One of the most common questions about the Bible is about Israel’s first king. King Saul began his reign humbly and faithfully but unfortunately it ended in disaster. At the end of Saul’s life, the Bible records in 1 Samuel 28 that Saul consulted a medium, who apparently brought up the prophet Samuel back from the dead. Here is a question for many followers of Christ. Do witches and mediums have the power to speak with or raise the dead? Also should we visit fortune tellers, mediums or psychics? Lastly, did Saul really talk with Samuel who had already passed away or was it someone or something else? Thankfully the Bible has clear answers to these important questions. So let us study the Bible and the Bible alone to find the answer to these questions.
But before we study the Bible let us pray.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We humbly ask that you help us to have open hearts and clear minds as we study your word today. We ask for the Holy Spirit to be our teacher. Help us to set aside our prejudice and instead make the decision to only live by the word of God. We thank you that you will never leave us nor forsake us. We thank you for your help and for hearing and answering this prayer. We pray all these things in the name of your only begotten Son Jesus Christ, amen.
Prophet or imposter?
There are two main theories regarding the story of Saul and the witch of En Dor. One theory says that Saul really did speak with Samuel who was raised from the dead. Another says that it was not Samuel but an evil spirit who pretended to be Samuel. In addition, if it is an evil spirit, how could this spirit make a true prediction, for this spirit or Samuel told Saul “Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 28:19) And eventually all those things did come to pass.
In 1 Samuel 28 when I first read this like many people I thought Saul was talking to the prophet Samuel who had passed away but was raised to speak with Saul. But it seemed somewhat strange that in the same chapter it says “When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.” (1 Samuel 28:5-6) If the Lord was not speaking with Saul through His agents, would He use a witch? Imagine with me this Biblical account, here is Saul, the prophets of the Lord are not giving him a message, the Lord is not communicating to him by any means. Saul is desperate, so in verse 7 he decides to seek a medium, one who communicates with the dead. This is not a good way to get guidance from God. The Bible which Saul had at that time says “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God. And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people. A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, 20:27) Here is a great warning, that the person who seeks a medium will be cut off from his people. Satan also knew this, and Satan knows that God does not break His promises. So the prediction in verse 19 about Saul’s destruction could be from God, but it could also be from another spirit who simply knows that God will fulfill his promise. But which one is it?
If we continue in the story, the medium or witch calls forth Samuel…. apparently. It’s important to note that this medium is not on the Lord’s side. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 says “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.” Two important points here, mediums who communicate with the dead are an abomination to the Lord, secondly verse 14 says “the Lord your God has not appointed such for you”. So the Lord does not use witches and mediums to do His will. But can a medium or witch raise the dead and speak with them? In 1 Samuel 28:15 this spirit who appears to be Samuel says ““Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” But a medium or witch cannot raise the dead for Jesus said “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Revelation 1:18) Only God can raise the dead, if that were not so, Satan would be raising Adolf Hitler and all his followers.
Who was this spirit who appeared to be Samuel? Was it Samuel or an evil spirit masquerading as Samuel?
We know that angels can take the forms of humans. The Bible even says “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14) Thankfully the Bible gives us the answer of who this Samuel really was in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 when it 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; And enquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14 KJV)
So this verse says Saul asked counsel of one that had a familiar spirit. A familiar spirit is an evil spirit (see here for more info: http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=familiar%20spirit&version1=KJV&searchtype=all&limit=none&wholewordsonly=no ). This Samuel who appeared was not Samuel, it was a familiar or evil spirit, taking the form of Samuel. So when Saul came to the medium or witch of En Dor, Satan and his demons knew this was disobedience, some of them were there when Samuel was alive and said that the kingdom would be given to another. They knew that Saul had been living in disobedience, and that the Lord was not speaking to Saul. They knew based on Leviticus that Saul would be cut off for doing this. So when Saul entered into Satan’s territory by consulting a medium, 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 tells us that Satan or one of his demons masqueraded as the prophet Samuel and gave a hopeless message to Saul. Jesus is always trying to save us, even until the end. The thief on the cross received no hopeless message from Christ even though he had lived a life of disobedience like Saul. It is the work of Satan and his agents to remove hope from those separated from Christ, but there is always hope for the hopeless in Jesus Christ.
The tragic end of Saul is a warning to all followers of Christ in this age. The Bible says Satan will work with the same deceptions he used on Saul. “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. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” (1 Timothy 4:1, Revelation 16:14) Faith in the word of God and His truth that “the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing…nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6) is the only defense against Satan’s last day deceptions. With the truth on our side, and Jesus as our protection we need not fear Satan’s deceptions. Because “He (Christ) who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) To learn the truth about what happens when you die click here. May the Lord continue to bless you as you follow Him!