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1 Samuel 28:13 New International Version

The king said to her, "Don't be afraid. What do you see?" The woman said, "I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth."

English Standard Version

The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.”

a god
אֱלֹהִ֥ים (’ĕ·lō·hîm)
Noun - masculine plural
Strong's Hebrew 430: gods -- the supreme God, magistrates, a superlative

At https://biblehub.com/1_samuel/28-13.htm, 6 versions translate it as gods, 13 use god, 6 use spirit.

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  • . . . . I see deity arising . . . . .
    – Nigel J
    Oct 8 '20 at 16:31
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For completeness only, I have included the entry from BDB in the appendix below. Note that there are several uses of the word Elohim in the OT including:

  • leaders of the people, eg, rulers and judges
  • angels
  • (false) gods
  • the true God, YHWH (this is the majority use)
  • Spirit beings

Thus, the fact that the "spirit" came "up" and is called "elohim" is entirely consistent with its use in the Hebrew.

APPENDIX - Elohim in BDB

2570 noun masculine plural (feminine 1 Kings 11:33; on number of occurrences of אֵל, אֱלוֺהַּ, אֱלֹהִים compare also Nesl. c,) 1 plural in number.

a. rulers, judges, either as divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and power: האלהים Exodus 21:6 (Onk ᵑ6, but τὸ κριτήριον τοῦ Θεοῦ ᵐ5) Exodus 22:7; Exodus 22:8; אלהים Exodus 22:8; Exodus 22:27 (ᵑ7 Ra AE Ew RVm; but gods, ᵐ5 Josephus Philo AV; God, Di RV; all Covt. code of E) compare 1 Samuel 2:25 see Dr.; Judges 5:8 (Ew, but gods ᵐ5; God ᵑ6 BarHebr.; יהוה ᵑ9 Be) Psalm 82:1; Psalm 82:6 (De Ew Pe; but angels Bl Hup) Psalm 138:1 (ᵑ6 ᵑ7 Rab Ki De; but angels ᵐ5 Calv; God, Ew; gods, Hup Pe Che).

b. divine ones, superhuman beings including God and angels Psalm 8:6 (De Che Br; but angels ᵐ5 ᵑ6 ᵑ7 Ew; God, RV and most moderns) Genesis 1:27 (if with Philo ᵑ7 Jerome De Che we interpret נעשה as God's consultation with angels; compare Job 38:7).

c. angels Psalm Job 97:7 (ᵐ5 ᵑ6 Calv; but gods, Hup De Pe Che); compare בני (ה)אלהים = (the) sons of God, or sons of gods = angels Job 1:6; Job 2:1; Job 38:7; Genesis 6:2,4 (J; so ᵐ5 Books of Enoch & Jubilees Philo Jude Jude 1:6 2Peter 2:4 JosAnt. i. 3. 1, most ancient fathers and modern critics; against usage are sons of princes, mighty men, Onk and Rab.; sons of God, the pious, Theod Chrys Jerome Augustine Luther Calv Hengst; ᵐ5L read οἱ υιὁὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ), compare בני אלים.

d. gods האלהים Exodus 18:11; Exodus 22:19 (E) 1 Samuel 4:8; 2Chron 2:4; Psalm 86:8; אלהי האלהים the God of gods, supreme God Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 136:2; אלהים Exodus 32:1,23 (JE) Judges 9:13; אלהים אחרים other gods Exodus 20:3; Exodus 23:13; Joshua 24:2,16 (E) Deuteronomy 31:18,20 (JE) Deuteronomy 5:7 + (17 t. in D, not P) Judges 2:12,17,19; Judges 10:13; 1 Samuel 8:8; 1 Samuel 26:19; 1 Kings 9:6,9 (= 2 Chronicles 7:19,22) 2 Chronicles 11:4,10; 2 Chronicles 14:9; 2 Kings 5:17; 2 Kings 17:35,37,38; 2 Kings 22:17 (= 2 Chron 34:25) 2 Chronicles 28:25; Jeremiah 1:16 + (18 t. Jeremiah) Hosea 3:1; אלהי (ה)נכר foreign gods Genesis 35:2,4; Joshua 24:20,23 (E) Deuteronomy 31:16 (JE) Judges 10:16; 1 Samuel 7:3; 2Chronicles 33:15; Jeremiah 5:19; נחור ׳א Genesis 31:53 (E); מצרים ׳א Exodus 12:12 (P) Jeremiah 43:12,13; האמרי ׳א Joshua 24:15 (E) Judges 6:10; ארם ׳א etc. Judges 10:6; אלהים מעשה ידי Deuteronomy 4:28; הגוים ׳א gods of the nations 2 Kings 18:33; 2 Kings 19:12; Deuteronomy 29:17; 2Chronicles 32:17,19; Isaiah 36:18; Isaiah 37:12; העמים ׳א Deuteronomy 6:14; Deuteronomy 13:8; Judges 2:12; Psalm 96:5; 1 Chronicles 5:25; 1 Chronicles 16:26; 2Chronicles 32:13,14; כסף ׳א Exodus 20:23 (E); זהב ׳א Exodus 20:23 (E) Exodus 32:31 (JE); מַסֵּכָה ׳א Exodus 34:17 (J) Leviticus 19:4 (H).

2 Plural intensive.

a. god or goddess, always with suffix 1 Samuel 5:7 (Dagon), Judges 11:24 (Chemosh), 1 Kings 18:24 (Baal), Judges 9:27; Daniel 1:2 (twice in verse); or construct לעשתרת מואב ׳צדנים לכמוש א ׳א to Ashtoreth goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh god of Moab, etc. 1 Kings 11:33; הארץ ׳א god of the land 2 Kings 17:26 (twice in verse); 2 Kings 17:27, and so the Syrians suppose that Yahweh is a mountain-god and not a god of valleys 1 Kings 20:28.

b. godlike one Exodus 4:16 (J; Moses in relation to Aaron), Exodus 7:1 (P; in relation to Pharaoh), 1 Samuel 28:13 (the shade of Samuel), Psalm 45:7 (the Messianic king, O God, ᵐ5 ᵑ6 Jerome, most scholars ancient and modern, but thy throne is God's = God's throne AE Ki Thea Ew Hup, compare 1 Chronicles 28:5). c. works of God, or things specially belonging to him (see אֵל 5) הר אלהים Psalm 68:16; Ezekiel 28:14,16; אש אלהים Job 1:16; גן (ה)אלהים Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:8,9. d. God (see 3 & 4).

3 הָאֱלֹהִים the (TRUE) God, הוא האלהים ׳י Yahweh is (the) God Deuteronomy 4:35,39; Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Kings 8:60; 1 Kings 18:39 (twice in verse); 2Chronicles 33:13; הוא האלהים Isaiah 45:18; האלהים ׳י Joshua 22:34 (P ?) 1 Kings 18:21,24; 2Chronicles 32:16; אתה הוא האלהים 2 Samuel 7:28; 1 Kings 18:37; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chronicles 17:26; Isaiah 37:16; Nehemiah 9:7; האלהים as subject or object is used in E 33 t., Chronicles 38 t., Eccl 31 t., Jonah 5 t., elsewhere Genesis 5:22,24; Genesis 6:9,11 (sources of P) Genesis 17:18 (P) Joshua 22:34 (P ?) Genesis 44:16 (J) Deuteronomy 4:35,39; Deuteronomy 7:9; Judges 6:36,39; Judges 7:14; Judges 10:14; Judges 16:28; Judges 21:2; 1 Samuel 10:3,7; 1 Samuel 14:36; 2 Samuel 2:27; 2 Samuel 6:7; 2 Samuel 7:28; 2 Samuel 12:16; 1 Kings 8:60; 1 Kings 18:21,24 (twice in verse); 1 Kings 18:37,39 (twice in verse); 1 Kings 19:15 (Ephr) Job 2:10; Jeremiah 11:12; Isaiah 37:16; Isaiah 45:18; Psalm 108:14; Daniel 1:9,17; הקדוש ׳הא ׳י 1 Samuel 6:20; הגדול ׳הא ׳י Nehemiah 8:6; אשר ׳בירושלם הא Ezra 1:3; אדני האלהים Daniel 9:3; in many phrases, as איש האלהים the man of God, acting under divine authority and influence: = (a) angel Judges 13:6,8, (b) prophet (the term coming into use in the Northern kingdom in the age of Elijah 1 Samuel 9:9-10, compare אִישׁ הָרוּחַ Hosea 9:7): of Moses Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6 (E) 1 Chronicles 23:14; 2Chronicles 30:16; Ezra 3:2; Psalm 90:1; of Samuel 1 Samuel 9:6-10; of David2Chronicles 8:14; Nehemiah 12:24,36; Shemaiah 1 Kings 12:22 (= 2 Chronicles 11:2); Elijah, Elisha, and others of their time 1 Kings 13:1-31; 1 Kings 17:18-24; 1 Kings 20:28; 2 Kings 1:9-13; 2 Kings 4:7-42; 2 Kings 5:8-20; 2 Kings 6:6-15; 2 Kings 7:2-9; 2 Kings 8:2-11; 2 Kings 13:19; 2 Kings 23:16-17 (Ephr) 2 Chronicles 25:7,9; unnamed prophet 1 Samuel 2:27; Hanan Jeremiah 35:4; a later title of prophet was עֶבֶד האלהים the servant of God, used of Moses 1 Chronicles 6:34; 2Chronicles 24:9; Nehemiah 10:30; Daniel 9:11. בית האלהים the house of God, Judges 18:31, especially late, Chronicles (52 t.) Ecclesiastes 4:17; Daniel 1:2; ׳בית י ׳הא 1 Chronicles 22:1; ארון (ברית) האלהים the ark (of the covenant) of God Judges 20:27; 1 Samuel 4:1-5:12; 1 Samuel 14; 2 Samuel 6:1-7:29; 15(23 t.); 1 Chronicles 13; 1 Chronicles 15; 1 Chronicles 16; 2Chronicles 1:4 (13 t.); מטה האלהים the rod of God Exodus 4:20; Exodus 17:9 (E); הר האלהים the mount of God (Horeb) Exodus 3:1; Exodus 4:27; Exodus 18:5; Exodus 24:13 (E) 1 Kings 19:8 (Ephr); מלאך האלהים the (theophanic) angel of God Genesis 31:11; Exodus 14:19 (E) Judges 6:20; Judges 13:6,9; 2 Samuel 14:17,20; 2 Samuel 19:28; in other combinations Exodus 18:16; Numbers 23:27 (E) Judges 20:2; 1 Samuel 4:8; 1 Samuel 5:11; 1 Samuel 10:5; 2 Samuel 16:23; 1 Kings 12:22; 1 Chronicles 21:7 + (14 t.) Psalm 87:3; Ecclesiastes 9:1.

4 אֱלֹהִים = God אֱלֹהִים אֱמֶת ׳י = Yahweh is God in truth Jeremiah 10:10.

a. אלהים (as subject object direct or indirect) is used by P (50 t. in story of creation and deluge, elsewhere 28 t.), by E (91 t.), J chiefly in poetic sources Genesis 3:1,3,5 (twice in verse); Genesis 9:27; Genesis 39:9; Deuteronomy 32:17,39, by D (11 t.) Judges (21 t.) Samuel (50 t.) Kings (29 t.) Chronicles (45 t.); in Psalm 42-86 (180 t. often by editorial change for an original יהוה), elsewhere Psalm 3:3; Psalm 5:11; Psalm 7:11; Psalm 7:12; Psalm 9:18; Psalm 10:4; Psalm 10:13; Psalm 14:1; Psalm 14:2; Psalm 14:5; Psalm 25:22; Psalm 36:2; Psalm 36:8; Psalm 77:14; Psalm 100:3; Psalm 108:2; Psalm 108:6; Psalm 108:8; Psalm 108:12 (twice in verse); Psalm 149:9; Job 5:8; Job 20:29; Job 28:23; Job 32:2; Job 34:9 (& in Prologue 6 t.) Proverbs 2:5; Proverbs 3:4; Proverbs 25:2; Ecclesiastes (7 t.) Hosea (5 t.); Amos 4:11 (כמהפכת אלתים את סדם as God overthrew Sodom = Jeremiah 50:40 = Isaiah 13:19) Zechariah 8:23; Zechariah 12:8; Micah 3:7 (but אליהם ᵐ5 ᵑ6) Isaiah 35:4; Isa2 (9 t.); Jeremiah 10:10; Ezekiel (13 t.); Malachi (5 t.); Jonah (4 t.); the phrase לאלהים ׳היה ל Genesis 28:21 (ER) Genesis 17:7,8; Exodus 6:7; Exodus 29:45; Leviticus 11:45; Leviticus 22:33; Leviticus 25:38; Leviticus 26:12,45; Numbers 15:41 (P); Deuteronomy 26:17; Deuteronomy 29:13; 2 Samuel 7:24 (= 1 Chronicles 17:22); Zechariah 8:8; Jeremiah (6 t.); Ezekiel (6 t.); אלהים צדיק righteous God Psalm 7:10; קדשים ׳א holy God Joshua 24:19 (E); חיים ׳א living God Deuteronomy 5:23; 1 Samuel 17:26,36; Jeremiah 10:10; Jeremiah 23:36; חי ׳א 2 Kings 19:4,16 (= Isaiah 37:4,17). For the phrases ׳יהוה א, צבאות ׳א ׳י, צבאות ׳א, ׳י ׳אל א, ׳יה א, ׳צבאות א ׳י, אלתי ׳י, צבאות, ׳אדני א see יהוה, יה, צבאות & אדני.

b. construct אֱלֹהֵי (a) with persons אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם = God of Abraham, a phrase of J, Genesis 26:24; Genesis 28:13; Genesis 31:53, elsewhere Psalm 47:10; 1 Kings 18:36; 1 Chronicles 29:18; 2Chronicles 30:6; אדני אברהם ׳א Genesis 24:12,27,42,48 (J); אלהי אב father's God (various suffix & names), a phrase of E, Genesis 31:5,29,42; Genesis 46:3; Genesis 50:17; Exodus 3:6,13,15,16; Exodus 15:2; Exodus 18:4; Joshua 18:3, elsewhere Genesis 32:10; Genesis 43:23 (J) Exodus 4:5 (J ?) Deuteronomy (8 t.); Judges 2:12; 2 Kings 21:22; Chronicles (31 t.); Daniel 11:37; אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל Israel's God, phrase of E, Genesis 33:20; Exodus 5:1; Exodus 24:10; Exodus 32:27; Joshua 8:30; Joshua 14:14; Joshua 22:16; Joshua 24:2,23, elsewhere Exodus 34:23; Joshua 7:13,19,20 (JE) Numbers 16:9; Joshua 9:18,19; Joshua 22:24; Joshua 10:40,42; Joshua 13:14,33 (R see Di Joshua 7:13) Judges 4:6; Judges 5:3,5; Judges 6:8; Judges 11:21,23; Judges 21:3; 1 Samuel 1:17 + (20 t.) Kings (26 t.) Chronicles (45 t.); Psalm 41:14; Psalm 106:48 (doxology) Psalm 59:6; Psalm 69:7; Isaiah 17:6; Isaiah 21:10,17; Isaiah 29:23; Isa3, Isaiah 24:15; Isaiah 37:16,21; Isa2, Isaiah 41:17 + (6 t.); Jeremiah 35:17 + (48 t.); Ezekiel 8:4 + (7 t.); Zephaniah 2:9; Malachi 2:16; Ruth 2:12; מערכות ישראל ׳א God of the battle array of Israel 1 Samuel 17:45; ׳א יַעֲקֹב 2 Samuel 23:1 (poetry) Psalm 20:2; Psalm 46:8; Psalm 46:12; Psalm 75:10; Psalm 76:7; Psalm 81:2; Psalm 81:5; Psalm 84:9; Psalm 94:7; Isaiah 2:3 (= Micah 4:2); העבריים ׳א God of the Hebrews Exodus 3:18; Exodus 5:3; Exodus 7:16; Exodus 9:1,13 (JE); it is used with other proper names, Nahor Genesis 31:53 (E), Shem Genesis 9:26 (J), David 2 Kings 20:5; 2Chronicles 21:12; 34:3; Isaiah 38:5, Hezekiah 2Chronicles 32:17, Elijah 2 Kings 2:14; ארני המלך ׳א the God of my lord the king 1 Kings 1:36. (β) with nouns of attributes or relationships, קֶרֶם ׳א ancient God Deuteronomy 33:27; עולם ׳א everlasting God Isaiah 40:28; אֱמֶת ׳א true God2Chronicles 15:3; אָמֵן ׳א Isaiah 65:16 (see אָמֵן); משפט ׳א Isaiah 30:18; Malachi 2:17; מרום ׳א Micah 6:6; כָל בָשָׂר ׳א God of all flesh Jeremiah 32:27; compare ׳א הרוחות לכל בשר Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16 (P); השמים ׳א God of heaven Genesis 24:7 (JR) 2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2; Nehemiah 1:4,5; Nehemiah 2:4,20; compare כל הארץ ׳א Isaiah 54:5; ׳השמים וא ׳א ׳י הארץ Genesis 24:3 (JR); מִקָּרֹב ׳א a God at hand opposed to מֵרָחֹק ׳א Jeremiah 23:23, ישועתי ׳א, יִשְׁעִי ׳א God of my salvation Psalm 18:47 (= 2 Samuel 22:47) Psalm 24:5; Psalm 25:5; Psalm 27:9; Psalm 65:6; Psalm 79:9; Psalm 85:5; Isaiah 17:10; Micah 7:7; Habakkuk 3:18; 1 Chronicles 16:35; ישועתי ׳א Psalm 88:2; תשועתי ׳א Psalm 51:16; צִדְקִי ׳א God of righteousness Psalm 4:2; חַסְדִּי ׳א Psalm 59:11; Psalm 59:18; צוּרִי ׳א God who is my rock 2 Samuel 22:3 (compare Psalm 18:3); מָעוּזִּי֯ ׳א God who is my stronghold Psalm 43:2; תְהִלָּתִי ׳א God who is my praise Psalm 109:1.

c. with suffix in P (22 t. including phrase ויראת מאלהיך) Leviticus 19:14,32; Leviticus 25:17,36,43 (H) Exodus 8:21; Joshua 24:27 (E) Deuteronomy 32:37 (poetry) Joshua 9:23 (JE) Deuteronomy 10:21; Deuteronomy 31:17; Judges 10:10; Judges 16:23,24; 1 Samuel 10:19; 2 Samuel 10:12; 2 Samuel 22:32 + (4 t. poetry) 1 Kings 12:28; 1 Kings 20:23; 2 Kings 19:10; Chronicles (83 t.); Psalms (62 t.); Proverbs 2:17; Proverbs 30:9; Ruth 1:15,16 (twice in verse); Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 7:13; Isaiah 8:19,21; Isa2 (29 t.); Jeremiah 5:4,5; Jeremiah 23:36; Jeremiah 51:5; Ezekiel 34:31; Daniel (5 t.); Hosea (12 t.); Amos 2:8; Amos 4:12; Joel 1:13 (twice in verse); Joel 1:16; Joel 2:17; Micah 6:8; Micah 7:7; Jonah 1:5,6; Zephaniah 3:2; Nahum 1:14; Zechariah 9:7; Zechariah 12:5; אלהים with suffix is also used with יהוה several hundred times (see יהוה).

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This question is actually a very interesting question. When looking at the meaning of ‘elohim’, you will often come up with the meaning it has become, rather than it’s actual meaning. Let’s look a little closer ...

Elohim" is found 2602 times in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh, Old Testament). The word is used for several entities. The true God, false gods, supernatural spirits (angels), and human leaders (kings, judges, the messiah).

Many (only) associate Elohim with God. (The One True God), but Elohim is not a proper noun. As well, those places where Elohim is translated into roles that man performs are debatable - example, Psalm 82 where ‘Elohim’ is sometimes translated into ‘judges’.

So if? We were taking the meaning from occurrences of the word, we could see that it means, or rather always refers to, a disembodied being’, that is, a ‘spirit’ being without a [physical] body. And this definition could fit every use of ‘Elohim’ - where as translating ‘Elohim’ as ‘the one true God’ doesn’t.

In the incident you are referring to, (1 Samuel 28:13 ) King Saul is asking a medium to contact the “spirit’ of the (dead) prophet Samuel. The ‘Elohim’ here is referring to the now dis-embodied Samuel, and the result is [probably] a ‘familiar spirit’ responding. Nevertheless, either would have been ‘Elohim’, where as the Elohim was definitely not ‘the one true God’.

(I will add though, that in by far the majority of occurrences, Elohim is/does refer to God.).

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