1 Samuel 28:6
And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.
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(6) And when Saul enquired of the Lord.——The question has been asked, How was the enquiry made? for since the massacre at Nob, the high priest, or, at least, the priest in possession of the sacred ephod and the breastplate, with the Urim and Thummim, was, we know, in the camp of David, and we shall soon hear of a solemn use being made of the sacred gems. (See 1Samuel 30:7-8.) It has been suggested by eminent Biblical scholars that after the murder of Ahimelech and the flight of Abiathar to David, Saul removed the national Sanctuary from desecrated Nob, and established it at Gibeon, where, during the first year of David’s reign, we find the Tabernacle, with Zadok, son of Ahitub, of the house of Eleazar, acting as high priest—probably placed in that office by Saul. This would account for the frequent reference in the time of David to two high priests, Zadok and Abiathar: Zadok, the high priest appointed by Saul, for a considerable period alone in charge of the Tabernacle; and Abiathar, who fled from Nob with the ephod and the sacred Urim, acknowledged by David as high priest, when the kingdom was restored eventually under one head. These two seemed to have divided the honours and responsibilities of the high priesthood. (See 2Samuel 8:17; 2Samuel 15:24; 2Samuel 15:29; 2Samuel 15:35; 1Chronicles 15:11; 1Chronicles 18:16.)

This Zadok, we may assume, “enquired” for Saul:·some suppose by means of an ephod made in imitation of the ancient breastplate with the Urim in possession of Abiathar; but, as may be readily imagined, no response was received. It is also likely enough that some “prophets”—so called—trained, not improbably, in the school of Samuel, were present with Saul. These, too, of course, received no Divine message, either by voice or in dreams.

1 Samuel 28:6. When Saul inquired of the Lord — This seems to contradict what is affirmed 1 Chronicles 10:14, that he did not inquire of the Lord, which is assigned as the reason why the Lord slew him. But Rabbi Kimchi, and others, thus reconcile these two places. That since he did not continue to inquire of him, but went to a diviner, it was all one as if he had not inquired at all; for he did it faintly, coldly, and indifferently. A learned Jew, Samuel Laniado, remarks here: “He whose heart is perfect with God, lifts up his eyes unto him, and fixes them on him; hoping in him, though he doth not presently hear him; and perseveres in his expectation and confidence, firmly setting a resolution to wait upon him. But so did not Saul, who was remiss and negligent, saying in his heart, If God will not hear me, I will go and consult a familiar spirit.” The Lord answered him not — Nor is it to be wondered that he should not answer a man of such a disposition. Neither by dreams — By which perhaps he prayed that God would inform him. Nor by Urim — It appears by this, that, Abiathar having fled to David and taken the ephod with him, Saul had set up another high-priest, and made an ephod in imitation of the sacred one, not considering the peculiar sanctity of that which God had appointed, and by which alone he had promised to manifest himself. Nor by prophets — A school of whom, no doubt, was still remaining at Ramah, over which Samuel had presided.

28:1-6 David could not refuse Achish without danger. If he promised assistance, and then stood neuter, or went over to the Israelites, he would behave with ingratitude and treachery. If he fought against Israel, he would sin greatly. It seemed impossible that he should get out of this difficulty with a clear conscience; but his evasive answer, intended to gain time, was not consistent with the character of an Israelite indeed. Troubles are terrors to the children of disobedience. In his distress, Saul inquired of the Lord. He did not seek in faith, but with a double, unstable mind. Saul had put the law in force against those that had familiar spirits, Ex 22:18. Many seem zealous against, sin, when they are any way hurt by it, who have no concern for the glory of God, nor any dislike of sin as sin. Many seem enemies to sin in others, while they indulge it in themselves. Saul will drive the devil out of his kingdom, yet harbours him in his heart by envy and malice. How foolish to consult those whom, according to God's law, he had endeavoured to root out!When Saul inquired of the Lord ... - It is said 1 Chronicles 10:14 that one reason why the Lord killed Saul, and gave his kingdom to David, was because he inquired not of the Lord. The explanation of this apparent discrepancy is to be found in the fact that inquiring of the familiar spirit was positively antagonistic to inquiring of the Lord. That Saul received no answer - when he "inquired of the Lord" by dreams, which was an immediate revelation to himself; by Urim, which was an answer through the high priest clothed in the ephod; or by prophets, which was an answer conveyed through some seer speaking by the Word of the Lord 1 Samuel 22:5 - was a reason for self-abasement and self-examination, to find out and, if possible, remove the cause, but was no justification whatever of his sin in asking counsel of familiar spirits. 4. the Philistines … pitched in Shunem—Having collected their forces for a last grand effort, they marched up from the seacoast and encamped in the "valley of Jezreel." The spot on which their encampment was fixed was Shunem (Jos 19:18), now Sulem, a village which still exists on the slope of a range called "Little Hermon." On the opposite side, on the rise of Mount Gilboa, hard by "the spring of Jezreel," was Saul's army—the Israelites, according to their wont, keeping to the heights, while their enemies clung to the plain. Saul inquired of the Lord, in his slight and perfunctory way, as 1 Samuel 14:19, as appears from hence, that when God did not speedily answer him, he goes to the devil for an answer, 1 Samuel 28:7; for which reason he is said,

not to have

inquired of the Lord, 1 Chronicles 10:14, i.e. not seriously, and after the right order. Possibly he inquired by some prophet then with him, or by the priest before the ark.

The Lord answered him not, because he sought him not in due order; not by the Urim and Thummim which were in the ephod, which he by his cruelty to the priests had lost, 1 Samuel 23:6; and because he did not truly repent of nor put away his sins, which provoked God, and kept him from answering, as Saul well knew by his own conscience and experience, 1 Samuel 14:37-39.

Neither by dreams,

nor by Urim, nor by prophets, i.e. neither by ordinary means, nor extraordinary.

And when Saul inquired of the Lord,.... And this being not done truly and heartily, nor continued in, it was as if he had not inquired, and especially after he had inquired of one that had a familiar spirit, as Kimchi observes; for so it is said, 1 Chronicles 10:14,

the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams; which he dreamed himself, from whence he could not conclude anything relating to the will of God; so the Targum,"the Lord did not receive his prayer even by dreams;''or by dreamers, diviners, who pretended to give answers by dreams:

nor by Urim; there being no priest to consult in this way, Abiathar having fled with the ephod, in which were the Urim and Thummim, to David, 1 Samuel 23:9; though some think that he sent to Abiathar, who was with David, to inquire for him; and others that he made another ephod with Urim, and appointed another priest to consult by them; neither of which are probable:

nor by prophets; of which there was a school not far from him, even at Naioth in Ramah, of which Samuel in his lifetime was president; but neither by the one nor the other could Saul get an answer from God, who for his sins had departed from him.

And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by {c} Urim, nor by prophets.

(c) Meaning, the high priest, Ex 28:30.

6. when Saul inquired of the Lord] In 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 it is said that “Saul died … for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it, and inquired not of the Lord.” The contradiction is only in appearance. Instead of humbling himself in penitence for the sin which he knew must be withholding the Divine answer (1 Samuel 14:37), and persevering in his inquiry, he resorted to a plan which was tantamount to apostasy from Jehovah.

answered him not] See Proverbs 1:24-30.

by dreams] A recognised method of divine communications to man (Numbers 12:6).

by Urim] Since Abiathar had carried off the Ephod with the Urim and Thummim when he fled from Nob, it would appear that Saul had had a new Ephod made, and appointed a high-priest in the room of Ahimelech. This conjecture is supported by the double high-priesthood of Zadok and Abiathar in David’s reign (2 Samuel 8:17, &c.), which may be accounted for by supposing that David allowed Zadok to retain the office to which Saul had elevated him.

The following points may be noted with respect to the obscure question of the Urim, or Urim and Thummim. For a full discussion see Smith’s Dict. of the Bible.

(a) The name signifies The Light and the Perfection (or the Truth), the words being ‘plurals of excellence.’

(b) It denotes certain material objects, placed inside the breastplate of judgment which formed part of the high-priest’s Ephod (Exodus 28:30). There are no directions for making them; it is implied that they were already in existence.

(c) The purpose of this mysterious instrument is clear. It was a means by which the will of Jehovah was ascertained through the high-priest. The present passage is the only mention by name of its use after the entry into Canaan, though it is implied in ch. 1 Samuel 14:3; 1 Samuel 14:18, 1 Samuel 23:2; 1 Samuel 23:9, 1 Samuel 30:7-8; 2 Samuel 21:1. After the Captivity it became a proverbial expression with reference to questions of special difficulty that they must wait for solution “until there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim” (Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65).

(d) The origin of the Urim and Thummim was not improbably Egyptian. A plausible conjecture connects them with the symbol of Truth worn by the priest-judges of Egypt, and the symbol of Light worn by members of the priestly caste.

(e) The method of use must remain an enigma. The most probable theories are either (1) that they were consecrated objects by gazing on which the high-priest passed into a state of spiritual ecstasy, and purified from selfish and worldly thoughts became receptive of a supernatural illumination: or (2) that they were a special means of casting lots. Cp. note on 1 Samuel 14:41.

by prophets] Cp. 1 Samuel 9:6, 1 Samuel 22:5, for instances of counsel given through prophets. The same three methods of inquiry are mentioned in Hom. Il. I. 62:

“But seek we first some prophet or some priest,

Or some wise vision-seer, since visions too

From Zeus proceed.”

1 Samuel 28:6In his anxiety he inquired of the Lord; but the Lord neither answered him by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets, that is to say, not by any of the three media by which He was accustomed to make known His will to Israel. בּיהוה שׁאל is the term usually employed to signify inquiring the will and counsel of God through the Urim and Thummim of the high priest (see at Judges 1:1); and this is the case here, with the simple difference that here the other means of inquiring the counsel of God are also included. On dreams, see at Numbers 12:6. According to Numbers 27:21, Urim denotes divine revelation through the high priest by means of the ephod. But the high priest Abiathar had been with the ephod in David's camp ever since the murder of the priests at Nob (1 Samuel 22:20., 1 Samuel 23:6; 1 Samuel 30:7). How then could Saul inquire of God through the Urim? This question, which was very copiously discussed by the earlier commentators, and handled in different ways, may be decided very simply on the supposition, that after the death of Ahimelech and the flight of his son, another high priest had been appointed at the tabernacle, and another ephod made for him, with the choshen or breastplate, and the Urim and Thummim. It is no proof to the contrary that there is nothing said about this. We have no continuous history of the worship at the tabernacle, but only occasional notices. And from these it is perfectly clear that the public worship at the tabernacle was not suspended on the murder of the priests, but was continued still. For in the first years of David's reign we find the tabernacle at Gibeon, and Zadok the son of Ahitub, of the line of Eleazar, officiating there as high priest (1 Chronicles 16:39, compared with 1 Chronicles 6:8 and 1 Chronicles 6:53); from which it follows with certainty, that after the destruction of Nob by Saul the tabernacle was removed to Gibeon, and the worship of the congregation continued there. From this we may also explain in a very simple manner the repeated allusions to two high priests in David's time (2 Samuel 18:17; 2 Samuel 15:24, 2 Samuel 15:29, 2 Samuel 15:35; 1 Chronicles 15:11; 1 Chronicles 18:16). The reason why the Lord did not answer Saul is to be sought for in the wickedness of Saul, which rendered him utterly unworthy to find favour with God.
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