What happened when Saul consulted with the Medium at Endor? Did Samuel appear to talk to him?
This was the answer to the question raised in our Sunday Adult class session.
Background of the incident
1st Samuel 28 gives us the background that prompted Saul to visit the witch. The prophet Samuel anointed him as the king of Israel. Now Samuel is dead, and Saul is facing danger because the strong army of the Philistines had come against Israel. When he saw the vast army of the Philistine, he was afraid, and terror filled his heart. He sought the LORD, but the LORD would not answer him. In frustration, he asked his attendants to find a medium so that he can inquire what would happen. They found for him one-the medium in Endor. Saul had already driven out of the land all the mediums and spiritists. However, understanding he would not get an answer from God, he went at night to consult with the spirit world. He said he wanted to talk to Samuel, the prophet, who already died.
Saul, the king, was in frustration and high stress. He became afraid of looking at the vast number of the Philistines. He wanted to know the future. What would happen? And he did not even mind to know the future by visiting the medium-the practice that was strongly warned by the LORD. The LORD gave the commandments against such practices. Bible says in Leviticus 19:31 says, ‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 20:6 Lord says, “I will also turn against those who commit spiritual prostitution by putting their trust in mediums or in those who consult the spirits of the dead. I will cut them off from the community.” Leviticus 20:27 says, “‘A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.” There are many other passages in the Bible, and due to short of time and space, I am not listing all such passages.
A wrong assumption
Some people of the opinion that although the Bible condemns consult with witch/mediums, the incident of Saul’s visit to the Medium at Endor justifies this practice. This is a wrong assumption. Saul, the first king of Israel, was continuously disobedient to God. His rebellion and disobedience against the commandments of the LORD resulted in God’s Spirit departing him. 1st Samuel 16:14 says, the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. In other words, God and his Spirit left him due to his disobedient and unrepentant lifestyle, and God sent an evil spirit to harass Saul. You see, all created things are under God’s control, even the devil and the demons. Using an evil spirit to disturb and harass Saul was God’s judgment upon Saul’s unrepentant life.
Saul and the Medium
Saul said to the medium, “bring up Samuel.” However, when the woman (who was the medium) saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me, you are Saul.” He disguised himself when he visited the medium. Then she said, “I see a spirit coming out of the ground.” She also said, “he is an old man wearing a robe.”
King Saul bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. The Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul said he is in great distress. The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called you to tell me what to do.” Then the Bible says, “Samuel said, why do you consult me, now that the LORD has departed from you and became your enemy? The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors—to David. Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. 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.”
Did Samuel appear is still in controversy
Some people think Samuel did not appear. The reasoning is what is the need for Samuel, the prophet of God talk to Saul via medium? God condemned the practice of Spiritism and witchcraft, then why should allow this to happen? Didn’t the Bible teach once died, the people would not return to us? (2 Samuel 12:23 and Luke 16:26).
Now, based on this reasoning, it was argued it was not Samuel who appeared. However, it was another spirit whom the medium called. He may have dressed like Samuel but not Samuel. It is also said the medium was actually deceiving Saul. With Saul’s face down on the ground, he did not see Samuel but only heard the voice when he asked questions. In other words, the witch was tricking Saul.
However, there are problems to accept the above view. The passage consistently says, “Samuel said,” evidencing it was Samuel himself who appeared. If you sit down and read the passage without bias, the literal reading causes one to believe it was Samuel who talked to Saul. It did not say the spirit or form of Samuel. It tells, “Samuel.” The passage lists direct one-on-one talk of Saul and Samuel. When the passage says when the medium ‘saw Samuel’ and ‘Samuel said’ repeatedly, it seems to confirm it was Samuel who appeared. Secondly, what Samuel said would happen the very next day happened precisely as he predicted. It was the judgmental word of God that was announced by Samuel. Samuel truthfully delivered the message to Saul. It all fulfilled exactly as Samuel said.
Some people argue it was not Samuel who appeared because this is not a usual way God performed his actions in the pages of the Bible. Also, they worry that if it Samuel it may approve the practice of Spiritism. We need to understand that God can accomplish his plans and purposes even by using evil spirits- including demons and even Satan. God is all-powerful. Devil and demons are not. God used unusual methods in other incidents as well, although such events are not frequent. Chapter 22 of Numbers record God used a donkey to get the attention of Balaam. Saul was also disobedient and rebellious to God for an extended period in his life, and now God may have used an unusual method to pronounce His last judgment on him. The lesson is that God can use even evil sources to accomplish his plans and purposes. The book of Job illustrates how God used even Satan’s evil plans to prove the faithfulness of Job.
Does the incident approve the practice of witchcraft?
The second concern is this – If Samuel appeared upon the exercise of demonic power, it suggests the approval of witchcraft and Spiritism and its power. This is not true because the Bible clearly says people should never attempt the practice of witchcraft or consult with evil forces or power. Saul’s consultation with the medium along with his rebellious and disobedient lifestyle resulted in severe punishment of his and his family’s death and nation’s defeat in the war. 1 Chronicles 10:13 says, “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 enquire of it;” Going and asking the counsel of the medium contributed to his sudden death. God’s judgment was upon him based on the passage under consideration.
We need to keep in mind that Satan has power, although he does not possess supreme or omnipotent power. Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, “He (the devil) will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” This reminds the fact that demonic power is real because they can do the signs and wonders. Such signs and wonders deceive those who are perishing. They perish because they do not want to obey the truth of the word of God. Saul did not want to obey the truth of the word of God, and so he was already progressively going down on the road of destruction. Finally, he disobeyed God by consulting the medium, which resulted in his final destruction.
What happened in this incident? I believe the medium used demonic power. However, God allowed Samuel to appear. It was not because medium or demonic power could bring back a dead person. It was the power of God that allowed Samuel to appear. God allowed it to happen. The devil does not have any power to bring back a dead person. Bible says in Revelations 1:18(c) only Jesus hold the keys of death and Hades. God’s power supersedes all other powers. Sometimes God allows things to happen (like this one, donkey talking to Balaam and Job’s sufferings) to accomplish his plans. However, these are not His usual way of actions.
In summary, God’s command still stands. People are not to consult with evil spirits or mediums. People must not try to contact the dead. These are God’s commandments. If a person disobeys, he or she would have to pay for it severely. The incident proves the fact of the dangerous consequences of violating this command set by the Lord God.