Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life (available on Amazon).
A Difficult Passage
The events in 1 Samuel 28 (when the woman at Endor supposedly brought up the ghost of Samuel for Saul) are the object of some controversy because of the questions they raise: (1) did the woman really bring up Samuel's ghost? (2) why did God allow her to bring up Samuel's ghost? and (3) what are we supposed to take away from this account?
There are several views on this passage. Some believe that Saul was deceived by a demon, and others believe nothing supernatural happened that day: Saul was just deceived by the woman.
The reason this passage can be difficult to interpret is because we have our own doctrinal views and we want this passage to support them rather than contradict them—so we try to find ways to reconcile the passage with our views.
However, when we let go of all our theological biases, we realize that the Bible is telling us that something supernatural and unusual took place.
The Author's Perspective
The passage is written from a third person point of view, and the author even knows how Saul felt.
And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. (1 Samuel 28:5, KJV)
The author's tone is authoritative: the author cleay expects his audience to believe what he reports without questioning it. Notice how the author writes the following verse:
And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. (1 Samuel 28:6, KJV)
The author doesn't say that "Saul thought" or "Saul felt" God didn't answer him; instead, he says that God did not answer him. The author intends us to accept his interpretation of the events.
Should we question the author's insight into the feelings of Saul and God's silence? No, we shouldn't. We wouldn't do this with any other book of the Bible. For example, we wouldn't question John's opinion about Jesus:
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. (John 2:24-25, KJV)
The reason why we don't question the authors themselves is.because we believe they were writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Clearly a Ghost
What we have said above is important—we must subject our interpretation of a biblical passage to the author's own interpretation. If we believe we are reading God's word, we must receive all of it as such.
It is for this reason that I believe Saul really did talk to Samuel's ghost. I may not be able to explain how this was possible, but I can read the Bible and see that, from the author's point of view, Saul did speak to Samuel. Why? The author repeatedly tells us that it was Samuel who spoke with Saul.
"And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice." (1 Samuel 28:12, KJV)
Notice that the author tells us that the woman saw Samuel. The author doesn't say that the woman thought she saw Samuel, or that the woman saw a spirit pretending to be Samuel. Instead, the author tells us the woman saw Samuel.
And Saul perceived that it was Samuel. (1 Samuel 28:14, KJV)
Once again, the author is telling us that this was truly Samuel. The author isn't merely telling us that Saul thought it was Samuel. What the author says is that Saul was able to see that this was indeed Samuel.
Then, on verses fifteen and sixteen, the author clearly tells us that Samuel spoke to Saul:
"And Samuel said to Saul.... Then said Samuel." (1 Samuel 28:15-16, KJV).
Finally, the author clearly tells us that all the words that Saul had heard were indeed the words of Samuel.
"Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel." (1 Samuel 28:20, KJV).
If we do not accept that this was indeed Samuel, we are saying that the author was wrong in his interpretation of events—and if he was wrong, then there's a strong possibility that this passage—maybe even this entire book of the Bible—is not divinely inspired.
On this particular occasion, God allowed one of his deceased saints to speak to Saul through a woman who practiced necromancy. God doesn't usually do this, but He allowed it to happen this once. But why?
So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it;And enquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse. (1 Chronicles 10:13-14, KJV)
God allowed this to happen to teach his people not to consult spiritists, necromancers, etc. Bad things will happen when you consult such people and expose yourself to the occult. Why? Because you are disobeying God.
The Bible doesn't really adopt the view that we shouldn't practice these things because they do not work. Instead, we shouldn't practice them because—even if they work—God hates such practices.
Remember, even though the sorcerers of the Pharaoh turned their staffs into snakes, God's snake devoured their snakes. Also, even though the demons knew who Jesus was, the Lord did not allow them to testify about him; and even though the woman with a spirit of divination told everyone about Paul and Barnabas, the Spirit of God moved Paul to exorcise the demon in her. Let us follow their examples, and let us have nothing to do with the works of darkness, for such are not pleasing to God.
The Ghost Was a Demon
The Ghost Wasn't Real
© 2020 Marcelo Carcach
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 16, 2020:
Thank you for this. For some reason this has always made me question "Saints". Probably off the mark but still. I have to answer your question, no but because it just never seemed right.