Under such circumstances there was little communion with God, but the Lord called to Samuel in the night and revealed to him the impending doom of Eli’s house. The Lord blessed Samuel and “let none of his words fall to the ground” (
Samuel next appears in conflict with Saul; a national crisis had arisen with a Philistine threat and Saul summoned the people to Gilgal. When Samuel was late in coming to make offerings, Saul presumed to make them himself. Samuel accused Saul of foolishness and disobedience and said that Saul’s kingdom would not continue. Samuel then went to Gibeah and Saul engaged in a victorious battle with the Philistines. After Saul’s success, Samuel commissioned him to annihilate the Amalekites (
Samuel’s last message to Saul came when Saul consulted the medium of Endor on the eve of his death on
From the standpoint of modern research, a number of places named in the OT in connection with Samuel have been identified and some have been excavated. Among those at which archaeological work has been done are Shiloh (Tell Seilun), Mizpah (Tell en-Nasbeh?), Gibeah (Tell el Ful), and Bethel (Beitin). Tradition also associates with Samuel the site called Nebi Samwil (“prophet Samuel”), which has also been suggested as the site of Mizpah.——CEDV
SAMUEL săm’ yŏŏ əl (שְׁמוּאֵל; Σαμουήλ, G4905). This name means “name of God,” or “his name is El” (God). Samuel lived in the transition period. Often he is listed as the last of the judges who was succeeded by Saul, the first king in Israel. In his ministry Samuel served as judge, priest, and prophet. The book of 1 Samuel provides the basic source material for the life of Samuel.
The parents of Samuel were Elkanah and Hannah. By lineage Elkanah was a Levite, a descendant of Kohath but not of the Aaronic line (
Samuel’s parents were God-fearing Israelites who annually went to Shiloh to worship at the Tabernacle. Hannah, who was not blessed with children as was Elkanah’s other wife Peninnah, made it a matter of earnest prayer that she might have a son. In due time when God granted her request she named her son Samuel and kept her vow by dedicating him to a life of service. Whereas Samuel as a Levite might have started priestly service at the age of twenty-five, he was, through this act of dedication by Hannah, brought to the Tabernacle as a child. Elkanah and Hannah returned annually to supply Samuel with clothes while he was reared in Shiloh under the supervision of Eli the priest. Hannah’s song of praise is recorded in
Although Samuel came from a godly home, the Tabernacle environment was not godly. Eli, the high priest in Israel, had failed to teach his sons the fear of God according to his paternal responsibility prescribed in the Book of Deuteronomy. Consequently, his sons
While these conditions prevailed and Eli was aging, the divine call came to Samuel (
Subsequent to his call, Samuel was established as a prophet in the land of Israel from the southern border of Beer-sheba to the northern extremity of Dan. Although details concerning Samuel himself are briefly given in the record, the general conditions are vividly portrayed.
The low ebb of Israel’s religion is apparent in the crucial battle with the Philistines in the Aphek area, c. thirty-five m. NW of Jerusalem. Losing the battle, the Israelites prevailed upon Hophni and Phinehas to bring the Ark of the covenant, which was considered the holiest object in Israel, to the battlefield. Religion among the Israelites had declined to such a low perspective spiritually that they believed God’s presence was materially associated with the Ark. Believing that God would not let Himself be captured, they anticipated a divine intervention which would bring them victory. The nation of Israel, however, was shockingly defeated and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. The sons of Eli were killed in battle; Eli himself died when news reached him that the Ark was stolen and that in all probability the city of Shiloh was destroyed by the Philistines. Although the Biblical narrative does not mention the destruction of Shiloh, there are references in Jeremiah (
Years later, possibly twenty, the Ark was returned and stored in the home of Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim. During these years Samuel must have been very active in his teaching ministry throughout Israel, challenging the people to turn from idolatry (
Samuel resided in Ramah where he built an altar to God (
When the Israelites confronted Samuel with the request for a king they gave two reasons for their petition. Negatively, they were disappointed in Samuel’s delegation of authority to his sons, and, positively, they wanted to be like other nations by having a king. Samuel was greatly disturbed by this request, but he was divinely assured that this was God’s permissive will and that he should outline the responsibilities the Israelites would assume under a king (
As prophet in Israel, Samuel was divinely commissioned to anoint Saul as king. Searching for his father’s donkeys, Saul came into the Ephraim highlands in the Zuph district. At his servants’ suggestion, Saul went to Ramah to inquire of the prophet Samuel. The latter detained him until the next day and privately anointed him as king of Israel. He later anointed Saul publicly (
Samuel’s commission to anoint Saul as king made it very plain that a king in Israel was “prince over (God’s) people Israel” (
Samuel publicly reaffirmed his support of Saul after his initial victory over the Ammonites. He assured all Israel of his intercessory prayers and warned them about the dangers of diminishing their attitude of wholehearted devotion to God (
Serving in his capacity as priest and prophet, Samuel warned Saul about his failures and reminded him of his responsibilities. Becoming impatient in waiting for Samuel in Gilgal, Saul asserted the priestly responsibility of officiating at the offering of a burnt sacrifice (
When Samuel was divinely instructed to commission Saul to execute God’s judgment upon the Amalekites, Saul failed in this assignment, and the relationship between prophet and king was crucially strained. On this occasion Samuel distinctly enunciated the basic principle that obedience is better than sacrifice (
Subsequently Samuel was divinely commissioned to offer sacrifice in Bethlehem and anoint David as king of Israel (
The final message of Samuel came to Saul after Samuel’s death. Facing defeat by the Philistines on
Although Samuel served as judge and priest, he made the most significant impact upon Israel’s religious life as a prophet. Whereas the greatest revelation to Israel as a nation came through Moses, it was Samuel who represented God in the anointing of the first two kings of Israel. After Moses’ death the written revelation provided guidance for Joshua who was confirmed by miracles in divine leadership. During the reign of the judges, Deborah and an unnamed prophet (
In his religious leadership responsibilities, Samuel as well as David appointed gatekeepers for the tent of meeting (
Samuel is known as a great man of prayer and intercession (
J. P. Free, Archeology and Bible History (1956), 146-153; M. Noth, The(1958), 164-178; S. J. Schultz, The Speaks (1960), 115-125; H. Snell, Ancient Israel (1963), 49-70.
SAMUEL, 1 and 2. The books of Samuel, the ninth and tenth books of the Eng. Bible, are ranked among the former prophets. They cover a period of more than 100 years from the prayer for Samuel through most of the reign of David.
Like its counterpart in Kings, 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book in the Heb. Bible. The Gr. LXX first made the division into two books by calling them “Books of Kingdoms,” βίβλοι βασιλειω̂ν α and β, G954. In similar fashion Kings became “Kingdoms III and IV,” since the content continued the historical sketch begun in Samuel. Jerome affixed the title “Books of the Kings,” Libri Regum, to these four “new” books. His modification of “Kingdoms” to “Kings” was intended to reproduce the Heb. title for the present 1 and 2 Kings, namely מְלָכִ֖ים, “kings.” Eventually the Lat. Vul. reverted to the name “Samuel” for the first two books.
The Heb. Bible first “succumbed” to the division into 1 and 2 Samuel in a 1448 MS. Daniel Bomberg’s printed ed. of 1516 acknowledged the division of Samuel and Kings into four books, but it preserved the Heb. title for each pair.
Samuel’s name was attached to these books because of his prominence in the first fifteen chs. of the book with regard to the establishment of the monarchy. It was he who, as the last judge, anointed the two kings who hold the spotlight in 1 and 2 Samuel. Talmudic tradition also ascribes the authorship of part of 1 Samuel to the prophet (Baba Bathra 14b).
The unity of 1 and 2 Samuel is evident from the close links which tie the books together. The major divisions in the outline do not include a break at the end of 1 Samuel. Instead, the summary passages in
Samuel and the reign of Saul
The ministry of Samuel
b. Samuel’s ministry under Eli (
c. Philistine victory destroys Eli’s family (
d. The captivity and return of the Ark (
The initial years of Saul’s reign
b. Saul anointed as king (
c. Saul victorious over the Ammonites (
d. Samuel’s charge to Israel (
e. Saul and Jonathan war successfully against the Philistines (
The rise of David to the throne
David’s struggle with King Saul
b. David anointed and plays for Saul (
c. David’s victory over Goliath (
d. David’s flight from Saul and friendship with Jonathan (
e. David’s plight occasions priests’ disaster (
f. David’s mercy to the pursuing Saul (
g. David and Abigail (25:1-44). This ch. partly explains how a fugitive like David could survive in the desert. The protection which he and his men afforded Nabal’s possessions should have been rewarded with supplies. When Nabal refused to pay, David decided to attack but the wise intercession of Nabal’s wife restrained him. Later after Nabal died Abigail became one of David’s wives.
h. Saul’s repentance and David’s despair (26:1-27:12). Forgetting his earlier promises, Saul resumed his pursuit of David. Once more, David passed up an opportunity to kill the sleeping king, and the king responded by begging David’s forgiveness. But David doubted Saul’s sincerity with good reason and fled to the Philistines, allying himself temporarily with Achish, king of Gath.
i. Saul and the witch of Endor (28:1-25). When the Philistines with David on their side prepared to attack Israel, Saul rightly trembled and sought a message from God. Unable to contact Him through legitimate means, he resorted to divination, inducing a medium to produce the departed Samuel for him. Samuel announced that disaster lay ahead for saul and Israel.
j. David rejected by Philistines and victorious over Amalekites (29:1-30:31). As the armies prepared for battle, the suspicious Philistine commanders voted to dismiss David from their ranks, lest he decide to fight for Israel. Returning to Ziklag, David discovered that the Amalekites had burned the city and carried off the women and children. After inquiring of the Lord, David and his men recovered all the people and goods.
k. Death of Saul and Jonathan (31:1-13). First Samuel ends with the short account of the great Philistine victory. Saul and his sons were killed on Mt. Gilboa, and the Philistines celebrated.
David’s unification of Judah and Israel
a. David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan (
b. David made king of Judah, and Ishbosheth succeeds Saul (
c. Abner and Ishbosheth assassinated (
d. David made king over all Israel (
e. David brings the Ark to Jerusalem (
f. The Davidic covenant (
g. Summary of David’s rule (
Problems in the reign of David
David’s kindness to Mephibosheth
Victory over Syrians and Ammonites
David’s sin with Bathsheba
The sins of Amnon and Absalom
Absalom’s rebellion and death
David’s recovery of power
The Gibeonites avenged, and victory over Philistines
David’s hymn of thanksgiving and last words
David’s mighty men
(23:8-39). The thirty-seven bravest warriors of David are listed, along with a description of the achievements of the five greatest.
The plague because of David’s census
Authorship and composition
Higher critics have offered several diverse explanations as to the origin of 1 and 2 Samuel. All of them accept the composite nature of these books and seek to account for many “obvious” contradictions, duplicate accounts, and other evidences of multiple authorship over a long period of time. Many hold to the view that the Deuteronomic editors, who supposedly wrote or rewrote much of Deuteronomy-Kings somewhere between 621 and 550 b.c., were responsible for the final composition of Samuel. This is asserted in spite of the different character and organization of Judges, compared, for example, with either Joshua or Samuel.
The majority of critics feel that 1 and 2 Samuel were formed by the interweaving of several sources, usually two or three. Eissfeldt links Samuel with sources J, E, and L of the documentary hypothesis. These sources, supposedly extending from Genesis to Samuel or even Kings, form the basis for these books with E almost disappearing in Samuel. Source L (Lay source), an invention of Eissfeldt, reports folk tales in colorful fashion, but has little reference to theological concerns. It does, however, evidence an interest in the Ark of the covenant.
Bentzen expressed doubt as to whether or not J and E really continue in Samuel. Albright explicitly denies the validity of J and E for dividing Samuel. Although useful in the Pentateuch, neither they nor other criteria of form can be employed to identify the sources behind Samuel.
Segal, who rejects the documentary hypothesis, posits a combination of two stories of David, the first being a splendid biography by a contemporary, whereas the second is of later date and legendary in origin. Added to this were independent stories of the Ark, Saul, and Samuel.
The tradition-historical school emphasizes saga-cycles like the Ark narratives which circulated orally until they were written down in a loosely connected form. Some postpone the written phase until after the Exile.
Most critics agree that the material in Samuel includes both legendary “hearsay” and highly accurate historical writing. Hence, its reliability is extremely uneven. Many feel that the fragmented stories about David in
On the other hand, the material in
Samuel in the realm of political literature.
A rather close connection has been observed between
In recent years the study of different genres, types, or forms of lit. has been summed up under the “form criticism” label. This broad designation includes both positive and negative features from the conservative’s standpoint. Some aspects of form criticism are very helpful for a proper understanding of Biblical lit. (cf. the author’s article on “Implications offor Old Testament Studies” in BS, Dec., 1970).
In the “form” or “genre” of “dynastic defense” a king or his supporters outlines those reasons which make his rule legitimate. This is particularly necessary in the case of kings like Hattusilis and David, who founded dynasties and could have been charged with usurpation. With regard to David, Saul’s tribe of Benjamin might have made this accusation (cf.
These texts have been compared to the more common annalistic writing, but several features distinguish them from that category. Ordinarily, annals follow a strict year by year chronological arrangement, discussing important events in a monarch’s reign. Developments leading up to the enthronement of a ruler are mentioned very briefly if at all. Mursilis, the most important annalist among the Hitt. kings, devotes only a few lines to the years prior to his accession. In both the central portion of Samuel and in the “Apology of Hattusilis,” however, great stress is placed on events which occurred before the men became kings. There is a climactic arrangement which builds until the heroes are placed on the throne. The circumstances surrounding their success are clearly spelled out.
A further divergence from the annals relates to the summary method used. Sometimes events are treated as blocks of time, and there is no effort to move systematically from year to year. The summaries in
There are numerous parallels between the Hitt. and Heb. texts which may indicate that parts of Samuel have been patterned after the Hitt. document. Both “dynastic defenses” describe in detail the disqualification of their predecessors (
The growing popularity of the men is also important. David was respected by the servants of Saul (
A prominent characteristic of both kings was lenience to political foes. Neither allowed his over-zealous followers to assassinate the ruling king, thus contrasting their methods to those of usurpers. Instead, both appealed to deity to plead their case as a “court battle” in heaven (
After coming to power, the kings displayed great energy in religious matters. They were concerned about the worship of the nation and the blessing of one’s deity (Yahweh, for David; Ishtar, for Hattusilis) upon the king (
Finally, both texts contain a summary of their reigns, demonstrating divine blessing upon their rule through expansion and the establishment of peace with surrounding nations (
Within the sphere of Near Eastern political lit. there are no texts which exhibit the genre of “apology” as well as these two examples. Since there is wide evidence of the impact of foreign cultures upon Israel at this time, it is possible that this Hitt. document had an important bearing upon Samuel. This would help to explain the purpose and arrangement of this section of Samuel.
As mentioned earlier, the corresponding summary passages (
Whybray has recently defended the view that the “Succession Narrative” also has a political purpose. He compares it to the propagandist motives of political novels in Egypt. The purpose of this narrative is to justify Solomon’s claim to the throne by revealing how David’s other sons, such as Amnon and Absalom, were unfit to rule. To support this theory, however,
The theory of “dynastic defense” directly affects the matter of authorship. Tradition has attributed the writing of part of 1 Samuel to the prophet himself, but there is no indisputable evidence as to authorship. Pfeiffer suggests that Ahimaaz the priest wrote part of it, while Segal offers Jehoshaphat the recorder (mazkîr) as David’s trustworthy biographer.
The perplexing reference in
If the three-part outline of Samuel can be substantiated, the correspondence with these men is very close. Samuel could easily have written the first half of the book. The prophet Nathan already has been suggested as the author of
Perhaps an author-editor combined the works of these three at a later time, also using the
The answers to the questions raised in the previous section are vitally related to the date of Samuel. If Samuel, Nathan, and Gad are the real authors, the books were written essentially during David’s day or shortly thereafter. Parts of Samuel, particularly from
Yet, since the form and content of the “apology” resemble political lit. which is solidly dated earlier than David, one can argue for an early date for these chs. also. The need for a dynastic defense could have arisen not only under David’s rule but during Solomon’s reign as opposition to his policies mounted, or during the early divided kingdom when David’s throne was seriously threatened. In
Conservatives have varied in dating the composition of the books anywhere from 970 to 722 b.c. Lack of reference to the fall of Samaria provides a solid terminus ad quem. Based on the eyewitness accounts and on the general antiquity of linguistic features, the earlier date appears far closer to the truth.
The books of Samuel were written to present a connected history of the events surrounding the establishment of the monarchy. They deal with the last judges and introduce the first two kings during this vital transition period. Samuel’s ministry as a prophet is also of importance for understanding the development of the prophetic office as well as the later work of leading prophets.
Originally, the “apology of David” underlying
The moral and spiritual lessons inherent in the experience of Samuel, Saul, David and others are of timeless value. By describing the catastrophe which nearly befell David and the nation, the author warns the people about the effects of personal and national sin. The emphasis upon David is intended to acquaint all believers with this man after God’s own heart, who, in spite of serious sin, was chosen to deliver his people and to head an eternal dynasty culminating in Christ.
The books provide an illuminating historical background to some of the psalms, and important facts about the beloved Jerusalem are also presented.
The traditional Heb. text represented by the Masoretic recension is strangely defective in 1 and 2 Samuel. There are cases where emendations are mandatory because of the poorly preserved text. For example,
The reason why the MT of Samuel has more difficulties than the text of any other book is not clear. Archer suggests that the official text formulated during the intertestamentary period depended upon an ancient Vorlage which may have been worm-eaten, or frayed through overuse. The Masoretes then faithfully reproduced this defective “official” text. Segal feels that Samuel was neglected because of competition from the more popular book of Chronicles. Being read less, the text of Samuel somehow became corrupt.
Fragments of Samuel among the DSS have indicated that the Heb. underlying the LXX was superior to the Masoretic tradition. Cross has studied several passages where the Qumran material closely resembles the LXX, particularly Codex B. This indicates that the Gr. translators handled their Heb. texts with overall faithfulness, and should be trusted more than they have been in the past. In Samuel at least, the LXX is of great value for determining the true reading in many difficult passages.
Albright has reported that Cross’s forthcoming publication of a larger Samuel text from Qumran will follow the LXX closely. He believes, moreover, that the oldest copy of Samuel at Qumran bears readings superior to either the Gr. or Heb. texts.
Critics often attempt to prove that Samuel is full of discrepancies and contradictions by referring to the many “doublets” in the text. The descriptions of the same event in two different ways “betrays” the use of different sources or parallel accounts. Examples include the following: twice Saul is made king; twice David is introduced to Saul; twice the Ziphites inform Saul of David’s hiding place. There are supposedly many others also, but in each case there is a satisfactory explanation.
The events surrounding Saul’s two “coronations” are quite different. On the first occasion, Saul was chosen by lot and presented to the people. Some of the “worthless fellows” (
David was introduced to King Saul in
Under the stress and excitement of facing such a formidable foe as Goliath, Saul could also have been excused for a lapse of memory. David was only a court musician and an armor-bearer, so his name may not have been indelibly impressed upon the erratic king’s mind. Moreover,
The two episodes involving the Ziphites are also superficially similar. In both
Who killed Goliath?
Another apparent contradiction which could also be classed as a doublet concerns the two slayers of Goliath. The more popular version credits David for this deed, but
This supposition, however, finds no support in the rest of Scripture. If David did not kill Goliath, it becomes difficult to account for Saul’s intense jealousy and for the song crediting David with slaying ten thousands (
The context in
The parallel in
The witch of Endor.
Saul’s experience with the medium or witch of Endor in
Several explanations have been given regarding this event and the powers of mediums in general. Some feel that Samuel did not appear in any form; it was only a psychological phenomenon in which Saul thought he saw Samuel owing to his confused state of mind and the mysterious effects of darkness. This interpretation is hard to derive from the scriptural account.
Within a more conservative framework, it has been proposed that God allowed Saul to see a form which resembled Samuel, but which was not actually the body or spirit of the prophet himself. The more obvious explanation, however, recognizes that Samuel did actually appear to Saul in visible form and that the deceased prophet communicated with Saul. Samuel looked like “a god” (
While not denying the powers of mediums and spiritists within the demonic sphere, one need not conclude that calling up the dead normally lay within their ability. In this instance, God intervened and sent Samuel to His disobedient king. The woman revealed her surprise at the unusual success of this venture by crying out “with a loud voice” when she saw Samuel (
The episode does demonstrate the conscious existence of departed spirits and supports the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
Although the main emphasis of Samuel is historical and not theological, there are several chapters which touch directly upon important doctrines.
The will of God.
Scholars have puzzled over the attitude of God toward the establishment of the monarchy. There is sufficient evidence to indicate that God was displeased with the rejection of the theocracy (
Another aspect of the will of God relates to predestination and human responsibility, both of which find support in Samuel. After Saul had been king for some time, he disobeyed the commandment of God by performing sacrifices. Samuel severely reprimanded him for this behavior and announced that Saul had forfeited his right to a lasting dynasty. God “would have established your kingdom over Israel for ever” (
It is clear that Saul’s sin is pinpointed as the cause for his loss of dynastic rights. Yet, as early as patriarchal times Jacob prophesied that “the scepter shall not depart from Judah” (
The doctrine of sin.
Both 1 and 2 Samuel illustrate all too vividly the sinfulness of the human heart and the inevitable results of sin. Godly leaders like Eli, David and even Samuel are singled out for their failures before the Lord. Strangely enough, all three men reared children who rebelled against God. As fathers, they experienced great difficulty in bringing their sons into the deep relationship with God they enjoyed. Eli’s sons robbed the sacrifices, blasphemed God, and committed fornication, all in the role of priests (
Saul began his rule as a humble, Spirit-controlled man. As his reign progressed, however, he disobeyed the Lord, came under the influence of an evil spirit, and was consumed with murderous jealousy. He was finally reduced to dealing with a spiritist in an effort to contact the dead.
The experience of David provides the greatest instruction, both positively and negatively. This great king, a man after God’s own heart, nevertheless became secretly involved in adultery and murder after exhibiting great faith and devoutness for years. When David acknowledged his sin and was restored spiritually (
The Davidic covenant.
One of the most important OT covenants was made with David (
On the human level, the relationship between David and Jonathan provides an excellent illustration of covenant responsibility. They exhibited intense love and loyalty for each other even though Jonathan had reason to share Saul’s jealousy of David. As a result of their covenant, David kindly cared for Jonathan’s crippled son after he was established as king.
S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and Topography of the(1913); F. M. Cross, Jr., “A New Qumran Biblical Fragment Related to the Original Hebrew Underlying the LXX,” BASOR, CXXXII (1953), 15-26; “The Oldest Manuscripts from Qumran,” JBL, LXXIV (1955), 165-172; C. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Books of Samuel (1963) (reprint); H. Hertzberg, I and II Samuel (1964); G. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (1964), 270-275; A. Johns, “Did David Use Assyrian-type Annals?” Andrews University Seminary Studies, III (1965), 97-109; M. Segal, “The Composition of the Books of Samuel,” JQR, LV (1965), 318-339; LVI (1965), 32-50, 137-157; A. Weiser, “Die Legitimation der Königs Davids,” VT, XVI (1966), 325-354; W. F. Albright, Archaeology, Historical Analogy, and Early Biblical Tradition (1966), 42-65; H. M. Wolf, “The Apology of Hattusilis Compared with Other Political Self-Justifications of the Ancient Near East,” University Microfilms (1967); R. Whybray, The Succession Narrative (1968); H. A. Hoffner, Jr., “A Hittite Analogue to the David and Goliath Contest of Champions?” CBQ, XXX (1968), 220-225.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
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. 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 Books of Samuel). 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 (
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 (
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 (
The course of the narrative is resumed at
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
Yet later in the history Samuel is represented as appearing to Saul in a vision at Endor on the eve of his death (
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 (
The literature is given in the article, SAMUEL, BOOKS OF (which see).