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Witch of Endor

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(Heb. דּוֹר אֵשֶׁת בִּעֲלִתאּאוֹב בְּעֵין , 1 Samuel 28:7; lit. a woman, mistress of an Ob in En-Dor; Sept. γυνὴ ἐγγαστρίμυθος ἐν Ε᾿νδώρ; Vulg. mulierpythonem habens in Endor; A.V. "a woman that hath a familiar spirit in Endor"). The story of "the witch of Endor," as she is commonly but improperly called, is usually referred to magical power. She, however, belongs to another class of pretenders to supernatural powers. (See DIVINATION). She was a necromancer, or one of those persons who pretended to call up the spirits of the dead to converse with the living (Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 29:4; Isaiah 55:3). A full account is given of such persons by Lucan (6:591, etc.), and by Tibullus (1:2; 5:45), where the pretensions of the sorceress are thus described

"Haec cantu finditque solum,

Manesque sepulchris Elicit,

et tepido devocat ossa rogo."

Of much the same character is the sibyl in the sixth book of Virgil's AEneid. For the pretended modern instances of such intercourse, (See SPIRITUALISM). It is related as the last and crowning act of Saul's rebellion against God, that he consulted such a person, an act forbidden by the divine law (Leviticus 20:6), which sentenced the pretenders to such a power to death (Leviticus 20:27), and which law Saull himself had recently enforced (1 Samuel 28:3; 1 Samuel 28:9), because, it is supposed, they had freely predicted his approaching ruin; although, after the well-known prophecies of Samuel to that effect, the disasters Saul had already encountered, and the growing influence of David, there "needed no ghost to come from the grave to tell them this." Various explanations of this story "have been offered. (See NECROMANCER).

1. It has been attempted to resolve the whole into imposture and collusion. Saul, who was naturally a weak and excitable man, had become, through a long series of vexations and anxieties, absolutely "delirious," as Patrick observes: "he was afraid and his heart greatly trembled," says the sacred writer. In this state of mind, and upon the very eve of his last battle, he commissions his own servants to seek him a woman possessing a familiar spirit, and, attended by two of them, he comes to her "by night," the most favorable time for imposition. He converses with her alone, his two attendants, whether his secret enemies or real friends, being absent, somewhere, yet, however, close at hand. Might not one of these, or some one else, have agreed with the woman to personate Samuel in another room? for it appears that Saul, though he spoke with, did not see the ghost (1 Samuel 28:13-14): who, it should be observed, told him nothing but what his own attendants could have told him, with the exception of these words,. "to-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me" (1 Samuel 28:19); to which, however, it is replied, that Saul's death did not occur upon the morrow, and that the word so translated is sufficiently ambiguous, for though מחר . means "to-morrow" in some passages, it means the future, indefinitely, in others (Exodus 13:14, and see the margin; Joshua 4:6; Joshua 4:21; comp. Matthew 6:34). It is further urged that her "crying with a loud voice," and her telling Saul, at the same time, that she knew him, were the well- timed arts of the sorceress, intended to magnify her pretended skill. It is, however, objected against this, or any other hypothesis of collusion, that the sacred writer not only represents the pythoness as affirming, but also himself affirms, that she saw Samuel, and that Samuel spoke to Saul, nor does he drop the least hint that it was not the real Samuel of whom he was speaking.

2. The same objections apply equally to the theory of ventriloquism, which has been grounded upon the word used by the Sept. ἐγγαστρίμυθος.

3. Others have given a literal interpretation of thestory, and have maintained that Samuel actually appeared to Saul. Justin Martyr advocates this theory, and, in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, urges this incident in proof of the immortality of the soul (page 333). The same view is taken in the additions to the Sept. in 1 Chronicles 10:13, καὶ ἀπεκρίνατο ἀυτῷ Σανιψγ῏λ προφήτης;. and in Sirach 46:9; Sirach 46:20, it is said, "and after his death Samuel prophesied, and showed the king his end," etc. Such also is the view Josephus takes (Antiq. 6:14, 3, 4), where he bestows a labored eulogium upon the woman. It is, however, objected that the actual appearance of Samuel is inconsistent with all we are taught by revelation concerning the state of the dead; involves the possibility of a spirit or soul assuming a corporeal shape, conversing audibly, etc.; and, further, that it is. incredible that God would submit the departed souls of his servants to be summoned back to earth, by rites either utterly futile, or else deriving their efficacy from the cooperation of Satan. So Tertullian argues (De Anima, cap. 57), and many others of the ancients.

4. Others have supposed that the woman induced Sa-tan or some evil spirit to personate Samuel. But this theory, besides other difficulties, attributes nothing less than miraculous power to the devil; for it supposes the apparition of a spiritual and incorporeal being, and that Satan can assume the appearance of any one he pleases. Again, the historian (Sirach 46:14) calls this appearance to Saul, שמואל הוא, "Samuel himself" (the latter word is entirely omitted by our translators); which he could not with truth have done if it were no other than the. devil; who, besides, is here represented as the severe. reprover of Saul's impiety and wickedness. The admission that Satan or an evil spirit could thus personate an individual at pleasure, would endanger the strongest evidences of Christianity.

5. Others have maintained another interpretation, which appears to us at once tenable, and countenanced by similar narratives in Scripture; namely, that the whole account is the narrative of a miracle, a divine representation or impression, partly upon the. senses of Saul, and partly upon those of the woman, and intended for the rebuke and punishment of Saul. It is urged, from the air of the narrative in Sirach 46:11-12, that Samuel appeared before the woman had any time for jugglery, fumigations, etc.; for although the word "when" (Sirach 46:12) is speciously printed in Roman, characters, it has nothing to answer to it in the original, which reads simply thus, beginning at, Sirach 46:11 : "Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And the woman saw Samuel, and cried with a loud voice." No sooner then had Saul said, "Bring me up Samuel," than Samuel himself was presented to her mind an event so contrary to her expectation that she cried out with terror. At the same time, and by the same miraculous, means, she was made aware of the royal dignity of her visitant. The vision then continues in the mind of Saul, who thereby receives his last reproof from heaven, and hears the sentence of his approaching doom. Thus God interposed with a miracle previously to the use of ally magical formulae, as he did when the king of Moab had recourse to sorceries to overrule the mind of Balaam, so that he was compelled to bless those whom Balak wanted him to curse (Numbers 23); and as God also interposed when Ahaziah sent to consult Baal-zebub his god, about his recovery, when by his prophet Elijah he stopped the messengers, reproved their master, and foretold his death (2 Kings 1:2; 2 Kings 1:16). It may also be observed that Saul was on this occasion simply sentenced to the death he had justly incurred by having recourse to those means which he knew to be unlawful. This theory concerning the narrative of Samuel's appearance to Saul is maintained with much learning and ingenuity by Hugh.Farmer (Dissertation on Miracles, Lond. 1771, page 472, etc.). It is adopted by Dr. Waterland (Sermons, 2:267), and Dr. Delaney, in his Life of David; but is combated by Dr. Chandler with objections, which are, however, answered or obviated by Farmer. This last- named writer is of opinion that the suppression of the word "himself" (2 Kings 1:14), and the introduction of the word " when " (2 Kings 1:12), are to be ascribed to the prejudices of our translators. If they do not betray a bias on their minds, these instances support the general remark of Bishop Lowth, upon the English translation, "that in respect of the sense. and accuracy of interpretation, the improvements of which it is capable are great and numberless" (Preliminary Dissertation to Isaiah. ad finem). (See SAUL).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Witch of Endor'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/w/witch-of-endor.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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