|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.
Verses 17-19. - Jehovah hath done to him. Rather, "hath wrought for himself;" but the LXX., Vulgate, and some MSS. read "hath done to thee," as in ver. 18. As he spake by me. See 1 Samuel 15:28. Saul's rebellion is there said, in ver. 23, to be a crime as great as the witchcraft which he was at that time so zealously punishing; here, where the sentence is being carried into execution, Saul has himself become guilty of what in his better hours he so abominated. Jehovah will also deliver Israel with thee. Rather, "will deliver Israel also with thee," i.e. the nation is to share thy punishment. Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me. I.e. shall be dead. Whence this voice came it is difficult to say. St. Augustine thought that the woman really conjured up a demon, who took the form of Samuel. Maimonides treats the whole as the effect of Saul's diseased imagination; while many modern commentators regard it as a well played piece of jugglery on the part of the woman, who recognised Saul at once on his entrance, but professed not to know him till his name was revealed to her by the pretended apparition, in whose name she reproached him for his crimes, announced to him, what now all were convinced of, that David was to be his successor, and foretold his defeat and death. In the face of such a passage as Deuteronomy 18:10-12 we cannot believe that the Bible would set before us an instance of witchcraft employed with the Divine sanction for holy purposes; but we can easily believe that the woman would gladly take a bitter revenge on the man who had cruelly put to death all persons reputed to have such powers as those to which she laid claim. The object of the narrative is plainly to set before us the completeness of Saul's moral downfall and debasement. Here is the man endowed with so many and so great gifts of genius, and who in so many things started so well and behaved so nobly, the victim of a despairing melancholy; his conscience is blackened with the wholesale massacre of the priesthood, his imagination is ever brooding over the sick fancy of treason plotted by his son-in-law, whom now he supposes to be in the Philistine camp; his enemies have invaded his territory in extraordinary numbers and upon new ground; to him it seems as if they have come to dethrone him and place his crown on David's head. In this dire extremity his one wish is to pry into futurity and learn his fate. There is no submission to God, no sorrow for disobedience, no sign of even a wish for amendment; it is to unholy arts that he looks, simply that he may know what a few more hours will make known to all. Neglecting his duties as a general and king, instead of making wise preparation for the coming fight, he disguises himself, takes a dangerous and wearisome journey round the enemies' camp, arrives at his destination by night, and, exhausted with hunger and mental agitation, seeks there for the knowledge unattainable in any upright manner from a reputed witch. He has rejected God, lost all the strength and comfort of true religion, and is become the victim of abject superstition. Whether he were the victim also of the woman's arts, or of his own sick fantasy, is not a matter of much consequence; the interest of the narrative lies in the revelation it makes to us of Saul's mental and moral state; and scarcely is there in the whole of Scripture anything more tragic than this narrative, or any more intense picture of the depth of degradation to which a noble but perverse intellect is capable of falling.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Lord hath done to him,.... To David, Saul's enemy, as he insinuated he was:
as he spake by me; pretending to be the true Samuel, and wearing the guise of him, he speaks his very words, which he was well acquainted with, and could deliver exactly as he did:
for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour; which words are expressed by Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:28,
even unto David; which is added by the apparition, by way of explanation, interpreting the words of David; which he might safely venture to do, seeing such a train of circumstances had occurred since the delivery of these words, which plainly made it appear he was intended.
1 Samuel 28:17 Parallel Commentaries
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