1 Samuel 28:14

14 He said to her, "What is his appearance?" And she said, "An old man is coming up; and he is wrapped in a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.

1 Samuel 28:14 Meaning and Commentary

1 Samuel 28:14

And he said unto her, what form [is] he of?
&c.] Of what stature is he? or rather of what age does he seem to be? and what clothes has he on? as appears from the answer:

and she said, an old man cometh up, and he is covered with a mantle;
such as either priests or judges wore, and Samuel did in his lifetime:

and Saul perceived that it [was] Samuel;
by the description she gave of him, by his age and apparel; for as yet it is not certain that he himself saw him, though it should seem as if he did by what follows: it is in the original, "that it was Samuel himself"; which seems to make for those who think the real Samuel appeared, and no doubt Saul thought it was really he himself:

and he stooped with [his] face to the ground, and bowed himself:
either in reverence to Samuel, and from whom he hoped relief, and therefore was all obeisance; or he put himself in this posture, that he might listen and hear what should be said; it being a general notion that such spirits gave their responses whispering and muttering, ( Isaiah 8:19 ) ; though Abarbinel, as before observed, is of opinion, that this is to be understood of Samuel, that he bowed to Saul in reverence of him as a king; which does not so well agree with the connection of the words. Some have thought that it was the true Samuel, or the soul of Samuel, that appeared; so Josephus F5, and many other writers; but to this may be objected, that that would not have ascended out of the earth, but come down from heaven; and that it cannot reasonably be supposed that it was in the power of the witch, by the assistance of the devil, to fetch it from heaven; nor be thought that God would send it from thence on such an errand, to give Saul an answer, when he would not answer him by any prophet on earth, nor in any other way; and especially it seems quite incredible that he should send it at the motion of a witch, and through her enchantments, who, according to a law of his, ought not to live; whereas nothing could have given greater countenance to such a wicked profession than this: nor would the true Samuel have admitted such worship and homage to be paid him, as is expressed in this last clause, which angelic spirits have refused, ( Revelation 19:10 ) ( Revelation 22:9 Revelation 22:10 ) ; though perhaps no more than civil respect is intended: but rather this was a diabolical spectre, or apparition, or the devil, that appeared in the form and shape of Samuel, and mimicked him; and was one of those deceiving spirits Porphyry speaks F6 of, that appear in various shapes and forms, and pretend to be gods or demons, or the souls of the deceased. Some F7 think all this was the cunning and imposture of the woman alone, or that she was assisted with a confederate, who acted the part of Samuel; but this is not probable.


F5 Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 6. c. 14. sect. 2.)
F6 De Abstinentia, l. 2. apud Grotium in loc.
F7 See Webster's Displaying of supposed Witchcraft ch. 8. p. 166, &c.

1 Samuel 28:14 In-Context

12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul."
13 The king said to her, "Have no fear; what do you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I see a god coming up out of the earth."
14 He said to her, "What is his appearance?" And she said, "An old man is coming up; and he is wrapped in a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.
15 Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" Saul answered, "I am in great distress; for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams; therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do."
16 And Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy?
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.