Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 28:11

Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" And he said, "Bring up Samuel for me."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - En-Dor;   Familiar Spirits;   Miracles;   Necromancy;   Samuel;   Saul;   Sorcery;   Witchcraft;   Thompson Chain Reference - Magic;   Necromancy;   Samuel;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Divination;   Miracles through Evil Agents;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Endor;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Samuel;   Saul, king of israel;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Descent into Hell (Hades);   Magic;   Sheol;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Prayer;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Magic;   Saul;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Divination;   Saul;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Divination and Magic;   Medium;   Samuel, Books of;   Urim and Thummim;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Death;   En-Dor;   Eschatology;   Magic, Divination, and Sorcery;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Descent into Hades;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Magic;   Saul;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Intercession;   Samuel;   Samuel, Books of;   Sheol;   Woman;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Ancestor Worship;   Endor, the Witch of;   Samuel;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Whom shall I bring up - The woman certainly meant no more than making her familiar personify whomsoever the querist should wish. In the evocation of spirits this is all that, according to the professed rules of their art, such persons pretend to; for over human souls in paradise or in the infernal regions they have no power. If we allow that there is such an art founded on true principles, all it can pretend to is, to bring up the familiar; cause him when necessary to assume the form and character of some particular person, and to give such notices relative to futurity as he is able to collect. And this even in the cases to which authenticity is generally allowed, is often scanty, vague, and uncertain, for fallen spirits do not abound in knowledge: this is an attribute of God, and rays of this perfection are imparted to pure and holy intelligences; and even Satan himself, as may be seen from most of his temptations, is far from excelling in knowledge. He may be cunning and insidious, but he certainly is not wise and prudent; we in general give this fallen spirit credit for much more wisdom than he possesses.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-samuel-28.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Bring me up Samuel - Dr. Trench observes, “All human history has failed to record a despair deeper or more tragic than his, who, having forsaken God and being of God forsaken, is now seeking to move hell; and infinitely guilty as he is, assuredly there is something unutterably pathetic in that yearning of the disanointed king to change words with the friend and counselor of his youth, and if he must hear his doom, to hear it from no other lips but his” (‹Shipwrecks of Faith, ‹ p. 47).

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-samuel-28.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Samuel 28:11

Bring me up Samuel.

Samuel after death

Wise reasons must have prevailed with God for the appearance of Samuel. Dr. Hales has suggested the three following:

1. To make Saul’s crime the instrument of his punishment, in the dreadful denunciation of his approaching doom.

2. To show to the heathen world the infinite superiority of the Oracle of the Lord inspiring his prophets over the powers of darkness, and the delusive prognostics of their wretched votaries in their false oracles.

3. To confirm the belief in a future state, by “one who rose from the dead,” even under the Mosaical dispensation.

Taking the view now represented, we may draw some practical conclusions from it.

1. The soul lives after death. Samuel’s appearance showed that his soul still lived, though his body had died at Ramah and had been buried.

2. It is vain to pray to the dead. Scripture gives no encouragement to this practice. This passage, and one in the New Testament, show the utter hopelessness of finding comfort by this means. The word of God reveals the mercy seat; and a prayer hearing God invites the sinner to ask mercy in the name of Jesus. “If any man sin, he has an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” “He is able be save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

3. There is no oracle of the future but God’s. No evil spirit can reveal the destiny of a soul, nor could he be trusted. No light that led astray was ever light from heaven. The father of lies could not he entitled to credit in his disclosures of our future. Departed saints are incapable of doing this. They have not such a function assigned to them in the economy of the spiritual world. (R. Steel.)

Saul in the cave at Endor

I. This is the cry of a soul consciously deserted of God. “The Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.”

1. God does sometimes desert the sinner even in this world. “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.”

2. The consciousness of this desertion is the greatest misery. There is no orphanage so bad as the orphanage of a soul--a soul that has lost its God. It lives to sink deeper and deeper forever into ruin.

II. This is the cry of a soul profoundly convinced of the value of a once neglected ministry. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh, for if they escaped not,” etc.

III. This is the cry of a soul that had become the victim of delusions. The man’s mind under a sense of guilt and Divine desertion had lost its balance; his intellect had been hurled from the throne, and his imagination, under the despotism of a guilty conscience, filled his soul with ghastly phantoms. Men talk of a sound mind in a sound body, but there is no sound mind without a sound conscience--a conscience freed from the sense of guilt, and attuned to the everlasting harmonies of right. Reason in the atmosphere of a guilty conscience is like the eye amidst the shower of pyrotechnic lights, dazzled with false visions. As we build up our houses and our cities out of the rough materials taken from the earth, so the imagination of a mind consciously deserted by God will build up its world of woe out of the corrupt materials of its own heart.

IV. This is the cry of a soul plunging into the depths of despair. When despair comes, a hopeless darkness settles over the soul. The course of sin leads to despair. Every sin a man commits he quenches a star in the firmament of hope. The moral of the whole is this--the well-being of humanity consists in loving fellowship with the Eternal Father. (Homilist.)

Without God, without hope

This was a cry wrung from the heart of a man who believed himself forsaken by God. “His soul was orphaned,” without God in the world.”

1. Have you never felt that orphanage--when God seems to have gone out from your heavens, and the universe appears a vast, sunless, godless infinite, black as night? The world without a sun! The flower stems bend over filled with icy tears shed for the loss of the sun that gave them all their colours, the bleached leaves hang without a flutter in the still, cold air, or fall rotting in the dark, the cattle of the field, perish for lack of sweet food and soft warmth, and the shivering hearts of men freeze within them--for the sun died last night. A soul without God, in awful solitude, starless, sunless. If you have felt that orphanage, and lived through doubt and despair to believe in God, happy are you. If you have never known it, happy are you also.

1. Saul was without God in his soul--he was alone; what should he do? Do! What could he do? Why could he not be quiet, and stop still? The sun would not forever be on the under size of the world, the night would not last foreverse One of the most fruitful errors of mankind is that irrepressible desire to do something; men cannot wait. Pascal said that most of life’s evils sprang from “man’s being unable to sit still in a room.” This restless unquiet is the cause of business depression; men must speculate, “do something;” there was a mania for excessive action.

2. Saul would do something, no matter what! He would seek a witch, and she would raise up Samuel to him. Ill omens crowd his mind, and his heart fell when he heard the mysterious seer from the afterworld add his ghostly word to his own too sad prevision of disaster and ruin on the morrow. He needs no ghost to tell him that, ‘tis already too surely known. Oh, power of conscience! A guilty conscience fills the soul with phantoms that are tongued with evil. The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a soul. Conscience speaks in whispers; but, if unheeded, its whispers echo quickly back and back from the close walls of the dark prison house of the soul, until, gathering strength, they reverberate like sounds of volleying thunder. Small as an earthworm, conscience may swell, until at last it becomes a great stinging serpent.

3. Hope is belief in God; hope is the anchor of the soul, which, tossed on the rolling ocean that is full to bursting, and driven helpless by the wind that is wet with storms, is steady, for deep buried in God’s bosom is the anchor, trust in our Father in heaven. The wise ancients said that Hope was the only gift left in Pandora’s box; it is the last thing that dies in a man. To lose hope is to lose oneself. By hope are we saved. Be not ashamed to hope; hope the highest things. Such is our Christian duty. A soul losing hope in God is like a traveller going down some mountainside as the broadening sun sets behind him; at his every step his shadow widens, lengthens, blackens, till at last he is shrouded in midnight darkness, and with way lost, tumbles over the crag into ruin. Hope then in God; doubt but hastens peril. Look up, out, of thyself; and learn that the darkness is thine own, that the heavens glow with light. Thou despairest of good, saying that there is no sun? Open thy closed eyes, the darkness is in thine own soul only. Despair is the only atheism; hopelessness is unbelief in God; Hope thou; that is, believe in God; he that believeth not is damned. But hope, which is the presence of God, never dies--neverse (B. J. Snell, M. A.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Samuel 28:11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/1-samuel-28.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then said the woman, whom shall I bring up unto thee?.... For such persons, according to their profession, pretended they were able to bring up any of the dead, that he who inquired of them should name:

and he said, bring me up Samuel; the prophet Samuel he meant, and no doubt the woman so understood him, whose name was well known; he had been an old acquaintance and friend of Saul's, his counsellor and adviser in many things and though he greatly neglected him in the latter part of his life, was very desirous of an interview with him now dead, that he might be advised by him how to get out of the straits and difficulties in which he was involved; but it argued extreme folly and madness in him to imagine, that the spirit of this great and good man was at the beck of a witch, and he to be called out of the state of the dead by her enchantments; or that God would permit him to appear to him, and by him give an answer, when he would not answer him by living prophets, nor any other way.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-samuel-28.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up e Samuel.

(e) He speaks according to his gross ignorance not considering the state of the saints after this life, and how Satan has no power over them.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-samuel-28.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

Samuel — Whose kindness and compassion as he had formerly experienced, so now he expected it in his deep distress. This practice of divination by the dead, or the souls of dead persons, was very usual among all nations.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-samuel-28.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 28:11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

Ver. 11. Bring me up Samuel,] i.e., Spectrum Samuelis, an apparition of Saumel. Saul neglected to hearken to Samuel while he was alive, and now would fain advise with him after his death. Haec est fortuna eorum qui salutaria monita spernunt. Let such look to it as despise wholesome counsel, while they may have it. "The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it." [Luke 7:22] Wherefore bestir you as good husbands.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-28.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

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.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-samuel-28.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

11.Whom shall I bring up — She assumes to be, and the whole narrative implies that she was, the instrument and medium of all the spiritual phenomena and communications of the occasion.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-28.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Samuel 28:11. He said, Bring me up Samuel — As he had formerly experienced Samuel’s kindness and compassion, so now he expected it in his deep distress.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-samuel-28.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Samuel. Here we behold the antiquity of necromancy, which is a proof that people believed the soul's immortality; animas responsa daturas. (Horace, i. sat. 8.) (Calmet) --- Protestants sometimes deny (Haydock) that souls appear again, contrary to this history and Matthew xvii. (St. Augustine) (Worthington)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-samuel-28.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

up. Note: not down, or forth. Compare 1 Samuel 28:13.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-samuel-28.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? - i:e., evoke from Sheol, Hades, the invisible subterranean world, which, according to the popular ideas of the Hebrews, was the abode of departed spirits until they were delivered from that quiet, though imperfect and temporary, state of bliss [hence the phrases which are frequently used in the Septuagint, hupo chthonos, under the earth, and kath' Hadou, down in Hades; and the spirits existing in the state of the dead are in the New Testament termed katachthonios (Greek #2709) (Philippians 2:10) and hupokatoo (Greek #5270) tees (Greek #3588) gees (Greek #1093) (Revelation 5:3).] 'The question here is not what was expressly revealed to that people on this subject, but what appear to have been the notions commonly entertained concerning it? or what was it which the learned Dr. Lowth styles the infernum poeticum of the Hebrews? Indeed, the artifice employed by their wizards and necromancers of returning answers in a feigned voice, which appeared to those present as proceeding from under the ground (Isaiah 29:4 : cf. 1 Samuel 8:10), is a demonstration of the prevalency of the sentiments I have been illustrating, in regard both to the existence and to the abode of souls departed,' (Campbell's 'Preliminary Dissertation,' vol. 6:, part 2:)

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-samuel-28.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(11) Bring me up Samuel.—A remarkable passage in the Babylonian Talmud evidently shows that, at all events in the Rabbinical Schools of a very early date, the bringing up of Samuel was looked upon as owing to the witch’s power.

“ A Sadducee once said to Rabbi Abhu, ‘Ye say that the souls of the righteous are treasured up under the throne of glory; how then had the witch of En-dor power to bring up the prophet Samuel by necromancy?’ The Rabbi replied, ‘Because that occurred within twelve months after his death; for we are taught that during twelve months after death the body is preserved, and the soul soars up and down, but that after twelve months the body is destroyed, and the soul goes up, never to return.’”—Treatise Shabbath, fol. 88, Colossians 2.

Another Rabbinical tradition, however, seems to limit this near presence of the departed spirit to the body to four days:—“It is a tradition of Ben Kaphra’s. The very height of mourning is not till the third day. For three days the spirit wanders about the sepulchre, expecting if it may return into the body. But when it sees that the form or aspect of the face is changed [on the fourth day], then it hovers no more, but leaves the body to itself. After three days (it is said elsewhere), the countenance is changed.”—From the Bereshith R., p. 1143: quoted by Lightfoot, referred to by Canon Westcott in his commentary on St. John 11:39.

Saul’s state of mind on this, almost the eve of his last fatal fight at Gilboa, affords a curious study. He felt himself forsaken of God, and yet, in his deep despair, his mind turns to the friend and guide of his youth, from whom—long before that friend’s death—he had been so hopelessly estranged. There must have been a terrible struggle in the proud king’s heart before he could have brought himself to stoop to ask for assistance from one of that loathed and proscribed class of women who professed to have dealings with familiar spirits and demons. “There is,” once wrote Archbishop Trench, “something unutterably pathetic in the yearning of the dis-anointed king, now in his utter desolation, to exchange words once more with the friend and counsellor of his youth; and if he must hear his doom, to hear it from no other lips but his.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:11". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-samuel-28.html. 1905.