I’m really enjoying the TGC series on interpreting difficult texts. I don’t always agree with the conclusions, but I always appreciate and learn from the way that the writers faithfully wrestle with the biblical text. The latest article on who the witch at Endor raised up comes to the conclusion that it was Samuel’s spirit.

Arguments for Samuel

The arguments for this being Samuel are quite strong:

1. The text states it was Samuel.

2. The medium was startled because it was not one of the evil spirits with whom she was used to dealing.

3. The spirit gives an accurate prophecy of what would happen to Saul the next day.

Arguments against Samuel

However, after studying this a number of years ago, I came to the conclusion that a stronger case can be made for this being an evil spirit impersonating Samuel (just as the devil can transform himself into an angel of light). Here are some of the points I remember from that study:

1. Witches cannot disturb good and glorified men and being them into the world again.

2. Would God permit Samuel to appear and answer Saul when He did not answer him by living prophets?

3. The spirit ascended out of the earth rather than descending from heaven.

4. The spirit accepted worship, which Samuel would not have done.

5. All that is told Saul (God is your enemy, David will be king) is told to exasperate him and drive him to despair, not to repentance.

6. The witch’s shocked reaction was because, like so many mediums, her work was usually a big con. But this time she sees a real spirit from the other side.

7. As Calvin said: “God sometimes gives to devils the power of revealing secrets to us, which they have learned from the Lord.”

8. The dead do not return but are impersonated by evil spirits (Eccl. 9:5,6; 2 Kings 2:9; Lk. 16:19f).

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  • http://www.gracecovenantpca.org Chris Hutchinson

    Thank you for this. There is another possibility, yes? That God simply created an illusion of Samuel that was not demonic, thus its ability to perfectly predict the future. Of course, God could put those words in the mouth of a demon, but I don’t see any compelling reason to think it was anything other than an illusion, or that the woman ever called anything up from the dead, demonic or not. Like most spiritualists, I expect she was simply a trickster, which is why she is so surprised that she sees anything at all!

    In any case, it’s a story about God’s judgment on Saul — first by His divine silence, and then answering Saul by way of judgment once sought Him out through such ungodly means. I am about to preach on this very text, which is why your post was so timely. Thanks!