The story of the witch of Endor in the Bible raises many questions about divination, foretelling the future, communication with demons and the dead, and whether or not God had a hand in this unusual prophetic event.
The Bible has many passages that don’t have 100-percent clear answers that leave us to speculate on certain particulars.
The story of Saul and the medium (often called a witch) of Endor found in 1 Samuel 28 is a passage that leaves us with several questions. We’ll look at the concerns in a moment, but first here is a summary of the events.
We are told that Samuel, a biblical prophet, is “dead, and all of Israel mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah.”
With divination forbidden by God, Saul, the first king of the United Kingdom f Israel (Israel and Judah), “had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.”
Saul saw the Philistine army gathering, inquired of the Lord, but did not receive an answer.
Saul asked his attendants to find him a medium, and they found one in Endor. Saul disguised himself and went at night to see the witch. She was concerned, telling him Saul has cut off the mediums and necromancers from the land and was concerned he was laying a trap to bring about her death. He swore to her she would not be punished. He asked her to bring up the spirit of Samuel from the dead.
When the witch conjured his spirit and saw Samuel, she “cried out with a loud voice” and said: “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul, I see a (ghostly figure, NIV) (God, ESV) coming up out of the earth.” He tells her not to be afraid and to describe what she sees.
The witch described Samuel to Saul and he knew that it was indeed Samuel.
Samuel reprimanded Saul for disturbing him by bringing him up.
Saul explained his concern about the Philistine army, explaining “God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”
Samuel tells Saul: “The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”
We read in 1 Samuel 31, that the prophecy of Samuel did come to pass. The Philistines killed Saul’s three sons. Saul asked his armor-bearer to kill him to spare him from likely torture from the Philistines. But his armor-bearer would not do it. The Bible says: “Saul took his own sword and fell on it.” The Philistines “found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head… ”
The story of the witch of Endor raises a number of questions and provokes further thought. Here are a few concerns:
2. Was this really the spirit of Samuel?
Saul was convinced and the Bible seems to indicate this is true.
3. Could the dead spirit have been a demonic imposter?
It is generally assumed that one reason (not the only one) God forbids divination and necromancy is that it brings one into contact with demonic spirits who can deceive us and lead us toward harm.
4. The witch is frightened when she sees the spirit of Samuel.
This implies a couple of things.
5. The Bible implies only God knows the future.
Yet, the spirit of Samuel gives an accurate foretelling of the future, that tomorrow Saul and his sons will be dead and with him (presumably where the dead go), and this comes to pass.
6. Was it God creating the illusion of Samuel?