|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
28:7-19 When we go from the plain path of duty, every thing draws us further aside, and increases our perplexity and temptation. Saul desires the woman to bring one from the dead, with whom he wished to speak; this was expressly forbidden, De 18:11. All real or pretended witchcraft or conjuration, is a malicious or an ignorant attempt to gain knowledge or help from some creature, when it cannot be had from the Lord in the path of duty. While Samuel was living, we never read of Saul's going to advise with him in any difficulties; it had been well for him if he had. But now he is dead, Bring me up Samuel. Many who despise and persecute God's saints and ministers when living, would be glad to have them again, when they are gone. The whole shows that it was no human fraud or trick. Though the woman could not cause Samuel's being sent, yet Saul's inquiry might be the occasion of it. The woman's surprise and terror proved that it was an unusual and unexpected appearance. Saul had despised Samuel's solemn warnings in his lifetime, yet now that he hoped, as in defiance of God, to obtain some counsel and encouragement from him, might not God permit the soul of his departed prophet to appear to Saul, to confirm his former sentence, and denounce his doom? The expression, Thou and thy sons shall be with me, means no more than that they shall be in the eternal world. There appears much solemnity in God's permitting the soul of a departed prophet to come as a witness from heaven, to confirm the word he had spoken on earth.
Verse 11. - Whom shall I bring up to thee? Assured by Saul's oath, the woman now asserts her ability to call up the spirits of the dead, and asks, just as would happen now with those who claim similar powers, who it is to be. We need not suppose that she possessed either greater or less powers than those claimed or even exercised now; for many of the phenomena of clairvoyance, though undoubtedly natural, still belong to an unscientific, and therefore vague and illusory, region. Perhaps on this very account these arts have always had an extraordinary fascination for men, and been practised in all ages and among all people with considerable skill. Bring me up Samuel. Samuel had been Saul's friend in his youth, and his guide and counsellor in those happy days when the young king walked uprightly, and all went well with him. But gradually the light yoke of respect for one who loved him became too heavy for a despotic temperament, which would brook no will but its own. Now that self-will is broken; it had brought the warrior king to a hopeless despair, and in his distress his mind once again returns to its old channels Intense as was the degradation for one so haughty, in disguise by night, at the risk of his life, to seek help from a sorceress, he bears it all that he may at least for a few minutes see the spirit of the true though stern monitor, whose memory once again filled his whole heart.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then said the woman, whom shall I bring up unto thee?.... For such persons, according to their profession, pretended they were able to bring up any of the dead, that he who inquired of them should name:
and he said, bring me up Samuel; the prophet Samuel he meant, and no doubt the woman so understood him, whose name was well known; he had been an old acquaintance and friend of Saul's, his counsellor and adviser in many things and though he greatly neglected him in the latter part of his life, was very desirous of an interview with him now dead, that he might be advised by him how to get out of the straits and difficulties in which he was involved; but it argued extreme folly and madness in him to imagine, that the spirit of this great and good man was at the beck of a witch, and he to be called out of the state of the dead by her enchantments; or that God would permit him to appear to him, and by him give an answer, when he would not answer him by living prophets, nor any other way.
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