Samuel was dead, and Saul was in trouble. In this national crisis, Saul could no longer rely on the wise counsel of the great prophet. Saul had removed mediums and spiritists from the land. This statement indicates that Saul had attempted to fulfill his responsibilities as king to remove all practitioners of the occult. The Philistines were nearby and when Saul tried to inquire of the Lord, the king received no answer. In his desperation, Saul decided to resort to necromancy which is the consulting the dead. He ordered his servants to seek out a woman who was a medium. The servants were aware of a woman in Endor who was a medium. Saul disguised himself by changing his clothes in order to conceal his identity from Philistine patrols and the medium herself. He and two men made the perilous journey through the night around the Philistine lines to Endor. The witch was cautious when the unidentified visitor requested to contact a dead spirit. She suspected the request might be an effort at entrapment, but Saul swore an oath in God's name that no punishment would come to the woman. As soon as Saul mentioned the name Samuel, the prophet appeared and the witch saw him and cried out in fear. She chided Saul for having deceived her, but the king calmed her fears and begged her to describe what she saw. The witch said she saw a “god” coming out of the earth. Saul then inquired about Samuel's appearance and she described the form as an old man who was wrapped in a robe. Saul knew that it was Samuel and bowed with his face to the ground.
A conversation took place between Samuel and Saul apparently without the mediation of the witch. Samuel asked Saul why he had disturbed him, and Saul responded by describing his plight. In the face of the Philistine invasion, he needed divine counsel but God had departed from him. Samuel raised another question and asked, “Why then do you ask me since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy?” (1 Samuel 28:16, ESV) Samuel then spoke ominous prophetic words to the king as he announced that by the coming battle the kingdom would be torn from Saul’s hand and given to David. The disobedience regarding Amalek would be avenged and the next day God would deliver the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines. Finally, Saul and his sons would join Samuel in Sheol the next day.
The Philistines initiated the attack against Israel and Saul’s troops fled. The slopes of Mt. Gilboa were covered with the corpses of his fallen men, and three of Saul’s sons fell that day. When the battle pressed in on the king himself, he was wounded by Philistine archers. Fearing that he might fall into enemy hands to be abused, Saul ordered his armor-bearer to thrust him through. The armor bearer was too afraid, so Saul took his sword and fell on it. This loyal armor bearer and followed the example of his king. When the Philistines returned to Gilboa to strip the slain of valuables, they discovered the bodies of Saul and his sons. They decapitated the corpse and stripped it of its weapons. The victory brought joyous celebration throughout the land of the Philistines, and Saul’s weapons were eventually deposited in the temple of Ashtaroth. The Philistines nailed Saul’s body and those of his sons to the wall of the town of Beth-shan, but some courageous men decided to end the desecration of Saul’s body, so they marched all night and took the bodies of the royal family from the wall. They cremated the remains in order to prevent any further desecration of them and buried the remains beneath a tree near their city. As a sign of respect for the dead, the Gileadites fasted for seven days.
Thing To Consider:
- What do you do when the Lord does not answer you?
- Why do you think the servants were so familiar with the witch? What does this indicate about Saul's leadership?
- Why do you think the witch cried out when she saw Samuel?
- Why is God Saul's enemy? Is God Saul's enemy? Why?
- What can we learn from the efforts of the people of Jabesh-Gilead?