heard of God. The peculiar circumstances connected with his birth are recorded in 1 Samuel 1:20 . Hannah, one of the two wives of Elkanah, who came up to Shiloh to worship before the Lord, earnestly prayed to God that she might become the mother of a son. Her prayer was graciously granted; and after the child was weaned she brought him to Shiloh nd consecrated him to the Lord as a perpetual Nazarite ( (1:23-2:11). ). Here his bodily wants and training were attended to by the women who served in the tabernacle, while Eli cared for his religious culture. Thus, probably, twelve years of his life passed away. "The child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men" ( 2:26 ; Compare Luke 2:52 ). It was a time of great and growing degeneracy in Israel ( Judges 21:19-21 ; 1 Samuel 2:12-17 1 Samuel 2:22 ). The Philistines, who of late had greatly increased in number and in power, were practically masters of the country, and kept the people in subjection ( 1 Samuel 10:5 ; 13:3 ).
At this time new communications from God began to be made to the pious child. A mysterious voice came to him in the night season, calling him by name, and, instructed by Eli, he answered, "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth." The message that came from the Lord was one of woe and ruin to Eli and his profligate sons. Samuel told it all to Eli, whose only answer to the terrible denunciations ( 1 Samuel 3:11-18 ) was, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good", the passive submission of a weak character, not, in his case, the expression of the highest trust and faith. The Lord revealed himself now in divers manners to Samuel, and his fame and his influence increased throughout the land as of one divinely called to the prophetical office. A new period in the history of the kingdom of God now commenced.
The Philistine yoke was heavy, and the people, groaning under the wide-spread oppression, suddenly rose in revolt, and "went out against the Philistines to battle." A fierce and disastrous battle was fought at Aphek, near to Ebenezer ( 1 Samuel 4:1 1 Samuel 4:2 ). The Israelites were defeated, leaving 4,000 dead "in the field." The chiefs of the people thought to repair this great disaster by carrying with them the ark of the covenant as the symbol of Jehovah's presence. They accordingly, without consulting Samuel, fetched it out of Shiloh to the camp near Aphek. At the sight of the ark among them the people "shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again." A second battle was fought, and again the Philistines defeated the Israelites, stormed their camp, slew 30,000 men, and took the sacred ark. The tidings of this fatal battle was speedily conveyed to Shiloh; and so soon as the aged Eli heard that the ark of God was taken, he fell backward from his seat at the entrance of the sanctuary, and his neck brake, and he died. The tabernacle with its furniture was probably, by the advice of Samuel, now about twenty years of age, removed from Shiloh to some place of safety, and finally to Nob, where it remained many years ( 21:1 ).
The Philistines followed up their advantage, and marched upon Shiloh, which they plundered and destroyed (Compare Jeremiah 7:12 ; Psalms 78:59 ). This was a great epoch in the history of Israel. For twenty years after this fatal battle at Aphek the whole land lay under the oppression of the Philistines. During all these dreary years Samuel was a spiritual power in the land. From Ramah, his native place, where he resided, his influence went forth on every side among the people. With unwearied zeal he went up and down from place to place, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting the people, endeavouring to awaken in them a sense of their sinfulness, and to lead them to repentance. His labours were so far successful that "all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord." Samuel summoned the people to Mizpeh, one of the loftiest hills in Central Palestine, where they fasted and prayed, and prepared themselves there, under his direction, for a great war against the Philistines, who now marched their whole force toward Mizpeh, in order to crush the Israelites once for all. At the intercession of Samuel God interposed in behalf of Israel. Samuel himself was their leader, the only occasion in which he acted as a leader in war. The Philistines were utterly routed. They fled in terror before the army of Israel, and a great slaughter ensued. This battle, fought probably about B.C. 1095, put an end to the forty years of Philistine oppression. In memory of this great deliverance, and in token of gratitude for the help vouchsafed, Samuel set up a great stone in the battlefield, and called it "Ebenezer," saying, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" ( 1 Samuel 7:1-12 ). This was the spot where, twenty years before, the Israelites had suffered a great defeat, when the ark of God was taken.
This victory over the Philistines was followed by a long period of peace for Israel ( 1 Samuel 7:13 1 Samuel 7:14 ), during which Samuel exercised the functions of judge, going "from year to year in circuit" from his home in Ramah to Bethel, thence to Gilgal (not that in the Jordan valley, but that which lay to the west of Ebal and Gerizim), and returning by Mizpeh to Ramah. He established regular services at Shiloh, where he built an altar; and at Ramah he gathered a company of young men around him and established a school of the prophets. The schools of the prophets, thus originated, and afterwards established also at Gibeah, Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho, exercised an important influence on the national character and history of the people in maintaining pure religion in the midst of growing corruption. They continued to the end of the Jewish commonwealth.
Many years now passed, during which Samuel exercised the functions of his judicial office, being the friend and counsellor of the people in all matters of private and public interest. He was a great statesman as well as a reformer, and all regarded him with veneration as the "seer," the prophet of the Lord. At the close of this period, when he was now an old man, the elders of Israel came to him at Ramah ( 1 Samuel 8:4 1 Samuel 8:5 1 Samuel 8:19-22 ); and feeling how great was the danger to which the nation was exposed from the misconduct of Samuel's sons, whom he had invested with judicial functions as his assistants, and had placed at Beersheba on the Philistine border, and also from a threatened invasion of the Ammonites, they demanded that a king should be set over them. This request was very displeasing to Samuel. He remonstrated with them, and warned them of the consequences of such a step. At length, however, referring the matter to God, he acceded to their desires, and anointed Saul (q.v.) to be their king ( 11:15 ). Before retiring from public life he convened an assembly of the people at Gilgal (ch. 12), and there solemnly addressed them with reference to his own relation to them as judge and prophet.
The remainder of his life he spent in retirement at Ramah, only occasionally and in special circumstances appearing again in public ( 1 Samuel 1315 ,15) with communications from God to king Saul. While mourning over the many evils which now fell upon the nation, he is suddenly summoned (ch.16) to go to Bethlehem and anoint David, the son of Jesse, as king over Israel instead of Saul. After this little is known of him till the time of his death, which took place at Ramah when he was probably about eighty years of age. "And all Israel gathered themselves together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah" ( 25:1 ), not in the house itself, but in the court or garden of his house. (Compare 2 Kings 21:18 ; 2 Chr 33:20 ; 1 Kings 2:34 ; John 19:41 .)
heard of God; asked of God
was the son of Elkanah and Hannah, and was born at Ramathaim-zophim, among the hills of Ephraim. [RAMAH No. 2] (B.C. 1171.) Before his birth he was dedicated by his mother to the office of a Nazarite and when a young child, 12 years old according to Josephus he was placed in the temple, and ministered unto the Lord before Eli." It was while here that he received his first prophetic call. ( 1 Samuel 3:1-18 ) He next appears, probably twenty years afterward, suddenly among the people, warning them against their idolatrous practices. ( 1 Samuel 7:3 1 Samuel 7:4 ) Then followed Samuels first and, as far as we know, only military achievement, ch. ( 1 Samuel 7:5-12 ) but it was apparently this which raised him to the office of "judge." He visited, in the discharge of his duties as ruler, the three chief sanctuaries on the west of Jordan --Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh. ch. ( 1 Samuel 7:16 ) His own residence was still native city, Ramah, where he married, and two sons grew up to repeat under his eyes the same perversion of high office that he had himself witnessed in his childhood in the case of the two sons of Eli. In his old age he shared his power with them, ( 1 Samuel 8:1-4 ) but the people dissatisfied, demanded a king, and finally anointed under Gods direction, and Samuel surrendered to him his authority, ( 1 Samuel 12:1 ) ... though still remaining judge. ch. ( 1 Samuel 7:15 ) He was consulted far and near on the small affairs of life. ( 1 Samuel 9:7 1 Samuel 9:8 ) From this fact, combined with his office of ruler, an awful reverence grew up around him. No sacrificial feast was thought complete without his blessing. Ibid. ( 1 Samuel 9:13 ) A peculiar virtue was believed to reside in his intercession. After Saul was rejected by God, Samuel anointed David in his place and Samuel became the spiritual father of the psalmist-king. The death of Samuel is described as taking place in the year of the close of Davids wanderings. It is said with peculiar emphasis, as if to mark the loss, that "all the Israelites were gathered together" from all parts of this hitherto-divided country, and "lamented him," and "buried him" within his own house, thus in a manner consecrated by being turned into his tomb. ( 1 Samuel 25:1 ) Samuel represents the independence of the moral law, of the divine will, as distinct from legal or sacerdotal enactments, which is so remarkable a characteristic of all the later prophets. He is also the founder of the first regular institutions of religious instructions and communities for the purposes of education.
sam'-u-el (shemu'el; Samouel):
The word "Samuel" signifies "name of God," or "his name is El" (God). Other interpretations of the name that have been offered are almost certainly mistaken. The play upon the name in 1 Samuel 1:20 is not intended of course to be an explanation of its meaning, but is similar to the play upon the name Moses in Exodus 2:10 and frequently elsewhere in similar instances. Thus, by the addition of a few letters shemu'el becomes sha'ul me'el, "asked of God," and recalls to the mother of Samuel the circumstances of the divine gift to her of a son. Outside of 1st Samuel the name of the great judge and prophet is found in Jeremiah 15:1; Psalms 99:6 and in 1 and 2 Chronicles. The reference in Jeremiah seems intended to convey the same impression that is given by the narrative of 1 Samuel, that in some sense Samuel had come to be regarded as a second Moses, upon whom the mantle of the latter had fallen, and who had been once again the deliverer and guide of the people at a great national crisis.
1. Sources and Character of the History:
The narrative of the events of the life of Samuel appears to be derived from more than one source (see SAMUEL, BOOKS OF). The narrator had before him and made use of biographies and traditions, which he combined into a single consecutive history. The completed picture of the prophet's position and character which is thus presented is on the whole harmonious and consistent, and gives a very high impression of his piety and loyalty to Yahweh, and of the wide influence for good which he exerted. There are divergences apparent in detail and standpoint between the sources or traditions, some of which may probably be due merely to misunderstanding of the true nature of the events recorded, or to the failure of the modern reader rightly to appreciate the exact circumstances and time. The greater part of the narrative of the life of Samuel, however, appears to have a single origin.
In the portion of the general history of Israel contained in 1 Samuel are narrated the circumstances of the future prophet's birth (chapter 1); of his childhood and of the custom of his parents to make annual visits to the sanctuary at Shiloh (2:11,18-21,26); of his vision, and the universal recognition of him as a prophet enjoying the special favor of Yahweh (3-4:1). The narrative is then interrupted to describe the conflicts with the Philistines, the fate of Eli and his sons, and the capture of the ark of God. It is only after the return of the ark, and apparently at the close of the 20 years during which it was retained at Kiriath-jearim, that Samuel again comes forward publicly, exhorting the people to repentance and promising them deliverance from the Philistines. A summary narrative is then given of the summoning of a national council at Mizpah, at which Samuel "judged the children of Israel," and offered sacrifice to the Lord, and of Yahweh's response in a great thunderstorm, which led to the defeat and panic-stricken flight of the Philistines. Then follows the narrative of the erection of a commemorative stone or pillar, Eben-ezer, "the stone of help," and the recovery of the Israelite cities which the Philistines had captured (7:5-14). The narrator adds that the Philistines came no more within the border of Israel all the days of Samuel (7:13); perhaps with an intentional reference to the troubles and disasters of which this people was the cause in the time of Saul. A brief general statement is appended of Samuel's practice as a judge of going on annual circuit through the land, and of his home at Ramah (7:15-17).
No indication is given of the length of time occupied by these events. At their close, however, Samuel was an old man, and his sons who had been appointed judges in his place or to help him in his office proved themselves unworthy (1 Samuel 8:1-3). The elders of the people therefore came to Samuel demanding the appointment of a king who should be his successor, and should judge in his stead. The request was regarded by the prophet as an act of disloyalty to Yahweh, but his protest was overruled by divine direction, and at Samuel's bidding the people dispersed (1 Samuel 8:4-22).
At this point the course of the narrative is again interrupted to describe the family and origin of Saul, his personal appearance, and the search for the lost asses of his father (1 Samuel 9:1-5); his meeting with Samuel in a city in the land of Zuph, in or on the border of the territory of Benjamin (Zuph is the name of an ancestor of Elkanah, the father of Samuel, in 1 Samuel 1:1), a meeting of which Samuel had received divine pre-intimation (1 Samuel 9:15) ; the honorable place given to Saul at the feast; his anointing by Samuel as ruler of Israel, together with the announcement of three "signs," which should be to Saul assurances of the reality of his appointment and destiny; the spirit of prophecy which took possession of the future king, whereby is explained a proverbial saying which classed Saul among the prophets; and his silence with regard to what had passed between himself and Samuel on the subject of the kingdom (1 Samuel 9:6-10:16).
It is usually, and probably rightly, believed that the narrative of these last incidents is derived from a different source from that of the preceding chapters. Slight differences of inconsistency or disagreement lie on the surface. Samuel's home is not at Ramah, but a nameless city in the land of Zuph, where he is priest of the high place, with a local but, as far as the narrative goes, not a national influence or reputation; and it is anticipated that he will require the customary present at the hands of his visitors (1 Samuel 9:6-8). He is described, moreover, not as a judge, nor does he discharge judicial functions, but expressly as a "seer," a name said to be an earlier title equivalent to the later "prophet" (1 Samuel 9:9,11,19). Apart, however, from the apparently different position which Samuel occupies, the tone and style of the narrative is altogether distinct from that of the preceding chapters. It suggests, both in its form and in the religious conceptions which are assumed or implied, an older and less elaborated tradition than that which has found expression in the greater part of the book; and it seems to regard events as it were from a more primitive standpoint than the highly religious and monotheistic view of the later accounts. Its value as a witness to history is not impaired, but perhaps rather enhanced by its separate and independent position. The writer or compiler of 1 Samuel has inserted it as a whole in his completed narrative at the point which he judged most suitable. To the same source should possibly be assigned the announcement of Saul's rejection in 13:8-15a.
The course of the narrative is resumed at 1 Samuel 10:17, where, in a second national assembly at Mizpah, Saul is selected by lot and accepted by the people as king (10:17-24); after which the people dispersed, and Saul returned to his home at Gibeah (10:25-27). At a solemn assembly at Gilgal, at which the kingship is again formally conferred upon Saul, Samuel delivered a farewell address to his fellow-countrymen. A thunderstorm terrified the people; they were reassured, however, by Samuel with promises of the protection and favor of Yahweh, if they continued to fear and serve Him (11:14-12:25). Later the rejection of Saul for disobedience and presumption is announced by Samuel (13:8-15a). The commission to destroy Amalek is delivered to Saul by Samuel; and the rejection of the king is again pronounced because of his failure to carry out the command. Agag is then slain by Samuel with his own hand; and, the latter having returned to his home at Ramah, the narrator adds that he remained there in seclusion until the day of his death, "mourning" for Saul, but refusing to meet him again (1 Samuel 15). Finally the death and burial of Samuel at Ramah, together with the lamentation of the people for him, are briefly recorded in 1 Samuel 25:1, and referred to again in 28:3.
Two incidents of Samuel's life remain, in which he is brought into relation with the future king David. No indication of date or circumstance is given except that the first incident apparently follows immediately upon the second and final rejection of Saul as recorded in 1 Samuel 15. In 16:1-13 is narrated the commission of Samuel to anoint a successor to Saul, and his fulfillment of the commission by the choice of David the son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite. And, in a later chapter (19:18-24), a second occasion is named on which the compelling spirit of prophecy came upon Saul, and again the proverbial saying, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" is quoted (19:24; compare 10:11,12), and is apparently regarded as taking its origin from this event.
The anointing of David by Samuel is a natural sequel to his anointing of Saul, when the latter has been rejected and his authority and rights as king have ceased. There is nothing to determine absolutely whether the narrative is derived from the same source as the greater part of the preceding history. Slight differences of style and the apparent presuppositions of the writer have led most scholars to the conclusion that it has a distinct and separate origin. If so, the compiler of the Books of Samuel drew upon a third source for his narrative of the life of the seer, a source which there is no reason to regard as other than equally authentic and reliable. With the second incident related in 1 Samuel 19:18-24, the case is different. It is hardly probable that so striking a proverb was suggested and passed into currency independently on two distinct occasions. It seems evident that here two independent sources or authorities were used, which gave hardly reconcilable accounts of the origin of a well-known saying, in one of which it has been mistakenly attributed to a similar but not identical occurrence in the life of Saul. In the final composition of the book both accounts were then inserted, without notice being taken of the inconsistency which was apparent between them.
Yet later in the history Samuel is represented as appearing to Saul in a vision at Endor on the eve of his death (1 Samuel 28:11-20). The witch also sees the prophet and is stricken with fear. He is described as in appearance an old man "covered with a robe" (1 Samuel 28:14). In characteristically grave and measured tones he repeats the sentence of death against the king for his disobedience to Yahweh, and announces its execution on the morrow; Saul's sons also will die with him (1 Samuel 28:19), and the whole nation will be involved in the penalty and suffering, as they all had a part in the sin.
The high place which Samuel occupies in the thought of the writers and in the tradition and esteem of the people is manifest throughout the history. The different sources from which the narrative is derived are at one in this, although perhaps not to an equal degree. He is the last and greatest of the judges, the first of the prophets, and inaugurates under divine direction the Israelite kingdom and the Davidic line.
3. Character and Influence of Samuel:
It is not without reason, therefore, that he has been regarded as in dignity and importance occupying the position of a second Moses in relation to the people. In his exhortations and warnings the Deuteronomic discourses of Moses are reflected and repeated. He delivers the nation from the hand of the Philistines, as Moses from Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and opens up for them a new national era of progress and order under the rule of the kings whom they have desired. Thus, like Moses, he closes the old order, and establishes the people with brighter prospects upon more assured foundations of national prosperity and greatness. In nobility of character and utterance also, and in fidelity to Yahweh, Samuel is not unworthy to be placed by the side of the older lawgiver. The record of his life is not marred by any act or word which would appear unworthy of his office or prerogative. And the few references to him in the later literature (Psalms 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1; 1 Chronicles 6:28; 9:22; 11:3; 26:28; 29:29; 2 Chronicles 35:18) show how high was the estimation in which his name and memory were held by his fellow-countrymen in subsequent ages.
The literature is given in the article, SAMUEL, BOOKS OF (which see).
A. S. Geden
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