The witch of Endor conjuring Samuel on behalf of Saul has always been interesting to me. How does a witch, whom God opposes, conjure Samuel, who is dead? What does this tell us about the afterlife? Before the events of our reading there is little said in the Old Testament about what happens to people when they die. This story suggests that people continue in some fashion after death. Jesus later confirms this truth while arguing for the resurrection of the dead by calling God the “God of the living” because he is “God of Abraham and David” (Mark 12:26-27). That means God is ultimately the one who preserves Samuel’s life. To me, this also means God alone could allow access to Samuel because Samuel had died.
But why would God allow a witch, who is performing acts God hates, to have such access? Remember that Saul is partially responsible for this witch’s actions. My argument is that though this woman has been working in the realm of the demonic, God takes this unique opportunity to warn Saul of his impending doom in dramatic fashion. I know that this is hard for many to stomach, but I cannot ascribe Samuel’s conjuring simply to demons, because we are led to believe this is actually Samuel based on the message and the witch’s reaction; she is shocked and feels duped, and Samuel’s message in death is consistent with his message in life.
This event is one of the first to show that people clearly continue after death, and it also shows that God is on the move to accomplish His purposes even while using human evil.