Witch of Endor

Witch of Endor
The Medium of Endor: from the frontispiece to Saducismus Triumphatus by Joseph Glanvill

The Witch of Endor, sometimes called the Medium of Endor, was a woman who called up the ghost of the recently deceased prophet Samuel, at the demand of King Saul of the Kingdom of Israel in the First Book of Samuel, chapter 28:3–25. The witch is absent from the version of that event recounted in the deuterocanonical Book of Sirach (46:19–20).



After Samuel's death and burial with due mourning ceremonies in Ramah, Saul had driven all necromancers and magicians from Israel. Then, in a bitter irony, Saul sought out a witch, anonymously and in disguise, only after he received no answer from God from dreams, prophets, or the Urim and Thummim as to his best course of action against the assembled forces of the Philistines. Following the orders of the king, the woman summons the ghost of Samuel from the abode of the dead, to give him advice.[1] This, however, is not given. After complaining of being awakened from his long sleep, the prophet's ghost berates him for disobeying God, and predicts Saul's downfall, with his whole army, in battle the next day, and adds that Saul and his sons will join him, then, in the abode of the dead. Saul is shocked and afraid, and the next day the army is defeated and Saul commits suicide after being wounded.

The woman is described as "a woman with an ob" (אוֹב, a wineskin)[2] in Hebrew, which may be a reference to ventriloquism,[3] and claims to see "elohim arising" (plural verb) from the ground.

The prophecy of Samuel's "ghost" is largely a verbatim repeat of the public words of Samuel when he was alive, in 1 Samuel 15. The exception is the prediction that Saul will die "tomorrow." However, if the events of chapters 28-31 are given in chronological order, then allowing time for the movements of David's troops from Jezreel to Ziklag implies that Saul did not die for another three or four days after the seance at Endor. As such, the only information added by the seance was incorrect in a literal sense.


Saul and the Witch of Endor by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, 1526.


In the Septuagint (2C BCE) the woman is described as a "ventriloquist",[4] possibly reflecting the consistent view of the Alexandrian translators concerning "demons... which exist not".[5] However Josephus (1st C) appears to find the story completetely credible (Antiquities of the Jews 6,14).

The Yalkut Shimoni (11th C) identifies the anonymous witch as the mother of Abner.[6] and based upon the witch's claim to have seen something, and Saul having heard a disembodied voice, also infers that necromancers are able to see the spirits of the dead but are unable to hear their speech, while the person for whom the person was summoned hears the voice but fails to see anything.[7]


The Church Fathers and some modern Christian writers have debated the theological issues raised by this text, however. Taking certain biblical text out of context, the story of King Saul and the Witch of Endor would appear to affirm that it is possible for humans to summon the spirits of the dead by magic. The modern Christian author Hank Hanegraaff argues that although it is impossible for humans to summon the dead, Samuel did appear before Saul and the witch by a sovereign act of God. Hanegraaff interprets the passage to mean that the witch was surprised by these events.

Medieval glosses to the Bible suggested that what the witch actually summoned was not the ghost of Samuel, but a demon taking his shape.[citation needed] Martin Luther, who believed that the dead were unconscious, read that it was "the Devil's ghost", whereas John Calvin, who did believe in the immortal soul, read that "it was not the real Samuel, but a spectre."[8]

Mortalist denominations such as Seventh-day Adventists generally teach that the story is but one example of ancient witchcraft or sorcery in the bible, which is founded on an unholy belief that people can communicate with the dead. Adventists believe that the bible teaches repeatedly, but most specifically in Ecclessiastes 9:5,6, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun." Seventh-day Adventists believe that communication with the dead is a form of magic, divination, sorcery, necromancy, and spiritualism which are all condemned in scripture. Adventists assert that since the scriptures teach that the dead know not anything, Saul was not communicating with the prophet Samuel, but with Satan.[9][10][11]

The story can be seen as a satire on Saul. Once Saul was the righteous king who upheld God's law by his sword; having fallen from God's favour due to a lack of obedience, he chose to participate in forbidden rituals. The spirit representing Samuel gives Saul no counsel, but only preys on Saul's fears and predicts Saul's doom.

In popular culture

The witch appears in oratorios: Mors Saulis et Jonathae (c.1682) by Charpentier, In Guilty Night (Saul and the Witch of Endor) (1691) by Henry Purcell, and Saul (1738) by Handel on the death of Saul.

A year after the death of his son at Loos, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem called En-Dor (1916), about communicating with the dead.[12] It concludes,

Oh the road to En-dor is the oldest road
And the craziest road of all!
Straight it runs to the Witch’s abode,
As it did in the days of Saul,
And nothing has changed of the sorrow in store
For such as go down on the road to En-dor!

A British cutter with the name The Witch of Endor is commandeered by Captain Horatio Hornblower during his escape from France in Flying Colours (1938), a novel by C.S. Forester set in the Napoleonic Wars.

The poet Howard Nemerov wrote a one act drama entitled "Endor" (1961) in which Saul visits the Witch of Endor.

A Halloween fortune-telling game called "The Witch of Endor", was made by the Naumkeag Games Co. of Salem Mass, in the 1920s.[13]

The mother of the witch Samantha on the TV sitcom Bewitched was named Endora.

In the book series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, the Witch of Endor is a secondary character.


  1. ^ Geza Vermes (2008) The Resurrection. London, Penguin: 25-6
  2. ^ Blueletterbible.org
  3. ^ The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia p307 ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley - 1959 "... of 'ob (RSV "medium"). According to one view it is the same word that means a "bottle made out of skins" ("wineskin," Job 32:19). The term would then refer to the technique of ventriloquism or, more accurately, "belly-talking" "
  4. ^ Hans-Josef Klauck, Brian McNeil Magic and paganism in early Christianity: the world of the Acts of the Apostles p66 2003 "A classical example is King Saul's visit to the 'witch' of Endor. The Septuagint says once that the seer engages in 'soothsaying' and three times that she engages in 'ventriloquism' (1 Sam 28:6-9)."
  5. ^ Milian Lauritz Andreasen Isaiah the gospel prophet: a preacher of righteousness 2001 p345"The Septuagint translates: They "burn incense on bricks to devils which exist not."
  6. ^ Yalḳ, Sam. 140, from Pirḳe R. El.
  7. ^ Emil G. Hirsch Jewish Encylopedia 1911 Endor, the witch of
  8. ^ J. M. Buckley - Faith Healing, Christian Science and Kindred Phenomena p221 2003, "The witch of Endor - The account of the "Witch of Endor is the only instance in the Bible where a description of the processes and ... Luther held that it was "the Devil's ghost"; Calvin that "it was not the real Samuel, but a spectre. "
  9. ^ White, E. G. (1999). Patriarchs and Prophets. Napa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, p. 683.
  10. ^ White, E. G. (1999). Acts of the Apostles. Napa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, p. 288-290.
  11. ^ White, E. G. (1858). The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan. Napa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, p. 551.
  12. ^ Tonie Holt, Valmai Holt My boy Jack: the search for Kipling's only son - 1998 p234 "Desperate as they were, there is no evidence that Rudyard and Carrie ever contemplated trying to reach John in this way and Rudyard's scorn for those who did was expressed in the poem En-dor, written the following year."
  13. ^ Witch of Endor Fortune Telling Game

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • WITCH OF ENDOR —    a divining woman consulted by King Saul, who affected to call up the spirit of Samuel, who foretold his defeat and doom …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • HMS Witch of Endor — is a cutter in the Horatio Hornblower novel Flying Colours . She was taken as a prize by the French Navy a year before the events of the novel, and moored at the mouth of the Loire River, at Nantes. There, she is taken by Hornblower and his… …   Wikipedia

  • Endor (village) — Endor (or En Dor or Ein Dor) was a village of Canaanites probably located on the Hill of Moreh (Jebel Datii).Fact|date=August 2007 The original Hebrew meaning of Endor is unknown because it is spelled differently in each of the three times it is… …   Wikipedia

  • Endor — or Ein Dor may refer to:* Endor (village), a Canaanite village where the Witch of Endor lived in the Hebrew Bible * Indur, a Palestinian village depopulated during the 1948 Arab Israeli war, thought to be the location of Canaanite Endor. * Ein… …   Wikipedia

  • Endor, Witch of — ▪ biblical figure       in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 28:3–25), a female sorcerer who was visited by Saul, the first king of Israel. Although Saul had banished all sorcerers and conjurers from his kingdom, his concern about the final outcome of… …   Universalium

  • Witch doctor — For other uses, see Witch doctor (disambiguation). Two Lassa witch doctors A witch doctor originally referred to a type of healer who treated ailments believed to be caused by witchcraft. It is currently used to refer to healers in some third… …   Wikipedia

  • Witch (etymology) — The etymology of the word witch traces back to the Old English language with the German and Indo European languages as possible older sources. Germanic etymologyThe word witch derives from the Old English nouns IPA|/ˈwitʧɑ/ (masc.) sorcerer,… …   Wikipedia

  • Endor —    Fountain of Dor; i.e., of the age , a place in the territory of Issachar (Josh. 17:11) near the scene of the great victory which was gained by Deborah and Barak over Sisera and Jabin (comp. Ps. 83:9, 10). To Endor, Saul resorted to consult one …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Endor — A Canaanite city, of uncertain location, where there lived a ‘witch’ or medium who had survived Saul s determination to banish witches from the land. However, in desperate need, Saul visited Endor in disguise and cajoled the woman into summoning… …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • Hexe von Endor — Saul und die Hexe von Endor Jacob Cornelisz van Oostanen, 1526 Die Totenbeschwörerin oder „Hexe“ von Endor ist eine Figur im 1. Buch Samuel der Bibel. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”