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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

1 Samuel 28

 

 

Verses 1-13

SAUL’S CAREER ENDED

CALAMITY FORETOLD (1 Samuel 28)

This chapter is important and illustrates again the deceptive character of Saul. Having professedly put the necromancers out of Israel in obedience to the divine command (Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-11), he no sooner finds himself in straits than he seeks out one of them for his aid.

Two questions arise. Did Samuel really come forth from the dead, and was it the woman’s power that brought him forth? To the first we answer yes, on the evidence of 1 Samuel 28:12-16, and to the second, no. The woman was surprised to see Samuel and affrighted (1 Samuel 28:12), which is proof that she was not a factor in the matter, and that God brought up Samuel to rebuke Saul.

Two other questions follow. Is it possible for human beings to talk with the dead, or lawful to do so? We answer no in both cases. Spiritualistic mediums may have intercourse with demons who by their superior knowledge personate the dead, but they are not permitted of God to bring back the dead themselves. On the other hand God may be at liberty to do what He would not permit His creatures to do.

How are we to understand the words “Tomorrow shalt thou be with me.’ Was not Samuel one who feared God and Saul the opposite? How then could the future life of both be located in the same place? The answer is that the Jews regarded the place of the dead as composed of two realms, one for the righteous and one for the unrighteous. Saul might be with Samuel in that he was among the dead, and yet not in the sense that he was in the company of the righteous dead.

THE EVIL IN OPERATION (1 Samuel 29-30)

There is no apology for David’s hypocrisy in this chapter, but the situation in which he found himself was the result of the unbelief that led him to leave the land of his fathers and throw in his lot with the Philistines (1 Samuel 27:1).

Achish shows up better than he in this transaction, for he seemed to have confidence in David (1 Samuel 28:1-2). And had it not been for the shrewder judgment of his princes (1 Samuel 29:3-5), David would have been found playing the traitor to him later, for it is unlikely he would have fought for him against his own kith and kin.

Chapter 30 may be included in this division because it still has to do with David. There is nothing in it requiring explanation except the observation in 1 Samuel 30:6, “that David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” How he did it, and what encouragement he received is indicated in 1 Samuel 30:7-8, but why God would be willing to encourage such a man puzzles us, till again we think of ourselves. The best of us are unbelieving, mean, and hypocritical at times, and yet God’s patience waits, and does not destroy and cast away. The reason is that God’s love for us terminates on His own glory. He is doing these things for His Name’s sake. His honor is at stake in the execution of His purposes and the fulfilling of His will. He had great plans for Israel and the world through David. And He is not measuring us by what we now are, but by what He sees us to be when the work of grace is perfected in us in the ages to come. David becomes a different man even before his earthly career is ended, and we find something of the same transformation in his career as in that of his progenitor, the supplanted Jacob who became Israel, the prince who prevailed with God (Genesis 32:28).

THE END REACHED (1 Samuel 31)

We need not comment on the events of this chapter which tell their own story, but the following from Illustrations of Scripture, by Hackett, will be quickening to faith:

I venture to affirm that he who compares the Bible account of this battle with the regions around Gilboah, has the same sort of evidence that it relates what is true as a person would have concerning the battles of Saratoga, Yorktown and Waterloo, should he compare their histories with the localities where they occurred.

Some of the most celebrated battlefields of Grecian and Roman history correspond imperfectly with the descriptions of ancient writers. The writers may be trustworthy, but the villages they mentioned have changed their names or entirely disappeared. In some cases convulsions of nature have altered streams, or disturbed landmarks between hills and valleys. But Saul’s battleground remains mapped out on the face of the country, almost as distinctly as if it occurred in our time, and yet it occurred in an age more remote than the founding of Rome, or the siege of Troy.

QUESTIONS

1. How does chapter 28 illustrate hypocrisy?

2. What reason is there to doubt that the woman’s power brought forth Samuel?

3. What is the nature of mediumistic power, and how is it limited?

4. How did the Jews regard the place of the dead?

5. Describe the equivocal position in which David finds himself in chapter 29, and explain it.

6. What is the secret of God’s long suffering patience with His people?

7. How do present facts substantiate the story of the battle?

 


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Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jgc/1-samuel-28.html. 1897-1910.

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