23 July 1 Samuel 28:1-20

23 July.  Saul consults a medium at Endor

“Later, the Philistines gathered their armies to fight against Israel. Achish [the Philistine king of Gath] said to David, ‘You understand that you and your men must join my army.’ David answered, ‘You will see for yourself what I, your servant, can do!’ Achish said, ‘Fine, I’ll make you my bodyguard for life.’”

“Now Samuel was dead, and all the Israelites had shown their sadness for him. They had buried Samuel in his home town of Ramah. And Saul had forced out the mediums and fortune-tellers from the land.”

“The Philistines came together and made camp at Shunem. Saul gathered all the Israelites and made camp at Gilboa. When he saw the Philistine army, he was afraid, and his heart pounded with fear. He prayed to the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him through dreams, Urim or prophets.”

“Then Saul said to his servants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium so I may go and ask her what will happen.’ His servants answered, ‘There is a medium in Endor.’ Then Saul put on other clothes to disguise himself, and at night he and two of his men went to see the woman.”

“Saul said to her, ‘Talk to a spirit for me. Bring up the person I name.’ But the woman said to him, ‘Surely you know what Saul has done. He has forced the mediums and fortune-tellers from the land. You are trying to trap me and get me killed.’ Saul made a promise to the woman in the name of the LORD. He said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, you won’t be punished for this.’”

“The woman asked, ‘Whom do you want me to bring up?’ He answered, ‘Bring up Samuel.’ When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed. She said, ‘Why have you tricked me? You are Saul!’ The king said to the woman, ‘Don’t be afraid! What do you see?’”

“The woman said, ‘I see a spirit coming up out of the ground. Saul asked, ‘What does he look like?’ The woman answered, ‘An old man wearing a coat is coming up.’ Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed face down on the ground.”

“Samuel asked Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ Saul said, ‘I am greatly troubled. The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has left me. He won’t answer me anymore, either by prophets or in dreams. That’s why I called for you. Tell me what to do.’”

“Samuel said, ‘The LORD has left you and has become your enemy. So why do you call on me? He has done what he said he would do – the things he said through me. He has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbours, David… The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me [in the world of the dead]…’”

“Saul quickly fell flat on the ground and was afraid of what Samuel had said. He was also very weak because he had eaten nothing all that day and night.”

          (1 Samuel 28:1-20)



The following year, in c.1011BC, the Philistines started to move north along the coastal plain and gathered near Shunem, in the Vale of Jezreel, to attack the Israelites on Mt Gilboa (see 14 on the map on 8 July).

When Saul saw the Philistine army he was terrified, so he tried to consult God about the outcome of the forthcoming battle. But the LORD was silent. Saul prayed, but was unable to hear God answering his prayer. He tried using the Urim and Thummim to determine God’s will (see Exodus 28:30 & 1 Samuel 14:36-42), but with no success. There were no dreams or visions, and even the LORD’s prophets were speechless.

So Saul decided to consult a medium, even though he knew that this was an act strictly forbidden by God (see Leviticus 19:26 & Deuteronomy 18:9-13). Indeed, Saul had only recently banned clairvoyance from Israel, and had driven the mediums out of the land.

Following his servants’ advice, Saul went at night to speak to a clairvoyant at Endor. She was terrified when she discovered that it was the king himself who was consulting her in disguise.

Saul attempted to seek reassurance from Samuel, who had died only a few months earlier, but the spirit who was called up by the woman had nothing but bad news for Saul. He confirmed that God had left Saul, and that the outcome of the battle would be disastrous for Israel and for Saul and his sons.

Saul was shattered, and this attempt at clairvoyance in defiance of God’s command confirmed Saul’s imminent downfall.

The photo (by Ilana Shkolnik) shows the Vale of Jezreel from Tel Yisreal.

You can read more about Saul’s downfall @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/30-israel-becomes-a-kingdom-under-saul-and-david/saul-is-killed-by-the-philistines-at-mt-gilboa/

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