The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

On necromancy and the woman of Endor (PDF) PDF version

On necromancy and the woman of Endor

Because of the belief that the souls are living somewhere in heaven and the dead are conscious, many people have fallen victims to the practice of trying to contact the dead. A whole movement called “spiritualism” is devoted in exactly this. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 tells us how the Lord feels about this practice:

“There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD.”

Necromancy is put in the same category as that of sorcery, practicing divination, burning kids as offerings, fortunetelling (put here also astrology), interpretation of omens, mediums, charmers. As The Word makes clear: “whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord”. Whoever is tempted to supposedly get in contact with the dead or do any similar practices (including astrology and fortunetelling), let him be clear that he practices something that the Lord considers detestable and he will of course bear the respective consequences. Nobody who comes in contact with devil spirits, nobody that opens himself up to the darkness, will get out without devastating consequences. But let’s continue to see some other passages on the matter:

Leviticus 19:31
“"Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

Leviticus 20:6
“If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.”

Leviticus 20:27
"A man or a woman who is a medium or a necromancer shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them."

2 Kings 21:6 (speaking about king Manasseh)
“And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger.”

It is I believe clear from the above that necromancy, contacting the dead, is not something innocent. It is a detestable sin. Why? Because the one who does this, essentially contacts devil spirits and the occult. There is nothing innocent and real in this. Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 (and many other passages) tells us very clearly that:

the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.”

In contrast to the popular belief that wants the “souls” of the dead floating around in heaven and watching over us, and therefore having knowledge and perhaps a share in what happens in our world, the Word of God in no unclear terms tells us that the dead know NOTHING! Imagine if the Church really taught what the Bible teaches on the matter of the dead i.e. that they are sleeping, unconscious, awaiting the resurrection! The devil would have much less ground to deceive many people, even Christians, to get in contact to what supposedly are the spirits of the dead.

The woman of Endor

Towards the end of 1 Samuel we find the incidence of a certain necromancer used by King Saul for divination concerning his last battle with the Philistines. The related record is in 1 Samuel 28. There we read:

1 Samuel 28:3-8
“Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, "Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, "Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.""

As soon as Saul had difficulties hearing from the Lord he sought for a medium, a woman with a devil spirit to perform divination for him! He knew that this is abominable to the Lord, for because of this he himself had driven out all mediums (necromancers), from the land. And yet here he is, ready to go and do the detestable to the Lord act of contacting a medium. Really could he expect that God would answer to him through something that he considers disgusting! But let’s continue:

1 Samuel 28: 8-14
“So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, "Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you." The woman said to him, "Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?" But Saul swore to her by the LORD, "As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing." Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" He said, "Bring up Samuel for me." When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul." The king said to her, "Do not be afraid. What do you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I see a god coming up out of the earth." He said to her, "What is his appearance?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage. ”

We have read earlier that necromancers and their likes are abomination, detestable to the Lord. The same practices (necromancy etc.) were also done by the nations that inhabited the land before Israel. Necromancy has NOTHING to do with the Lord. We have also seen that the dead know nothing and can no longer have part in what is happening under the sun. Behind necromancy is no other than the Devil. He is the father of lies and there is nothing true in him and what he is doing. It was a devil spirit therefore who pretending Samuel, appeared to Saul and passed to him the information that his end was very close:

1 Samuel 28:15-20
“Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" Saul answered, "I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do." And Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me, for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines." Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night.”

What the medium told Saul, indeed came to pass. Because of this many have come to assume that it was indeed the dead Samuel who said these things prophesying to Saul. This however cannot be true, unless we are ready to assume that the dead not only are alive and know information (while Ecclesiastes in no unclear terms told us that they know nothing) but also that they are available on request from people who do detestable things to the Lord i.e. we are ready to assume that the devil and his servants are able on request to bring up everybody including such great servants of God as Samuel and have them prophesy! It is obvious that such an assumption is plain folly. They could not possibly do this! Therefore what we have here is clearly a devil spirit pretending to be Samuel. And the information? How could the devil spirit acquire what appears to be right “information”? We cannot know for sure but what the devil spirit said had devastating effects on Saul. Could then it be that what it said became a self-fulfilling prophecy, bringing by itself Saul to the point of total defeat? The devil definitely knew the negative mood in the Israelites camp that they were perhaps fearful, ready to disperse in front of their enemies (1 Samuel 28:5 tells us how terrified Saul felt when he saw the army of the Philistines, which could perhaps be a hint of how the Israelites also felt). To this fact he added making Saul, their king, even more terrified. These two together could be the perfect recipe for a complete defeat. Well, as we said, we cannot know for sure. What we can know for sure though, is that whoever is contacting “the dead” is not actually contacting the dead. Instead he contacts devil spirits, who pretend the dead, with all the horrible consequences that this means, including that by his act is doing something absolutely disgusting to the Lord. Similarly, Saul that day did not speak to the dead Samuel but to a devil spirit that masquerading itself as Samuel.

Anastasios Kioulachoglou