Witch of Endor
The Witch of Endor, sometimes called the medium of Endor, was a sorceress who apparently called up the ghost of the recently deceased prophet Samuel, at the demand of King Saul of the Kingdom of Israel in the First Book of Samuel, chapter 28:3–25. The witch is absent from the version of that event recounted in the deuterocanonical Book of Sirach (46:19–20).
After Samuel had died, he was buried in Ramah. After Samuel's death, Saul received no answer from God from dreams, prophets, or the Urim and Thummim as to his best course of action against the assembled forces of the Philistines. Consequently Saul, who has earlier driven out all necromancers and magicians from Israel, seeks out a medium, anonymously and in disguise. Following the instruction of her visitor, the woman claims that she sees the ghost of Samuel rising from the abode of the dead. The voice of the prophet's ghost, after complaining of being disturbed, berates Saul for disobeying God, and predicts Saul's downfall, with his whole army, in battle the next day, then adds that Saul and his sons will join him, then, in the abode of the dead. Saul is shocked and afraid, and following the encounter his army is defeated and Saul commits suicide after being wounded.
The woman is described as "a woman with an ob" (אוֹב, a talisman or perhaps wineskin) in Hebrew, which may be a reference to ventriloquism, and claims to see "elohim arising" (plural verb) from the ground.
In the Septuagint (2nd century BCE) the woman is described as a "ventriloquist", possibly reflecting the consistent view of the Alexandrian translators concerning "demons... which exist not". However Josephus (1st century) appears to find the story completely credible (Antiquities of the Jews 6,14).
The Yalkut Shimoni (11th century) identifies the anonymous witch as the mother of Abner. Based upon the witch's claim to have seen something, and Saul having heard a disembodied voice, the Yalkut suggests that necromancers are able to see the spirits of the dead but are unable to hear their speech, while the person for whom the deceased was summoned hears the voice but fails to see anything.
The Church Fathers and some modern Christian writers have debated the theological issues raised by this text. The story of King Saul and the Witch of Endor would appear at first sight to affirm that it is possible for humans to summon the spirits of the dead by magic.
Medieval glosses to the Bible suggested that what the witch actually summoned was not the ghost of Samuel, but a demon taking his shape or an illusion crafted by the witch. Martin Luther, who believed that the dead were unconscious, read that it was "the Devil's ghost", whereas John Calvin, who did believe in the immortal soul, read that "it was not the real Samuel, but a spectre."
The modern Christian author Hank Hanegraaff argues that although it is impossible for humans to summon the dead, Samuel did, in fact, by a sovereign act of God, appear before Saul and the witch . Hanegraaff interprets the passage to mean that the witch was surprised by these events.
Mortalist denominations, such as Seventh-day Adventists, generally teach that the story is but one example of ancient witchcraft or sorcery in the Bible, which is founded on an unholy belief that people can communicate with the dead. Adventists believe that the Bible teaches repeatedly, but most specifically in Ecclessiastes 9:5,6, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun." Seventh-day Adventists believe that communication with the dead is a form of magic, divination, sorcery, necromancy, and spiritualism, which are all condemned in scripture. Adventists assert that since the scriptures teach that the dead know not anything, Saul was not communicating with the prophet Samuel, but with Satan. Jehovah's Witnesses have a similar view: the New World Translation places the name Samuel in double-quotes throughout 1 Samuel 28:12–20 (unique among Bibles), implying that a demon was impersonating the deceased prophet.
In popular culture
The witch appears as a character in oratorios (including Mors Saulis et Jonathae (c.1682) by Charpentier, In Guilty Night: Saul and the Witch of Endor (1691) by Henry Purcell, Saul (1738) by Handel on the death of Saul, and Le roi David (1921) by Honegger) and operas (David et Jonathas (1688) by the afore-mentioned Charpentier and Saul og David (1902) by Carl Nielsen).
|“||Oh the road to En-dor is the oldest road
And the craziest road of all!
Straight it runs to the Witch’s abode,
As it did in the days of Saul,
And nothing has changed of the sorrow in store
For such as go down on the road to En-dor!
A British cutter with the name Witch of Endor is commandeered by Captain Horatio Hornblower during his escape from France in Flying Colours (1938), a novel by C.S. Forester set in the Napoleonic Wars.
The poet Howard Nemerov wrote a one act drama entitled "Endor" (1961) in which Saul visits the Witch of Endor.
The mother of the witch Samantha on the TV sitcom Bewitched was named Endora.
In the book series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, the Witch of Endor is a secondary character.
"In Endor" by Shaul Tchernichovsky, describing King Saul's encounter with the Witch of Endor, is considered a major work of modern Hebrew poetry. Tchernichovsky particularly identified with the character of Saul, perhaps due to his own name, and the poem expresses considerable empathy to this King's tragic fate.
"The Witch of Endor" is the title of a song by artist Moondog.
- Geza Vermes (2008) The Resurrection. London, Penguin: 25–6
- Emil G. Hirsch Jewish Encyclopedia 1911 Endor, the witch of
- The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia p307 ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley – 1959 "... of 'ob (RSV "medium"). According to one view it is the same word that means a "bottle made out of skins" ("wineskin," Job 32:19). The term would then refer to the technique of ventriloquism or, more accurately, "belly-talking".
- Hans-Josef Klauck, Brian McNeil Magic and paganism in early Christianity: the world of the Acts of the Apostles p66 2003 "A classical example is King Saul's visit to the 'witch' of Endor. The Septuagint says once that the seer engages in 'soothsaying' and three times that she engages in 'ventriloquism' (1 Sam 28:6–9)."
- Milian Lauritz Andreasen Isaiah the gospel prophet: a preacher of righteousness 2001 p345"The Septuagint translates: They "burn incense on bricks to devils which exist not."
- Yalḳ, Sam. 140, from Pirḳe R. El.
- Emil G. Hirsch Jewish Encyclopedia 1911 Endor, the witch of
- "Necromancy". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05-Sep-2012.
- J. M. Buckley – Faith Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena p221 2003, "The witch of Endor – The account of the "Witch of Endor is the only instance in the Bible where a description of the processes and ... Luther held that it was "the Devil's ghost"; Calvin that "it was not the real Samuel, but a spectre. "
- White, E. G. (1999). Patriarchs and Prophets. Napa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, p. 683.
- White, E. G. (1999). Acts of the Apostles. Napa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, pp. 288–290.
- White, E. G. (1858). The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan. Napa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, p. 551.
- Tonie Holt, Valmai Holt My boy Jack: the search for Kipling's only son – 1998 p. 234 "Desperate as they were, there is no evidence that Rudyard and Carrie ever contemplated trying to reach John in this way and Rudyard's scorn for those who did was expressed in the poem En-dor, written the following year."
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