King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Samuel 28

Achish puts confidence in David, Saul’s fear. (1-6) Saul consults a witch at Endor. (7-19) Saul’s terror. (20-25)

1 Samuel 28 Audio:

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Achish puts confidence in David, Saul’s fear

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

Saul consults a witch at Endor

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.

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.

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?

10 And Saul sware to her by the LORD, saying, As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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:

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.

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.

Saul’s terror

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

25 And she brought it before Saul, and before his servants; and they did eat. Then they rose up, and went away that night.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Israel. God made use of the ill-will of the Philistines to punish Saul, and to make way for David to the throne. Salien. — Each of the five lords brought their armies into the field, where they were united. Achis, placing the greatest confidence in David, requires his attendance. C.

Ver. 2. Do; or “can do.” Thou wilt be convinced of my valour and fidelity. H. — But could David lawfully fight against his brethren? or could he desert Achis in the heat of the engagement? His answer is ambiguous. C. — He prudently committed his cause into the hands of Providence, resolved to do nothing contrary to his duty, and to abide by God’s decision, in this critical juncture, so that Cajetan blames him unjustly. Salien. M. T. — Guard. Sept. “captain of my body guard.”

Ver. 3. Samuel. His death is here recorded, as well as the abolition of magic, to explain what follows, when Saul, not being able to obtain an answer from God, as his prophet had been withdrawn in anger, had recourse to the devil. H. — Land, while he reigned virtuously, (M.) according to the law. Lev. xix 31. Deut. xviii. 11.

Ver. 4. Gelboe. So that he occupied the parts south of the vale of Jezrahel, while the Philistines were encamped on the north, in the tribe of Issachar. M.

Ver. 5. Dismayed. It was so numerous, while his own conscience upbraided him with being at enmity with God, who increased his fears. Salien.

Ver. 6. Dreams. During which God often revealed his will. See Deut. xiii. 3. — Priests. Heb. “nor by Urim.” It seems Saul had appointed some priests, and had fabricated a fresh ephod, with the Urim, &c. after the departure of Abiathar. C. — But Salien calls this in question, and there might neither be priests nor prophets for Saul to consult. H. — God despised a man, who had slain so many of his sacred ministers. M.

Ver. 7. Spirit. Heb. “an ob,” or vessel distended, as such impostors seemed to swell at the presence of the spirit. Sept. “a belly talker.” They endeavour to speak from that part. We read of some who, without magic, have possessed the art in great perfection, so as to deceive the company, and make them think that some one was calling them from a great distance; as was the case with one Farming in England, 1645. Dickenson, c. 9. — Brodeus mentions that the valet of Francis I. could thus counterfeit the speech of people deceased, and by these means prevailed upon a rich woman to marry him, and a banker of Lyons to give him a large sum of money. James Rodoginus, a possessed person in Italy, 1513, could make articulate sounds from the hollow of his belly, when his lips and nostrils were closed up. The oracles of idols were generally given in a low tone, as if they proceeded from the earth. Submissi petimus terram & vox fertur ad aures. Virg. — Those of Apollo were the most famous, and hence a divining spirit is called a Python. Saul must have been stupidly blind, thus to depend on what he had formerly banished with such care. C. — He flattered himself that some would still be left, especially among the women, who are most addicted to superstition, as well as to religion. M. — Endor was distant from Gelboe about four hours’ walk. Adrichomius. — But Saul made a long circuit to avoid the enemy. Salien, v. 20.

Ver. 8. Clothes, that he might not fill the woman or his army with dismay. C.

Ver. 10. Thing. He adds this crime of swearing unjustly, to all the rest. Saline.

Ver. 11. Samuel. Here we behold the antiquity of necromancy, which is a proof that people believed the soul’s immortality; animas responsa daturas. Horace i. sat. 8. C. — Protestants sometimes deny (H.) that souls appear again, contrary to this history and Mat. xvii. S. Aug. W.

Ver. 12. Woman. The Rabbins pretend that she was Abner’s mother, (C.) which is extremely improbable, as he was of the tribe of Benjamin, and a man of such renown. Salien. — Theodoret follows their opinion, in supposing that the woman was startled, because Samuel appeared in a standing posture, and not with his feet upwards, or lying down on his back, as in a coffin, which they say (C.) is the usual manner of spirits appearing to people of her character. Bellarm. Purgat. ii. 6. — She cried out, because he appeared before she had begun her incantations, and was arrayed like a priest, according to Josephus, (H.) in great majesty, or she pretended to see him, the better to impose upon the king; for some think that all was a delusion. C. — Saul. This she learnt either from Samuel, (Josephus) or from her familiar spirit. M.

Ver. 13. Gods, or one venerable and divine personage. W. — Elohim, is applied to Samuel for greater honour. It is a title given to the true God, to idols, and people in dignity. C.

Ver. 14. Understood that it was Samuel. It is the more common opinion of the holy fathers, and interpreters, that the soul of Samuel appeared indeed; and not, as some have imagined, an evil spirit in his shape. Not that the power of her magic could bring him thither, but that God was pleased for the punishment of Saul, that Samuel himself should denounce unto him the evils that were falling upon him. See Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 23. Ch. — The passage is decisive; (T.) he slept and he made know to the king, and shewed him the end of his life, and he lifted up his voice from the earth, in prophecy, &c. Those who have called in question the reality of Samuel’s apparition, seem not to have remembered this passage. H. — Yet his soul was not united to his body, (Salien) nor was he adduced by the power of the devil, but (D.) by a just judgment of God, to denounce destruction to the wicked king. S. Aug. &c. T. — The woman, beholding Samuel, fled out of the place, to Saul’s companions, and left him alone with the king, v. 21. — Adored Samuel with an inferior honour, as a friend of God, exalted in glory. Salien. — That Samuel really appeared, is the more common opinion of the fathers. S. Aug. Cura. xv. W.

Ver. 15. Up. To inform a person of something very terrible, is distressing; and though the saints deceased cannot partake in the afflictions of mortals, yet we read that “the angels of peace will weep, but they will approve of the just sentence of the judge” against the reprobate. H. — The Scripture language conforms itself to the opinions of the people, who thought that such avocations disturbed the soul’s repose. Hence the fathers at Elvira (C. xxxi.) forbid “the lighting of wax candles in church-yards during the day, for the spirits of the saints are not to be disquieted.” Isaias (xiv. 9,) represents hell all in commotion, at the approach of the king of Babylon. These expressions are figurative. C. — God does not encourage magical arts, on this occasion, but rather prevents their operation, as he did, when Balaam would have used some superstitious practices. Num. xxiv. D.

Ver. 16. Rival. How vain is it to expect that a prophet can give an answer when the Lord is silent! Heb. “is become thy enemy.” H.

Ver. 17. To thee. Heb. “to him.” This was only a repetition of what Samuel had before denounced. C. xv. 28. If the evil spirit spoke this, he was not guilty of falsehood, nor more than Mat. viii. 29. C. — But would he dare so often to repeat the name of the Lord? H. — Could he know what would happen to Saul, &c. the next day? W.

Ver. 19. To-morrow. Usher supposes some days afterwards. But all might take place the day after this was spoken. C. — Sons, except Isboseth, who enjoyed, for a time, part of his father’s kingdom. H. — With me. That is, in the state of the dead, and in another world, though not in the same place. Ch. — Saul was guilty of suicide, so that he could not be with Samuel in happiness, (C. xxxi. 4. T.) though he was in the other world. W. — See S. Aug. ad Simp. ii. 3. Cura pro mort. c. xv. S. Justin. Dial. Origen, &c.

Ver. 20. Day, through excessive anguish. H. — He fainted away; upon which his attendants and the woman rushed in. Salien.

Ver. 21. Hand, in the most imminent danger. See Judg. xii. 3.

Ver. 24. Calf, destined for a victim or feast. Luke xv. 23. Prov. xv. 17. C. — The generosity of this woman deserves commendation. Josep. vi. 15. H.