A Short Study Of 1 Samuel 28:7-15
A brother requests an expression of our opinion in regard to the witch of Endor, and of her bringing up Samuel; and what we write on the subject, we wish our readers to understand, so far as it is not sustained by direct Scripture authority, to be given only as our opinion. All human opinion is fallible; but what God has said in the Scriptures endureth forever. From a very early period in the history of the world we read of witchcrafts, sorceries, divinations and enchantments. That such things existed in the world, and that through them the superstitious were often captivated and led into idolatry is certain; because we are so informed in the unerring word of God. But to define the mysteries of iniquity, and explain the nature, power and extent of them, requires more knowledge than we possess. But it is our opinion however, that all the events which transpired in the old world, so far as God has been pleased to give us a record of them, were to some extent figurative of something which was afterward to be developed either in, or in opposition to the kingdom of Immanuel.
Saul was king of Israel, he had been anointed to govern Israel, and administer the laws as given by God himself to that people; and so long as he himself obeyed the instructions given by the Lord, he had the assurance that he and his house should enjoy the protection of the Lord. We are informed that Saul had disobeyed the Lord, and the Lord had withdrawn from him the evidences of his presence and approbation, and further that he had brought him into a very critical collision with the army of the Philistines, and when he surveyed their overwhelming number, he was afraid, and although he had asked counsel of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets, and in his extremity he commanded his servants to seek him a woman that had a familiar spirit, that he might go and inquire of her, and they directed him to the witch of Endor; and when he applied to her, she brought up by her witchcraft what appeared to be the person of Samuel, and the apparition talked with Saul, reproved him for his rebellion against God, and predicted his sudden death, and that David should supersede him as king of Israel.
We would cautiously avoid unwarrantable speculation on what is recorded in the Scriptures, but to our mind it appears that so far as the witch was concerned, all was simply witchcraft, and that God overruled the whole matter, as he does all other matters, for the accomplishment of his own purpose, in rebuking the rebellious king, and in alarming the officiating witch. That God should make the apparition of Samuel speak, is no more strange than that he should make the dumb ass speak with a man’s voice, when he rebuked the madness of Old Balaam. It is not our opinion, or understanding of the Scriptures, that witches or wizards have any power to disturb the silent slumbers of the dead, or that Samuel was in reality under any influence of the witch, or her enchantments, but that the whole scene was directed in the wisdom of God to answer his own wise and righteous purpose, not only in rebuking Saul, but also in furnishing a type of the witchcrafts, sorceries and delusions which should mark and characterize the man of sin in all his anti-Christian forms and workings.
The inspired writers in the New Testament frequently applied the term witchcraft, or terms equivalent, to the delusions and abominations which prevailed in their day, and in Revelation it is used in reference to the anti-Christian beasts, to Mystery Babylon, etc., and the power they should manifest in the sight of men, to bewitch the people which dwell upon the earth. As the magicians of Egypt mimicked by their enchantments the wonders which the God of the Hebrews wrought by Moses and Aaron, so do the magicians of antichrist mock the children of the free woman. Neither Moses nor Aaron pretended that they had any power to perform those wonders only as God wrought by their hands, but the magicians could do all their lying wonders by their enchantments. It is the same in modern times. None of God’s children entertain the idea that they can effect either their own, or the salvation of others, but nothing is regarded easier by the religious magicians of the present time, than to produce by their enchantments, (or instrumentality, as they call it,) the salvation of men.
Some of them have declared it to be as easy performed as for one to turn his hand over. In the sight of men these wonders are performed, and to those who wonder after the beast, their lying wonders seem to be real, and they verily believe their revivalists have power to bring fire down from heaven, or to raise not only dead sinners from the dead, and raise up prophets, but also, by their mummeries, to produce, call up, or procure, the presence of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, and wield the power of God, both in mercy and in wrath. They can, as they pretend, send the gospel forth and convert the heathen unto God, or launch the thunder-bolts of heaven on our congress at home.
In the sight of the beast, and in the sight of a majority of men, these delusions pass for realities. By their mystic arts, they can supply any quantity of ministers, and bring them up, as the witch did the apparition of Samuel, and qualify them for any kind of service they can desire to be employed in. With them it is rank antinominanism, to acknowledge that men are subject to the high decrees of Jehovah, and that salvation is only of the Lord, that he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. The witch of Endor was remarkably modest in her pretensions, when compared with her sisterhood of the present day. She was alarmed at the result of her use of means, when she saw, or thought she saw, gods ascending out of the earth, but our modern witches pretend to bring gods out of the earth, and instead of being terrified, they exult in their achievements. What we mean by their bringing gods out of the earth is:
First. In producing by earthly power, that which in reality can only be performed by God himself. Jehovah has said, “I am God, and beside me there is no Savior.” But from the flesh, which is of the earth, by the use of their enchantments, (or means as it is now fashionable to call them) they can produce salvation, and each of their earth-born gods in turn can effect the salvation of others, and so become saviors. In this modern witchcraft they see gods ascending out of the earth.
Second. From the bowels of the earth they bring the precious metal of which their mighty dollar is composed, to which they ascribe the power of saving souls. Indeed we know of nothing that is specially and exclusively ascribed by divine revelation, to the living God, that they do not ascribe to these kind of gods which they see coming out of the earth. Doctor A. Judson, in his day, in plain terms ascribed the eternal salvation of souls from the quenchless fires of hell, to the jewels of the American ladies, and the Doctor is regarded as an oracle by the whole fraternity of modern missionism. Did not the Doctor see gods coming out of the earth when he exclaimed,
“How easy to conceive, from many known events, that the single fact of a lady’s divesting herself of a necklace for Christ’s sake, may involve consequences which shall be felt in the remotest parts of the earth, and in all future generations to the end of time, yea, stretch away in the boundless eternity, and be a subject of praise millions of ages after this world and all its ornaments are burnt up.” – See Dr. Judson’s letter to American ladies in 1832.
But there are other applications of the figure of witchcraft. The influence of Judaizing teaching on the saints in the Galatian churches, was regarded as witchcraft, and the saints which were contaminated by it, were interrogated, “Who hath bewitched you?” etc.
The prophet Samuel told Saul, that to obey was better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams, but rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft. We have not the time nor space that might be profitably devoted to the consideration of this subject in all its bearings. We rejoice to know that however the saints may be tried, perplexed, and bewildered by those who seek unto those who have familiar spirits, to witches, and wizards that peep and mutter, old Balaam was compelled to acknowledge that no enchantment can prevail against God’s chosen tribes. While the God-forsaken kings and rulers, and the hardened Egyptians, may seek unto witches, and resort to enchantments and sorcery, instead of looking to God alone for support, it is our duty and our blessed privilege to ask counsel of God, who giveth liberally to all men; and may we remember that it is written and ‘‘engraved as in eternal brass,’’ ‘‘They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion that cannot be removed, but abideth forever.”
Middletown, N. Y. June 15, 1855.
Elder Gilbert Beebe