1Samuel 28:3-20

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 3, 2002


We are now approaching the end of the reign of King Saul.  Saul has continued to go downhill in his life.  He’s been troubled by an evil spirit.  He’s been overcome with jealousy over David’s success and has tried to kill David on numerous occasions.  Saul doesn’t have Samuel around to give him guidance.  And the Philistines are gathering once more for a huge battle.  Saul is desperate.

:3-20 Saul and the witch

:3 Now Samuel was dead

We were told of Samuel’s death back in 1Sam. 25:1.  The writer is simply telling us that this is happening during the same period of time.

:3  And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.

familiar spirits‘owb – water skin bottle; necromancer; one who evokes the dead; ghost, spirit of a dead one; one that has a familiar spirit. A “medium”.

The term “familiar spirit” is synonymous with that of demons.  When you see “familiar spirit”, think of a person who is working with demons.  Today we call this person a “channeler”.

wizards[email protected]‘oniy – a knower, one who has a familiar spirit; soothsayer, necromancer; “spiritist”, “psychic”.  A “necromancer” is a person who tries to contact the spirits of dead people.

Again, this is setting the stage for what is about to happen.  At one point in his reign as king, Saul had acted out of obedience to the Law of Moses and had outlawed mediums and psychics in Israel.  This is what the Law of Moses says –

(Lev 19:31 NLT)  "Do not rely on mediums and psychics, for you will be defiled by them. I, the LORD, am your God.

(Lev 20:6 NLT)  "If any among the people are unfaithful by consulting and following mediums or psychics, I will turn against them and cut them off from the community.

(Lev 20:27 NLT)  "Men and women among you who act as mediums or psychics must be put to death by stoning. They are guilty of a capital offense."

(Deu 18:9-14 NLT)  "When you arrive in the land the LORD your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. {10} For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, {11} or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. {12} Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you. {13} You must be blameless before the LORD your God. {14} The people you are about to displace consult with sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the LORD your God forbids you to do such things.

This is pretty clear.  God says it’s wrong.

Why are these things wrong?

Is it because we will get bad information?
Not always.  In fact, this is one reason why people are sucked into these things, because there is a real power here.  Satan is at work and he draws people in with demonstrations of power and knowledge.
But the problem is that people then become hooked on these things, and then it is easy for Satan to lead a person astray.
And worst of all, a person becomes dependant upon Satan instead of God.
Paul says that this is something we ought to be aware of in the end times.

(1 Tim 4:1 KJV)  Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

In the time of the Great Tribulation, people will be blinded by these things, and even though they will be aware of God’s judgment, they won’t be able to give these things up.

(Rev 9:20-21 KJV)  And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: {21} Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

sorceriespharmakeia – the use or the administering of drugs; sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it

Going back to our story, the sad thing is that Saul’s death will come in part because of what he’s about to do in consulting a medium, breaking his own law.

(1 Chr 10:13-14 KJV)  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 inquire of it; {14} And inquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.

God is pretty serious about this stuff.  It’s pretty dangerous.  It will lead you astray and bring your destruction.

:4  the Philistines … pitched in Shunem

Sounds like a baseball game.  Both armies are in the northern part of Israel.

ShunemShuwnem – “double resting place”  see map

GilboaGilboa‘– “swollen heap”; a mountain-ridge at the southeastern end of the plain of Jezreel;  see map

:5 he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled


The danger of fear

Saul’s fear is going to drive him to do some very foolish things.
So what do I do if I’m afraid? David wrote,
(Psa 56:3-4 KJV)  What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. {4} In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
(Psa 56:11 KJV)  In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
Let your fear drive you to God.  Run to Him.

:6 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.

inquiredsha’al – to ask, enquire, borrow, beg.  This is the root of Saul’s name which means “desired” or “asked”.

There were three ways that God spoke in those days:

dreamschalowm – dream

Urim ‘Uwriym – “lights”; stones kept in a pouch on the high-priest’s breastplate, used in determining God’s decision in certain questions and issues

prophetsnabiy’ – spokesman, speaker, prophet

Saul at least seems to be trying to ask God for help.  He is trying to use the various things that were at his disposal in seeking answers from God.

But he doesn’t know what to do when God doesn’t answer.


God wants to speak to us

I believe very much that God can speak directly to us today.  I believe very much that the Holy Spirit wants to lead and direct our lives.  I believe that God can still speak through dreams and prophets.
But God speaks clearest and loudest through His Word, the Bible.
(2 Pet 1:19 KJV)  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

If you want to hear from God, the best place to start is to develop a regular, daily time of reading God’s Word.


When God is silent

Is there a reason God is silent?
Sin:  Sometimes it’s because there is sin in our lives that we aren’t dealing with.
(Isa 59:1-2 KJV)  Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: {2} But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Perhaps God didn’t answer Saul because he had killed the priests (1Sam. 22).  That might do it.

Another time that Saul had disobeyed was when he didn’t obey what God commanded concerning the Amalekites.  At that time, Samuel had said,

(1 Sam 15:22-23 KJV)  And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. {23} For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

And here rebellious Saul is now contacting a witch.

If you want God to talk to you, you’ll need to do something with your sin.  Like stop it.  Like pay for it.  The only way we can “pay for” our sins is to let Jesus pay for them.  The Bible says,

(1 John 1:9 KJV)  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jesus can cleanse us from our sins because He died on a cross to pay for our sins.

Impatience: Sometimes we simply need to wait for Him and His time.  Sometimes God is silent because it’s simply not time for us to get an answer.
One of the things we’ve seen in Saul’s life is a tendency to be impatient and impulsive.

When Samuel was alive, Saul had been instructed to wait for Samuel at Gilgal for seven days, and then Samuel would show up, perform a sacrifice, and give Saul instructions of what to do.  But one time it seemed that Samuel wasn’t going to show up, and Saul needed to know what to do to fight the Philistines, so instead of waiting, he jumped ahead of things and got into trouble (1Sam. 13:8-14).

David wrote,

(Psa 25:5 KJV)  Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Keep seeking God.  Keep waiting on Him.

:7 a woman that hath a familiar spirit … at Endor.

Endor‘Eyn-Do’r – “fountain of Dor”.  This was a place near the battlefront. This is not the planet with a forest moon in the Star Wars movie.  But at least now you know where George Lucas got the name.

Saul had earlier made a law against witchcraft and psychics.  Yet now he goes to look for help from the very things he knows is wrong.


Stay within God’s ways

Don’t go outside the boundaries.
(Isa 8:19-20 NLT)  So why are you trying to find out the future by consulting mediums and psychics? Do not listen to their whisperings and mutterings. Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God? {20} "Check their predictions against my testimony," says the LORD. "If their predictions are different from mine, it is because there is no light or truth in them.

:8 And Saul disguised himself

disguised himselfchaphas – to search, disguise oneself

raimentbeged – treachery, deceit; (CLBL) garment, clothing (used indiscriminately)

Why is Saul disguising himself?  Because he knows he’s doing a bad thing and he doesn’t want anyone to recognize him.

:8  divine unto me by the familiar spirit

Saul is asking her to use her personal demon to contact a dead person.


I have a good friend who used to be involved in all sorts of occult/metaphysical things.  Before he became a Christian, he dabbled for a while with this practice of contacting the dead.  He had read books about it and had learned to go into certain states of consciousness where he would make contact with something.  He was fascinated with the power this brought him, especially as these voices began to tell him things.  A lady asked him to contact her dead husband, and in response, the voice told him where the lady could find a certain document that had been lost.  But the next time he tried to contact this dead person, he found himself terrorized and pinned to his bed by some huge, black force.  It scared my friend to death.  This became part of what drove my friend to Jesus.

I’m not going to tell you that the things of the occult (séances, witchcraft, astrology, Ouija boards, tarot cards, wicca, etc) are bogus.  The truth is there is something very real and very powerful involved in these things.  And this is why people are drawn in, because of the power.  But it is all a trap of Satan, a trap that will lead to a life of desperation, fear, bondage, and eventually to hell itself.

:9  wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life

The woman is being careful.  She thinks she may be stepping into a trap.

:10 And Saul sware …saying, As the LORD liveth …

Saul is breaking God’s laws, yet he’s swearing by God’s name.  Hmmmm.

:12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice

Apparently Samuel tells the witch that the man before her is Saul.

Why did the woman cry with a loud voice?

One suggestion is that she cries out because she realizes that Saul is in front of her, and he could have her killed.

Another idea is that she is experiencing something different than what she normally experienced.

Some have suggested that she was a fake, as some are who pretend to do these things.  And when she actually sees something, whether or not it was really Samuel, she’s frightened.
Others have suggested that this woman is used to talking only with demonic spirits, and if this was actually Samuel’s spirit, she’s blown away to see the real thing.

Is this really Samuel?

There are two possible answers to that question.

Some say no. 

I believe that most of the time that a person is trying to contact the “other side”, what they are contacting is simply demons who pretend to be something.  Demons have been around a long time, know a lot of things, and I don’t think it would be hard for them to tell someone things that are unique or amazing.  It’s possible that this being that is called Samuel is really a demon.

Some say yes.

As uncomfortable as it is to say this, it seems to me that this is exactly what the text is saying.
All through this story, this “thing” is called “Samuel”.  The text itself never gives us a reason to think it is anything but Samuel.
Even though God has forbidden this practice of trying to talk to the dead, this doesn’t mean that God might not have decided to allow Samuel to give Saul one last strong message.
Charles Ryrie:  “The medium shrieked with fear when Samuel himself actually appeared, rather than some spirit that would impersonate him. On this occasion God miraculously permitted the actual spirit of Samuel to speak and announce Saul's imminent death”.
Also, keep in mind, the prophecy that will come out of this will actually happen.

:13  I saw gods ascending out of the earth.

gods‘elohiym   (plural); rulers, judges; divine ones; angels

I think the idea is that this woman is in some sort of “altered state of consciousness” where she is able to see things, but nobody else in the room can see what she sees.

:14 An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle

mantle[email protected]‘iyl – robe; a garment worn over a tunic by men of rank

Even though Saul can’t see Samuel, he bows to the ground anyway, out of respect.

:15 Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?

disquietedragaz – tremble, quake, rage, quiver, be agitated, be excited, be perturbed

Samuel seems like he’s in a bad mood.  He’s been enjoying himself in paradise.

:17-18 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me

When Saul had disobeyed God in the war on the Amalekites, God spoke through Samuel that Saul was going to have the kingdom torn away from him (1Sam. 15:27-28).

:19 to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me

Samuel will now give two specific prophecies of what would happen.

First, Israel is going to lose the battle to the Philistines.  The army of Israel would lose the battle.

Second, Saul and his sons would be dead and with Samuel in Sheol on the next day.

:20 Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth … he had eaten no bread

Saul faints because of two things – he’s terrified at what Samuel has said, and he hasn’t eaten all day.


Run to Jesus

It seems to me that Saul’s root problem is that he doesn’t know where to run.  He runs to everyone but God.  Though the writer said that he “inquired of the LORD” (vs.6), but you can see by his actions that in reality he did everything but run to the Lord.  He’s run to his prophets, he’s run to his priests (if there were any left), he’s run to a witch, he’s run to Samuel.  That’s why the writer in Chronicles could say he “inquired not of the LORD” (1Chr. 10:14).  He’s run everywhere but to God Himself.
When Paul was living in Ephesus,
(Acts 19:11-20 KJV)  And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: {12} So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

People were amazed at the things that God was doing through Paul.

{13} Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. {14} And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. {15} And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? {16} And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. {17} And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

People had been confusing God’s power with Paul.  They had thought that Paul was the one to “run to”.  But they realized that the Lord Jesus was the one to run to.

{18} And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.

These were people who had already been in the church.  People in the church, believers, had been dabbling in bad stuff.

{19} Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. {20} So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

I am concerned that we too don’t fall into the traps of Satan.  If you have been dabbling with these kinds of things, you need to stop it.  Today.  You need to run to the Lord.