The Witch of Endor, a Familiar Spirit,
and the State of the Dead.
When discussing the state of the dead, that the dead are really dead and not in heaven, hell, or purgatory, the case of the Witch of Endor may be presented as proof that people don't really die, that they continue in some conscious state even after death. So let's examine what happened regarding King Saul and the Witch of Endor.
King Saul was given very explicit instructions by God through the prophet Samuel::
1 Sam 15:1 Samuel also said unto Saul, The LORD sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the LORD.
1 Sam 15:2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
1 Sam 15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
So, just what did King Saul do? Did he follow God's instructions?
1 Sam 15:7 And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah until thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt.
1 Sam 15:8 And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
1 Sam 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
1 Sam 15:10 Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
1 Sam 15:11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.
King Saul disobeyed God. He spared the King of the Amalekites and the finest of the animals in direct opposition to the command of God. Now when Samuel confronted Saul, note what Saul said:
1 Sam 15:13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.
Saul had the temerity to tell Samuel that he had done exactly as commanded by God! But Samuel knew better than that, after all, he had give Saul the instructions from God in the first place. So Samuel asks:
1 Sam 15:14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?
1 Sam 15:19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?
Saul, his disobedience now exposed, actually tries to blame the people for his actions:
1 Sam 15:20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
1 Sam 15:21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.
Note how Samuel characterizes Saul's disobedience:
1 Sam 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
1 Sam 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
Saul's transgression was of so great a magnitude that God was removing him as King of Israel, even though Saul then admitted his sin:
1 Sam 15:24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
1 Sam 15:25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
1 Sam 15:26 And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.
1 Sam 15:27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.
1 Sam 15:28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
After slaying Agag, Samuel departed from Saul, and never returned, even to the day Samuel died:
1 Sam 15:35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
In fact, the spirit of God departed from Saul completely. God no longer spoke to Saul:
1 Sam 16:14 But the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.
Then later, the elderly Samuel died:
1 Sam 25:1 And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah.
So, now when faced by an enemy, Saul was no longer hearing from God or his prophets:
1 Sam 28:4 And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa.
1 Sam 28:5 And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled.
1 Sam 28:6 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
So who does Saul seek council from? Who does he seek to tell him what he must do?
Seeking After A Familiar Spirit
1 Sam 28:7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.
God strongly condemned in scripture what Saul was going to do:
Lev 20:27 A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.
Deu 18:10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,
Deu 18:11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
Deu 18:12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
Deu 18:13 Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.
Deu 18:14 For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.
So, knowing that God condemned it, Saul still went to consult with a witch, a spirit medium and a necromancer (one who claims to consult with the dead).
1 Sam 28:8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee.
1 Sam 28:9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?
1 Sam 28:10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.
1 Sam 28:11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.
Now, consider an important point. Was the witch to summon the spirit of Samuel down from heaven? No. Saul knew the state of the dead, that Samuel was dead in the grave. He was actually asking the witch to call Samuel up from the grave, not down from heaven.
Note also that God was no longer speaking to Saul, and God's prophets were not speaking with Saul (1 Sam 28:6). So now, are we to believe that a witch was going to thwart the will of God by conjuring up Samuel from the grave, so that Saul could speak with a prophet of God, against the explicit will of God? No witch could do such a thing.
Remember also, the witch at Endor was known for having a familiar spirit. What is a familiar spirit anyway? It is not an angel of God, surely, because of God's strong condemnation against consulting with them. A familiar spirit is a demonic spirit, a fallen angel in league with Satan. This is what the woman at Endor had, communication with a demon, a demon who was quite capable of impersonating Samuel. It was NOT Samuel who appeared at her summons, it was a demon masquerading as Samuel. The first thing that the demon did was expose Saul's masquerade to the witch:
1 Sam 28:12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.
Now exposed to the witch, Saul continues to consult her:
1 Sam 28:13 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.
1 Sam 28:14 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.
Note that Saul did not actually see anything himself, he had to ask the witch who is was that she saw. So based on what the witch said, Saul presumed it was Samuel who he was communicating with, that Samuel had been summoned from the grave to speak with him, since the witch said she could see Samuel coming up from out of the earth (not down from heaven). King Saul was putting his trust completely in a spirit medium, a witch, a necromancer, against the expressed will of God. So the following conversation was not between Saul and Samuel, but between Saul and a witch with a familiar (demonic) spirit:
1 Sam 28:15 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.
Again, note that Samuel is represented as coming up from the grave, not down from heaven. Saul also affirms that he knows that God refuses to communicate with him any more by any means, yet he expected to get guidance from a dead prophet of God via a familiar (demonic) spirit. The counsel Saul gets predicts the defeat of Israel and his imminent death, along with his sons:
1 Sam 28:16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
1 Sam 28:17 And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:
1 Sam 28:18 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.
1 Sam 28:19 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.
1 Sam 28:20 Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night.
King Saul was looking for help from the witch of Endor, to contact someone in the grave, a dead Samuel, so that he could know from God how he could gain a victory over the Philistines. But God was not talking to Saul any more. By knowing what the Bible teaches about the state of the dead, and the circumstances regarding Saul's relationship with God at the time, we can be quite certain that it was not actually Samuel raised from the dead speaking to him, but a fallen angel, a demonic spirit. That Saul even attempted this sťance with a spirit medium (witch) was an abomination, a further rebellion against God, and Saul paid for his rebellion with his life.
1 Chr 10:13 So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it;
1 Chr 10:14 And inquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.
The words in italics in verse 13 are supplied by the translator, as they are not in the original text. So if you drop those words, it reads:
So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking of a familiar spirit, to inquire;
So the passage above clearly states, Saul communicated with a demonic spirit, not Samuel.
What Really Happens When You Die?