1 Samuel 28

1 In those days, the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. Achish said to David, “Know assuredly that you will go out with me in the army, you and your men.” 2 David said to Achish, “Therefore you will know what your servant can do.” Achish said to David, “Therefore I will make you my bodyguard forever.” 3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. Saul had put away those who had familiar spirits the wizards, out of the land. 4 The Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and encamped in Shunem; and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped in Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 When Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD didn’t answer him by dreams, by Urim, or by prophets. 7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who has a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her.” His servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who has a familiar spirit at Endor.” 8 Saul disguised himself and put on other clothing, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night. Then he said, “Please consult for me by the familiar spirit, and bring me up whomever I shall name to you.” 9 The woman said to him, “Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?” 10 Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, “As the LORD lives, no punishment will happen to you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up to you?” He said, “Bring Samuel up for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!” 13 The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid! What do you see?” The woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What does he look like?” She said, “An old man comes up. He is covered with a robe.” Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and showed respect. 15 Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me, to bring me up?” Saul answered, “I am very distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me, and answers me no more, by prophets, or by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may make known to me what I shall do.” 16 Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has departed from you and has become your adversary? 17 The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbor, even to David. 18 Because you didn’t obey the LORD’s voice, and didn’t execute his fierce wrath on Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you today. 19 Moreover the LORD will deliver Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will deliver the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.” 20 Then Saul fell immediately his full length on the earth, and was terrified, because of Samuel’s words. There was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all day long or all night long. 21 The woman came to Saul, and saw that he was very troubled, and said to him, “Behold, your servant has listened to your voice, and I have put my life in my hand, and have listened to your words which you spoke to me. 22 Now therefore, please listen also to the voice of your servant, and let me set a morsel of bread before you. Eat, that you may have strength, when you go on your way.” 23 But he refused, and said, “I will not eat.” But his servants, together with the woman, constrained him; and he listened to their voice. So he arose from the earth and sat on the bed. 24 The woman had a fattened calf in the house. She hurried and killed it; and she took flour, and kneaded it, and baked unleavened bread of it. 25 She brought it before Saul, and before his servants; and they ate. Then they rose up, and went away that night.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–6

David could not refuse Achish without danger. If he promised assistance, and then stood neuter, or went over to the Israelites, he would behave with ingratitude and treachery. If he fought against Israel, he would sin greatly. It seemed impossible that he should get out of this difficulty with a clear conscience; but his evasive answer, intended to gain time, was not consistent with the character of an Israelite indeed. Troubles are terrors to the children of disobedience. In his distress, Saul inquired of the Lord. He did not seek in faith, but with a double, unstable mind. Saul had put the law in force against those that had familiar spirits, Ex 22:18. Many seem zealous against, sin, when they are any way hurt by it, who have no concern for the glory of God, nor any dislike of sin as sin. Many seem enemies to sin in others, while they indulge it in themselves. Saul will drive the devil out of his kingdom, yet harbours him in his heart by envy and malice. How foolish to consult those whom, according to God’s law, he had endeavoured to root out!

Verses 7–19

When we go from the plain path of duty, every thing draws us further aside, and increases our perplexity and temptation. Saul desires the woman to bring one from the dead, with whom he wished to speak; this was expressly forbidden, De 18:11. All real or pretended witchcraft or conjuration, is a malicious or an ignorant attempt to gain knowledge or help from some creature, when it cannot be had from the Lord in the path of duty. While Samuel was living, we never read of Saul’s going to advise with him in any difficulties; it had been well for him if he had. But now he is dead, “Bring me up Samuel.” Many who despise and persecute God’s saints and ministers when living, would be glad to have them again, when they are gone. The whole shows that it was no human fraud or trick. Though the woman could not cause Samuel’s being sent, yet Saul’s inquiry might be the occasion of it. The woman’s surprise and terror proved that it was an unusual and unexpected appearance. Saul had despised Samuel’s solemn warnings in his lifetime, yet now that he hoped, as in defiance of God, to obtain some counsel and encouragement from him, might not God permit the soul of his departed prophet to appear to Saul, to confirm his former sentence, and denounce his doom? The expression, “Thou and thy sons shall be with me,” means no more than that they shall be in the eternal world. There appears much solemnity in God’s permitting the soul of a departed prophet to come as a witness from heaven, to confirm the word he had spoken on earth.

Verses 20–25

Those that expect any good counsel or comfort, otherwise than from God, and in the way of his institutions, will be as wretchedly disappointed as Saul. Though terrified even to despair, he was not humbled. He confessed not his sins, offered no sacrifices, and presented no supplications. He does not seem to have cared about his sons or his people, or to have attempted any escape; but in sullen despair he rushed upon his doom. God sets up a few such beacons, to warn men not to stifle convictions, or despise his word. But while one repenting thought remains, let no sinner suppose himself in this case. Let him humble himself before God, determined to live and die beseeching his favour, and he will succeed.

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