King Saul asked God about an impending battle with the Philistines, but God gave him no answer (I Sam. 28:1-6). In great fear (verse 5), Saul disguised himself and went to the witch at Endor, a woman who had contact with familiar spirits or demons. She asked, “Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, bring me up Samuel” (verse 11).
The woman complied with Saul’s request — or at least she performed some ritual which made it appear that she did. And “when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice” (verse 12) because she then realized she was dealing with King Saul and could well be in jeopardy of her life for practicing witchcraft (verses 3 and 9). But Saul told her not to be afraid and asked what she had seen. She replied “I saw a god-like being coming up out of the earth” (verse 13, Jewish translation).
Saul then asked the woman, “What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived [thought] that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself” (verse 14).
In describing what she saw, the woman used these expressions: “a god-like being,” “an old man,” and “he is covered with a mantle.” There is not one word that it was actually Samuel himself! What did she see? She saw an evil spirit which presented itself in a way in which it could be mistaken for Samuel.
The Bible reveals that Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2). He is the god of this world and can transform himself into an angel of light (II Cor. 4:4; 11:14). Satan and his demons have the power to produce apparitions and to appear in human or animal forms.
The next question in I Samuel 28 arises over verse 15: “And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?” Why does the account read as though Samuel were speaking to Saul? It is merely a matter of what Saul wanted to see and hear. Demons enjoy fooling people. This one took the opportunity to play into Saul’s hand by impersonating Samuel. It apparently knew the outcome of the battle and told Saul that he would die the following day and that his army would be defeated by the Philistines.
Deception is one of Satan’s devices (Rev. 12:9). I Samuel 28 records that “Samuel” spoke, although it was actually a demon speaking through what looked like a human (John Gill’s Exposition Of The Bible). Samuel was not there, either in body or spirit. He was, and still is, dead and in his grave, awaiting the resurrection. This account is written, at least in part, from the human point of view, that is, the way it appeared to the witch and to Saul.
This scripture in no way contradicts the multitude of clear scriptures proving that the soul is mortal.