HOUSMAIL HM#102 - KING SAUL AND THE WITCH 9 April 2003
"Do not turn to mediums or wizards; do not seek them out, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God". (Leviticus 19:31)
King Saul had become desperate. He was greatly afraid when he saw the size of the Philistine army which had invaded the land. His sins had placed a great barrier between him and God, and when he tried to enquire of God for advice and help, there was no answer at all -- either by dream, or from the priesthood, or through the prophets! So instead of repenting to put things right between himself and God, he persisted in his own stubborn way and "defiled himself" even further, by consulting a MEDIUM.
It is no light matter! God calls it ABOMINATION! (Deut 18:11-12 RSV) A DETESTABLE THING ! (V12 RSV margin note)
Of course, to consult a medium for information from the dead is a futile exercise. THE DEAD KNOW NOTHING!(Ecclesiastes 9:5) Worse than that -- Isaiah says that to consult a medium is rejection of God! (Isaiah 8:19)
SAUL DIED FOR THIS SIN! That is given special mention in 1 Chron 10:13-14.
CAN WE WRITE IT OFF AS ALL MERE FRAUD?
The Bible is silent about that. So we don't really need to answer that. More to the point, we don't really need to explain it away as "all fraud" for the sake of our own "doctrinal comfort"!
What we do need is to BELIEVE what God says about it! DON'T DO IT! And stay away from those who do! Stay away from "SEANCES"! Stay away from all other "occult practices". [That includes things like Ouija boards, tarot cards, crystal ball gazing, divining, tea leaves, fortune telling, astrology, phrenology, black magic, white magic, sorcery, etc.] They are NOT mere "harmless fun"!
God calls them all ABOMINATION. There is Biblical evidence (Acts 16:16-18) as well as lots of anecdotal evidence, which indicates that in the worst cases, they can cause severe mental harm to those who get involved -- And the Bible says plainly that they are SINS which will cost you your Eternal Life! (Deut 18:9-12; Rev 21:8; Rev 22:15)
Of course, there can be no doubt that there are indeed countless FRAUDS operating in this field, preying on the grief of those who have lost loved ones -- or on the curiosity and excitement of those who get a thrill out of the "power buzz" which comes from experimenting outside the sphere of "ordinary" human experience. (Pride of life?)
At least to the average normal untrained eye, it would seem that there can SOMETIMES be MUCH more involved than a clever deliberate "FRAUD". There can SOMETIMES appear to be "forces" at work for which there is no obvious easy explanation. It would appear that sometimes the Medium's "trance" can be a real "altered state of mind", and that in that condition, they can sometimes "discern" information in amazing detail, from "sources" NOT available to the average person.
However, even if there are cases where more than "ordinary fraud" is involved, that does NOT mean that we can use them to contradict what the Bible says elsewhere about the state of the dead!
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CASE OF THE WITCH OF ENDOR?
"NATURAL" FRAUD OR "SUPERNATURAL DECEPTION"?
The story in 1 Sam 28, sounds like a description of a fairly "standard" seance -- pretty much the same as those which still take place in our day.
I speculate that in this particular case, the witch was dealing in what we commonly call "the supernatural" -- "FORBIDDEN powers of the mind", not commonly experienced by everybody -- but sometimes found in a few whose abnormal minds are afflicted with this particular "occult ability".
WAS IT REALLY SAMUEL THAT THE WITCH SAW?
Read carefully. Saul had already asked the witch to "call up Samuel". But note that SHE said she saw only an "old man" covered by a mantle! (1 Sam 28:14) It was SAUL who jumped to the conclusion that this "something", which the witch SAID she saw, was Samuel!
Mediums claim no power to "raise the dead. Most often, all they claim to do is contact the "spirit" of a dead person in the so called "spirit world", through another "spirit" which they call their "familar spirit". Since the dead have no conscious existence, for Samuel to appear personally in any form, it would have been necessary for God to first raise him from the dead.
THAT seems extremely unlikely -- indeed impossible. Would God co-operate in ABOMINATION by raising Samuel from the dead, to provide Saul with information from such a forbidden source? SAUL was much too eager, and deceived Himself. And the Witch built on that! As for recognising Saul? THAT wouldn't have been difficult! How do you "disguise" a man who stands head and shoulders above all others in the land?
WHAT WAS IT THEN THAT THE WITCH ACTUALLY SAW?
WE DO NOT KNOW!
For those who think they MUST have an answer, I speculate that it was "something" from within the "distorted" mind of an unfortunate woman afflicted with an "ability of the mind" which God labels ABOMINATION, and which He forbids the use of. But PLEASE note that word "speculate". It can never be more than that!
What it was, and where it came from is not really important to the story. Otherwise it would be recorded with the rest of story.
Whatever it was, and wherever it came from, it was NOT Samuel making a personal appearance. Remember? "The dead know nothing"! That leaves us with the only possible alternative. Real -- or imagined -- deliberate fraud -- or a bit more than that -- it was "something else", which IMPERSONATED Samuel!
I suspect that this story was never intended to become a theological battleground about the rights and wrongs of "Conditional Immortality". That is a sidetrack down which too many have already travelled.
Its major purpose is to sound a warning:
who do such things SHALL NOT inherit the Kingdom of God.
(Gal 5:21 RSV)
On the positive side -- Saul's personal disaster, became Good News for US! The dynasty passed to David -- from whom our Messiah Jesus is descended.