Some feel that this chapter validates the “immortal soul” belief. It does not. One must carefully study the chapter to understand its context and meaning.
Before a battle with the Philistines, King Saul sought counsel from God. Because God gave him no answer (I Sam. 28:1-6), Saul’s faith wavered. He became very afraid and “his heart greatly trembled” (vs. 5). Out of fear, Saul disguised his appearance and inquired of a witch who had contact with familiar spirits—demons. The Bible states, “Whom shall I [the witch] bring up unto you? And he [Saul] said, bring me up Samuel” (vs. 11).
The witch performed a ritual that appeared to comply with Saul’s request. Notice: “when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice” (vs. 12). She was afraid, now knowing that she was in the presence of King Saul and could be killed for practicing witchcraft.
Saul told her to “be not afraid: for what saw you?” (vs. 13). God’s Word continues the account: “I saw gods ascending out of the earth…an old man comes up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived [thought] that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.” (vs. 13-14).
Notice the words she used to describe what she saw: “an old man,” “a god ascending out of the earth,” and “he is covered with a mantle.” What she described appeared to be more than just a man. She saw a demon attempting to appear as Samuel.
The Bible reveals that Satan is the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4), who can transform himself into “an angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14). It also states that he is “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Both Satan and his demons are able to produce apparitions or to manifest themselves in human or animal form.
Some may still be confused by I Samuel 28:15: “And Samuel said to Saul, Why have you disquieted me, to bring me up?” It appears that it was actually Samuel speaking to Saul.
To appear as “an angel of light,” Satan uses deception as one of his tools (Rev. 12:9). This account was, in part, written from the perspective of Saul and the witch. The demon appeared to be Samuel and was recorded as such.
The soul is not immortal. All sin and all must die—Samuel was no exception (Rom. 5:12; Ezek. 18:20). (To learn more about the mortality of the soul and what happens after death, read our booklet Is There Life After Death?)