1 Samuel 28:11-19

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

Verse 11.  Whom shall I bring up] The woman certainly meant no more than making her familiar personify whomsoever the querist should wish. In the evocation of spirits this is all that, according to the professed rules of their art, such persons pretend to; for over human souls in paradise or in the infernal regions they have no power. If we allow that there is such an art founded on true principles, all it can pretend to is, to bring up the familiar; cause him when necessary to assume the form and character of some particular person, and to give such notices relative to futurity as he is able to collect. And this even in the cases to which authenticity is generally allowed, is often scanty, vague, and uncertain, for fallen spirits do not abound in knowledge: this is an attribute of God, and rays of this perfection are imparted to pure and holy intelligences; and even Satan himself, as may be seen from most of his temptations, is far from excelling in knowledge. He may be cunning and insidious, but he certainly is not wise and prudent; we in general give this fallen spirit credit for much more wisdom than he possesses.


 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.

Verse 12.  When the woman saw Samuel] That the devil, by the divine permission, should be able to personate Samuel is not strange, since he can transform himself into an angel of light (1 Cor 11:14)! Nor is it strange that he should be permitted to do it upon this occasion (1 Kings 22:21, 22), that Saul might be driven to despair, by enquiring of the devil, since he would not, in a right manner, enquire of the Lord, by which he might have had comfort.


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.

Verse 13, Saul, being told of gods ascending, was eager to know what was the form of this deity, and in what shape he appeared, so far was he from conceiving any horror at it, his heart being wretchedly hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Saul, it seems, was not permitted to see any manner of similitude himself, but he must take the woman’s word for it, that she saw an old man covered with a mantle, or robe, the habit of a judge, which Samuel had sometimes worn, and some think it was for the sake of that, and the majesty of its aspect, that she called this apparition Elohim, a god or gods; for so magistrates are styled, Ps 82:1.


 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.

Verse 14, The description was suitable to his person and clothing.


 1Sa 28:15 ¶ 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.

Verse 15, We have here the conference between Saul and Satan. Saul came in disguise (1Sa 28:8), but Satan soon discovered him, 1Sa 28:12. Satan comes in disguise, in the disguise of Samuel’s mantle, and Saul cannot discover him. Such is the disadvantage we labour under, in wrestling with the rulers of the darkness of this world, that they know us, while we are ignorant of their wiles and devices.


  1. The spectre, or apparition, personating Samuel, asks why he is sent for (1Sa 28:15): Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up? To us this discovers that it was an evil spirit that personated Samuel; for it is not in the power of witches to disturb the rest of good men and to bring them back into the world when they please (Psalms 34:7, Psalms 116:15); nor would the true Samuel have acknowledged such a power in magical arts: but to Saul this was a proper device of Satan’s, to draw veneration from him, to possess him with an opinion of the power of divination, and so to rivet him in the devil’s interests.
  2. He complained not of God’s withdrawings till he fell into trouble, till the Philistines made war against him, and then he began to lament God’s departure. He that in his prosperity enquired not after God in his adversity thought it hard that God answered him not, nor took any notice of his enquiries, either by dreams or prophets, neither gave answers immediately himself nor sent them by any of his messengers. He does not, like a penitent, own the righteousness of God in this; but, like a man enraged, flies out against God as unkind and flies off from him: Therefore I have called thee; as if Samuel, a servant of God, would favour those whom God frowned upon, or as if a dead prophet could do him more service than the living ones. One would think, from this, that he really desired to meet with the devil, and expected no other (though under the cover of Samuel’s name), for he desires advice otherwise than from God, therefore from the devil, who is a rival with God.


 16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?

Verse 16, If the glory of God departs from a man, what takes charge! 1 Sam 16:16, Rom 1:18-28, 2 Thess 2:9-12


 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:

Verse 17.  The Lord hath done to him] As he spake by me] Here was no illusion; none but Samuel could say this yet Satan takes the advantage of the occasion because these were the very words of God to Saul through Samuel (1 Sam 15:28).


 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.

Verse 18.  See 1Sa 15:1-9.


 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.

That he and his sons should be slain in the battle: To-morrow, that is, in a little time (and, supposing that it was now after midnight, I see not but it may be taken strictly for the very next day after that which had now begun), thou and thy sons shall be with me, that is, in the state of the dead. I suppose it means no more than that they should all die. Saul had committed the sin unto death-the sin to be visited with a violent death but how about the sons, moreso Jonathan, such an innocent warrior! We read that children will not be punished for the sins of the parents (Ezek 18:4, 20, Deut 24:16) and I suppose Jonathan died a martyr of the Lords battles with His enemies hence Psalms 116:15 (Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.). Though cast out heaven, Satan by circumstances can howbeit predict to exactness what may befall those hardened in sin as he foresaw Ahab’s fall at Ramoth-Gilead and was instrumental in it (1Ki 22:20), &c., as perhaps this evil spirit was, by the divine permission, in Saul’s destruction. That evil spirit flattered Ahab, this frightened Saul, and both that they might fall; so miserable are those that are under the power of Satan; for, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest, Pr 29:9. What an awful message! In the course of the ensuing day thou shalt be slain, thy three sons shall be slain, and the armies of Israel shall be delivered into the hands of the Philistines! Can any person read this, properly considering the situation of this unfortunate monarch, the triumph of the enemies of God, and the speedy ruin in which the godlike Jonathan is about to be involved, without feeling the keenest anguish of heart?


This pythoness united to the arts of divination a claim to be a necromancer (De 18:11, Lev 19:31); and it was her supposed power in calling back the dead of which Saul was desirous to avail himself (Isaiah 8:19). Though she at first refused to listen to his request, she accepted his pledge that no risk would be incurred by her compliance. It is probable that his extraordinary stature, the deference paid him by his attendants, the easy distance of his camp from En-dor, and the proposal to call up the great prophet and first magistrate in Israel (a proposal which no private individual would venture to make), had awakened her suspicions as to the true character and rank of her visitor. The story has led to much discussion whether there was a real appearance of Samuel or not.  On the one hand, the woman’s profession, which was forbidden by the divine law, the refusal of God to answer Saul by any divinely constituted means, the well-known age, figure, and dress of Samuel, which she could easily represent herself, or by an accomplice–his apparition being evidently at some distance, being muffled, and not actually seen by Saul, whose attitude of prostrate homage, moreover, must have prevented him distinguishing the person though he had been near, and the voice seemingly issuing out of the ground, and coming along to Saul–and the vagueness of the information, imparted much which might have been reached by natural conjecture as to the probable result of the approaching conflict–the woman’s representation–all of this has led many to think that this was a mere deception. On the other hand, many eminent writers (considering that the apparition came before her arts were put in practice; that she herself was surprised and alarmed; that the prediction of Saul’s own death and the defeat of his forces was confidently made), are of opinion that Samuel really appeared, but for me, I have put the matter to the best of the scripture and am persuaded that Satan only impersonated The Prophet of the Lord Samuel. Moreso, it is cold comfort which this evil spirit in Samuel’s mantle gives to Saul, and is manifestly intended to drive him to despair and suicide. Had it been the true Samuel, when Saul desired to be told what he should do he would have told him to repent and make his peace with God, and recal David from his banishment, and would then have told him that he might hope in this way to find mercy with God; but, instead of that, he represents his case as helpless and hopeless, serving him as he did Judas, to whom he was first a tempter and then a tormentor, persuading him first to sell his master and then to hang himself. Nothing is said to reconcile him to David, but all tends rather to exasperate him against David and widen the breach. Yet, to make him believe that he was Samuel, the apparition affirmed that it was God who spoke by him.  The devil knows how to speak with an air of religion, and can teach false apostles to transform themselves into the apostles of Christ and imitate their language. Those who use spells and charms, and plead, in defence of them, that they find nothing in them but what is good, may remember what good words the devil here spoke, and yet with what a malicious design. Satan had helped him to palliate and excuse that sin when Samuel was dealing with him to bring him to repentance, but now he aggravates it, to make him despair of God’s mercy. See what those get that hearken to Satan’s temptations. He himself will be their accuser, and insult over them.  And see whom those resemble that allure others to that which is evil and reproach them for it when they have done.


2BC – SDA Bible Commentary

 Chapter 28

The Witch and Satan Had an Agreement.–The witch of Endor had made agreement with Satan to follow his directions in all things; and he would perform wonders and miracles for her, and would reveal to her the most secret things, if she would yield herself unreservedly to be controlled by his Satanic majesty. This she had done (1SP 375, 376).  {2BC 1022.7}


Saul’s Final Step.–When Saul inquired for Samuel, the Lord did not cause Samuel to appear to Saul. He saw nothing. Satan was not allowed to disturb the rest of Samuel in the grave, and bring him up in reality to the witch of Endor. God does not give Satan power to resurrect the dead. But Satan’s angels assume the form of dead friends, and speak and act like them, that through professed dead friends he can the better carry on his work of deception. Satan knew Samuel well, and he knew how to represent him before the witch of Endor, and to utter correctly the fate of Saul and his sons.  {2BC 1022.8}


Satan will come in a very plausible manner to such as he can deceive, and will insinuate himself into their favor, and lead them almost imperceptibly from God. He wins them under his control, cautiously at first, until their perceptibilities become blunted. Then he will make bolder suggestions, until he can lead them to commit almost any degree of crime. When he has led them fully into his snare, he is then willing that they should see where they are, and he exults in their confusion, as in the case of Saul. He had suffered Satan to lead him a willing captive, and now Satan spreads before Saul a correct description of his fate. By giving Saul a correct statement of his end, through the woman of Endor, Satan opens a way for Israel to be instructed by his satanic cunning, that they may, in their rebellion against God, learn of him, and by thus doing, sever the last link which would hold them to God.  {2BC 1022.9}


Saul knew that in this last act, of consulting the witch of Endor, he cut the last shred which held him to God. He knew that if he had not before wilfully separated himself from God, this act sealed that separation, and made it final. He had made an agreement with death, and a covenant with hell. The cup of his iniquity was full (1SP 376, 377).

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