Attention!
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

1 Samuel 28

Verses 1-2

Introduction

David has maneuvered himself into an untenable position. Before describing how this ends, Saul’s untenable position is described and how he deals with it.

David Must Fight Against Israel

The Philistines believe that the time has come to fight against Israel. They may have noticed that Saul’s strength is decreasing. Also, the stay of David with them will have given them a certain reassurance. Their greatest enemy, who had already inflicted many defeats on them, is now their ally. This will cause the moment to come that David will have to go with Achish to fight against his own people. He cannot continue his lying activities. The day of truth dawns. He will now have to take sides. Yet he does not. Achish tells him that he and his men will join him in the army to fight against Israel.

David persists in his false attitude. He is not open and does not answer yes or no but gives a general and circumventing answer. He resembles Petrus who not only denies the Lord, but also his relationship to his fellow disciples (Luke 22:58). David has resorted to Achish to be free from Saul’s persecution. Now it appears that he is a prisoner of Achish. Achish even calls him to his bodyguard forever. The great winner of the Philistine giant becomes the defender of the Philistines. So far it can come with a believer who starts to live in lies.

Verses 3-6

The LORD Does Not Answer Saul

Here again the death of Samuel is pointed to. Samuel’s death also ends the prophetic revelations of God. That does not mean that they are no longer there at all, but they are no longer there for Saul. This fact is repeated to understand the rest of the chapter. The same goes for the remark that Saul has removed the mediums and spiritists from the land. One of them will also be discussed later in this chapter.

Saul has carried out a major clean-up operation around mediums and spiritists. However, this chapter shows that this must only have been an act of compensation for his disobedience. It is not the result of Godliness. His removal of those connected to demons seems to have been an action to save his face. He does not take God into account, but through such purification he can silence his conscience. This good deed is done with a wrong motive. It is nothing more than ‘refurbishing the flesh’. Therefore, Saul can go there later, if he must and will have a word from the invisible world. Then it turns out that his work was not a pure work, which he did with conviction for God.

When Saul sees that the Philistines are preparing to wage war against him, he becomes terrified. He sees himself forced to consult the LORD. But God no longer reveals Himself to Him. The ways along which this could happen are closed. God does not reveal Himself directly to Him through a dream. The way of the urim is also closed. That is what Saul himself did by murdering the priests. Through the prophet Samuel there will be no revelation because Samuel has died. Saul is all alone. The LORD, and all that is of Him, is with David.

Saul does not receive an answer from the LORD because he does not come to him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. God cannot be consulted by those who think of things in their hearts other than what He has in mind (Ezekiel 14:3). How could he also expect the LORD to answer him, when he did not listen to Samuel during his life and still hates and persecutes David? Is God not listening to prayer? Yes, but not to the prayer of those who consciously turn away from Him and do not want to listen to Him: “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). As soon as someone comes to Him with repentance, He listens immediately.

Verses 7-10

Saul Goes to a Medium

Saul is only afraid of himself. It makes him desperate. In his despair he does not turn to God in acknowledgment of his disobedience, pride and arrogance and his unjust hatred of David. He goes in the direction many people take today, that of occultism. Symbolically seen, we are here at the end of a time. Christianity has also come at a time when impure spirits are consulted. People open themselves up to it.

Saul seeks contact with the world of spirits. He lets find out if there is still anyone of the mediums left. His servants are all too willing to serve him in that evil cause. They immediately point to one. It is someone who lives in En-dor, a city not far from there. This medium has apparently escaped Saul’s purification action. Apparently, Saul did not do his job that thoroughly. He disguises himself – as if he could deceive God! – and goes to En-dor.

The woman, the medium, is first afraid that she will fall into a trap. God’s providence has ruled it in such a way that she tells Saul what he has commanded before. She points out the danger she is running because of the law that Saul has enacted. Maybe she does that to increase her price.

It is striking how aware she is of the danger she is in by Saul’s injunction to exterminate her ‘profession-group’, while ignoring the obligations of God’s law and the horrors of His wrath. She thinks of what Saul ordered, but she has no message about what God ordered about such practices. She is more afraid to fall into a trap that can cost her life than to fall into the hands of the living God, “who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Sinners are more afraid of punishment from men than of God’s righteous judgment.

However, the disguised Saul swears to her by the LORD that she need not be afraid of anything. He still dares, and even in this situation and in this demonic den, to call the name of the LORD and even to swear by Him. He speaks of a LORD who lives, without this being a living reality for him. That is clear from what he promises the woman. He promises more than he can make true if he says: “No punishment shall come upon you.” He cannot, and even less can he, save her from the anger of living God.

He speaks so because his heart is far removed from the reality of a real confession of what the Name of God means. His visit to this woman shows that he despises the God of Israel. Now that God has left him and is angry with him, he believes he can put his trust in a creature. In his case, these are even creatures who are apostates from God, who consciously revolt against Him, and who want to deceive His people to apostate from God.

Saul expressly appeals to someone who is in contact with demons. This is spiritism. No medium can bring back the dead. Only the Lord Jesus has “the keys of death and of Hades” (Revelation 1:18). Yet the mediums are successful. This is, however, because they open themselves up to demonic spirits speaking through their mouths. They often know something about the deceased. God has completely forbidden this area for His people (Deuteronomy 13:1-Esther :), but the masses do not care about it. We can observe that people massively read horoscopes, coming from the same source.

Asking the dead is in direct contrast to asking God. Isaiah deeply indignant speaks about this on behalf of God (Isaiah 8:19-Proverbs :). Such consultation is an abomination to the LORD (Deuteronomy 18:9-2 Kings :).

Verses 11-14

Saul Wants Samuel Brought Up

The woman asks the usual question if she gets a visit from someone who wants to consult her about a dead person. She gets the unusual request to bring up Samuel. We do not read anywhere that when Samuel lived in Ramah, Saul ever went to him to consult him. And Ramah is not far from Gibeah, the dwelling place of Saul. Now that Samuel has died, he wants to consult him.

In the same way, many who despised and persecuted God’s servants while they were still alive, honored them after their death. It is similar to what the Lord Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees, to whom He says the “woe to you” because of this attitude: “For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous” (Matthew 23:29). He calls them “sons of those who murdered the prophets” (Matthew 23:31), indicating that they are exactly like their fathers. Spiritually, they are descendants of Saul.

Saul wants to meet Samuel. He will meet him. When Saul has let know who he wants her to bring up, the story suddenly continues with what the woman sees. We might have expected that it would be said how she does this, what incantations and magic she uses. The deep silence of Scripture about this is significant. It shows that “the depths of Satan” (Revelation 2:24) are not an area we should enter. Our potential curiosity about methods that bring us into contact with demons is not satisfied. It is strange to God’s Being to make announcements about the way in which mysteries of iniquity are made available to us. The Scriptures do not call for or give space to sinful tricks but tells us to be “pure to evil” (Romans 16:19).

When Samuel comes up, it is not the result of a conjuration of the woman. She, who is the medium through whom an evil spirit expresses itself, is greatly surprised by what is happening. She does not have this in her hand. God controls the event. How could a godless medium ever use an evil spirit to bring up the spirit of a man like Samuel? It is folly to think that. That is why the woman is so scared.

She expected the evil spirit to speak through her, just as it would otherwise. She has admitted this demon to come into her herself. She has surrendered herself to him and through him has brought many people into contact with the invisible world. If this demon had shown herself to her in the desired form, she would have made him believe something with which he could be satisfied, and she could raise her money. But that is not how it goes. She does not see what the evil spirit would show her, but she sees Samuel, as the description shows.

What she sees is reality and not imagination, because she also hears what Samuel says. This is not spiritism. It is really Samuel and not a demonic spirit that imitates Samuel. Not she let Samuel come up, but the LORD let him speak. It is a special action of God, because of a special case. God gives Saul a testimony through the deceased Samuel. As said, the Lord Jesus has the keys of death and of the realm of the dead, which are not in the hand of any creature.

Saul did not see the apparition himself. The woman sees a supernatural being. Samuel is recognized by Saul by his robe of prophets. He kneels down before the man he despised in his life. He despised him, perhaps not so much in his position, but as the bearer of the Word of God.

Verses 15-19

The Judgment of Saul Confirmed

Samuel does not address Saul through the medium but directly. He recalls what has already been said to Saul and confirms what Saul already should know. He now mentions the name of the man to whom the LORD has given the kingdom (1 Samuel 28:17). Samuel also tells him the cause of this: one disobedience brings this calamity to him (1 Samuel 28:18). Saul is also told that he will die the next day and his sons will die with him. Samuel says that Saul and his sons will be with him in the realm of the dead tomorrow. That is all he says. He does not say that they will be with him in Abraham’s womb. Jonathan will be there, but Saul will not be.

Saul resembles Esau who also despised a blessing from God and who had no place for repentance and therefore sought this blessing in vain, although even with tears (Hebrews 12:17). Now Samuel himself speaks to Saul with a question. Saul answers and reveals his despair. It is the despair of someone who wants to know the future, but who no longer gets to hear it from God. The reason for this is that all too often he rejected God when He announced the future to him. People often want to know what their future looks like, but they do not want to hear it from God. For such people God has become an enemy. It is a terrible expression to say of God that He has become one’s enemy.

Verses 20-25

Despair and Resignation of Saul

After this message Saul immediately falls “full length” upon the ground. This addition emphasizes his length. That has been his pride and fame. All that pride collapses. When God tells sinners in His Word what terrible fate awaits them, He opens a door of hope to them at the same time. That door of hope a sinner can enter when he repents. But those who turn to the gates of hell for help can only expect darkness, without a ray of light.

While he is still lying on the ground, the woman asks him to listen to her. Once more Saul is treated kindly, however by a medium. She presents herself as his servant. She has no sense of guilt; she has done her job. Here we see what all these demonic practices yield. It only brings misery and dejection and total mental and physical devastation. Saul has lost every initiative. He is in the power of others, surrendered to them. The woman and his servants try to get him up and running, they cannot offer him anything better. Saul gets up and disappears in the night, on his way to his tragic, dramatic end (cf. John 13:30).

The tragedy is great. The downfall is his own fault. There is a dark, demonic, nocturnal darkness in the soul of Saul, as there is later in the soul of Judas. Here already the night falls over the life of Saul. He can no longer go back and faces irrevocably his downfall.

Copyright Statement
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 28". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-samuel-28.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.