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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 28

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-14

The Consultation with the Witch

v. 1. And it came to pass in those days, while David was still living in their country, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare to fight with Israel. It was a mustering of all the soldiers of the Philistine city-states that were fit for military duty; for the purpose was not a mere raid, but a campaign of conquest. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, since the circumstances were such as David saw before his eyes, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men, as a part of the Philistine army. This was the predicament, the danger, into which David had brought himself by his flight into the land of the Philistines.

v. 2. And David said to Achish, Surely, since circumstances were of such a nature, thou shalt know what thy servant can do. David's answer was purposely evasive and ambiguous, but Achish took it to promise the action which he required, whereas David's answer really said, Conditions will determine what thy servant will do. And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head forever, captain of his body-guard.

v. 3. Now, Samuel was dead, 1 Samuel 25:1, and all Israel had lamented him, observing the customary mourning, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city, in the garden or court of his house, And Saul, in accordance with the very strict provisions of the Law, Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-11, had put away those that had familiar spirits, the conjurers of the dead, and the wizards, the necromancers or speaking soothsayers, out of the land, in order to show himself jealous for God's honor and thus to win Jehovah's favor.

v. 4. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, they mustered their armies, and came and pitched in Shunem, on the western border of the Plain of Jezreel; and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa, the mountain range in the territory of Issachar, in the southeastern part of the same plain, only a few miles from the Philistine camp.

v. 5. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, for their camp was plainly visible from his own, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled, due probably to a strong feeling which suddenly came upon him that he was forsaken of God.

v. 6. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams nor by Urim, that is, the Urim and Thummim of the high priest's ephod, for Saul had either had anew ephod made after the escape of Abiathar, 1 Samuel 23:6, or there were, for a while, two high priests, Cf 2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 15:24-29; 1 Chronicles 15:11, nor by prophets, to whom Saul now once more turned. It was no true inquiry, made with a humble heart, and therefore was ignored by the Lord.

v. 7. Then said Saul unto his servants, his hardened heart prompting him to turn to superstitious means forbidden by the Law, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, one in possession of an Ob, or spirit, one able to conjure up the dead, that I may go to her and inquire of her, to have the future disclosed to him. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor, a town about twelve miles north of Gilboa, on the northern slopes of the Little Hermon, almost ten miles southeast of Nazareth.

v. 8. And Saul disguised himself, by taking off all the garments and insignia indicating his rank, and put on other raiment; and he went, and two men with him, as his guides and his body-guard. And they came to the woman by night, partly to escape the notice of the Israelites themselves, partly that of the Philistine outposts. And he said, when they had reached the woman's house, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, she was to uncover the future for him by making use of necromancy, and bring me him up whom I shall name unto thee.

v. 9. And the woman said unto him, since she suspected that this was a test, a trap to catch her and convict her, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, the order for their extirpation having been carried out with great rigor, and the wizards, out of the land; wherefore, then, layest thou a snare for my life to cause me to die? Cf Leviticus 20:27. Evidently this was the manner in which necromancers were caught, when they agreed to a request as here made by Saul.

v. 10. And Saul sware to her by the Lord, this oath by the name of Jehovah again showing the hardening of his heart, saying, As the Lord liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing, no harm would strike her.

v. 11. Then said the woman, satisfied that she was now safe, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel, the words indicating the common belief that the dead were in a place somewhere beneath the earth, under the ground, and that their souls could be summoned from there.

v. 12. And when the woman, after setting into operation her hellish arts, saw Samuel, for it was his form which the evil spirit in whose service she was, assumed, she cried with a loud voice, since she now saw clearly that her visitor must be the king himself; and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? For thou art Saul.

v. 13. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid; for what sawest thou? Up till that time the vision was still hidden from Saul. And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods, a supernatural being, a spicitual form, ascending out of the earth.

v. 14. And he said unto her, What form is he of? He wanted a more exact description of the apparition. And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, the long prophet's mantle having given him the information, as the apparition showed it. And he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself, in awe and reverence. Note: That this apparition could not have been the real Samuel is evident from the fact that those who die in the Lord are blessed, their souls are in the bliss of heaven, from henceforth, from the moment of death, and the devil has no jurisdiction over those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. One of Satan's own evil spirits here had to serve the Lord as a messenger proclaiming to Saul his early destruction. Witchcraft, Spiritism, and other forms of superstition are still found in the world, and just as prominently as ever. Many a person who has left the true God seeks counsel and assistance in the dens of Spiritists, mediums, and other soothsayers. As faith goes out, superstition comes in. But what the diviners or clairvoyants state is not all falsehood and deception; for the devil is able, with God's permission, to perform works which, to all appearances, are identical with miracles, and to uncover the future. Christians, therefore, will take the greatest care in fleeing from the temptation of consulting such soothsayers.

Verses 15-25

The Answer Received by Saul

v. 15. And Samuel, the apparition of the evil spirit which had the form of Samuel, said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed, in great straits; 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, have caused thee to be called, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. There was a contradiction in Saul's appeal, which shows that he knew himself to be asking counsel of the devil, for if God would not answer him by the living prophets, what satisfaction could he have gotten from the dead? This is also brought out by the spirit.

v. 16. Then said Samuel, Wherefore, then, dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee and is become thine enemy? And now the apparition, evidently even now invisible to the eyes of Saul, announces his fate to him.

v. 17. And the Lord bath done to Him, for Himself, according to His own counsel, as He spake by me; for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbor, even to David. So the complete realization and definite fulfillment of the divine sentence of rejection was now at hand.

v. 18. Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day, His judgment would now be carried out.

v. 19. Moreover, the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines, for the people were guilty with their king; and tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me, in the kingdom of death; the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines. The defeat of Israel, the death of Saul and his sons, and the complete destruction of the camp of Israel were the three decisive blows which would fall on Saul.

v. 20. Then Saul, overcome by the horror of the Revelation fell straightway all along on the earth, he suddenly, from his kneeling position, pitched forward at full length on the floor, and was sore afraid because of the words of Samuel; and there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no bread, partaken of no food, all the day nor all the night.

v. 21. And the woman came unto Saul, hurried to his side, and saw that he was sore troubled, greatly terrified, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have put my life in my hand, in exercising her powers of conjuring against the Law of Jehovah and the land, and have hearkened unto thy words which thou spakest unto me. She exhibited natural sympathy with the king, worn out by excitement and abstinence from food as he was, this being the consideration which prompted her to offer him her hospitality.

v. 22. Now, therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee, urging him, as we would say, to have at least a bite; and eat that thou mayest have strength when thou goeston thy way.

v. 23. But he, still lying on the floor, refused and said, I will not eat. But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him, they urged him so long until he was persuaded; and he hearkened unto their voice. So he arose from the earth, and sat upon the bed, the divan, or sofa.

v. 24. And the woman had a fat calf in the house; and she hasted and killed it, and took fiour, and kneaded it, and did bake unleavened bread thereof, for there was no time to set yeast;

v. 25. and she brought it before Saul and before his servants; and they did eat. Then they rose up and went away that night. Thus Saul, in dull despair, ran into his destruction, an example of warning to all who harden their hearts to the influence of the Lord.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/1-samuel-28.html. 1921-23.
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