1 Samuel 28
Preparations are herein making for that war which will put an end to
the life and reign of Saul, and so make way for David to the throne. In
I. The Philistines are the aggressors and Achish their king makes David
1 Samuel 28:1,2.
II. The Israelites prepare to receive them, and Saul their king makes
the devil his privy-counsellor, and thereby fills the measure of his
1. The despairing condition which Saul was in,
1 Samuel 28:3-6.
2. The application he made to a witch, to bring him up Samuel,
1 Samuel 28:7-14.
3. His discourse with the apparition,
1 Samuel 28:15-19.
The damp it struck upon him,
1 Samuel 28:20-25.
|The Philistines Make War on Israel.
||B. C. 1055.|
1 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines
gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel.
And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt
go out with me to battle, thou and thy men.
2 And David said to Achish, Surely thou shalt know what thy
servant can do. And Achish said to David, Therefore will I make
thee keeper of mine head for ever.
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
4 And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came
and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and
they pitched in Gilboa.
5 And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid,
and his heart greatly trembled.
6 And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him
not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
I. The design of the Philistines against Israel. They resolved to
1 Samuel 28:1.
If the Israelites had not forsaken God, there would have been no
Philistines remaining to molest them; if Saul had not forsaken him,
they would by this time have been put out of all danger by them. The
Philistines took an opportunity to make this attempt when they had
David among them, whom they feared more than Saul and all his
II. The expectation Achish had of assistance from David in this war,
and the encouragement David gave him to expect it: "Thou shalt go
with me to battle," says Achish. "If I protect thee, I may demand
service from thee;" and he will think himself happy if he may have such
a man as David on his side, who prospered whithersoever he went. David
gave him an ambiguous answer: "We will see what will be done; it will
be time enough to talk of that hereafter; but surely thou shalt know
what thy servant can do"
(1 Samuel 28:2),
that is, "I will consider in what post I may be best able to serve
thee, if thou wilt but give me leave to choose it." Thus he keeps
himself free from a promise to serve him and yet keeps up his
expectation of it; for Achish took it in no other sense than as an
engagement to assist him, and promised him, thereupon, that he would
make him captain of the guards, protector, or prime-minister of
III. The drawing of the armies, on both sides, into the field
(1 Samuel 28:4):
The Philistines pitched in Shunem, which was in the tribe of
Issachar, a great way north from their country. The land of Israel, it
seems, was ill-guarded, when the Philistines could march their army
into the very heart of the country. Saul, while he pursued David, left
his people naked and exposed. On some of the adjacent mountains of
Gilboa Saul mustered his forces, and prepared to engage the
Philistines, which he had little heart to do now that the Spirit of
the Lord had departed from him.
IV. The terror Saul was in, and the loss he was at, upon this occasion:
He saw the host of the Philistines, and by his own view of them,
and the intelligence his spies brought him, he perceived they were more
numerous, better armed, and in better heart, than his own were, which
made him afraid, so that his heart greatly trembled,
1 Samuel 28:5.
Had he kept close to God, he needed not have been afraid at the sight
of an army of Philistines; but now that he had provoked God to forsake
him his interest failed, his armies dwindled and looked mean, and,
which was worse, his spirits failed him, his heart sunk within him, a
guilty conscience made him tremble at the shaking of a leaf. Now he
remembered the guilty blood of the Amalekites which he had spared, and
the innocent blood of the priests which he had spilt. His sins were set
in order before his eyes, which put him into confusion, embarrassed all
his counsels, robbed him of all his courage, and produced in him a
certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. Note,
Troubles are terrors to the children of disobedience. In this distress
Saul enquired of the Lord,
1 Samuel 28:6.
Need drives those to God who in the day of their prosperity slighted
his oracles and altars. Lord, in trouble have they visited thee,
Did ever any seek the Lord and not find him? Yes, Saul did; the Lord
answered him not, took no notice either of his petitions or of his
enquiries; gave him no directions what to do, nor any encouragement to
hope that he would be with him. Should he be enquired of at all
by such a one as Saul?
No, he could not expect an answer of peace, for,
1. He enquired in such a manner that it was as if he had not
enquired at all. Therefore it is said
(1 Chronicles 10:14),
He enquired not of the Lord; for he did it faintly and coldly,
and with a secret design, if God did not answer him, to consult the
devil. He did not enquire in faith, but with a double unstable mind.
2. He enquired of the Lord when it was too late, when the days of his
probation were over and he was finally rejected. Seek the Lord while
he may be found, for there is a time when he will not be found.
3. He had forfeited the benefit of all the methods of enquiry. Could
he that hated and persecuted Samuel and David, who were both prophets,
expect to be answered by prophets? Could he that had slain the high
priest, expect to be answered by Urim? Or could he that had sinned
away the Spirit of grace, expect to be answered by dreams? No. Be
not deceived, God is not mocked.
V. The mention of some things that had happened a good while ago, to
introduce the following story,
1 Samuel 28:3.
1. The death of Samuel. Samuel was dead, which made the Philistines the
more bold and Saul the more afraid; for, had Samuel been alive, Saul
probably thought that his presence and countenance, his good advice and
good prayers, would have availed him in his distress.
2. Saul's edict against witchcraft. He had put the laws in execution
against those that had familiar spirits, who must not be
suffered to live,
Some think that he did this in the beginning of his reign, while he was
under Samuel's influence; others think that it was lately done, for it
is spoken of here
(1 Samuel 28:9)
as a late edict. Perhaps when Saul was himself troubled with an evil
spirit he suspected that he was bewitched, and, for that reason, cut
off all that had familiar spirits. Many seem zealous against sin, when
they themselves are any way hurt by it (they will inform against
swearers if they swear at them, or against drunkards if in their drink
they abuse them), who otherwise have no concern for the glory of God,
nor any dislike of sin as sin. However it was commendable in Saul thus
to use his power for the terror and restraint of these evil-doers.
Note, Many seem enemies to sin in others, while they indulge it in
themselves. Saul will drive the devil out of his kingdom, and yet
harbour him in his heart, by envy and malice.
|Saul Consults the Witch at Endor.
||B. C. 1055.|
7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a
familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And
his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a
familiar spirit at Endor.
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.
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?
10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD
liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.
11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he
said, Bring me up Samuel.
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.
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
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.
I. Saul seeks for a witch,
1 Samuel 28:7.
When God answered him not, if he had humbled himself by
repentance and persevered in seeking God, who knows but that at length
he might have been entreated for him? but, since he can discern no
comfort either from heaven or earth
he resolves to knock at the gates of hell, and to see if any there will
befriend him and give him advice: Seek me a woman that has a
1 Samuel 28:7.
And his servants were too officious to serve him in this evil affair;
they presently recommended one to him at Endor (a city not far off) who
had escaped the execution of Saul's edict. To her he resolves to apply.
Herein he is chargeable,
1. With contempt of the God of Israel; as if any creature could do him
a kindness when God had left him and frowned upon him.
2. With contradiction to himself. He knew the heinousness of the sin of
witchcraft, else he would not have cut off those that had familiar
spirits; yet now he had recourse to that as an oracle which he had
before condemned as an abomination. It is common for men to inveigh
severely against those sins which they are in no temptation to, but
afterwards to be themselves overcome by them. Had one told Saul, when
he was destroying the witches, that he himself would, ere long, consult
with one, he would have said, as Hazael did, What? Is thy servant a
dog? But who knows what mischiefs those will run into that forsake
God and are forsaken of him?
II. Hearing of one he hastens to her, but goes by night, and in
disguise, only with two servants, and probably on foot,
1 Samuel 28:8.
See how those that are led captive by Satan are forced,
1. To disparage themselves. Never did Saul look so mean as when he went
sneaking to a sorry witch to know his fortune.
2. To dissemble. Evil works are works of darkness, and they hate the
light, neither care for coming to it. Saul went to the witch, not in
his robes, but in the habit of a common soldier, not only lest the
witch herself, if she had known him, should decline to serve him,
either fearing he came to trepan her or resolving to be avenged on him
for his edict against those of her profession, but lest his own people
should know it and abhor him for it. Such is the power of natural
conscience that even those who do evil blush and are ashamed to do
III. He tells her his errand and promises her impunity.
1. All he desires of her is to bring up one from the dead, whom he had
a mind to discourse with. It was necromancy or divination by the dead,
that he hoped to serve his purpose by. This was expressly forbidden by
seeking for the living to the dead,
Bring me up him whom I shall name,
1 Samuel 28:8.
This supposes that it was generally taken for granted that souls exist
after death, and that when men die there is not an end of them: it
supposes too that great knowledge was attributed to separate souls. But
to think that any good souls would come up at the beck of an evil
spirit, or that God, who had denied a man the benefit of his own
institutions, would suffer him to reap any real advantage by a cursed
diabolical invention, was very absurd.
2. She signifies her fear of the law, and her suspicion that this
stranger came to draw her into a snare
(1 Samuel 28:9):
Thou knowest what Saul has done. Providence ordered it so that
Saul should be told to his face of his edict against witches, at this
very time when he was consulting one, for the greater aggravation of
his sin. She insists upon the peril of the law, perhaps to raise her
price; for, though no mention is made of her fee, no doubt she demanded
and had a large one. Observe how sensible she is of danger from the
edict of Saul, and what care she is in to guard against it; but not at
all apprehensive of the obligations off God's law and the terrors of
his wrath. She considered what Saul had done, not what
God had done, against such practices, and feared a snare laid
for her life more than a snare laid for her soul. It is common for
sinners to be more afraid of punishment from men than of God's
righteous judgment. But,
3. Saul promises with an oath not to betray her,
1 Samuel 28:10.
It was his duty as a king to punish her and he knew it, yet he swears
no to do it; as if he could by his own oath bind himself from doing
that which, by the divine command, he was bound to do. But he promised
more than he could perform when he said, There shall no punishment
happen to thee; for he that could not secure himself could much
less secure her from divine vengeance.
IV. Samuel, who was lately dead, is the person whom Saul desired to
have some talk with; and the witch, with her enchantments, gratifies
his desire, and brings them together.
1. As soon as Saul had given the witch the assurance she desired (that
he would not discover her) she applied to her witchcrafts, and asked
very confidently, Whom shall I bring up to thee?
1 Samuel 28:11.
Note, Hopes of impunity embolden sinners in their evil ways and harden
2. Saul desires to speak with Samuel: Bring me up Samuel. Samuel
had anointed him to the kingdom and had formerly been his faithful
friend and counsellor, and therefore with him he wished to advise.
While Samuel was living at Ramah, not far from Gibeah of Saul, and
presided there in the school of the prophets, we never read of Saul's
going to him to consult him in any of the difficulties he was in (it
would have been well for him if he had); then he slighted him, and
perhaps hated him, looking upon him to be in David's interest. But now
that he is dead, "O for Samuel again! By all means, bring me up
Samuel." Note, Many that despise and persecute God's saints and
ministers when they are living would be glad to have them again when
they are gone. Send Lazarus to me, and send Lazarus to my
The sepulchres of the righteous are garnished.
3. Here is a seeming defector chasm in the story. Saul said, Bring
me up Samuel, and the very next words are, When the woman saw
(1 Samuel 28:12),
whereas one would have expected to be told how she performed the
operation, what spells and charms she used, or that some little
intimation would be given of what she said or did; but the profound
silence of the scripture concerning it forbids our coveting to know
the depths of Satan
or to have our curiosity gratified with an account of the mysteries of
iniquity. It has been said of the books of some of the popish
confessors that, by their descriptions of sin, they have taught men to
commit it; but the scripture conceals sinful art, that we may be
simple concerning evil,
4. The witch, upon sight of the apparition, was aware that her client
was Saul, her familiar spirit, it is likely, informing her of it
(1 Samuel 28:12):
"Why hast thou deceived me with a disguise; for thou art Saul,
the very man that I am afraid of above any man?" Thus she gave Saul to
understand the power of her art, in that she could discover him through
his disguise; and yet she feared lest, hereafter, at least, he should
take advantage against her for what she was now doing. Had she believed
that it was really Samuel whom she saw, she would have had more reason
to be afraid of him, who was a good prophet, than of Saul, who was a
wicked king. But the wrath of earthly princes is feared by most more
than the wrath of the King of kings.
5. Saul (who, we may suppose, was kept at a distance in the next room)
bade her not to be afraid of him, but go on with the operation, and
enquired what she saw?
1 Samuel 28:13.
O, says the woman, I saw gods (that is, a spirit)
ascending out of the earth; they called angels gods,
because spiritual beings. Poor gods that ascend out of the
earth! But she speaks the language of the heathen, who had their
infernal deities and had them in veneration. If Saul had thought it
necessary to his conversation with Samuel that the body of Samuel
should be called out of the grave, he would have taken the witch with
him to Ramah, where his sepulchre was; but the design was wholly upon
his soul, which yet, if it became visible, was expected to appear in
the usual resemblance of the body; and God permitted the devil, to
answer the design, to put on Samuel's shape, that those who would not
receive the love of the truth might be given up to strong
delusions and believe a lie. That it could not be the soul of
Samuel himself they might easily apprehend when it ascended out of
the earth, for the spirit of a man, much more of a good man,
But, if people will be deceived, it is just with God to say, "Let them
be deceived." That the devil, by the divine permission, should be able
to personate Samuel is not strange, since he can transform himself
into an angel of light! nor is it strange that he should be
permitted to do it upon this occasion, that Saul might be driven to
despair, by enquiring of the devil, since he would not, in a right
manner, enquire of the Lord, by which he might have had comfort. Saul,
being told of gods ascending, was eager to know what was the form of
this deity, and in what shape he appeared, so far was he from
conceiving any horror at it, his heart being wretchedly hardened by
the deceitfulness of sin. Saul, it seems, was not permitted to see
any manner of similitude himself, but he must take the woman's word for
it, that she saw an old man covered with a mantle, or robe, the
habit of a judge, which Samuel had sometimes worn, and some think it
was for the sake of that, and the majesty of its aspect, that she
called this apparition Elohim, a god or gods; for so magistrates
6. Saul, perceiving, by the woman's description, that it was Samuel,
stooped with his face to the ground, either, as it is generally
taken, in reverence to Samuel, though he saw him not, or perhaps to
listen to that soft and muttering voice which he now expected to hear
(for those that had familiar spirits peeped and muttered,
and it should seem Saul bowed himself (probably by the witch's
direction) that he might hear what was whispered and listen carefully
to it; for the voice of one that has a familiar spirit is said
to come out of the ground, and whisper out of the dust,
He would stoop to that who would not stoop to the word of God.
|Saul's Death Foretold.
||B. C. 1055.|
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.
16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing
the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
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:
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.
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.
We have here the conference between Saul and Satan. Saul came in
(1 Samuel 28:8),
but Satan soon discovered him,
1 Samuel 28:12.
Satan comes in disguise, in the disguise of Samuel's mantle, and Saul
cannot discover him. Such is the disadvantage we labour under, in
wrestling with the rulers of the darkness of this world, that
they know us, while we are ignorant of their wiles and devices.
I. The spectre, or apparition, personating Samuel, asks why he is sent
(1 Samuel 28:15):
Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up? To us this discovers
that it was an evil spirit that personated Samuel; for (as bishop
Patrick observes) it is not in the power of witches to disturb the rest
of good men and to bring them back into the world when they please; nor
would the true Samuel have acknowledged such a power in magical arts:
but to Saul this was a proper device of Satan's, to draw veneration
from him, to possess him with an opinion of the power of divination,
and so to rivet him in the devil's interests.
II. Saul makes his complaint to this counterfeit Samuel, mistaking him
for the true; and a most doleful complaint it is: "I am sorely
distressed, and know not what to do, for the Philistines make
war against me; yet I should do well enough with them if I had but
the tokens of God's presence with me; but, alas! God has departed
from me." He complained not of God's withdrawings till he fell into
trouble, till the Philistines made war against him, and then he
began to lament God's departure. He that in his prosperity enquired not
after God in his adversity thought it hard that God answered him not,
nor took any notice of his enquiries, either by dreams or prophets,
neither gave answers immediately himself nor sent them by any of his
messengers. He does not, like a penitent, own the righteousness of God
in this; but, like a man enraged, flies out against God as unkind and
flies off from him: Therefore I have called thee; as if Samuel,
a servant of God, would favour those whom God frowned upon, or as if a
dead prophet could do him more service than the living ones. One would
think, from this, that he really desired to meet with the devil, and
expected no other (though under the covert of Samuel's name), for he
desires advice otherwise than from God, therefore from the devil, who
is a rival with God. "God denies me, therefore I come to thee.
Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo." --If I fail with
heaven, I will move hell.
III. It is cold comfort which this evil spirit in Samuel's mantle gives
to Saul, and is manifestly intended to drive him to despair and
self-murder. Had it been the true Samuel, when Saul desired to be told
what he should do he would have told him to repent and make his peace
with God, and recall David from his banishment, and would then have
told him that he might hope in this way to find mercy with God; but,
instead of that, he represents his case as helpless and hopeless,
serving him as he did Judas, to whom he was first a tempter and then a
tormentor, persuading him first to sell his master and then to hang
1. He upbraids him with his present distress
(1 Samuel 28:16),
tells him, not only that God had departed from him, but that he had
become his enemy, and therefore he must expect no comfortable answer
from him: "Wherefore dost thou ask me? How can I be thy friend
when God is thy enemy, or thy counsellor when he has left thee?"
2. He upbraids him with the anointing of David to the kingdom,
1 Samuel 28:17.
He could not have touched upon a string that sounded more unpleasant in
the ear of Saul than this. Nothing is said to reconcile him to David,
but all tends rather to exasperate him against David and widen the
breach. Yet, to make him believe that he was Samuel, the apparition
affirmed that it was God who spoke by him. The devil knows how to speak
with an air of religion, and can teach false apostles to transform
themselves into the apostles of Christ and imitate their language.
Those who use spells and charms, and plead, in defence of them, that
they find nothing in them but what is good, may remember what good
words the devil here spoke, and yet with what a malicious design.
3. He upbraids him with his disobedience to the command of God in not
destroying the Amalekites,
1 Samuel 28:18.
Satan had helped him to palliate and excuse that sin when Samuel was
dealing with him to bring him to repentance, but now he aggravates it,
to make him despair of God's mercy. See what those get that hearken to
Satan's temptations. He himself will be their accuser, and insult over
them. And see whom those resemble that allure others to that which is
evil and reproach them for it when they have done.
4. He foretels his approaching ruin,
1 Samuel 28:19.
(1.) That his army should be routed by the Philistines. This is twice
mentioned: The Lord shall deliver Israel into the hand of the
Philistines. This he might foresee, by considering the superior
strength and number of the Philistines, the weakness of the armies of
Israel, Saul's terror, and especially God's departure from them. Yet,
to personate a prophet, he very gravely ascribes it once and again to
God: The Lord shall do it.
(2.) That he and his sons should be slain in the battle:
To-morrow, that is, in a little time (and, supposing that it was
now after midnight, I see not but it may be taken strictly for the very
next day after that which had now begun), thou and thy sons shall be
with me, that is, in the state of the dead, separate from the body.
Had this been the true Samuel, he could not have foretold the event
unless God had revealed it to him; and, though it were an evil spirit,
God might by him foretel it; as we read of an evil spirit that foresaw
Ahab's fall at Ramoth-Gilead and was instrumental in it
(1 Kings 22:20-23,
&c.), as perhaps this evil spirit was, by the divine permission, in
Saul's destruction. That evil spirit flattered Ahab, this frightened
Saul, and both that they might fall; so miserable are those that are
under the power of Satan; for, whether he rage or laugh, there is no
||B. C. 1055.|
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
21 And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore
troubled, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed
thy voice, and I have put my life in my hand, and have hearkened
unto thy words which thou spakest unto me.
22 Now therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice
of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee;
and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy
23 But he refused, and said, I will not eat. But his servants,
together with the woman, compelled him; and he hearkened unto
their voice. So he arose from the earth, and sat upon the bed.
24 And the woman had a fat calf in the house; and she hasted,
and killed it, and took flour, and kneaded it, and did bake
unleavened bread thereof:
25 And she brought it before Saul, and before his servants;
and they did eat. Then they rose up, and went away that night.
We are here told how Saul received this terrible message from the ghost
he consulted. He desired to be told what he should do
(1 Samuel 28:15),
but was only told what he had not done and what should be done to him.
Those that expect any good counsel or comfort otherwise than from God,
and in the way of his institutions, will be as wretchedly disappointed
as Saul here was. Observe,
I. How he sunk under the load,
1 Samuel 28:20.
He was indeed unfit to bear it, having eaten nothing all the day
before, nor that night. He came fasting from the camp, and
continued fasting; not for want of food, but for want of an appetite.
The fear he was in of the power of the Philistines
(1 Samuel 28:5)
took away his appetite, or perhaps the struggle he had with his own
conscience, after he had entertained the thought of consulting the
witch, made him to nauseate even his necessary food, though ever so
dainty. This made him an easy prey to this fresh terror that now came
upon him like an armed man. He fell all along on the earth, as
if the archers of the Philistines had already hit him, and there was
no strength in him to bear up against these heavy tidings. Now he
had enough of consulting witches, and found them miserable comforters.
When God in his word speaks terror to sinners he opens to them, at the
same time, a door of hope if they repent: but those that apply to the
gates of hell for succour must there expect darkness without any
glimpse of light.
II. With what difficulty he was persuaded to take so much relief as was
necessary to carry him back to his post in the camp. The witch, it
should seem, had left Saul alone with the spectre, to have his talk
with him by himself; but perhaps hearing him fall and groan, and
perceiving him to be in great agony, she came to him
(1 Samuel 28:21),
and was very importunate with him to take some refreshment, that he
might be able to get clear from her house, fearing that if he should be
ill, especially if he should die there, she should be punished for it
as a traitor, though she had escaped punishment as a witch. This, it is
probable, rather than any sentiment of kindness, made her solicitous to
help him. But what a deplorable condition had he brought himself to
when he needed so wretched a comforter!
1. She showed herself very importunate with him to take some
refreshment. She pleaded
(1 Samuel 28:21)
that she had obeyed his voice to the endangering of her life, and why
therefore should not he hearken to her voice for the relieving of his
1 Samuel 28:22.
She had a fat calf at hand (and the word signifies one that was made
use of in treading out the corn, and therefore could the worse be
spared); this she prepared for his entertainment,
1 Samuel 28:24.
Josephus is large in applauding the extraordinary courtesy and
liberality of this woman, and recommending what she did as an example
of compassion to the distressed, and readiness to communicate for their
relief, though we have no prospect of being recompensed.
2. He showed himself very averse to it: He refused, and said, I will
(1 Samuel 28:23),
choosing rather to die obscurely by famine than honourably by the
sword. Had he laboured only under a defect of animal spirits, food
might have helped him; but, alas! his case was out of the reach of such
succours. What are dainty meats to a wounded conscience? As vinegar
upon nitre, so is he that sings songs to a heavy heart, so
disagreeable and unwelcome.
3. The woman at length, with the help of his servants, overpersuaded
him, against his inclination and resolution, to take some refreshment.
Not by force, but by friendly advice, they compelled him
(1 Samuel 28:23),
and of no other than such a rational and courteous compulsion are we to
understand that in the parable, Compel them to come in,
How forcible are right words, when men are pressed by them to
that which is for their own interest!
Saul was somewhat revived with this entertainment; so that he and his
servants, when they had eaten, rose up and went away before it
(1 Samuel 28:25),
that they might hasten to their business and that they might not be
seen to come out of such a scandalous house. Josephus here much admires
the bravery and magnanimity of Saul, that, though he was assured he
should lose both his life and honour, yet he would not desert his army,
but resolutely returned to the camp, and stood ready for an engagement.
I wonder more at the hardness of his heart, that he did not again apply
to God by repentance and prayer, in hopes yet to obtain at least a
reprieve; but he desperately ran headlong upon his own ruin. Perhaps,
indeed, now that rage and envy possessed him to the uttermost, he was
the better reconciled to his hard fate, being told that his sons, and
Jonathan among the rest, whom he hated for his affection to David,
should die with him. If he must fall, he cared not what desolations of
his family and kingdom accompanied his fall, hoping it would be the
worse for his successor. Emou thanontos gaia michtheto
pyri.--I care not if, when I am dead, the world should be
set on fire. He begged not, as David, "Let thy hand be against me,
but not against thy people."