Many people find silence to be awkward. Studies have shown that long pauses in conversation can produce negative emotions in some people. Maybe this happens because silence is often perceived as a sign of disagreement.
Saul was terrified by God’s silence because it was a sign of rejection. Samuel’s death further accentuated Saul’s sense of being cut off from God’s guidance. When the Philistine army massed against Israel at Shunem, Saul inquired of the Lord but got no response (v. 6). In desperation, Saul demanded that his servants find a medium, someone who claimed to have the power to communicate with the spirits of the dead. According to the Law of Moses, anyone who practiced divination or sorcery, interpreted omens, engaged in witchcraft, cast spells, or was a medium or spiritist who consulted the dead was “detestable to the Lord” (Deut. 18:12).
Saul had expelled those who practiced such arts. However, his servants knew of a woman in Endor who continued to practice such things. The text indicates that the spirit that appeared to the woman was not merely her imagination or an apparition but was indeed Samuel (v. 15). Samuel repeated what he had already told Saul and predicted Israel’s defeat in the coming battle, as well as the king’s death (vv. 16–19). Upon hearing this news, Saul collapsed from terror and hunger (v. 20).
Saul’s encounter with Samuel confirms that life and consciousness continue after physical death (see also this month’s “Practical Theology” column). But another lesson is that the Bible universally condemns the practice of occult arts. Séances, mediums, Tarot cards, Ouija boards, and astrology all fall into this category.
>> Guidance from God comes primarily through His Word. As believers, we are not to look to fortune-tellers, astrology, or consult spirits for direction. Scripture condemns these practices!