Ancient and Modern Sorcery

Saul Disobeys God and is Rejected

God prohibited divination and He has not changed His position
on the subject; the fact that God will not spare anyone or
people for idolatry. He alone could guide his people; there is
no need to use witches, mediums, diviners, soothsayers. Saul,
after God’s Spirit left him, in desperation, contrary to God’s
command to have no dealings with those who consorted with
evil spirits, visited the witch of Endor to learn of future events.

In the following passages we will examine the scripture’s
account of Saul’s visit to the woman of Endor, which has been
a source of perplexity to many students of the Bible. There are
some who take the position that Samuel was actually present
at the interview with Saul, but the Bible itself furnishes sufficient
ground for a contrary conclusion. If, as claimed by some,
Samuel was in heaven, he must have been summoned thence,
either by the power of God or by that of Satan. None can
believe for a moment that Satan had power to call the holy
prophet of God from heaven to honor the incantations of an
abandoned woman. Nor can we conclude that God summoned
him to the witch’s cave; for the Lord had already refused to
communicate with Saul, by dreams, by Urim or by prophets,
(the Urim and Thummim were holy instruments used as lots in
determining the will of God, Ex. 28:30), (1 Samuel 28:6;).
These would appear to have been God’s own appointed
mediums of communication, and He did no pass them by to
deliver the message through the agent of Satan. Saul chose to
obtain  response to his inquiry through these mediums in
disobedience to the commandment of God, and God did not
prevent these mediums of communication that Saul initiated
through an agent of Satan.

The message itself is sufficient evidence of its origin. Its object
was not to lead Saul to repentance, but to urge him on to ruin;
and this is not the work of God, but of Satan. Furthermore, the
act of Saul in consulting a sorceress is cited in Scripture as
one reason why he was rejected by God and abandoned to
destruction: “Saul died for his transgression which he
committed against The Lord, even against the word of The
Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one
that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; and inquired not of The
Lord: therefore He slew him, and turned the kingdom unto
David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14). Here it is
distinctly stated that Saul inquired of the familiar spirit, not of
The Lord. He did not communicate with Samuel, the prophet of
God; but through the sorceress he held intercourse with Satan.
Satan could not present the real Samuel, but he did present a
counterfeit, that served his purpose of deception.

The deification of the dead has held a prominent place in
nearly every system of heathenism, as has also the supposed
communion with the dead. The gods were believed to
communicate their will to men, and also, when consulted, to
give them counsel. Of this character were the famous oracles
of Greece and Rome.

The belief in communion with the dead is still held, even in
professed Christian lands. Under the name of spiritualism the
practice of communicating with the beings claiming to be the
spirits of the departed has become widespread. It is calculated
to take hold of the sympathies of those who have laid their
loved ones in the grave. Spiritual beings sometimes appear to
persons in the form of their deceased friends, and relate
incidents connected with their lives and perform acts which
they performed while living. In this way they lead men to
believe that their dead friends are angels, hovering over them
and communicating with them. Those who thus assume to be
the spirits of the departed are regarded with certain idolatry,
and with many their word has greater weight than the word of

There are many, however, who regard spiritualism as mere
imposture. The manifestations by which it supports its claims to
a supernatural character are attributed to fraud on the part of
the medium. But while it is true that the results of trickery have
often been palmed off as genuine manifestations, there have
also been marked evidence of supernatural power. And many
who reject spiritualism as the result of human skill or cunning
will, when confronted with manifestations which they cannot
account for upon this ground, be led to acknowledge its claims.

Modern spiritualism and the forms of ancient witchcraft and idol
worship—all having communion with the dead as their vital
principle—are founded upon first lie by which Satan beguiled
Eve in Eden: “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in
the day ye eat thereof, . . . . you shall be as gods.” (Genesis 3:
4, 5). Alike based upon falsehood and perpetuating the same,
they are alike from the father of lies.

The Hebrews were expressly forbidden to engage in any
manner in pretended communion with the dead. God closed
this door effectually when He said: “The dead know not
anything that is done under the sun.” (Eccl 9:5, 6). “His breath
goeth forth, he returneth to the earth; in that very day his
thoughts perish.” (Psalm 146:4).  And The Lord declared to
Israel: “The soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits,
and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set My
face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his
people.” Leviticus 20:6.

The “familiar spirits” were not the spirits of the dead, but evil
angels, the messengers of Satan. Ancient idolatry, which, as
we have seen, comprises both worship of the dead and
pretended communion with them, is declared by the Bible to
have been demon worship. The apostle Paul, in warning his
brethren against participating, in any manner, in the idolatry of
their heathen neighbors, says, “The things which the Gentiles
sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God, and I would
not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” 1 Corinthians
10:20.  The psalmist, speaking of Israel, says that “they
sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,” and in
the next verse he explains that they sacrificed them “unto the
idols of Canaan.” (Psalm 106:37, 38). In their supposed
worship of dead men they were in reality worshiping demons.

Modern spiritualism and mysticism, resting upon the same
foundation, is but a revival in a new form of the witchcraft and
demon worship that God condemned and prohibited of God. It
is foretold in the Scriptures, which declare that “in the latter
times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing
spirits, and doctrines of devils.” (1 Timothy 4:1). Paul, in his
second letter to the Thessalonians, points to the special
working of Satan in spiritualism as an event to take place
immediately before the second advent of Christ. Speaking of
Christ’s second coming, he declares that it is “after the working
of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders.” (2 Thess.
2:9).  And Peter, describing the  dangers to which the church
was to be exposed in the last days, says that as there were
false prophets who led Israel into sin, so there will be false
teachers, “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even
denying The Lord that bought them. . . .  And many shall follow
their pernicious ways.”
(2 Peter 2:1, 2). Here the apostle has pointed out one of the
marked characteristics of spiritualist teachers. They refuse to
acknowledge Christ as the Son of God. Concerning such
teachers the beloved John declares; “Who is a liar but he that
denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth
that the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the
same hath not the Father.” (1 John 2:22, 23). Spiritualism, by
denying Christ, denies both the Father and the Son, and the
Bible pronounces it the manifestation of antichrist.

By the prediction of Saul’s doom, given through the woman of
Endor, Satan planned to ensnare the people of Israel. He
hoped that they would be inspired with confidence in the
sorceress, and would be led to consult her. Thus they would
turn from God as their counselor and would place themselves
under the guidance of Satan. The lure by which spiritualism
attracts the multitude is its pretended power to draw aside the
veil from the future and reveal to men what God has hidden.
God has in His word opened before us the great events of the
future—all that it is essential for us to know—and He has given
us a safe guide for our feet amid all its perils; but it is Satan’s
purpose to destroy men’s confidence in God, to make them
dissatisfied with their condition in life, and to lead them to seek
a knowledge of what God has wisely veiled from them, and to
despise what He has revealed in His Holy Word.

There are many who become restless when they cannot know
the definite outcome of affairs. They cannot endure
uncertainty, and in their impatience they refuse to wait to see
the salvation of God. Apprehended evils drive them nearly
distracted. They give way to their rebellious feelings, and run
hither and thither in passionate grief, seeking intelligence
concerning that which has not been revealed. If they would but
trust in God, and watch unto prayer, they would find divine
consolation.  Their spirit would be calmed by communion with
God. The weary and the heavy-laden . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .
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would find rest unto their souls if they would only go to Jesus; but
when they neglect the means that has been ordained for their
comfort, and resort to other sources, hoping to learn what has been
withheld; they commit the error of Saul, and thereby gain only
knowledge of evil.

God is not pleased with this course, and has expressed it in the
most explicit terms. This impatient haste to tear away the veil from
the future reveals a lack of faith in God and leaves soul open to the
suggestions of the master deceiver. Satan leads men to consult
those that have familiar spirits; and by revealing hidden things of
the past, he inspires confidence in his power to foretell things to
come. By experience gained through the long ages he can reason
from cause to effect and often forecast, with a degree of accuracy,
some of the future events of man’s life. Thus he is enabled to
deceive poor, misguided souls and bring them under his power and
lead them captive at his will.

God has given us the warning by His prophet: “When they shall say
unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto
wizards that peep and that mutter: should not a people seek unto
their God?  for the living to the dead? To the law and to the
testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because
there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:19, 20).

Shall those who have a holy God, infinite in wisdom and power, go
unto wizards, whose knowledge comes from intimacy with the enemy
of our Lord? God Himself is the light of His people; He bids them to
fix their eyes by faith upon the glories that are veiled from human
sight. The Sun of Righteousness sends its bright beams into their
hearts; they have light from the throne of heaven, and they have no
desire to turn away from the source of light to the messengers of

The demon’s message to Saul, although it was a denunciation of sin
and a prophecy of retribution, was not meant to reform him, but to
goad him to despair and ruin. Oftener, however, it serves the
temper’s purpose best to lure men to destruction by flattery. The
teaching of the demon gods in ancient times fostered the vilest
license. The divine precepts condemning sin and enforcing
righteousness were set aside; truth was lightly regarded, and
impurity was not only permitted but enjoined. Spiritualism declares
that there is no death, no sin, no judgment, no retribution; that there
“men are unfallen demigods; that desire is the highest law; and that
man is accountable only to himself. The barriers that God has
erected to guard truth, purity, and reverence are broken down, and
many are thus emboldened in sin. Does not such teachings suggest
an origin similar to that of demon worship?

The Lord presented before Israel the results of holding communion
with the evil spirits, in the abominations of the Canaanites: they
were without natural affection, idolaters, adulterers, murderers, and
abominable by every corrupt thought and revolting practice. Men do
not know their own hearts; for “the heart is deceitful above all
things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9). But God
understands the tendencies of the depraved nature of man. Then,
as now, Satan was watching to bring about conditions favorable to
rebellion, that the people of Israel might make themselves as
abhorrent to God as were the Canaanites. The adversary of souls
is ever on the alert to open channels for the unrestrained flow of
evil in us; for he desires that we may be ruined, and be condemned
before God.

Satan was determined to keep his hold on the land of Canaan, and
when it was made the habitation of the children of Israel, and the
law of God was made the law of the land, he hated Israel with a
cruel and malignant hatred and plotted their destruction. Through
the agency of evil spirits strange gods were introduced; and
because of transgression, the chosen people were finally scattered
from the Land of Promise. This history Satan is striving to repeat in
our day. God is leading His people out from the abomination of the
world, that they may keep His law; and because of this, the rage of
“the accuser of our brethren” knows no bounds. “The devil is come
down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he
hath but a short time.” (Revelation 12:10, 12). The antitypical land
of promise is just before us, and Satan is determined to destroy the
people of God and cut them off from their inheritance. The
admonition, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation”
(Mark 14:38), was never more needed than now.

The word of The Lord to ancient Israel is addressed also to His
people in this age: “Regard not them that have familiar spirits,
neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them;” for all that do
these things are an abomination unto The Lord.” (Lev. 19:31; Deut.

Conclusions /The Lesson

When Saul was called to the throne, he had a humble opinion of his
own capabilities, and was willing to be instructed. He was deficient in
knowledge and experience and had serious defects of character.
But The Lord granted him the Holy Spirit as a guide and helper, and
placed him in a position where he could develop the qualities
requisite for a ruler of Israel. Had he remained humble, seeking
constantly to be guided by divine wisdom, he would have been
enabled to discharge the duties of his high position with success
and honor. Under the influence of divine grace every good quality
would have been gaining strength, while evil tendencies would have
lost their power. This is the work which The Lord proposes to do for
all who consecrate themselves to Him. There are many whom He
has called to positions in His work because they have a humble and
teachable spirit. In His providence He places them where they may
learn of Him He will reveal to them their defects of character, and to
all who seek His will He will give strength to correct their errors.

But Saul presumed upon his exaltation, and dishonored God by
unbelief and disobedience.  Though when first called to the throne
he was humble and self-distrustful, success made him self-
confident. The very first victory of his reign had kindled that pride of
heart which was his greatest danger. The valor and military skill
displayed in the deliverance of Jabesh-gilead had roused the
enthusiasm of the whole nation. The people honored their king,
forgetting that he was but the agent by whom God had wrought; and
though at first Saul ascribed the glory to God, he afterward took
honor to himself. He lost sight of his dependence upon God, and in
his heart departed from The Lord. Thus the way was prepared for
his sin of presumption and sacrilege at Gilgal. The same blind self-
confidence led him to reject Samuel’s reproof. Saul acknowledged
Samuel to be a prophet sent from God; hence he should have
accepted the reproof, though he could not himself see that he had
sinned. Had he been willing to see and confess his error, this bitter
experience would have proved a safeguard for the future.

If the Lord had then separated Himself entirely from Saul, He would
not have again spoken to him through His prophet, entrusting him
with a definite work to perform, that he might correct the errors of
the past. When one who professes to be a child of God becomes
careless in doing His will, thereby influencing others to be irreverent
and unmindful of The Lord’s injunctions, it is still possible for his
failures to be turned into victories if he will accept reproof with true
contrition of soul and return to God in humility and faith. The
humiliation of defeat often proves a blessing by showing us our
inability to do the will of God without His aid.

This incident was the final step in Saul’s downfall. Divine judgment
was pronounced and Saul was rejected by God, for he had rejected
the word of The Lord (1 Samuel 15:10-23). Samuel enunciated a
vital truth: obedience is better than sacrifice. It is always possible for
a disobedient person to offer sacrifice. But when obedience rules
the heart sacrifices will also be made. Samuel likens disobedience
and stubbornness to idolatry and divination. Nothing so offends and
provokes God more than setting up our wills in competition with His.

When Saul turned away from the reproof sent him by God’s Holy
Spirit, and persisted in his stubborn self-justification, he rejected the
only means by which God could work to save him from himself. He
had willfully separated himself from God. He could not receive divine
help or guidance until he should return to God by confession of his

Scripture reading: 1 Samuel chapter 28.