1 Samuel 28, did it really happen?

Of course I can count on those who are sure that everything described in the Bible really happened. Thank you in advance for your support. But I ask those who doubt.

You can’t deny that there is a lot of history in the Bible. Oral history sometimes, retold so many times that you cannot tell history from myths, but more reliable chronicles too.
How reliable is 1 Samuel 28? For those who can’t grab a bible immediately, here’s a link:
1 Samuel 28, New English Translation (can be switched to other translations).
This chapter leads away from the main story of the book, but the first two verses tell a slight portion of it yet. The foregoing: king Saul of Israel had attempted to kill David, David ran off, and found shelter by king Achish of the Philistines. After this chapter: Saul falls in the battle, and David becomes king of Israel.

My thoughts:
3-11: If this event took place, it was the evening before Saul’s death, so these verses must have become approved history when a king of a different house, the house of David, reigned. So there could be opportunism in writing down that the old king broke the rules: it can reinforce the authority of the present king.
12-19: If there was a reason to write down that king Saul broke the rules, by charging a witch to bring up Samuel, there was no opportunism in writing down that Samuel appeared indeed, from earth, not from above or so. It was more than against the rules. It was against the belief that Samuel himself preached, and the kings witnessed, David even more than Saul.
20-25: This is a footnote that makes the story human. The woman clearly understood that she could be prosecuted. Although Saul promised not to do that, she didn’t let go the opportunity to establish a guest relation with her visitors. Just in case.

Any more thoughts?

I’m not aware of any historical evidence supporting anything purported to have happened around that time in the Bible.

I think in reading the Old Testament, you have to take it as a sort of historical account of the Israelite nation, but as told from the perspective of the author(s). Their perspective is a product of the time and culture in which they lived.

King Saul probably did go and consult a medium. He may very well have been in some heightened state of being. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mystics of the day relied a lot on what we now know as hallucinogenic drugs; and what is described in that passage sounds like it could very well be the result of those drugs. We may be reading a description of what was “seen” by King Saul (or some other bystander).

Those who doubt will generally, I think, say that King Saul never existed. There is some reason to believe David existed, perhaps, but none of the events in Samuel have any such basis. The Witch of Endor story is the least likely of all of them.

Were I to accept the broad outlines of the Saul-David history, I would say that this event, like almost all supernatural interventions in the Bible, seeks to explain why Saul lost and was replaced by David. He failed to annihilate the Amalekites, and he sought to escape his just fate by dealing with a witch, so god cut him off. This is similar to the Chinese tradition of the withdrawal of the Mandate of Heaven" from a ruling dynasty.

Because this place is just swarming with those…

Logically, Israel must have had a first ruler at some point, so technically there was a person who fits Saul’s job description, at least. There was certainly a Kingdom of Israel (and a Kingdom of Judah) about a thousand years before Christ, at least, which was conquered around 720 BC by Assyria.

So it’s effectively certai nthere was a first king of the ascendant Israeli kingdom, so you’ve got a Saul. And taken with a grain of salt, the story doesn’t seem unlikely; rulers certainly did consult with self-professed masters of the occult looking for prophesy and advice, and it’s consistent with the times that people would believe supernatural things really did happen at such a meeting.

Regrettably, so far as I am aware, the Bible is the only written history of the Kingdom of Israel, and as we know many things in the Bible are historically false. So while the various elements of the story are plausible, we do not know if in fact this specific event actually occured to the first King of the unified kingdom of Israel, or if it is a hodgepodge of different stories that ended up as one thing.

Then again, the same can be said of most other histories from that time. At least the Biblical account is relatively intact, with many whole books passed down through the ages, so there’s more to sift through to try to find the nuggets of truth.

Back to the passage, is there any indication that Saul saw Samuel himself? He’s asking the medium what she sees, which makes it look to me like the whole conversation is happening through her, acting as an interpreter.

And while it’s certainly plausible that a king might have sought out a medium to ask advice of a deceased wise man, I have to wonder how the story, if authentic, would have gotten into the histories. Did Saul tell some of his associates what happened, before his death? Maybe, but that’s a fairly short window of opportunity. Did the medium relate it after his death? It seems unlikely.

A dramatization. Be careful what you ask for.

I do not claim to be a christian because I suck at being good. But I have read that God says this. Heaven and earth will pass but my word will never die. I do not remember the versus or the words in the right order …But you get the point. The bible is a 3000 or so year old book. This book is still one of the best selling books . I do not see many books last that long. This is not proof I understand that. It is strange when you think about it.

Which parts of the Bible are 3000 years old? Do you understand that the Bible is a collection of books and stories written at different times by different people and that there are different versions of the Bible with different contents?

Parts of Issiah might be about 2700-2800 years old. Not 3000 years, but close enough for government work.

I think it would be easier to list the parts of the OP that have been verified to be historically accurate than to to list the ones that have no historical verification. I would hazard that anything prior to the exile in Babylon has no basis in extra-biblically established fact.

The kings of Israel and Judah can be traced back to around three generations prior to king David based on extra-biblical sources (mainly, monuments erected by neighbouring monarchs to celebrate victories over 'em).

The oldest of the lot are these:

Whether these refer to the “House of David” is disputed (currently, the scholarly consensus is that it does), but most certainly they refer to pre-Exile Israel/Judah.

The Tel Dan Stele dates to the 2nd half of the 8th century BCE.

There is also this:

Which is refered to in the OT and is contemporanious with the Assyrian attack (and thus also predates the Babylonian captivity).

In short, there is in fact archaeological evidence. Naturally, it does not support the “narrative” of the OT, as much of it is simply short inscriptions that refer to various monarchs.

That said, consulting with mediums and fortune-tellers was hardly unusual in the ancient world - see Heroditos for much contemporary references to oracles and the like.

Edit: there is also this, which I saw in the British Museum:

Your best, first-stop go-to source for any “Did it really happen?” question regarding an Old Testament even is The Bible Unearthed, by Finkelstein and Silberman.

Ah, the original Stele Dan.

Groans :smiley:

Which of those trace the kings back that far? I had the impression that going back to David was about as far as it went, based on the Tel Dan Stele, and there’s nothing earlier than that. Three generations prior? Where is that?

I meant back generations to King David, based to Tel Dan. There is nothing to my knowledge that goes back any further! :smiley: My bad wording choice made it confusing.

The line of kings goes something like this:

[United monarchy]
David · Solomon · Rehoboam

[Northern Kingdom of Israel]
Jeroboam I · Nadab
Baasha · Elah
Omri · Ahab

The Tel Dan stele mentions the son of Ahab, second of the Omrihde dynasty - so Ahab can be presumed to exist (he reigned around 870 BCE). David (assuming he existed) was alleged to have died exaclty 100 years earlier - 970 BCE.

The Stele itself is dated to the reign of Hazael of Damascus (c.842–806 BCE).

While mention of the “house of David” a hundred and fifty years or so after David’s death (assuming he existed) isn’t proof positive an actual David existed, this discovery makes such a supposition much more reasonable.

Odd translation. “Medium” smacks of 19th century Spiritualism, Spiritism, Allan Kardec and that whole thing (at least to my ears).

The way I’m reading it, Saul does not see Samuel himself, which is why he asks the witch what she has seen (1 Samuel 28:13-14). Right after that, however, it seems as if Samuel addresses Saul directly (if the conversation goes via the witch, this isn’t mentioned), and Saul hears him and replies (1 Samuel 28:15).

So it seems as if the witch’s experience is visual, while Saul’s is auditory.

I wonder if this was the way that sort of thing was done in that time and era? You went to an expert who would “see things”, and then you yourself would “hear things”…?

You only focused on my error. What about the point ? The book is still here.