I Samuel 28

The Word Made Fresh

1Soon afterwards the Philistines planned an attack on Israel. Achish said to David, “I expect you and your men to march with me.”

2“Then you will see for yourself what I, your servant, can accomplish,” David replied.

“You can be my bodyguard for life, in that case,” said Achish.

3Samuel had died, and the people had mourned his passing and buried him in Ramah, his home. Saul, for his part, had banished the mediums and spiritualists from Israel. 4But now the Philistines were threatening and had camped at Shunem. Saul mustered the Israelites and had them encamped at Gilboa. 5When he saw the Philistine army he was afraid, and he felt the terror in his heart. 6He inquired of the LORD but got no answer. He consulted the Urim and the prophets with the same result. 7Then he ordered his servants, “Find a woman who speaks to the dead and tells the future. I want to speak to her.”

His servants said, “There is such a woman at Endor.”

8Saul disguised himself by putting on plain clothing. He went to Endor with two of his men and arrived at her place at night. He said to her, “I want you to consult for me the spirit of someone who has died.”

9The woman replied, “Don’t you know that Saul has banned mediums and spiritualists from the country. Are you trying to trick me, and have me killed?”

10“As the LORD lives,” said Saul, “you will not be punished for this. I swear to you.”

11Then she said, “Who do you want me to consult for you?”

“Bring Samuel up for me,” he said.

12When she saw Samuel she screamed, and yelled at Saul, “Why have you lied to me? You are Saul!”

13The king said, “Don’t be afraid! Tell me what you see!”

“I see a holy one,” she said, “rising up out of the grave.”

14“What does he look like?” Saul asked.

She said, “He is an old man, with a robe wrapped around him.” Saul was convinced it was Samuel and bowed down low with his face to the ground in a gesture of submission.

15Then Samuel spoke to Saul. “Why have you bothered me and brought me here?”

Saul answered, “I am very worried. The Philistines have come against me, and God has turned away and won’t answer me with dreams or even with the prophets. That is why I had to call on you to tell me what to do.”

16“If the LORD has turned away and refuses to answer you, that means the LORD is now your enemy. So, why bother me? 17The LORD has done exactly what the LORD told me and has ripped the kingdom out of your hands and given it to your neighbor David. 18The LORD has done this because you didn’t follow orders and destroy the Amalekites. 19And now the LORD will place Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines. Tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me, and the LORD will also give Israel’s army over to the Philistines.

20Saul collapsed on the ground, frozen with fear because of what Samuel said to him. He had not eaten anything for the past day and night, and now he was so weak he couldn’t stand up. 21The woman came to him, and when she saw how frightened he was she said, “I listened to you like a good servant. I have even taken my life into my own hands when I did what you asked. 22Now you listen to me. I will prepare food for you. Eat it and it will give you some strength when you go out.”

23At first, Saul refused to eat but his servants and the woman urged him to, and finally he agreed to take some sustenance. He rose and took a seat on the bed. 24The woman had a calf in the house that had been fattened, so she slaughtered it. She also kneaded some flour and baked unleavened cakes with it. 25She served the meal to Saul and his servants and after they had eaten, they rose and went on their way that very night.


1-2: Achish plans to attack Israel and invites David to go with them. David accepts the invitation, which solicits an almost gushing response from the Philistine king. Make David his bodyguard for life? Of course, Achish did not write this account, and whoever furnished the information might have been a little overindulgent to David.

3-7: Saul is alarmed at the Philistine army gathering at Shunem, and gathers his forces at Gilboa. But Samuel is dead now and God is silent with Saul, which alarms him even more. He decides to seek guidance elsewhere and asks for a medium even though he has expelled them all from the land. He obviously knows not all of them have actually left.

8-14: This is a crazy scene, of course, and we wonder what is really going on with the witch of Endor. The likelihood is that she recognizes Saul at once, and at first refuses to cooperate, but once he assures her that she will not be prosecuted she is content to take his money. Like all successful seers, she is well informed about what is going on, and knows that Saul is in distress about the Philistines. And she knows the history of the strife between Saul and Samuel, so when Saul asks her to conjure up Samuel that is exactly what she does, and she is surely pleased when Saul reacts by doing obeisance at her description of the apparition. For her part, she can now reveal that she knows exactly who her customer is, and by so doing gains some additional protection for herself.

15-19: The woman is not about to let Saul off easily; her business has suffered far too much for that! She apparently has heard the story of Saul tearing off a piece of Samuel’s robe (see 15:27-29) and has “Samuel” use that as a metaphor for God tearing the kingdom from Saul’s hands. She knows that Samuel was angry with Saul for not following his orders with regard to the Amalekites. She simply plays on that information and has Saul think that “Samuel” is pronouncing doom on Saul and his kingship and his army.

20-25: The effect on Saul is even more powerful than she imagined, and now the witch is alarmed that he might expire right there in her tent, which would not bode well for her. So, she feeds him and the two men with him, and sends them on their way. Quickly, we suspect.


Poor Saul. He has sunken to unspeakable depths. His pride has made it impossible for him to submit to the LORD, and his fear makes him susceptible to the wiles of a professional medium. The really devastating part is that whatever prophets there are left in Israel will no longer support him (verse 6). His is a sad story, and a lesson in humility. Be humble. Do not think too highly of yourself. Pride imagines many enemies and this life cannot be lived very well without humble reliance on others and on God. Poor Saul.