Friday, December 28, 2007

Use Your Allusion: The Witch of Endor

The witch (or medium) at Endor is a Biblical allusion. It comes from I Samuel 28. King Saul was at a very low point of his life, and was actually nearer to the end of his life than he realized. At Samuel's direction, he had driven all of the witches and necromancers out of the land to please God. But now, the Urium and Thummim were not working, the prophets received no messages for him, and Saul knew that he was no longer receiving God's guidance. Along with this, Samuel had died, and was no longer there to instruct Saul in how to follow God.

Saul asked his men if there were any witches left, and they told him of this particular witch in Endor. He went in disguise, not revealing his identity to her. She verbally acknowledged that the king had executed and driven out her type, and she hesitated to offer her services, but when he insisted that she would not be harmed, she agreed. As soon as she saw the spirit of
Samuel rising up, she became afraid because she realized that Saul had tricked her. Samuel told Saul through the medium that God was displeased with him because of his repeated disobedience, and that he would die. Saul was overwhelmed, but ended up remaining a while longer at the witch's house, even allowing her to cook a meal for him.

It is a depressing passage of Scripture to see Israel's first king stooping so low that he seeks comfort from the evil people God had commissioned him to destroy. This marked Saul's complete separation from God, at least as I see it.


This is not an allusion that is used all the time, but it's good to at least be aware of where it comes from. To talk about "The Witch at Endor", it sounds like it could have easily come from mythology or Sci-Fi movie. I have always found it interesting that in the Star Wars movies, the Ewoks lived on the forrest moon of Endor. (I'm sure the locations are not one and the same, but I've wondered "Why the same name?"'s bound to be borrowed from the Biblical story)

I've found it interesting how many times in my life I've had teachers try and explain away the fact that the ghost of Samuel really did appear in this case. Most commonly, I've been told that "The reason that witch got scared was because this was the first time it had ever worked!" How could she have a career/reputation as a medium if she was unable to do what she claimed? I realize that necromancy was closely associated with hallucinogenic drugs in these times, but that to me is not enough of an explanation for this passage to say that she usually just got people high.

I find a lot of those shows interesting where people claim to talk to the dead relatives and friends of audience members. Part of me wants to believe it's true, and the skeptic in me wants to laugh at all of it. As Christians, I think we are foolish to ignore the real existence of evil in the world around us. It doesn't shake my faith at all to acknowledge the possibility of someone having some sort of spirit in them, as the witch was reputed to have at Endor. What a great victory Satan has if he can convince us that he isn't real. We may not encounter demonic activity through ghosts and boogey-men experiences, but we see the prevalent greed, corruption, and pride around us, and we can know that plenty of people are believing the lies that Satan tells us so skillfully. If we seek stability from sources other than God--especially if we try to circumvent God as Saul had done--we set ourselves up for demise, as did Saul.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this passage, or on the uses of necromancy?

Addendum: It just occurred to me that I have referred to a "Jonathan Edwards" in the last two posts, though unintentionally, and for completely unrelated reasons.

1 comment:

  1. I know someone will be tempted to say, "Yeah, most of the time those guys who are 'talking to spirits' are just saying general things that could be easily guessed." I don't think so. I've watched a Jonathan Edwards show, and it is shockingly personal.

    My best guess about all this (and it is just a guess) is that these kinds of experiences are a result of the activity of the "powers" of Ephesians 6:12. Paul Heibert wrote an excellent article long ago called "The Flaw of the Excluded Middle." Basically, he said that, when we theologize, we recognize that humans have free will, and we also recognize the work(s) of God, but we rarely acknowledge the activity of the principalities & powers. I think that he's right.

    Along these lines, Charles Campbell's excellent book The Word Before the Powers really changed the way I think & the way I preach in view of the powers. I know longer view people caught in sin with contempt; I pity them, because the powers have these people in their grip. These people aren't evil, they are merely complicit with the powers. They need liberation. Freed me from feeling the need to make people FEEL their guilt, and it just opened my eyes to a whole other realm that we need to be aware of when we engage in ministry.