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Poole's on 1 Samuel 28:3-7: The Witch at Endor, Part 1



Verse 3:[1] Now (1 Sam. 25:1) Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away (1 Sam. 28:9; Ex. 22:18; Lev. 19:31; 20:27; Deut. 18:10, 11) those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.


[Now, Samuel died] Preferably, had died (Grotius, Junius and Tremellius), and thus the following. For, the writer repeats what he had said above, 1 Samuel 25:1, on account of the connection with the following history (Grotius); so that it might be all the more evident that Saul acted against truth and the laws of nature, inasmuch as he was presuming that Samuel was going to return by magical art (Malvenda out of Junius, Piscator). So that we might understand, 1. Why Saul willed him to be recalled. 2. How great was the calamity of the Jews, since they were without both David and Samuel (Martyr).


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.


[And they buried him in Ramah, his own city (thus Munster, Tigurinus, similarly the Septuagint)] Hebrew: in Ramah, and in his own city[2] (Malvenda). In Ramah, that is, in his own city (Pagnine, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Martyr, Glassius). The copulative conjunction is used ἑρμηνευτικῶς/exegetically: as it often is among the Latins, but more rarely among the Hebrews (Piscator). It was added, either because there were two cities of Ramah (Martyr): or, because he was buried in the city, but not abroad in the country (Kimchi in Martyr). Others: and they had mourned him in Ramah, that is, those that had been present there; and in their individual cities, that is, those that had been absent (certain interpreters in Vatablus, Jonathan in Martyr).


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


[And Saul removed the magicians, etc.] Understand, he had removed, in accordance with the law, Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:11 (Grotius). He did this when he was better (Menochius), in the beginning of his reign (Lapide); when he killed the Gibeonites, concerning which 2 Samuel 21:1 (Malvenda out of Junius, Piscator). Either he did this by the authority and counsel of Samuel: or, since he was vexed with a malignant spirit, by this offering of sorcerers he wished to appease God for himself, and to expel the demon from his body. And perhaps in recompense of that work it was conceded to him, for in the latter time of Saul’s life we hear no further mention of that malignant spirit (Tirinus).


Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards; according to God’s command, Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 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.


[From the land, מֵהָאָרֶץ] That is, from that region (Vatablus); namely, Israel, which the article (ה) indicates (Piscator).


Out of the land of Israel.


Verse 4:[3] And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in (Josh. 19:18; 2 Kings 4:8) Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in (1 Sam. 31:1) Gilboa.


[In Shunem] A town on the border of Issachar, Joshua 19:18 (Junius, Piscator, Menochius, Malvenda).

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


[In Gilboa] The mountains are not far from the valley of Jezreel: for there the battle was joined (Junius, Piscator); over against Shunem, in the same tribe of Issachar (Josephus in Menochius). Therefore, the armies were disposed in such a way that Saul was occupying the southern quarter; the Philistines, the Northern; but the valley of Jezreel was lying between the armies (Menochius).


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, each upon a hill, and a valley between them.


Verse 5:[4] And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was (Job 18:11) afraid, and his heart greatly trembled.


[And he saw] From that elevated place, on which he had encamped with his army (Menochius).


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


[His heart became very frightened] Either, 1. Because he was conscious of his many evil deeds (Grotius, Menochius, similarly Martyr). He was seeing the enemy approaching, and that by his own fault David had deserted to him (Martyr). Or, 2. On account of the vast number of the enemies (Menochius, similarly Sanchez). Or, 3. Because the Lord sent fear upon him (Menochius); just as He had threatened, Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28 (Martyr).


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:[5] And when Saul enquired of the LORD, (1 Sam. 14:37; Prov. 1:28; Lam. 2:9) the LORD answered him not, neither by (Num. 12:6) dreams, nor by (Ex. 28:30; Num. 27:21; Deut. 33:8) Urim, nor by prophets.


[And he consulted the Lord] But in 1 Chronicles 10 it is said that he consulted not; for, because it is not done truly and from the heart, it is just as if it were not done: or rather it was not actually done (Martyr).


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, that is, not seriously, and after the right order. Possibly he inquired by some prophet then with him, or by the priest before the ark.


[And He answer him not] Scorning the man, profane, and polluted with the blood of so many Priests (Grotius).


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 (thus most interpreters), גַּ֧ם בַּחֲלֹמ֛וֹת] Also in dreams (Montanus). Others supply something: he tried (consulted [Arabic]) by a dream also (Syriac). Neither through dreamers, or diviners, who were seeking responses through dreams (Munster). The conjunction גַּם/also is posited distributively (Piscator).


[Nor by Priests] Hebrew: by Urim.[6] Concerning which see Numbers 27:21 (Malvenda). That is, by the Priests; for the High Priest was wearing the Urim and Thummim (Vatablus). Question: How might he do this, since Abiathar had fled with the Ephod?[7] Responses: 1. He sent to Abiathar in Ziklag,[8] so that he might consult by the Ephod (Hebrews in Munster, certain interpreters in Martyr). 2. Since Abiathar had fled, they made other sacred garments, and appointed another Priest (certain interpreters in Martyr, similarly out of Tostatus). 3. God did not respond by Urim, because the Ephod was taken away by Abiathar, 1 Samuel 23:6 (Menochius, Junius, Piscator, Malvenda). 4. Saul is not said to have consulted the Priest, but only that God responded not by the Priest. Hence in the presence of Samuel resuscitated he did not mention Urim and Thummim[9] (Martyr).


[Nor by Prophets] There were many near Gibeah, the native city of Saul (Tirinus out of Sanchez). They had been disciples of Samuel, among whom some were wont to be inspired by the Spirit of God, and to perceive future things (Martyr). That is to say, neither ordinarily, nor extraordinarily (Malvenda out of Junius, Piscator).


Neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets, that is, neither by ordinary means, nor extraordinary.


Verse 7:[10] Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at En-dor.


[Seek me a woman, etc.] He had removed all the magicians, etc., so that God, appeased by this deed, might abrogate His sentence, which deprived him of the kingdom: not because he had hated the sin, but because he was loving the kingdom (Lapide out of Justin[11]). He did not doubt that some were yet surviving, especially women, who are wont to be lighter, and more prone to superstition (Menochius). Such are also of a weak nature, and are able to be deceived more easily; and the glory that they are not able to obtain from the conducting of their affairs they might be willing to obtain by evil arts (Martyr).


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.


[Having a python[12] (thus Pagnine, Piscator), בַּעֲלַת־אוֹב[13]] A Mistress of Python (Montanus, Piscator); or who possesses a python (Piscator), who knows how to bring up pythons (Jonathan) (or compels them to come up [Syriac]); by Python (Phœbe[14] [Castalio]) gifted (Junius and Tremellius). In whom is a pythonic spirit (Strigelius) (or familiar [English], or divining [Dutch]); a pythoness, who might call the dead from their graves (Arabic); an ἐγγαστρίμυθον/ventriloquist[15] (Septuagint in Grotius). So called, because a Dæmon, as some maintain, would emit execrable voices from the lower parts of the belly (Menochius). [Concerning which more things were said previously.] Among the Greeks such were called Pythiæ, from Pytho, which was the name of the city of the Delphinians (Grotius). The name Python the Greeks ascribe to the serpent that was slain by Apollo, according to their mythology; whence Apollo was called Pythius, and those that were believed to be inspired by him, Pythii, etc. But it was actually that ancient serpent,[16] who was coming up from their inward parts, etc. (Serarius). Moreover, this was the word of an impious soul, of which sort was that, If I am not able to bend the heavens, I will move Hell[17] (Piscator).


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.


[And I will ask through her] Understanding, what should be done (Vatablus).


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.


[At En-dor] It was a town of the Manassites on the near side of Jordan, Joshua 17:11 (Malvenda out of Junius, Piscator).


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

[1] Hebrew: וּשְׁמוּאֵ֣ל מֵ֔ת וַיִּסְפְּדוּ־לוֹ֙ כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיִּקְבְּרֻ֥הוּ בָרָמָ֖ה וּבְעִיר֑וֹ וְשָׁא֗וּל הֵסִ֛יר הָאֹב֥וֹת וְאֶת־הַיִּדְּעֹנִ֖ים מֵהָאָֽרֶץ׃ [2] Hebrew: בָרָמָ֖ה וּבְעִיר֑וֹ. [3] Hebrew: וַיִּקָּבְצ֣וּ פְלִשְׁתִּ֔ים וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ וַיַּחֲנ֣וּ בְשׁוּנֵ֑ם וַיִּקְבֹּ֤ץ שָׁאוּל֙ אֶת־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ בַּגִּלְבֹּֽעַ׃ [4] Hebrew: וַיַּ֥רְא שָׁא֖וּל אֶת־מַחֲנֵ֣ה פְלִשְׁתִּ֑ים וַיִּרָ֕א וַיֶּחֱרַ֥ד לִבּ֖וֹ מְאֹֽד׃ [5] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁאַ֤ל שָׁאוּל֙ בַּֽיהוָ֔ה וְלֹ֥א עָנָ֖הוּ יְהוָ֑ה גַּ֧ם בַּחֲלֹמ֛וֹת גַּ֥ם בָּאוּרִ֖ים גַּ֥ם בַּנְּבִיאִֽם׃ [6] Hebrew: בָּאוּרִים. [7] See 1 Samuel 22:20; 23:6. [8] See 1 Samuel 30:1, 7. [9] See 1 Samuel 28:15. [10] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר שָׁא֜וּל לַעֲבָדָ֗יו בַּקְּשׁוּ־לִי֙ אֵ֣שֶׁת בַּעֲלַת־א֔וֹב וְאֵלְכָ֥ה אֵלֶ֖יהָ וְאֶדְרְשָׁה־בָּ֑הּ וַיֹּאמְר֤וּ עֲבָדָיו֙ אֵלָ֔יו הִנֵּ֛ה אֵ֥שֶׁת בַּֽעֲלַת־א֖וֹב בְּעֵ֥ין דּֽוֹר׃ [11]Questions to the Orthodox 57. Justin, also known as the Martyr, was one of the great Greek apologists of the second century. Questions to the Orthodox was probably not written by Justin, but was frequently ascribed to him. [12] In Greek mythology, Python was a great serpent, offspring of Gaia, with prophetic powers. Apollo (god of prophecy) killed Python at Delphi, and cast its body into a deep crevice. A shrine was erected there, and the vapors ascending from Python’s carcass were thought to put the priestess as Delphi (the Pythia) into a prophetic ecstasy, under the power of which she would deliver prophetic oracles. [13]בַּעֲלָה signifies mistress; אוּב, to be hollow, and hence אוֹב, a skin for water, or the hollow belly of a conjuror. [14] In Greek mythology, Phœbe was a Titaness, a daughter of Uranus and Gaia, grandmother of Apollo and Hecate (goddess of witchcraft). She was the original owner of the oracular site at Delphi, which she gifted to Apollo. [15] Μῦθος signifies speech; ἐκ, from; γαστὴρ, belly. [16] See Revelation 12:9. [17] Virgil’s Æneid 7:312.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Nov 10, 2023

Westminster Larger Catechism 105: What are the sins forbidden in the first commandment?


Answer. The sins forbidden in the first commandment are, atheism, in denying or not having a God; idolatry, in having or worshipping more gods than one, or any with or instead of the true God...praying, or giving any religious worship, to saints, angels, or any other creatures; all compacts and consulting with the devil, [Leviticus 20:6; 1 Samuel 28:7, 11; 1 Chronicles 10:13-14] and hearkening to his suggestions [Acts 5:3]...

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Nov 10, 2023

Ralph Erskine's "Carnal Consultation Unfolded": 'It is dangerous, because if we consult with flesh and blood, it sends a man at last to consult with the Devil, and to take advice of hell, as you see in the case of Saul, 1 Samuel 28:7. "Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her." Thus he consulted with the witch of Endor. Having so long consulted with flesh and blood, he at last sought to the Devil himself, to consult with. If we still consult with flesh and blood, who are the devil's friends and favourites, we are in danger of consulting next with the devil himself.'

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Nov 10, 2023

Thomas Manton's Sermon of Matthew 27:46: 'All desertions may be reduced to these three sorts—for trial, for correction, or punishment. For trial; so God left Hezekiah, "to prove what was in his heart," 2 Chronicles 32:31. For fatherly correction; so God leaveth his people for a while, to teach them repentance, humility, hatred of sin, more entire dependence on himself, Isaiah 54:7, "I have left thee for a small moment, but with everlasting mercies will I love thee." For punishment; so he left Saul: 1 Samuel 28:6, when he answered him "neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets." So he leaveth the wicked to a reprobate mind.'

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Nov 10, 2023

Henry Scudder's Christian's Daily Walk: 'A regenerate man may fall one degree further, namely, he may so lose his first love, that he may, though not fall into utter apostasy, yet decline from good very far, even to a coldness and remissness in good duties, even in the exercises of religion, if not to an utter omission of them for a time. The life and vigour of his graces may suffer sensible eclipses and decay. Asa, though a good king, went apace this way, 2 Chronicles 15:17, as appears by his imprisoning the good prophet, and in oppressing the people in his latter days, and in trusting to the physicians, and not seeking to God to be cured of hi…

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Nov 10, 2023


Matthew Henry: 'The drawing of the armies, on both sides, into the field (1 Samuel 28:4): The Philistines pitched in Shunem, which was in the tribe of Issachar, a great way north from their country. The land of Israel, it seems, was ill-guarded, when the Philistines could march their army into the very heart of the country. Saul, while he pursued David, left his people naked and exposed. On some of the adjacent mountains of Gilboa Saul mustered his forces, and prepared to engage the Philistines, which he had little heart to do now that the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him....


The terror Saul was in, and the loss he was at, upon this occasion: He saw…


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