Shmuel 1-Chapter 28: Shaul consults with a woman who practices Ov

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Chapter 28: Shaul consults with a woman who practices Ov

1. The Philistines prepared to battle the Jewish people with the “help” of the Dovid:

  • It was in those days that the Philistines gathered their army together to fight against Israel. Akish their king set the Dovid that he assumes that Dovid and his men will follow him into the battlefield [to fight against the Jewish people]. Dovid replied to Akish connivingly that he will see what wonders he will do for him. So Akish said to Dovid and if that is the case and he will appoint him as the eternal personal guard.

2. Israel and the Philistines prepare for war:

  • Shmuel dies: Shmuel had died and all the Jewish people had eulogized him and buried him in Ramah in his city. [This information is repeated in order to inform us of the reason for why Shaul needed to seek out an Ov to tell him prophecy, as Shmuel was no longer alive.[1]]
  • The annihilation of the Ovos and Yidoni: At that time Shaul had already managed to annihilate all of the [prophets of witchcraft] Ovos and Yidoni from the land of Israel.
  • The positions of the Israeli and Philistine army: Philistines gathered their army in the area of Shuname while Shaul had gathered all the Jewish people in Gilboa.
  • Shaul is overtaken by fear of the war: Shaul looked and saw [the great army of[2]] the Philistines and his heart became filled with trepidation.
  • Shaul consults with G-d with no success: Saul tried to consult with G-d and G-d did not answer neither in his dreams nor through the Urim Vetumim and nor through the prophets.

3. Shaul seeks a woman who practices Ov to bring up the soul of Shmuel:

  • Shaul turned to his servants and asked them to find him a woman who was a master in the Ov necromancy so that they can go to her and seek guidance from her [to arouse the dead]. His servants said to him that indeed there is a woman who is a master of the Ov necromancy found in the city of Ein Dor. [The sages teach that this woman was none other than the wife of Tzefanya, the mother of Avner.[3]]
  • Shaul disguises himself and arrives to the woman who practices Ov: Shaul disguised himself with common [non-kingly[4]] garments. He and another two men went towards the woman at night and said to her that they are seeking her help to perform the Ov sorcery and to bring up the soul of a certain dead person that they would like to converse with. The woman replied to him, “I am sure that you very well know that which Shaul has done to annihilate all those who practice Ov and Yidoni from the land. Why then do you come here to look for reasons to take my life and set me up to be to be put to death?” Shaul then swore to her by the name of G-d saying, “I swear to you by the life of G-d that no punishment will occur to you due to this [as I will not reveal it to anyone[5]].” So, the woman asked him as to which person he wants her to bring up from the dead for him to speak with, and Shaul replied that he wants her to bring up the soul of Shmuel the prophet.
  • The soul of Shmuel is aroused through necromancy: [The woman performed her sorcery and arouse the soul of Shmuel.] When she saw Shmuel, she let out a great cry [of panic[6], as she saw that Samuel showed respect towards Shaul from which she concluded that he must be the king[7]] and she then confronted Shaul saying, “Why did you fool me, you are Shaul.” The king replied to her that she should not fear [as he already swore that he would not kill her[8]]. He then asked her as to what she saw [to be able to tell that he was the king[9], as the way that this sorcery works is that the asker can hear but not see while the person who did this sorcery can see but not hear[10]]. She replied that she had seen [men of[11]] G-d going up from the earth [in a way different than usual, as commonly they are erected feet first and here he was erected head first which must be due to the honor and respect that he is paying to the king[12]]. [In addition t arousing the soul of Shmuel, the soul of Moshe was also aroused.[13]] Shaul asked her as to what the man looked like and she replied that an old man has been erected and he is wearing a coat. At that moment Shaul knew that it indeed was Shmuel and he prostrated himself and bowed his face onto the ground.

4. Shmuel converses with Shaul:

  • Shmuel confronts Shaul: Shmuel said to Shaul, “Why have you frightened me to bring me up today [from my place of rest in the heavenly world’s, making me think that today is the great day of judgment on earth and I was being called up for my judgment[14]]?”
  • Shaul defends himself: Shaul replied, “I am in a great state of distress as the Philistines have come to fight against me and G-d has left me and does not answer me anymore. I asked him through the prophets and through dreams but have received no reply from Him. Therefore, I had no choice but to call you, so you can let me know what to do.” [However, due to the shame of having this annihilated the city of Nov, Shaul did not mention that he had also consulted with the Urim Vetumim and did not receive a reply.[15] This shame awarded Shaul with a portion of the world to come, and from here we learn that whoever is ashamed of his sin that he committed is forgiven.[16]]
  • Shmuel tells Shaul that he, his son, and the Jewish people will fall in battle to the Philistines: Shmuel replied to him, “Why then do you ask me if G-d has left you, and has become a help for your enemy [Dovid[17]]? G-d will do to you as he spoke to me and he will tear your monarchy from your hands and hand it over to your colleague Dovid. Being that you did not listen to the instructions of G-d and you do not take proper vengeance against Amaleik therefore this is happening to you today, as G-d is taking retribution against you on this day. Tomorrow, G-d will hand you and the Jewish people into the hands of the Philistines. You and your son will die and be with me [in my portion in the garden of Eden[18]] and the armies of Israel will be handed to the Philistines.”

5. Shaul faints on the floor and is unable to get up:

  • Saul hurried [to prostrate himself before Samuel] and he fell on his face onto the ground as he was petrified by the words that he had heard from Samuel. He had no energy [to even stand up from the ground[19]] being that he did not eat bread that entire day and that entire night.
  • The woman approached Shaul after seeing that he was in a state of shock and she said to him, “Your maidservant has listened to your voice and I placed my life on the line to follow your instructions that you spoke to me [as you have decided to kill anyone who practices Ov[20]]. Now, please listen to the instructions of your maidservant and I will place before you bread for you to eat in order so you have energy so you can go on your way.”
  • Saul however refused to listen and said that he will not eat. So, his servants as well as the woman pressed upon them to eat bread and finally, he listened to their voice and he got up from the ground and sat on the bed [to eat]. The woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she hurried and slaughtered it [the provide them with meat]. She also took flour and kneaded it and baked Matzos. She served the food before Shaul and before his servants and they ate the food.
  • After they finished eating they got up and left that same night.


[1] Rashi and Mefarshim 27:3

[2] Metzudos Dovid 28:5

[3] Radak 28:7

[4] Radak 28:8

[5] Pirush Rabbeinu Yeshaya 28:10

[6] Radak 28:12

[7] See Rashi 28:12

[8] Radak 28:12

[9] Radak 28:12

[10] Rashi 28:14; Metzudos Dovid 28:12; Tanchuma Emor 2

[11] Radak and Metzudos Dovid 28:13

[12] Rashi and all Mefarshim 28:12

[13] Rashi and Radak 28:13; However, see Rashi there that it was Shmuel who brought Moshe along as he feared he was being brought up for judgment, while according to the Radak it was the woman who aroused also the soul of Moshe so that he asks for mercy on behalf of the Jewish people

[14] Rada 28:15k

[15] Rashi and other Mefarshim 28:15

[16] Radak 28:19

[17] Metzudos Dovid 28:16

[18] See Rashi and other Mefarshim 28:19; See Radak ibid that Samuel informed him that in the merit of him dying in battle to the Philistines his sin of killing the city of Nov will be forgiven and he will merit a portion of the world to come.

[19] Radak 28:20

[20] Radak 28:21

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