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1 Samuel 28:21–25

And the woman came to Saul and saw that he was severely troubled (v. 21a).

When Saul collapses upon hearing the dreadful prophetic words of Samuel’s spirit, the medium can see that he is “severely troubled.” Taking note of the fact that she did as he asked in summoning Samuel’s spirit and that she put her trust in Saul’s word that she would not be harmed for practicing her black arts, she asks that Saul likewise would listen to her and trust her. Her advice is that Saul allow her to prepare some food for him, in order that he might be strengthened for his trip back to Israel’s camp.

On its face, this seems to be a kind gesture, but Matthew Henry believes the woman is more concerned with her own self-interest. He writes: “Perceiving him to be in great agony, she came to him (v. 21), and was very importunate with him to take some refreshment, that he might be able to get clear from her house, fearing that if he should be ill, especially if he should the there, she should be punished for it as a traitor, though she had escaped punishment as a witch. This, it is probable, rather than any sentiment of kindness, made her solicitous to help him.” Aside from her motive, we can also question whether the woman is offering Saul that which he most needs—physical nourishment rather than spiritual strength. Years of trying to govern Israel apart from the strength and wisdom of God have brought him to this moment of utter darkness. He is lost and needs God, not bread.

For reasons that are not clear, Saul initially refuses any food. Is he trying to keep a fast? Is he just too terrified to eat? Finally, however, when Saul’s servants join with the woman in entreating Saul to eat, he agrees. Thereupon, the woman slaughters her fattened calf and prepares it for Saul and his men, along with unleavened bread. She offered Saul “a piece of bread,” but she gives him a feast. And Saul begins to recover from his swoon. First he finds strength to sit up on the bed. Then, after eating, he is able to leave for the Israelite camp.

The final words of this passage, noting that Saul “went away that night,” seem heartbreakingly symbolic of his plight. He goes out into the night being already in the depths of spiritual darkness. Seemingly resigned to his fate as prophesied by Samuel, he will go ahead with the battle against the Philistines, but he will not (as far as Scripture says) wrestle with God, that his heart might be made right.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Saul’s stubborn refusal to humble himself before God, even after hearing that the next day would bring his death, is typical of the depraved human heart. Apart from God’s grace, we prefer to curse God for eternity rather than acknowledge Him as Lord. Take time to thank Him for changing the attitude of your heart toward Him.

For Further Study
  • Job 24:13
  • Prov. 21:29
  • Rom. 1:32
  • Heb. 4:7; 10:26–27

Words of Condemnation

David in Distress

Keep Reading The Sanctity of Work: A Biblical Perspective on Labor

From the July 2003 Issue
Jul 2003 Issue