Did Samuel come back from the dead to talk to Saul?

Did Samuel really come back when Saul consulted the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28: )?

Attempts have been made to prove the contrary, in order to avoid even the appearance of justifying the practice of Spiritism. But this is a weak argument. We must not manipulate the Word of God even on the plea of defending the truth. That is doing evil that good may come. It is a poor heresy that cannot allege some fancied support in Scripture.

I have not the slightest doubt that Samuel did really come back and hold intercourse with Saul by the sovereign permission of God. Really, the reappearance of Samuel does not touch the question of Spiritism or justify men in seeking intercourse with the dead. This is implicitly condemned earlier in the very chapter when Saul, as we are told, cut off those who had dealings with familiar spirits—and yet so hardened was he that “he sware to the witch by the Lord saying, As the Lord liveth there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.” He obeyed God, as long as it suited him. When Saul had overcome the witch’s fears, he told her to call up Samuel. She was in no way perturbed at that, for she knew her familiar spirit would be there to impersonate whomsoever was called up, with greater or less accuracy. Samuel being so widely known, would not be a difficult subject for deception. But when she saw the real Samuel rising out of the earth in a spirit-form, rendered visible to her eyes, she cried out. This was something outside her experience and beyond her ken. (1 Samuel 28:12).

It is interesting to note her description—”I see gods (‘elohim_. mighty ones—sometimes according to Gesenius, used in the singular)— ascending out of the earth.” Clearly the spirit of the departed prophet had taken on a grandeur and majesty befitting a Paradise-dweller, but for purposes of identification, he was seen as he had been known for many years in the days of his flesh, as an old man, clad in his prophetic mantle, and it was in this latter guise that she described him. There was no trickery about this, as there must always be in spiritism whether in the familiar spirit—or in the medium. She was sure what appeared to her was not her familiar spirit. Saul was sure by the description it was truly Samuel. The spirit of Samuel spake like Samuel, going back to the very judgment, which he had been charged to pass on Saul, for his disobedience in the case of Arnalek. What is more, the words of Samuel came true.

God did not let his servant’s words fall to the ground now, any more than when he was alive in the flesh. It really is surprising that otherwise well-taught Christians should be found to question all this.

This consultation of the witch by Saul was the consummation of Saul’s disobedience. He is reproved for enquiring of the witch and not God. He did ask of God in a formal way, but not in the earnest way in which he sought the witch (see 1 Chronicles 10: 13, 14, where distinct words for the two “enquires” mark this).

W.H.