King Saul was at his wit's end and trembling with fear. The entire Philistine army had gathered to attack Israel's smaller and weaker troops. Saul moaned, "If only Samuel were here, he would tell me what to do." But the great prophet of Israel had died a few years earlier.
The aged monarch tried desperately to find some advice or guidance from other prophets or priests, but the Lord would not speak to him.
As a young man, Saul had been close to God. But after ascending the throne, he became cruel and rebelled against God's Word. Once he even had a whole village of priests murdered. King Saul had persistently refused to listen to the Lord, and now in his distress, God would not answer him.
"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." 1 Samuel 28:7. God had clearly commanded His people never to consult a witch or medium (Leviticus 19:31 20:27), but Saul now had little regard for God's implicit instruction.
Upon finding a woman in Endor who claimed to consult with the dead, the king disguised himself and went to see her. He said to the medium, "Bring me up Samuel." The witch went through her spells and enchantments until an apparition claiming to be Samuel the prophet appeared and gave the king an utterly hopeless message. It predicted that Saul and his three sons would die in battle the next day.
The following day Saul's sons were slain by the Philistines, and afterward the wounded and discouraged king fell on his sword and took his own life (1 Samuel 31:2-4). Who spoke to Saul through the witch -- a resurrected prophet of God, or a devil in disguise?