Thirteenth Judge. Samuel was the thirteenth judge of Israel ( 1 Samuel 1:15-17 ).
Condition of Israel at His Birth. At the time of Samuel's birth the condition of Israel was deplorable; there was no recognized leader, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes ( Judges 21:251 Samuel 4:1-28 ).
Parentage. He was the son of Elkanah and Hannah, who resided at Ramathaimzophim, of Mount Ephraim. Shiloh was still the center of the national worship. Elkanah and his family were devout servants and worshippers of God, and they attended the annual feasts required by the law of Moses ( Exodus 22:15-17 ; 1 Samuel 1:1-3 ). Hannah was greatly provoked and annoyed by Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah, who was continually reminding her of her barrenness. Hannah was so troubled that she refused to participate in the festivities, and in the bitterness of her soul she wept and prayed unto God. She vowed that if the Lord would look upon her affliction and grant her a male child, she would devote him to the Lord all the days of her life, and no razor should come upon his head ( Numbers 6:1-21 ; 1 Samuel 1:4-11 ). Eli, the priest, observed her as she was praying unto the Lord and accused her of drunkenness, but she explained her condition to him, and he told her to go in peace, and he prayed the Lord to grant unto her the blessing she had asked. She returned with her husband to her home, the Lord remembered her, and she brought forth a son, and she named him Samuel because she had asked and received him of the Lord. When the child was weaned, she took him, with appropriate sacrifice, and presented him to the Lord according to her vow ( 1 Samuel 1:12-28 ). After this she poured out her soul in thanksgiving to the Lord ( 1 Samuel 2:1-10 ).
Early Life. His early life was spent at Shiloh in the service of the Lord ( 1 Samuel 2:11 ). At this time the worship of God had been neglected and dishonored to such an extent that the people abhorred the sacrifices required by the law ( 1 Samuel 2:12-17 ). Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were profligate and worthless, and toward the close of their father's life disgraced themselves by lying with the women who assembled at the tabernacle ( 1 Samuel 2:8-22 ). Eli heard of this and only rebuked his sons mildly for it, and therefore the sons continued in their old ways ( 1 Samuel 2:23-25 ). In the meantime Samuel grew in favor with God and men ( 1 Samuel 2:26 ). During these perilous times a man of God came to Eli and predicted the destruction and disgrace of Eli's house ( 1 Samuel 2:27-36 ).
Called of God. Samuel continued to minister unto the Lord before Eli the priest, but the word of the Lord was precious in those days, there being no open vision. It came to pass one night that the Lord called him, and at the command of Eli, he replied reverently, submitting to the will of the Lord ( 1 Samuel 3:1-10 ). The Lord revealed to Samuel the destiny of Eli and his house, and on the morning following he communicated every thing to the priest, who expressed submission to the will of the Lord ( 1 Samuel 3:11-18 ).
Established as a Prophet. The young man grew in public esteem, the Lord upheld his word, and all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized him as a prophet of the Lord, and the Lord continued to reveal Himself to him in Shiloh ( 1 Samuel 3:19-21 ).
Disaster. The Philistines invaded the land and pitched in Aphek, and the children of Israel were encamped at Ebenezer. In the battle that followed, Israel suffered an inglorious defeat ( 1 Samuel 4:11 Samuel 4:2 ). When the people returned to the camp, they proposed to send to Shiloh and procure the ark of the covenant, and to carry it upon the field of battle. When the ark was brought into camp, a great shout went up from the people which sent terror to the hearts of the enemy, but they rallied their warriors by an appeal to their manhood, and by assuring them that in the event of defeat, they would be enslaved by the Hebrews ( 1 Samuel 4:3-9 ). The battle was fought, Israel was smitten, the ark of God was taken by the Philistines, and the two wicked sons of Eli were slain ( 1 Samuel 4:101 Samuel 4:11 ). When Eli heard of the disastrous result of the battle, he fell over and expired, and the wife of Phinehas gave birth to a son and with her departing breath named him Ichabod, signifying that the glory had departed from Israel ( 1 Samuel 4:12-22 ). The victorious Philistines carried the ark in triumph to Ashdod and set it beside their god Dagon. Disaster and death followed, until the expiration of seven months when they returned it to Israel (1Samuel 5:1-7:2).
Reformation. Soon after the return of the ark, Samuel again appeared and inaugurated a reformation that was almost a revolution in its far-reaching effects. All Israel assembled at Mizpeh, and they drew water and poured it out before the Lord, fasted, acknowledged their sins, and Samuel judged the people ( 1 Samuel 7:3-6 ). When the Philistines heard that they were gathered at Mizpeh, they went up to make war on them, and the people greatly feared and asked Samuel to pray continuously for them ( 1 Samuel 7:71 Samuel 7:8 ). Samuel presented a burnt offering unto the Lord and cried unto Him for Israel, and He answered by sending a terrific thunder storm, by which the Philistines were greatly frightened. The men of Israel arose and pursued the fleeing hosts, and great destruction followed ( 1 Samuel 7:9-11 ). Samuel set up a monument of this victory between Mizpeh and Shen, and called it Ebenezer, declaring that hitherto the Lord had been their helper ( 1 Samuel 7:12 ). After the subjection of the Philistines, Samuel judged Israel and went in a circuit from year to year to Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpeh and Ramah his home, where he built an altar unto the Lord ( 1 Samuel 7:13-17 ).
Power and Prophetic Gift.
By the destruction of the Egyptians, the Lord designed to make his power known to all people of the earth ( Exodus 9:16 ; Exodus 14:4 ). That this design was accomplished is evident, from the fact that the people of Canaan had heard of this destruction at the time the Hebrews entered the land, and were fearful ( Joshua 2:8-11 ); and also the Philistines, in the days of Samuel, were well acquainted with the fact of the destruction of the Egyptians ( 1 Samuel 4:71 Samuel 4:8 ).