1 Samuel 28: Real or Evil Spirit of Samuel?

DEAR LARRY:

I would like to know whether the Samuel that came in I Samuel 28 is the real Samuel’s spirit (or) an evil spirit? – Maxwell

DEAR MAXWELL:

The short answer to your question is that yes, the being that the witch saw was a demon. It was not the godly prophet Samuel. How do we know this? Like most other things in the Bible, context matters greatly. There are two prevailing elements of context that should shape our thinking here.

Dead People Are Asleep

Despite popular belief, humans that die an earthly death are not immediately in heaven or in hell. They are not watching over us, not able to communicate with us or anything like that.

The first and most overwhelming piece of context to help us understand 1 Samuel 28 is the fact that dead people are asleep. Despite popular belief, humans that die an earthly death are not immediately in heaven or in hell. They are not watching over us, not able to communicate with us or anything like that.

The Bible often calls death “a sleep”. For example, in the story of Lazarus (John 11), Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him … “

Why did Jesus use the word “sleep”? Because when we are asleep, we know nothing until we wake up. The Bible says the same thing about death in Psalm 6:5. It explains there that the dead “know nothing and have no knowledge or remembrance.”

The closest human comparison we have to this state is that of being in a coma – having no consciousness of anything whatsoever. That is the state of dead people. Lazarus had been dead for four days before Jesus raised him (John 11:39). If his soul had been in heaven during this time, Lazarus could have told people about his experiences. But he said nothing. He could not talk about “out-of-the-body experiences” – simply because he did not have any.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 strengthens this context by talking about what will happen when Christ returns. It says that the very first people Jesus raises will be those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death].

Saul Consults a Witch

This being told Saul that they would shortly be together in the hereafter. So could an evil Saul join a godly Samuel in heaven? Or did the godly Samuel go to hell to join an evil Saul?

Our second piece of context for understanding what happened in 1 Samuel is the context of that story itself. Keep in mind that the Scripture says that Saul had already asked the Lord about his dilemma. But the Lord had refused to answer him (because of his sin and rebellion against God). So Saul consulted a witch. And she brought up someone who at first frightened her. Would it make sense that a godly man should frighten anyone? Moreover, this being told Saul that they would shortly be together in the hereafter. So could an evil Saul join a godly Samuel in heaven? Or did the godly Samuel go to hell to join an evil Saul?

You didn’t ask this, but if we study Satan and his ways, both Satan and his demons are able to impersonate even God. And they have often done so. When they do, it is very confusing to men and women who aren’t grounded in God’s truth. But it is never confusing – or frightening – to those who are grounded in Christ (in Truth).

About Brad White

R. Brad White is the Founder and President of Changing the Face of Christianity Inc. Brad is a former atheist and became an "on fire for God" Christian in 2005. In 2008, Brad became incredibly burdened by what he perceived as a Christian faith far off course, and Christians far from living the teachings of Jesus Christ. In 2010, Brad submitted to the calling to reverse these negative Christian stereotypes, by starting "Changing the Face of Christianity" (a 501c3 Texas non-profit corporation). Read more about R. Brad White


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Comments

  1. Maxwell A Tennyson says

    Dear Larry, On reading the answer, I have another question to ask is after death, where a believer of Lord Jesus Christ is going and where an unbeliever of Lord Jesus Christ going? In Corinthians St. Paul says, absent in body and present with Lord!

  2. Starr says

    I agree that what Saul saw was a demon rather than Samuel and that the souls of departed humans aren’t given the option of returning to earth. But I disagree with the concept of “soul sleep.” Paul said “absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” I believe these statements mean exactly what they say. And who were the captives that Jesus set free when he was 3 days in the grave? It certainly wasn’t those in Sheol. It must have been those in Abraham’s Bosom. Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man seems to show that souls are aware of their state. Before Jesus’ atonement for us on the cross, there was only a temporary covering for sin through the temple sacrifice. The Old Testament faithful went to Abraham’s Bosom at death because their sins were only covered, not washed clean by the blood of Jesus. Jesus then led them to heaven. The sinners remained in Sheol. “Sleep” refers to the body lying in the grave, not the soul. It is that body that will be regenerated and rejoin the soul in the resurrection.

  3. says

    This was fascinating and a good explanation … especially when we think of Ouija boards and seances, etc. I have sort of been of the opinion that Samuel’s spirit was a ghost, allowed to communicate with Saul, only because of two things … when Jesus walks on the water, the disciples are afraid he is a ghost. And then when Jesus appears after the resurrection and they think He is a ghost, He says, “Ghosts don’t have bodies,” and then He eats in front of them and has them place their hands on his cross wounds. It was for those two references that I have always thought that ghosts may be a possibility on earth until the final Judgment. As far as the “sleep” goes — very good points, indeed. I think the only reasons I do not agree are because I have an uncle who is a surgeon and who has interviewed dozens of people who died during surgery and came back to life again. They saw things going on during the surgery that they couldn’t have seen, because they either flat-lined or were under anesthesia. And of course we have books like, “90 Minutes in Heaven,” which I believe have been written to encourage those of us who grieve after a loved one dies. Regardless of the answers we don’t have yet, it’s good to know that at the very end, we’ll all be together again, and more importantly, with Him. It helps me through the worst of my days to know this.

  4. Samanth says

    I am with Paul, who left the question of people claiming to have visited heaven between them and the Lord (2 Corinthians 12). However, it is curious why there are no claims of having returned from hell with a warning tale.

  5. Samanth says

    Also curious is that the witch comforts/distracts Saul with the “normalcy” of a hearty meal, taking his mind away from the possibility of the vision being anything other than Samuel. Almost as if she knew he wanted to believe it was Samuel, preventing him from thought that sensing deep down inside it could not have been, because God had refused Saul? He knew from his own decree that spiritism was evil. But she fought back that awareness with, “You are just tired. Here, have a nice cookie.” Perhaps Saul assumed if “Samuel” claimed Saul would be with him tomorrow, knowing the real Samuel went to Paradise, then Saul was tricking himself into believing he, too, would be allowed to enter? “Refresh yourself,” as the alcohol promoting commercial soothes. The mind plays tricks on itself when urged to, when the horrible truth of facing one’s sin is too proud of a burden to bear. Another thing I’ve always wondered about with this situation is, why and how could a demon tell the truth and nothing but? And how did it know what the Lord would cause to happen the next day with Israel losing the battle?

  6. jweston2 says

    No, it WAS Samuel, the narration of 1 Samuel 28:20 clearly says that it was Samuel: “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.” The article would therefore have us believe that the author of 1 Samuel was telling us that it was Samuel when it wasn’t? No way.

  7. Xsmoke says

    When we die we go directly to Jesus. Absent from the body, present with the Lord! Here Moses and Elijah were present with the Lord on the mountain. They both died and we’re already with him. Matthew 17:1-4 NIV After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Moses and Elijah both were visible and recognizable to the apostles.

  8. DAVIS says

    my dear in Christ i want to ask you DEAR MAXWELL, that if nobody is judged to throw into hell or to send into heaven, then how can the rich man sent directly to hell the place called sheol. for lazrus it is okay for we know that paradise is not the exectly heaven where God is seated on his throne, there are three heavens the bible says. but why that rich man sent to hell?

  9. MickB says

    I disagree with you on this one – I think that what you see is the legitimate Samuel; and I think that suggestions of demonic interference are a much less plausible suggestion. Firstly, read the text plainly. What does the author of Samuel intend for you to think about “Who is Saul speaking to?”. If the author was conveying that this was a demon who was ‘pretending to be Samuel’ he would have said it. Secondly, the witch was rightfully terrified because the person she had raised was THE PROPHET OF GOD! You asked “why would a godly man be terrifying” – because her actions of necromancy are exposed by the power of YHWH – and because through this, it becomes apparent that she is standing between THE KING OF ISRAEL (who had previously eradicated witchcraft) and the PROPHET OF GOD. I think that she has better cause for fear if it IS Samuel. Thirdly, the words of Samuel (dialogue verses 16-19) pick up exactly where the last conversation between Samuel and Saul left off (Chapter 15). Samuel reminds Saul of everything that he has said in that last conversation, and then adds information about David as successor and the outcome of the battle tomorrow. If this was a demonic deception – why does he point out the truth to Saul about YHWH’s rejection? Why also does the Demon use the name of YHWH as a rebuke to Saul’s referring to YHWH as ‘elohim’ (GOD), rather than use of the personal name, which was to be expected as the king of Israel. Yes, this passage leaves us with some questions about ‘life beyond death’ (and from the New Testament “life after death and BEFORE the resurrection that we share in Christ”), about witches, about YHWH choosing to ‘allow’ a necromantic practice to work as a ‘grace’ to Saul. But we must importantly ‘keep going back to the bible’ and hearing what it says, rather than answering it from our own theologies. Hope this is a helpful “different” voice on the topic.

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