Saul Consults a Necromancer? - 1 Samuel 28

Christians in the West are often slow to credit any kind of spiritual power behind witchcraft or mediums or necromancers or the like.  While this credit belongs not with God and is certainly not positive, it is power even if demonic power.   It almost seems as if we say, "these things hold no power, demonic or otherwise," so as to undercut the legs of the spiritual warfare happening around us.  But when we do this we're wrong!  Saying there's nothing behind the medium, witchdoctor, or practitioner of the demonic is not to see the situation for what it is.  Saying there's nothing behind the practice neglects the words of Paul to the Corinthians when he writes, "I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons" (1 Corinthians 10:20, ESV).  There is indeed a demonic power of some sort behind these practices today just as the pagan sacrifices  in Corinth were demonic.

In light of our feelings surrounding witchcraft and talking with the dead, we tend to be a bit shocked when we come across 1 Samuel 28.  Here, Saul consults a medium in an effort to hear the Word of the Lord through Samuel, who had passed away.   Saul is in direct disobedience to God's Law that says explicitly not to consult mediums (Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:10-12).  In addition, in 1 Samuel 28:3 we see that Saul himself had put the mediums out of the land and even had to travel by night to En-dor in disguise because he knew he was doing wrong.

The necromancer is concerned that she will be in trouble by practicing this evil behavior for Saul, but Saul assures her that it will be okay and then emphatically pleads with her to raise Samuel so he can talk with him.  At one point in the chapter, it seems that Samuel is raised, although the text really only demonstrates that Saul believed he was talking with Samuel.  (Scholars disagree as to whether this character was actually Samuel, some kind of demon, or some sort of messenger of God.)

The point of this chapter however, is not to get into the hows and whys of witchcraft, but instead demonstrate the distress Saul is in and his subsequent misbehavior as he demanded to hear from God concerning his own glory and well-being.  It only stands to further show the depths of Saul's rebellion and even provides support for God's tearing the kingdom from Saul and giving it to David, a man after God's own heart. As is always the case, it is important to see this text in light of the context and primary point.  That being said, I'd like to encourage you to pick up your Bible and check out 1 Samuel 28.  In addition, Jared Jenkins and I discuss this particular text as one of our "Tough Text" series topics.  You can listen to that 20-minute podcast or subscribe to Salty Believer Unscripted for many other unscripted discussions.

*Photo of Lassa witch doctors was taken and used by the CDC.  It is presently in the public domain.