The Witch of Endor 1 Samuel 28

In first Samuel did this witch really bring back Samuel or was this just a demonic spirit posing as Samuel?

Any resources are welcome :slight_smile:


Well. I certainly heard at least two explanations and commentators might not agree with each other. See links below.

First one is from Michael Heiser, ancient languages and Hebrew specialist, former Logos editor. Second came up when googling, paper from Grenville Kent. His approach is more from narrative perspective.


I appreciate Robert Bergen’s interpretation. There does not appear to be any mistake in the Hebrew, and we should just take this passage at face value that Samuel somehow appeared. What the witch of Endor was doing was clearly against the Torah (Deut. 18:10-11). There are no details given about the process of divination, but something the author recognizes as “Samuel” makes an appearance. We could try to explain around this, but what if God was in control of this situation and had Samuel appear? Samuel then continues to speak YHWH’s message, and gives Saul the worst possible news about his death[1].

The situation does not change for Saul, and he continues his downward spiral until he is killed. I think the interpretation here is acceptable, not that it validates an evil practice, but that God’s will was done and Saul’s kingdom was turned over ultimately to David.

Hope that helps and that resonates with you. :slight_smile:

1. Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel in The New American Commentary, vol. 7, eds. E. Ray Clendenen et. al (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 266 - 268.


Yes, Im in support of what @andrew.bulin stated here. Another case that reinforces this point, is how Balaam, the pagan prophet, was able to hear and receive revelation from YHWH.

I don’t doubt God is able and when He wills it, to use even witches or pagan priest, to carry out His sovereignty over the course of events.


From what I have read and understand the plain reading is that Samuel appeared and was not conjured up. Some commentators surmise by the witches reaction to Samuel’s appearing that this ‘elohim’ was not who she expected and likely appeared before she had done her ‘magic’. Samuel was sent and not conjured up in the sense that she had power over him (Samuel) and if he was sent then it was with the full knowledge and blessing of God. I don’t think there was any hocus pocus used here.

I have to add that Heiser’s commentary does a better job of explaining what was being conveyed to the reader and not at the expense of the narrative. At some point in our Bible study we have to deal with the supernatural beliefs of the ANE. This is one of many examples. When ever I find myself struggled with the idea of the supernatural I remind myself that I believe in a resurrected Jesus. Not to sure how much more supernatural we can get.

All beings called elohim in the Hebrew Bible share a certain characteristic: they all inhabit the non-human realm. By nature, elohim are not part of the world of humankind, the world of ordinary embodiment. Elohim—as a term—indicates residence, not a set of attributes; it identifies the proper domain of the entity it describes. Yahweh, the lesser gods of His council, angels, demons, and the disembodied dead all inhabit the spiritual world. They may cross over into the human world—as the Bible informs us—and certain humans may be transported to the non-human realm (e.g., prophets; Enoch). But the proper domains of each are two separate and distinct places.

Heiser, M. S. (2012, 2016). Elohim as “Gods” in the Old Testament. In Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


I definitely agree with this, @Jimmy_Sellers, and took the time to replace the poor choice of word “conjure” in my previous post as it does not reflect my true opinion. :slight_smile: