Question on contacting the dead (the Witch of Endor story)


Posted: Aug 28/2k


 

 

This question came in a while back (her comments in bold, mine in "timid"...smile):

 

 

 

The story of Saul calling upSamuel from the grave -- I've heard so many ministers and others over the years interpret the appearanceof Samuel as an evil spirit masquerading as the prophet (their reasoning being that it is impossible to contactthe dead). I think that interpretation cannot be substantiated by Scripture. I find that when the Bible presents a story, it generally clarifies for the reader in asides or parenthetical explanations when someone or some thing appeared to be one thing, but was really something else. My question, first, is did Saul really contact Samuel?

 

yes and no...yes, it was really Samuel; no, Saul didn't 'contact' him--God brought him up...the witch was so surprised by the whole deal, that it is obvious she was NOT accustomedto experiencing this!

 

 

 

It seems to me that contacting the dead IS possible (any Scripturereferences supporting or refuting this would be greatly appreciated);

 

 

the evidence (for both sides) is slim, but the following evidence answers it for me...

 

the basic evidence is from the surprise of the witch in the story...if they COULD contact them, then this famous witch would not have been surprised at all...

 

but at the same time, we don't have enough data to know whether it WAS Samuel or simply an apparition of him (i don't think we have ANY indication that it was a demon in this case)...

 

otherwise, God would not have prohibited it in the terms he used -- i.e., His "DO NOT DO" lists seem to treat it as a real human choice, albeit one we are not to choose.

 

 

actually, this might be making too much out of the word choice...they are also forbidden to bow down to other gods (but this doesn't mean there actually ARE other 'gods')...and the passage in which the witches are condemned actually do not forbid Israel from consulting the dead, but from consulting those humans who claim to consult the dead...a slight difference...

 

the data is not conclusive, but for me, the data seems heavier that the living do NOT have access to the dead, and that witch-based 'consultations' were like 'idol-based' worship, probably demonic...

 

the case of Saul and Samuel seems genuine, but notice that Samuel says that SAUL 'brought him up', instead of the witch...

 

not strong data, but i personally feel the scales are tipped in favor of non-access, Samuel a divine exception (probably an apparition to pronounce judgment on Saul)...

 

 

 

My second question is why do you think so many Christians are reluctant to read this story at face value, and instead try to interject other meanings into it?

 

 

i would assume it was out of fear of taking an extreme point and turning into a paradigm case! we have tons of one-off experiences in holy writ, and we made each oddity into a universal rule we would be in trouble!

 

so, i would think it might be along some lines like this...

 

(although, the earliest non-literal views were motivated by trying to avoid some rather strong boundaries...in EBCOT, in loc., the commentator says this:

 

Early church fathers, fearful of affirming that the prophet Samuel was a shade in Sheol, that a medium was an appropriate intermediary between the divine and human worlds, and that necromancy is efficacious, "proceeded to undermine the literal text with one of two arguments: either sorcery is just demonic deceit, and what appeared was not really Samuel, but a demon in his guise; or, Samuel was not really in Hades but had been sent by God to announce Saul's fate"

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks again for your intelligent and wonderfully helpful website --

 

thanks for your kind words!

 

i hope this stuff above helps some,

in His love,

glenn

 


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