From Eternity Past


Chapter 66—Saul Takes His Own Life

This chapter is based on 1 Samuel 28; 31.

“The Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem,” while Saul and his forces encamped but a few miles distant at the foot of Mount Gilboa. Saul felt alone and defenseless, because God had forsaken him. As he looked abroad upon the Philistine host, “he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled.” EP 490.1

Saul had expected that the son of Jesse would take this opportunity to revenge the wrongs he had suffered. The king was in sore distress. His own unreasoning passion to destroy the chosen of God had involved the nation in great peril. While 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. While Satan had been urging Saul to destroy David, the same malignant spirit inspired the Philistines to work Saul's ruin. How often the archenemy moves upon some unconsecrated heart to kindle 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. EP 490.2

On the morrow Saul must engage the Philistines in battle. Shadows of impending doom gathered dark about him. He longed for guidance; in vain he sought counsel from God. “The Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.” EP 490.3

The Lord never turned away a soul that came to Him in sincerity. Why did He turn Saul away unanswered? The king 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 be answered when he had cut off the channels of communication that Heaven had ordained? It was not pardon for sin and reconciliation with God that Saul sought, but deliverance from his foes. By rebellion he had cut himself off from God. There could be no return but by penitence and contrition. EP 490.4

“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.” Necromancy had been forbidden by the Lord, and the sentence of death was pronounced against all who practiced its unholy arts. Saul had commanded that all wizards and those that had familiar spirits should be put to death. But now, in desperation, he had recourse to that which he had condemned as an abomination. EP 491.1

A woman who had a familiar spirit was living in concealment at Endor. She had entered into covenant with Satan to fulfill his purposes and, in return, the prince of evil revealed secret things to her. EP 491.2

Disguising himself, Saul went by night with two attendants to seek the sorceress. Oh, pitiable sight! the king of Israel led captive by Satan! Trust 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, his kingdom would have been secure; God would have been his guide, the Omnipotent his shield. 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 to Satan, he cut the last tie that bound him to his Maker. He placed himself fully under the control of the demoniac power which for years had brought him to the verge of destruction. EP 491.3

Under cover of darkness, Saul and his attendants safely passed the Philistine host. They crossed the mountain ridge to the lonely home of the sorceress of Endor. Disguised as he was, Saul's lofty stature and kingly bearing declared that he was no common soldier. His rich gifts strengthened her suspicions. To his request the woman answered, “Saul 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, “Samuel.” EP 491.4

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.” EP 492.1

It was not God's prophet that came forth. Samuel was not present in that haunt of evil spirits. Satan 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. EP 492.2

The message to Saul from the pretended prophet was, “Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?” Saul answered, “I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.” EP 492.3

When Samuel was living, Saul had despised his counsel. But now, in order to communicate with Heaven's ambassador, he had recourse to the messenger of hell! Saul had placed himself fully in the power of Satan, and now he whose only delight is misery and destruction made the most of his advantage to ruin the unhappy king. In answer came the terrible message, professedly from the lips of Samuel: EP 492.4

“The Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy... . The Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbor, even to David: because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines.” EP 492.5

Satan had led Saul to justify himself in defiance of Samuel's reproofs and warning. But now he turned on him, presenting the enormity of his sin and the hopelessness of pardon, that he might goad him to desperation. Nothing could better drive him to despair and self-destruction. EP 493.1

Saul was faint with fasting, terrified, and conscience-stricken. His form swayed like an oak before the tempest, and he fell prostrate to the earth. EP 493.2

The sorceress was filled with alarm. The king of Israel lay before her like one dead. She besought him to partake of food, urging that since she had imperiled her life in granting his desire, he should yield to her request for the preservation of his own. Saul yielded, and the woman set before him the fatted calf and bread hastily prepared. EP 493.3

What a scene! In the wild cave of the sorceress, in the presence of Satan's messenger, he who had been anointed of God as king over Israel sat down to eat, in preparation for the day's deadly strife. EP 493.4

By consulting that spirit of darkness, Saul had destroyed himself. Oppressed by the horror of despair, it would be impossible to inspire his army with courage. He could not lead the minds of Israel to look to God as their helper. Thus the prediction of evil would work its own accomplishment. EP 493.5