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William Shepard

The Witch of Endor

David was still afraid of Saul, for he knew that he was not to be depended upon. So he thought it better to go and abide in the land of the Philistines. With his six hundred men he went to Achish, the king of Gath, and Achish received him kindly, and gave him the town of Ziklag for himself and his followers to live in. Soon after war broke out anew between the Philistines and the Israelites, and Achish asked David to go with him to battle and bring his six hundred armed men. David went with him as he was requested.

The Philistines made their camp near a city called Shunen, and Saul and his army made their camp on the mountain of Gilboa, where they could overlook the enemy's forces. Saul was terrified when he saw the numbers of the Philistines, and he inquired of God by the prophets whether he would win the victory; but God made him no answer. Then in his terror Saul determined to consult a witch. Witches were evil women who were thought to raise the souls of the dead and make them foretell what was going to happen. Now Saul had made laws against these witches, as the Lord had commanded him to do, and he had banished them from the country whenever he learned where they were. The few that were left practised their wicked arts in secret. Saul was told of one of these who lived at Endor. He put off his regal robes, and disguised himself, and took two men with him and went to the woman by night. He told her she must raise up the ghost of Samuel. She did not know her visitor was Saul, but she refused to obey him till he had made a solemn promise that no harm should befall her. Then the woman called up the soul of Samuel, and he came and stood before her; but Saul could not see him. Samuel told the woman who her visitor was, and she said to him,—

"Art thou not King Saul?"

The king answered, "I am," and then he asked her what she saw.

"I see a noble person," she answered, "who in form is like a god."

Saul bade her tell him what age he was, in what habit he appeared, and what he looked like. She answered,—

"He is an old man, very handsome, dressed in a priest's mantle."

Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed himself down to the ground. And the soul of Samuel asked him, "Why has thou disturbed me to bring me up?"

Saul replied, "I am sore distressed, and forsaken of God, and can obtain no knowledge of the future either by prophets or by dreams, and these are the reasons for which I have recourse to thee."

Samuel said, "It is wrong for thee to seek me when God hath forsaken thee. However, hear what I have to say. David is chosen king in thy place, and will finish the war with success, but thou shalt lose thy dominion and thy life, because thou hast not kept the commandments of the Lord. The Israelites will be defeated to-morrow by the Philistines, and both thou and thy sons will fall in battle."

When Saul had heard this, he fell down on the floor through grief. The witch raised him up and gave him to eat, and dismissed him as soon as he had strength to go.