The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 66: The Death of Saul
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Again war was declared between Israel and the Philistines.
"The Philistines gathered themselves together, and came
and pitched in Shunem," on the northern edge of the plain of
Jezreel; while Saul and his forces encamped but a few miles
distant, at the foot of Mount Gilboa, on the southern border of
the plain. It was on this plain that Gideon, with three hundred
men, had put to flight the hosts of Midian. But the spirit that
inspired Israel's deliverer was widely different from that which
now stirred the heart of the king. Gideon went forth strong in
faith in the mighty God of Jacob; but Saul felt himself to be
alone and defenseless, because God had forsaken him. As he
looked abroad upon the Philistine host, "he was afraid, and his
heart greatly trembled."
Saul had learned that David and his force were with the
Philistines, and he expected that the son of Jesse would take this
opportunity to revenge the wrongs he had suffered. The king
was in sore distress. It was his own unreasoning passion, spurring
him on to destroy the chosen of God, that had involved the nation
in so great peril. While he had been engrossed in pursuing
David he had neglected the defense of his kingdom. The Philistines,
taking advantage of its unguarded condition, had penetrated
into the very heart of the country. Thus while Satan had
been urging Saul to employ every energy in hunting David, that
he might destroy him, the same malignant spirit had inspired the
Philistines to seize their opportunity to work Saul's ruin and
overthrow the people of God. How often is the same policy still
employed by the archenemy! He moves upon some unconsecrated
heart to kindle envy and strife in the church, and then, taking
advantage of the divided condition of God's people, he stirs up
his agents to work their ruin.
On the morrow Saul must engage the Philistines in battle.
The shadows of impending doom gathered dark about him; he [p. 676] longed for help and guidance. But it was in vain that he sought
counsel from God. "The Lord answered him not, neither by
dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets." The Lord never turned
away a soul that came to Him in sincerity and humility. Why
did he turn Saul away unanswered? The king had by his own act
forfeited the benefits of all the methods of inquiring of God.
He had rejected the counsel of Samuel the prophet; he had
exiled David, the chosen of God; he had slain the priests of the
Lord. Could he expect to be answered by God when he had cut
off the channels of communication that Heaven had ordained?
He had sinned away the Spirit of grace, and could he be
answered by dreams and revelations from the Lord? Saul did not
turn to God with humility and repentance. It was not pardon
for sin and reconciliation with God, that he sought, but deliverance
from his foes. By his own stubbornness and rebellion he had
cut himself off from God. There could be no return but by
the way of penitence and contrition; but the proud monarch,
in his anguish and despair, determined to seek help from
"Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that
hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her."
Saul had a full knowledge of the character of necromancy. If
had been expressly forbidden by the Lord, and the sentence of
death was pronounced against all who practiced its unholy arts.
During the life of Samuel, Saul had commanded that all wizards
and those that had familiar spirits should be put to death; but
now, in the rashness of desperation, he had recourse to that oracle
which he had condemned as an abomination.
It was told the king that a woman who had a familiar spirit
was living in concealment at Endor. This woman had entered
into covenant with Satan to yield herself to his control, to fulfill
his purposes; and in return, the prince of evil wrought wonders
for her and revealed secret things to her.
Disguising himself, Saul went forth by night with but two
attendants, to seek the retreat of the sorceress. Oh, pitiable sight!
the king of Israel led captive by Satan at his will! What path so
dark for human feet to tread as that chosen by one who has persisted
in having his own way, resisting the holy influences of the
Spirit of God! What bondage so terrible as that of him who is
given over to the control of the worst of tyrants—himself! Trust [p. 679] in God and obedience to His will were the only conditions upon
which Saul could be king of Israel. Had he complied with these
conditions throughout his reign, his kingdom would have been
secure; God would have been his guide, the Omnipotent his
shield. God had borne long with Saul; and although his rebellion
and obstinacy had well-nigh silenced the divine voice in the
soul, there was still opportunity for repentance. But when in his
peril he turned from God to obtain light from a confederate of
Satan, he had cut the last tie that bound him to his Maker; he
had placed himself fully under the control of that demoniac
power which for years had been exercised upon him, and which
had brought him to the verge of destruction.
Under the cover of darkness Saul and his attendants made
their way across the plain, and, safely passing the Philistine
host, they crossed the mountain ridge, to the lonely home of the
sorceress of Endor. Here the woman with a familiar spirit had
hidden herself away that she might secretly continue her profane
incantations. Disguised as he was, Saul's lofty stature and
kingly port declared that he was no common soldier. The
woman suspected that her visitor was Saul, and his rich gifts
strengthened her suspicions. To his request, "I pray thee, divine
unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I
shall name unto thee," the woman answered, "Behold, thou
knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that
have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore
then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?" Then
"Saul sware to her by the Lord, saying, As the Lord liveth, there
shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing." And when
she said, "Whom shall I bring up unto thee?" he answered,
After practicing her incantations, she said, "I saw gods
ascending out of the earth. . . . An old man cometh up; and he is
covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel,
and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself."
It was not God's holy prophet that came forth at the spell of
a sorcerer's incantation. Samuel was not present in that haunt
of evil spirits. That supernatural appearance was produced solely
by the power of Satan. He could as easily assume the form of
Samuel as he could assume that of an angel of light, when he
tempted Christ in the wilderness. [p. 680]
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