1 Samuel 28:14
And he said to her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man comes 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) An old man Cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle.—The “mantle;” Heb., m’il. The garment so named was not a peculiar one, and bore no official signification; still, its mention here in this place would seem as though the woman recognised the well-known m’il which the prophet used to wear in life.

But it has been asked, How could a spirit bear the semblance of an old man? and further, How could such a being be clothed? Rabbi Moses Maimonides of Cordova (twelfth century), surnamed the “Eagle of the Doctors,” in his Yad Hachazakah, admirably replies to these queries when discussing certain similar expressions used with regard to the Holy One, who is a Spirit without a body or a frame. “We find,” says Maimonides, “such expressions as ‘under His feet,’ written with the finger of God,’ ‘the eye of the Lord,’ &c. Of Him one prophet says, ‘That he saw the Holy One—blessed be He !—whose garment was white as snow’ (Daniel 7:9); whilst another saw Him ‘like a warrior engaged in battle.’ Compare the saying of the sages in the Yad Joseph on Exodus 15:3 :—’On the sea He was seen like a man-of-war, and upon Sinai like a reader of prayers, wrapped (in a surplice); and all this though he had neither similitude or form, but that these things were in an apparition of prophecy, and in a vision.’”—Yad Hachazakah, bk. I., ch. 1 “God designed,” says Bishop Wordsworth, “that the spirit of Samuel should be recognised by human eyes; and how could this have been done but by means of such objects as are visible to human sense? Our Lord speaks of the tongue of the disembodied spirit of Dives in order to give us an idea of his sufferings; and at the Transfiguration He presented the form of Moses in such a garb to the three disciples as might enable them to recognise him as Moses.”

And he stooped . . . and bowed himself.—It Seems probable that at this juncture the king saw the form before him when he did obeisance. It is, however, not clear, from the language here used, whether this strange act of reverent homage did not at once follow the description of the woman.

1 Samuel 28:14. An old man coming up — Although this appearance of Samuel is represented by the woman as coming up out of the earth, there is no reason to think that it did so in fact. Rather, the woman spoke according to the prevailing notion of both Jews and heathen of those days, that the place of abode of separate souls was under the earth. This opinion was the foundation of necromancy, or divining by the dead; and from a foolish supposition that they could call the dead from their sepulchres to consult them, it is that the Jews in the time of Isaiah are accused of having sacrificed in the gardens, and of remaining among the graves, for their sepulchres were in gardens, Isaiah 65:3-4; and Isaiah 29:4. Covered with a mantle — The usual habit of prophets, and particularly of Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:27. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel — But if it was not he, but another person, this declaration of the sacred writer is not true. It may be observed further, that the word ידע jedang, here rendered perceived, properly signifies to know, and sometimes to see. And the pronoun הוא hu, himself, which our translators have left out, is also added after the name Samuel. So that the words, literally translated, are, Saul knew that it was Samuel himself.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.Gods - אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym is here used in a general sense of a supernatural appearance, either angel or spirit. Hell, or the place of the departed (compare 1 Samuel 28:19; 2 Samuel 12:23) is represented as under the earth Isaiah 14:9-10; Ezekiel 32:18. 8-14. bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee—This pythoness united to the arts of divination a claim to be a necromancer (De 18:11); and it was her supposed power in calling back the dead of which Saul was desirous to avail himself. Though she at first refused to listen to his request, she accepted his pledge that no risk would be incurred by her compliance. It is probable that his extraordinary stature, the deference paid him by his attendants, the easy distance of his camp from En-dor, and the proposal to call up the great prophet and first magistrate in Israel (a proposal which no private individual would venture to make), had awakened her suspicions as to the true character and rank of her visitor. The story has led to much discussion whether there was a real appearance of Samuel or not. On the one hand, the woman's profession, which was forbidden by the divine law, the refusal of God to answer Saul by any divinely constituted means, the well-known age, figure, and dress of Samuel, which she could easily represent herself, or by an accomplice—his apparition being evidently at some distance, being muffled, and not actually seen by Saul, whose attitude of prostrate homage, moreover, must have prevented him distinguishing the person though he had been near, and the voice seemingly issuing out of the ground, and coming along to Saul—and the vagueness of the information, imparted much which might have been reached by natural conjecture as to the probable result of the approaching conflict—the woman's representation—all of this has led many to think that this was a mere deception. On the other hand, many eminent writers (considering that the apparition came before her arts were put in practice; that she herself was surprised and alarmed; that the prediction of Saul's own death and the defeat of his forces was confidently made), are of opinion that Samuel really appeared. He is covered with a mantle; the usual habit of prophets, 2 Kings 2:8,13 Zec 13:4, and particularly of Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:27.

Saul perceived that it was Samuel; the woman pretended, and Saul upon her suggestion believed, that it was Samuel indeed; and so many popish and some other writers conceived. But that it was not Samuel, but the devil representing Samuel, is sufficiently evident. For, first, It is most incredible that God, who had just now refused to answer Saul by the means which himself appointed and used in that case, would answer him, or suffer Samuel to answer him, in that way, and upon the use of those means which God detested and contemned; which would have given great countenance and encouragement to Saul and the witch, and all professors and consulters of those devilish arts. Secondly, There are divers passages in this relation which plainly discover that this was no good, but an evil spirit; as first, That he receives that worship from Saul, 1 Samuel 28:14, which good spirits would not suffer, Revelation 19:10 22:8,9. Secondly, That amongst his other sins for which he condemneth him, he omitteth this of asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; for which transgression, with others, he is expressly said to have died, 1 Chronicles 10:13, which the true Samuel, who was so zealous for God’s honour, and so faithful a reprover, would never have neglected, especially now, when he takes Saul in the very fact. Thirdly, That he pretends himself to be disquieted and brought up, 1 Samuel 28:15, by Saul’s instigation, and the witch’s art; which is most false, and impious, and absurd to imagine, concerning those blessed souls who are returned to their God, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and entered into peace and rest, Isaiah 57:2, and lodged in Abraham’s bosom, Luke 16:22, and rest from their labors, Revelation 14:13. The only argument of any colour to the contrary is only this, that the devil could not so particularly and punctually discover Saul’s future events as this Samuel doth, 1 Samuel 28:19. But this also hath little weight in it; it being confessed and notoriously known, that evil spirits, both in the oracles of the heathen, and otherwise, have oft-times foretold future contingencies; God being pleased to reveal such things to them, and to permit them to be the instruments of revealing them to men, for the trial of some, and for the terror and punishment of others. Besides, the devil might foresee this by strong conjectures, as by the numerousness, strength, courage, and resoluteness of the Philistine host, and the quite contrary condition of the Israelites, and by divers other symptoms far above the reach of mortal men, but such as he by his great sagacity could easily discern. And for that express determination of the time, tomorrow, 1 Samuel 28:19, that word may be understood not of the very next day, but indefinitely of some short time after this, as it is taken, Exodus 13:14 Deu 6:20 Joshua 4:6,21. And then it was easy to gather from the present posture of the two armies, that the fight and the ruin of the Israelites was very near. And that it was not the very next day, but some days after this, is evident from the course of the story, and hath been proved by a late learned writer. See my Latin Synopsis on this place. And he said unto her, what form is he of?.... Of what stature is he? or rather of what age does he seem to be? and what clothes has he on? as appears from the answer:

and she said, an old man cometh up, and he is covered with a mantle; such as either priests or judges wore, and Samuel did in his lifetime:

and Saul perceived that it was Samuel; by the description she gave of him, by his age and apparel; for as yet it is not certain that he himself saw him, though it should seem as if he did by what follows: it is in the original, "that it was Samuel himself"; which seems to make for those who think the real Samuel appeared, and no doubt Saul thought it was really he himself:

and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself: either in reverence to Samuel, and from whom he hoped relief, and therefore was all obeisance; or he put himself in this posture, that he might listen and hear what should be said; it being a general notion that such spirits gave their responses whispering and muttering, Isaiah 8:19; though Abarbinel, as before observed, is of opinion, that this is to be understood of Samuel, that he bowed to Saul in reverence of him as a king; which does not so well agree with the connection of the words. Some have thought that it was the true Samuel, or the soul of Samuel, that appeared; so Josephus (e), and many other writers; but to this may be objected, that that would not have ascended out of the earth, but come down from heaven; and that it cannot reasonably be supposed that it was in the power of the witch, by the assistance of the devil, to fetch it from heaven; nor be thought that God would send it from thence on such an errand, to give Saul an answer, when he would not answer him by any prophet on earth, nor in any other way; and especially it seems quite incredible that he should send it at the motion of a witch, and through her enchantments, who, according to a law of his, ought not to live; whereas nothing could have given greater countenance to such a wicked profession than this: nor would the true Samuel have admitted such worship and homage to be paid him, as is expressed in this last clause, which angelic spirits have refused, Revelation 19:10; though perhaps no more than civil respect is intended: but rather this was a diabolical spectre, or apparition, or the devil, that appeared in the form and shape of Samuel, and mimicked him; and was one of those deceiving spirits Porphyry speaks (f) of, that appear in various shapes and forms, and pretend to be gods or demons, or the souls of the deceased. Some (g) think all this was the cunning and imposture of the woman alone, or that she was assisted with a confederate, who acted the part of Samuel; but this is not probable.

(e) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 6. c. 14. sect. 2.) (f) De Abstinentia, l. 2. apud Grotium in loc. (g) See Webster's Displaying of supposed Witchcraft, &c. ch. 8. p. 166, &c.

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 {f} Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.

(f) To his imagination, even though it was Satan, who to blind his eyes took on him the form of Samuel, as he can do of an angel of light.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. An old man cometh up] The Sept. has “a man coming up upright,” a reading which is possibly due to the strange Rabbinic fable that the witch knew her visitor to be Saul because Samuel came up erect to do honour to the king, instead of appearing feet foremost as ghosts evoked usually did!

a mantle] The prophet’s garb. Cp. 1 Samuel 15:27.

Saul perceived] Lit. knew. Saul recognised from the description that it was Samuel, and shewed his reverence for the great prophet by the usual gesture. Cp. 1 Samuel 24:8. At first Samuel was seen by the witch only, but Saul’s obeisance, and the conversation carried on between them, seem to indicate that he afterwards became visible to Saul also.Verse 14. - What form is he of? Rather, "What is his aspect?" i.e. his look. As the term a god conveyed no other idea than that she had seen something majestic, Saul asks for a more exact description. She answers that it was an old man clad in a robe, meil (see on 1 Samuel 2:19). Samuel seems never to have worn the prophetic mantle (see on 1 Samuel 15:27), but always the meil. There was nothing, therefore, distinctive in the dress; but as she says that she has seen an old man, Saul concludes that he for whom he had asked had appeared to him. Instead of Saul perceived, the Hebrew has "Saul knew." There is nothing to prove that Saul really saw anything; all that is said is that by the woman's description "Saul recognised that what she had seen was Samuel, and he bowed himself to the ground, and made obeisance." Saul went to this person by night and in disguise, that he might not be recognised, accompanied by two men; and said to her, "Divine to me through necromancy, and bring me up whomsoever I tell thee." The words "bring me up," etc., are an explanation or more precise definition of "divine unto me," etc. Prophesying by the Ob was probably performed by calling up a departed spirit from Sheol, and obtaining prophecies, i.e., disclosures concerning one's own fate, through the medium of such a spirit. On the form קסומי (Chethibh), see at Judges 9:8.
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