1 Samuel

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1 Samuel 28 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on 1 Samuel 28 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men.

2 And David said to Achish, Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do. And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head for ever.

3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.

4 And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa.

5 And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled.

6 And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams nor by Urim, nor by prophets.

"And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets." Did Saul inquire of the Lord?
The Lord did not answer him at this time. But Saul didn't wait upon the Lord. Exactly as he didn't wait in chapter 13:8-9.
For the contradiction the SAB author sees here, see 1 Chr. 10:14.

7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.

8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee.

(28:8-19) Saul visits a woman with a "familiar spirit" and she brings Samuel back from the dead. Samuel once again explains that God is angry at Saul for not killing all of the Amelekites. He says God is going to deliver all of Israel into the hands of the Philistines. (Since Saul refused to slaughter innocent people, God will slaughter the Israelites. Fair is fair.)
Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead?
The description “she brings Samuel back from the dead” is a paraphrase by the author of the SAB. But it does not fit the facts described here. Does he really believe the woman actually brought back Samuel? The woman appears to bring up the spirit of Samuel (so she believed), certainly not his body. It is unclear exactly what happens and if anyone except the woman saw something. I assume that the woman went into some kind of devil driven trance and it was an evil spirit, the familiar spirit, who spoke through her.

9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?

Witchcraft, consulting with familiar spirits and the like are expressly forbidden by the Bible, see Deut. 18:10-12. The Bible never claims witchcraft to be entirely fake, but it warns severely against getting involved in these things.

10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.

11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

Saul and the Witch of Endor
(Jacob Cornelisz van Oostanen, 1526)
The Bible describes here what the woman said. And it is of course impossible that devils or humans can bring back people from the dead.

12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.

13 And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.

Samuel's witch sees gods coming out of the earth. How many gods are there?
Here Saul has to ask what she sees. This clearly indicates that Saul himself didn't see anything. Just like the seances that people are still doing today.
The SAB author seems to think that what a woman with a familiar spirit says, is somehow authoritative for what the Scripture tells us about how many gods there are. That is of course nonsense. The Bible just tells us what this woman claims to see, nothing more. If she sees a lot of evil spirits and calls them gods, that's her saying it.
Also, the word gods could mean an important person in Hebrew. For example judges are called gods, see Ps. 82:1.

14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.

The Ghost of Samuel
(William Blake, 1800)
Again Saul has to ask what she sees. He doesn't see anything. She describes something for him that he perceives as Samuel.

15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.

Because Saul thinks it is Samuel, the narrative switches here. Understand with 'Samuel' the woman, because through her eyes and mouth the supposed Samuel communicates with Saul.

16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?

17 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:

18 Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day.

19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

This verse clearly indicates that it is the devil who is speaking. God's word makes it abundantly clear that after death the human race will be separated into those what feared him and have accepted his son, and those who have rejected his son, and hated God, see Luke 16:22-23. Saul will not be with Samuel after his death, but he will be with the spirit mimicking Samuel at this moment.

20 Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night.

21 And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have put my life in my hand, and have hearkened unto thy words which thou spakest unto me.

22 Now therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee; and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy way.

23 But he refused, and said, I will not eat. But his servants, together with the woman, compelled him; and he hearkened unto their voice. So he arose from the earth, and sat upon the bed.

24 And the woman had a fat calf in the house; and she hasted, and killed it, and took flour, and kneaded it, and did bake unleavened bread thereof:

25 And she brought it before Saul, and before his servants; and they did eat. Then they rose up, and went away that night.