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In this chapter we see the Israelites getting ready to battle the Philistines.  King Saul wanted direction and assurance from the Lord, but Samuel the prophet was dead.  There was really no one for Saul to go to that he could find the mind of God.  We read in 1 Samuel 28:3, “Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.”   We are not told when Saul had cast out these fortune tellers, but he realized it was an improper thing to do and had tried to rid the country of these people. Saul was very afraid and sought the Lord, but because of the sins in Saul’s life, the Lord refused to answer him.  Later, King David would write of the danger of living in sin in Psalms 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

In fear and desperation, Saul sent out two men to find a fortune teller.  When they found a certain lady, Saul disguised himself and went in to her to ask about the coming battle with the Philistines.  1 Samuel 28:11 says, “Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.”  When the woman saw Samuel, she realized it was Saul that had asked her to bring up Samuel.  1 Samuel 28:13-14 says, “And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.”  Most scholars agree that the woman actually said that she saw ‘a god ascending out of the earth’.  That clarifies why Saul asked her, “What form is he of?”

To say that this god came from the earth simply indicates that Samuel had been awakened from the dead.  Hades is a Greek word, so we don’t have that word in the Old Testament.  We do find the Hebrew word ‘sheol’ often in the Old Testament.  Sheol literally means ‘the grave.’  In this portion we don’t even have the word ‘sheol’; we are simply told that this apparition came out of the earth.  Was this truly Samuel that spoke to Saul?  While there is some disagreement over whether this was Samuel or a demon that Satan sent to confuse Saul, it does seem that the Lord truly sent Samuel to Saul with a message of doom.  For more information about Hades, please go to our website: www.answersfromthebook.net and type the word ‘Hades’ into the search bar.

Now let’s read the conclusion of this fascinating story.  1 Samuel 28:15-16 says, “And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.  Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?”  Saul admitted to Samuel that the Lord had departed from him.  Samuel then asks Saul why he called for him since the Lord was now his enemy.

Samuel then delivers the message of doom to Saul in 1 Samuel 28:18-19, “Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”  Samuel tells Saul that Israel would fall to the Philistines and that Saul and his sons would join him in death.  We read of the deaths of Saul and his sons in 1 Samuel 31:2-6, “And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers.   Then said Saul unto his armourbearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armourbearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.  And when his armourbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him. So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armourbearer, and all his men, that same day together.”  (100.2)