'Studies in the Old Testament'

Samuel & Apostasy - 11

June 2012

(Continued from page 541)

Samuel's multiple role for God

We can now see that I Samuel 1:1, and the birth of Samuel, would have occurred about 1100 B.C.  I Samuel 25:l records Samuel's death, and how all Israel gathered together and mourned for him, and we have a fairly close date of 1012 B.C. for that chapter. Assuming that Samuel was born in 1100 B.C. and died in 1012 B.C., he would have lived eighty-eight years. That means that he was twenty-five years old at the time of the Battle of Aphek when the Philistines took possession of the Ark, between forty-five and fifty when he led the armies of Israel in the victory over the Philistines at Mizpeh, and fifty when he crowned Saul king.  So, writing 1100 B.C. beside I Samuel 1:1, we see that the book spans ninety years of Israel's history (ending in 1010 B.C.) and begins with the birth of one of the greatest men Israel had ever known, but, sadly, ends with the death of King Saul, a man who had everything to gain but died in infamy.

We see in 1 Samuel 3 the account of the rise of Samuel to the position of a prophet, a fact acknowledged and accepted by every Israelite.  The writer of I Samuel tells us, in Chapter 3, verse 14, that,
"word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent."  Men were not listening to God in those days, and God did not speak very often. This "silence" is often a form of divine judgment and, if not broken, would prove to be Israel's undoing (ref. 1 Samuel 28; Psalm 74:9; Isaiah 29:9-14; Micah 3:6-7; also Proverbs 29:18).  We are told that prophecy was rare, so we see the calling of Samuel as an end to God's silence (ref. 1 Samuel 3:19-21).  We come in chapter 4 to the account of the defeat of Israel and the death of Eli, his two sons, and his daughter-in-law. In chapters 2 and 3, God prophetically foretells of His judgment on Eli and his house. That judgment takes place in chapter 4. In chapter 3, we see God's hand at work, preparing Samuel for a prominent leadership role over Israel, and in chapter 4, God has removed Eli and his sons so that Samuel can assume the leadership for which He has prepared him.

Samuel's role was a multiple one and the nation came to rely on him to fulfil many important roles.  As a
judge, he presided over legal cases that were brought before him and gave his advice wherever it was needed. His residence and main head-quarters were at Ramah, but he also worked a circuit that included Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah (I Samuel 7:15-17). This enabled a larger number of people to get the benefit of his wisdom. As a seer, he could be consulted to find the answer to problems, such as the location of lost animals. As a priest, he offered sacrifices to the God of Israel at sacred altars. As prophet, he was the recognized representative of God, with the power to act in His behalf. The great prestige and authority Samuel enjoyed in these different roles made him the most important figure in Israel since the time of Moses and, most importantly, he was the key figure, although often somewhat reluctantly, in the transition from government by judges to rule by kings.



  1. King James Authorized Bible, 1769
  2. Stinespring, W. F. "Temple, Jerusalem, The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, IV, 534--60
  3. Ackroyd, Peter R. The First Book of Samuel, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,  1971
  4. New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, 1977
  5. Cross, Frank M., Jr. "The Priestly Tabernacle,"  The Biblical Archaeologist  Reader, 201-228
  6. Dale Ralph Davis, Looking on the Heart: Expositions of the Book of 1 Samuel, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), p. 35; p. 36; p. 37
  7. Rick Joyner, The Prophetic Ministry, Morning Star Publications, 1997
  8. McKane, William. 1 and 2 Samuel. Torch Bible Commentaries. London: SCM Press,  1963
  9. Hertzberg, H.W. I and 2 Samuel: A Commentary, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1964
  10. Vos, Howard F. 1, 2 Samuel. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983
  11. Cross, Frank M., Jr. "The Priestly Tabernacle,"  The Biblical Archaeologist  Reader,  201-228
  12. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Old Testament, The Sage Digital Library, SAGE Software Albany, OR USA,Version 1.0 © 1996
  13. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997
  14. KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994

'Samuel & Apostasy'

Dating 1 Samuel

Hannah teaches us an important spiritual principle

Samuel and a disastrous military and religious situation

Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas demonstrate eternal lessons

Warnings and prophecies to Eli

Prophecies fulfilled as Ark surrendered at Battle of Aphek

Philistines discover the God of the Ark of the Covenant

The battle of Mizpah

The error of Henotheism

The lessons to be learned from Israel's request for a king

Samuel's multiple role for God

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