A Wicked Sorceress: The Story of the Medium of Endor
- Ann Spangler Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker.
- 2015 28 Oct
…Though Saul has men to guard him, he is afraid to close his eyes at night lest he be overtaken. Some days are worse than others. Today is the worst.
How he longs for a word from God to shatter the darkness. To tell him all is forgiven and that his kingdom will endure. But there is only silence. Perhaps he should summon an interpreter to read his dreams, but these days he has no dreams because he sleeps so little.
If only he could ask Samuel for a word, but the old man has already been gathered to his fathers and buried in Ramah.
Now there is only silence. No word from God…
…Though Saul has had his victories, the thing he wants most, he cannot have — to be at peace. To rest secure. After more than forty years of sitting on the throne of Israel, he is still uneasy. Philistines plague him. David eludes him. God abandons him.
He is alone.
The woman is alone too.
She lives in Endor, not far from where Saul and his men are encamped. Today she feels restless and unsettled, though she cannot say why…
Late in the day, when night has fallen, she is startled to find three strangers at her door. One of them is taller by a head than any man she has ever seen. “Consult a spirit for me, and bring up the one I name,” he says.
But she is no fool. She knows king Saul has strictly forbidden the practice of necromancy, citing the Scripture that says: “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” Perhaps these are Saul’s men, seeking to entrap her.
“Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?” she asks.
But the big man invokes an oath, promising her, “As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.”
“Bring up Samuel,” he says.
She is good at the art of deception. …What is so bad about reassuring a mother that her dead child is well, uniting lovers across impassible boundaries, or conveying positive omens to all who seek them? She merely wants to do good, to bring hope, and, yes, to find a way to support herself.
So now she makes a show of asking the reigning powers to raise Samuel up from the grave. But before she can engage in the usual pretense, something terrifying happens. She stares wide-eyed and then looks accusingly at Saul.
“Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!” she exclaims.
“Don’t be afraid. What do you see?” the king asks.
“I see a spirit coming up out of the ground...An old man wearing a robe is coming up.”
Saul kneels with his face to the ground. “I am in great distress,” Saul tells him. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”
Samuel’s reply is carried in the throat of the woman of Endor. “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has departed from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors — to David. Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today. The Lord will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also hand over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”
The prophet’s words rush at Saul with nightmare force, and he collapses. He is too weak to rise, overcome by fear and hunger.
Seeing how shaken he is— and she is shaken too— the witch pleads with him, saying, “Look, your servant 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.”
At first Saul refuses. But his men urge him to eat, and he relents. Slaughtering a fattened calf, the woman quickly prepares it along with some bread. After they have eaten, she watches the king and his men depart…with a shudder and a prayer, she closes her door.
Her story probably took place about 1010 BC. The medium of Endor’s story is told in 1 Samuel 28. Fortune tellers used various means of divination, including observing patterns of oil dropped into water, interpreting dreams, reading the stars, and drawing meaning from the entrails of animals.
Though condemned in the Bible (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6) the practice of necromancy — of attempting to communicate with the dead— was practiced throughout the ancient Near East, where people employed magic in an attempt to control their lives by controlling the gods. Such practices were usually motivated by fear and the desire for power.
By contrast, Israel’s all-powerful God could never be controlled, though he could be trusted to watch over those who remained faithful to him. Unlike pagan gods, he communicated, not through secret patterns revealed in the entrails of animals, but through prophets and occasionally through dreams.
Photo Credit: ©Wikimedia Commons
Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and the author of many bestselling books, including Praying the Names of God,Praying the Names of Jesus and The One Year Devotions for Women. She is also coauthor of the best-selling Women of the Bible and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus and the general editor of the Names of God Bible. Ann’s fascination with and love of Scripture have resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. She and her two daughters live in Grand Rapids, Mich.
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