- Israel was in moral chaos prior to Samuel's
birth. The Israelites were waiting for a king
who would protect, guide, and defend them as
well as give legitimacy to the community.
- Samuel's father had an impressive genealogy,
but his mother was barren.
- His mother vowed that if Yahweh gave her a
son, she would consecrate him to the Lord and
give that son to the temple. ("Not a razor
shall touch his head" implies a Nazarite
vow - the Hebrew word "nazar" means
to separate or consecrate.)
- Hannah named Samuel - his name means, "the
name of God is 'El'." His name commemorates
the power of God. Hannah's explanation because
"I have asked him of the Lord" is
really the etymology for the name Saul.
- Samuel was a very young boy when he took up
residence in the temple.
- Eli's own sons were morally unfit and Eli
was unable to rein them in. He, therefore, shared
in their guilt, which led to the downfall and
demise of his family.
- Scholars do not know how old Samuel was when
the Lord called him three times.
- The purpose of this call sequence was to legitimize
new leadership and depose the old.
- Eli instructed Samuel how to respond to the
call of his name.
- Samuel followed those instructions - showing
his dependence on Eli.
- Samuel then had to tell Eli about the oracle
that was against Eli. The words are harsh, unrelenting,
and devastating. Eli's house was supposed to
last forever. Now it will be punished forever.
- Neither Eli nor Samuel questioned the verdict.
The Lord is now with Samuel.
- Samuel's credibility was rooted in God's resolve
to do a new thing.
- In 7:3, Samuel, acting as judge, summarized
the covenantal faith, much like Moses had in
the past. (The similarities are certainly intentional.)
- Samuel urged them to have a single heart,
to look to the Lord in every need.
- The people responded positively; Samuel gave
them a new beginning.
- When the Philistines attacked, Samuel prayed
and offered sacrifices. The Lord answered with
thunder and the Philistines were summarily routed
on behalf of Israel.
- Samuel functioned effectively as a judge for
the rest of his days.
- Unfortunately, his sons "did not walk
in his ways." They were failures.
- The elders of Israel brought up the idea of
a monarchy; after all, everyone else had a king.
- Samuel was alarmed, displeased. He saw this
as a fundamental shift in Israel's commitment
to the covenant.
- Yahweh was the one who convinced Samuel to
accept their proposal. Yahweh did not endorse
it, but he did not oppose it. Israel had a long
history of dissatisfaction with Yahweh; this
was simply one more step in that direction.
- The Lord instructed Samuel to warn them,
to let them know the costs involved in their
- Samuel held nothing back in criticizing the
monarchy, telling them they would eventually
be like "slaves." (Do you see the
irony here, remembering that these people had
lived in bondage under the Egyptians and what
they went through to become liberated?) The
people were undaunted; they wanted the security
of being "like all the nations."
- Yahweh did not abandon his people; instead
he took the initiative and revealed to Samuel
what he must do, how he would meet the future
king, and that he was to anoint him.
- When Samuel and Saul
met, the Lord confirmed that Saul was the one.
- Saul was looking for his father's missing
donkeys, and before he even had a chance to
open his mouth, Samuel told him that they had
- Saul was so impressed that he followed Samuel's
leadings without question.
- Samuel's first anointing of Saul was done
privately; Saul would need to grow into his
position in order to garner the support of his
- Later, Samuel called the people to Mizpah
for the purpose of selecting a king - by casting
lots. Saul was the one who was chosen.
- Samuel wrote up the "manner of the kingdom"
and "laid it up before the Lord."
The monarchy was now part of the covenantal
agreement between Yahweh and Israel.
- Samuel's next task was to hand over the administrative
duties to the new king - and to go home.
- An attack from the Amorites intervened and
after Saul led them to victory, Samuel asked
to renew the covenant one more time. This provided
him with the occasion for his farewell speech
to the nation.
- Samuel began by vindicating his own career,
then reminding them of their covenantal relationship
with Yahweh (essentially vindicating Yahweh
as well), and then reiterating his doubts and
warnings about the monarchy. He essentially
subsumed the kingship under the covenantal structure
of blessings and curses. The king would have
no theological authority. Samuel invoked a thunderstorm
to sanction his words - no king could do that.
- The king would only
have the power to be obedient; prophets would
have decisive authority. The real authority
belonged to Samuel and the torah.
- For one brief shining moment, the people saw
the dangers ahead. Samuel reassured them, instructing
them to serve the Lord with "all your heart."
And if they didn't, no king would be able to
- As a result of these speeches, job descriptions
should have been clear: Samuel was supposed
to do the praying and sacrificing; Saul would
be in charge of the fighting.
- Yet during the very
next battle when Samuel was delayed, Saul, not
wanting to lose momentum, jumped in to do the
sacrifices and prayers. Samuel was outraged
and told him what "might have been."
Had Saul been obedient, his kingdom would have
been established forever.
- Scholars struggle with these events because
they seem so harsh to us, but obedience was
the #1 quality required of a king. (Remember:
his job was to work in the service of the Lord.)
- Things worsened
after the next battle with the Amalekites when
Saul took some of the spoils for himself. Again,
he did not obey his instructions to "utterly
destroy all that they have." Then Samuel
"grieved over Saul" and the Lord "was
sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel."
- Samuel was then commissioned to go to Jesse
and anoint a new king from among his sons.
- This act was not without
risk - anointing a king when there already was
a king is risky business.
- Even the townspeople were nervous when Samuel
showed up in their city - they knew he was a
king-maker, as well as a king-breaker. Nonetheless,
Yahweh gave Samuel the words to say, and Jesse's
sons passed by him, one by one.
- When Samuel saw David, he was told, "David
is the one."
- Samuel privately anointed David. (The oil
is binding, and the spirit came upon David.)
- Samuel's last recorded activity was to protect
David. Saul had sent men to kill David, but
they forgot their intentions when in the presence
of Samuel. The spirit of the Lord came upon
them and they prophesied. The same thing happened
to Saul when he went to do the job himself.
He forgot his murderous intentions and "prophesied."
The "would be killer" of God's anointed
was powerless in the presence of Samuel.
- Samuel's death is noted in a single verse
in chapter 25. He was mourned and buried.
- Samuel's power haunted Saul even after his
death. Saul asked a witch to raise up Samuel
so he could ask his advice - an indication that
the Lord was no longer with Saul.
- Samuel's words were devastating for Saul:
both he and his sons would be killed in the
upcoming battle. The Lord had departed from
Saul and was now his enemy.
- On that ominous note, Samuel disappears from
Alter, Robert and Frank Kermode. The Literary Guide to the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. 1987.
Brueggeman, Walter. "1 & 2 Samuel." Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1990.
Evans, Mary. "1 and 2 Samuel." New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.
Mills, Watson and Richard Wilson. Mercer Commentary on the Bible. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995
Newsom, Carol and Sharon Ringe. The Women's Bible Commentary. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.
Payne, David. "I & II Samuel." The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1982.
Peterson, Eugene. "First and Second Samuel." The Westminster Bible Companion. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.
Robinson, Gnana. "1 & 2 Samuel, Let Us Be Like the Nations." The International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1993.