know what happened late last night? Three scary strangers
appeared at my door!
seemed nervous. They were wearing ill-fitting soldiers' robes
with the hoods pulled up over their heads. And you'll never
guess who one of them turned out to be.
I help you gentlemen? I asked.
ma'am, answered the shortest man, perhaps you can.
If I may ask I don't wish be indelicate, but are you a witch?
Am I what?
have been informed, he explained, that there is a woman,
a woman living in this very house here in Endor, who has a familiar
spirit. She can summon souls to appear and answer questions.
I am not a witch, I asserted. My name is Rebekah.
I am Ben, he replied, and this is Dan. He's, uh, my assistant.
the tall fellow lurking behind you there?
man didn't speak at first. Then he said quietly, I would
prefer to remain anonymous. He carried himself with
dignity, but his face was lined with worry as though suffering great
anxiety. He glanced about furtively as though surrounded by
enemies. Could we perhaps go inside to continue this
name is not Witch! I insisted. I am Rebekah!
There are no witches in Israel.
of course not, Dan agreed.
all, Yahweh said, Do not let your people practice
fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in
witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or
call forth the spirits of the dead. [Deuteronomy
we have read.
also said, Thou shalt not permit a witch to live. [Exodus
Witchcraft is a capital offense! And this law is now being enforced.
you're not a fortune-teller, Ben allowed.
Nevertheless, you do seem to be an intelligent and perceptive
woman. Perhaps we can discuss our concerns with you on that basis.
man had begun muttering about Philistines. Ben glanced back and
then whispered to me, We musn't upset him. Sometimes he's
hard to control if an evil spirit seizes him. To calm him down,
we once had to hire a boy to play lyre music. [I
We heard a
groan from the tall man. Dan said apprehensively, The
neighbors might be watching. May we please come
in? I reluctantly agreed.
We Go Inside
them into the larger of my rooms and lighting a lamp, I remarked,
So you're in search of a medium.
gather that you want that medium to contact a spirit the
spirit of someone who is no longer with you?
is correct, ma'am.
what reason is this someone no longer with you? Did he move
away to a foreign country? Did he die?
we would rather not say.
testing me, wondering whether I could use psychic powers to divine
the answer. Of course, psychic powers don't exist. But I
do have powers of observation.
gathered around my table, the men took no particular notice of its
Egyptian decorations. Hmm. Foreign furniture gave them no qualms.
did seem hesitant to sit on my black cushions. Hmm.
Symbols of death provoked their superstitions. That suggested
that their acquaintance's absence was due to his demise.
me guess, I said. I suspect this person is no
longer among the living.
Dan admitted. And perhaps you already know his
name. Do you? More testing.
still think I'm clairvoyant? I shot back. How do I
know you're not cops?
officers. Perhaps you're trying to entrap me in a crime.
no, of course we're not doing that, protested Ben.
must be aware, I said, that King Saul is eliminating
anyone who calls up ghosts and spirits. Why are you trying to
trick me into doing something that will lead to my death?
man was sitting opposite me at the table. He solemnly leaned
forward. As Yahweh lives, he promised, no
harm shall come to you for this.
I Take a Chance
reason, I trusted him. All right, here, I said,
let's shake on it. Give me your hands,
gentlemen. Dan grasped my left hand, and Ben held my
right. They extended their free hands to the tall man, who
hesitated before taking them. I noticed he was wearing an
impressive ring. This was certainly no common soldier. He
was somebody important.
occurred to me; call it intuition, if you will. I know King
Saul stands a head taller than any of his people. And he's
under great stress these days. He's been chasing his rival
David while also leading his army against the Philistines, an
intimidating force if there ever was one. The last I heard, the
Israelite soldiers were encamped at Gilboa, not far from here.
Could the man sitting across from me actually be Saul in disguise?
ghost might the king want me to contact?
cold reading was in order. So whom do you
desire to question? I began. The men remained
silent. Let me ponder it, I continued. I
wonder what the name might be. The answer isn't clear.
Dark and murky. No, wait, now I'm getting something. Does
his name, by any chance, begin with the letter B?
I felt a
little flinch from Ben on my right, but the other two continued
frowning in concentration, their eyebrows lowered. Not the
could it begin with the letter H? No reaction from anyone.
wait, could it possibly begin with the letter S? Almost
imperceptibly, all three pairs of eyebrows rose slightly.
I think maybe it does. You wish to speak with a person
whose name begins with S.
Now if it
was Saul sitting across from me, it could not be Saul's ghost he was
seeking. What S person had he known who was now
dead? Someone famous, perhaps. Maybe the judge who had
originally anointed him as king: Samuel.
directly at the tall man. Am I correct, sir? Does
this person's name indeed begin with S? He nodded.
Then, I demanded, who is it?
Samuel, he whispered. I was right!
The Ghost in
holding hands with my séance partners, I gazed down at the
table top. Samuel, Samuel, I called, are you
here? Samuel, Samuel, great seer, prophet, judge over all
Israel come forth! O Samuel, come forth! We
implore thee, appear thou unto us!
pretended that I had seen something. I shrieked. Then I
looked up at the tall man. Why have you deceived me?
I upbraided him. You are Saul!
be afraid, the king reassured me. What do you see?
at the table again. I see I see a ghostly form
coming up from the earth.
is it like? he asked.
is like an old man coming up, wrapped in a cloak.
him! Saul exclaimed. That's Samuel! I'd know
him anywhere! He bowed down in presence of the ancient
judge, leaning forward and pressing his head to the table top.
for the Dead
the customary procedure for these little dramas, I lowered the pitch
of my voice to impersonate the ghost. Saul!
Saul! I croaked.
Samuel, said the king, not looking up. I am here.
have you dared disturb me? Why have you raised me?
my troubles are great, he answered. He straightened and
gazed toward the far wall. I am fighting against the
Philistines. I am waging this war on God's behalf, but God has
turned away. He no longer answers me. He doesn't speak to
me through prophets, nor even through my dreams. I don't know
what to do.
you tried flipping a coin? Have you used the Urim? I suggested.
doesn't work, either. It used to work, Samuel, when you chose
me and secretly anointed me. Do you remember? It was not
your preference that Israel should have a king at all, but the people
insisted. Therefore you publicly cast lots to make it appear
that God was making the selection. You cast the Urim and
Thummim to narrow it down to the tribe of Benjamin, and then to the
family of Matri, and then to me, the son of Kish.
I replied in my low-pitched voice, recalling the stories that I'd
heard from my brothers. I thought you looked like a king,
because of your height.
should have paid no attention to your stature. I should have
listened to Yahweh. God doesn't see things the way people
do. We look at outward appearances, while the Lord looks into
the heart. [I Samuel 16:7]|
now I know what was in your heart, Saul. Or what was not.
You didn't cooperate with my little lottery, did you? You ran
and hid. I wonder whether you ever really wanted to be king.
found you hiding among the baggage! Look at the man whom
God has chosen, I sneered. But the people didn't
understand. They shouted, Long live the
God chose me then, but now he is no longer with me.
Yahweh has become my adversary. What shall I do, Samuel?
ask me? God has done what he said he would do. He has
taken your kingdom away from you and given it to another, to
David. I prophesized this would happen.
It Happened for
when you first became king? God said to you, speaking through
me of course, I shall punish the Amalekites because they
opposed us on our way up from Egypt. Go now, Saul, fall upon
the Amalekites! Destroy them! Spare no one! Put
them all to death men, women, children, herds, flocks, camels, donkeys.
I remember, said Saul.
you were greedy. You spared the best of the sheep and the
cattle, everything worth keeping. Not only that, you thought
the Amalekite king was worth keeping. You could get a ransom
for him, so you didn't execute him either.
then you lied to me! You told me you had carried out God's
instructions. I answered, If you did, why do I hear sheep
bleating? Why do I hear cattle lowing?
the word of Yahweh came to me: I regret that I ever made
Saul king. Because he turned away from me, I shall turn away
from him. [I
now that has come to pass, said Saul sorrowfully.
that has come to pass, I repeated. I never saw you
again, Saul, not to my dying day. But now, from the depths, I
have returned to tell you: Yahweh shall give the Israelite
army into the power of the Philistines.
The king gasped.
say to you again: Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.
stunned. Be with Samuel where? In the
grave? He began breathing heavily. He fainted, toppling
off his chair and falling full length on the floor.
man, said Ben, he's been so troubled that he hasn't eaten
anything all day.
felt sorry for him. Saul! Saul! I cried in my
normal voice. I am Rebekah. I listened to your
promise. I risked my life to obey you. Now you listen to
me: You need to eat something! I've got a fatted calf out
back; let me cook it for you. I'll even bake some bread, from scratch.
moaned and said he didn't want to eat anything, but Ben and Dan
talked him into getting up and sitting on the couch. I prepared
the veal cutlets and served them dinner.
left. They were off to fight the Philistines, I suppose.
what happened last night. I don't know what will take place
today. But I confess that I have a premonition not about
today, not about tomorrow, but about the day after tomorrow.
mind's eye I'm seeing Saul again. I'm standing on a rooftop,
and I see him on a city wall. It's the city of Beth-shan.
He's on the wall of Beth-shan. [I
retelling of I Samuel 28:3-25
other scripture as indicated)
here for other Bible stories
retold in the first person.