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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Saul, The Witch, and the Ghost

Updated thru 8/15/2016

Many religious people believe after death the thing that survives returns to be with G-d up in heaven (well at least the good people). But there is a very interesting Tenach story that posits that the surviving thing goes down. As more 'proof' this is confirmed in the Gilgamish Epic and other ancient peoples beliefs. 

Similarly, many religious people would consider necromancy and witches a bunch of hooey. Just like me. But the Tenach story as well as the beliefs of other ancient culture indicate otherwise. We will also see there were at least four ways to obtain information about the future per the Tenach.  

{ETA 8/8/2016 Per the Jewish Publication Society  The Jewish Study Bible 1999 Berlin and Brettler Page 614 "Sheol, the abode of the dead was believed to be beneath the Earth." "The Bible believes in the possibility of sorcery, soothsaying and necromancy, but prohibits them as heathen practices (Deut 18.9-14)." [Noteworthy Deut 18:12 necromancy is abhorrent, but it does not say ineffective !] }

Beginning on page 462 0f Myth Legend and Custom In The Old Testament by Theodor H. Gaster 1969 he discusses  
the Witch of Endor from 1 Samuel Chapter 28 - see below and my commentary on I Samuel in brackets.  

"The practice of necromancy was shared by the Hebrews with other peoples of the Ancient Near East", (and not just them). For example in the Gilgamish Epic the god Nergal brings up from the ground the ghost of a departed. The ancient Greeks evoked the souls of the dead to obtain information or appease them. Among some African tribes spirits of the dead chiefs may take possession of the bodies of live people and prophesy through their mouths. 

Among the Maoris the spirits of the dead normally dwelt below the Earth but could come up. Maoris Priests could summon up any dead person [similar to the Tenach story]. 

[I have provided just a small sample of the many examples of cultures which believed in and practiced necromancy. The book provides many more and with great detail.]

1 Samuel Chapter 28

1 And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their hosts together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David: 'Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me in the host, thou and thy men.' 2 And David said to Achish: 'Therefore thou shalt know what thy servant will do.' And Achish said to David: 'Therefore will I make thee keeper of my head for ever.

3 Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that divined by a ghost or a familiar spirit out of the land. 4 And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem; and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. 5 And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. 

[So the Lord can communicate to people thru dreams, prophets or the Urim. To this day many religious people think that the Lord is communicating with them via dreams. Others still believe that the Lord communicates with certain Rabbis for example telling them the future or giving them advice. The Urim was the name of an Israelite Priest oracle device, and that has pagan parallels as well.  We will now see there is another way to obtain information about the future - thru the ghosts of the departed brought up by a witch !]

7 Then said Saul unto his servants: 'Seek me a woman that divineth by a ghost, that I may go to her, and inquire of her.' And his servants said to him: 'Behold, there is a woman that divineth by a ghost at En-dor.' 

[It does not appear it took too long to find a witch. Not only that why was she being permitted to practice. Saul had outlawed divination.]

8 And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said: 'Divine unto me, I pray thee, by a ghost, and bring me up whomsoever I shall name unto thee.' 

[Why the disguise ? Saul had already let the cat out of the bag by asking his servants and with the two men. Eventually it was likely it would be found out he went to a witch. It could be he was  trying to avoid immediate negative publicity (see verse 9) and would deal with any political fall out later. There were important immediate concerns. Or maybe he did not want the witch to know his Identity for one reason or another. The witch would ponder why is Saul coming to me to divine ? Why are not the other methods working for Saul ? Or perhaps he did not want the ghost to recognize who had made the request.  Spirits can be dangerous. Why by night ? Perhaps because spirits don't like the light.}

9 And the woman said unto him: 'Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that divine by a ghost or a familiar spirit out of the land; wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?' 10 And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying: 'As the LORD liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.' 

[Verse 10 Saul must mean he will not punish her. Saul had outlawed diviners, but then seeks them out when it suits him. It is good to be the King. Ok, not always.]

11 Then said the woman: 'Whom shall I bring up unto thee?' And he said: 'Bring me up Samuel.' 

[Verse 11 Bring me up a ghost from below the Earth surface, and see verse 13.  It was there that the spirits of the dead abode per the ancient  Israelites and some other Ancient Near East Cultures, as well as some others.] 

12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying: 'Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.' 

[By seeing 'Samuel' she deduces that the stranger was Saul. How can that be ?]

13 And the king said unto her: 'Be not afraid; for what seest thou?' And the woman said unto Saul: 'I see a godlike being coming up out of the earth.' 14 And he said unto her: 'What form is he of?' And she said: 'An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a robe.' And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and prostrated himself. 

{ETA 8/15/2016 Talmud Chagigah 4b explains that Moses also arose !; Other portions of the Talmud discuss some details of ghosts rising from the Earth. For example they may rise feet first  (or head first ?) on Sabbath or not on Sabbath depending the method of soothsaying see for example Sanhedrin 65.}

5 And Samuel said to Saul: 'Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?' And Saul answered: 'I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams; therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.'  16 And Samuel said: 'Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine adversary? 

[Samuel is essentially calling Saul a fool and this is what I initially thought. Saul struck out with three methods of communication with the divine, and that is a big hint the Lord is angry with him.  But Saul cant be sure exactly what terrible thing waits for him. If the Lord was pissed off at Saul before he saw the witch, imagine how pissed off he is going to be after Saul engages a witch to call up spirits of the dead. Saul is caught between a rock and a hard place.]

17 And the LORD hath wrought for Himself; as He spoke by me; and the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thy hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David. 18 Because thou didst not hearken to the voice of the LORD, and didst not execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. 

[Verse 18 - Deut 25:19 The Torah commands blot out the Amalek tribe.  Saul killed every Amalek except one. Also Saul did not destroy all of Amalek's wealth, even though Samuel had previously told Saul to spare no one and no wealth as per G-d instructions. For this Saul was punished.] 

19 Moreover the LORD will deliver Israel also with thee into the hand of the Philistines; and to-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me; the LORD will deliver the host of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.' 20 Then Saul fell straightway his full length upon the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel; and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night....

[And eventually the prophecy comes true. Saul and his troops losing a battle with the Philistines. Would this qualify a valid prophecy ? I don’t think so, see  Proof of God From Prophecy, plus I am not convinced the story happened as described. It could well be Davidic propaganda explaining to the masses why Saul is no longer King and why Saul dies in battle. And where will Saul with his sons spirits end up ? Verse 19 tells us where Samuel's spirit is residing - beneath the Earth's surface.] 

[In ancient times, the Hebrews and some others believed the spirits of the dead end up below the Earth's surface. That witches could bring up the spirits of the dead. The Tenach actually relates  a case where this allegedly occurs. The best we can tell today is that there are no spirits below the Earth's surface and that witches are hooey. That the Tenach got the facts wrong.]

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