Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Witch on Endor (modified)

We read in 1 Samuel, chapter 28:
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. The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the Lordthe Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. 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.”
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.” 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.”
This passage is always troublesome. If there is a majority position on this it is: it wasn’t really Samuel but either trickery or the work of Satan. I am not so sure.

Reading the passage carefully it does appear that the so called “Witch of Endor” saw Samuel, but Saul did not. That is compelling evidence of a hoax.

On the other hand, in the conversation between Saul and Samuel that ensues, the scripture reads as if the words are Samuel’s, starting in verse 15. And the converstion is meaningful, and Samuel's words appear to be accurate. Why didn’t the writer clarify that it wasn’t really Samuel?

Interestingly, Greek writers refer to her as a ventriloquist.

I would summarize that there are four possibilities:

  1. The Witch of Endor was a fraud and this is garden variety trickery. But how did she “invent” such meaningful words for Samuel? Perhaps Saul’s desperate state, rendered unto him because of his sinfulness, was well known.
  2. It was the work of Satan. Still trickery, but supernatural trickery. Maybe the Witch was also a fraud, which would liken her to Whoppi Goldberg in Ghost. Her own surprise at “Samuel’s” appearance would contribute to her agitated state. Or maybe she was not a fraud but a long term minion of Satan. However, why then is the scripture unclear, and why doesn’t the apparition appear to Saul?
  3. It really was Samuel, whose spirit was summoned against his will by the power of Satan. There is no indication elsewhere that Satan has this power, and if he did you would think he would use it regularly.
  4. It really was Samuel, and God, in His purpose, sent Samuel’s spirit. But again, why didn’t Saul see him? 
To me, the last explanation is the best at fitting both the immediate data and the rest of scripture. It attributes whatever supernatural power was present to God. It also best explains the conversation between Samuel and Saul.

It is all rather confusing. But like they saying goes: it’s not the things I don’t understand in the Bible that keep me awake, but the things I do understand.

One thing is for sure: do not mess around with spiritists and their ilk. Even if they (as is likely) are frauds, you are messing in an area in which God has explicitly forbidden us to tread.

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