1 Samuel 28

War And Panic

David and Saul's relationship continued to deteriorate until David felt as if he could no longer stay. He went to King Achish of Gath to seek asylum from Saul. David had been treated as an enemy of Saul for years at this point, and he was well received by the king. David was not a solitary fugitive from Saul; he brought a squad of well-trained men with him, and he offered their services to Achish. This pleased King Achish and David stayed in the royal city for a time. However, things were changing, and as the Philistines gathered their forces to attack Israel, David was placed in an awkward position. King Achish expects David to serve him in the battle against Israel. David was in no position to negotiate with Achish and the king enlisted him as his bodyguard. The narrator gives a bit of information to understand the circumstances that will contribute to the actions that will soon take place. Samuel has passed, and Israel misses him dearly. The leadership of this faithful servant had left an uneasy feeling for the people. Samuel's dedication to God's word and his determination to obey it had served Saul well and Saul had driven out the mediums and necromancers in the land. The Philistine forces gathered at Shunem and Saul mustered his troops in Gilboa to engage the enemy but when Saul saw the Philistine host he was terrified. Saul was desperate, and he inquired of the Lord who would not answer him. Saul feels trapped, and he is desperate. Saul did not have the option of leaning on the wise counsel of Samuel during this national crisis. Saul's fear drove him to ask his servants to find a medium so that he could get the answers he so desperately needed. This activity was illegal, but Saul's servants were able to locate a medium in En-dor. Saul disguised himself, took two of his men, and set out to visit this woman at night. The risk was much more than just being seen involved in this forbidden pursuit because Saul would have to make his way around the Philistine lines. The witch was suspicious when a stranger requested that she contact a dead spirit. She suspected the request might be a trap, but Saul swore an oath by the Lord that no punishment would come to her. The woman inquires about the identity of the person that she is to summon and Saul answers that he is seeking Samuel. No details are given about the seance or any tactics she may have employed, but what is clear is that when she saw Samuel, she was afraid. She cries out and scolds Saul for deceiving her. Saul assures her that she is not in any danger and asks her what she can see. She has difficulty describing what she sees and paints a picture of a divine being, an old man wrapped in a robe. Evidently, Saul sees for himself, and he bows before Samuel. 

Disturbed, Distressed, And Death

Samuel speaks directly to Saul without the mediation of the witch. Samuel wants to know why Saul has done this. Saul tries to explain himself and justify his actions which is the pattern for him. He is facing a Philistine invasion, and God has turned away from him. Saul cannot get answers from any prophet or dream, so he is asking for Samuel's help. Samuel raises the question, "Why then do you ask me since the Lord has become your enemy?" Samuel reminds Saul that God had done just as he said he would and that David would be given the kingdom. Samuel had nothing to offer Saul but terrible news. Saul's disobedience concerning Amalek (ch.15) would be avenged even as Samuel had predicted years before, God would deliver the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines, and Saul and his sons would die in battle, joining Samuel in Sheol on the morrow. Saul collapses under the weight of this news and is terrified. Saul is paralyzed, and he will not eat, and he cannot sleep. The woman tries to comfort the king and asks him to receive some food from her, but Saul refused. Saul's servants and this woman finally persuade Saul to eat something. As soon as they finished the meal, Saul, and his companions left under cover of night and made their way back to the camp.

Things To Consider:

  • How does uncertainty affect decision making?
  • What safeguards do you have in place when making difficult decisions?
  • How should one respond when they lose a trusted leader?
  • Why do you think God said fear not so many times in the scriptures?
  • How can fear cause one to compromise their ethics?
  • What does this passage teach us about the afterlife in the old testament?
  • What can we learn about Sheol?
  • How should we respond if we do not get an immediate answer from the Lord?
  • Why do you think we are surprised when we suffer the consequences of sin?
  • Have you ever been encouraged by an unlikely person? How did that make you feel?