Real Samuel or Demon?

Real Samuel or Demon?


I have a question about 1 Samuel 28, where King Saul summons the spirit of Samuel at En dor. I was reading some commentary and was wondering what you thought.

Do you think that was actually the spirit of Samuel? If so, where was Samuel (not heaven and not hell?)? Did he not go to heaven? The spirit of Samuel also prophesied that Saul would be with him, so Saul and Samuel are in the same place? I thought God had turned his back to Saul so Saul would not end up in heaven?…..This is a strange chapter and I’m not really sure what to make of it.


Here’s the first part:


Response #1

Appreciate your response, Daniel. I agree with some of what you’ve said, but please challenge me on where I differ.

Yes, great question, Carolyn. Unlike popular belief, Saul was not looking for an Ewok in Middle-Earth.

I do believe it was actually the spirit of Samuel. David Tsumura says:

In his speech in vv. 16–19 Samuel uses the divine name, Yahweh, seven times, while Saul said “God” once. The author certainly intends us to believe it is really Samuel — only he would have been able to give that message — and we have to assume that God permitted the witch to call Samuel up in this case even though he might not normally have allowed it.

If God can use Balaam, a false prophet by definition, to bless Israel and foretell truth, God can use the witch of En-dor. Plus, everything this Samuel says is confirming what Samuel said before he died (chap. 15). This is only an assumption, but if this spirit were a demon in disguise, I would assume that it would be leading Saul astray rather than so bluntly confirming the message God gave through Samuel before he died. Also, this spirit or event is clearly not what the witch was expecting (28:12), which increases the probability that this is actually Samuel rather than the witch’s normal experience.

I agree with Daniel that the Old Testament concept of the afterlife was Sheol, ‘the grave,’ and the like. The notion of heaven, hell, eternal life, wasn’t really developed at that time. Here the idea that Saul would be with Samuel after death is a generic place of the dead where both the righteous and unrighteous are. The fact that Samuel was ‘disturbed’ (v. 15) demonstrates that this was where the dead were resting in the OT concept of the grave. How this interplays with the New Testament concept of heaven and hell is unclear and I wouldn’t want to push it too far. I wouldn’t want to say, for example, that the OT Sheol is heaven’s or hell’s waiting room (akin to purgatory). That is trying to harmonize OT and NT theology too much. Even with NT heaven theology, there are questions about exactly what state the dead are with God before the physical resurrection (see N. T. Wright’s great book “Surprised by Hope”).


Second Part:


Thanks for your clarification, Daniel. Apologies if it seemed I was linking purgatory to what you were saying. I didn’t intend to make that link. It was a separate example of what I was discussing.

You raise some interesting points and I can understand why you believe Samuel in this narrative to be a demon. I think our discussion—which is great, btw, and what I’m hoping will happen more on this page with others—demonstrates that the author was not concerned to answer this question and it doesn’t have any significance to the narrative’s message. So, there really can’t be any certainty about whether Samuel was actually Samuel or a demon in disguise. That in itself makes me take the narrative at face value on this point since the author didn’t bother to make any clarification about Samuel being anything other than Samuel post-death.

I do think the Balaam account is an important account in relation to our discussion and is not an exception, but a microcosm of how God does operate sometimes. I’m not referring to Balaam’s talking donkey, but the prophecies Balaam (someone who did not follow God) revealed and which were directly from God (Num 23-24). These prophecies concerned Israel and were true prophecies and blessings for Israel!

In the larger picture, God used non-believing nations to enact his judgments. I see the broader biblical account easily allowing the witch of En-dor to be used as the setting for God to reinforce his message in that context to Saul, despite the witch being a witch or God spurning Saul. False prophets like Balaam were to be stoned, but God still used him. I could see the same for the witch. For Saul to have to go to such lengths as to find a witch highlights his desperation and could form part of the message. To be ‘punny,’ “the medium is the message.”


Third Part:


Sorry. I guess I wasn’t clear on this point. Re: 1 Sam 28:12, perhaps that it was really Samuel appearing differently from what she expected surprised the witch. That could have demonstrated this is divine activity rather than demonic. But you and I are guessing now. I do think the surprise is a point for it actually being Samuel since, if it had been a demon, would likely have come about in the normal way the witch would have expected. Samuel could have easily recognized Saul as well as a demon. God could also have informed Samuel that it was Saul. There are more options, I think, than you’ve proposed.

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!


Q and A on 1 Samuel 28 – Part 2

Q and A on 1 Samuel 28 – Part 2

Great answers … the following is to clarify my position and should not be taken as a challenge. :)

To clarify, I do not subscribe to the doctrine of purgatory, which is predominantly a Catholic church doctrine, since She’ol is not a place where the dead are punished nor purified. … And “Waiting Place” was in quotes, denoting the so-called idea(s) of an in between place where the dead do (a)wait, since they are neither in the NT concept of heaven or hell. ie. Abraham’s Bosom or across the chasm.

I maintain that it was not the spirit of Samuel, since (1.) demons have been known to disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. (SEE 2 Corinthians 11:14-15), and Saul no longer has the Spirit of God upon him. Saul is has been rejected by God as king of Israel and …while exceptions and miracles (like Balaam’s donkey do exist, it is highly unlikely that God would allow a witch to summon his servant Samuel in other to rebuke Saul from beyond the “grave” (granted Sheol does not refer to [the] “grave”, … ergo, this is an expression).
(2.) God & His Word is pretty clear on the subject of dealings with Mediums (Deut 12:29-32,; Deut 18:9-14, especially v.11; Lev 19:31 & 20:6).
(3.) If Samuel is/was at “Abraham’s side” (NIV, ESV), Saul would be across the chasm, and not on the same side as Samuel. Though in Sheol, nonetheless.
(4.) Saul had sinned against God & God had repented + turned against him. Why would God grant Saul’s request to speak with Samuel now via a witch?
(5.) The witch’s “Samuel” does not provide any new information or revelation. Demons can only confirm what has been revealed previously.
(6) This majority of the chapter was filled with deceit, deception, lies and sin, here are a few examples:

  • i – Seeking a woman with a familiar spirit (aka witch / medium) …
  • ii – Saul disguised himself …
  • iii – came to the woman by night …
  • iv – Saul swore by the Lord …
  • v – calling the dead … etc.

(Aside: With Balaam, who was a false prophet, … God used his donkey to reply /rebuke him, … but notice that the Angel of the Lord also appeared. I can see how God can grant speech to a donkey, but not the “oracles of God”.)

Finally, looking at 1 Chronicles 10:13 – 10:14 … The act of consulting a witch/ medium … was counted as sin, not faith!
(a.) … Saul died for his breach of faith.
(b.) … [Saul] broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord,
(c.) … consulted a medium,
(d.) … seeking guidance / making inquiry of it. (Here: “it” being a “familiar spirit”)
(e.) … [Saul] did not seek guidance from the Lord.

Once again, Leviticus 19:31 comes to mind: “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” & a related verse from Isaiah 19:3b “… they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, the mediums and the spiritists.”

NEXT: Witch of Endor Part 3

Compound Questions and Answers to 1 Samuel 28

re: Compound Questions and Answers to 1 Samuel 28

Compound Questions… let’s break it down into 5 parts, one for each (group of) question(s)
-a- Do you think that was actually the spirit of Samuel?
-b- If so, where was Samuel (not heaven and not hell?)?
-c- Did he not go to heaven?
-d- The spirit of Samuel also prophesied that Saul would be with him, so Saul and Samuel are in the same place?
-e- I thought God had turned his back to Saul so Saul would not end up in heaven?

My response:
-a– I don’t think it was really the spirit of Samuel, since a witch cannot call the dead.
-b– Nope, it was not Samuel, but either way, seems like the location of Samuel was in question here and technically, Samuel was not in “heaven” or “hell” per se, since Old testament believers do not go directly to “heaven” as we Christians know it. Basically, the death of Christ (which & Whom) took away sin, … now allows saints to enter “heaven.” At His Ascension, Jesus brought old testament believers to where they could not go before – heaven. (SEE Matthew 27:52-53 …)
-c– Samuel should be in heaven now, but at that time, he would be in a “waiting Place” … in between Paradise & Heaven, also known as Sheol. (The Old Testament believers went to a place of comfort & rest called “paradise” when they died; the New Testament equivalent of Sheol is Hades.)
-d– First, that was certainly NOT the spirit of Samuel, and (2nd.) that prophecy did not come to pass.
-e– God did turn away from Saul, but personally, I am not convinced that the act of God turning away from someone, automatically results in hell. Short Answer: I don’t think Saul went to either paradise nor heaven.

Encouraging Verses

Encouraging Bible Verses