Living Stones Ministries

The witch at Endor was it Samuel or a lying spirit

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The witch at Endor was it Samuel or a lying spirit
Difficult Scripture January 2012 Women Ministers in the Church
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Difficult Scripture December 2011 If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother
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Word Study Interpreting Scripture December 2012
Word Study February 2012 Unclean Spirits
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Sitting in the seat of the Scornful
Discussion Topic October Knowing the Truth

Difficult Passage June 2013

Saul then said to his advisers, “Find a woman who is a medium, so I can go and ask her what to do.” His advisers replied, “There is a medium at Endor.” So Saul disguised himself by wearing ordinary clothing instead of his royal robes. Then he went to the woman’s home at night, accompanied by two of his men. “I have to talk to a man who has died,” he said. “Will you call up his spirit for me?”[1]

The woman said, “Well, whose spirit do you want me to call up?” “Call up Samuel,” Saul replied.  When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed, “You’ve deceived me! You are Saul!” “Don’t be afraid!” the king told her. “What do you see?” “I see a god[2] coming up out of the earth,” she said. “What does he look like?” Saul asked. “He is an old man wrapped in a robe,” she replied. Saul realized it was Samuel, and he fell to the ground before him.[3]

“Why have you disturbed me by calling me up?” Samuel asked Saul.

Saul’s response: “Because I am in deep trouble,” “The Philistines are at war with me, and God has left me and won’t reply by prophets or dreams. So I have called for you to tell me what to do.”

Further Samuel replied, “Why ask me, since the Lord has left you and has become your enemy? The Lord has done just as he said he would. He has torn the kingdom from you and given it to your rival, David. The Lord has done this to you today because you refused to carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites. What’s more, the Lord will hand you and the army of Israel over to the Philistines tomorrow, and you and your sons will be here with me. The Lord will bring down the entire army of Israel in defeat.”[4] 

After reading this passage it is obvious from the Scripture that Samuel was brought back. Remember it was forbidden to engage in divination or necromancy.[5]   We know from Scripture what God thinks about necromancy, witchcraft and divination.  For instance, in the Book of Leviticus it states: You shall not practice divination[6] or practice witchcraft.[7] The prophet Isaiah raises the question: Should you consult the dead on behalf of the living?[8]  It was for this reason that God spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah saying “do not learn the ways of the Gentiles.[9]  In other words, don’t do the things they do.

Now getting back to this Scripture:  What makes this particularly difficult is not the event itself but the reason why God would allow Samuel to be disturbed in this manner or did He?  Was this a lying spirit revealing a truth[10] or simply God’s purposes being fulfilled.[11]

When I first read the passage I pondered whether the witch conjured up an unclean spirit or indeed Samuel’s spirit.   Additionally, I wondered whether an unclean spirit would tell the truth.  However, there are several instances in Scripture where unclean spirits revealed truth correctly.   One such example — the spirits Jesus silenced because they knew who he was.  For instance, one demon even spoke out saying: “I know who you are the Holy One of God.”[12]  And, Jesus rebuked that one quickly. Many who were possessed by demons when encountering Jesus came out at his command, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But because they knew he was the Messiah, he rebuked them and refused to let them speak.[13]

There are express statements in the passage such as “Saul knew it was Samueland Samuel said to Saul “Why have you disturbed me by calling me up?”  And, “Samuel replied.” These statements are hard to overlook.  However, an Interesting clue is the word “robe.”  Here it is again: “He is an old man wrapped in a robe[14]” The Book of Revelations causes us to understand that the linen clothing represents the righteous acts of the Saints.[15]  These are the faithful ones who overcame, so-to-speak. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life.[16] 

The covering described as a robe was given to cover the soul of those faithful during the intervening period that exists between death and resurrection. In Revelations in reads: And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer.[17] 

The Hebrew word מְעִיל (pronounced mehˇeel) is translated “robe.”  The meaning of that word is very wide. It suggests the idea of receiving linen covering for acting faithfully.[18]  When we combine this idea with Scripture we can locate many references.  For example in the Book of Isaiah it says: For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation.[19] And in another place: He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.[20]  Finally, In the Book of Revelations it reads: He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments.[21]

The perplexing thing about the passage is that God strictly forbids divining by witchcraft.  And yet it is difficult to deny the Scriptures expressly indicating that it was Samuel who replied. Here it is again:  Samuel replied, Why ask me, since the Lord has left you and has become your enemy? The Lord has done just as he said he would. He has torn the kingdom from you and given it to your rival, David. The Lord has done this to you today because you refused to carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites. What’s more, the Lord will hand you and the army of Israel over to the Philistines tomorrow, and you and your sons will be here with me. So Samuel has made quite a statement in this passage and the Scriptures intend for us to understand that he is speaking to Saul through the witch of Endor.

Looking closer at the original text, there is interesting aspect to the Hebrew word meheel.  It has the root meaning or comes from a root word:  “to commit a trespass; to act unfaithfully or treacherously against man and against God.”[22] So there is a duel meaning buried in the word meheel.

Yes, it was indeed Samuel who was summoned up. And God is saying through the Scriptures that Saul’s act was a sin against both Samuel and God.  Although God forbids such practices He used the witch at Endor to bring up Samuel and rebuke Saul once more.



[1] 1 Samuel 28:7-8

[2] John 10.34

[3] 1 Samuel 28:11-14

[4] 1 Samuel 28:15-19

[5] Necromancy is a communication with the deceased – either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or raising them bodily – for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge.

[6] Leviticus 19.26

[7] Deuteronomy 18.10

[8] Isaiah 8.19

[9] Jeremiah 10.2

[10] Mark 1.24

[11] Numbers 22.22— God was angry with Balaam because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him.

[12] Mark 1.24

[13] Luke 4:41

[14] 1 Samuel 28.14

[15] Revelations 19.8

[16] Revelations 3.5

[17] Revelation 6:11

[18] Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999, c1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (520). Chicago: Moody Press.

[19] Isaiah 61.10

[20] Isaiah 61:10

[21] Revelation 3:5

[22]Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : (electronic ed.) (H4603). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.

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