Saul and the medium

There are times in scripture when we find incidents that are hard to understand or explain. Saul visiting the medium at En Dor is one of those instances. This is compounded by people wanting to believe that they can contact those they love after the person dies. Sometimes this incident is used in an attempt to show that mediums can summon the dead.

Saul had led his army to meet the Philistines in battle. The Israelite army camped at Gilboa. Just seeing the Philistine army encamped across the valley from them at Shunem terrified Saul (2 Samuel 28:5). He wanted to consult the Lord God of Israel, but God had given up on Saul. So he decided to turn to a medium and one was found in En Dor.

Saul went in disguise under the cover of night to meet with the medium. Saul told her to consult a spirit for him and bring up the one he would name. The woman, knowing that the king had outlawed mediums from Israel was fearful that it was a trap but Saul assured her that no punishment would come to her (keep in mind that she did not recognize Saul initially).

“‘Who is it that you want me to bring up for you?’ the woman asked. ‘Bring up Samuel for me,’ he answered. When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed, and then she asked Saul, ‘Why did you deceive me? You are Saul!’ But the king said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. What do you see?’ ‘I see a spirit form coming up out of the earth,’ the woman answered. Then Saul asked her, ‘What does he look like?’ ‘An old man is coming up,’ she replied. ‘He’s wearing a robe.’ Then Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he knelt low with his face to the ground and paid homage” (1 Samuel 28:11-14 CSB).

Did the woman really bring Samuel back from the dead? It would seem the text is telling us she didn’t because she was shocked when Samuel actually appeared – she screamed! She was as surprised as anyone when Samuel showed up. What does this tell us? It tells us that she knew she could not really consult with the dead but was simply preying on people’s emotions. But this time, the person she summoned really came.

So what really happened? It seems that God permitted Saul to consult Samuel. It is God who has the power over the dead. And God has permitted some throughout history to consult with those who had died – one of the most obvious would be Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah when he was transfigured.

There are lessons we can learn from this incident. One should be obvious: don’t place our trust in mediums or any other person who promises to bring messages to us from those who died. Think about it: if they had this power they would have power over God himself! The medium of En Dor’s reaction showed that she knew she really had no power.

Another lesson is quite applicable to us. God had forsaken Saul. The obvious course of action for Saul would have been to repent and come back to God. Instead, he chose to attempt to circumvent God and use a demonic source to try to get an answer. The answer Samuel gave was the same one God had earlier given: Saul would lose his kingdom. Samuel told Saul, “Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (1 Samuel 28:19).

May we learn to seek God first, foremost and always.

Photo: Mount Gilboa

Readings for next week:
10 September – 1 Samuel 27-28; Psalm 12
11 September – 1 Samuel 29; Psalm 10
12 September – 1 Samuel 30; Psalm 13
13 September – 1 Samuel 31; 1 Chronicles 10
14 September – 2 Samuel 1; Psalm 14

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Jon Galloway

After graduating from Freed-Hardeman College and teaching school for three years, as well as preaching for small congregations in West Tennessee, Jon & Arlene moved back to her home of Glasgow, Scotland. Since 1985 Jon has been involved in evangelistic work in the Glasgow area, currently serving the congregation in East Kilbride. They have three grown children. Besides writing 'Bible Bytes', Jon is also one of the editors of the "Christian Worker," a news magazine for congregations in the UK, and is a teacher and governor for the British Bible School.

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