I welcome your comments. We are in 2 Samuel, exploring the character of David, righeous king and sinner. Check the archives beginning with Deuteronomy. My intent is to post daily -- but at least weekly!

Note: This blog is not published by FUM Global Ministries, as stated below, but by Ben Richmond and FUM has no responsibility for what appear here. I'm working on fixing the problem of this misattribution.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

I Samuel 28 - The Mistress of Ghosts 

In this chapter, Saul consults a medium and hears Samuel return from the dead to utter the final words of Saul's doom:

1 Samuel 28:19 "...tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me"


1 Samuel 28:18 Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek,

As always, the key to relationship with God is to obey the qol YHWH, the voice of the Lord. As we saw in Chapter 15, Saul did not slaughter the king ... and this has "come back to haunt him."

Three things stand out to me in this peculiar chapter. The first is that Saul continues to be activated by fear.

1 Samuel 28:5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly.

The second is that, nevertheless, Saul tried to do the right thing. At various points throughout his story, Saul has seemed to me to be a sympathetic, if weak, character. This chapter offers another proffer of Saul's good intentions:

1 Samuel 28:3 Saul had expelled the mediums and the wizards from the land.

This is the sort of thing that the Josiah, the reformer of great renown in Jeremiah's time, did:

2 Kings 23:24 Moreover Josiah put away the mediums, wizards, teraphim, idols, and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah...

Saul knew that the right thing to do was to listen to the voice of God. He knew that the way to "hear" God was through dream, prophet, or the priest casting lots -- not through divination or mediums. Saul tried to do the right thing:

1 Samuel 28:6 When Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, not by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.

God wasn't speaking to him. The scary possibility that this raises is that there may come a time when "it is too late" -- or in the language of the early Quakers, "the day of the Lord's visitation" is past. Saul's resort to the medium was the act of desperation of a frightened man.

The third thing to strike me is that the medium he finally does consult in his fear (literally, the mistress of 'ob ghosts) is, like Saul, rather nice. She only calls up the ghost after Saul invokes God's name in assuring her that she will not be punished, and at the end, when she sees Saul fainting from hunger, she kills her "fatted calf" and "baked unleavened cakes" for Saul and his party. (1 Samuel 28:24)

I read a book several years ago with the intriguing title, "The Beautiful Side of Evil." The medium of En Dor has such beauty. The scripture does not doubt that, in her own way, she had compassion on Saul, nor that she had the power to call forth the spirits of the dead. This was not trickery; she was as shocked as Saul by Samuel's appearance and words. She and Saul were dealing with spiritual realities; but realities that YHWH has forbidden to us. They are spiritual realities associated with the spirituality of desperation and fear.

May God protect us from coming to such an end as Saul, where such desperate acts seem necessary.

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