Saul and the witch of Endor and the death of King
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What Came Before:
ONCE more the Philistines gathered together to make war on
King Saul and the land of Israel. The king of the Philistines, Achish, sent for
David, and said to him, "You and your men shall go with me in the army, and
fight against the men of Israel." For David was now living in the Philistine
country and under their rule. So David came from Ziklag, with all his six
hundred men, and they stood among the armies of the Philistines. But when the
lords of the Philistines saw David and his men, they said, "Why are these
Israelites here? Is not this the man of whom they sang, 'Saul slew his
thousands. But David his ten thousands'? Will not this man turn from us in the
battle, and make his peace with his king by fighting against us? This man shall
not go with us to the war."
Then Achish, the king of the Philistines, sent away David and his men, so that
David was not compelled to fight against his own people. But when he came to his
own city, Ziklag, he found it had been burned and destroyed; and all the people
in it, the wives and children of David's men, and David's own wives also, had
been carried away by the Amalekites into the desert on the south.
The Lord spoke to David through the high-priest, Abiathar, saying, "Pursue these
men, and you will overtake them, and take back all that they have carried away."
So David followed the Amalekites into the wilderness. His march was so swift
that a part of his men could not endure it, but stopped to rest by the brook
Bezor, while four hundred men went on with David. He found the Amalekites in
their camp, without guards, feasting upon the spoil that they had taken. And
David and his men fell upon them suddenly and killed all of them, except four
hundred men who escaped on camels far into the desert, where David could not
follow them. And David took from these robbers all the women and children that
they had carried away from Ziklag, and among them David's own two wives; also he
took a great amount of treasure and of spoil, not only all that these men had
found in Ziklag, but what they had taken in many other places.
David divided all these things between himself and his men, giving as much to
those who had stayed at the brook Bezor as to those who had fought with the
Amalekites. This treasure taken from the Amalekites made David very rich; and
from it he sent presents to many of his friends in the tribe of Judah.
While David was pursuing his enemies in the south, the Philistines were
gathering a great host in the middle of the land, on the plain of Esclraelon, at
the foot of Mount Gilboa. Saul and his men were on the side of Mount Gilboa,
near the same spring where Gideon's men drank years earlier. But there was no
one like Gideon now, to lead the men of Israel, for King Saul was old, and
weakened by disease and trouble; Samuel had died many years before; David was no
longer by his side; Saul had slain the priests, through whom in those times God
spoke to men; and Saul was utterly alone...
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THE LAST DAYS OF KING SAUL
I Samuel 28 - 31
Saul heard that there was living at Endor, on the north side of the Hill Moreh,
not far from his camp, a woman who could call up the spirits of the dead.
Whether she could really do this, or only pretended to do it, we do not know,
for the Bible does not tell. But Saul was so anxious to have some message from
the Lord, that at night he sought this woman. He took off his kingly robes and
came dressed as a common man, and said to her, "Bring me up from the dead the
spirit of a man whom I greatly long to meet."
And the woman said, "What spirit shall I call up?" And Saul answered, "Bring me
up the spirit of Samuel, the prophet." Then the woman called for the spirit of
Samuel; and whether spirits had ever arisen from the dead before or not, at that
time the Lord allowed the spirit of Samuel to rise up from his place among the
dead, to speak to King Saul.
When the woman saw Samuel's spirit she was filled with fear. She cried out, and
Saul said to her, "Do not fear; but tell me whom you see." For Saul himself
could not see the spirit whom the woman saw. And she said, "I see one like a god
rising up. He is an old man, covered with a long robe."
Then out of the darkness a voice came from the spirit whom Saul's eyes could not
see. "Why have you troubled me, and called me out of my rest?" And Saul answered
Samuel, "I am in great distress, for the Philistines make war upon me, and God
has forsaken me. He will not speak to me either by a prophet, or a priest, or in
a dream. And I Saul, have called upon you that you may tell me what to do."
And the spirit of Samuel said to Saul, "If the Lord has
forsaken you and has become your enemy, why do you call upon me to help you? The
Lord has dealt with you as I warned you that he would do. Because you would not
obey the Lord, he has taken the kingdom away from you and your house, and has
given it to David. And the Lord will give Israel into the hands of the
Philistines; and tomorrow you and your three sons shall be as I am, among the
dead." And then the spirit of Samuel the prophet passed from sight. When Saul
heard these words he fell down as one dead, for he was very weak, as he had
taken no food all that day. The woman and Saul's servants who were with him
raised him up, and gave him food, and tried to speak to him words of cheer. Then
Saul and his men went over the mountain to their camp.
On the next day a great battle was fought on the side of Mount Gilboa. The
Philistines did not wait for Saul's warriors to attack them. They climbed up the
mountain, and fell upon the Israelites in their camp. Many of the men of Israel
were slain in the fight, and many more fled away. Saul's three sons were killed,
one of them, the brave and noble Jonathan.
When Saul saw that the battle had gone against him, that his sons were slain,
and that the enemies were pressing closely upon him, he called to his
armor-bearer, and said, "Draw your sword and kill me; it would be better for me
to die by your hand than for the Philistines to come upon me and slaughter me."
But the armor-bearer would not draw his sword upon his king, the Lord's
anointed. Then Saul took his own sword and fell upon it, and killed himself
among the bodies of his own men.
On the next day the Philistines came to strip off the armor and carry away the
weapons of those who had been slain. The crown of King Saul and the bracelet on
his arm had been already carried away; but the Philistines took off his armor
and sent it to the temple of their idol, Dagon; and the body of Saul and those
of his three sons they fastened to the wall of Bethshan, a Canaanite city in the
valley of the Jordan.
You remember how Saul, in the beginning of his reign, had rescued the city of
Jabesh-gilead from the Ammonites. The men of Jabesh had not forgotten Saul's
brave deed. When they heard what had been done with the body of Saul they rose
up in the night and went down the mountains and walked across the Jordan, and
came to Bethshan. They took down from the wall the bodies of Saul and his sons,
and carried them to Jabesh; and that they might not be taken away again, they
burned them and buried their ashes under a tree; and they mourned for Saul seven
days. Thus came to an end the reign of Saul, which began well, but ended in
failure and in ruin, because Saul forsook the Lord God of Israel.
Saul had reigned forty years. At the beginning of his reign the Israelites were
almost free from the Philistines, and for a time Saul seemed to have success in
driving the Philistines out of the
land. But after Saul forsook the Lord, and would no longer listen to Samuel,
God's prophet, he became gloomy and full of fear, and lost his courage, so that
the land fell again under the power of its enemies. David could have helped him,
but he had driven David away; and there was no strong man to stand by Saul and
win victories for him. So at the end, when Saul fell in battle, the yoke of the
Philistines was on Israel heavier than at any time before.
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