Chapter 9 – The King and “I Am”:
1 and 2 Samuel
Part 1 – Samuel, the Final Priest/Prophet
** The Books of 1 and 2 Samuel record a time of transition in the life of Israel
· Each tribe has autonomy…but soon they will have a King.
· The most influential person(s) in Israel has been the judge(s)/prophet(s)/priest(s) of God…but soon it will be a King.
· Israel, with all of its flaws, has chosen to be subject to God…but soon they will demand a King.
· Israel is currently “united”…but soon they will be divided into twokingdoms.
· Israel was once a theocracy…but soon they become a politically-based monarchy.
Introducing Israel’s Last Judge: Samuel
** These books (1 and 2 Samuel), obviously, are named after the man, Samuel.
** God’s master plan was to raise up a prophet after his own heart (Samuel) in order to depose a corrupt prophetic line, symbolized by Eli.
Samuel’s Birth (1 Samuel 1)
· We open with a common man, Elkanah, going to offer sacrifices at the Tabernacle. With him are his two wives: Peninnah and Hannah
· Peninnah has many children, Hannah is barren. So Peninnah constantly ridicules and reminds Hannah of her childlessness, provoking and irritating Hannah to the point of despair. (1:7)
· Upon arriving at the Tabernacle, Hannah gets away from the family to pray. She offers God a deal… if he provided a son to her, she would dedicate the son to the Lord’s service (1:11) as a Nazirite priest.
o Note 1: Nazirite Priests were subject to many conditions (Numbers 6:1-21 – remember Samson, who was a Nazirite?): no cutting/shaving of the hair, no drinking of fermented beverages, avoid touching any kind of corpse, practicing certain rituals and making certain offerings. They usually lived apart from other Jews for the purpose of “holiness” or to not be defiled.
o Note 2: Some believe the Essenes were Nazirites. The excavations of the Qumran community in the Dead Sea region of Israel reveal an exorbitant number of Mikvahs – “baths” where these ritual baptisms took place.
· Overhearing her prayers was Eli, the priest of the Tabernacle. He witnessed her lips moving but did not hear any words coming from her mouth, so he concluded she was drunk, as was the practice of the prostitutes who sold themselves around the Tabernacle area, and who were often abused by Eli’s sons who guarded the Tabernacle entrance.
· In denying being drunk, Hannah affirms her purity (sexual and religious), and Eli accepts her and blesses her in the name of the Lord.
** Hannah and Elkanah conceive Samuel, whose name means “God Hears.” He is born, and Hannah fulfills her pledge. After weaning Samuel, she takes him to Eli to be raised as a Nazirite priest.
** We admire her prayer as she leaves her son in God’s hands: See 1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory.” (2:1)
Samuel’s Call (1 Samuel 2, 3)
** Samuel begins his ministry under Eli…
1 Samuel 2:11 – “Elkanah went home to Ramah, while the boy remained to minister to the Lord, in the presence of the priest Eli.” (emphasis added – also see 3:1)
Note: Samuel’s ministry was “To the Lord”. This is reminiscent of Paul’s encouragement to us in Colossians 3:23, 24 – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
** Samuel’s ministry is juxtaposed to Eli’s son’s so-called service at the Tabernacle. (see 1 Samuel 2:12-17). They were “scoundrels” or “worthless”…from the Hebrew from which we take our English word – “Belial” = one of the four false gods of the pagan underworld. It denotes one who is morally lacking.
…God tells us how He feels about them (2:17) – “The sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD; for they treated the offerings of the Lord with contempt.”
Note: Eli is not much better in God’s sight than his sons. Yet, Eli blesses Elkanah and Hannah, and she bears five more children (3 sons and two daughters.)
** Nevertheless, with the maturity of a faithful Samuel, Eli’s fate is sealed. God condemns Eli and his sons (2:27-34):
· Eli will die soon
· His sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will die on the same day…and all of his family will eventually die by the sword (2:33)
· All of the heirs of Eli will die, leaving the family name dead in history. The family will become poor and look with contempt on the “prosperity of Israel.” (2:32)
· Samuel will rise to prominence because he is faithful (2:35). Samuel will be in tune with the heart of God, and he will find great favor with God.
** But…before Eli’s demise, God calls Samuel and sets his destiny on course. It begins with Samuel’s growth – 1 Samuel 2:26: “Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.”
Note: This reminds us of Jesus’ life (Luke 2:40) – “And the child [Jesus] grew and became
strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” Or also Luke
2:52 – "Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and men.” (NIV)
Application: Something for Parents/Grandparents to ask God to do in our children…help them to grow:
1. …in wisdom (i.e.: spiritual growth)
2. …in strength (i.e.: physical growth)
3. …in favor with God (i.e.: blessed because of faithfulness)
4. …in favor with “men” (i.e.: blessed because he/she is respected)
Point: We want our children to be a blessing to God, to us, and to others. This is success
in raising children!
** After growing as a whole person, Samuel is ready to receive his Calling: Read 1 Samuel 3:2-19
…we have this wonderful sequence of Samuel learning how to discern the voice of God, God
calling him patiently, then Samuel receiving his calling.
…also, God explains what is going to happen to Eli…with the damning words, “I swore to the
house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.” (3:14)
** The next morning, Eli wants to hear from Samuel how the previous night turned out. Samuel does not want to give Eli the bad news about Eli’s demise, but Eli insists (3:17) so Samuel reveals the sad truth. Eli’s response is as if he was expecting it…a calm acceptance: “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” (3:18)
** As Samuel grew and became the Prophet, God honored him among Israel - As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord. (1 Samuel 3:19-20)
Transition: However, on the Mediterranean Coast, the Philistines were rising up against Israel (starting in 4:1)
· Israel loses to the Philistines at Ebenezer. Israel was dumbfounded that God would allow them to lose.
· So Israel “doubles-down” in the battle and decides to bring the Lord to the next battle. This is symbolically done when they carry the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield.
o Note: Why would Israel go into battle without God in the first place? Why would they presume that God would simply be a genie in a bottle…ready to perform his tricks at their pleasure? Why would they assume that God would save them when they had not served him faithfully…just because they were in trouble and defeated?
o Application Note: Sound familiar? How often do we make a mess of things and then expect God to bail us out? Perhaps there is a better way of fighting our daily fights…by striving to live faithfully with the Lord on a moment-by-moment basis so we don’t need to retreat to “Shiloh” with our tails tucked in defeat.
· Israel’s plan didn’t work (wonder why!?!) and the Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant and take it to Ashdod – the chief tribe (of 5) of the Philistines (4:11)
· Oh…and by the way…in the midst of the battle, the prophecy about Eli’s sons dying on the same day and by the sword came true (see, also, 4:11). This set a chain of events in motion that included Eli’s death (by falling backward and breaking his neck), his daughter-in-law giving premature birth to a son – Ichabod = “where is the Glory” (or something close to that)…relating to the capture of the Ark – God’s Glory (i.e.: the Ark) is no longer with Israel. She, Phinehas’ wife, died after childbirth.
** Note: In Biblical days, the superstition was that the winning army was victorious because their “God” was mightier than their opponents.
…so the Philistines assumed, according to their cultural custom, that their god, Dagon – god of the
harvest (grains) – had given them victory.
…so they took the Ark and laid it before Dagon’s idol in his temple in Ashdod.
(By the way, have you ever had a dog or cat who killed mouse (or other prey) only to bring their prize into your home and lay it at your feet? This is what the Philistines were doing: honoring their master – Dagon – with the bounty of their victory)
** Then the “fun” begins…
· …the next morning they find their idol – Dagon – face down before the Ark. They reset the scene to its proper place.
· …the next morning, not only was the idol before the Ark, but this time the head and the hands were cut off and on the threshold of the stand where the Ark sat.
· The people of Ashdod understood… the God of Israel was greater than their tribal god –Dagon. So it was time to “share this blessing” with their sister tribe, Gath.
· The people of Gath were then afflicted with tumors (5:9), so they tried to pawn off the Ark to another tribe. Only, this time, no other tribe wanted it.
· So the Philistines in Gath returned the Ark to Israel after being away for 7 months (6:1).
· Along with the Ark, though, the Philistines, directed by their priests and diviners, gave a “guilt” offering of 5 gold tumors and 5 gold mice “according the number of the lords of the Philistines.” (6:4). Note: We understand the reason for the gold tumors – symbolic of the affliction…but the “mice”…some suggest this is symbolic of the rulers of the 5 tribes of Philistia. Interesting correlation: Rulers = Rats!
· Something interesting in the Story (6:7-9): If a team of cows that had never been trained or yoked could work together to pull the cart straight for a stretch of several miles, all the while ignoring their maternal instincts to respond to the cries of their un-weaned calves, then the God of Israel would indeed be accepted as the source of “this great disaster.” However, if the cows failed to pull the cart “as far as the border of Beth-Shemesh,” then the whole series of recent Philistine catastrophes would be understood to have happened “by chance”.
** In seeing the Ark traveling through Beth-Shemesh (a village of primarily Levites – those called to care for the Ark)…
· The Levites took the Ark back to its place in the Tabernacle
· The offerings in the box were set upon a large stone
· The people of Beth-Shemesh made a burnt offering of the cows to the Lord
· The rock on which the offering was made turned into a memorial to commemorate the return of the Ark
· However, some of the descendants of Jeconiah did not honor the Lord’s laws regarding the Ark protocol (i.e.: that no non-Levite could even look upon the exterior of the Ark, much less handle or view the materials inside it), so He killed 70 of them because of their disobedience.
** Then, after some 20 years, Samuel spoke to Israel instructing them to serve God ONLY. So Israel put away their gods of the Baals and Astartes (7:4) and served the Lord and no other god. Consequently, Samuel gathered Israel at Mizpah (about 8 miles north of Jerusalem) to make an offering to God. This, too, was memorialized by another stone to commemorate the repentance and recommitment of Israel.
** But…the Philistines attacked Israel at Mizpah. Israel was afraid of the Philistines, so they asked Samuel to intercede for them to God. Samuel did…and God defeated the Philistines in full view of Israel.
Note: God used natural phenomenon – “the Lord thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel.” (7:10). This is consistent with the cultural view that any unusual meteorological phenomenon during a military operation would naturally be interpreted as evidence of a deity at work.
** Samuel set a stone and named the memorial “Ebenezer” = eben ha’azar…“the Stone helps” or the “Helper is a Rock/Stone.”
Note 1: The promise of God being the Rock on which we trust our lives is taught throughout the Bible. Most specifically, Jesus at Caesarea Philippi –
“…on this rock [the confession that Jesus Christ is the Savior/Messiah] I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18, 19)
Note 2: This may help you understand the line from a verse in the hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” –
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
…it’s a reference to the 1 Samuel 7 story of God’s help when we cannot help ourselves.
Psalm 46:1 – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Nahum 1:7 – “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”