Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 28:3

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had removed from the land those who were mediums and spiritists.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Familiar Spirits;   Ramah;   Samuel;   Saul;   Witchcraft;   Thompson Chain Reference - Samuel;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Divination;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Endor;   Ramah;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Samuel;   Saul, king of israel;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Descent into Hell (Hades);   Magic;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Prayer;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Magic;   Saul;   Wizard;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Divination;   Rama;   Saul;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Divination and Magic;   Grave;   Medium;   Samuel;   Samuel, Books of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Death;   En-Dor;   Eschatology;   Magic, Divination, and Sorcery;   Samuel, Books of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Descent into Hades;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ramah ;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Magic;   Ramah;   Saul;   Witch and wizard;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ra'mah;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Magician;   War;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Communion with Demons;   Familiar;   God;   Samuel;   Samuel, Books of;   Saul;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Burial;   Elkanah;   Endor, the Witch of;   Sheol;   Witchcraft;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Samuel was dead - And there was no longer a public accredited prophet to consult.

Those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards - See the note on Leviticus 19:31, and Exodus 22:18.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-samuel-28.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

It does not appear when Saul had suppressed witchcraft; it was probably in the early part of his reign.

Familiar spirits … wizards - i. e. ventriloquists … wise or cunning men. See Leviticus 19:31 note.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-samuel-28.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

SAUL'S DECISION TO CONSULT THE WITCH OF ENDOR

"Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the wizards out of the land. The Philistines assembled, and came and encamped at Shunem; and Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, "Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her." And his servants said to him, "Behold, there is a medium at Endor."

"Samuel had died ... Saul had put the mediums and wizards out of the land" (1 Samuel 28:3). This information was prerequisite to the understanding of what is next related. Saul's putting the wizards and mediums out of the land had evidently occurred in the early years of his reign when he was sincerely trying to do the will of God.

"Wizards and mediums" (1 Samuel 28:3). "From Isaiah 8:19; 19:3, it may be inferred that the oracles procured from such sources were uttered in a squealing voice, by means of ventriloquism."[4] "The Hebrew word for `mediums' here is [~'oboth], which is the plural of [~'ob], meaning `leather bottles.' It is generally taken to refer to the distended belly of the conjurer, into which the summoned spirit of the dead was supposed to enter, and thence speak."[5]

It is impossible to imagine anything any more fraudulent, any more evil, or any more founded absolutely upon falsehood than the profession of such followers of the devil as the mediums and wizards; one of the best known of those persons was the notorious Witch of Endor who is featured in this chapter.

Note the following from Deuteronomy: "There shall not be found among you any one who practices divination, a soothsayer, an augur, a sorcerer, a charmer, a medium, a wizard, or a necromancer ... Whoever does such things is an abomination to the Lord." (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

"When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid" (1 Samuel 28:5). Saul's crisis of fear was aggravated by the new strategy of the Philistines, who, instead of fighting Israel in the hill country, on this occasion marched into the plain of Jezreel where their chariots of iron would give them an advantage. "This maneuver threatened to cut off Saul from the support of the northern tribes"[6]

"The Philistines at Shunem ...Israel at Gilboa" (1 Samuel 28:4). It was at Gilboa that Saul greatly trembled. "This was the spring by which Gideon and his men camped. It was called the `Spring of Trembling' (Judges 7:1, KJV). Saul here camped beside the same spring, and `trembled greatly.'"[7] "The two armies here confronted each other near the eastern end of the plain of Esdraelon."[8]

"The Lord did not answer him ... by dreams ... by Urim ... or by prophets." "How strange that the man who hated and persecuted the prophets Samuel and David expected to be answered by prophets, and that he who had slain eighty-five priests with all of their wives and children, including even the High Priest, expected to be answered by the Urim, and that he who had sinned away the Spirit of God expected to be answered by heavenly dreams! God is not mocked![9]

"Behold, there is a medium at Endor" (1 Samuel 28:7). "Endor is the modern Khirbet es-Safsafe about four miles south of Mount Tabor ... Psalms 83:10 indicates that Barak and Deborah defeated Jabin and Sisera in this area."[10] The fact that Saul had said to his servants, "Find me a woman who is a medium" indicates that the great majority of such persons were indeed women, even as it is today with fortune-tellers, palm-readers, crystal-ball gazers, etc.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-samuel-28.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Now Samuel was dead,.... Had been so for some time; which is mentioned before, 1 Samuel 25:1; and here repeated, partly to observe the reason of the Philistines renewing the war, and partly to account for the conduct of Saul, in seeking to a witch to raise Samuel, and for the sake of that story:

and all Israel lamented him; as they had great reason to do; See Gill on 1 Samuel 25:1; and buried him in Ramah, even his own city; there being two Ramahs, as Kimchi observes, it is added, "in his own city", to show that he was buried in that Ramah which was his native place, and where his constant residence was; though, as he says, it may mean that he was buried within the city, and not without it; but the Targum gives a different sense,"and they buried him in Ramah, and mourned for him every man in his city:"

and Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards,

out of the land: out of the land of Israel; had by an edict banished them, or had given orders that neither witches nor wizards should abide in the land; but should be taken up, and prosecuted according to the law of God; which he had done either at the instigation of Samuel; or, as some think, from a conceit that the evil spirit he had been troubled with was owing to them; or to make some appearance of a zeal for religion, and the honour and glory of God: this is observed to show the inconstancy of Saul, and his folly in applying after this to a person of such a character, and to account for the fears of the woman when applied to, and afterwards when she was engaged, when she found it was by Saul; see 1 Samuel 28:7.

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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 28:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-samuel-28.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had b put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.

(b) According to the commandment of God, (Exodus 22:18) ; (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-samuel-28.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Now Samuel is dead, etc. — This event is here alluded to as affording an explanation of the secret and improper methods by which Saul sought information and direction in the present crisis of his affairs. Overwhelmed in perplexity and fear, he yet found the common and legitimate channels of communication with Heaven shut against him. And so, under the impulse of that dark, distempered, superstitious spirit which had overmastered him, he resolved, in desperation, to seek the aid of one of those fortune telling impostors whom, in accordance with the divine command (Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11), he had set himself formerly to exterminate from his kingdom.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-samuel-28.html. 1871-8.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(3) Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.

The reminding the Reader of the death of Samuel is very interesting in this place. Samuel was dead, and now the Philistines became bold. No doubt before his death, he had lamented in secret the sad conduct of Saul, and the corruptions of the people. Every true lover of God must mourn in secret for the sins of Zion. Reader! it is a sad proof of sad times, when the righteous die, and are taken away from the evil to come. But, blessed are the dead that die in the Lord. They enter into rest. They cease from their labours. They are in better company. Happy souls!

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/1-samuel-28.html. 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 28:3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.

Ver. 3. Now Samuel was dead.] See 1 Samuel 25:1.

And all Israel had lamented him.] This is one of the dues of the dead - viz., to be sowed in the earth, and watered with tears. Mors mea ne careat lachrymis.

And buried him in Ramah.] The bodies of the saints, being the temples of the Holy Ghost, should with reverence be commended and committed unto Christian sepulture, in hope of the resurrection.

And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits.] This he had done, according to Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27, at the beginning of his reign, say some, or else when for a show of his great zeal he slew the Gibeonites, [2 Samuel 21:1] as others hold. His seeking to these kind of creatures again therefore in his extremity, was a sin against conscience; it was point blank against verity, equity, and piety, as Junius observeth.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". 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

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 20:6,27 Deu 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.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". 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

3.Samuel was dead — This fact had been already recorded, (1 Samuel 25:1,) but is repeated here for the purpose of introducing the narrative that follows.

Saul had put away — Of this act of Saul’s reign we have no record elsewhere, but it was probably done soon after he received the kingdom, and by the advice of Samuel. It was required by the law. Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27.

Familiar spirits — The primary sense of the Hebrew word אוב is a skin bottle. Compare Job 32:19. Furst defines the word as “the hollow belly of conjurers, in which the conjuring spirit resides, and speaks hollow, as if out of the earth.” Persons of this craft were supposed to possess a divinity or spirit within them by which they were enabled to hold intercourse with the realm of the dead. The Septuagint renders the word by εγγαστριμυθος, a ventriloquist; in reference, probably, to the manner in which some of these conjurers uttered their responses.

Wizards — See on Deuteronomy 18:10-12.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "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 28:3. Now Samuel was dead, &c. — This was observed before, 1 Samuel 25:1, but is repeated here again to show that Saul was now sensible of his loss, wanting his advice in a time of great distress. Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits — According to the divine command, Leviticus 20:27, which perhaps he had executed in the beginning of his reign, when he was directed by Samuel.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-samuel-28.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Samuel. His death is here recorded, as well as the abolition of magic, to explain what follows, when Saul, not being able to obtain an answer from God, as his prophet had been withdrawn in anger, had recourse to the devil. (Haydock) --- Land, while he reigned virtuously, (Menochius) according to the law, Leviticus xix 31., and Deuteronomy xviii. 11.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-samuel-28.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

in Ramah, &c. Hebrew "in Ramah and in his own city". Figure of speech Hendiadys (App-6) = in his own city, Ramah.

had familiar spirits. Familiar spirits are demons pretending to be dead persons; hence the word "necromancy". See notes on Leviticus 19:31 and Isaiah 8:19.

wizards = wise, cunning, or knowing ones.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "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

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.

Now Samuel was dead ... This event is alluded to as affording an explanation of the secret and improper methods by which Saul sought information and direction in the present crisis of his affairs. Overwhelmed in perplexity and fear, he yet found the common and legitimate channels of communication with heaven shut against him; and, under the influence of that dark, distempered, superstitious spirit which had overmastered him, resolved in desperation to seek the aid of one of the fortune-telling impostors whom, in accordance with the divine command (Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11), he had set himself formerly, and with a show of pious zeal, to exterminate from his kingdom.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "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

(3) Now Samuel was dead.—A statement here repeated to introduce the strange, sad story which follows. The LXX., followed by the Vulg. and Syriac Versions, omitted it, not understanding the reason for its repetition.

And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.—This statement is also inserted explanatory of what follows. In other words, the compiler says: “Now Samuel, whom Saul was so anxious to see, was dead and buried, and the possessors of familiar spirits, whose aid Saul was about to invoke to carry out his purpose, had long since been put out, by his own order, from the land.” “Those that had familiar spirits”—those that had at their command ôboth, rendered “familiar spirits,” the plural form of ôb, a word which has never been explained with any certainty. Scholars think they can connect it with ôb, to be hollow, and ôb is then “the hollow thing,” or “bag;” and so it came to signify, “one who speaks in a hollow voice.” It hence appears to mean the distended belly of the ventriloquist, a word by which the LXX. always render ôb. It thus is used to designate the male or female ventriloquist, as in 1 Samuel 27:3; 1 Samuel 27:9, and Deuteronomy 18:11, &c., and also the spirit which was supposed to speak from the belly of the ventriloquist; in this sense it is so used in 1 Samuel 27:8-9, and Isaiah 29:4. This is the explanation given by Erdmann in Lange, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells in the Speaker’s Commentary.

The wizards.—Literally, the wise people. These are ever connected with the ôboth, “those that had familiar spirits.” The name seems to have been given in irony to these dealers in occult and forbidden arts. The Mosaic command respecting these people was clear and decisive: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch.(or wizard) to live” (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27). Saul, in his early zeal, we read, had actively put in force these edicts of Moses, which apparently, in the lax state of things which had long prevailed in Israel, had been suffered to lie in abeyance.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-samuel-28.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.
Samuel
25:1; Isaiah 57:1,2
put away
9; Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6,27; Deuteronomy 18:10,11; Acts 16:16-19
Reciprocal: Genesis 23:2 - mourn;  1 Samuel 7:13 - against;  1 Samuel 19:18 - to Samuel;  1 Samuel 28:7 - a familiar spirit;  1 Samuel 28:12 - thou art Saul;  2 Kings 23:24 - the workers;  Acts 8:2 - made;  Hebrews 11:32 - Samuel

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-samuel-28.html.