top of page

Poole's on 1 Samuel 28:8-13: The Witch at Endor, Part 2

Verse 8:[1]  And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night:  and (Deut. 18:11; 1 Chron. 10:13; Isa. 8:19) he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee.

[He changed his habit, וַיִּתְחַפֵּשׂ[2]He changed himself (Munster, Pagnine, similarly Jonathan).  He transfigured himself (Symmachus in Nobilius).  He concealed himself (Septuagint); he changed (or took off [Syriac]) his clothes (Arabic, Strigelius, similarly Tigurinus, Vatablus); he simulates someone else (Castalio, similarly the Dutch, English).  1.  Lest he be recognized by her, and she be unwilling to divine out of fear of him (Menochius out of Lyra, similarly Osiander).  2.  He was wanting it to escape the notice of others, that he was consulting a Witch (Lyra).  3.  He departed secretly, lest the absence of the king should create fear in the army (Menochius).

Saul disguised himself; both because he was ashamed to be known, or thought guilty of this practice; and because he suspected that the woman, had she known him, would not practice her art before him.


Verse 9:[3]  And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath (1 Sam. 28:3) cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land:  wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?

[Thou knowest what great things Saul hath done]  External discipline, even if it does not change hearts, accomplishes much in keeping the people in their duty (Martyr).

Woman said, Behold, thou knowest; for his speech and garb discovered him to be an Israelite, and therefore acquainted with these matters.

[Why layest thou a snare for my soul? מִתְנַקֵּ֥שׁ בְּנַפְשִׁ֖י[4]Thou placest a stumblingblock (thou layest a snare [Tigurinus, similarly the Septuagint, Strigelius]) for my soul (Pagnine, similarly Montanus); why huntest thou, etc. (Syriac, Arabic), art thou provoked, etc. (Jonathan), seekest thou a cause, against my soul, etc. (Munster).

To cause me to die, by accusing me to Saul as guilty of a capital crime.


Verse 10:[5]  And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.

[No evil shall come upon thee, etc., אִֽם־יִקְּרֵ֥ךְ עָוֹ֖ן]  If should befall thee perversity (Montanus), or, iniquity (Vatablus, Piscator), injustice (Septuagint), punishment (Junius and Tremellius).  Metonymy of the efficient, of which sort is found in Genesis 4:13 (Piscator); fault (Jonathan).  The Lord lives, if anything of fault be imputed to thee concerning this matter (Tigurinus).  No vexation shall be to thee (Syriac).  If it shall meet, etc.  Understanding, may Jehovah do to me, etc., as in 1 Samuel 25:22.  An ellipsis of the consequent in the declared hypothetical containing an imprecation (Piscator).


Verse 11:[6]  Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee?  And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

[Rouse Samuel for me]  For he was hoping according to his former benevolence, that he would bring help to him in his most urgent necessity (Menochius).  It is likely that Saul did not think it to be a specter, but Samuel himself, that is, that the spirit of Samuel was able to be recalled to him; for he would not have received a specter so reverently.  Moreover, how great is the change here!  Whom by the precept of God he had been unwilling to hear while living, him contrary to the will of God he now wishes to hear while dead (Martyr).  Νεκυΐα (divination by the dead) was the most ancient of all divinations, and an indication of the belief τῆς τῶν ψυχῶν διαμονῆς, of the endurance of souls, that is, after death).  That this was frequently practiced in the East, teach Æschylus[7] and Herodotus (Grotius).  Concerning this summoning of ghosts the Gentiles have many things.  Virgil in his “Sorceress”,[8] by these I often saw him changed into a wolf; and in his Æneid 4, and he will rouse the ghosts of the night, etc.; Horace’s Satire 8; Seneca’s Œdipus; Lucan’s Pharsalia 6.[9]  See Delrio’s Magical Inquiries[10] 4:2:6 (Sanchez).

Samuel:  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.


Verse 12:[11]  And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice:  and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.

[Now, when the woman had seen Samuel, she cried out]  Question:  What is the reason for her exclamation?  Responses:  1.  Because he arrived before she had finished the song of necromancy; for Samuel appeared, not by the force of incantation, but by God thus willing (Menochius, similarly Lapide).  [They say this, so that they might support their case concerning the true Samuel appearing, concerning which next.]  2.  Or because he did not appear in the same manner in which the summoned dead appear; that is, having feet above, but the head beneath; or supine, as they are wont to be buried in their graves; but erect, in that posture in which living men are found (Menochius out of the Rabbis).  3.  Doubtlessly she exclaimed because of stupefaction, since she saw the divine appearance of Samuel, so diverse from the other dark shades that she was wont to summon (Malvenda out of Josephus).  4.  Or in fear of Saul, whom she then recognized (Malvenda).

She cried with a loud voice, for fear of her life, Saul himself being witness of her crime.

[Thou art Saul]  Question:  By what evidence did she know this?  Responses:  1.  It was indicated to her, either by Samuel (Tirinus out of Josephus and Tostatus, Sanchez, Menochius).  Or, 2.  by her familiar spirit (Menochius out of Sanchez).  Or, 3.  she knew it from the apparition, either by its words, or by gesture (Piscator); because the specter showed honor to Saul as king (Piscator).

Thou art Saul:  this she knew, either by some gesture of reverence which this supposed Samuel might show to Saul, as to the king; or by information from this ghost; or from the spirit by whose help she had raised him.


Verse 13:[12]  And the king said unto her, Be not afraid:  for what sawest thou?  And the woman said unto Saul, I saw (Ex. 22:28) gods ascending out of the earth.

[Be not afraid]  As if I have come in order to search thee out (Piscator).

[What sawest thou?]  Hebrew:  for what sawest thou?[13]  Suppose, on account of which thou art so afraid (Malvenda out of Junius).  I translate it, but say what, etc.  כִּי/for in the place of כִּי אִם, only:  and it is an ellipsis (Piscator).

[I saw gods ascending out of the earth (thus the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Pagnine, Montanus, Tigurinus, Strigelius, Junius and Tremellius)]  That is, certain divine likenesses, with which the Devil is wont to preface his illusions; and hence she speaks in the past tense, I saw; because they had already disappeared by the time that Samuel was about to appear (Junius in Malvenda).  אֱלֹהִים עֹלִים, the Angel of the Lord, who ascended, etc. (Jonathan).  I saw (some [Piscator]) god ascending (Vatablus, Piscator).  I see a divum/god/saint (Castalio).  A man divine and more august than a human form (Castalio); a person full of majesty (Martyr).  A plural in the place of the singular, as shows the relative singular that follows (Vatablus, Sanchez, Tirinus).  Of what sort is his form? (Sanchez), and the woman responds in the singular, an old man cometh up (Tirinus).  But the plural is often used; either, 1.  For the sake of honor, as in Exodus 22:28 (Vatablus).  Or, 2.  After the Heathen manner, and as a witch.  Some by gods here understand the counterfeit Samuel, accompanied by a troop of evil spirits (Dutch).  She says, ascending, because the dead are buried in the earth, so that, if they wish to return, it is necessary for them to ascend (Martyr).  Now, from these things and what follows it appears that the witch did indeed see the form of Samuel, but heard no voice; on the other hand, Saul head the voice of the false Samuel, but did not see hiwhich she was s form (Osiander).  I saw a god, that is, a judge, or governor:  which she was alleging from his form, which she relates in verse 14.  A Metaphor from similarity of power; as in Exodus 21:6 (Piscator).  Others thus:  I saw a great man with posture straight and tall ascending (Kimchi in Munster).

Gods:  that is, A god, a divine person, glorious, and full of majesty and splendour, exceeding not only mortal men, but common ghosts.  She useth the plural number, gods, either after the manner of the Hebrew language, which commonly useth that word of one person; or after the language and custom of the heathens.  But the whole coherence shows that it was but one.  For Saul desired but one, verse 11, and he inquires and the woman answers only of one, verse 14.  Ascending out of the earth, as if it came from the place of the dead.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּתְחַפֵּ֣שׂ שָׁא֗וּל וַיִּלְבַּשׁ֙ בְּגָדִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֔ים וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ ה֗וּא וּשְׁנֵ֤י אֲנָשִׁים֙ עִמּ֔וֹ וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ אֶל־הָאִשָּׁ֖ה לָ֑יְלָה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר קְסוֹמִי־נָ֥א לִי֙ בָּא֔וֹב וְהַ֣עֲלִי לִ֔י אֵ֥ת אֲשֶׁר־אֹמַ֖ר אֵלָֽיִךְ׃

[2] In the Qal, חָפַשׂ signifies to search; in the Hithpael, to disguise oneself (that is, to let oneself be searched for).

[3] Hebrew: וַתֹּ֙אמֶר הָֽאִשָּׁ֜ה אֵלָ֗יו הִנֵּ֙ה אַתָּ֤ה יָדַ֙עְתָּ֙ אֵ֣ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֣ה שָׁא֔וּל אֲשֶׁ֥ר הִכְרִ֛ית אֶת־הָאֹב֥וֹת וְאֶת־הַיִּדְּעֹנִ֖י מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְלָמָ֥ה אַתָּ֛ה מִתְנַקֵּ֥שׁ בְּנַפְשִׁ֖י לַהֲמִיתֵֽנִי׃

[4] נָקַשׁ signifies to strike, to bring down, or perhaps to lay snares.

[5] Hebrew:  וַיִּשָּׁ֤בַֽע לָהּ֙ שָׁא֔וּל בַּֽיהוָ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר חַי־יְהוָ֕ה אִֽם־יִקְּרֵ֥ךְ עָוֹ֖ן בַּדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּֽה׃

[6] Hebrew:  וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה אֶת־מִ֖י אַֽעֲלֶה־לָּ֑ךְ וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אֶת־שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל הַֽעֲלִי־לִֽי׃

[7] Æschylus (525-456 BC) was perhaps the earliest of the Greek tragedians.

[8] Eclogues “Pharmaceutria”.

[9] Marcus Annæus Lucanus (39-65) was a Roman poet.

[10] Disquisitionum Magicarum Libri Sex.

[11] Hebrew: וַתֵּ֤רֶא הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ אֶת־שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל וַתִּזְעַ֖ק בְּק֣וֹל גָּד֑וֹל וַתֹּאמֶר֩ הָאִשָּׁ֙ה אֶל־שָׁא֧וּל לֵאמֹ֛ר לָ֥מָּה רִמִּיתָ֖נִי וְאַתָּ֥ה שָׁאֽוּל׃

[12] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר לָ֥הּ הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ אַל־תִּֽירְאִ֖י כִּ֣י מָ֣ה רָאִ֑ית וַתֹּ֤אמֶר הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ אֶל־שָׁא֔וּל אֱלֹהִ֥ים רָאִ֖יתִי עֹלִ֥ים מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

[13] Hebrew:  כִּ֣י מָ֣ה רָאִ֑ית.

92 views3 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Nov 17, 2023

Loraine Boettner's Studies in Theology: 'False prophets and sorcerers who attempted to mislead the people of God with their delusions were to be put to death (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Exodus 22:18), and strict commands were given against consulting those who practiced fortune telling or those who had familiar spirits (Leviticus 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Isaiah 8:19). To encourage such things was sin, because it led the people away from the true God. Those who consulted them did so in direct violation of God's command, and almost invariably turned out bad, e.g., Saul (1 Samuel 28:8-19); Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:14); Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-15). The sorcerer Simon was misleading the people and was severely condemned by Peter…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Nov 17, 2023

Matthew Henry: 'Here, I. Saul seeks for a witch, 1 Samuel 28:7....

II. Hearing of one he hastens to her, but goes by night, and in disguise, only with two servants, and probably on foot, 1 Samuel 28:8. See how those that are led captive by Satan are forced, 1. To disparage themselves. Never did Saul look so mean as when he went sneaking to a sorry witch to know his fortune. 2. To dissemble. Evil works are works of darkness, and they hate the light, neither care for coming to it. Saul went to the witch, not in his robes, but in the habit of a common soldier, not only lest the witch herself, if she had known him,…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Nov 17, 2023

Study 1 Samuel in detail with Matthew Poole!

bottom of page