Here’s something, along with a small poll, to ponder upon.
When Saul went to consult the witch of Endor, who ‘came up’ and spoke to him, Samuel or a spirit impersonating Samuel?
“And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men.
And David said to Achish, Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do. And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head for ever. Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.
And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?
And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.
Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.
And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.
And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.
Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night” 1 Samuel 28: 1-20
The question by student and scholar alike is who or what was the apparition. Was it truly Samuel or a demon impersonating him? There are notable scholars on both side of the issue. Ultimately, the Bible student must make up his own mind regarding the matter. There are arguments for both sides of this coin.
It was Samuel
God interrupted the séance unexpectedly by allowing Samuel to appear. This view is based on the following:
- The witch was startled by the sudden appearance of Samuel in place of the familiar spirits with whom she was used to dealing.
- The text calls the spirit “Samuel.”
- The spirit prophesied accurately as to what would happen the following day, which would be somewhat “out of character” for a demon in such a circumstance, i.e., he would normally speak good tidings toward the one seeking help.
It was a Demon
The spirit that appeared only impersonated Samuel, a view based on the following:
- Saul never personally saw Samuel, he only could take the witch’s word that it was him. Such a demon would be well acquainted with the deceased human being and would be able to imitate (impersonate) him, deceiving both the witch and the one desiring communication with him.
- Saul had become so wayward in his spiritual life and had laid himself wide open for Satan.
- Although Samuel was an occupant of Paradise (the righteous side) at the time of this communication there is indication from the New Testament that travel from Paradise back to earth is not permitted