1 Samuel 28: Saul at Endor
Wherever David fled from Saul in the land of Israel, even in the wilderness, Saul followed him. So David went again to the land of the Philistines, to Achish king of Gath. A band of men with their families were with him. You remember Gath, one of the large Philistine cities, and the home of Goliath. David was more kindly received than when he came before to Gath (1 Sam. 21:10-15), and was given the town of Ziklag in the southern part of the Philistine country for his own.
Achish believed that David was now the enemy of Israel and the friend of the Philistines, and when there was war again with Israel, he took David and his men with him. But some of the Philistine princes distrusted David, and he was sent back to Ziklag. He found the town robbed and burnt by the Amalekites, the wandering people of the south, whom Saul had defeated but had not wholly destroyed. David went after them and brought back the people and the things that had been stolen, besides other spoil. You can read this story in 1 Sam. 27, 29, and 30. We leave David in Ziklag while we go to learn how it fared with Saul.
You remember this great green plain of Esdraelon shut in by Mount Carmel and the Nazareth hills, and on the east by the three mountains Tabor, Little Hermon, and Gilboa. Between these mountains valleys of green reach eastward to the Jordan. The beautiful branch of the plain which runs eastward between Little Hermon and Gilboa brings back the story of Gideon's victory over the Midianites. (Judges 6; 7) And there was the great spring from which Gideon's soldiers drank to know who would be chosen for the battle. The spring comes out from under a cliff on the mountain side, and sends a large stream down the valley to the Jordan.
In this same region we now find Saul. The Philistines were camped at Shunem, which was in the border of the great plain near the southwestern end of Little Hermon. Saul and the army of Israel were camped near the great spring, on Mount Gilboa. It is not a single peak, but a mass of mountains. (2 Sam. 1:21) "And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled."
Then in his fear Saul tried to inquire of the Lord. "But the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets." Urim and Thummim were words used of the twelve precious stones set in the breastplate which was fastened upon the front of the ephod, the sacred vest of the priest. (Exod. 28:15-30) The priest wore the ephod and the breastplate when he asked questions of the Lord. Compare 1 Sam. 30:7. Answers were given by light flashing from the precious stones, and sometimes at the same time a voice was heard. (A. 6640, 9905) No answer of any kind came to Saul. When we are disobedient and willful, the Lord seems far away from us; we do not find help in His Word, and even the voice of conscience grows dim and fails.
Then Saul went by night across the valley and around the hill of Little Hermon to the village of Endor on its northern slope. There was there a woman "with a familiar spirit." She was one of those who had communication with the other world, but it was with evil spirits who deceived those who spoke with them and did great harm. The Lord had strictly commanded that those with familiar spirits should be killed and that no one should be defiled by having dealings with them. Saul himself in his better days had tried to put away such people from the land. Now he did what he knew was wrong. He asked to speak with Samuel, and one appeared who Saul believed was Samuel. But Saul found no help. He was told that Israel would be beaten in the battle, and that he and his sons would die. We read of this in 1 Sam. 28, and must leave the story of the battle till our next lesson.
1. What town was given to David by the Philistines?
2. Where were the armies of the Philistines and of Israel in Saul's last battle? What armies had camped there long before?
3. What was the breastplate? What was its use?
4. Why did Saul go to the woman of Endor? Why was it wrong?
The Philistines represent an intellectual power of learning and understanding. This in itself is not evil, but it becomes evil if one grows proud and excuses evil ways of life. When Abraham and Isaac sojourned with the Philistines many days, and dug wells in that country, it represented an innocent development of intelligence. David's stay among the Philistines, in the town of Ziklag, "out-pouring," seems also to represent a period of intellectual growth. There may be for a time an outward likeness between the intellectual power represented by David and that represented by the Philistines, as Achish believed David to be his friend; but it is only an apparent likeness; the two at heart are different. The intellectual power for which David stands is for the sake of the heavenly life. (A. 2496, 3362)
In the story of David's pursuit of the Amalekites and his return with spoil, we read that he made those of his men who had waited exhausted by the brook Besor to share equally in the spoil with those who had overtaken the enemy; and it became a law that "as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff." From this has been drawn the helpful lesson that they who are faithful with small ability or opportunity, and who do patiently inconspicuous uses, receive the Lord's blessing as fully and are prepared for heaven as truly as those who with larger ability do more conspicuous service.
The words Urim and Thummim in Hebrew mean "light" and "integrity." But angels understand by these words, light and its bright shining forth; and they do not think of a natural light, but of the Lord's Divine truth and its going forth with brightness and power. (A. 9905) The gems in the breastplate represent sure facts of holy truth in the letter of the Lord's Word. As the priest received answers from the Lord by the flashing of light from the gems, so the Lord teaches and guides us by enlightening our minds as we read His Word. (A. 9863; E. 717; T. 218)
The orderly way for us to receive instruction from the Lord is by enlightenment through His Word. It is not right to wish to speak with those of the other world, and those who try to do so are in danger of coming into the power of evil spirits. The Lord said in a parable, "They have Moses and the prophets... If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." (Luke 16:29, 31; P. 171; H. 249)