|sam'-u-el (heard of God; asked of God, name of God)
RELATED: Abijah, David, Hannah, Heman, Jeroham, Joel, Kingdom of Judah, Philistines, Prophet(s), Saul, Vashni
| WORKS: Samuel,
The Books of; Judges,
The Book of (debated)
Easton's Bible Dictionary
heard of God. The peculiar circumstances connected with
his birth are recorded in 1 Samuel 1:20 . Hannah, one of the two wives of Elkanah,
who came up to Shiloh to worship before the Lord, earnestly prayed to God that
she might become the mother of a son. Her prayer was graciously granted; and after
the child was weaned she brought him to Shiloh and consecrated him to the Lord
as a perpetual Nazarite ( 1 Samuel 1:23 - 2:11 ). Here his bodily wants and training
were attended to by the women who served in the tabernacle, while Eli cared for
his religious culture. Thus, probably, twelve years of his life passed away. "The
child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men"
( 1 Samuel 2:26 ; Compare Luke 2:52 ). It was a time of great and growing degeneracy
in Israel ( Judges 21:19 - 21 ; 1 Samuel 2:12 - 17 , 2:22 ). The Philistines,
who of late had greatly increased in number and in power, were practically masters
of the country, and kept the people in subjection ( 1 Samuel 10:5 ; 13:3 ).
At this time new communications from God began to be made to the pious child.
A mysterious voice came to him in the night season, calling him by name, and,
instructed by Eli, he answered, "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth." The message
that came from the Lord was one of woe and ruin to Eli and his profligate sons.
Samuel told it all to Eli, whose only answer to the terrible denunciations ( 1
Samuel 3:11 - 18 ) was, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good", the
passive submission of a weak character, not, in his case, the expression of the
highest trust and faith. The Lord revealed himself now in divers manners to Samuel,
and his fame and his influence increased throughout the land as of one divinely
called to the prophetical office. A new period in the history of the kingdom of
God now commenced.
The Philistine yoke was heavy, and the people, groaning under the wide-spread
oppression, suddenly rose in revolt, and "went out against the Philistines to
battle." A fierce and disastrous battle was fought at Aphek, near to Ebenezer
( 1 Samuel 4:1 , 4:2 ). The Israelites were defeated, leaving 4,000 dead "in the
field." The chiefs of the people thought to repair this great disaster by carrying
with them the ark of the covenant as the symbol of Jehovah's presence. They accordingly,
without consulting Samuel, fetched it out of Shiloh to the camp near Aphek. At
the sight of the ark among them the people "shouted with a great shout, so that
the earth rang again." A second battle was fought, and again the Philistines defeated
the Israelites, stormed their camp, slew 30,000 men, and took the sacred ark.
The tidings of this fatal battle was speedily conveyed to Shiloh; and so soon
as the aged Eli heard that the ark of God was taken, he fell backward from his
seat at the entrance of the sanctuary, and his neck brake, and he died. The tabernacle
with its furniture was probably, by the advice of Samuel, now about twenty years
of age, removed from Shiloh to some place of safety, and finally to Nob, where
it remained many years ( 1 Samuel 21:1 ).
The Philistines followed up their advantage, and marched upon Shiloh, which they
plundered and destroyed (Compare Jeremiah 7:12 ; Psalms 78:59 ). This was a great
epoch in the history of Israel. For twenty years after this fatal battle at Aphek
the whole land lay under the oppression of the Philistines. During all these dreary
years Samuel was a spiritual power in the land. From Ramah, his native place,
where he resided, his influence went forth on every side among the people. With
unwearied zeal he went up and down from place to place, reproving, rebuking, and
exhorting the people, endeavouring to awaken in them a sense of their sinfulness,
and to lead them to repentance. His labours were so far successful that "all the
house of Israel lamented after the Lord." Samuel summoned the people to Mizpeh,
one of the loftiest hills in Central Palestine, where they fasted and prayed,
and prepared themselves there, under his direction, for a great war against the
Philistines, who now marched their whole force toward Mizpeh, in order to crush
the Israelites once for all. At the intercession of Samuel God interposed in behalf
of Israel. Samuel himself was their leader, the only occasion in which he acted
as a leader in war. The Philistines were utterly routed. They fled in terror before
the army of Israel, and a great slaughter ensued. This battle, fought probably
about B.C. 1095, put an end to the forty years of Philistine oppression. In memory
of this great deliverance, and in token of gratitude for the help vouchsafed,
Samuel set up a great stone in the battlefield, and called it "Ebenezer," saying,
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" ( 1 Samuel 7:1 - 12 ). This was the spot where,
twenty years before, the Israelites had suffered a great defeat, when the ark
of God was taken.
This victory over the Philistines was followed by a long period of peace for Israel
( 1 Samuel 7:13 , 7:14 ), during which Samuel exercised the functions of judge,
going "from year to year in circuit" from his home in Ramah to Bethel, thence
to Gilgal (not that in the Jordan valley, but that which lay to the west of Ebal
and Gerizim), and returning by Mizpeh to Ramah. He established regular services
at Shiloh, where he built an altar; and at Ramah he gathered a company of young
men around him and established a school of the prophets. The schools of the prophets,
thus originated, and afterwards established also at Gibeah, Bethel, Gilgal, and
Jericho, exercised an important influence on the national character and history
of the people in maintaining pure religion in the midst of growing corruption.
They continued to the end of the Jewish commonwealth.
Many years now passed, during which Samuel exercised the functions of his judicial
office, being the friend and counsellor of the people in all matters of private
and public interest. He was a great statesman as well as a reformer, and all regarded
him with veneration as the "seer," the prophet of the Lord. At the close of this
period, when he was now an old man, the elders of Israel came to him at Ramah
( 1 Samuel 8:4 , 8:5 , 8:19 - 22 ); and feeling how great was the danger to which
the nation was exposed from the misconduct of Samuel's sons, whom he had invested
with judicial functions as his assistants, and had placed at Beersheba on the
Philistine border, and also from a threatened invasion of the Ammonites, they
demanded that a king should be set over them. This request was very displeasing
to Samuel. He remonstrated with them, and warned them of the consequences of such
a step. At length, however, referring the matter to God, he acceded to their desires,
and anointed Saul (q.v.) to be their king ( 1 Samuel 11:15 ). Before retiring
from public life he convened an assembly of the people at Gilgal (ch. 12), and
there solemnly addressed them with reference to his own relation to them as judge
The remainder of his life he spent in retirement at Ramah, only occasionally and
in special circumstances appearing again in public ( 1 Samuel 1315 ,15) with communications
from God to king Saul. While mourning over the many evils which now fell upon
the nation, he is suddenly summoned (ch.16) to go to Bethlehem and anoint David,
the son of Jesse, as king over Israel instead of Saul. After this little is known
of him till the time of his death, which took place at Ramah when he was probably
about eighty years of age. "And all Israel gathered themselves together, and lamented
him, and buried him in his house at Ramah" ( 25:1 ), not in the house itself,
but in the court or garden of his house. (Compare 2 Kings 21:18 ; 2 Chronicles
33:20 ; 1 Kings 2:34 ; John 19:41 .)
Samuel's devotion to God, and the special favour with which God regarded him,
are referred to in Jeremiah 15:1 and Psalms 99:6 .
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
heard of God; asked of God
Smith's Bible Dictionary
was the son of Elkanah and Hannah, and was born at Ramathaim-zophim,
among the hills of Ephraim. [RAMAH No. 2] (B.C. 1171.) Before his birth he was
dedicated by his mother to the office of a Nazarite and when a young child, 12
years old according to Josephus he was placed in the temple, and ministered unto
the Lord before Eli." It was while here that he received his first prophetic call.
( 1 Samuel 3:1 - 18 )
He next appears, probably twenty years afterward, suddenly among the people, warning
them against their idolatrous practices. ( 1 Samuel 7:3 , 7:4 ) Then followed
Samuels first and, as far as we know, only military achievement, ch. ( 1 Samuel
7:5 - 12 ) but it was apparently this which raised him to the office of "judge."
He visited, in the discharge of his duties as ruler, the three chief sanctuaries
on the west of Jordan --Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh. ch. ( 1 Samuel 7:16 ) His own
residence was still native city, Ramah, where he married, and two sons grew up
to repeat under his eyes the same perversion of high office that he had himself
witnessed in his childhood in the case of the two sons of Eli. In his old age
he shared his power with them, ( 1 Samuel 8:1 - 4 ) but the people dissatisfied,
demanded a king, and finally anointed under Gods direction, and Samuel surrendered
to him his authority, ( 1 Samuel 12:1 ) ... though still remaining judge. ch.
( 1 Samuel 7:15 ) He was consulted far and near on the small affairs of life.
( 1 Samuel 9:7 , 9:8 ) From this fact, combined with his office of ruler, an awful
reverence grew up around him. No sacrificial feast was thought complete without
his blessing. Ibid. ( 1 Samuel 9:13 ) A peculiar virtue was believed to reside
in his intercession.
After Saul was rejected by God, Samuel anointed David in his place and Samuel
became the spiritual father of the psalmist-king. The death of Samuel is described
as taking place in the year of the close of Davids wanderings. It is said with
peculiar emphasis, as if to mark the loss, that "all the Israelites were gathered
together" from all parts of this hitherto-divided country, and "lamented him,"
and "buried him" within his own house, thus in a manner consecrated by being turned
into his tomb. ( 1 Samuel 25:1 ) Samuel represents the independence of the moral
law, of the divine will, as distinct from legal or sacerdotal enactments, which
is so remarkable a characteristic of all the later prophets. He is also the founder
of the first regular institutions of religious instructions and communities for
the purposes of education.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
sam'-u-el (shemu'el; Samouel):
The word "Samuel" signifies "name of God," or "his name is El" (God). Other interpretations
of the name that have been offered are almost certainly mistaken. The play upon
the name in 1 Samuel 1:20 is not intended of course to be an explanation of its
meaning, but is similar to the play upon the name Moses in Exodus 2:10 and frequently
elsewhere in similar instances. Thus, by the addition of a few letters shemu'el
becomes sha'ul me'el, "asked of God," and recalls to the mother of Samuel the
circumstances of the divine gift to her of a son. Outside of 1st Samuel the name
of the great judge and prophet is found in Jeremiah 15:1; Psalms 99:6 and in 1
and 2 Chronicles. The reference in Jeremiah seems intended to convey the same
impression that is given by the narrative of 1 Samuel, that in some sense Samuel
had come to be regarded as a second Moses, upon whom the mantle of the latter
had fallen, and who had been once again the deliverer and guide of the people
at a great national crisis.
1. Sources and Character of the History:
The narrative of the events of the life of Samuel appears to be derived from more
than one source (see SAMUEL, BOOKS OF). The narrator had before him and made use
of biographies and traditions, which he combined into a single consecutive history.
The completed picture of the prophet's position and character which is thus presented
is on the whole harmonious and consistent, and gives a very high impression of
his piety and loyalty to Yahweh, and of the wide influence for good which he exerted.
There are divergences apparent in detail and standpoint between the sources or
traditions, some of which may probably be due merely to misunderstanding of the
true nature of the events recorded, or to the failure of the modern reader rightly
to appreciate the exact circumstances and time. The greater part of the narrative
of the life of Samuel, however, appears to have a single origin.
In the portion of the general history of Israel contained in 1 Samuel are narrated
the circumstances of the future prophet's birth (chapter 1); of his childhood
and of the custom of his parents to make annual visits to the sanctuary at Shiloh
(1 Samuel 2:11 , 18 - 21 , 26); of his vision, and the universal recognition of
him as a prophet enjoying the special favor of Yahweh (1 Samuel 3 - 4:1). The
narrative is then interrupted to describe the conflicts with the Philistines,
the fate of Eli and his sons, and the capture of the ark of God. It is only after
the return of the ark, and apparently at the close of the 20 years during which
it was retained at Kiriath-jearim, that Samuel again comes forward publicly, exhorting
the people to repentance and promising them deliverance from the Philistines.
A summary narrative is then given of the summoning of a national council at Mizpah,
at which Samuel "judged the children of Israel," and offered sacrifice to the
Lord, and of Yahweh's response in a great thunderstorm, which led to the defeat
and panic-stricken flight of the Philistines. Then follows the narrative of the
erection of a commemorative stone or pillar, Eben-ezer, "the stone of help," and
the recovery of the Israelite cities which the Philistines had captured (1 Samuel
7:5 - 14). The narrator adds that the Philistines came no more within the border
of Israel all the days of Samuel (1 Samuel 7:13); perhaps with an intentional
reference to the troubles and disasters of which this people was the cause in
the time of Saul. A brief general statement is appended of Samuel's practice as
a judge of going on annual circuit through the land, and of his home at Ramah
(1 Samuel 7:15 - 17).
No indication is given of the length of time occupied by these events. At their
close, however, Samuel was an old man, and his sons who had been appointed judges
in his place or to help him in his office proved themselves unworthy (1 Samuel
8:1 - 3). The elders of the people therefore came to Samuel demanding the appointment
of a king who should be his successor, and should judge in his stead. The request
was regarded by the prophet as an act of disloyalty to Yahweh, but his protest
was overruled by divine direction, and at Samuel's bidding the people dispersed
(1 Samuel 8:4 - 22).
At this point the course of the narrative is again interrupted to describe the
family and origin of Saul, his personal appearance, and the search for the lost
asses of his father (1 Samuel 9:1 - 5); his meeting with Samuel in a city in the
land of Zuph, in or on the border of the territory of Benjamin (Zuph is the name
of an ancestor of Elkanah, the father of Samuel, in 1 Samuel 1:1), a meeting of
which Samuel had received divine pre-intimation (1 Samuel 9:15) ; the honorable
place given to Saul at the feast; his anointing by Samuel as ruler of Israel,
together with the announcement of three "signs," which should be to Saul assurances
of the reality of his appointment and destiny; the spirit of prophecy which took
possession of the future king, whereby is explained a proverbial saying which
classed Saul among the prophets; and his silence with regard to what had passed
between himself and Samuel on the subject of the kingdom (1 Samuel 9:6 - 10:16).
It is usually, and probably rightly, believed that the narrative of these last
incidents is derived from a different source from that of the preceding chapters.
Slight differences of inconsistency or disagreement lie on the surface. Samuel's
home is not at Ramah, but a nameless city in the land of Zuph, where he is priest
of the high place, with a local but, as far as the narrative goes, not a national
influence or reputation; and it is anticipated that he will require the customary
present at the hands of his visitors (1 Samuel 9:6 - 8). He is described, moreover,
not as a judge, nor does he discharge judicial functions, but expressly as a "seer,"
a name said to be an earlier title equivalent to the later "prophet" (1 Samuel
9:9 , 11 , 19). Apart, however, from the apparently different position which Samuel
occupies, the tone and style of the narrative is altogether distinct from that
of the preceding chapters. It suggests, both in its form and in the religious
conceptions which are assumed or implied, an older and less elaborated tradition
than that which has found expression in the greater part of the book; and it seems
to regard events as it were from a more primitive standpoint than the highly religious
and monotheistic view of the later accounts. Its value as a witness to history
is not impaired, but perhaps rather enhanced by its separate and independent position.
The writer or compiler of 1 Samuel has inserted it as a whole in his completed
narrative at the point which he judged most suitable. To the same source should
possibly be assigned the announcement of Saul's rejection in 1 Samuel 13:8 - 15a.
The course of the narrative is resumed at 1 Samuel 10:17, where, in a second national
assembly at Mizpah, Saul is selected by lot and accepted by the people as king
(1 Samuel 10:17 - 24); after which the people dispersed, and Saul returned to
his home at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:25 - 27). At a solemn assembly at Gilgal, at which
the kingship is again formally conferred upon Saul, Samuel delivered a farewell
address to his fellow-countrymen. A thunderstorm terrified the people; they were
reassured, however, by Samuel with promises of the protection and favor of Yahweh,
if they continued to fear and serve Him (1 Samuel 11:14 - 12:25). Later the rejection
of Saul for disobedience and presumption is announced by Samuel (1 Samuel 13:8
- 15a). The commission to destroy Amalek is delivered to Saul by Samuel; and the
rejection of the king is again pronounced because of his failure to carry out
the command. Agag is then slain by Samuel with his own hand; and, the latter having
returned to his home at Ramah, the narrator adds that he remained there in seclusion
until the day of his death, "mourning" for Saul, but refusing to meet him again
(1 Samuel 15). Finally the death and burial of Samuel at Ramah, together with
the lamentation of the people for him, are briefly recorded in 1 Samuel 25:1,
and referred to again in 28:3.
Two incidents of Samuel's life remain, in which he is brought into relation with
the future king David. No indication of date or circumstance is given except that
the first incident apparently follows immediately upon the second and final rejection
of Saul as recorded in 1 Samuel 15. In 1 Samuel 16:1 - 13 is narrated the commission
of Samuel to anoint a successor to Saul, and his fulfillment of the commission
by the choice of David the son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite. And, in a later chapter
(1 Samuel 19:18 - 24), a second occasion is named on which the compelling spirit
of prophecy came upon Saul, and again the proverbial saying, "Is Saul also among
the prophets?" is quoted (1 Samuel 19:24 ; compare 10:11 , 12), and is apparently
regarded as taking its origin from this event.
The anointing of David by Samuel is a natural sequel to his anointing of Saul,
when the latter has been rejected and his authority and rights as king have ceased.
There is nothing to determine absolutely whether the narrative is derived from
the same source as the greater part of the preceding history. Slight differences
of style and the apparent presuppositions of the writer have led most scholars
to the conclusion that it has a distinct and separate origin. If so, the compiler
of the Books of Samuel drew upon a third source for his narrative of the life
of the seer, a source which there is no reason to regard as other than equally
authentic and reliable. With the second incident related in 1 Samuel 19:18 - 24,
the case is different. It is hardly probable that so striking a proverb was suggested
and passed into currency independently on two distinct occasions. It seems evident
that here two independent sources or authorities were used, which gave hardly
reconcilable accounts of the origin of a well-known saying, in one of which it
has been mistakenly attributed to a similar but not identical occurrence in the
life of Saul. In the final composition of the book both accounts were then inserted,
without notice being taken of the inconsistency which was apparent between them.
Yet later in the history Samuel is represented as appearing to Saul in a vision
at Endor on the eve of his death (1 Samuel 28:11 - 20). The witch also sees the
prophet and is stricken with fear. He is described as in appearance an old man
"covered with a robe" (1 Samuel 28:14). In characteristically grave and measured
tones he repeats the sentence of death against the king for his disobedience to
Yahweh, and announces its execution on the morrow; Saul's sons also will die with
him (1 Samuel 28:19), and the whole nation will be involved in the penalty and
suffering, as they all had a part in the sin.
The high place which Samuel occupies in the thought of the writers and in the
tradition and esteem of the people is manifest throughout the history. The different
sources from which the narrative is derived are at one in this, although perhaps
not to an equal degree. He is the last and greatest of the judges, the first of
the prophets, and inaugurates under divine direction the Israelite kingdom and
the Davidic line.
3. Character and Influence of Samuel:
It is not without reason, therefore, that he has been regarded as in dignity and
importance occupying the position of a second Moses in relation to the people.
In his exhortations and warnings the Deuteronomic discourses of Moses are reflected
and repeated. He delivers the nation from the hand of the Philistines, as Moses
from Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and opens up for them a new national era of progress
and order under the rule of the kings whom they have desired. Thus, like Moses,
he closes the old order, and establishes the people with brighter prospects upon
more assured foundations of national prosperity and greatness. In nobility of
character and utterance also, and in fidelity to Yahweh, Samuel is not unworthy
to be placed by the side of the older lawgiver. The record of his life is not
marred by any act or word which would appear unworthy of his office or prerogative.
And the few references to him in the later literature (Psalms 99:6 ; Jeremiah
15:1 ; 1 Chronicles 6:28 ; 9:22 ; 11:3 ; 26:28 ; 29:29 ; 2 Chronicles 35:18) show
how high was the estimation in which his name and memory were held by his fellow-countrymen
in subsequent ages.
The literature is given in the article, SAMUEL, BOOKS OF (which see).
A. S. Geden
anointed david, author of the book of judges (debated), author of the books of samuel, battlefield stone ebenezer, commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, nazarite, prophet, samuel