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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    16 SAMUEL AND THE WOMAN OF ENDOR

    IN all arguments for the continued life and consciousness of the dead, 1 Samuel 28:3-20 usually holds a conspicuous place. In examining this scripture, we will look at (1) the narrative, (2) the claim that is based upon it, (3) the character, of the actors in the incident, (4) the facts to be considered, and (5) the conclusions to be drawn.MND 115.1

    1. The narrative.- Samuel was a prophet of God in Israel from 1112 to 1058 before Christ. Saul was king of Israel from 1096 to 1056 before Christ. Samuel anointed Saul to his office as king, and from time to time communicated instruction to him from the Lord, as his counselor and adviser. At the time when the incident recorded in 1 Samuel 28:3-20 occurred, Samuel was dead. There was war between the Israelites and the Philistines. The Philistines pressed hard upon Israel. They gathered their forces together in Shunem, and Saul, assembling all Israel to oppose them, pitched in Gilboa. Dismayed at the mighty array of the Philistine host, Saul’s heart sunk within him, and he was sore afraid. In anxiety and trembling, he cast about him for help. He sought the Lord, but the Lord answered him not. No dream was given; no token by Urim appeared; no prophet had a word from the mouth of the Lord to meet the circumstances of his deep distress. He thought of his old-time friend, the prophet Samuel, to whom he had so often gone, and who had so often directed his steps in times of doubt and danger. But Samuel was dead, and how could he consult him?MND 115.2

    There was in the land a class of people who claimed to have power to communicate with the dead. This work, called necromancy (a “pretended communication with the dead.”-Webster), had been strictly forbidden by the Lord. Leviticus 19:31; 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:9-12, etc. And Saul, in obedience to the command of the Lord (Exodus 22:18), had cut off, so far as they could be found, all persons of that class out of the land. Yet a few, controlled wholly by the devil, still practiced, with caution and secrecy, their hellish orgies.MND 116.1

    Whether Saul had ever believed in the reality of this work or not, we are not informed. But it is certain that in his present extremity, his belief gave way to the pretensions of these necromancers, and the evil thought took possession of him that he could consult in this way with the prophet Samuel. So he inquired for a woman that had a familiar spirit, and was told of one at Endor.MND 116.2

    Disguising himself, in order that the woman, knowing Saul’s decree against witchcraft, might not fear to communicate for him, and going secretly by night, he sought the woman. The woman being assured that no evil was intended and no punishment should happen to her, asked whom she should bring up. Saul answered, Bring me up Samuel. And when she saw the object which her conjuration had evoked, she cried out with fear, and said to her royal guest. Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. He told her to fear not, but tell what she saw. She answered. An old man, covered with a mantle. “And Saul perceived,” says the narrative, that it was Samuel.”MND 116.3

    Samuel asked Saul why he had disquieted him to bring him up; and Saul answered, that he might make known what he should do; for the Philistines made war upon him, and God was departed from him, and he was more distressed. Samuel then asked him why he came to him, since God had departed from him, and had become his enemy. Then he proceeded to tell him that the kingdom was rent out of his hand because he had failed to obey the Lord; that the Philistines should triumph in the battle, and that on the morrow he and his sons should die. This was the finishing stroke to the already breaking heart of Saul, and, utterly overwhelmed with his calamities, he fell senseless to the earth.MND 117.1

    Such are the essential facts brought to view in the narrativeMND 117.2

    Let us now look at what is claimed from them.MND 117.3

    2. The claim.-This can be expressed in few words. It is claimed that Samuel actually appeared on this occasion, and that therefore the dead are conscious, or that there is a spirit in man that lives on in consciousness when the body dies; and, therefore again, the soul is immortal.MND 117.4

    The validity of this claim rests very much on the question whether the transaction here recorded was wrought by the power of God or by the devil. If God, then the representation was a true one; if by the devil, we may look for deception; for he commenced his work by becoming the father of all the lies in the world, and continues it by assiduously circulating them. We will therefore consider—MND 117.5

    3. The Character of the actors.- These actors were, first, the woman that had a familiar spirit; and familiar spirits are spirits of devils. Compare Numbers 25:1-3; Psalm 106:28; and 1 Corinthians 10:20. This work of dealing with familiar spirits, God had declared to be an abomination to him; he had expressly forbidden it, and sentenced to death all who practiced it.MND 117.6

    The other chief actor in this scene was Saul. And what was his condition at this time?- He had so long lived in violation of divine instruction that God had departed from him, and answered him no more by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets, which were the ways he had himself appointed to communicate with his people. Query: Would the Lord refuse to communicate with him in ways of his own appointing, and then come to him by means the use of which he had expressly forbidden? We see, then, that neither of the actors in this scene were persons through whom, or for whom, we should expect the Lord to work. We will therefore notice further-MND 118.1

    4. The facts to be considered.MND 118.2

    a. The wonders wrought on this occasion were all accomplished by the familiar spirit with whom this woman consorted. There were two things for this spirit to do: (1) Either to bring up in reality the dead person that was called for, or (2) to counterfeit the dead man so perfectly that those who were conversing with the familiar spirit would believe that they were conversing with their dead friend.MND 118.3

    b. That it was not Samuel, but the familiar spirit personating Samuel, that appeared, is evident from the fact that this supposed Samuel, before holding any communication with Saul, put the woman on her guard, telling her that her guest was none other than Saul himself. This is shown by the fact that the woman, as soon as she saw him, cried out with fear, not because Samuel really appeared contrary to her expectations, as some have supposed; for she did not cry out, “Samuel has come, indeed!” but because of what the appearance told her; for she immediately turned to Saul, and said, “Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.” This would not be the work of the real Samuel, to put the woman on her guard, to aid her in her unholy work of incantation.MND 118.4

    c. According to the claim based on this transaction, it was Samuel’s immortal soul that appeared on this occasion; but its appearance was, according to the description of the woman, an old man covered with a mantle. Do immortal souls go about in this way, in the form of old men covered with mantles? This renders it still more evident that it was the familiar spirit, imitating Samuel as he appeared while here upon earth.MND 119.1

    d. Saul did not see Samuel at all. But does it not read that “Saul perceived that it was Samuel?” - Yes; but perceived how?-Not by the sight of the eyes, but from the woman’s description. The words “saw,” as applied to the woman, verse 12, and “perceive,” as applied to Saul, verse 14, are from to words in the Hebrew. The first is raah, which signifies “to look, see, view;” the second is from yada which means “to become informed, to be made aware of.” The Septuagint maintains the same distinction. The woman actually saw the appearance before her; and here the word eido is used, which signifies, according to Liddell and Scott, “to see, behold, look at;” but when it is said that Saul “perceived,” the word is gignosko, which signifies, according to the same authority, “to know, perceive, gain knowledge of, observe, mark, be aware of, see into, understand,” by an operation of the mind. In harmony with this view, is Saul’s language to the woman, “What sawest thou” and “What form is he of?” If any should say that Saul might have seen all that the woman saw if he had not been prostrate upon the ground, it is sufficient to reply that it was not till after he asked these questions that he “stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.” Verse 14. If Samuel had actually been present, Saul could have seen him as well as the woman. How completely had Saul now fallen into the snare! He was willing this abandoned woman should be for him both eyes and ears in matters of the greatest moment.MND 119.2

    e. The appearance which the woman saw came up out of the earth. Was that Samuel’s immortal soul? Are these souls in the earth? We supposed - that is, are we not told?- that they are in the heavenly glories of the world above.MND 120.1

    f. Is it said that, as the form came up out of the earth, Samuel had a resurrection? Then the conscious-soul theory is abandoned. But if this was a resurrection of Samuel, how could he come up out of the ground here at Endor, near the sea of Galilee, when he was buried in distant Ramah (verse 3), near Jerusalem? And if the old man was raised from the dead, what became of him? Did he go through the pains of a second dissolution, and enter the grave again? If so, well might he complain to Saul for disquieting him to bring him up.MND 120.2

    g. This pretended Samuel told Saul that he and his sons would be with him the following day. Verse 19. If he was an immortal spirit in glory, how could Saul, whom God had rejected for his sins, go to be with him there?MND 120.3

    h. Another sacred writer mentions this event in Saul’s life, and assigns it as one of the two reasons why he was given up by the Lord to die. 1 Chronicles 10:13.MND 120.4

    5. Conclusions.- What conclusions are inevitable from the foregoing facts? It is first of all evident that Samuel was not present on that occasion, either as an immortal spirit from the third heaven, or as one resurrected from the dead. For—MND 121.1

    a. It is not consistent to suppose that God, having refused to answer Saul’s petitions in any legitimate way, would have respect to them when presented through this forbidden channel.MND 121.2

    b. It is not consistent to suppose that an immortal soul from glory would come up out of the earth, as did the form which the woman evoked with her hellish incantations.MND 121.3

    c. It is inconsistent to suppose that Samuel was resurrected bodily here in Endor, when he was buried in Ramah.MND 121.4

    d. If he was raised, it must have been by God or the Devil. But the Devil cannot raise the dead, and it is evident that God would not, at least in answer to these agencies, the use of which he had forbidden under pain of death. God would not thus raise up his servant to talk with Saul on the Devil’s own ground.MND 121.5

    e. It is incredible that such a man as Samuel, who held witchcraft as such a heinous sin (1 Samuel 15:23), should first hold friendly converse with this abandoned woman in the midst of her incantations, and put her on guard, before delivering his message to Saul.MND 121.6

    f. It is the boldest assumption to suppose that any one, through this agency of the Devil, would have power to summon at will any immortal soul from glory, or to raise any one from the dead, or that this woman, through her diabolical incantations, would have power to behold the holy Samuel, while Saul could see nothing.MND 121.7

    But is it not said that the woman saw Samuel? —Yes; and here is the only seeming difficulty in all the narrative. We find these four expressions: “The woman saw Samuel,” verse 12; “And Samuel said to Saul,” verse 15; “Then said Samuel,” verse 16; and, “because of the words of Samuel,” verse 20. And how could it be so written, it is asked, if Samuel was not there, and the woman did not see him, and he did not say the things here recorded?MND 121.8

    Answer: This is easily explained by a very common law of language. Consider the circumstances. The woman stood ready to bring up any one that might be called for. She believed, of course, that they actually came, just as mediums now-a-days believe the forms they see are those of their departed friends. Samuel was called for, and this mantled old man appeared. She supposed it was Samuel; and Saul supposed it was Samuel; and then, according to the general law of the language of appearance, the narrative proceeds according to their supposition. When it says Samuel, it only means that form that appeared, which they supposed to be Samuel.MND 122.1

    Secondly, the conclusion is apparent that this was only a manifestation of ancient necromancy, sorcery, witchcraft, or spiritualism; a wholesale deception palmed off upon his dupes by the Devil in disguise. Between the ancient and modern manifestations there is this difference: Then the Devil had to pretend to bring up the dead from the ground; for the people then believed that the dead were in the lower regions of the earth; now he brings them down from the upper spheres; for the prevailing belief now is that those regions are populous with the conscious spirits of the departed. Let no one then appeal to the workings of the witch of Endor to prove the immortality of the soul, unless he is prepared to claim openly that the Bible is a fiction, that ancient necromancy was a divine practice, and that modern Spiritualism, with all its godless blasphemies and its reeking corruptions, is the only reliable oracle of truth and purity.MND 122.2

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