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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 28

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-25

Saul and the Witch of Endor

1 Samuel 28:3-25 come from another document and interrupt the connexion, as will be seen if the account is read without them. In order of time their proper position is after 1 Samuel 30. In 1 Samuel 29:1 the Philistines are still in Aphek; in 1 Samuel 29:11 they advance to Jezreel, where we find them in 1 Samuel 28:4. In 1 Samuel 28:3-25 we have come to the eve of the battle, the account of which follows in 1 Samuel 31.

2. Keeper of mine head] i.e. captain of my body-guard.

3. This v. is inserted to explain what follows. By familiar spirits (Heb. ob) some form of witchcraft is intended. In 1 Samuel 28:7 the woman is said to be ’the mistress of an ob.’ In Leviticus 20:27 the ob is said to be in the man or woman: cp. 2 Kings 23:24.

The wizards] From Leviticus 20:27 it is quite clear that this word denotes not the magician, but the spirit controlled by the magician. It is often joined to ’ob,’ and means, etymologically, ’possessed of knowledge,’ (i.e. of the future or the unseen): cp. our modern clairyoyants.

4. Shunem] in the plain of Jezreel, 4 m. from Mt. Gilboa. Gilboa] a mountain range on the E. side of the valley of Jezreel.

6. Dreams] These are always regarded in the Bible as one method of divine revelation: see Numbers 12:6. Urim] see on Exodus 28:30. The ephod and the Urim had gone down with Abiathar to David (1 Samuel 23:6). Prophets] We may compare with this 1 Samuel 15:35. The action of Samuel was apparently followed by the rest of the prophets.

7. Endor] 4 m. S. of Mt. Tabor, and 10 m. from Mt. Gilboa.

11, 12. This woman would seem to have been what is now called a ’medium’; she sees (very possibly having become entranced) a figure, and Saul from her description at once concludes that it is Samuel. Very possibly Saul saw nothing at all; the words he heard may have come from the woman. Indeed, the LXX translator (who very probably knew as much about such matters as we do) wishing to mark that the words really came from the woman in her trance, spoke of her as a ventriloquist: cp. also Acts 16:16, where the girl, liable to fall into a state of secondary consciousness, is said to have a ’spirit of divination.’ To attribute words so spoken to a spirit either internal or external to the medium, was the only course possible to a Hebrew or Jewish narrator.

13. Gods] RV ’a god,’ for Saul immediately said, ’What form is he of?’ We must remember that Elohim in Hebrew is more general than the word ’god’ is with us, and is, in fact, used generally for ’supernatural beings,’ or even ’spirits’: see Psalms 82:6.

16. Is become thine enemy] LXX ’is on the side of thy neighbour.’ This is based on a probable emendation. If ’neighbour’ is right, it must be taken in the sense of ’rival’ (which originally meant almost the same thing).

17. To him] LXX ’to thee.’

19. Moreover.. the Philistines] LXX. omits. To morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me] i.e. in Sheol, the place of departed spirits.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/1-samuel-28.html. 1909.
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