In 1 Samuel 28, an unusual event takes place:
- Samuel was dead (v. 3)
- Saul has a medium raise Samuel’s spirit from the dead (vv. 7-19)
- Samuel’s spirit rebukes Saul and prophesies to him (vv. 16-19)
- The medium seems very startled by Samuel’s appearance: “When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice…the woman said to Saul, ‘I see a god coming up out of the earth,'” (1 Sam. 28:12-13). This indicates that this is not a normal occurrence for her (despite claims of regularly communicating with the dead).
- God condemns Saul’s actions: “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance,” (1 Chron. 10:13, NIV).
- Saul himself knew this action was wrong (1 Sam. 28:3)
- Saul’s action came from fear of the Philistines and rejecting God’s ways (1 Sam. 28:5-7)
- Deut. 18:9-12; Exod. 22:18; Lev. 19:25, 31; 20:6, 27; Is. 8:19; 19:3; Jer. 27:9-10 – praying for/to the dead is prohibited by God repeatedly.
- Another occurrence of deceased saints communicating with those on earth happened with Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus on the “Mount of Transfiguration,” (Matt. 17:1-9). This, like 1 Sam. 28, seems to have happened by God alone, and is notably unusual (cf. 2 Pet. 1:16-18).
- At times, the disciples mistake Jesus for a spirit (Luke 24:37) or ghost (Matt. 14:26). And God also alludes to the popular thought of a ghost speaking from the deceased in Isaiah 29:4. But it is important to note that these popular ideas in no way represent God’s thoughts or ways (similarly, today there is popular notion of ghosts, even while many talking about it do not necessarily believe them true).
- Only 2 occurrences of deceased saints communing with those on earth are recorded in the 6,000-year history of the Bible.
- Both of these are notably unusual occurrences
- Both of these were by God’s doing, not man’s
- We are forbidden to seek anything along these lines (including the notion of praying to deceased saints – sorry Catholics).
- Samuel’s appearing from the dead served as a final (and stunningly supernatural) rebuke that showed how emphatic God was against Saul’s success at this point (like a donkey prophetically rebuking Balaam–it was the height of insult that God stooped to such a low level and showed how stubborn he had become, see Prov. 26:5).