Friday, June 10, 2011

Saul and Sorcery: Who Really Showed Up that Night

There are two general, opposite, and very interesting thoughts--convictions, actually--being espoused regarding the ghost that really appeared that night in that dark hideaway in Endor: was it a familiar spirit (a demon) in disguise as the Prophet Samuel? Or was it the real thing--the Prophet Samuel himself?

A Demon In Disguise?

Because of the involvement of demons, we can at this point understand why many readers believe that it was not the real Prophet Samuel but a masquerading spirit that appeared to Saul on the night of the consultation. The Biblical consideration to this is compelling.

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It is a Biblical tenet that “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). From this verse, it is understood that the spirit of the deceased is immediately taken to one of two spiritual worlds: heaven or hell. Jesus Christ used this principle in a parable He taught in Luke 16:22 and 23:

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.”

“Abraham’s side” in the passage is another name for heaven. In the tale, the rich man requested Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth and warn his brothers about hell (verse 27). The patriarch ruled the appeal out of the question, claiming that the mortal agents of “Moses and the Prophets” serving the purpose of warning other mortals (verse 29). This suggests that a sort of pre-existing mandate stands against heavenly souls returning to the land of the living, imposing that mortal souls that have expired from their earthly lives have no longer any business in the plane of flesh and blood.

Apparitions of the dead seen by the living are, therefore, demon spirits in disguise deceiving and paralyzing hearts and minds under the power of grief or fear. And such was accomplished with Saul after the words of Samuel’s ghost sent him sprawling on the ground petrified (1 Samuel 28:20). Needless to say, the ghost and the entire episode rebuilt the witch’s confidence in her spirit worship and in herself. Then using a simple gesture of urging the king to dine to regain his strength, she confirmed that she had gained the respect of three men who held the conviction that would not suffer a witch to live.

“When the woman came to Saul and saw that he was greatly shaken, she said, ‘Look, your maidservant has obeyed you. I took my life in my hands and did what you told me to do. Now please listen to your servant and let me give you some food so you may eat and have the strength to go on your way.’ He refused and said, ‘I will not eat.’ But his men joined the woman in urging him, and he listened to them. He got up from the ground and sat on the couch. The woman had a fattened calf at the house, which she butchered at once. She took some flour, kneaded it and baked bread without yeast. Then she set it before Saul and his men, and they ate” (verses 21 to 25).

Photo credit: Bettmann/CORBIS
The Real Thing?

Another perspective holds that it was the real ghost of the Prophet Samuel that appeared before the king. Throughout 1 Samuel 28, no direct reference or indication was made regarding any demonic deception. The texts instead plainly evoke “Samuel” and not anything like, “the spirit that masquerade as Samuel,” or “the impersonating spirit,” or “the spirit mimic,” or even “the familiar spirit.” Examine these verses:

“When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out…” (verse 12).

“Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground” (verse 14).

Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’” (verse 15)

Samuel said, ‘Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has turned away from you and become your enemy?” (verse 16)

The Bible itself confirms that it was “Samuel” that appeared that night. The "Samuel" which  was first mentioned in verse 3 was the same one throughout the rest of the chapter.

Though it is a relatively easier and convenient way to explain the appearance of a man of God in a necromantic rite, a lot of Bible students will vehemently resist the suggestion that God would actually use the dark art to send His Word. Well, first of all, God did not use necromancy as an avenue for His message. When the witch saw Samuel rising from the ground, she was no longer in control. God had by then intervened—or interrupted. By His sovereign will.

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Observe that in the eleventh verse, the woman begins her ritual in full confidence of her ability to summon any spirit from the ground. But by the time she recognized the Prophet Samuel, her confidence drained away as quickly as air escapes a punctured oxygen tank underwater. She knew she had no power or authority to summon this man of God; when she cried out at the top of her voice (verse 12), she knew she was no longer in control of the beckoning. That night, the witch came face-to-face with the same helplessness that paralyzed the Egyptian magicians who tried to discredit Moses: “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).

God and His Sovereign Will: His Right to Intervene

God did not soften His policy on the practice and practitioners of black magic. He did not cooperate that night with the power of the witch. He instead stuck His finger and came in uninvited into the affair, giving Saul the answer he sought and the confirmation of Samuel’s prophecy regarding how this king’s life of rebellion ended up in divination (1 Samuel 15:23).

Photo credit: The Gallery Collection/Corbis
 The sovereignty of God is one important aspect that many modern Christians forget in considering His will. For example, certain Charismatic Christian movements during the latter decades of the twentieth century have overstressed the role of faith as a main element that “moves” God, smearing a ridiculous analogy of a vending machine responding to a drop of a
coin in the coin slot. In the same mistake, we have been absorbed in learning the things that “move” God but disregard the fundamental fact that God wields the right to do whatever He wants. Though His Word assures us that He will do what is right and just, He retains the choice to move His sovereign will without securing anybody’s permission.

It was through His sovereign will that He chose Saul king over all Israel (1 Samuel 9:16). And as Saul later in his reign chose to impose his will over God’s, God in turn chose to impose His will to abandon Saul in the last years of his reign and interfere in the séance of his final night on earth.

[We got more, so stay tuned! Yeah, I know, I know it takes around a month, but hey, I'm workin' on that! Like now: a few minutes after I've uploaded the first Saul and Sorcery this month, here I am with the second one! Ain't that somethin'?! Gives ya more to expect next time we continue our exposition on the great King Saul.]


2 comments:

  1. Yes, God is the Power and Authority above anything else. Thanks for the analysis.

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  2. May God forbid that Christians or any individual ever come into any form of practice of cults and necromancy, ever! Charlatans and satan-inspired practitioners have dispersed into all quarters of global society and people who take God's Omniscience, Omnipotence, Omnifiscence, Omnipresence so defiantly light and insignificant are those who mostly are bent to engaging into it. Be wary, cautious and wise, Folks. See that when you come face to face with curiousity, little did you know, immediately you are facing ETERNITY and there's no turning back for your salvation.

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