What is magic? And who or what is behind it? How does the Bible explain or expose this mysterious science? How can we explain this phenomenon as portrayed in the Bible in 1 Samuel 28:8-19?
Magic is nothing but sleight of hand. Magicians learn to make moves so quickly that the average person cannot perceive all their movements. It is entertainment, with nothing greater behind it than the person you see performing. All who practice palm reading, fortune telling, psychic readings and the like are deceivers. They are deceivers, for God gives no one the power to perform such acts. Deceit is a sin, one of the seven abominations of Proverbs 6:16-19. As Christians we give them no support or endorsement.
Now, the incident to which you refer in 1 Samuel 28 is closer to Spiritualism than slight of hand. Spiritualism is a type of deceit where practitioners hold “séances,” purporting to call “spirits” of the dead to converse with the customer; although only through the intermediary. This is the case regarding Saul and the Witch of Endor.
The witch did not actually call up Samuel’s spirit. As is in present day séances, her identification of an old man covered with a cloak was vague at best, leaving the identification to the imagination of her client. Note the Bible account never says that the witch or Saul actually saw Samuel. The witch saw “a spirit” and Saul “perceived that it was Samuel.” Being an expert in deceit, the witch was able to answer Saul in a way that was convincing to his troubled mind. What of the witch delivering the prophecy that the Lord would deliver Saul, his sons and Israel to the Philistines (1 Sam. 28:19)?
The prophecy was fulfilled, but it is not impossible that the Lord may have delivered this prophecy through this wicked woman. All God’s spokesmen have not been righteous people; it does not imply that God endorses wickedness or that spiritualism is anything but deceit.
Saul knew the law of Israel instructs: “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them… for all that do these things are an abomination to the Lord” (Lev. 19:31, Deut. 18:12). Saul had “put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land” but still, Saul went disguised, by night to consult the Witch of Endor; and “ so Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD… and also because he consulted a medium for guidance” (1 Chron. 10:13).