EN-DOR, WITCH OF
In 1 Samuel 28:3-25, it is narrated how Saul, in despair of mind because Yahweh had forsaken him, on the eve of the fatal battle of Gilboa, resorted in disguise to "a woman that had a familiar spirit" ('obh:
see DIVINATION; NECROMANCY), at En-dor, and besought the woman to divine for him, and bring him up from the dead whom he should name. On the woman reminding him how Saul had cut off from the land those who practiced these arts--a proof of the existence and operation of the laws against divination, witchcraft, necromancy, etc. (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:9-14)--the king assured her of immunity, and bade her call up Samuel. The incidents that followed have been the subject of much discussion and of varied interpretation. It seems assumed in the narrative that the woman did see an appearance, which the king, on her describing it, recognized to bethat of Samuel.
This, however, need be only the narrator's interpretation of the events. It is not to be credited that the saintly Samuel was actually summoned from his rest by the spells of a professional diviner. Some have thought that Samuel, by God's permission, did indeed appear, as much to the woman's dismay as to the king's; and urge in favor of this the woman's evident surprise and terror at his appearance (1 Samuel 28:12), and the true prophecy of Saul's fate (1 Samuel 28:16-19).
It may conceivably have been so, but the more reasonable view is that the whole transaction was a piece of feigning on the part of the woman. The Septuagint uses the word eggastrimuthos ("a ventriloquist") to describe the woman and those who exercised kindred arts (1 Samuel 28:9). Though pretending ignorance (1 Samuel 28:12), the woman doubtless recognizes Saul from the first. It was she who saw Samuel, and reported his words; the king himself saw and heard nothing. It required no great skill in a practiced diviner to forecast the general issue of the battle about to take place, and the disaster that would overtake Saul and his sons; while if the forecast had proved untrue, the narrative of the witch of En-dor would never have been written. Saul, in fact, was not slain, but killed himself. The incident, therefore, may best be ranked in the same category as the feats of modern mediumship.
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