Q. My question is about the encounter between Saul and the Witch of Endor in 1 Samuel. Was Samuel actually reached by the witch or was this a demonic manifestation designed to trick or intimidate Saul? I’ve never really heard any good or convincing teaching on this subject, but I’m well aware that necromancy is prohibited under pains and penalty of death and that anything that is not of God is (by default?) from the devil. That logic would seem to suggest that it was not the actual spirit of Samuel (I’m assuming here that the passage of scripture that says “to be out of the body is to be present with the Lord” doesn’t apply until after the Resurrection?) But if it was a demonic manifestation wouldn’t it have done more to disrupt the path of Saul/God’s chosen people?
A. You’re right. Consulting mediums and spiritists was forbidden as was necromancy (Deut. 18:10). The penalty was death.
There are several interpretations of 1 Samuel 28, concerning Saul and the Witch at Endor. One is that the Lord made an exception and permitted the Spirit of Samuel to appear to the woman and Saul. Another is that a demonic spirit pretended to be Samuel, and a third is that the woman used clairvoyance to discern the thoughts of Saul and Samuel without any actual appearance occurring.
I favor the first view. I believe the Lord allowed Samuel to appear to Saul and announce both his defeat and his death at the hands of the Philistines as punishment for disobeying God’s orders about the Amelekites, and for breaking His law concerning mediums and spiritists.