doorway Paper #13) in
Hidden Things of God's Revelation in The Doorway Papers
Series, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1977, vol. 7, Part 3, p.107ff.
5. "You shall not allow a witch to live". Exodus 22:18.
"Regard not them that have
familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by
them: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:31. "A
man also or a woman that has a familiar spirit, or that is a
wizard, shall surely be put to death:
they shall stone them with stones: their blood
shall be upon them." Leviticus 20:27. "There
shall not be found among you any one that makes his son or his
daughter to pass through the fire, or that uses divination, or
an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer,
or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
For all these things are an abomination unto the Lord."
6. "Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him,
and buried him in Ramah, even his own city. And Saul had put
away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of
the land. . . . The woman said, You now what Saul has done, how
he has cut off all those that have familiar spirits, and the
wizards, out of the land: why, then, do you lay a snare for my
life, to cause me to die? And Saul sware to her by the Lord,
saying, As the Lord lives, there shall no punishment happen to
you for this thing." 1 Samuel 28:3, 9, 10).
as is done by mediums today."(7)
I have not been able to resolve
the problem in my own mind. Lange's Commentary(8) has a very full
discussion of the several points of view held on this passage.
Certainly there is room for considerable
divergence of opinion.
7. Bullinger, E. W., The Companion Bible,
Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press, no date (c.1913), Part
II, at 1 Samuel 28:12, p. 405.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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8. Lange, John Peter, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures,
translated, enlarged and edited by C. H. Toy and J. A. Broadus,
Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1960 (1877), vol. 3 (Samuel and Kings),