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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 28

 

 

Verse 1

1 Samuel 28:1 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.

Ver. 1. And it came to pass in those days.] When Saul’s sin was now grown ripe and ready for the sickle, and David as a weaned child was now fitted for the kingdom.

Thou shalt go out with me to battle.] This struck cold to David’s good heart, who now began to repent him, doubtless, of gadding about Gath; but all too late.


Verse 2

1 Samuel 28:2 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.

Ver. 2. Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do.] But whether for Achish or against him, he saith not. Indeed, he could do neither with any honesty, and therefore he maketh a double answer; equivocating, as he had done before. [1 Samuel 27:9] Josephus is out when he saith that David did readily promise Achish his help; for what show soever he made, he meant nothing less, but prayed and hoped that God would extricate him out of this labyrinth, as also he did, [1 Samuel 29:3-7] so that he neither fought against Israel, nor was false to Achish.

Thee keeper of mine head.] Captain of my bodyguard. Wicked men will sooner trust the saints, than those that are graceless. Natural conscience cannot but stoop to the image of God stamped upon the hearts and lives of the religious.


Verse 3

1 Samuel 28:3 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 land.

Ver. 3. Now Samuel was dead.] See 1 Samuel 25:1.

And all Israel had lamented him.] This is one of the dues of the dead - viz., to be sowed in the earth, and watered with tears. Mors mea ne careat lachrymis.

And buried him in Ramah.] The bodies of the saints, being the temples of the Holy Ghost, should with reverence be commended and committed unto Christian sepulture, in hope of the resurrection.

And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits.] This he had done, according to Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27, at the beginning of his reign, say some, or else when for a show of his great zeal he slew the Gibeonites, [2 Samuel 21:1] as others hold. His seeking to these kind of creatures again therefore in his extremity, was a sin against conscience; it was point blank against verity, equity, and piety, as Junius observeth.


Verse 4

1 Samuel 28:4 And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa.

Ver. 4. And pitched in Shunem.] A city in the tribe of Issachar, ennobled afterwards by the good Shunamite with whom Elisha hosted. [2 Kings 4:8]

Pitched in Gilboa.] Baleful and baneful to Saul and his sons: and therefore cursed by David. [2 Samuel 1:21]


Verse 5

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

Ver. 5. He was afraid.] "The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness surpriseth the hypocrites": and they run away, if they could tell whither, with these words in their mouths, "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" [Isaiah 33:14] God himself answereth in the next word. [Isaiah 33:15] "He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly," &c. But Saul was none such; and therefore in his extreme fear he runneth from God to the witch, and from the witch to the sword’s point.

And his heart greatly trembled.] Those that cannot fear for love, shall once tremble for fear: and God shall laugh when such a one’s fears cometh. [Proverbs 1:26]


Verse 6

1 Samuel 28:6 And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.

Ver. 6. And when Saul inquired of the Lord.] Which he did not with a true heart, [Hebrews 10:23] and Ficta pro factis non habentur, saith the Civilian: Nec videtur fieri quod non legitime fit: hence [1 Chronicles 10:13-14] it is said that Saul inquired not of the Lord. He did, and he did not, because not uprightly nor constantly: and Nihil dicitur factum quamdiu aliquid superest faciendum. He should have persisted in seeking God, and not have run to light a candle at the devil, as they say: a sin, whereof his own hands wrought the revenge.

The Lord answered him not.] And no wonder: since it was only extremity of distress that sent Saul to seek God; like as the drowning man catcheth at that bow which he contemned standing safe on the bank.

Nor by Urim.] For Saul had slain those that wore the ephod: and Abiathar who had it was fled to David. [1 Samuel 23:6] That Saul now sent to Abiathar, is a conceit of the Rabbins.

Nor by prophets.] He cared not for them in his prosperity, and now can have no comfort from them in the day of his distress. Let such look to it as slight God’s faithful ministers.


Verse 7

1 Samuel 28:7 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.

Ver. 7. Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit.] One Rufus I read of, who painted upon his shield, God on the one side, and the devil on the other, with this inscription, Si tu me nolis, iste rogitat, If thou refuse me, here is another that will be glad of me. (a) Saul seemeth to be like-minded.

Flectere cure nequeat superos, Acheronta movebit. ” - Virg.

So Oedipus in Seneca, when he could not get an answer at the oracles, made use of necromancy. This great sin Saul added to all his former, and so became miserable by his own election. [Jonah 2:8] The like is recorded of Julian the apostate.

Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit.] Heb., The dame of a familiar, such as could raise up the dead as they imagined. So Lucan (b) saith that a woman of Thessally raised up a soldier lately dead, who declared unto Pompey the evil success of the Pharsalian battle. That the woman here mentioned was Abner’s mother, may pass for a Jewish fable. Josephus saith she was vilis operaria, a poor painstaker.


Verse 8

1 Samuel 28:8 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.

Ver. 8. And Saul disguised himself.] As well he might with shame enough, thus to return to his vomit, and make use of those whom he had formerly suppressed. A hypocrite will at length be detected, that he may be detested.


Verse 9

1 Samuel 28:9 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?

Ver. 9. Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done.] This speech could not choose but beat hard upon Saul’s evil conscience, making it sound heavily, as a Shaulm, but to little purpose.

How he hath cut off those, &c.] The Hebrews say he cut them off because they also foretold the ruin of his family, and the succession of David in the kingdom. (a)

Wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life?] A good and seasonable answer to Satan, soliciting us to evil. We should cut him up short in such a case, as Christ doth the Pharisees, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? and as Solomon did his mother interceding for Adoniah, Ask for him the kingdom also.


Verse 10

1 Samuel 28:10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, [As] the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.

Ver. 10. And Saul sware to her by the Lord.] A most wicked abuse of God’s holy name: but this was ordinary with Saul, whom we have before noted for a great swearer and forswearer.


Verse 11

1 Samuel 28:11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

Ver. 11. Bring me up Samuel,] i.e., Spectrum Samuelis, an apparition of Saumel. Saul neglected to hearken to Samuel while he was alive, and now would fain advise with him after his death. Haec est fortuna eorum qui salutaria monita spernunt. Let such look to it as despise wholesome counsel, while they may have it. "The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it." [Luke 7:22] Wherefore bestir you as good husbands.


Verse 12

1 Samuel 28:12 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.

Ver. 12. And when the woman saw Samuel.] That is, The devil in Samuel’s mantle. Who also told her that it was Saul, whence her outcry.


Verse 13

1 Samuel 28:13 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 the earth.

Ver. 13. For what sawest thou?] He then was not an eye-witness at first, the witch being in secretario, saith the Gloss, in a secret place by herself, working her feats.

saw gods ascending out of the earth,] i.e., Some goodly apparitions sent by Satan, as his apparitors and forerunners. Or, I saw a judge, or an excellent person, ascending, &c. (a)


Verse 14

1 Samuel 28:14 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.

Ver. 14. What form is he of?] Heb., What is his form? for as yet Saul saw him not; though soon after he both saw him, and heard him preaching his funeral sermon.

And he is covered with a mantle.] The clothes of a prophet, wherein also Samuel was buried, saith Lyra: but that is doubtful. Many great Papists hold it a gay business to be buried in a Franciscan or Dominican habit: and some at point of death have given great sums for licence to be buried in a cardinal’s purple robe.

And he stooped with his face to the ground.] This was what the devil chiefly aimed at: and it is well observed that everyone that consulteth with Satan worshippeth him, though he bow not. Neither doth that evil spirit desire any other reverence than to be sought unto.


Verse 15

1 Samuel 28:15 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.

Ver. 15. Why hast thou disguieted me?] This the true Samuel would never have said; sed ut specie Samuelem ita verbis mentiebatur diabolus, but as the devil had personated Samuel in his form, so now he doth in his words.

And God is departed from me.] Whereupon all mischiefs came rushing in upon him, as by a sluice. See Hosea 9:12. {See Trapp on "Hosea 9:12"}


Verse 16

1 Samuel 28:16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?

Ver. 16. Wherefore then dost thou ask of me?] Samuel himself could not have spoken more gravely, severely, divinely, than this fiend doth. (a) Well may lewd men be good preachers; well may hypocrites make a great flaunt; well, it may be, that in charms and spells there is nothing to be found but good words and good prayers; of which, nevertheless, one well saith, Si Magicae, Deus non vult tales: si piae, non per tales.


Verse 17

1 Samuel 28:17 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:

Ver. 17. And the Lord hath done to him,] i.e., To him you knew of, to David his darling. Or, The Lord hath done for himself, that is, for the accomplishment of his own counsels.


Verse 18

1 Samuel 28:18 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.

Ver. 18. Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord.] This disobedience the devil had once tempted him unto, and now he layeth it in his dish to drive him to despair. This is yet his method to this day: be not ignorant of his wiles.


Verse 19

1 Samuel 28:19 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.

Ver. 19. Moreover the Lord will also.] See how Satan layeth load enough upon this already despairing wretch, that he may hurry him to hell: as afterwards he did the Gergesenes’ swine into the sea headlong. Till men have sinned, Satan is a parasite; when they have sinned, he is a tyrant. What careth he to flatter any more, when he hath what he would!

And tomorrow.] That is, Shortly hence, as Exodus 13:14, Matthew 6:24.

Shalt thou and thy sons be with me,] i.e., In the state of the dead. Hereby also this old deceiver would persuade Saul that the souls of all men, as well good as bad, go to the same place: seeking thereby to blot out of him all knowledge and apprehension of eternal life.

The Lord also shall deliver.] This the devil could not certainly foretell, though he might gather much, and give a shrewd guess, unless he had it by revelation from God, as 1 Kings 22:21-22.


Verse 20

1 Samuel 28:20 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 the night.

Ver. 20. Then Saul fell straightway all along.] Like an ox, totus totus, quantus quantus; Heb., In the fulness of his stature: and this he made haste to do. (a) Let such as run to witches look for no more comfort in distress: or else to any other like sinister practice. Clement V, Pope, sent to a wizard to know how it fared with a nephew of his, who had been his catamite, now that he was dead. The wizard assured the messenger that he had seen him in hell torments. The Pope was so troubled and terrified hereat, that he never looked up again, but died soon after. (b) Cicero (c) made lamentable moan in his misery, crying out, O me nunquam sapientem! &c. O meam cadamitosam et praecipitem senectutem! O turpem exacta dementique aetate canitiem!

For he had eaten no bread.] Haply, saith Martyr, because such as came to inquire of witches were to come fasting; as God will be sought to by fasting and prayer.


Verse 21

1 Samuel 28:21 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.

Ver. 21. And the woman came unto Saul.] Though she were a wicked woman, yet she was not without pity and humanity, as some savages are.


Verse 22

1 Samuel 28:22 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 way.

Ver. 22. Let me set a morsel of bread before thee,] i.e., Some such poor fare as I have at hand.


Verse 23

1 Samuel 28:23 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.

Ver. 23. I will not eat.] If the message of death made Hezekiah weep, [Isaiah 38:3] and the approach of it was mar mar, bitter bitterness, [Isaiah 38:17] what wonder if Saul were so dismayed that he had no mind to his meat?


Verse 24

1 Samuel 28:24 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:

Ver. 24. And she hasted, and killed it.] That he might go safe out of her house, and she not be questioned for his death, as she might have been if he had there swooned quite away. Josephus highly commendeth her for this her courtesy to Saul: as also he doth him for his valour in dying in defence of his country. But so did the Decii, Curtii, and other Romans of old: and so do those Turkish desperadoes the Spahyes at this day.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 28:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-28.html. 1865-1868.

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