First Samuel 28 contains a narrative that has baffled bible scholars for centuries because it presumably tells the story of a “witch” calling up the disembodied spirit of the prophet Samuel from the dead.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that it fails to condemn the actions of the witch, and fails to question the authenticity of Samuel’s spirit, leading some scholars to question whether it is really the prophet Samuel or not.
In every usage in the bible, the term “witch” is a negative descriptive.
Typically the term witch refers to a wicked female that conjures up the spirits of the dead with spiritual powers derived through a contract with the devil and by use of a “familiar spirit” or demon as the intermediary for communicating with the dead.
Interestingly, even though countless articles and bible chapter headings refer to the woman in this chapter as “The Witch of Endor” the chapter NEVER even uses the term witch to describe the woman.
The real keyword used in the narrative that leads people to assume that the woman is a witch, is the word “familiar spirit“. Witches work through familiar spirits. A familiar spirit is a demon through which the witch communicates with the spirit world.
The remarkable thing about the narrative in 1 Samuel 28, which is lost on many LDS scholars, is that in the Inspired version of the Bible, the passage wherein the woman fears for her life and asks if a snare is being laid to take away her life, is altered.
In the revised passage, the women with a remarkable spiritual gift differentiates herself from that of a witch by declaring that she does not have or use a “familiar spirit” to call up the dead!
The rest of the narrative is history.. a very misunderstood history of a remarkable event and a remarkable woman.
|Joseph Smith Translation
1 Samual 28
9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land; wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die also, who hath not a familiar spirit?
|King James Translation
1 Samual 28
9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?
Following the declaration that she does not have a familiar spirit, she is assured by Saul who is traveling incognito, that she would not be dealt with like the “witches” had been dealt with.
1 Samuel 28 JST
1Sam 28:1 And it came to pass in those days that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, Know thou assuredly that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men.
1Sam 28:7 Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at En-dor.
1Sam 28:8 And Saul disguised himself and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night; and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up whom I shall name unto thee.
1Sam 28:9 And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits and the wizards out of the land. Wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die also, who hath not a familiar spirit?
1Sam 28:14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, I saw an old man coming up, covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel; and he stooped, his face to the ground, and bowed himself.
DISQUIETED, participle passive Made uneasy or restless; disturbed; harassed.
And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams; therefore, I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
1Sam 28:19 Moreover, the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines; and tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me; the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.
1Sam 28:20 Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth and was sore afraid because of the
words of Samuel; and there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no bread all the day nor all the night.
1Sam 28:21 And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have put my life in my hand and have hearkened unto thy words which thou spakest unto me.
1Sam 28:22 Now, therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee; and eat, that thou mayest have strength when thou goest on thy way.
Here are a few questions and definitions to ponder..
What is witchcraft?
WITCHCRAFT, [witch and craft.]
1. The practices of witches; sorcery; enchantments; intercourse with the devil.
What is a witch?
1. A woman who by compact with the devil, practices sorcery or enchantment.
2. A woman who is given to unlawful arts.
Is there anything in the narrative that suggests that the women in the narrative had a compact with the devil?
No. in fact, just the opposite.
A witch is someone that has a familiar spirit which is a demon through which the witch communicates with the spirit world. Yet the woman in the narrative did not have a familiar spirit.
noun: familiar spirit
a demon supposedly attending and obeying a witch, often said to assume the form of an animal.
In the Joseph Smith Translation the so-called witch of Endor actually denied having a familiar spirit
“Wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die also, who hath not a familiar spirit?”
What is “enchantment”?
ENCH’ANTMENT, noun The act of producing certain wonderful effects by the invocation or aid of demons, or the agency of certain supposed spirits; the use of magic arts, spells or charms; incantation.
The magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments. Exodus 7:11.
What is a “demon”?
According to Websters 1828
The demons of the New Testament were supposed to be spiritual beings which vexed and tormented men. And in general, the word, in modern use, signifies an evil spirit or genius, which influences the conduct or directs the fortunes of mankind.
Did the spirit of Samuel try to influence the conduct and fortunes of men or influence Saul to fight for not fight the army of the enemy?
No. The Prophet Samuel simply prophesied what would happen to Saul and his army.
Was the spirit that the woman called up an “evil spirit” or “evil genius” ?
I don’t see anything to suggest that the spirit was evil.
What is Sorcery?
SOR’CERY, noun Magic; enchantment; witchcraft; divination b[y] the assistance of evil spirits, or the power of commanding evil spirits. Adder’s wisdom I have learn’d to fence my ears against the sorceries.
Was the spirit who is claimed to be Samuel the prophet actually Samuel the Prophet?
Yes. The narrative suggests that it was. It never challenges the claim that it was the spirit of Samuel the Prophet.
Is it possible that there are women with spiritual gifts that can call up disembodied spirits rather than demons?
The narrative suggests that there are.
Can they do what they do, without the aid of a familiar spirit or demon?
The narrative suggests that they can.
Was the woman practicing necromancy?
What is necromancy
NECROMANCY, noun [Gr. Dead, and divination.]
1. The art of revealing future events by means of a pretended communication with the dead. This imposture is prohibited. Deuteronomy 18:1.
The narrative characterizes the event as being authentic, not a pretended fabrication.
Was Saul a righteous or wicked king?
Did the spirit of Samuel give Saul the advice he was asking for?
NO advice was given.
Samuel the prophet simply prophesies accurately about what would happen to Saul and his army because of his previous transgression in having refused the commandment of God to destroy Amalek which was a wicked nation described in the Hebrew Bible as a staunch enemy of the Israelites?
Based on the inspired changes that Joseph Smith made in the Inspired Version of the Bible, I believe this chapter proves that the woman in Endor was not a witch, rather, she was a righteous woman who had been blessed with a spiritual gift of being able to communicate with disembodied spirits, without having to use a familiar spirit as an intermediary.