Samuel's Ghost and the Witch of Endor

Are there actually ghosts in the bible? In the Old Testament, the book of 1 Samuel Chapter 28 has a fascinating story concerning Israel's king Saul, the ghost of Samuel (after studying this account on my own and reading different commentaries I don't believe this was really Samuel's ghost but a demonic spirit impersonating Samuel) and the witch of Endor.

The witch of Endor was a woman who practiced the black arts. She would charge a fee for such services as consulting the dead and fortune telling. Sound familiar? She did not get her power from God but from a familiar spirit which the bible teaches are deceiving demonic spirits.

In our story, Saul had been killing all people who practiced witchcraft and the black arts in Israel because God had commanded the Israelites in Exodus 22:18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. KJV The New King James version states You shall not permit a sorceress to live.

What God was telling his people to do was rid the land of everyone that fit into one of the categories below:

*Makes his son or daughter pass through the fire. Literally, making them walk on hot coals.

*Practices Witchcraft - In the scriptures this means someone who feigns to hold conversations with the spirits of the dead. A modern day example would be Jonathan Edwards of the Sci-Fi show Crossing Over.

*Soothsayer - One who pretends to foretell future events. The modern-day tabloids are full of soothsayers.

*One who interprets omens.

*Sorcerer - Men who professed to have power with evil spirits.

*One who conjures spells.

*Medium - A person who serves as an intercessory between the world of the living and the world of the dead.


*One who calls up the dead Deuteronomy 18: 10 & 11

These practices were common in the days of Saul and the future king David. They are also widely practiced and accepted today. Samuel's ghost story begins with Verse 3 of 1 Samuel. Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land. Saul was not one of the Israelites who lamented for Samuel. Samuel had prophecied that David would become king of Israel and Saul did not like that news at all.

Saul seldom consulted Samuel about anything. During the time of this particular story, David had been banished by Saul and was living with the Philistines (Israel's greatest enemy at the time). The Philistine army had penetrated deep into Israel. Saul was very much afraid that he would lose his kingdom at the hand of the Philistines.

Saul had been doing what God commanded the Israelites to do: banish the mediums and spiritists from Israel, executing most of them.

28:4 Then the Philistines gathered together, and came and encamped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped at Gilboa. 28:5When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 28:6And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets. Saul had seldom asked God for anything and his seeking God here was not what we call "seeking God with all your heart". God ignored Saul here because Saul was not trying to find out what God's will was for him. He was looking for some kind of reassurance that he wouldn't die by the hands of the Philistines.

28:7 Then Saul said to his servants, "Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her." And his servants said to him, "In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor."Saul had adopted the attitude, "If I can't get what I want from heaven, then I will move hell." The very fact that Saul even considered visiting a person who supposedly served as an intercessor between the dead and the living, showed how far away from God's will he had fallen. It's curious that the servants didn't tell Saul that was not God's will. I suppose they wanted to keep their heads.

28:8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, "Please conduct a seance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you." Saul knew what he was doing was wrong. So what does one do when they are committing what they know to be sinful acts? They hide in the dark so no one will see them. Saul disguised himself so the medium wouldn't be afraid of him. He went at night because he didn't want any Israelites to see him.

28:9 Then the woman said to him, "Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?"In modern day language, the witch was careful to avoid entrapment. Much the same way as a prostitute asks a "john" if he's a cop or not. The witch wanted Saul's money very much but she also wanted to stay alive.

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