The Prophet Samuel who was raised by Eli, the priest of God, is a foundational person in the spiritual life of Israel. He is the key spiritual figure between Moses and the prophets Elijah and Elisha. His story is found in 1 Samuel chapters 1 through 25. Most people have heard at least one sermon about him and the references probably came from 1 Samuel: 1 -3; they are used a lot in meetings where young people are the target audience. While studying his role in the anointing of the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, it became apparent just how important he really was to Israel.
We are not told how old he was in chapter 4 when Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas all die on the same day. Nothing is mentioned of him until 1 Samuel 7: 3 when he is calling Israel to repent. Verse two gives us a time stamp of twenty years that the ark was in Kiriath Jearim. Why had it not been returned to Shiloh?
A possible reason is that there was no priest who was of age to carry on the proper worship at the Tabernacle or “Temple.” Phinehas had sons (4:20 and 14:3) but who trained them in their duties as a priest? I will guess that Samuel either did the training or at least had a hand in doing it; after all, he studied under Eli. There needed to be an Aaronic priest to serve before the Ark, Samuel was from Ephraim. (Side note – If I was writing this as a novel the Benjamite in 4:12 would have King Saul’s father, Kish.)
While at Mizpah, where Samuel was leading Israel in their return to God, the Philistines attacked trying to keep them in slavery. Samuel’s leadership was being put to the test and his response is a true act of faith. He orders the people to continue in their “crying out to God” and he offers a sacrifice. God responds to this “faith action” with thunder, “loud thunder” that caused the defeat of the enemy. (I will assume there was a storm with lightning, but what if God just spoke at the enemy and they heard it as thunder.)
The next time reference is Chapter 8:1 and all it says is that Samuel is “old.” This and the fact that Nahash the Ammonite king was threatening Israel (12:12) made the people think a “king” would be better. The remaining years of Samuel’s life were spent in hearing about Saul chasing around after David trying to kill him.
The final reference to Samuel in the Book of Samuel is in chapter 28 after he is dead. Saul breakers his own decree and the Law of God and consults a witch/medium. Samuel comes “back” and rebukes Saul once more.
The other mentions of Samuel’s life and deeds are found in 1 and 2 Chronicles. 1 Chronicles 9:22 he and David assigned gatekeepers. I could think that David just added or continued to what Samuel did since Samuel would have been dead when David got around to doing this.
In 1 Chronicles 26: 28 the things that Samuel had dedicated for the “Temple” were brought in when Solomon had finished the building. So it seems that Samuel was honoring God with offerings even when the Ark was still in the Tent.
1 Chronicles 29: 29 states that Samuel was a writer/historian. Other people probably took his work and that of other historians and wrote the Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. I have done parallel studies of these books and combined them into one manuscript.
2 Chronicles 35: 18 mentions that Samuel was the last leader to celebrate Passover correctly. He did his best to get Israel to honor God as described in the Law of Moses.
There is still more post to come from the study of the anointing of the first two kings, but I have developed a new appreciation for Samuel and his place in the Bible and the spiritual history of Israel.