Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:2
Thou shalt know ... - David dissembled (compare also Sa1 29:8), hoping, no doubt, that something would happen to prevent his fighting against his king and country.
Keeper of mine head - Captain of his bodyguard.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:3
It does not appear when Saul had suppressed witchcraft; it was probably in the early part of his reign.
Familiar spirits ... wizards - i. e. ventriloquists ... wise or cunning men. See Lev 19:31 note.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:4
Gilboa - Now called Jebel Fukuak. But the ancient name is preserved in the village of Jelbon, situated on the south side of the mountain. It was separated from Shunem (see the marginal reference) by the deep valley of Jezreel. The Philistines either advanced along the seacoast, and then entered the valley of Jezreel from the west, or they came by the present road right through Samaria, starting from Aphek Sa1 29:1.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:6
When Saul inquired of the Lord ... - It is said Ch1 10:14 that one reason why the Lord killed Saul, and gave his kingdom to David, was because he inquired not of the Lord. The explanation of this apparent discrepancy is to be found in the fact that inquiring of the familiar spirit was positively antagonistic to inquiring of the Lord. That Saul received no answer - when he "inquired of the Lord" by dreams, which was an immediate revelation to himself; by Urim, which was an answer through the high priest clothed in the ephod; or by prophets, which was an answer conveyed through some seer speaking by the Word of the Lord Sa1 22:5 - was a reason for self-abasement and self-examination, to find out and, if possible, remove the cause, but was no justification whatever of his sin in asking counsel of familiar spirits.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:7
Enquire - A different word from that in Sa1 28:6, though nearly synonymous with it. It is more frequently applied to inquiry of a false god, as e. g. Kg2 1:2; Isa 8:19; Isa 19:3.
En-dor (see Jos 11:2 note) was seven or eight miles from the slopes of Gilboa, on the north of little Hermon, where the Philistines were encamped; so that Saul must have run great risks in going there.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:8
Divine - Compare to Sa1 6:2, note; Num 23:23, note.
Bring me him up - The art of the ventriloquist seems to have been always connected with necromancy. The Greeks had necromancers who called up departed spirits to give answers to those who consulted them.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:11
Bring me up Samuel - Dr. Trench observes, "All human history has failed to record a despair deeper or more tragic than his, who, having forsaken God and being of God forsaken, is now seeking to move hell; and infinitely guilty as he is, assuredly there is something unutterably pathetic in that yearning of the disanointed king to change words with the friend and counselor of his youth, and if he must hear his doom, to hear it from no other lips but his" ('Shipwrecks of Faith, ' p. 47).
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:12
It is manifest both that the apparition of Samuel was real, and also that the woman was utterly unprepared for it.
Why hast thou deceived me ... - She perhaps inferred that Samuel would have answered the call of none inferior to the king. Or it may be the presence of an inhabitant of the world of spirits brought a sudden illumination to her mind.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:13
Gods - אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym is here used in a general sense of a supernatural appearance, either angel or spirit. Hell, or the place of the departed (compare Sa1 28:19; Sa2 12:23) is represented as under the earth Isa 14:9-10; Eze 32:18.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:17
To him - Better, "for Himself," as in the margin.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:19
Rather, "will deliver Israel also." Saul had not only brought ruin upon his own house but upon Israel also; and when Saul and Jonathan fell the camp (not "host") would be plundered by the conquerors Sa1 31:8; Sa2 1:10.
1 Kings (1 Samuel) 28:23
The bed - Rather, "the bench" or divan, such as in the East still runs along the wall, furnished with cushions, for those who sit at meals Est 1:6; Eze 23:41.