Joseph Scales deposited Uncovering the Dead, Dethroning the King: Divine Embodiment in 1 Samuel 28:14 on Humanities Commons 1 year, 1 month ago
1 Samuel 28:14 describes the appearance of the ghost of Samuel, who, upon King Saul’s request, was raised by a medium. We identify four key elements of the ghost’s visage, all of which relate to the living Samuel or King Saul, or their relationship, and all critique King Saul and foreshadow the loss of the kingship and his demise. The four elements are: the ghost is an “old man,” the ghost is “coming up” from the ground, the ghost is “covered,” and the ghost is covered by a “robe.” Though there are many angelic and divine encounters in the Hebrew Bible, this passage is unique in that it describes an encounter between the living and the dead. The appearance of the ghost is clearly outlined but often overlooked by commentators, who predominantly question the technical aspects of the necromantic ritual and the climax of Saul’s narrative. This article examines the passage’s representation of ancient Israelite conceptions of divine embodiment, the dead’s sartorial preferences, and materiality. We also consider the rewriting and translations in other ancient versions (e.g., LXX; Josephus; LAB) to highlight some of the different associations that this appearance had in ancient interpretations.