Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 28:6

When Saul inquired of the Lord , the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Familiar Spirits;   Samuel;   Saul;   Urim and Thummim;   Thompson Chain Reference - Error;   Forsaken;   Mysteries-Revelations;   Prayer;   Revelation;   Sin;   Sin's;   Sin-Saviour;   Transgression;   Urim and Thummim;   Wicked, the;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Prophets;   Urim and Thummim;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Dream;   Endor;   Urim and Thummin;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Samuel;   Saul, king of israel;   Urim and thummim;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Descent into Hell (Hades);   Magic;   Priest, Christ as;   Urim and Thummim;   War, Holy War;   Word;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Prayer;   Easton Bible Dictionary - High Priest;   Magic;   Saul;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - David;   Divination;   Dream;   High Priest;   King;   Saul;   Urim and Thummim;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Divination and Magic;   Dreams;   Inquire of God;   Samuel, Books of;   Urim and Thummim;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Death;   En-Dor;   Eschatology;   Magic, Divination, and Sorcery;   Priests and Levites;   Urim and Thummim;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Descent into Hades;   Dream (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ephod;   Urim and Thummim;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Magic;   Saul;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Divination;   U'rim and Thum'mim;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Breastplate;   Dreams;   Urim and Thummim;   War;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Army;   Famine;   God;   Inquire;   Intercession;   Samuel, Books of;   Saul;   Urim and Thummim;   War;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Abraham Ha-Levi ben Eliezer Ha-Zaḳ;   Dreams;   Endor, the Witch of;   War;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The Lord answered him not - He used the three methods by which supernatural intelligence was ordinarily given: -

  1. Dreams. - The person prayed for instruction; and begged that God would answer by a significant dream.
  • Urim. - This was a kind of oracular answer given to the high priest when clothed with the ephod, on which were the Urim and Thummim. How these communicated the answer, is not well known.
  • 3. Prophets. - Who were requested by the party concerned to consult the Lord on the subject in question, and to report his answer. The prophets at that time could only be those in the schools of the prophets, which Samuel had established at Naioth and Gibeah. These were the only successors of Samuel that we know of.

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    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-samuel-28.html. 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    When Saul inquired of the Lord … - It is said 1 Chronicles 10:14 that one reason why the Lord killed Saul, and gave his kingdom to David, was because he inquired not of the Lord. The explanation of this apparent discrepancy is to be found in the fact that inquiring of the familiar spirit was positively antagonistic to inquiring of the Lord. That Saul received no answer - when he “inquired of the Lord” by dreams, which was an immediate revelation to himself; by Urim, which was an answer through the high priest clothed in the ephod; or by prophets, which was an answer conveyed through some seer speaking by the Word of the Lord 1 Samuel 22:5 - was a reason for self-abasement and self-examination, to find out and, if possible, remove the cause, but was no justification whatever of his sin in asking counsel of familiar spirits.

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    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-samuel-28.html. 1870.

    The Biblical Illustrator

    1 Samuel 28:6

    The Lord answered him not.

    God’s silence

    I. A frequent experience of those who seek God. It is neither an universal nor invariable one, else prayer would become impossible. But it is sufficiently frequent to occasion grave spiritual difficulty.

    1. In apparent contradiction of Divine promise. Of Israel, even in Egypt, it was said, “I will surely hear their cry” (Exodus 22:23). (Zechariah 10:1.) (Psalms 86:7.) How strong are the assurances of Christ. (Matthew 7:7-11.)

    2. Disastrous in its effect upon the life of the soul. If it be true that “where there is no vision the people perish,” equally so is it that when no Divine voice speaks to the soul it must cease to live. As the plant withers in the gloom of the cellar, the soul that knows not the sunshine of the Father’s smile cannot be healthy or vigorous.

    3. A source of uneasiness and sorrow. It is not only right but in the best sense natural that man should seek God; there is no deeper source of dissatisfaction and restlessness than a baffled instinct.

    II. An experience to be interpreted. Even the silence of God has a meaning. Rightly interrogated it may prove a precious revelation. In any case the possibilities are too grave for the “sign” to be neglected.

    1. God is sometimes supposed to be silent when He is not. Answers to prayer are not always at once or easily apparent.

    2. His silence is not always a token of displeasure. It may be simply

    3. Yet it is often expressive of Divine wrath.

    It must not be regarded as a light thing.

    1. It may be intended to invite to inward examination and repentance. Some unfaithfulness; a falling from grace; it may be direct disobedience. The Holy One is saying, by His silence, “Come up higher. I cannot speak to you there!”

    2. It sometimes occurs, as in the case of Saul, in token of doom. The gracious lips of Christ were silent before a Pilate and a Herod. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

    A silent god

    1.Calamity may be borne. We can oppose it to our manhood and our constancy. Menaced by shipwreck, we can breast the storm. To be defeated in battle, to be superseded in power, to see popularity crumbling into indifference--all this and more Saul had to bear, and all this may be borne. “If God be on my side,” anyone may say to all the world, “I care nothing for all the rest.” Did not great Martin Luther cry: “Oh! my God, punish me rather with pestilence, with all the terrible sicknesses on earth, with war, with anything, rather than Thou be silent to me?” “And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not.” Ah! that is to be desolate indeed!

    2. There are some whom God does not answer because they do not care to inquire of Him at all. The earth suffices them. Life is their feeding trough, and they care nothing for more. They never care to look beyond the narrow horizon of themselves.

    3. When Saul inquired of the Lord, we are told that the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Dreams were the lowest form of revelation: yet we have so many closer modes of communion with God, in His Christ and by His Spirit, that of dreams we need not speak. Have no messages of Scripture ever seemed suddenly to burn their revelation upon your souls? Yes, God does speak to us by Urim still, and He also speaks to us by His prophets. And can you wonder that, if this be so, God, whom you have despised, and whose laws you have deliberately and habitually violated, should not only be silent to you at last? God never turns from the cry of the penitent, however bad he may have been. Distinguish between God’s apparent silences for His children, and the self-created silence of your own to those who utterly refuse Him. Oh, let us beware lest we feel the awful silence which is not God’s, but arises from our own obstinate and determined wickedness, that it may not overwhelm us. (Dean Farrar.)

    Communications threatened

    During a heavy snowstorm the warning was sent out that in a few hours the wet, heavy snow would break down the telephone and telegraph wires, and cut off communication with the outside world. Instantly there was a great rush to the telephones and the telegraph offices to get messages off before it was too late. What if we knew that very soon God would refuse to hear any more prayers; would there not be a great rush to the throne of grace to send our petitions heavenward before we were cut off foreverse (Christian Endeavour Times.)

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    Bibliographical Information
    Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Samuel 28:6". 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

    And when Saul inquired of the Lord,.... And this being not done truly and heartily, nor continued in, it was as if he had not inquired, and especially after he had inquired of one that had a familiar spirit, as Kimchi observes; for so it is said, 1 Chronicles 10:14,

    the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams; which he dreamed himself, from whence he could not conclude anything relating to the will of God; so the Targum,"the Lord did not receive his prayer even by dreams;'or by dreamers, diviners, who pretended to give answers by dreams:

    nor by Urim; there being no priest to consult in this way, Abiathar having fled with the ephod, in which were the Urim and Thummim, to David, 1 Samuel 23:9; though some think that he sent to Abiathar, who was with David, to inquire for him; and others that he made another ephod with Urim, and appointed another priest to consult by them; neither of which are probable:

    nor by prophets; of which there was a school not far from him, even at Naioth in Ramah, of which Samuel in his lifetime was president; but neither by the one nor the other could Saul get an answer from God, who for his sins had departed from him.

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    Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-samuel-28.html. 1999.

    Geneva Study Bible

    And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by c Urim, nor by prophets.

    (c) Meaning, the high priest, (Exodus 28:30).
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    Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-samuel-28.html. 1599-1645.

    Scofield's Reference Notes

    Urim

    (See Scofield "Exodus 28:30").

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    Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on 1 Samuel 28:6". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/1-samuel-28.html. 1917.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    1 Samuel 28:6 And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.

    Ver. 6. And when Saul inquired of the Lord.] Which he did not with a true heart, [Hebrews 10:23] and Ficta pro factis non habentur, saith the Civilian: Nec videtur fieri quod non legitime fit: hence [1 Chronicles 10:13-14] it is said that Saul inquired not of the Lord. He did, and he did not, because not uprightly nor constantly: and Nihil dicitur factum quamdiu aliquid superest faciendum. He should have persisted in seeking God, and not have run to light a candle at the devil, as they say: a sin, whereof his own hands wrought the revenge.

    The Lord answered him not.] And no wonder: since it was only extremity of distress that sent Saul to seek God; like as the drowning man catcheth at that bow which he contemned standing safe on the bank.

    Nor by Urim.] For Saul had slain those that wore the ephod: and Abiathar who had it was fled to David. [1 Samuel 23:6] That Saul now sent to Abiathar, is a conceit of the Rabbins.

    Nor by prophets.] He cared not for them in his prosperity, and now can have no comfort from them in the day of his distress. Let such look to it as slight God’s faithful ministers.

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    Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". 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

    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.

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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". 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

    6.The Lord answered him not — Which showed that the divine anger was against him.

    By dreams — This may mean that he had prayed God to give him some significant dream, but no such dream had been granted him; or it may refer to the prophets, who neither by vision nor by dream (Numbers 12:6) had recently received any communication for Saul.

    By urim — On the breastplate of the high priest. See Exodus 28:30. But what high priest did Saul resort to after the murder of Ahimelech? Most probably another had been immediately appointed by Saul, and a new ephod had been made for him. It is in no way likely that Saul sent away to David’s camp to inquire by the priest Abiathar.

    By prophets — Some of the most distinguished of Samuel’s school, whom Saul had with him in the camp.

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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "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 28:6. When Saul inquired of the Lord — This seems to contradict what is affirmed 1 Chronicles 10:14, that he did not inquire of the Lord, which is assigned as the reason why the Lord slew him. But Rabbi Kimchi, and others, thus reconcile these two places. That since he did not continue to inquire of him, but went to a diviner, it was all one as if he had not inquired at all; for he did it faintly, coldly, and indifferently. A learned Jew, Samuel Laniado, remarks here: “He whose heart is perfect with God, lifts up his eyes unto him, and fixes them on him; hoping in him, though he doth not presently hear him; and perseveres in his expectation and confidence, firmly setting a resolution to wait upon him. But so did not Saul, who was remiss and negligent, saying in his heart, If God will not hear me, I will go and consult a familiar spirit.” The Lord answered him not — Nor is it to be wondered that he should not answer a man of such a disposition. Neither by dreams — By which perhaps he prayed that God would inform him. Nor by Urim — It appears by this, that, Abiathar having fled to David and taken the ephod with him, Saul had set up another high-priest, and made an ephod in imitation of the sacred one, not considering the peculiar sanctity of that which God had appointed, and by which alone he had promised to manifest himself. Nor by prophets — A school of whom, no doubt, was still remaining at Ramah, over which Samuel had presided.

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    Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-samuel-28.html. 1857.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    Dreams. During which God often revealed his will. See Deuteronomy xiii. 3. --- Priests. Hebrew, "nor by Urim." It seems Saul had appointed some priests, and had fabricated a fresh ephod, with the Urim, &c., after the departure of Abiathar. (Calmet) --- But Salien calls this in question, and there might neither be priests nor prophets for Saul to consult. (Haydock) --- God despised a man, who had slain so many of his sacred ministers. (Menochius)

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    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-samuel-28.html. 1859.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    enquired = asked. Hebrew. sha"al, to ask. Not darash, "to seek out". See note on 1 Samuel 28:7, and 1 Chronicles 10:13, 1 Chronicles 10:14.

    the LORD. Hebrew. Jehovah. App-4.

    answered him not. Not likely therefore to answer now by a way He had forbidden. Samuel had been dead two years.

    Urim. See note on Exodus 28:30. Numbers 26:55. It must have been an ephod of his own making, as Abiathar the High Priest was with David. Saul makes no mention of this in 1 Samuel 28:13.

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    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "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

    And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.

    And when Saul inquired of the Lord. Since it was a part of the official duty of the high priest to ask counsel for rulers in all matters affecting the national interests of Israel, we find Joshua in early, as well as David at a later period, frequently employing the agency of that high dignitary for consulting God in emergencies where his own sagacity was an insufficient guide. It appears that Saul also, in the brief period of his theocratic allegiance, inquired of the Lord through the same medium (1 Samuel 14:18-19). But he had long discontinued such applications, his impulsive and wayward temper driving him to neglect them, probably from the day that God gave him no answer (1 Samuel 14:37).

    The Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. These were the three recognized modes of divine revelation (Jeremiah 23:25-28; Joel 2:28). A knowledge of God's will with reference to present duty, no less than to future events, was communicated in dreams sometimes to private persons (Genesis 20:3; Genesis 28:12; Genesis 37:5-11; Genesis 40:5-21; Genesis 41:1-32 : cf. Daniel 4:5-17), at other times by means of the high priest's Urim (see the note at Exodus 28:29-30; Leviticus 8:5-9; Numbers 27:21) and by prophets (Numbers 12:6; Isaiah 29:10). The latter two modes are specified as distinct from the former. But in consequence of Saul's persistent rebellion and apostasy, these privileges were all withdrawn from him. No vision from the Lord was given him in trance or dream (1 Samuel 19:24); no announcement of the divine will could be obtained by Urim, because the high priest's family had been barbarously massacred, and Abiathar, the only survivor, who carried an ephod with him in his flight from Nob (1 Samuel 22:20; 1 Samuel 23:6), was associated with David's exiled followers; and no prophet was there to guide and support him, because Samuel, his faithful counselor, had sorrowfully left him to himself, and was now dead.

    In the extremity of his distress, how intensely did Saul long for the restoration of those forfeited privileges,-to learn the will of God at the mouth of the prophet, or by the pectoral of the high priest, or to be told what he should do through some vision of the night! The saddest and most melancholy aspect of the case is, that in his agony of mind he never dreamt of asking for pardon of his sins, but only for counsel in his backsliding fortunes. His real character was now unveiled, and his resolution to consult a witch, one of these traders in unlawful arts, whom he had formerly set himself with apparent zeal to extirpate, was the re-action of his hypocrisy-a wild and desperate expedient for relieving himself from the misery which he despaired of relieving by legitimate means.

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    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "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

    (6) And when Saul enquired of the Lord.——The question has been asked, How was the enquiry made? for since the massacre at Nob, the high priest, or, at least, the priest in possession of the sacred ephod and the breastplate, with the Urim and Thummim, was, we know, in the camp of David, and we shall soon hear of a solemn use being made of the sacred gems. (See 1 Samuel 30:7-8.) It has been suggested by eminent Biblical scholars that after the murder of Ahimelech and the flight of Abiathar to David, Saul removed the national Sanctuary from desecrated Nob, and established it at Gibeon, where, during the first year of David’s reign, we find the Tabernacle, with Zadok, son of Ahitub, of the house of Eleazar, acting as high priest—probably placed in that office by Saul. This would account for the frequent reference in the time of David to two high priests, Zadok and Abiathar: Zadok, the high priest appointed by Saul, for a considerable period alone in charge of the Tabernacle; and Abiathar, who fled from Nob with the ephod and the sacred Urim, acknowledged by David as high priest, when the kingdom was restored eventually under one head. These two seemed to have divided the honours and responsibilities of the high priesthood. (See 2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 15:24; 2 Samuel 15:29; 2 Samuel 15:35; 1 Chronicles 15:11; 1 Chronicles 18:16.)

    This Zadok, we may assume, “enquired” for Saul:·some suppose by means of an ephod made in imitation of the ancient breastplate with the Urim in possession of Abiathar; but, as may be readily imagined, no response was received. It is also likely enough that some “prophets”—so called—trained, not improbably, in the school of Samuel, were present with Saul. These, too, of course, received no Divine message, either by voice or in dreams.

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    Bibliographical Information
    Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-samuel-28.html. 1905.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
    enquired
    14:37; 1 Chronicles 10:14; Pr 1:,27,28; Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 20:1-3; John 9:31; James 4:3
    by dreams
    Genesis 28:12-15; 46:2-4; Numbers 12:6; Job 33:14-16; Jeremiah 23:28; Matthew 1:20
    by Urim
    Exodus 28:20; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8
    by prophets
    Psalms 74:9; Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 20:3
    Reciprocal: Genesis 25:22 - inquire;  Exodus 28:30 - General1 Samuel 23:4 - yet again;  1 Samuel 28:15 - answereth;  1 Samuel 30:8 - he answered him;  2 Samuel 5:19 - And the Lord;  2 Samuel 22:42 - unto the Lord;  2 Kings 4:31 - neither voice;  2 Kings 6:33 - this evil is of the Lord;  Ezra 2:63 - Urim;  Song of Solomon 5:6 - I sought;  Jeremiah 21:2 - Inquire;  Ezekiel 14:3 - should;  Ezekiel 20:31 - and shall;  Amos 8:11 - but;  Micah 3:7 - no;  John 10:35 - unto;  John 11:51 - being

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    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:6". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-samuel-28.html.