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Saul Visits the Witch of Endor

The Bible Passage:

1 Samuel 28:3-20 (KJV):
3 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. 5 And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. 6 And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. 7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. 8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, 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. 9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die? 10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing. 11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. 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. 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. 14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh 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. 15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted 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 answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. 16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? 17 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: 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. 19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines. 20 Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night.


This passage tells the story of king Saul's visit to the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28). Saul was afraid of an upcoming battle. He tried to enquire of the Lord, but the Lord would not answer him. So, he went to a woman that had a familiar spirit, which is a person who practices sorcery and attempts to communicate with the dead (Isaiah 8:19). The witch brings up a being whom Saul perceives is the dead prophet Samuel. This passage presents a number of issues that, on the surface, may appear to contradict other Bible verses. But, of course that is not the case when we look at it more carefully. Let's look at three possibilities for interpreting this passage and the evidence from the Bible on each.

Option #1: Samuel had died, was resurrected and was living in hell. The witch called him forth from hell and Samuel was manifested to Saul.

Samuel is in the faith chapter (Heb. 11), listed as one who is waiting to receive the promise. So, we know he is a saved person and not in hell, which leaves this first option untenable.

"32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets... 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (Heb. 11:32,39-40).

Option #2: Samuel had died, was resurrected and was living in heaven. The witch called him forth from heaven and Samuel was manifested to Saul.

If Samuel was already in heaven, he would be summoned from there either by the power of God or Satan. Who summoned Samuel?
It wasn't God:
God had already refused to communicate with Saul, and specifically by prophets, which Samuel was.

"And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets" (1 Sam 28:6)

Later, when Saul died, it is plainly stated that in inquiring of the familiar spirit, Saul was not inquiring of the Lord.

"13 So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; 14 And enquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse" (1 Chron. 10:13-14).

It was by a power opposed to God:
God was no longer with Saul. God no longer spoke to Saul. So, Saul turned to another source of power.

"6 And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. 7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor" (1 Sam. 28:6-7).

Saul sought to speak to someone with a familiar spirit, which was forbidden and has to do with attempting to speak to the dead. He requested that she "bring up" Samuel, who was already dead (1 Sam. 28:3).

"Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel" (1 Sam. 28:11).

When people seek counsel from the dead, it is not according to God's instructions.

"And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?" (Isaiah 8:19).

Those who seek to commune with the dead are committing spiritual adultery ("whoring") because they are not following or being faithful to God, but another power.

"And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people" (Lev. 20:6).

So, this option #2 is also untenable. But, if those opposed to God have no power over those in heaven, how could they have brought forth Samuel? It appears as though there was some trickery or deception occurring to make it only look like Samuel was brought up.

Option #3: Samuel had died, was resting in the grave until the future resurrection, and an evil being deceived Saul by masquerading as Samuel.

Satan is the deceiver:
Satan does not have power over those in heaven or any power to resurrect people from the dead. But, as an angel he does have power to change his appearance to look like a human. He could produce a counterfeit Samuel.

When the Israelites apostatized and worshiped Baal, they ate sacrifices that had been offered to the dead. The dead were believed to be the deified spirits of departed heroes. But, when the Israelites thought they were worshiping dead men, they were actually worshiping demons.

"They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead" (Psalm 106:28).

"Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood") Psalms 106:37-38).

"They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not" (Deut. 32:17).

Angels (good or bad) can appear on earth in the form of men. Satan can transform himself into other forms.

"And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14).

"1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground...5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them" (Gen. 19:1-29).

Where was Samuel? What is the state of the dead?
When a person dies, they know nothing and have no involvement in anything done (see also Ps. 6:5, Is. 38:18-19). Why should people not consult the dead? Because the dead have no thoughts.

"3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. 4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psalms 146:3-4).

"5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. 10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Eccles 9:5-6,10).

Death is like a sleep (see also Ps. 13:3, 2 Sam. 7:12, Matt. 27:52, Acts 7:60). While sleeping, you know nothing and do not participate in anything until waking up.

"11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead... 17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already" (John 11:11-17).

The dead are sleeping until the future resurrection. Consider David. He is saved, but not yet in heaven. He is waiting for the resurrection at Christ's Second Coming. He is assured of a future resurrection because Christ was already resurrected.

"29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. 30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; 31 He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34 For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make thy foes thy footstool" (Acts 2:29-35) (see also Acts 13:36).

"40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40).

The evidence shows that Saul went against the Lord and ended up speaking with a fallen angel (option #3). God forbade "speaking with the dead", because you would actually be communicating with evil angels. The state of the dead as resting in the grave is such an important Bible teaching. Otherwise, a person may be deceived into listening to an evil spirit when they think they are communicating with a loved one.

Learn more about what happens when you die.