The Life of Samuel

 
 

by

Mary Giangreco


Introduction


The prophet Samuel was strategically put into position by God during a time when spirituality was at its lowest.  In the early morning hours, God called Samuel by name and launched him out into a prophetic ministry to the people of Israel.  This was the beginning of the renovation of a nation; to return to their God.  The Lord unfolds what He is about to do.  God spoke Samuel’s name saying, “Samuel, Samuel” and Samuel said, “Speak for your servant hears.” (I Samuel 3:10).  This was the beginning of the journey for Samuel who would be called prophet and later to be called judge.


Hannah Prays Samuel into Existence


Samuel’s chronicle begins with his mother Hannah who prayed for a male child to be born from her womb.  In her prayer to the Lord, she promises and vows to give her child to the Lord and no razor would touch his head.  After being barren for many years, Samuel was born, and at the early age of two or three years old, Hannah kept her promise to the Lord.  She completely gave up Samuel to God and into the hands of Eli with the intent that he would be raised in the priesthood along side of Eli, “Samuel ministered before the Lord even as a child, wearing a linen ephod” (I Samuel 2:18).  This was the beginning of Samuel’s ministry and service to the Lord.


No Sign of God


Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas who corrupted the priesthood but in spite of their lifestyle, Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli the priest (I Samuel 2:11).  In the days of Samuel the word of the Lord was rare and there was no widespread revelation (I Samuel 3:1).   The reason the word of the Lord was not heard in the days of Samuel was because of the corruption in the order of priesthood (I Samuel 2:12, 17, 22-26). Idolatry was common place during these times (I Samuel 7:3, 4) and the judges were known for being dishonest.  God pretty much kept to Himself and didn’t discuss His matters with the people.  There were no reports, account of the people’s actions, no promises, not a word from God.  There also were no open visions, dreams, revelation, oracle or prophecy.  The heavens were closed tight and hope in the one and true God seemed to be lost.


Samuel’s Call


I Samuel 3:3-5


And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see,


And before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down.


That the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!”


So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”  And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down.


Everyone was sleeping.  Eli was sleeping in his place.  He is described as having dim eyes which represents spiritual blindness.  Samuel was also sleeping in his place, beside the ark of God.  The golden lamp stand stood on the south side of the holy place, opposite the table of the bread of Presence.  Just before the lamp was getting ready to go out, the Lord called Samuel by name.  Samuel ran to Eli not once but three times thinking Eli called him for he didn’t know the voice of God (I Samuel 3:7).  Eli not knowing it was the Lord until the third time, finally perceives it’s the Lord and instructs Samuel on what to say to God.  Samuel returns to his place and says, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears” (I Samuel 3:10).  The word of the Lord was spoken to Samuel for the first time.  The Lord speaks a prophetic word to him, revealing the demise of the house of Eli.  The next morning Samuel is reluctant to tell Eli what the Lord said but Eli keeps pressing him until he finally reveals what God has told him.  Samuel told him everything the Lord said.


Samuel Leader of Israel

  

Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and He let none of his words fall to the ground.  “All of Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord” (I Samuel 3:19-20).   Samuel was the first new order of prophet.1  The presence of the Lord empowered and enabled Samuel’s service as prophet to the people,  covering all the territory from Dan to the far north into Beersheba to the south.  “The Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (I Samuel 3:21).  This means the spirit of prophecy was revealed to Samuel and when the word of Samuel came to all Israel, this means it was a revelation to him and through him because he is the “spokesman” for God.


The Word of Samuel Comes to Pass


Hophnie and Phinehas are killed by the hand of the Philistines.  The Ark of the Covenant was captured and taken into their camp.  Eli hears the report, that his two sons’ are dead and the Ark of the Covenant is taken captive.  When Eli hears the ark was taken by the enemy, he fell backward in his chair and broke his neck and died (I Samuel 4:11, 18).


Samuel Recognized as Judge 


After the defeat of the Israelites by the Philistines (4:1-11) we do not hear of Samuel until twenty years later.  During most of these years the Ark of the Covenant was in Kirjath Jearim and the house of Israel lamented after the Lord (I Samuel 7:1-2).  Samuel stood before the people and encourages them to repent.


I Samuel 7:3


Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.


Samuel had knowledge that faithfulness and integrity with single heartedness for God was a necessity for Israel’s deliverance from its enemies.  At the word of the Lord from Samuel the people poured out water before the Lord which is a sign of repentance. They said with their mouth they repented, which revealed the true condition of their heart.  This day, Samuel wasn’t only recognized as a prophet to Israel, he is looked upon as judge (I Samuel 7:4-6).


Samuel as a Levite


The lords of the Philistines heard that Israel has gathered at Mizpah.  The military thinking on the part of the Philistines was that Israel has gathered against them for war.  Little do they know, the Israelites are gathered together for repentance!  The Israelites are afraid and cry out to Samuel to continue to make intercession for them to save them from the hand of the Philistines.  Samuel being a Levite prepares an offering to the Lord and as the Philistines came near for battle the Lord thundered and confusion overcame them (I Samuel 7:7-10).  Samuel builds an alter, thanking the Lord for His divine intervention.  The memorial is named Ebenezer which means “Stone of Help.”  Samuel continued on with Joshua’s practice of building altars or memorials to the Lord that would remind the people of who delivered them out of the hands of their enemies.  The Philistines did not attack during Samuel’s judgeship (I Samuel 7:12-13).


Samuel’s Judicial Labors


Samuel’s home town is in Ramah.  He pours himself into the government of the nation and from year to year he is on a circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, and judged Israel in all those places (I Samuel 7:16).  Samuel is growing old and he appoints his sons to be judges.  His sons took bribes and perverted justice and the elders of Israel approach Samuel to appoint a king.  Their reasoning was they wanted to be like other nations (I Samuel 8:1-5) and perhaps they didn’t want another Hophni and Phinehas.  Samuel goes to the Lord with this request for a king and the Lord says, “Heed their voice, and make them a king” (I Samuel 8:22).  Samuel was displeased with the people’s request for a king.  In ancient times a person’s name represented their character.  Samuel’s name means “heard by God” or “the name of God.”  In his eyes everything the people did or would say, would be “heard by God” and or done in “the name of God.”  I think the question rising within Samuel is, “why do they need a king when they have God?” 


Samuel Anoints Saul to Be King


I Samuel 8:16


Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me.


Samuel privately anointed Saul as commander and king and kissed him (I Samuel 10:1).  The kingdom is renewed and provision for Saul’s recognition as king was made before the people.  In the process of doing this; Samuel took his liberties in scolding the people for their sin of rejecting God by demanding a king (I Samuel 10:19).  His displeasure toward the people was because they wanted to be like other nations, meaning they were rejecting God as their Leader.  In order for Samuel to release the burden from himself, he had the people repent.  The request for a king was made out of fear based on the previous judges.  Samuel perceives this as great wickedness (I Samuel 12:17) and he calls to the Lord who sends thunder and rain (I Samuel 12:18).  It doesn’t sound like God was too happy with the people either.  It was unusual for it to rain during wheat harvest.  The miracle through Samuel was intended to convince the people of their great wickedness in demanding a king.  The miracle also served to enhance Israel’s respect for both the Lord and Samuel.2 Samuel encourages the people to continue to follow the Lord.  He fortifies the people, assuring them he will pray for them.  For Samuel, a lack of prayer was a moral compromise; a sin.  In fact, his life illustrates the importance of prayer.3  It was in Mizpah he said to all Israel, “I will pray to the Lord for you” (I Samuel 7:5).  And then Samuel leaves them with a warning, “If you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king” (I Samuel 12:25).  We never find Samuel deviating from the call to please the people.  He stands his ground in the face of diversity. 


Although Samuel handed the office of judge over to the king, he “judged Israel all the days of his life” (I Samuel 7:15).  There came a day when King Saul disobeyed the Lord one too many times and Samuel operated as judge and prophet to rebuke Saul for his presumption to do what was contrary to the word of the Lord (I Samuel 15).  The kingdom was taken from him and passed on to a man after God’s own heart.


Samuel Anoints David as King


Saul had been rejected by God as king.  The Lord spoke to Samuel to go to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king.  Samuel was concerned for his life because of Saul’s paranoid nature and spiritual deterioration.  The Lord gives Samuel a valid reason for going to Bethlehem, to do sacrifice (I Samuel 16:2).  It would seem when the prophet was on the move, going from place to place, it was known to the people that the prophet was on assignment for God.   Samuel entered into Bethlehem and the people trembled and asked, “Do you come peaceably?” (I Samuel 16:4)  And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord” (I Samuel 16:5).   When the prophet said “peaceably”, it meant things as they ought to be.4  Samuel was forever learning from God just as we are.  As Jesse’s sons appeared before him one by one, he wasn’t to look at their appearance but, instead he was to look at their heart.  In other words he was to lean on his seer gifting and look through the eyes of a prophet; and that he eventually did.  At first, Samuel got caught using his natural eye, looking for the best looking to be king.  It just proves he was a man just like you and I.  David is called from the caring of the sheep in the field and when Samuel saw him he perceived correctly, this was the king.  David is described as having “bright eyes.” It could be said that he had beautiful eyes, rendering him to be good looking.  David’s real strength though was in his inner worth. As we know, he had a heart after God’s own heart. 


Conclusion


Samuel’s life was respected among the people of Israel.  He never took a bribe or perverted the offices of God.  His directive was not possession-oriented power but the well-being of the people being first place.  In all his actions and determination, he was accompanied by the word of the Lord.  He was dedicated to God and the call within a nation of people who rebelled against God to serve other gods.  He willfully turned over the office of judge to King Saul and didn’t express ungratefulness, but instead upheld the reputation of God, directing the people toward God.  Samuel received Saul as the selected successor and received him as a father would receive a son.