King Saul and the Witch of Endor   Leave a comment

Above:  Saul and the Witch of Endor, by Edward Henry Corbould

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXVII

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1 Samuel 28:3-25

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My spirit faints within me;

my heart within me is desolate.

–Psalm 143:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle of 1 Samuel.  Chronologically, the correct order at the end of the book is:

  1. 27:1-28:2
  2. 29:1-11
  3. 30:1-11
  4. 28:3-25
  5. 31:1-13

Just in case we had forgotten that Samuel had died (1 Samuel 25:1a), 1 Samuel 28:3 reminds us.

The Philistine war mentioned in 28:1-2 had started.  King Saul, greatly concerned, inquired of God, who was silent.  The monarch, who had outlawed necromancy, disguised himself to consult a necromancer.  The disguise did not work for long.

Samuel, in popular belief, was in Sheol, an early notion of the afterlife in the Bible.  Sheol was the underworld, without reward or punishment.  Sheol was “the Pit,” slimy and mucky.  Sheol was a mire.

Samuel was irritated, Saul was in a terrible spiritual and emotional state, and the necromancer was concerned for the monarch’s well-being.

The focus in this reading is the depth to which Saul, rejected by God, had fallen.  One should contrast Saul with David, on the ascendancy and favored by God, the germane texts tell us.

I wish that those (especially despots) not on God’s side would meet with more frustrations.  Yet I know the past too well to believe that they do not succeed, at least for a time.  Genocidal dictators are not strictly figures of the past.  Those who transform republics into dictatorships are also figures of current events.  Such people explain much of the appeal of belief in reward and punishment in the afterlife.  Sheol proves unsatisfactory.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

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