1 Samuel 28-31
Contemporary English Version
Saul Talks with Samuel’s Ghost
28 1-3 Samuel had died some time earlier,[a] and people from all over Israel had attended his funeral in his hometown of Ramah.
Meanwhile, Saul had been trying to get rid of everyone who spoke with the spirits of the dead.[b] But one day the Philistines brought their soldiers together to attack Israel.
Achish told David, “Of course, you know that you and your men must fight as part of our Philistine army.”
David answered, “That will give you a chance to see for yourself just how well we can fight!”
“In that case,” Achish said, “you and your men will always be my bodyguards.”
4 The Philistines went to Shunem and set up camp. Saul called the army of Israel together, and they set up their camp in Gilboa. 5 Saul took one look at the Philistine army and started shaking with fear. 6 So he asked the Lord what to do. But the Lord would not answer, either in a dream or by a priest or a prophet. 7 Then Saul told his officers, “Find me a woman who can talk to the spirits of the dead. I’ll go to her and find out what’s going to happen.”
His servants told him, “There’s a woman at Endor who can talk to spirits of the dead.”
8 That night, Saul put on different clothing so nobody would recognize him. Then he and two of his men went to the woman, and asked, “Will you bring up the ghost of someone for us?”
9 The woman said, “Why are you trying to trick me and get me killed? You know King Saul has gotten rid of everyone who talks to the spirits of the dead!”
10 Saul replied, “I swear by the living Lord that nothing will happen to you because of this.”
11 “Who do you want me to bring up?” she asked.
“Bring up the ghost of Samuel,” he answered.
12 When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed. Then she turned to Saul and said, “You’ve tricked me! You’re the king!”
13 “Don’t be afraid,” Saul replied. “Just tell me what you see.”
She answered, “I see a spirit rising up out of the ground.”
14 “What does it look like?”
“It looks like an old man wearing a robe.”
Saul knew it was Samuel, so he bowed down low.
15 “Why are you bothering me by bringing me up like this?” Samuel asked.
“I’m terribly worried,” Saul answered. “The Philistines are about to attack me. God has turned his back on me and won’t answer any more by prophets or by dreams. What should I do?”
16 Samuel said:
If the Lord has turned away from you and is now your enemy, don’t ask me what to do. 17 I’ve already told you: The Lord has sworn to take the kingdom from you and give it to David. And that’s just what he’s doing! 18 When the Lord was angry with the Amalekites, he told you to destroy them, but you didn’t do it. That’s why the Lord is doing this to you. 19 Tomorrow the Lord will let the Philistines defeat Israel’s army, then you and your sons will join me down here in the world of the dead.
20 At once, Saul collapsed and lay stretched out on the floor, terrified at what Samuel had said. He was weak because he had not eaten anything since the day before.
21 The woman came over to Saul, and when she saw that he was completely terrified, she said, “Your Majesty, I listened to you and risked my life to do what you asked. 22 Now please listen to me. Let me get you a little something to eat. It will give you strength for your walk back to camp.”
23 “No, I won’t eat!”
But his officers and the woman kept on urging Saul, until he finally agreed. He got up off the floor and sat on the bed. 24 Right away the woman killed a calf that she had been fattening up. She cooked part of the meat and baked some thin bread.[c] 25 Then she served the food to Saul and his officers, who ate and left before daylight.
The Philistines Send David Back
29 The Philistines had brought their whole army to Aphek,[d] while Israel’s army was camping near Jezreel Spring. 2-3 The Philistine rulers and their troops were marching past the Philistine army commanders in groups of a hundred and a thousand. When David and his men marched by at the end with Achish, the commanders said, “What are these worthless Israelites doing here?”
“They are David’s men,” Achish answered. “David used to be one of Saul’s officers, but he left Saul and joined my army a long time ago. I’ve never had even one complaint about him.”
4 The Philistine army commanders were angry and shouted:
Send David back to the town you gave him. We won’t have him going into the battle with us. He could turn and fight against us! Saul would take David back as an officer if David brought him the heads of our soldiers. 5 The Israelites even dance and sing,
“Saul has killed
a thousand enemies;
David has killed
ten thousand enemies!”
6 Achish called David over and said:
I swear by the living Lord that you’ve been honest with me, and I want you to fight by my side. I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong from the day you joined me until this very moment. But the other Philistine rulers don’t want you to come along. 7 Go on back home and try not to upset them.
8 “But what have I done?” David asked. “Do you know of anything I’ve ever done that would keep me from fighting the enemies of my king?”[e]
9 Achish said:
I believe that you’re as good as an angel of God, but our army commanders have decided that you can’t fight in this battle. 10 You and your troops will have to go back to the town I gave you.[f] Get up and leave tomorrow morning as soon as it’s light. I am pleased with you, so don’t let any of this bother you.[g]
11 David and his men got up early in the morning and headed back toward Philistia, while the Philistines left for Jezreel.
David Rescues His Soldiers' Families
30 It took David and his men three days to reach Ziklag. But while they had been away, the Amalekites had been raiding in the desert around there. They had attacked Ziklag, burned it to the ground, 2 and had taken away the women and children. 3 When David and his men came to Ziklag, they saw the burned-out ruins and learned that their families had been taken captive. 4 They started crying and kept it up until they were too weak to cry any more. 5 David’s two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, had been taken captive with everyone else.
6 David was desperate. His soldiers were so upset over what had happened to their sons and daughters that they were thinking about stoning David to death. But he felt the Lord God giving him strength, 7 and he said to the priest, “Abiathar, let’s ask God what to do.”
Abiathar brought everything he needed to get answers from God, and he went over to David. 8 Then David asked the Lord, “Should I go after the people who raided our town? Can I catch up with them?”
“Go after them,” the Lord answered. “You will catch up with them, and you will rescue your families.”
9-10 David led his six hundred men to Besor Gorge, but two hundred of them were too tired to go across. So they stayed behind, while David and the other four hundred men crossed the gorge.
11 Some of David’s men found an Egyptian out in a field and took him to David. They gave the Egyptian some bread, and he ate it. Then they gave him a drink of water, 12 some dried figs, and two handfuls of raisins. This was the first time in three days he had tasted food or water. Now he felt much better.
13 “Who is your master?” David asked. “And where do you come from?”
“I’m from Egypt,” the young man answered. “I’m the servant of an Amalekite, but he left me here three days ago because I was sick. 14 We had attacked some towns in the desert where the Cherethites live, in the area that belongs to Judah, and in the desert where the Caleb clan lives. And we burned down Ziklag.”
15 “Will you take me to those Amalekites?” David asked.
“Yes, I will, if you promise with God as a witness that you won’t kill me or hand me over to my master.”
16 He led David to the Amalekites. They were eating and drinking everywhere, celebrating because of what they had taken from Philistia and Judah. 17 David attacked just before sunrise the next day and fought until sunset.[h] Four hundred Amalekites rode away on camels, but they were the only ones who escaped.
18 David rescued his two wives and everyone else the Amalekites had taken from Ziklag. 19 No one was missing—young or old, sons or daughters. David brought back everything that had been stolen, 20 including their livestock.
David also took the sheep and cattle that the Amalekites had with them, but he kept these separate from the others. Everyone agreed that these would be David’s reward.
21 On the way back, David went to the two hundred men he had left at Besor Gorge, because they had been too tired to keep up with him. They came toward David and the people who were with him. When David was close enough, he greeted the two hundred men and asked how they were doing.
22 Some of David’s men were good-for-nothings, and they said, “Those men didn’t go with us to the battle, so they don’t get any of the things we took back from the Amalekites. Let them take their wives and children and go!”
23 But David said:
My friends, don’t be so greedy with what the Lord has given us! The Lord protected us and gave us victory over the people who attacked. 24 Who would pay attention to you, anyway? Soldiers who stay behind to guard the camp get as much as those who go into battle.
25 David made this a law for Israel, and it has been the same ever since.
26 David went back to Ziklag with everything they had taken from the Amalekites. He sent some of these things as gifts to his friends who were leaders of Judah, and he told them, “We took these things from the Lord’s enemies. Please accept them as a gift.”
27-31 This is a list of the towns where David sent gifts: Bethel,[i] Ramoth in the Southern Desert, Jattir, Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa, Racal, the towns belonging to the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites, Hormah, Bor-Ashan, Athach, and Hebron. He also sent gifts to the other towns where he and his men had traveled.
Saul and His Sons Die
31 Meanwhile, the Philistines were fighting Israel at Mount Gilboa. Israel’s soldiers ran from the Philistines, and many of them were killed. 2 The Philistines closed in on Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua. 3 The fighting was fierce around Saul, and he was badly wounded by enemy arrows.
4 Saul told the soldier who carried his weapons, “Kill me with your sword! I don’t want those worthless Philistines to torture me and make fun.” But the soldier was afraid to kill him.
Saul then took out his own sword; he stuck the blade into his stomach, and fell on it. 5 When the soldier knew that Saul was dead, he killed himself in the same way.
6 Saul was dead, his three sons were dead, and the soldier who carried his weapons was dead. They and all his soldiers died on that same day. 7 The Israelites on the other side of Jezreel Valley[j] and the other side of the Jordan learned that Saul and his sons were dead. They saw that the Israelite army had run away. So they ran away too, and the Philistines moved into the towns the Israelites had left behind.
8 The day after the battle, when the Philistines returned to the battlefield to take the weapons of the dead Israelite soldiers, they found Saul and his three sons lying dead on Mount Gilboa. 9-10 The Philistines cut off Saul’s head and pulled off his armor. Then they put his armor in the temple of the goddess Astarte, and they nailed his body to the city wall of Beth-Shan. They also sent messengers everywhere in Philistia to spread the good news in the temples of their idols and among their people.
11 The people who lived in Jabesh in Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul’s body. 12 So one night, some brave men from Jabesh went to Beth-Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons, then brought them back to Jabesh and burned them. 13 They buried the bones under a small tree in Jabesh, and for seven days, they went without eating to show their sorrow.
- 28.1-3 earlier: See 25.1.
- 28.1-3 dead: Many people believed that it was possible to talk to spirits of the dead, and that these spirits could tell the future.
- 28.24 thin bread: Bread made without yeast, since there was no time for the bread to rise.
- 29.1 Aphek: The events of chapter 29 probably took place as the Philistine army was on its way to Shunem, which they reached in 28.4.
- 29.8 my king: David may be referring to either Saul or Achish.
- 29.10 go. . . you: One ancient translation; these words are not in the Hebrew text.
- 29.10 I am. . . bother you: One ancient translation; these words are not in the Hebrew text.
- 30.17 just. . . sunset: Or “at dusk, and fought until sunset on the next day.”
- 30.27-31 Bethel: Or “Bethuel” (see Joshua 19.4).
- 31.7 Jezreel Valley: Hebrew “valley.” Shunem (see 28.4) and Gilboa (see verse 1) were across the Jezreel Valley from each other.