The Witch of Endor
17th July 2022, hej
1) The Witch of Endor
There is a cultural fascination with wizardry and witchcraft which may have to do with romanticism of its power in fiction and fashion and have little to do with function and sordid fact. But at the core of functional witchcraft is a rejection of the God of the Bible, and the servants of Christ might wish to reject fashion and fiction for the most amazing fact, as illustrated by the Witch of Endor.
Firstly let us remove modern misconceptions from modern fiction and find out what the ancients knew as witchcraft and wizardry. From this we may better assess in the modern world what is real and what is fashion and affectation. In the time of Isaiah when he is told to prophesy that Jerusalem (also called Ariel) would be destroyed, he says they would speak as a familiar spirit.
Yet I will distress Ariel, and there shall be heaviness and sorrow: and it shall be unto me as Ariel. And I will camp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee. And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. (Isaiah 29:2-4)
It was a feature of pagan religions the world over that they would have those that hear the dead, or hear oracles. It was very well known of the Greeks with their Oracle of Delphi. It was feature of spiritualism at the turn of the century that they would meet to hear the dead as Christianity had compromised with paganism. There is only one problem, according to the Bible all who die are truly dead and dust, and can't talk from the dust!
For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. (Isaiah 38:18-19)
It is not just Isaiah who says it categorically – and he who heard directly from God ought to know - it is a refrain in the book of praise
The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence. (Psalm 115:17)
Solomon goes further
Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. (Eccl. 9:6)
If the dead can't talk, and can have no effect on anything ever again, how came the idea they could? We have to ask ourselves is there any possibility using logic and all forms of evidence we have that the dead can talk from the dust?
Modern entertainment has a skill called a ventriloquist. There is also some considerable evidence of drugs and methods to obtain trances that can produce some very odd outcomes, the Oracle at Delphi for example is thought to have used a gas. But fundamentally all patterns show people seek in one shape or another to know the past or the future, to seek the knowledge only God has.
Why do people even desire to consult the dead, rather than the best advice among the living? In an investigation of cases of witchcraft in the 1800s to 1920s in Denmark where you could still be convicted and imprisoned for witchcraft, the common theme was that some gullible superstitious people would be seeking to cure sickness (or cause it), or to find out information from the past or the future often using objects related to Christianity in extremely odd ways; as in the case of Barbara Heinzmann convicted in 1811 who both worked as healer and as a provider of information being convicted after using a key and hymn book to 'find out' who stole washing (for a fee)!
People seek these things from the 'voices' of the earth as they seek to know the unknowable – for whatever reason. But in fact we have access to knowing the things that matter of the future, our future, from God, which is why the God of Israel will not tolerate witchcraft.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed. (Exo 22:18-20)
And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:26-27)
People would give the one who hears special 'words' honour, when the prophets of Yahweh Elohim gave only honour to Yahweh Elohim. He is a jealous El (Mighty one) and will not tolerate others taking his honour, as it is his and his alone.
I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them. (Isaiah 42:8-9)
But there is more in the grand design of things. All Prophets point to the one Prophet through whom all are given salvation.
Just before the introduction to the Prophet like Moses, who Israel (and we) were to hear, the Israelites are commanded to destroy the witches and enchanters!
When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
Thou shalt be perfect with Yahweh (He who will be) thy Elohim (Mighty Ones).
For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do. The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; (Deuteronomy 18:9-15)
There is no Divination other than Yahweh Elohim's, who alone knows the future.
There are none who have power over times, but the Elohim (Mighty Ones) of Israel.
There are none that can change the present and heal but El Shaddai.
There are none that can raise the dead for them to speak to us, but the Creator and giver of life. There is none that can save, but the great Prophet that God said he would raise up – which we know is Y'shua.
Amazing Events at Endor
We know that Endor was in Manasseh, but that the people lived among the pagan Canaanites. Did they learn witchcraft from them?
Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher..the inhabitants of Endor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and her towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns, even three countries. Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. (Joshua 17:11-12)
Sisera the captain of the army of Jabin the king of the Canaanites perished at Endor.
Do unto them as unto the Midianites; as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook of Kison: Which perished at Endor: they became as dung for the earth. (Psalm 83:9-10)
The events concerning the witch that we focus on began when Saul could not obtain an answer as to the future from God, who only knows our future.
When Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. (1Samuel 28:5-7)
We are told that Saul, despite not killing the Amalekites, had been active in killing all those who had familiar spirits and that were wizards (1 Sam. 28:3) . We can speculate without much evidence as to why Saul was so zealous, as we are not told. There is perhaps, arguably, a few clues in that Saul himself had an evil spirit that none but David's playing could calm. We can place that in the context with the way Saul killed even the priests who would not reveal to him where David was hiding. Saul may have thought all those with 'evil spirits' must be removed, for God to remove his own evil spirit. He may also have remembered Samuel's last words to him that, “that rebellion is as the sin of Witchcraft” (1 Sam 15:23).
The Bible leaves little room for doubt that something amazing happened at Endor.
The text makes it clear that Saul, not hearing from the Urim of the Temple or any prophet, wanted to be told what he should do to fight the Philistines by Samuel. However Samuel was dead. If Samuel had been alive Saul would have attempted to go to him, even though Samuel had rejected him. It was Samuel who had anointed him king. We know this is a fact as the account of Saul's activity of that day begins, “Now Samuel was dead.” (I Sam 28:3).
So desperate is Saul to hear something that he thought to ask of one who had 'a familiar spirit'. We are told that Saul had not eaten, so this may explain any lack of logic in his behaviour. He disguises himself, which may have taken some effort as Saul was a very tall man, and sneaks down to Endor to arrive at night (a time when eyesight is made dim).
We know from the record that people could chose to practice their art or not as the woman refuses at first – despite having a reputation. It is quite easy to eliminate all such occult practices, with an active death penalty.
When the woman of Endor is persuaded to call on Samuel – it seems from the record she got the shock of her life. Instead of hearing indistinct murmurs from the earth she saw 'Elohim' coming out of the earth and then a man standing there. The Hebrew says she shrieks in fear of anguish and danger, exceedingly loud.
This real being she saw was not what she had signed on for. This was not her art of hearing voices from the earth!
She would have seen Samuel in life when he was a prophet before the nation. As the record says “when she saw Samuel” it implies she recognised him. She concluded immediately that the disguised man there in the dark calling him up was Saul.
At first only the woman sees Samuel and she describes him to Saul as an old man covered in a mantle. After she describes him to Saul, Saul also sees what she had shrieked at - Samuel is standing before him. Saul is so convinced it is really Samuel he bows to him. Saul knew what Samuel looked like.
We can ask any questions we like on the matter, and wonder if it was a vision or not but the record implies that Samuel was really there. We know physical resurrection is possible. We know from later events that our Lord spoke with Moses and Elijah. If any Jews may ask if the resurrection of our Lord is possible – surely we can point to Samuel. The Divine record says positively that Samuel himself was speaking.
Samuel said to Saul, “Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?” (1Samuel 28:15)
This is not Yahweh Elohim speaking through a prophet or a vision. What is harder to do – to make a vision of Samuel or to have the real thing there?
The woman is no longer part of the events- she is given no credit as a 'medium'. A two way direct, face to face conversation begins.
Saul answered, “I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.” (1Samuel 28:15)
The question, “What shall I do?” is the one Saul had from the beginning of events, when the Philistines turned up. The next part shows that Samuel has heard and answers every point.
Then said Samuel, “Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.” (1Samuel 28:16-19)
There is a fair bit to unpick here. The reply digs up old issues and sins, points to David as the rightful king, and in addition tells Saul his future which he fears, but he really doesn't want to know. One point that must be noted that Samuel knew where he was from. The Woman of Endor knew he had come up out of the earth. There should be much for theologians to chew on the fact that Saul and his sons were to be with Samuel – in their death.
Samuel gives evidence of the death state. We may well hear of living people who describe a 'near death' or apparent/ medical death experience saying they saw 'this or that' at the point of death- but the point is we have nobody who was so dead they were buried come back and tell us what it is like. Samuel said he was 'strongly angered, shaken, troubled, made afraid, quaked' in being brought up. This implies he was not in any way conscious, as who would be so unhappy or angry at being moved about being conscious? Also he says with authority, and we are told with authority, that Samuel came out of the earth. The earth is the place of covering and worms, where no normal human life is possible. He did not come from above. We have an authentic record of a resurrection.
Then Saul falls down on the earth we learn that not only had the Woman of Endor not been a 'medium', she had possibly not even heard what was said. Samuel seems to have vanished at the point Saul falls to the ground in a faint-like state. The Woman comes to him and is worried that he is troubled. If she had heard what was said she would not wonder why Saul was troubled!
We might suspect that the woman had a reputation as having a 'familiar' as she sought to help people. It is the woman who sees the practical solution to Saul's state saying that he must eat some food. She prepares tender meat from a calf and bread. They eat and depart – and we hear no more of the Woman of Endor.
The two servants, one at least who must have known of the Woman of Endor, seem passive in the events as witnesses until the question of food arises. They persuade Saul to eat the Woman of Endor's food and eat themselves. The details speak of embarrassing truths.
Saul dies the next day as Samuel said. Is one of the two men, Saul's armour bearer - a servant very close to Saul, who kills himself after finishing Saul? We don't know. Those who took Saul's body, fast as Saul did in honour of Saul
They arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days. (1Ch 10:12)
Despite the miracle of Samuel being raised to speak, we are told that the very act of going to the woman to ask was the final determining factor in Saul's death sentence.
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; And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse. (1Ch 10:13-14)
We might wish to pause here. Is it ok to encourage witchcraft? Let us consider. God gave Saul a miraculous and true answer at Endor, though Saul did wrong in seeking it there. But Saul, in the end, had added witchcraft to his rebellion and died for it– at the end of that same day, as a Jewish 'day' begins at nightfall. As Samuel, who slayed Agag the Amakelite, said,
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. (1Samuel 15:23)