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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 28

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



Achish intending war against Israel, relieth on David, 1 Samuel 28:1,1 Samuel 28:2.

Saul having destroyed the witches, yet, Samuel being dead, in his fear, forsaken of God, seeketh to a witch, 1 Samuel 28:3-8.

She, encouraged by Saul, raiseth Samuel; of whom hearing his approaching ruin, he fainteth, 1 Samuel 28:9-20.

The woman, with his servants, refresh him with meat, 1 Samuel 28:21-25.

Verse 1

The Philistines were encouraged by Samuel’s death, and Saul’s degeneration, and David’s presence with Achish.

Thou shalt go out with me to battle: this he saith, partly to try his sincerity; and partly in confidence of David’s fidelity.

Verse 2

David speaks ambitiously, as he did before, that Achish might understand him, as he did, of his acting for him against the Israelites; whereas he meant it of his acting for the Israelites against the Philistines, to which he was obliged both by God’s express command, and by his indelible and manifold obligations to God, and to God’s people, and by his own manifest interest. Though it is likely he would have managed his affairs with all possible regard and care of Achish’s person, to whom alone, upon the matter, David stood obliged, and not to the rest of the Philistines, who had an ill opinion of him, as we shall see.

Therefore; for that valour which I doubt not thou wilt show on my behalf.

Of mine head, i.e. of my body and life, the captain of my life-guard.

Verse 3

Samuel was dead: this is mentioned here as the reason why Saul did not inquire of Samuel; which, if he had now been alive, he would have done.

In his own city, where he had his birth and education, and most settled habitation, 1 Samuel 19:18.

Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards; according to God’s command, Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6,Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11. This he did, either by Samuel’s instigation; or from a conceit that the evil spirit came upon him by some of their means; or that he might gain the repute of a religious prince, which was very useful to him; or that he might quiet his troubled conscience, and please God as far as his interest would give him leave. And this is here related, partly to show that a hypocrite and wicked man may obey some of God’s commands, and principally to bring in the following history.

Out of the land of Israel.

Verse 4

Shunem; a town in the tribe of Issachar, Joshua 19:18.

Gilboa; a mountain not far from the valley of Jezreel, where the battle was fought, 1 Samuel 31:1; 2 Samuel 1:21. So the two armies seem to be placed in the same manner as they were 1 Samuel 17:0, each upon a hill, and a valley between them.

Verse 5

Saul saw the host from Mount Gilboa, 1 Samuel 31:1.

His heart greatly trembled; partly, from the greatness and resoluteness of the host of the Philistines, who were the aggressors; partly, from the loss of David, who might have been of great use to him at this time; partly, from the conscience of his own manifest guilt, and just expectation of Divine vengeance oft threatened, and now in all likelihood to be inflicted upon him.

Verse 6

Saul inquired of the Lord, in his slight and perfunctory way, as 1 Samuel 14:19, as appears from hence, that when God did not speedily answer him, he goes to the devil for an answer, 1 Samuel 28:7; for which reason he is said,

not to have

inquired of the Lord, 1 Chronicles 10:14, i.e. not seriously, and after the right order. Possibly he inquired by some prophet then with him, or by the priest before the ark.

The Lord answered him not, because he sought him not in due order; not by the Urim and Thummim which were in the ephod, which he by his cruelty to the priests had lost, 1 Samuel 23:6; and because he did not truly repent of nor put away his sins, which provoked God, and kept him from answering, as Saul well knew by his own conscience and experience, 1 Samuel 14:37-39.

Neither by dreams,

nor by Urim, nor by prophets, i.e. neither by ordinary means, nor extraordinary.

Verse 7

Seek me a woman, rather than a man; for he thought that sex most likely to be given to those wicked arts, as being the weaker sex, and so aptest to be deceived, and most prone to superstition, and ofttimes most malicious and revengeful. That hath a familiar spirit; one that converseth with the devil, and dead men’s ghosts, and by them can discover future things. See Isaiah 8:19.

His servants said to him; instead of dissuading him from this wicked and destructive practice, which they should and would have done, if they had either loved God or their king, they further him in it.

En-dor; a place in the tribe of Manasseh, within Jordan, not very fir from the place where the armies were encamped.

Verse 8

Saul disguised himself; both because he was ashamed to be known, or thought guilty of this practice; and because he suspected that the woman, had she known him, would not practise her art before him.

Verse 9

Woman said, Behold, thou knowest; for his speech and garb discovered him to be an Israelite, and therefore acquainted with these matters.

To cause me to die, by accusing me to Saul as guilty of a capital crime.

Verse 11

Whose kindness and compassion to him, as he had formerly experienced, so now he expected it in his deep distress. This practice of divination by the dead, or by the ghosts or souls of dead persons, called up by magical art, was very usual among all nations, and from them Saul learned it.

Verse 12

She cried with a loud voice, for fear of her life, Saul himself being witness of her crime.

Thou art Saul: this she knew, either by some gesture of reverence which this supposed Samuel might show to Saul, as to the king; or by information from this ghost; or from the spirit by whose help she had raised him.

Verse 13

i.e. A god, a divine person, glorious, and full of majesty and splendour, exceeding not only mortal men, but common ghosts. She useth the plural number,

gods, either after the manner of the Hebrew language, which commonly useth that word of one person; or after the language and custom of the heathens. But the whole coherence shows that it was but one. For Saul desired but one, 1 Samuel 28:11, and he inquires and the woman answers only of one, 1 Samuel 28:14. Ascending out of the earth, as if it came from the place of the dead.

Verse 14

He is covered with a mantle; the usual habit of prophets, 2 Kings 2:8,2 Kings 2:13; Zechariah 13:4, and particularly of Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:27.

Saul perceived that it was Samuel; the woman pretended, and Saul upon her suggestion believed, that it was Samuel indeed; and so many popish and some other writers conceived. But that it was not Samuel, but the devil representing Samuel, is sufficiently evident. For, first, It is most incredible that God, who had just now refused to answer Saul by the means which himself appointed and used in that case, would answer him, or suffer Samuel to answer him, in that way, and upon the use of those means which God detested and contemned; which would have given great countenance and encouragement to Saul and the witch, and all professors and consulters of those devilish arts. Secondly, There are divers passages in this relation which plainly discover that this was no good, but an evil spirit; as first, That he receives that worship from Saul, 1 Samuel 28:14, which good spirits would not suffer, Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8,Revelation 22:9. Secondly, That amongst his other sins for which he condemneth him, he omitteth this of asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; for which transgression, with others, he is expressly said to have died, 1 Chronicles 10:13, which the true Samuel, who was so zealous for God’s honour, and so faithful a reprover, would never have neglected, especially now, when he takes Saul in the very fact. Thirdly, That he pretends himself to be disquieted and brought up, 1 Samuel 28:15, by Saul’s instigation, and the witch’s art; which is most false, and impious, and absurd to imagine, concerning those blessed souls who are returned to their God, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and entered into peace and rest, Isaiah 57:2, and lodged in Abraham’s bosom, Luke 16:22, and rest from their labors, Revelation 14:13. The only argument of any colour to the contrary is only this, that the devil could not so particularly and punctually discover Saul’s future events as this Samuel doth, 1 Samuel 28:19. But this also hath little weight in it; it being confessed and notoriously known, that evil spirits, both in the oracles of the heathen, and otherwise, have oft-times foretold future contingencies; God being pleased to reveal such things to them, and to permit them to be the instruments of revealing them to men, for the trial of some, and for the terror and punishment of others. Besides, the devil might foresee this by strong conjectures, as by the numerousness, strength, courage, and resoluteness of the Philistine host, and the quite contrary condition of the Israelites, and by divers other symptoms far above the reach of mortal men, but such as he by his great sagacity could easily discern. And for that express determination of the time, tomorrow, 1 Samuel 28:19, that word may be understood not of the very next day, but indefinitely of some short time after this, as it is taken, Exodus 13:14 Deuteronomy 6:20; Joshua 4:6,Joshua 4:21. And then it was easy to gather from the present posture of the two armies, that the fight and the ruin of the Israelites was very near. And that it was not the very next day, but some days after this, is evident from the course of the story, and hath been proved by a late learned writer. See my Latin Synopsis on this place.

Verse 15

Samuel said to Saul; as the devil appeared in Samuel’s shape and garb, so also he speaketh in his person, that he might insnare Saul, and encourage others to seek to him in this wicked way. And God permits him to do so for Saul’s greater condemnation and punishment.

Neither by prophets, nor by dreams; he omitteth the Urim here, because he neither did nor could inquire by that, because Abiathar had carried it away to David, and so he expected no answer that way.

Verse 17

The Lord hath done to him, i.e. to David, as it is explained in the following words; the pronoun relative put before the noun to which it belongs, as is usual in the Hebrew text, as Psalms 87:0; Psalms 105:19; Proverbs 7:7,Proverbs 7:8; Jeremiah 40:5. Otherwise, to him is put for to thee; such changes of persons being frequent among the Hebrews. Otherwise, for himself, i. e. for the accomplishment of his counsel, and prediction, and oath, and for the glory of his justice and holiness.

As he spake by me: still he nourisheth this persuasion in Saul, that it was the true Samuel that spake to him.

Verse 18

Nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek; he mentions this as an eminent instance of his disobedience.

Verse 19

With me, i.e. in the state of the dead; and so it was true both of Saul and Jonathan. Or, in the state of rest; for though thou shalt suffer here for thy sin, yet after death thou shalt be happy, as dying in the Lord’s quarrel: so the devil’s design might be to flatter Saul into an opinion of his own future happiness, and to take him off from all serious thoughts and cares about it. And it is here observable, that as it was the manner of the heathen oracles to answer ambiguously, the better to save his credit in case of mistake; (the devil himself not being certain of future events, but only conjecturing at what was most likely;) so doth this counterfeit Samuel here. For, as concerning the time, he says

to-morrow; which he understood indifferently for the very next day, or for some short time after. And, as concerning the condition,

thou shalt be with me; which may be understood either of a good condition, if understood as spoken in the person of Samuel; or of a bad condition, if understood as spoken by an evil spirit; or at least indefinitely of a dead condition, be it good or evil; which last he foresaw by circumstances to be very likely.

Verse 20

Saul fell along on the earth, being quite dispirited with these sad and surprising tidings, and so unable to stand.

Verse 21

The woman came unto Saul; from whom she departed, when she had brought him and Samuel together, that they might more freely converse together, as being alone.

Verse 22

This earnestness did not come merely from her humanity and respect to Saul, but from a prudent and necessary care of herself, because if Saul had died in her house, his blood would have been charged upon her.

Verse 23

Compelled him, i.e. did over-persuade him, by importunate entreaties, as the next words show.

Verse 24

Not having time to leaven it.

Verse 25

i.e. Before morning; for he came by night, 1 Samuel 28:8, and went away before day; not willing to have it discovered that he had consulted with a witch.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/1-samuel-28.html. 1685.
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