Samuel Summoned From The Dead?

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by Ryan&Amber2013, Sep 10, 2018.

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  1. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    By no means is juggling/wrestling with a text a weakness. It is very much warranted in many texts and I appreciate your well thought out response. I just don't agree with it. If it was a "demon" or "unclean spirit," why did the Holy Spirit leave out that detail? This verse is pretty straight forward, "Then Saul knew that it was Samuel." It does not read, "Saul thought or guessed that it was Samuel."
    The verse in Deuteronomy you have in bold I do not believe sheds light on this particular text. This medium or as a literal translation would render her title, "mistress of the spirit of the dead" was not luring anyone to worship foreign gods but rather gave a prophecy or a judgment, I believe from God, that came to fruition.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Any time we have a claim to knowledge in the Scripture, we have to ask what the source of the knowledge is, and judge whether the source is credible, and to what degree. What or who in the text is the source of Saul's knowledge?

    That is to say, it is not simply the narrator of 1Samuel informing the reader that this Saul had revelational certainty, or even proximate certainty, this was Samuel. This statement follows a witch's bland description, one that does not even give a name to what she claims to see. Our information about "who" is there comes from her.

    The irony of later readers of this story instantly imputing the identity of Samuel to her description (rather than adopting a religiously-based skepticism) is how we sheepishly follow Saul, the wicked fool, into this acceptance. The exchange that comes after is simply reflective of the "identity" that has been credited by Saul to a nameless description.

    And as I wrote earlier, isn't it curious (convenient was my term) that this description of an old man in a mantle just happens to be entirely consistent with Saul's last glimpse of Samuel in this life, from 1Sam.15:27, "And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent." The picture is either tailor-made for Saul, or it is so lacking in specificity that it could be anybody until it is "identified."

    Why aren't all the intricate details spelled out for us in the passage? I think it's part of the storytelling device, myself. There are lots of shadows and uncertainties in this encounter, and I think it's all very intentional. Because, that is the nature of such devious dealings and characters. If we leave the scene shaken and disturbed, appalled and creeped out, and not completely clear on what we did or did not encounter, that's part of the lesson.

    As for Dt.13:1ff, I invite your reflection upon the connection in Scripture between idols, false gods, and demons (familiar spirits). What is the nature of necromancy and inquiring of the dead, but to obtain revelation that is only properly accessible from God, if he wills to reveal it at all? And to whom does he reveal it? His prophets--to whom he refused Saul access.

    Saul was a rebel, "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft," 1Sam.15:23. Dt.31:27 identifies Israel as partakers all their wilderness way in this sort of rebellion. It showed itself in many forms, including the golden calf. Significantly, the exact language is found in Num.16-17, the rebellion of Korah, a rebellion that had to do with prophetic and priestly ordination. Num.17:10 denounces all the "sons of rebellion." And the upshot is that Moses and Aaron are the mediators appointed for the people by which to come to God and to hear from God.

    There are clear links, therefore, in the law and the OT generally, of idolatry, false prophets, witchcraft, and demons. These are not isolated sins and aims. So, I'm not able to agree that this medium was not in principle a seductress of false religion.
  3. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    I have a couple of simple problems with the interpretation that it was really Samuel.

    First, I disagree that the plain sense of the text is that it was Samuel. Ghosts do not appear anywhere else, do they? I don't find that such an interpretation fits with a biblical theology of death. We are to follow the whole counsel of Scripture.

    To those who say it was actually Samuel, I ask, from where did he come, that he could appear visibly? Was he briefly summoned back from heaven?
  4. koenig

    koenig Puritan Board Freshman

    Where was Lazarus’ soul for four days? Most of these objections apply to him as well, but we *know* that Jesus literally bodily reanimated him. Samuel reappearing as a spirit is a much smaller miracle than that.
  5. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    So you'd say Samuel was dragged down from heaven? I just want to be clear. (The text says Samuel was brought up.)

    And again, why would God speak to Samuel by improper means (witchcraft) when he would not speak to him through proper ones?
  6. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    I suppose that depends on what actually constitutes a ghost - you do have the appearance of both Moses and Elijah (of course no record of Elijah having ever died) on the mount of transfiguration in the gospel accounts of Matthew 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9. The point being that God can suspend what we normally would not expect in terms of appearances of those in the OT who have deceased from their days on earth. Now, this is not to make an argument for or against whether Samuel actually appeared to Saul. It is simply an attempt to approach an answer to your question above.

    And then you have that strange account of which we read in Matthew 27:52-53 of saints whose bodies had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the graves after his resurrection (i.e., our Lord Jesus) went into the holy city and appeared to many. To be sure, I am not speculating an explanation for this except to say, this was not what we would normally expect.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
  7. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks for that, David. I meant to get this a year ago and it fell by the wayside. You prompted me to order it.
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  8. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  9. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

  10. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    We seem to be acting like God is rewarding Saul's use of inappropriate means. He isn't. He gave him a death sentence. That's not a great reward.
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    So...when the text reads "Samuel," should we pencil in quotation marks around "Samuel" to let the reader know it isn't really "Samuel"? I'm not being snarky. That's what the position is coming to.
  12. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    I haven't made it through everybody's posts, so I apologize if this is a repetition.

    Normally God's prophetic word coming to sinners includes a call to repentance. This ghost did not do this. A prophet from God, by usual example, does not call someone to accept fate, but rather to action.

    I lean towards it being a demon in the appearance of Samuel.
  13. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    You wou
    I would imagine that would have occurred at least once by a translator if it were supposed to be there, but I concede that I am half the scholar as most on here.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
  14. SeanPatrickCornell

    SeanPatrickCornell Puritan Board Freshman

    Why would we expect that Samuel is doing anything other than passing on the message from God to Saul?

    God has no interest in Saul's repentance. Saul had already been judged and found guilty.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Normally yes, but as I quoted from Jeremiah, there are times where it seems that the opportunity for repentance is over. God has already promised that Saul's dynasty would end.
  16. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    Pastor Buchanan, please forgive me for not responding to you. We have something of a little storm off the North Carolina cost that has occupied much of my attention these last couple of days. As always, I did very much appreciate your thoughtful response and agree with much of it. Though I am still very much of the mind that it is Samuel who appears to Saul in 1 Samuel 28. That is just the plain statement of the text. Yes, it it is a very strange incident indeed. I do not have an answer to every question it raises. And I certainly begrudge no man his interpretation of it.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
  17. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Actually, I suggested almost exactly that in an above post, as a modern convention useful for conveying information about authorial intent to the reader. "Scare quotes" also may not be the best choice. If the name is not to be taken at face value, and the modern reader cannot easily read the context for other clues, the question is: what is the best method of showing that?

    The Bible has numerous cases of language that is not meant to be taken at face value, or apart from some other consideration not explicit. We usually resort other clues in the context that show the reader how the language is to be taken. Examples:

    Ex.32:10, "Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

    1Ki.22:15, "So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, 'Go, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.'"

    Job 38:5, "Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?"

    Jdg.20:18,21, "18 And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up first.... 21 And the children of Benjamin came forth out of Gibeah, and destroyed down to the ground of the Israelites that day twenty and two thousand men."

    1Ki.18:27, " And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked."

    1Sam.16:16, "And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him."

    2Ki.8:10,14-15, "10 And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die.... 14 So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that thou shouldest surely recover. 15 And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died:"

    Is.36:10,18, "The Lord said unto me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.... 18 Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The Lord will deliver us."

    Jn.7:8-10, "8 'Go up to the feast yourselves; I do not go up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come.' 9 Having said these things to them, He stayed in Galilee. 10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret."
    From that smattering, we see sarcasm and irony, mockery, cases of language the speaker intends should be open to more than one interpretation. The context clues are also variable. At times, the narrator tells us immediately the words are mockery or some other correction is offered. Other times, it isn't so obvious, or the proper understanding is only gained from a fuller context.

    For my part, I find sufficient context clues in 1Sam.28, together with the context of the Law, the OT, and the whole Bible, to convince me that the 5X references to Samuel in vv12-20 are qualified by the dark arts of the medium. They are qualified by the identification that Saul ascribes to the source of the information. And I reject Saul's ascription, even as I accept that the passage uses his attitude as the frame of reference for showing the scene to the reader.
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  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    If it's really Samuel, then we don't need scare quotes. If Saul is mistaken, then we do need scare quotes.
  19. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well, this debate has been informative and I appreciate everyone's responses. I am still unconvinced to the contrary of it being Samuel. I feel like at this point we are just sweeping a dirt floor.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
  20. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Moderator Staff Member

  21. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I think such a decision decides the issue for all readers. And it's OK if we aren't all on the same page, and struggle a bit with the issue.

    Scare quotes are a modern convention. I don't think they were a thing in the 16th & 17th century when our vernacular translations started to proliferate. Shucks, when the books of Samuel were penned, they didn't even use written vowels. Punctuation wasn't even a twinkle in the ur-scribe's eye.
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Exactly, which means the most natural, straight-foward reading is that it is indeed Samuel. He was identified as Samuel. He spoke the same messages that Samuel did (same tone, anyway), and everything he said came true.
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  23. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I agree.

    My lack of participation is the witness that I have been swamped by my job and other parts of life lately. I love this story and have thought about it for years. There ain't no such thing as ghosts and disembodied spirits of men roaming around. Never was and never will be.
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    While I don't say there are ghosts of men roaming around, a demon is by definition a disembodied spirit.
  25. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    May seem like the most natural to you, but I read the same passage, and it's "most natural" to me (given the setting) that Samuel's words are coming out of this medium's throat (because that's just how it typically works in those settings).

    That mental imagery yields a very different take on who the speaker is behind the communication. I don't need scare quotes if I have a certain picture in my mind which the text is responsible for planting.

    My point isn't to delegitimize another (your) interpretation, but to question whether your "natural" impression is just the "most," regardless.
  26. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Of course, you are correct, but I qualified what I said by saying "disembodied spirits of men."
  27. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Thank you for DRD's view. I really like him as an exegete. I bought his Kings commentaries, but don't yet have his Samuel.

    While he and I disagree on whether the real Samuel's spirit was speaking, he and I do share this sentiment:
    "So what do you do with this text? Let it frighten you. Don't try to tidy things up....”​
    I've expressed a similar sentiment above in this thread. It's supposed to be murky.
  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I think we need to be careful of the word = concept fallacy. What is the word for ghost that the writer of 1 Samuel uses? Whatever that word is, I am fairly sure it doesn't mean ghoulie.

    I don't have my Hebrew text with me, but what is the word that is being used? Is it "spirit?" If it is nephesh or ruach or elohim or whatever, then it wouldn't have any connotation of whether ghosts exist today? That would be a non-starter.

    My guess is that the witch saw an elohim, a resident of the spirit-world. We can all agree on that. This elohim happened to give the same warning that had been given to Saul.
  29. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    In verse 13, the woman says she saw elohim.
  30. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

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