The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Samuel

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1 Samuel 28

1Sa 28:1

1Sa 28: "The man [Saul, whom] David honoured as 'Yahweh's Anointed' had a vacillating life, reaching great heights and depths in his pitiful path of duty. But now Saul's experiences provide a closing tragic chapter in a life of failure. It is the rush of a desperate man unable to see the way to redeem himself, and to obtain the divine blessing. He becomes clouded in personal despondency, and seeks the folly of a witch's deception. Having by his own confession 'played the fool' (1Sa 26:21), Saul now reaps the result of such actions. It is against the background of national distress. So: [1] War is declared: vv 1,2. [2] Saul's dilemma: vv 3-6. [3] Saul's tragic mission: vv 7-14. [4] Saul's fate foreshadowed: vv 15-20. [5] The woman ministers to Saul's need: vv 21-25.

"It was a fearful journey that dark night as Saul went beyond the Philistine camp in his urgent need for some solution. The Philistines were encamped in Shunem, directly between Gilboa and Endor. Such a visit under such conditions was perilous in the extreme, and nothing could have induced Saul to venture thither, but the agony of despair and complete despondency. But if he left in agony, how great was his despair as he returned to take up his post with his worst fears confirmed. Yahweh had closed His ears to the king; whilst Saul turns to a witch of Endor -- a woman whose occupation was anathema to the divine righteousness. Saul was governed by a false idea of religion. Like Cain he sought to frustrate the wisdom of Yahweh, and in so doing not only found the depths of misery, but faced the day of his death" (GEM).

1Sa 28:2

I WILL MAKE YOU MY BODYGUARD FOR LIFE: Lit "the keeper of my head" (as AV). Double meaning, as it turns out: Just like David had "kept" Goliath's head!

1Sa 28:6

HE INQUIRED OF THE LORD: What looks to be a contradiction may be explained by recourse to the meaning of the underlying Hebrew words. In 1Ch 10:14, we are told that Saul "did NOT inquire of the LORD", whereas in 1Sa 28:6, we are told that he DID "inquire". The explanation is fairly simple: (1) The word translated "inquire" in 1Ch 10:14 is "darash", which signifies "to follow after, and especially to worship". (2) The word translated "inquire" in 1Sa 28:6 is "shaal", which signifies "to request, or (even) to demand" (incidentally, it is related to the meaning of the name "Saul"). So, Saul did "inquire" of the LORD in making requests or demands (1Sa 28:6), but he did NOT "inquire" of the LORD in the sense of truly seeking after Him (1Ch 10:14)! (However, Saul DOES "seek out diligently"... the Hebrew "darash"... the witch of Endor: 1Sa 28:7!)

THE LORD DID NOT ANSWER HIM: God does not answer one "in covenant" (here). And He does answer one not "in covenant" (Act 10:4).

1Sa 28:7

A literal interpretation? Difficulties:

Or... a fake spiritualistic séance?:

  1. Saul would have been easily recognized, being so tall (1Sa 9:2).
  2. In promising no punishment (v 10), Saul would have identified himself.
  3. Saul saw nothing (vv 12-14).
  4. "An old man wearing a robe is coming up" (v 14): And this was all it took for Saul to believe it was Samuel!
  5. What about the "prophecy" of Saul's death?: An easy inference, from Samuel's prophecy of 1Sa 15, and Saul's evident loss of morale in face of Philistine attack.

1Sa 28:15

DISQUIETED: The word is used of awakening -- in this case awakening from the "sleep" of death: Job 3:17; Ecc 9:5,10; Joh 11:11,24,25,44.

1Sa 28:19

TOMORROW YOU AND YOUR SONS WILL BE WITH ME: Where would they all be, to be together?

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