Today’s text is quite amazing, but a bit long. Let’s look at God’s Word, then make a few observations:
Today we read about Saul doing a terrible thing! He will consult with a witch because he no longer has Samuel from whom he can get advice.
Achish makes David his bodyguard for life as the Philistine army is preparing to fight against Israel. We are then reminded that Samuel has died and that Saul had expelled all the mediums and spiritists from the land (v. 3).
Seeing the Philistine army, Saul is afraid; “terror filled his heart” (v. 5). But his relationship with the Lord was broken. He inquired of the Lord “but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets” (v. 6). Saul then asks about a woman who is a medium! His attendants knew of a woman in Endor.
Saul disguises himself and asks her to bring up a spirit for him. The woman reminds him that the king had cut off all the mediums and spiritists from the land. She asks, “Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?” (v. 9).
But King Saul is desperate and swears that she will not be punished. He asks for the spirit of Samuel — and he gets it! She describes him as an old man wearing a robe. We read, “Then Saul know it was Samuel . . .” (v. 14).
Samuel asks why Saul had disturbed him by bringing him up (v. 15). Saul explains that the Philistines are threatening Israel and “God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams” (v. 15).
Samuel then says to Saul that Saul is now the enemy of the Lord, that the kingdom has been torn from Saul and given it to David, and that he and Israel will be delivered into the hands of the Philistines (because Saul had not carried out the Lord’s fierce wrath against the Amalekites). “Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me,” Samuel says (v. 19).
Saul physically reacts to Samuel’s words, falls full length on the ground, filled with fear. The witch gives him some food, which Saul eats after much urging by the woman and his two men. Saul then left that same night (v. 25).
Some takeaways for me:
1. When one’s relationship with the Lord is broken, there are no limits to what one might do. Saul actually engages in necromancy to get advice about warfare!
2. It would be a useful study to consult commentaries on this episode of the witch of Endor calling up the spirit of Samuel. So many conservative commentators have argued that this isn’t really Samuel, but a demon impersonating Samuel. But the text doesn’t support such a fanciful interpretation. This is Samuel, plain and simple! (I’ve discussed this passage at length in my book When Temptation Strikes).
3. One must ask why King Saul did not simply repent and ask the Lord’s forgiveness for his not annihilating the Amalekites? Repentance does not guarantee relief from the consequences of one’s bad choices, but at least the Lord would not have turned His back on Saul.
4. I’m not a king like Saul, but I must not underestimate my power to make incredibly bad choices out of fear or other motivations.