Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? — 1 Samuel 28:16
Our seven-year-old daughter loves to socialize. She does not meet strangers — just people she has not met before. One day, she was invited to a slumber party by one of her school classmates. As her dad, I saw several legitimate reasons not to let her go. One of my parental responsibilities is ensuring the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of my children. My wife and I try to be very careful in exposing our children to influences and atmospheres that run contrary to a wholesome Christian home.
I did not know the parents of her classmate nor the lifestyle they lived, and there was not time to check into the home and family. Therefore, when my daughter came to me and asked if she could go, I told her she could not. She said, “Everyone else is going. It’s not fair that you always say no!” Then, wanting to have her own way in the matter, she went to her mother and pled her case — within my earshot. I took her aside and asked what she hoped to gain by going to her mom when the answer was clearly no. I knew my wife and I were in total agreement on this issue, and despite her tears and pleas to go, my wife and I remained firm in our decision because we felt it was in her best interest.
Oftentimes we encounter situations in life where we are tempted to do what we want to do, even though we have been explicitly told not to. King Saul, a man anointed and chosen by God, made some choices that were in direct opposition to God’s instructions. Due to his disobedience and subsequent lies, God removed the kingship from him and gave it to David.
At the point recorded in today’s text, we see King Saul asking for help from a source that he himself had banished from the land of Israel — witchcraft. Saul felt so lost and alone as he faced the impending fight with the Philistines that he was determined to go to any length to receive guidance from God — even if it meant using witchcraft to try to call Samuel back from the dead.
The message to King Saul did not change. It was the same as what would have been expected had Samuel still been alive. Whatever hope King Saul expected to receive by meeting with a “resurrected” Samuel was dashed to pieces when he heard of his own imminent death.
We would do well to heed God’s voice and instructions when He speaks to us, and not take matters into our own hands. The ultimate rejection will occur if we refuse God and His plan for us. Our success, now and eternally, rests in our acceptance of God’s will and plan for our lives.
The Philistine army that gathered at Shunem in the broad valley of Jezreel to fight with Israel, was an awesome spectacle for the much smaller Israelite army that had assembled just south of them in Gilboa. The sight of the Philistine army caused Israel’s King Saul to fear and “his heart greatly trembled” (verse 5).
King Saul had no one he could turn to for help and direction. The prophet Samuel, his primary adviser in matters relating to God, was dead. David, once the protector of the king, had escaped to the land of the Philistines, leaving Saul to his own devices.
Verse 6 tells us that Saul sought the Lord for direction. However, God did not answer him. In that day, divine instruction was generally received in three ways: dreams, Urim, and the prophets. With a dream, individuals prayed for instruction and asked that God would answer by a significant dream. These dreams were either revelations received while the individuals slept, or they were dreams received by prophets.
The Urim was an oracular answer given to the high priest when he was clothed with the ephod and breastplate, which had a pouch that held the Urim and Thummim. These were two small objects that the priests used to determine God’s will when simple yes or no answers were needed. God used them to guide His people.
The prophets were specifically asked by an individual to consult God regarding the subject in question and to report back God’s answer. At this point in history, the prophets may have been those from the schools of the prophets, which were established by Samuel in Naioth and Gibeah.
Endor, mentioned in verse 7, was located north of Shunem. The woman of Endor with a “familiar spirit” has posed questions for countless theologians through the centuries. Necromancy is the term for the conjuring of the dead alluded to in verse 11 by the question, “Whom shall I bring up unto thee?” Necromancers typically personified the individual the seeker desired to see. They also were known to assume the form and character of the person and provide information related to the seeking individual. This information was often scanty, vague, and uncertain.
Necromancers were among a list of individuals whom God told the Israelites to drive out as they were an abomination to Him (see Deuteronomy 18:9-12). However, it seems that God allowed Samuel to appear in order to accomplish His purpose with Saul. Credence is given to this theory due to the medium’s reaction of crying “with a loud voice” when she saw Samuel (verse 12). This was obviously not customary for her, because Samuel appeared before she did any incantations.
In no way does this incident justify the practice of witchcraft, mediums, spiritualists, etc. God is against all such practices (see Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27).
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The reign of Saul
B. The decline of King Saul and the rise of David
2. David in exile from Saul
n. His flight to Philistia
(4) The Philistine advance on Israel
(a) Saul’s consultation with the witch of Endor (28:1-25)
 Saul’s search for spiritual aid (28:1-7)
 Saul’s conversation with the woman of Endor (28:8-14)
 Samuel’s discourse with Saul (28:15-19)
 Saul’s fear (28:20-25)
Saul experienced the ultimate refusal — rejection by God. Given his history of disobedience and arrogance, we know that Saul caused his own downfall. Through Saul’s mistakes, we can learn to follow God in obedience and enjoy the blessings that come to one who is wholeheartedly doing God’s will.