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The Witch of Endor . . .


consiglieri

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1 Samuel 28 has a remarkable story familiar to all, no doubt, of how Saul went to a witch to conjure up the spirit of Samuel, so that Saul could enquire of him as to his chances of victory in battle over the Philistines.

The answer is not good, and the ghost of Samuel tells Saul that he will perish along with his sons, and they will all be with Samuel by the next day.

One of the interesting things about this story is the lengths LDS will go to so as to avoid its obvious meaning.

1. The italicized chapter heading misattributes the dire prophecy from Samuel to the witch:

Saul enquires of witch of En-dor for revelation

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...the meaning behind the story that we miss...

That the writers of the Deuteronomic History were northerners

who took every possible opportunity to belittle southern traditions,

whether they were Davidic, pre-Davidic, temple-establishment,

or pre-temple-establishment?

The witch story reads like a bit of Israelite gossip, thrown

into the semi-historical mix of subtle rhetoric, undermining

both the monarchy and the state of religious belief in the

period prior to Jeremiah and friends.

The Saul tragedy parallels the tragedy of corrupt Shiloh shrine

religion which gives rise to Samuel in the first place. How

different, the young prophet, called three times in the night,

from the rotted, disembodied voice at Endor.

Given a proper opportunity, the Chronicler would have told a

different story, even if still at Saul's expense.

UD

.

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One of the interesting things about this story is the lengths LDS will go to so as to avoid its obvious meaning.
Perhaps I should ask what, in your opinion, is the "obvious" meaning?
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Perhaps I should ask what, in your opinion, is the "obvious" meaning?

The obvious meaning is what the text presents--that the witch conjured up Samuel's spirit who prophesied Saul's destruction.

It was a real witch.

She really conjured up Samuel's real spirit.

Samuel's spirit really prophesied doom to Saul.

Seem's pretty obvious to me.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Given a proper opportunity, the Chronicler would have told a

different story, even if still at Saul's expense.

UD

I appreciate your perspicacity, Unk!

I think, at a minimum, the story is designed to tell us what a loser Saul is, that he is so abandoned by God he has to go to a witch to get in touch with the supernatural, and when he does, he probably wished he hadn't.

I personally think the OT takes every opportunity to paint Saul poorly and David grandly, but that is just me.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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The obvious meaning is what the text presents--that the witch conjured up Samuel's spirit who prophesied Saul's destruction.

It was a real witch.

She really conjured up Samuel's real spirit.

Samuel's spirit really prophesied doom to Saul.

Seem's pretty obvious to me.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

So, you see the message of the passage as "witches can use their powers to force the spirit of a righteous prophet of God to make an accurate prophecy when God Himself refuses to provide one" but don't see that as problematic?

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So, you see the message of the passage as "witches can use their powers to force the spirit of a righteous prophet of God to make an accurate prophecy when God Himself refuses to provide one" but don't see that as problematic?

Here we get to the crux of the issue, Jason, and I thank you for bringing us there so quickly . . .

Why should the fact that the story is "problematic" from a 21st century Mormon perspective cause us to twist the story away from its straightforward meaning?

Why should it cause the person who wrote the italicized chapter heading to flagrantly misstate the facts?

Why should it cause the person in charge of footnotes to insert their personal opinion as a doctrinal imperative?

And why should this story cause so much fuss among a people who ostensibly do not believe the Bible is without error?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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So, you see the message of the passage as "witches can use their powers to force the spirit of a righteous prophet of God to make an accurate prophecy when God Himself refuses to provide one" but don't see that as problematic?

And just as a bit of fine tuning, there is nothing in the story to indicate that the witch "forced" Samuel to appear nor "forced" him to prophesy.

I don't know if that makes it any less "problematic" from your viewpoint, but there it is.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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Which explains why the sheeted dead did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

That's funny, I thought they gyred and gimbled in the wabe.

Clearly this chapter is not translated correctly :P

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Why should the fact that the story is "problematic" from a 21st century Mormon perspective cause us to twist the story away from its straightforward meaning?
Can you think of other passages of scripture where the "plain meaning" is in conflict with what we know about the character and powers of God, and where something other than the "plain meaning" is therefore probably more accurate?
Why should it cause the person who wrote the italicized chapter heading to flagrantly misstate the facts?
If the witch was playing Saul then she was in fact the one making the prediction, not Samuel.
Why should it cause the person in charge of footnotes to insert their personal opinion as a doctrinal imperative?
Is it a doctrinal imperative or an explanation of what may have really been happening? Much like the other footnotes that are explanations of what might be unclear in the text?
And why should this story cause so much fuss among a people who ostensibly do not believe the Bible is without error?
Is it causing a fuss somewhere?
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Can you think of other passages of scripture where the "plain meaning" is in conflict with what we know about the character and powers of God, and where something other than the "plain meaning" is therefore probably more accurate?

Should not what we "know about the character and powers of God" be discerned from the scriptures rather than imposed upon them?

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

P.S. I like your signature line from Aragorn, by the way. I am currently reading The Lord of the Rings to my 13-year old. It's great stuff!

"Farewell" he said to Gandalf "I go to find the sun" - Legolas

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I appreciate your perspicacity, Unk!

...

That's a cool word: perspicacity

Here is the JST version of 1 Samuel 28:9

And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land; wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die also, who hath not a familiar spirit?....

as opposed to the KJV version of it:

And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?

So it appears she truly had a gift from God, not from a "familiar spirit".

That explains it better. Then the message from Samuel was real.

Richard

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The obvious meaning is what the text presents--that the witch conjured up Samuel's spirit who prophesied Saul's destruction.

It was a real witch.

But how do you know she is a witch? And what do we doooo with witches?

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a reasonable explanation could be, that Samuel showed up only to rebuke Saul. And the witch conjuring did not force Samuel to show, but only that Samuel appeared to instruct Saul on the impending doom and to chide Saul for once again going against the commands of God.

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I don't have the texts available, so I could be misremembering, but I believe McConkie suggested that either the witch called up a different spirit who masqueraded as Samuel or Samuel came on his own. Not that I necessarily think he is right, but it may be the perspective you are looking for.

Yours under the non-authoritative oaks,

Nathair /|\

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Should not what we "know about the character and powers of God" be discerned from the scriptures rather than imposed upon them?

Not really, no. What we know about the character and powers of God should be discerned from the Spirit, and what it confirms when we read scripture or modern revelation.
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But how do you know she is a witch? And what do we doooo with witches?

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a reasonable explanation could be, that Samuel showed up only to rebuke Saul. And the witch conjuring did not force Samuel to show, but only that Samuel appeared to instruct Saul on the impending doom and to chide Saul for once again going against the commands of God.

Because she looks like a witch!

I agree that yours is a reasonable interpetation of the story.

Nothing indicates the witch forced Samuel to show up, but everything indicates it was indeed great Samuel's ghost making a cameo appearance.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I don't have the texts available, so I could be misremembering, but I believe McConkie suggested that either the witch called up a different spirit who masqueraded as Samuel or Samuel came on his own. Not that I necessarily think he is right, but it may be the perspective you are looking for.

Yours under the non-authoritative oaks,

Nathair /|\

I would have no trouble believing Elder McConkie would have stated as unassailable verity that this was not really Samuel's ghost but only a parlor trick by an early version of David Copperfield.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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One of the interesting things about this story is the lengths LDS will go to so as to avoid its obvious meaning.

My first question is why all the jugglery in order to avoid the chapter's plain meaning.

My second question is whether other Christian churches engage in this type of avoidance on this chapter.

My third question is the meaning behind the story that we miss because we are so uncomfortable with it.

Any thoughts?

Well if we must use your strict rule of interpretation, that we must use only the text from the chapter itself, to hell with inspired interpretations from living Apostles (Elder McConkie no doubt) and hence the disdain of the chapter headings and all things "Mormon" I would ask who really does the text say is speaking?
(1 Samuel 28:11-20) "Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the Lord hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines. Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night."
Does this really say that Saul actually saw Samuel? Or rather that the witch said she saw something that Saul "perceived" was Samuel? It is rather apparent that nothing was said that was not already known, that the Kingdom had already been taken from Saul by God, because of disobedience and given to David. The only additional information was that he was doomed along with his sons. To me that teaches that the devil has no comfort to give, and when we do not listen to God, other voices will "take up the slack," but not unto salvation.
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That the writers of the Deuteronomic History were northerners

who took every possible opportunity to belittle southern traditions,

whether they were Davidic, pre-Davidic, temple-establishment,

or pre-temple-establishment?

The Deuteronomists were northerners? How do you figure?

The witch story reads like a bit of Israelite gossip, thrown

into the semi-historical mix of subtle rhetoric, undermining

both the monarchy and the state of religious belief in the

period prior to Jeremiah and friends.

I think it's rather meant to paint Saul as a tragic figure who ultimately betrayed the most fundamental laws concocted by the Deuteronomists, thus elevating the Davidic dynasty.

The Saul tragedy parallels the tragedy of corrupt Shiloh shrine

religion which gives rise to Samuel in the first place. How

different, the young prophet, called three times in the night,

from the rotted, disembodied voice at Endor.

Given a proper opportunity, the Chronicler would have told a

different story, even if still at Saul's expense.

I don't see that large a disconnect between the two. The author does present the deceased prophet as a deity, which hearkens to the more archaic shrine religion.

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Is it a doctrinal imperative or an explanation of what may have really been happening? Much like the other footnotes that are explanations of what might be unclear in the text?

Yep, clearly it is an explanation so that each person who reads it can say- "Oh- that's weird- Oh I get it now"

Cuts down on letters to the First Presidency which they later have to defend if some secretary makes a mistake..... :P

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Does this really say that Saul actually saw Samuel? Or rather that the witch said she saw something that Saul "perceived" was Samuel? It is rather apparent that nothing was said that was not already known, that the Kingdom had already been taken from Saul by God, because of disobedience and given to David.

I lean toward this. The reason Saul had to seek out a witch is because he had completely lost the spirit and could not get an answer as we read in v.6 "And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets."

I think that there are people who can conjure up familiar spirits but I seriously doubt that such a person could conjure up a prophet of God.

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The obvious meaning is what the text presents--that the witch conjured up Samuel's spirit who prophesied Saul's destruction.

It was a real witch.

She really conjured up Samuel's real spirit.

Samuel's spirit really prophesied doom to Saul.

Seem's pretty obvious to me.

I always thought it obvious that the writers of the Samuels borrowed heavily from Macbeth, including the conceit of the witches conjuring up spirits in order to deceive and cause the downfall of flawed royalty.

The Endor story is, in short, an anachronism.

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