Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”

“Bring up Samuel,” he said.

12When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!” (1 Samuel 28:11-13).

After she sees the the apparition of Samuel she suddenly realizes that the man standing in front of her is really Saul the king of Israel. But the text doesn't give us a clue how she might have figured this out just from seeing Samuel's ghost? Saul had told her that he wants her to bring up Samuel (v. 11), so what has changed now that she saw Samuel, and how did that indicate that the man in front of her was none other than King Saul?

I saw a couple of explanations in Gill's exposition, (I'm also aware of Rashi's solution) but they are all unsatisfactory to me. From the text it seems that somehow the sight of Samuel itself gave away the secret that the man was Saul, not that there was some external feature that revealed this to her. I'm also looking for a solution that would take historical interpretation into account, and would shed light on how it may have been understood by the Israelite reading Samuel 3,000 years ago.

  • I think this is an instance where the text does not offer any explanation and any given would be rank speculation. The only explanation that can be offered is what is known from the Oral tradition that Rashi references (i.e. that Samuel rose out of the ground headfirst instead of feet first indicating honor for a king). Nov 4, 2019 at 20:04

4 Answers 4


I believe it is because she could hear (and see) demon/devil spirits and that they knew it was really Saul and they told her that this was really Saul.

Think of the times that demon spirits inhabiting people in the New Testament just before they were expelled by Jesus or an apostle cried out that they knew who Jesus was

"And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ" (Luke 4:41).

And the time someone tried to expel a demon and was met with

"And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" (Acts 19:15).


“Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.”” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭16:16-17‬ ‭

In the realm in which familiar spirits live they know things that "only my Aunt Betty knew," etc. -- thus helping mediums (channelers) to convince people they are really speaking to the dead.

When mediums, often referred to as channelers today, communicate with evil spirits I daresay most of the time they do not realize they are communicating with familiar spirits (which is what those "familiar" evil spirits knowledgeable about people's lives) and often think they are "channeling" either those who have passed on or have been made to believe they are channeling "enlightened beings" or "ascended masters." So yes, I believe it was a familiar spirit that informed

  • Welcome to the stack. Please scroll down and take the tour understand a little more about this stack and it’s particularities. Also I edited your post but you can roll it back if you wish Nov 3, 2019 at 12:39
  • "I believe it is because she could hear (and see) demon/devil spirits". Answers like "I think" or "I believe" are not acceptable here. Show your work, and support your answer from the text! How do you know that the spirits told her that? The text doesn't indicate that this is what transpired.
    – bach
    Nov 4, 2019 at 19:05

The mediums of that day were like the mediums of today: charlatans. They preyed on the weak-minded, weak-spirited, who couldn't/wouldn't give up on the idea that somehow, entropy could be reversed for THEM case. As is the case today, there is money in deceiving those who wished to be deceived. (Exodus 7 & 8; Acts 8:9ff;13:9; 19:13) And that's the business the witch at En-dor was in. Then, as now, the communicating-with-the-dead fraud was perpetrated by much ritual. However, in THIS case, the ritual didn't happen. God was so aggravated with Saul for this abomination that He actually sent Samuel to speak one last truth to Saul. And the witch knew that this actually WAS a divine act, and that she had NOTHING to do with Samuel's appearance. It's probable that she already suspected Saul's identity; he may have put on other clothes, but he couldn't really conceal his height (taller than any of the people from his shoulders up, I Sam 10:23). But despite the transparent fiction, the only conceivable reason for a true manifestation to take place was the presence of the king. Thus, she knows her life is forfeit.

  • 2
    Under what principle would God have allowed Samuel to raise from the dead through dark magic? Scripture verses please Nov 4, 2019 at 13:05
  • 1
    Exactly the point: God did NOT allow Samuel to rise from the dead via dark magic! God brought Samuel up through His divine power, to speak His words to Saul. The witch had nothing to do with it, and she knew it. Another specific case, in Matthew 17, Jesus goes up on the mountain and Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Him. More common, but no less disruptive normal reality, are the occasions in which people see heavenly things, but it's NEVER via dark arts; always divine intervention: Gen 28:12; I Kings 22:19; 2 Kings 6:17; I Chron 21:16; Isaiah 6:1; 2 Cor 12:2-4; Rev 1:10ff
    – Papa Pat
    Nov 4, 2019 at 14:02
  • 1
    You’re missing the point or making an erroneous assumption. The witch had everything to do with it. The language says SHE called ‘him’ up; further this would mean God is uniting with the dark arts. All the examples you gave do not include another example of God making an apparition through occultic practices. Please show another clear example (witness of two or three) or a principle by which God is not breaking the mosaic Law. Nov 4, 2019 at 15:34
  • 1
    I do not see where "The language says SHE called ‘him’ up."
    – Papa Pat
    Nov 4, 2019 at 17:54
  • Another problem with this interpretation is that in verse 6 the bible specifically states that God did not answer him either though prophets nor through the Urim or dreams. Why then would God answer Saul through a fake medium?? That makes no sense! And that is besides the point that you don't really explain how the medium understood from this divine act that it was Saul, it could have been another great persona or something else. Your explanation is quite far fetched and is not supported from the text.
    – bach
    Nov 4, 2019 at 19:02

Personally I believe the witch knew from a mile away Saul was coming to see her. Her trade relied heavily on reading people and Saul was the easiest person to identify in all of Israel. His plain clothes didn’t fool anyone.

While it might be possible given she had a familiar spirit that the unclean spirit revealed this detail to her I think it was simpler than that.

“And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” ‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭9:2‬ ‭

That means the second tallest person was below his shoulder height

I have a picture to help visualize this with two popular celebrities. One is 6’1” and the other 7’1” a full foot difference

taller than everyone from his shoulders up

Doesn’t matter what Saul was wearing or the fact that he had two people with him as assistants (bodyguards), he alone gave himself away by his own height. He stood out just by his height.

  • The idea that she “suddenly” realized it was Saul when he is the tallest person by at least 12” was just theatrics Nov 10, 2019 at 4:16

The woman didn't know it was saw, otherways the bible would have indicated a vital point to state she knew it was Saul from a distance infact if she knew it was him she would have fled. And The woman realized it was Saul after seeing the body figure of Samuel for there might have been many Samuel names and she thought it's just an ordinary person asking for a dead one however after seeing the prophet Samuel she realized that this man can only be called by Saul since he was publicly linked to him and used to give him messages. And the same Samuel that came out of the earth is not the real Samuel instead it was an evil spirit. God does not operate with Darkness. Light and darkness cannot mix.

  • 1
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    Apr 14 at 12:59

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