1 Samuel 28

The Witch of Endor

1In those days the Philistines gathered their troops
Heb “their camps.”
for war in order to fight Israel. Achish said to David, “You should fully understand that you and your men must go with me into the battle.”
The translation follows the LXX (εἰς πόλεμον, eis polemon) and a Qumran ms מלחמה במלחמה ([m]lkhmh) bammilkhamah (“in the battle”) rather than the MT’s בַמַּחֲנֶה (bammakhaneh, “in the camp”; cf. NASB). While the MT reading is not impossible here, and although admittedly it is the harder reading, the variant fits the context better. The MT can be explained as a scribal error caused in part by the earlier occurrence of “camp” in this verse.
2David replied to Achish, “That being the case, you will come to know what your servant can do!” Achish said to David, “Then I will make you my bodyguard
Heb “the guardian for my head.”
from now on.”
Heb “all the days.”

3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented over him and had buried him in Ramah, his hometown.
Heb “in Ramah, even in his city.”
In the meantime Saul had removed the mediums
The Hebrew term translated “mediums” actually refers to a pit used by a magician to conjure up underworld spirits (see 2 Kgs 21:6). In v. 7 the witch of Endor is called the owner of a ritual pit. See H. Hoffner, “Second Millennium Antecedents to the Hebrew ’ÔḆ,” JBL 86 (1967): 385-401. Here the term refers by metonymy to the owner of such a pit (see H. A. Hoffner, TDOT 1:133).
and magicians
See Isa 8:19 for another reference to magicians who attempted to conjure up underworld spirits.
from the land.
4The Philistines assembled; they came and camped at Shunem. Saul mustered all Israel and camped at Gilboa. 5When Saul saw the camp of the Philistines, he was absolutely terrified.
Heb “he was afraid, and his heart was very terrified.”
6So Saul inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him – not by dreams nor by Urim
See the note at 1 Sam 14:41.
nor by the prophets.
7So Saul instructed his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium,
Heb “an owner of a ritual pit.” See the note at v. 3.
so that I may go to her and inquire of her.” His servants replied to him, “There is a woman who is a medium in Endor.”

8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothing and left, accompanied by two of his men. They came to the woman at night and said, “Use your ritual pit to conjure up for me the one I tell you.”
Heb “Use divination for me with the ritual pit and bring up for me the one whom I say to you.”

9 But the woman said to him, “Look, you are aware of what Saul has done; he has removed
Heb “how he has cut off.”
the mediums and magicians
See the note at v. 3.
from the land! Why are you trapping me
Heb “my life.”
so you can put me to death?”
10But Saul swore an oath to her by the Lord, “As surely as the Lord lives, you will not incur guilt in this matter!” 11The woman replied, “Who is it that I should bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up for me Samuel.”

12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out loudly.
Heb “in a great voice.”
The woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!”
13The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid! What have you seen?” The woman replied to Saul, “I have seen one like a god
Heb “gods.” The modifying participle (translated “coming up”) is plural, suggesting that underworld spirits are the referent. But in the following verse Saul understands the plural word to refer to a singular being. The reference is to the spirit of Samuel.
coming up from the ground!”
14He said to her, “What about his appearance?” She said, “An old man is coming up! He is wrapped in a robe!”

Then Saul realized it was Samuel, and he bowed his face toward the ground and kneeled down.
15Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul replied, “I am terribly troubled! The Philistines are fighting against me and God has turned away from me. He does not answer me – not by the prophets nor by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what I should do.”

16 Samuel said, “Why are you asking me, now that the Lord has turned away from you and has become your enemy? 17The Lord has done exactly as I prophesied!
Heb “just as he said by my hand.”
The Lord has torn the kingdom from your hand and has given it to your neighbor David!
18Since you did not obey the Lord
Heb “listen to the voice of the Lord.”
and did not carry out his fierce anger against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this thing to you today.
19The Lord will hand you and Israel over to the Philistines!
Heb “And the Lord will give also Israel along with you into the hand of the Philistines.”
Tomorrow both you and your sons will be with me.
With the exception of the Lucianic recension, the LXX has here “and tomorrow you and your sons with you will fall.”
The Lord will also hand the army
Heb “camp.”
of Israel over to the Philistines!”

20 Saul quickly fell full length on the ground and was very afraid because of Samuel’s words. He was completely drained of energy,
Heb “also there was no strength in him.”
not having eaten anything
Heb “food.”
all that day and night.
21When the woman came to Saul and saw how terrified he was, she said to him, “Your servant has done what you asked.
Heb “listened to your voice.”
I took my life into my own hands and did what you told me.
Heb “listened to your words that you spoke to me.”
22Now it’s your turn to listen to your servant! Let me set before you a bit of bread so that you can eat. When you regain your strength, you can go on your way.”

23 But he refused, saying, “I won’t eat!” Both his servants and the woman urged
The translation follows many medieval Hebrew mss in reading וַיִּפְצְרוּ (vayyiftseru, “and they pressed”; from the root פצר, psr) rather than the MT’s וַיִּפְרְצוּ (vayyifretsu, “and they broke forth”; from the root פרצ, prs).
him to eat, so he gave in.
Heb “he listened to their voice.”
He got up from the ground and sat down on the bed.
24Now the woman
Masoretic mss of the Hebrew Bible mark this word as the half-way point in the book of Samuel, treating 1 and 2 Samuel as a single book. Similar notations are found at the midway point for all of the books of the Hebrew Bible.
had a well-fed calf
Heb “a calf of the stall.”
at her home that she quickly slaughtered. Taking some flour, she kneaded bread and baked it without leaven.
25She brought it to Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they arose and left that same night.

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