One possessed by (Leviticus 20:22) or consulting (Deuteronomy 18:11) a ghost or spirit of the dead, especially for information about the future. Acting as a medium was punishable by stoning (Leviticus 20:27); consulting a medium, by exclusion from the congregation of Israel (Leviticus 20:6). The transformation of Saul from one who expelled mediums (1 Samuel 28:3) to one who consulted a medium at En-dor (1 Samuel 28:8-19) graphically illustrates his fall.
The Hebrew word translated medium (ob) may refer to the spirit of a dead person, to the medium possessed by the spirit, or to images used to conjure up spirits. Manasseh made such images (2 Kings 21:6;
2 Chronicles 33:6). Josiah destroyed them as part of his reforms (2 Kings 23:24). Saul's success in quickly locating a medium (1 Samuel 28:8) points both to the popularity of the practice of consulting the dead and the difficulty of eradicating it.
Isaiah 8:19 suggests a possible connection between the consulting of mediums and ancestor worship. Those to be consulted are termed “fathers” and “gods.” (Compare
1 Samuel 28:13 where Samuel is described as elohim or “god.”) The chirping and muttering of the spirits perhaps refers to the inarticulate sounds which must be interpreted by the medium. Consulting of mediums defiled the land and was described as prostitution. God's people were to trust God in times of distress and not resort to other “gods” in an attempt to learn the future.