January 6, 2012

Hard Sayings XLI: Witches & Ghosts: A Hebrew Halloween?

Witch of Endor
Andrey Yefimovich Martynov (1768-1826)

So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. “Consult a spirit for me,” he said, “and bring up for me the one I name.” But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and Spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?” Saul swore to her by the LORD, “As surely as the LORD lives, you will not be punished for this.” Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” “Bring up Samuel,” he said. 1 Samuel 28:8-11

The Bible clearly and ardently forbids and condemns witchcraft along with other forms of necromancy.

“‘I will set my face against anyone who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute themselves by following them, and I will cut them off from their people. Leviticus 20:6

Based on the repercussions for consulting a medium I would have to say that Saul did have God’s face set against Him in the end and was cut off from his people as was his son Jonathan…in death…this is in spite of the fact that Saul was one of God’s anointed.

“’ A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.’” Leviticus 20:27

Along the same lines…

“Do not allow a sorceress to live. Exodus 22:18

In Deuteronomy we see a more explicit statement and clarification. One must be blameless or undefiled.

“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 18:9-13

“And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?" Isaiah 8:19

So…how can God allow Saul to consult with a known witch and allow her to summon Samuel from the dead without violating His own statutes and principles?

Even though Saul drove the mediums out of the land he consults with the witch of Endor anyway. This is an obvious case of willful disobedience by both Saul and the witch. Much to the amazement of Saul and even the witch herself (1 Sam 28:12 she cried out with a loud voice) …she actually pulls off this summoning, or so it appears. This is a successful violation of a capital offense in the Old Testament.

It has always been my assumption that this is a deception caused by magic or demonic manifestations. This is not possible...as death is final as we learn from the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man and the great chasm between them. The dead don’t come back. Demonic power cannot trump God’s ordained order. There are no such things as ghosts as we fully understand ghosts in our Hollywood saturated culture. On the flip side of this there is a claim that a demonic power initiated Samuel. This makes no sense either as the ‘ghost of Samuel’ delivers a legitimate message that actually comes true therefore prophetic…

And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me, for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”1 Samuel 28:16-19

The alternate explanations fall short because we can see that this apparition or spirit delivers a legitimate message that comes to fruition and surprisingly Samuel definitely appears to have returned from “beyond” never mind the violation of the great chasm noted elsewhere in the Bible. So, if neither demonic power nor human power is capable of making what happened occur and death is most certainly final and absolute…then what? To me this has to be the work of God as no one else is capable of pulling this off.

The last variation on this theme is where I reside as an exegete. I personally do not believe that this is Samuel at all because for this to be Samuel back from the dead is a direct violation of Scripture and any devout Christian realizes that the Word is God and God cannot violate or be in conflict with Himself or his word. I am thinking this is actually some form of God Himself arriving on the scene (perhaps even a theophany). Nothing in this passage leads a reader to believe that it is truly Samuel positively identified. It says "a ghostly figure" and "an old man wearing a robe". Saul then concludes on his own that it is Samuel and falls prostrated based on this assumption. Scripture then continues based on Saul's conclusion that it is Samuel.
We see that the witch herself is surprised. This tells me that she is used to not having things show up at her summoning…in other words, she’s a huckster as are most witches and those dealing with demonic activity today. Their source of deception does not come from God. We see legitimate prophecy come from this entity and man cannot return from the dead. It would behoove demons not to tell the truth in this situation and whoever this entity is, it did tell the truth. So what are we left to speculate? Demons could not have been able to foretell the future of Saul and humans do not return from the "other" side. The entity told the truth in the form of a prophetic judgment on Saul. Who else could do this or has a the authority to do this that is not demonic or human?


As I have said many times before and I will keep saying, regardless of how strange an occurrence is, it transpired in God’s universe. Therefore, above it all, God is Sovereign and in charge. We may not be able to fully explain it nor in some cases do we have to. We just need to know God is in charge.

Regardless of whom/Whom this entity is, Saul’s failure lies in his inability to trust God and go to God for help rather than rely on his own devices and the devices and methods of mankind which are flawed at their core. His failure also lies in his disobedient heart. This is mostly what this passage is about. Like other arguments over things like the Nephilim, young Earth/old Earth, the sun standing still and other non-salvation issues in Scripture, we as believers all too often get hung up on side arguments that divide us. In reality we should be focusing on the things that form unity of the Body for the benefit of the Body. The unity in this passage is in obedience to God and His word.

The truth is Saul had little or no faith in his God even though he may have said so or alluded to as much. His faith and main source of disobedience resided in his belief in himself or those around Him instead of God. He violates God time after time in disobedience or partial disobedience. As we know from Saul, God considers even partial disobedience…full disobedience and failure to obey is viewed the same. Sin is sin no matter how you cut it. Failure to obey is sin. Sin is worthy of condemnation and judgment. Ironically, in the following passage disobedience is put on par with the sin of divination.

[Samuel to Saul after the Amalikites] "Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.” And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:19-23

1 comment:

Halloween quotes said...

Nice post. Happy Halloween!

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