I get asked a lot of questions. Some of them are sound and reasonable, others, not so much. This one initiated with some vehemency about who the witch of Endor called up from the dead. Because the Dake’s Bible side notes indicate that this was a demon she called up, apparently several men bought into that lie. This was a study that I did on the subject in order to allay the false teaching.
The story begins by speaking of David. David has been running for his life, as Saul wants to kill him, but now the Philistines are mounting an attack and David has the fear that he may die at their hands. But this story isn’t about David; it is, about Saul, a witch, and Samuel – who has been dead for a period of time at this point.
I am using the KJV unless noted.
1 Samuel 28:3,4 KJV
Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. 4) And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa.
1 Samuel 28:5,6 And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. 6) And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
Nothing is working for Saul, not even the prophets.
Prophet – nâbı̂y’ naw-bee’ From H5012; “a prophet or (generally) inspired man: – prophecy, that prophesy, prophet.” (To put this in perspective, Balaam was considered a prophet, although he was much like a gun for hire.)
1 Samuel 28:7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.
Understanding terminology such as a familiar spirit may be beneficial.
The NLT translation tells us, “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.”
Unfortunately, simply saying a medium does not really help either, as a medium or one with a familiar spirit, covers two realms: the very real and often intense spiritual side, and the charlatan or fake.
The Hebrew word ‘ôb – obe has the implications of one that mumbles, that is, a waterskin (from its hollow sound); hence a necromancer (ventriloquist, as from a jar): – bottle, familiar spirit.
Strong’s tells us that ‘ôb is the same as H1, which is the Hebrew word ‘âb awb. This is the basis for the Greek word Abba with which we refer to God. The word ‘ôb also carries the implications of a chief and is apparently through the idea of prattling a father’s name.
To prattle is to talk too much on trivial affairs. So, in the case of a medium, they are most often deceiving you simply by speaking incessantly on nothing, much like an effective salesman.
1 Samuel 28:8 And Saul disguised himself and put on other raiments, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee.
Why did Saul disguise himself? Because he knew the “Law” and, what should be done to someone who is a necromancer, or medium. Doesn’t this imply that Saul knew the potential that this person could really talk to spirits? If she was talking to spirits, who was she talking to? Demons/Fallen angels.
So, what then was the law?
Leviticus 19:31 KJV — Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.
Lev 20:6 And the soul that turns after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go whoring after them, I will set my face against that soul and will cut him off from among his people.
Lev 20:27 A man also or 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.
Deuteronomy 18:9-12 NLT “When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. (10) For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, (11) or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. (12) Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you.
1 Samuel 28:9 NLT “Are you trying to get me killed?” the woman demanded. “You know that Saul has outlawed all the mediums and all who consult the spirits of the dead. Why are you setting a trap for me?”
Whether her abilities are real or not, her actions could mean her death.
1 Samuel 28:10,11 And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD lives, there shall no punishment happen to you for this thing. 11) Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.
Keep in mind our definitions of a medium, and add to the effect that these mediums, put on a show to convince the simple-minded.
1 Samuel 28:12 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.
Samuel is not what she expected.
1 Samuel 28:13 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.
Saul asks her, what do you see. Here, in KJV, we are told, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. However, she only describes one person or entity, Samuel. So, did she other things? Perhaps. The AMP states, “I see a god.” The Complete Jewish Bible conveys that she saw “a god-like being coming up”, and the ISV translated this as “I see a divine being.” So which is it?
Unfortunately, Finis Dake took the liberty of placing a capital E in front of the word elohim, a word which means god(s), among other things. He also stated that since it was not GOD Himself, then it had to be a demon. Really, a demon would not have known or cared about the prophetic Word spoken against Saul by Samuel; and, now we have Samuel continuing to elaborate upon that Word by telling Saul that the kingdom is stripped away.
“gods,” in this case, is ‘ĕlôhı̂ym el-o-heem’. It is the plural of H433 and means gods in the ordinary sense; the supreme God; magistrates; angels, someone who is very great, judges, and mighty (ones.) H433 is ‘ĕlôahh el-o’-ah and implies a deity or the deity:
This is the same word used in Genesis 1:1 CJB In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. If, the word elohiym can represent God here in the creation, why would it represent a demon in 1Samuel 28?
So the question is, what did she see?
We can’t exclude multiple entities arising, but she only specifically identified one, whom both she and Saul believed to be Samuel. 1Samuel 28:12 shows us the woman turning to Saul; identifying the disguised Saul, and saying what have you done to me. She knew. Neither can we exclude the possibility that she saw Samuel. This brings up another question, do we have any way of knowing if she had physically seen Samuel while he was alive? No, but then neither had Peter and John physically seen Elijah and Moses and yet, they recognized them speaking with Jesus on the mount of Olives that night.
1 Samuel 28:14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man comes 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 Saul perceived that it was Samuel probably based upon the description alone. Did Saul see what she saw? Maybe not, although the Hebrew word opens the door to the possibility.
The Hebrew for perceive is yâda‛ yaw-dah’ and means to know (properly to ascertain by seeing); used in a great variety of senses, figuratively, literally, euphemistically and inferentially.
So, even though Saul may not have seen Samuel, he still fell on his face before the old prophet. This may represent respect or Saul saw something. We still do not have a definitive answer.
1 Samuel 28:15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted (disturbed) 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 answers me no more, neither by prophets nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou may make known unto me what I shall do.
I can take this two ways. One is similar to the story of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus. Having both died we find the rich man (a Jew) in torment, while Lazarus, also a Jew, is comforted in Abraham’s bosom. The rich man calls forth, declaring that he is in discomfort and that Lazarus should go and bring him some water. Saul may be conveying a similar attitude. Or, the second possibility, is that Saul is at a complete loss as to what to do, and calling a dead man back from the dead is his last resort. (Does this seem odd to anybody else? What changed that might have prevented followers of Christ from being brought back from the dead? Perhaps the mere fact that we followers of Christ are in Him, and that as Paul says, being absent from the body places us in the presence of the Lord.)
1 Samuel 28:16,17 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then do you ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from you and is become your enemy? 17 AMP) The Lord has done to you as He said through me He would do; for [He] has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to your neighbor David. 1
1 Samuel 28:18-19 MKJV Because you did not obey the voice of Jehovah, nor execute his fierce wrath on Amalek, therefore Jehovah has done this thing to you now. (19) And, Jehovah will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. Jehovah also shall deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.
This was not what Saul wanted to hear.
1 Samuel 28:20 Brenton And Saul instantly fell at his full length upon the earth, and was greatly afraid because of the words of Samuel; and there was no longer any strength in him, for he had eaten no bread all that day, and all that night.
1 Samuel 28:21-25 NET. When the woman came to Saul and saw how terrified he was, she said to him, “Your servant has done what you asked. I took my life into my own hands and did what you told me. (22) Now it’s your turn to listen to your servant! Let me set before you a bit of bread so that you can eat. When you regain your strength, you can go on your way.” (23) But he refused, saying, “I won’t eat!” Both his servants and the woman urged him to eat, so he gave in. He got up from the ground and sat down on the bed. (24) Now the woman had a well-fed calf at her home that she quickly slaughtered. Taking some flour, she kneaded bread and baked it without leaven. (25) She brought it to Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they arose and left that same night.
I had answered the question and it was clear that this was not some demon as Dake suggests. Obviously, there are no definitive answers as what took place that day, but we agreed that it was not a demon. However, one other thing became apparent as we studied this 28th chapter of Samuel, and I cannot remember a time that anyone said a thing about it; the witch of Endor was a Jew, for she baked the loaf without leaven. Give that some thought if you will.
1– I Sam. 15:22-28