Saul and the Witch of Endor
Darrell G. Young
including a Topical Study by:
Spirit of the Witch at Endor
Based on I Samuel chapter 28
Focus on Jerusalem Prophecy Ministry is pleased to present this article on Saul and the witch of Endor along with the attached topical study below that has been provided to FOJ by Charles Strong of the Bibleone Ministry website.
FOJ had undertaken a study of the case of the spirit of the witch of Endor, and requested additional research from Charles Strong for his analysis of the rather curious situation as presented between Saul and the witch of Endor in I Samuel chapter 28. As a prelude to Charles topical study on the witch of Endor, FOJ also provides the following informational backdrop for this article.
Endor was a city of the tribe of Manasseh, located about 9 miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. Samuel was a faithful prophet of the Lord, and serves as a righteous judge for Israel before the times of the kings.
The name of Samuel means “name of God.” Samuel was one of the earliest of the great Hebrew prophets and the last judge of Israel. Samuel led his people against their Philistine oppressors. When he was an old man, Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel and later anointed David as Saul's successor. Samuel is recognized as one of the greatest leaders of Israel.
In the early part of his ministry, Samuel served as a traveling judge of Israel. From his home in Ramah, he made a yearly circuit to the cities of Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. Under Samuel, the judgeship of Israel developed into something more than a military leader called upon for dramatic leadership in times of national crises. He became a judge with a permanent leadership office, an office approaching the stature of a king in other nations. When the people clamored for a king like the surrounding nations (1 Samuel 8:5), Samuel was reluctant to grant their request. At first, Samuel though the people of Israel were disgruntled with him and he took this as a rejection of his long years of godly service on behalf of the people. He also was very aware of the evils that went along with the establishment of a royal house. But the Lord helped Samuel to see the real issue, namely that Israel aspired to be like the other nations of the world, and have a king. In their aspiration for a king, Israel was in essence turning their backs on Jehovah. The Lord God remarked to Samuel: "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them." (1 Samuel 8:7)
· This serious subject matter of Kingship in Israel, and Israel’s blindness to the Divinely mandated right of God to appoint kings in Israel is part of the reason that Israel has become compromised with worldly whoredom, and missed out on the identity of her true Messiah King.
· Israel has always wanted to be like the other nations of the world, and to be accepted by them, and to have a king comparable to other nations. (I Samuel 8:4-5 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.)
The person (Saul, whom the people esteemed because of his physical stature) whom Samuel anointed as the first king of Israel turned out to be a poor choice. Saul was handsome, likeable, tall, and an imposing physical specimen. Saul was Israel’s perception of the ideal prototypical king, one like the other nations had. But he had a tragic spiritual flaw that led ultimately to his own downfall. He capitulated to the will of the people and disobeyed God by taking war spoils in a battle rather than wiping out all living things, as God had advised and commanded. (1 Samuel 15:18-26) Saul's false pride and extreme jealousy toward David, who had slain Goliath, also led him into some serious errors of judgment and jealousy. Thus, when God finally rejected Saul as king, God once again used Samuel to announce the prophetic words of Saul’s impending judgment.
(1 Samuel 15:10-11 Then came the word of the Lord unto Samuel, saying, It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night.)
Later, when Saul felt threatened by the warring Philistines, Saul decided to disguise his appearance, and approach the witch of Endor for consultations with her to act as a medium to Samuel, so he could receive some much needed advice from the deceased Samuel. Saul had previously developed a reputation for disposing the country of witches, because he had been advised of Samuel to not suffer any witches to remain in Israel. Now, without having access to the wisdom of Samuel, Saul needed to disguise himself before the witch of Endor, so as not to alarm her. When the witch conjured up Samuel, the apparition caused her to become affrighted, for then she realized that her client was none other than Saul, a close confidant of Samuel.
I Samuel 28:11-16 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh 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. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
A medium (such as the witch of Endor) was a person thought to have the power to communicate with the spirits of the dead. (Isaiah 8:19; 19:3; 29:4)
Isaiah 8:19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?
Isaiah reveals that spirits and powers of the dark world have the ability to peep into our affairs, and to observe the ongoings of things all around us, and therefore to know much about us that we would only expect someone personally close to us to know about. God says that by seeking after wizards and witches, one is demonstrating that they are placing more faith in the false gods of this world than in the one true God. In Luke 20:38, God further reveals that he is a God of the living, and not a god of the dead.
According to the Law of Moses, anyone who professed to be a medium or a channel of communication to the spirit world was to be put to death by stoning, and this was the judgment prescribed by Samuel. A medium was considered a necromancer, or communicator of the dead. The practice of being a necromancer was the craft or practice for extracting information of guidance from a Pagan god. For this reason alone, the spirit of Samuel conjured up by the witch of Endor should be viewed with great skepticism. The Bible explicitly teaches against expecting any legitimate contact with the dead, for its participation can only serve the purposes of Satan.
Deuteronomy 18:9-12 When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth 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 that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
The witch of Endor reveals that she saw gods (plural) ascending out of the earth. There is much debate as to whether or not the gods out of the earth were from Heaven or from Hell, and as to whether or not the apparition that was conjured up by the witch was the real Samuel. The witch described Samuel’s appearance to Saul as being an old man covered in a mantle. A mantle was a type of robe, or coat for the upper portion of the body. There was something about this mantle that convinced Saul that the apparition was indeed Samuel.
It may be that Saul remembered that Samuel’s mantle had become torn in a prior meeting between himself and Samuel. Samuel informed Saul, that like the renting of his mantle, so had God rented the kingdom of Israel from Saul. Perhaps the torn mantle was a sign that deceived Saul into perceiving that the apparition was none other than the real Samuel.
· You will notice that in verse 15 of chapter 28 of I Samuel that the apparition appearing as Samuel addresses Saul in this manner; “why has thou disquieted me, to bring me up?, and, why then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is thine enemy?” One can almost hear the harsh anger intoned by these remarks directed towards Saul. It is as if the apparition is immediately and intentionally trying to intimidate Saul. By intoning this strong invective against Saul, the apparition has placed Saul on the defensive, and shown that he has super-knowledge about Saul’s dilemma. This insidious demonic game-mansip was never Samuel’s reaction and attitude towards Saul while Samuel was alive. Samuel was always respectful of Saul and demonstrated immense love for Saul, even after the Lord had withdrawn his favor from Saul. (1 Samuel 15:35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.)
I Samuel 15:26-28 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou.
It is often assumed that the apparition conjured up by the witch of Endor was the real Samuel, allowed by God to emerge on the scene when the witch called him up. Most scholars that follow this line of interpretation feel that the fact that the apparition correctly predicted Saul’s defeat and his son’s deaths verifies that the apparition was from God. But this theory seems to fly directly in the face of the Lord’s own instructions.
Leviticus 19:31 Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 20:6 And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.
Also, the scriptures informs us that there is a great gulf fixed between heaven, hell, and the earth that inhibits human passage from one place to the other. The rich man begged the Lord to send Lazarus to forewarn his brothers of the torments of Hell, so that they could avoid that place. But the Lord informs the rich man that passage by Lazarus was impossible because of the gulf that was affixed between them. Furthermore, the Lord informs the rich man that people such as his brothers would not even be persuaded of the truth even if someone appeared unto them though they were returned from the dead. So, it seems highly unlikely that the apparition appearing as Samuel was anything other than a demonic trick.
Luke 16:26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
How then was the apparition able to correctly predict the defeat of Israel at the hands of the Philistines, the deaths of Saul and his son’s just a mere day after the conjured visit of the apparition by the witch at Endor?
It should be noted that the Lord had already announced his abandonment of Saul because of his utter disobedience in chapter 15, and before Samuel had died, and had announced that his kingdom would be taken away from him. The forces of Hell were aware of the judgment of the Lord upon Saul, and when God abandoned Saul, he was left completely open and vulnerable to the devices of Satan. Moreover, the Lord through Samuel flatly informed Saul that his rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and his stubbornness against the Lord was as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee (Saul) from being king. From that point onward, Satan could have taken Saul and his camp anytime that he wanted. It was simply through the instrument of the Philistine armies that Satan devoured Saul and Israel.
Spirit of the Witch at Endor
This passage takes place when the Philistines were gathering their armies together to fight Israel. King Saul, having seen the Philistine army, was greatly troubled and attempted to inquire of the Lord for guidance. But due to Saul’s past transgressions, God refused to communicate with him by any means.
Saul then requested his servants to seek out a female medium (witch, conjurer of the dead) in hopes of guidance. He was directed to the witch of Endor. But since Saul had previously been instrumental in eliminating witches and wizards from the land, and even though Saul was in disguise, the witch at Endor was hesitant to help, thinking that a snare was being cast to expose her. But since Saul took an oath in the name of God that nothing amiss would happen to her, she gave in to his request.
Upon Saul’s request to bring forth Samuel, the witch attempted to do so only to be astounded that someone recognizable as Samuel appeared. And for someone unknown reason, not clearly revealed in this passage, she then realized that it was King Saul with and for whom she was working. King Saul, after again calming the witch, communicated through her to the apparition. But he could receive no relief through the communication, only a confirmation of the impending death of both him and his sons, along with the conquest of the host of Israel by the Philistines.
The question by student and scholar alike is who or what was the apparition. Was it truly Samuel or a demon impersonating him? There are notable scholars on both side of the issue. Ultimately, the Bible student must make up his own mind regarding the matter. There are arguments for both sides of this coin. Both views will be presented.
God interrupted the séance unexpectedly by allowing Samuel to appear. This view is based on the following:
The spirit that appeared only impersonated Samuel, a view based on the following:
When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)
It is inconceivable that God would resort to such an abominable practice, thereby granting credibility to it, in order to communicate with man. This would especially apply to the case at hand, since God had already taken the position of being incommunicado with King Saul.
So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking of a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; and enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.
These verses then make it clear that Saul was speaking to a “familiar spirit” (demon) and not to God.
As stated previously, it is up to each Bible student to decide which scenario is correct regarding the identity of the spirit in 1 Samuel 28. For this student, the evidence that the spirit was a demon impersonating Samuel is most compelling, and it is this scenario that this student believes is correct. The entire experience between King Saul and the witch of Endor was Satanic in origin and execution.
It is unfortunate that there are Christians today who attempt to use this passage in order to justify witchcraft, mediums, spiritualists, and the like. All are an abomination to God and must be shunned by the Christian community. This use of the passage should be evidence enough to any Christian that Saul’s experience with the witch at Endor was purely Satanic.