Monday, April 03, 2006

Legitimate Biblical Question # 2

In my men's Bible study, we're reviewing the life of David (actually 1st and 2nd Samuel) in an attempt to better understand the character and nature of God. We got to 1st Samuel Chapter 28 last night, which is Saul's encounter with the witch, or medium, of Endor. Here's verses 3-19:

3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. 4 The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. 7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.”
8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” 9 The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” 10 But Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.
15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”

The question herein is: Was the "apparition" that appeared to be Samuel actually Samuel or was it something else, namely demonic? Our study leader put out the question -- Would God himself do and/or use something that He despises and has told us as His followers to not associate themselves with (to keep themselves holy like He is holy). Leviticus 19:31 states:

31 “Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.

and Leviticus 20:6 states:

6 “If a person turns to mediums and wizards, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.

There's more where that came from, btw. In the end, and I don't know why I always seem like the devil's advocate with these types of questions, but I was probably the only guy in our study who thought that the apparition was actually Samuel. Well, I'm not totally sure, but I didn't necessarily agree that the Lord God's holiness would be in question by involving himself in something he forbids. To me, the medium, herself, was in the wrong, and Saul was certainly in the wrong -- but I didn't think it affected God's holiness to let Samuel arise and prophesy against Saul. Everyone else thought God would have been endorsing a practice he had forbidden, and God's character won't go against His holy nature, which He has expressed in the Scriptures (and in this case against consorting with mediums). Ergo, they thought it must have been a fallen angel from the spiritual realm who had basically heard God's proclamation against Saul. Because just from the reading, whatever spirit arose did a pretty good job of representing God's point of view against Saul.

So, if you care, what think ye? And please show me the way. I promise I won't be near as stubborn or abrasive as I was in the last Legitimate Biblical Question I posed.


codepoke said...

I'm with you, Rich. That was Samuel. If it were not Samuel, the text would plainly say so. Instead, it actually talks about what had to do to come back. And no demon could have known that Samuel and his sons would all be dead.

Before the victory of Christ on the cross, a lot of things were allowed on this earth that are now prohibited.

I believe the false prophets of Baal had good reason to expect their gods to consume the sacrifice, too. You don't knife-whip yourself until the blood flows just to make a good show. They had surely seen their gods answer those prayers before.

Rich said...

Thanks, codepoke. Glad I'm not on an island on this one.

After looking over the Net, there's virtually no end to the amount of writing on Saul and the Witch of Endor -- I probably should have looked at it before I posted. Maybe the legitimate quetion has become passe' to readers.

Yeah, I tend to take the text at face value in this case as it seems like both the witch and Saul are surprised. Really, I don't think the witch "called up" Samuel so much as I think God gave both her and Saul a jolt when Samuel appeared. The occurence to me is more like a miracle of God than sorcery. I think the witch expected something other than what she got (or something different than she was used to seeing), and Saul had it pointed out to him in a foreboding way that he was going to die.

Chinks in my theory? Well, it seems like God had stopped talking to Saul for some time. So much so that Saul, at his wits end, finally went off the deep end and found himself this medium when earlier he had banned them from the kingdom. God had said, I believe, that he was taking his spirit away from Saul and had turned his face away from the king. Why does he decide to talk to him here? And certainly God had other ways that he generally used. Prophets and prophetesses being the prime example. If God was going to talk to Saul, why not use his usual means instead of at a time where Saul was doing something God expressly forbid? Also, the only witnesses to the story are the witch, Saul, and Saul also had a couple servants with him that may have seen some of this. So if the story was relayed by Saul to other accounts to finally the writer of Samuel, it would probably have come from Saul's POV. (Of course, God witnessed it, too.)

Still, after I've rethought it, I still come back to I think it was Samuel. And mainly for the reasons I put forward in the paragraph before last.

DugALug said...


Maybe I am just a heretic, but I take this appiration to be a demonic spirit. I can't think of a better way to destroy the spirit of a nation then to tell its leader that he is out from under the covering of God.

Whether it was true of not is arbitrary, because it became self-fullfilling.

By this time in his life, Saul was about as spiritually keen as a bowling ball. He could be easily swayed by stroking his ego, or by attacking his many weaknesses. Remember that Saul knew that David was going to challenge his throne and that is why he wanted him killed. Ego and craving power drove Saul to many poor decisions.

There is no doubt that the devil has power on this earth. I do believe that some fortune-tellers and other 'mystics' posess power in the super-natural. Unfortunately for them it is demonic, and will lead to the ruin of those who seek after it.

It is interesting that Codepoke also sited Elijah in their example. I too think it is like when Elijah fled from Bethsheba and was told to wait for the Spirit of God in the cave, and a roaring wind came, but God was not in it, and a large gust came and God was also not in it, then a gentle breeze came, and that is where God could be found. God has the power, He does not need to posture to prove He is God.

I think the best message to learn here is to seek the source not the symptom. Saul sought a man of God who was already dead rather than seeking God himself, and this was yet another downfall in his life. I hate to pick on my Catholic brothers, but there is a big lesson here about praying to saints too.