Samuel part 1
by John Thomas Lowe
Born before 1070 BCE
Died 1012 BCE · Ramah in Benjamin (traditional)
Venerated in Judaism · Christianity · Islam
Feast · August 20 (Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran & Roman Catholicism) · July 30 (Armenian Apostolic Church) · 9 Paoni (Coptic Orthodox Church)
Samuel Anoints the Future King
Samuel is a figure who, in the narratives of the Hebrew Bible, plays a key role in the transition from the period of the biblical judges to the institution of a kingdom under Saul and again in the transition from Saul to David. He is venerated as a prophet by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In addition to his role in the Hebrew Scriptures, Samuel is mentioned in the New Testament, in rabbinical literature, and in the second chapter of the Qur'an (although not by name). He is also discussed in the fifth through seventh books of Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews, written in the first century C.E. (A.D.). He is first called the Seer in 1 Samuel 9:9.
While the people of his time were destroyed by their selfishness, Samuel stood out as a man of honor. Like Samuel, we can avoid the corruption of this world if we place God first in our life.
He became a leader among the people giving counsel and advice and helping settle disputes from time to time. So Samuel was a “Judge,” much as we would think of a judge today.
The Bible is not a history of the universe or even a history of the human race. The Bible is a textbook on redemption—a Book that deals with how poor lost sinners like you and me can come into right standing with a perfect and holy God. The whole Bible may be subdivided into six primary areas:
• Redemption required—Genesis 1-11
• Redemption prepared for—Genesis 12—Malachi 4
• Redemption effected—the Gospels
• Redemption shared—the Acts of the Apostles
• Redemption explained—the Epistles
• Redemption realized—the Revelation
In the Bible, there are 66 books, 1189 chapters, and 31,175 verses—all of which center on Jesus Christ, the only Redeemer.
Our lesson is taken from 1 Samuel 7. It centers on the man Samuel, who served as a strong leader among the tribes of Israel—in the period at the end of and following the time of the Judges—about 1100 B.C. Samuel was the last judge and the first of the prophets. He served as a link between the time of the Judges and the choice of Israel’s first king.
Ever since childhood, some of us have heard stories taken from the accounts in the Books of Samuel—the stories about the boy Samuel, David and Goliath, and the friendship of David and Jonathan.
At the time when the lesson takes place—Israel had fallen into apostasy, and God had allowed the Philistines to oppress the people.
The nation's religious affairs were worsening; the economic situation was terrible, but the presence of the Philistine armies' was the most challenging problem facing the nation.
The first three chapters of 1 Samuel tell about the boy Samuel.
• Chapter 4 tells about the Philistine’s capture of the Ark of the Covenant.
• Chapter 5 describes the movement of the Ark from place to place in the Philistine territory.
• Chapter 6 tells of its return to Israel after being in Philistine territory for several months.
• Chapter 7 describes Samuel’s work as a judge and leader in Israel.
1. Some keywords as a background for the lesson
Samuel was born after his barren mother (Hannah) prayed earnestly for the Lord to give her a child and vowed that she would dedicate him to the Lord’s service. Samuel was born in response to Hannah’s prayer, and at a very early age, Samuel was taken to live with Eli (the priest)—who taught the boy the various duties of the priesthood.
When Eli died, Samuel became the judge of Israel in a ceremony at a place called Mizpeh. The event was interrupted by an attack from the Philistines, but the Lord intervened, and Samuel was established as God’s man.
Samuel served as a traveling judge. He is called a “judge” in 1 Samuel 7:6. He is called a “prophet” in 1 Samuel 3:20. The long period of the Judges (about 350 years) came to an end with Samuel. The earlier judges were military leaders, but Samuel was more than a military leader. He became a leader among the people giving counsel and advice and helping settle disputes from time to time. So Samuel was a “judge,” much as we would think of a judge today.
The Philistines were an aggressive tribal group that lived in the southwest corner of the land of Canaan. They had built five cities—Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza—which became a political unit. They were known mainly for their early development of implements and weapons made of iron. The remains of the Philistine furnaces (used to manufacture their weapons of iron) have been discovered by archaeologists.
The Philistines were pagan and one of Israel’s chief enemies. From time to time, they occupied some of the Israelite settlements. The threat from the Philistines prompted Israel’s demand for a king. The Philistines worshiped three gods—Ashtaroth, Dagon, and Beelzebub. Dagon was a god represented with the head and the hands of a man, but with the tail of a fish. However, by the end of the reign of King David, the Philistines began to decline in strength and influence.
The Ark of the Covenant was a portable chest (45 inches x 27 inches x 27 inches). It was the most sacred object of the Israelites in Bible times. It was also known as “the ark of the Lord” (Joshua 6:11), “the ark of God” (1 Samuel 3:3), and “the ark of the testimony” (Exodus 25:22). Its lid (called “the mercy seat”) was made of acacia wood and was covered with solid gold. The chest had two rings made of gold at each end through which poles were inserted so that the Ark could be carried from place to place.
When Israelites prayed, they turned their face toward the Ark of the Covenant, first in Shiloh and later in Jerusalem. The Ark was the only article of furniture in the tabernacle's innermost room (Temple). It was the place where the true and living God promised to be.
Inside the chest were three items: the two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments, a golden pot of manna (which God preserved from the wilderness days as a testimony to later generations), and Aaron’s rod that budded (to prove that Aaron was God’s chosen man).
The Ark was carried from place to place during the wilderness wanderings (Deuteronomy 31:9). The priests carried it into the Jordan River, causing the waters to part so that the Children of Israel could enter the land of Canaan in the days of Joshua (Joshua 3:6—4:18). Nothing is known about whatever happened to the Ark. It disappeared after the Babylonians took Judah captive in 586 B.C. Today, many Jewish synagogues keep a chest (or an ark) containing the Torah (the scrolls of the Law and other sacred books) in a special place in the synagogue.
2. The account leading up to 1 Samuel 7
At the time of the lesson in 1 Samuel 7:1-13, the tribes of Israel had been oppressed by the Philistines for about 40 years—and at this point, God was not defending the Israelites because they were no longer honoring Him. The Israelites had lost 4,000 men in a battle with the Philistines (4:1-5). So the Ark of the Covenant was brought from Shiloh into the military camp (apparently as a kind of “good luck” charm)—but the Philistines fought against Israel again. Once more, Israel fled, 30,000 soldiers were slain, and the Ark was captured by the Philistines (4:5-11).
The Philistines brought the Ark of God from Ebenezer to one of their cities named Ashdod and put it in the temple of Dagon (the national God of the Philistines). However, when they returned to their temple the following day—they found that Israel’s God had caused Dagon to topple to the floor at the foot of the Ark. The Philistines set Dagon up again and stood it alongside the Ark. However, the following day the head and arms of their God Dagon were broken off. They reasoned that if Dagon was an absolute god, he should have defended himself.
So, not only did their idol suffer damage, but the Philistine people themselves began to feel the displeasure of the Lord—suffering confusion, swellings (tumors), and even death (5:6-9). So, in desperation, they decided to move the Ark to Gath (another Philistine city), but many of the Philistine people were frightened and begged that the Ark be sent back to Israel (5:10-12).
The Philistines decided to return the Ark and chose two milk cows to pull the cart. The cows both had young calves (and it would violate their instincts if they left their calves behind). These two cows had never been yoked, yet they pulled the cart harmoniously, and without being guided—they headed straight toward Beth-Shemesh in Judah (southern Israel) (6:7-12). There was great rejoicing in Israel, but some of the men from the town did not regard the holy nature of the Ark—and looked into it. Many of those men died on the spot (6:19-21), so the Ark was taken to the house of Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim—where it remained for twenty years (7:1-3).