1 Samuel 28


The Philistines prepare to attack the Israelites, and Achish

informs David that he shall accompany him to battle, 1, 2.

Saul, unable to obtain any answer from God, applies to a witch

at En-dor to bring up Samuel that he may converse with him on

the issue of the war, 3-11.

Samuel appears, 12-14.

He reproaches Saul with his misconduct, and informs him of his

approaching ruin, 15-19.

He is greatly distressed; but at the solicitations of the woman

and his own servants, he takes some food, and departs the same

night, 20-25.


Verse 1. The Philistines gathered their armies together] Sir

Isaac Newton conjectures that the Philistines had got a great

increase to their armies by vast numbers of men which Amasis had

driven out of Egypt. This, with Samuel's death, and David's

disgrace, were no inconsiderable motives to a new war, front which

the Philistines had now every thing to hope.

Thou shalt go out with me to battle] This he said, being

deceived by what David had told him.

Verse 2. Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do] This

was another equivocal answer; and could only be understood by his

succeeding conduct. It might imply what he could do in favour of

the Philistines against Israel; or in favour of Israel against the

Philistines. Achish understood it in the former sense; and

therefore he said to David, I will make thee keeper of my head for

ever; i.e., Thou shalt be captain of my life-guards.

Verse 3. Samuel was dead] And there was no longer a public

accredited prophet to consult.

Those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards]

See Clarke on Le 19:31, and "Ex 22:18".

Verse 5. When Saul saw] He saw from the superiority of his

enemies, from the state of his army, and especially from his own

state towards God, that he had every thing to fear.

Verse 6. The Lord answered him not] He used the three methods by

which supernatural intelligence was ordinarily given:-

1. Dreams.-The person prayed for instruction; and begged that

God would answer by a significant dream.

2. Urim.-This was a kind of oracular answer given to the high

priest when clothed with the ephod, on which were the Urim and

Thummim. How these communicated the answer, is not well known.

3. Prophets.-Who were requested by the party concerned to

consult the Lord on the subject in question, and to report his

answer. The prophets at that time could only be those in the

schools of the prophets, which Samuel had established at Naioth

and Gibeah. These were the only successors of Samuel that we know


Verse 7. Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit] Literally,

Seek me a woman, baalath ob, the mistress of the Ob or

Pythonic spirit-one who had a familiar spirit, whom she could

invoke when she pleased, and receive answers from him relative to


Strange that a man, who had banished all such from the land, as

dangerous to the state, as impostors and deceivers, should now

have recourse to them as the only persons in whom he could safely

put his confidence in the time in which Jehovah had refused to

help him!

At En-dor.] This was a city in the valley of Jezreel, at the

foot of Mount Gilboa, where the army of Saul had now encamped.

Verse 8. Saul disguised himself] That he might not be known by

the woman, lest she, being terrified, should refuse to use her


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.

Verse 12. When the woman saw Samuel] That Samuel did appear on

this occasion, is most evident from the text; nor can this be

denied from any legitimate mode of interpretation: and it is as

evident that he was neither raised by the power of the devil nor

the incantations of the witch, for the appearances which took

place at this time were such as she was wholly unacquainted with.

Her familiar did not appear; and from the confused description she

gives, it is fully evident that she was both surprised and alarmed

at what she saw, being so widely different from what she expected

to see.

Verse 13. I saw gods ascending out of the earth.] The word

elohim, which we translate gods, is the word which is used for the

Supreme Being throughout the Bible; but all the versions, the

Chaldee excepted, translate it in the plural number, as we do.

The Chaldee has, I see malacha dayeya, an angel of

the Lord, ascending from the earth. This sight alarmed the woman;

it was what she did not expect; in this she could not recognise

her familiar, and she was terrified at the appearance.

Verse 14. An old man cometh up, and he is covered with a

mantle.] This seems to have been a second apparition; she cannot

mean that she had seen gods ascending out of the earth, and these

gods were like an old man with a mantle. The angelic appearance

first mentioned prepared the way for Samuel; and the whole was

done so as to show to the woman that her art had not prevailed in

the present instance, and that what was now taking place was

wholly independent of her incantations.

Saul perceived that it was Samuel] The description was suitable

to his person and clothing.

Verse 15. Why hast thou disquieted me] The complaint is not

directed against the woman but against Saul. Indeed, her

incantations had no influence in the business, and it does not

appear that she had commenced her operations before the angels had

prepared the way of the prophet, and before the prophet himself

had made his appearance.

That thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.] In his

former difficulties, and when pressed by his enemies, he was in

the habit of consulting Samuel; and now he applies to him as his

former preceptor. God, he knew, might answer by such a man as

Samuel, when he would answer by no other means.

Verse 16. Wherefore then dost thou ask of me] Was ever I wont to

give answers that were not dictated by the Lord? It is his counsel

alone that I communicate.

Verse 17. The Lord hath done to him] I believe these words are

spoken of Saul; and as they are spoken to him, it seems evident

that him should be thee. The Vulgate has tibi, the Septuagint

σοι, to THEE: and this is the reading of five of Kennicott's and

De Rossi's MSS., as well as of both the Bibles printed at Venice

in 1518, where we read lecha, to THEE, instead of lo, to


As he spake by me] Here was no illusion; none but Samuel could

say this.

Verse 18. Nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek] See

1Sa 15:1-9 and the notes there.

Verse 19. To-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me] 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?

But Samuel says, "He and his sons should be with him." Does not

this mean that they were to go to paradise? I suppose it means no

more than that they should all die. Yet the paraphrase of the Rev.

C. Wesley is beautiful:-

"What do these solemn words portend?

A ray of hope when life shall end.

Thou and thy sons, though slain, shall be

To-morrow in repose with me.

Not in a state of hellish pain,

If Saul with Samuel do remain:

Not in a state of damn'd despair,

If loving Jonathan be there."

Saul had committed the sin unto death-the sin to be visited with

a violent death, while the mercy of God was extended to the soul.

Thus say my faith, my hope, and my charity; and doth not the

mercy of God say the same?

Verse 20. Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth.]

Literally, he fell with his own length, or with the fullness of

his stature. He was so overwhelmed with this most dreadful

message, that he swooned away, and thus fell at his own length

upon the ground. The woman, being terrified, had probably

withdrawn to some distance at the first appearance of the prophet;

and Saul was left alone with Samuel. After some short time, the

woman came again unto Saul, found him sore troubled, and offered

him those succours which humanity dictated.

Verse 23. I will not eat.] It is no wonder that not only his

strength, but also his appetite, had departed from him.

And sat upon the bed] Beds or couches were the common places

on which the ancients sat to take their repasts.

Verse 24. The woman had a fat calf] The ancients used great

despatch in their cookery. In hot countries they could not keep

flesh meat by them any length of time; hence they generally kept

young animals, such as calves, lambs, and kids, ready for

slaughter; and when there was occasion, one of them was killed,

and dressed immediately.

Unleavened bread] There was not time to bake leavened bread;

that would have taken considerable time, in order that the leaven

might leaven the whole lump.

Verse 25. They rose up, and went away that night.] The

transactions of this chapter occupy one night only. 1. Saul came

by night to En-dor, 1Sa 28:8. 2. He consulted the woman, and had

his conference with Samuel the same night; for no time whatever

appears to have been lost after his arrival at En-dor. 3. He was

overcome by the heavy tidings which he heard; and which for a time

appear to have deprived him of all power. 4. The woman kills a

calf; dresses a part; makes and bakes bread; and Saul and his

servants eat. And, 5. They rose and went away that night,

1Sa 28:25. The

next day, in all probability, the battle happened in which

Israel was defeated, and Saul and his sons lost their lives.

THERE is a considerable diversity of opinion, both among learned

and pious men, relative to the subject mentioned in this chapter,

that of raising Samuel from the dead. Some deny the possibility of

the thing, and say that it was the devil that personified Samuel;

and others, that the whole was the imposition of this cunning

woman, and that there was no supernatural agency in the business.

This is not a proper place to argue the point. I have given my

opinion in the notes. I may sum up in a few particulars.

1. I believe there is a supernatural and spiritual world, in

which HUMAN spirits, both good and bad, live in a state of


2. I believe there is an invisible world, in which various

orders of spirits, not human, live and act.

3. I believe that any of these spirits may, according to the

order of God, in the laws of their place of residence, have

intercourse with this world, and become visible to mortals.

4. I believe there is a possibility, by arts not strictly good,

to evoke and have intercourse with spirits, not HUMAN; and to

employ, in a certain limited way, their power and influence.

5. I believe that the woman of En-dor had no power over Samuel;

and that no incantation can avail over any departed saint of God,

nor indeed over any human disembodied spirit.

6. I believe Samuel did actually appear to Saul; and that he was

sent by the especial mercy of God to warn this infatuated king of

his approaching death, that he might have an opportunity to make

his peace with his Maker.

7. I believe that the woman found, from the appearances, that

her real or pretended charms had no effect; and that what now took

place came from a totally different disposition of things from

those with which she was conversant.

8. I believe that direct, circumstantial, and unequivocal

oracles were now delivered concerning things which neither human

nor diabolical wisdom could foresee or penetrate; that the defeat

of the Israelites, and the death of Saul and his three sons on the

following day, were matters which, from their nature, could only

be known to God himself; and that no demon or bad spirit could be

employed in such a transaction.

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