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Question 62

Q: My staff and I have a question we’ve been debating over, and we hope you can clarify. When Saul asked the witch to call up Samuel for him, did she really call up Samuel or was it a spirit that disguised itself as Samuel?

Asked by: Tami

A: You know Tami, I’ve often pondered this question myself. And to be honest, I haven’t taken the time to check a lot of commentaries to see what they have to say about this story. But if you want my personal opinion, I believe that it was really Samuel who was called up by this witch.

Now perhaps you’re surprised at that, but you know the Bible says in 1 Samuel 28, which is where it occurs, “when the woman saw Samuel she cried up with a loud voice.” This witch herself was scared out of her wits. She wasn’t expecting this. If this had just been a spirit, she’d have probably been used to that. But something was happening here that was miraculous. And just two verses later, it says that Samuel actually spoke to Saul. And Samuel said, “Why have you disturbed me in bringing me up?” Then Samuel goes on and tells Saul what Saul should have already known, namely, that God had departed from him and judgment was imminent.

I believe that this story is totally unique. I don’t think anything like it has ever happened before. God just did a huge miracle, and Samuel himself was raised from the dead to speak to Saul. But then, when you stop to think of it, Samuel had to die again, as it were, go back into the grave. Of course all that we can do is to say that there’s some mystery here we don’t understand, and if God is God, we can believe the text as it’s written.

Scripture references

  • 1 Samuel 28

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