1 Samuel 28:13
And the king said to her, Be not afraid: for what saw you? And the woman said to Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
÷1Sam 28:13

(13) I saw gods ascending out of the earth.—The king at once calms the witch’s fears for her life, and impatiently, as it would seem, asks what she saw which called forth the cry of fear and terror. “Gods”—this is the rendering of the Hebrew word Elohim. The English Version, however, follows the majority of the Versions here. The Chaldee translates the word by “angels.” Corn, à Lapide and the best modern scholars, however, reasoning from Saul’s words which immediately follow—“What is his form?”—suppose the Elohim to signify, not a plurality of appearances, but one God-like form: something majestic and august. The feeling, however, of antiquity seems to have been in favour of more than one supernatural form entering into the En-dor dwelling on that awful night. Besides the testimony of the Versions above referred to, the passage in the Babylonian Talmud treatise Chaggigah, quoted below, speaks of two positively spirit forms-Samuel and another.

1 Samuel 28:13. The woman said, I saw gods ascending — The original word here used is elohim; and is with equal propriety rendered God, a god, or gods; when spoken of Jehovah it is translated God in the Scriptures; but when meant of the false gods of the heathen, of angels or of magistrates, which it sometimes is, it is generally rendered in the plural number. As it is plain the woman saw and spoke only of one person, it should evidently be translated a god here, that is, a divine or glorious person, full of majesty and splendour, exceeding not only mortal men, but common ghosts. Dr. Waterland renders it, a venerable person, and Mr. Locke says, it here signifies an angel or a judge, and that in the singular number. The same word certainly means magistrates, Psalm 82:1-6.28:7-19 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. i.e. A god, a divine person, glorious, and full of majesty and splendour, exceeding not only mortal men, but common ghosts. She useth the plural number,

gods, either after the manner of the Hebrew language, which commonly useth that word of one person; or after the language and custom of the heathens. But the whole coherence shows that it was but one. For Saul desired but one, 1 Samuel 28:11, and he inquires and the woman answers only of one, 1 Samuel 28:14. Ascending out of the earth, as if it came from the place of the dead. And the king said unto her, be not afraid,.... Meaning not of the apparition, but of him; since he had sworn no punishment should come upon her, and he should inviolably observe his oath: for what sawest thou? for as yet Saul himself saw not anything, the woman being between him and the apparition; or she might be in another room with her familiar spirit performing the operations when Samuel appeared:

and the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth; a great personage, one of a majestic form, like the gods, or judges and civil magistrates, sometimes so called, as Kimchi and R. Isaiah rightly interpret it; and so the Targum,"I saw an angel of the Lord;''a person that looked like one; for not many came up with him, and particularly Moses, as say some Jewish writers (d).

(d) T. Bab. Chagigah, fol. 4. 8. Pirke Eliezer, c. 33.

And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. gods] The Heb. word Elôhîm is plural, and when not applied to God Himself is generally to be so rendered. But it is evident from 1 Samuel 28:14 that only a single figure appeared. Elôhîm here denotes a supernatural, non-earthly being; or as Josephus paraphrases it, “one of god-like form.”Verse 13. - What sawest thou? Thus far Saul had seen nothing; and as the words literally are What seest thou? it is plain that she had not gone into another room, as some have supposed. The vision was entirely unsubstantial, and Saul, hearing her cry, and observing her excitement, and her steady gaze upon some object, asked what that object was. Probably she was at some distance from him, as was no doubt her custom when performing her incantations, in order that what she did might not be too closely observed; probably, too, she burnt odours, and surrounded herself with the smoke of incense. In answer to Saul she says, "I see Elohim ascending out of the earth." As the participle is plural, she does not mean God; nor, as it was a single appearance, is the rendering gods correct. What she means is that she saw some grand supernatural appearance rising out of the ground, which she calls a god in a general way, without attaching any very exact meaning to the term. Instead of recognising this, however, and searching his own heart, Saul attempted to obtain a revelation of the future in ungodly ways. He commanded his servants (1 Samuel 28:7) to seek for a woman that had a familiar spirit. Baalath-ob: the mistress (or possessor) of a conjuring spirit, i.e., of a spirit with which the dead were conjured up, for the purpose of making inquiry concerning the future (see at Leviticus 19:31). There was a woman of this kind at Endor, which still exists as a village under the old name upon the northern shoulder of the Duhy or Little Hermon (see at Joshua 17:11), and therefore only two German (ten English) miles from the Israelitish camp at Gilboa.
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