As Halloween approaches, we may hear a lot about how the Bible talks against the use of witchcraft or consulting people who practice such arts (such as divination, tarot cards, etc.). But many people may not know that the Bible contains instances of sorcerers or witches.
The one we’ll meet today appears in the Old Testament when a king of Israel got anxious before a battle.
King Saul dearly missed his recently lost friend, the prophet and judge Samuel, and he didn’t know how to lead Israel in an upcoming and intimidating battle. Because God doesn’t answer quickly enough for him, Saul takes matters into his own hands and consults a witch from a place called Endor.
In this article, we’ll dive into who this witch was, why she lived in Endor, and why Saul made a huge mistake in consulting her — a mistake, which ultimately cost his life.
Where Is Endor?
If you recall the fact that Jacob had 12 sons, who later became the 12 tribes of Israel, then what you may not know is each got a different plot of land. The tribe of Manasseh’s land owned a city known as Endor (or Endur).
A large city on the side of a high hill, it seemed to harbor refugees who had fallen out of favor in Israel (Psalm 83:10). Many people who had fallen in the battle against Deborah and Barak fled to Endor and perished there.
Among the ostracized individuals includes the witch of Endor. The name of the land itself “Spring of Generations” suggests that perhaps witchcraft and divination were widespread practices in Endor. “Generations” implies people there would consult past ancestors or those who had passed on.
King Saul had banished witches and sorcerers, as many Bible verses speak against witchcraft (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:9-14). But when he feels most abandoned by God, he goes even against his own decrees and decides to make a trek out to Endor to consult someone who practiced divination and necromancy.
Who Was the Witch of Endor?
The Bible doesn’t give us too many details on this character.
We do know that she specifically practiced either divination or necromancy because Saul requested that she bring up the spirit of Samuel for him.
Saul actually goes to her in disguise, since he doesn’t want her to recognize him as the king. After all, the king had banished all the spiritualists and witches from the land (1 Samuel 28).
Even though Saul had banished all witches and sorcerers, perhaps even under penalty of death (she hadn’t technically fled Israel if she was in the Tribe of Manasseh’s city), this woman appears to have made a reputation for herself.
When Saul consults his attendants and asks them for witch and medium referrals, instantly, they know the woman for the job: The witch of Endor.
Now the Bible doesn’t specify if she brings up a demonic spirit or the actual spirit of Samuel in the passage. Christians have debated the very nature of divination or necromancy for ages.
What does matter is whatever spirit she calls up isn’t super happy with Saul and gives an omen for Saul’s outcome for his battle against the Philistines the next day.
Why Did Saul Make a Mistake in Consulting a Witch?
Perhaps Saul had a dastardly fate whether he consulted a witch or not, but why would we characterize this as a mistake?
First, the Bible clearly talks against witchcraft and consulting with demons. Even if we get someone else to do something for us (tarot readings, Ouija boards, etc.), by association, we have practiced the same arts as well.
Although some of the practices listed may seem innocuous, we don’t want the devil to take a foothold. He can do so most easily through such “innocuous” activities.
Secondly, Saul got impatient. God hadn’t answered him quickly enough, and he had an upcoming battle. So, he took matters into his own hands.
This is reminiscent of when Sarai commands that Abram sleep with his servant Hagar to produce a child since God didn’t work quickly enough for her (Genesis 16).
Perhaps God would have spoken to him the night before the battle, but because Saul didn’t wait, he sealed his fate.
We may think Saul had chosen a ridiculous path, but how often do we allow even small items of witchcraft or sorcery into our lives. On Facebook, the other day, I saw an ad for a psychic who could “Draw your future soulmate.”
For us Christian singles who feel as though God has not answered our prayers about finding a future spouse, we may feel tempted to reach out to her and commission her to draw them.
Like Saul, if we don’t wait patiently on the Lord, we may find ourselves straying down this path.
Finally, we do need to make note that Saul goes in disguise. Yes, he doesn’t want the witch to recognize him. But we see a similar motif in Scripture when people try to hide their sin or wrongdoing (Genesis 3).
Saul knew he had disobeyed God’s commands and tried to do so in a hidden way. But by the end of the story, even the witch knows Saul’s identity and his harrowing doom that would come the next day in battle.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/serikbaib
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young’s blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her at her website.