An Acorn becomes a Mighty Tree.

The High Benchmark of a Prophet in Israel Set and Initiated by Samuel

The High Benchmark of a Prophet in Israel Set and Initiated by Samuel 

00000Sam2The mighty Samuel was the effectual influential bridge between the chaotic ups and downs of the days of the Judges, and the days of stability and prosperity under David and Solomon. By the term, “bridge,” I do not mean that he was merely a passive filler who joins the two epochs together simply by being alive between their occurrence and during that transition. Far from it!  The spiritual void at the end of the book of Judges and the genesis of First Samuel that revealed a desolated and godless nation state of Israel, actually precipitated his conception and birth. The power and force of his prophetic gift and the management of that gift in facilitating the means of him passing on the baton to future generations, shows him as a definitive towering pillar of seminal prophetic input.  His character, teaching and influence propelled Israel into a period of time and an outlook of faith that even 3,000 years later is referred to as the halcyon days of the nation of Israel. Samuel is the ultimate Old Testament prophet in Israel. He plied his trade as a prophet, toiled, preached, prayed, pursued and was troubled with the burden of the nation his entire life from the moment God first spoke to him. Jewish tradition says he was about 100 years old when he died. For that lifetime, Israel sunk first during his youth as Samuel’s authority was beginning to take root, and finally was in a state of continuous growth and expansion until it was in a position to grow without him.

Hail Samuel! Mighty man of God!

The book of First Samuel is the history of four people; Hannah, Samuel, Saul and David. Hannah produced Samuel, Saul tested Samuel’s grace, and David gained more from Samuel in only two meetings than the rest of the nation gleaned from his whole life’s circuit preaching in Judah and Benjamin.

I have read, meditated and pawed over Samuel’s life for many years. The more I read of him. The more I love him. If a person ever undertook to make a comprehensive character study of the men in the Old Testament who are referred to as “prophets” and of their lifelong activities, one would be conf2ronted, nay, challenged with a bewildering and perplexing variety of human kind of which one cannot select a characteristic that one could refer to as “the norm amongst them. It is my opinion that we have more revealed of Samuel’s life and context than any of them. The fear of God, and the faithfulness to bring to people exactly what Yahweh was saying is the only norm that blankets them all. And Samuel was the first to set the bar high.

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One does not need a diploma in Theology to see that there is a marked difference between the likes of Saul, who stripped off his clothes and prophesied, lying naked all day and all night (1 Sam 19:24), Balaam who was corrupt and selling his gift to the highest bidder, and those like Samuel, whose thunderous, “This is what the Lord says,” exposed the spiritual rot of Israel in his day.

When people refer to the biblical “prophets,” the beginner, or the man on the street normally lets his mind go to names like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. These are the “Major” prophets, not major because they were more important, but simply because their books are larger than the other twelve. There are twelve so called, “minor” prophets also. All these men have made contributions to the revelation of God to man through the their contribution to the scriptures that we call the Bible.  But all of these prophetic men who have prophetic books named after them were later developments within the river of prophetism in Israel. It could be said that the real river of the flow of the Spirit of God in Israel stretched back to a river source  in the person of the prophet Moses. Moses really does have a primary place in the history of God’s dealings with men. Read those first half a dozen verses of Hebrews 3. In God’s leading of his people, the revelation made to Moses for Israel was something that the nation was called to walk in until the arrival of Christ. Moses was a prototype of things to come.

The prophetic message of all prophets thereafter was a message conjoined to and rooted in the Mosaic revelation, in exactly the same manner in which the apostolic message was rooted in the teachings of Christ.

Because of the first five books of the Old Testament, Moses left a huge legacy. The construct of all prophetic messages and characters thereafter was to declare quite unequivocally the obligations and demands of the covenant made via Moses. The prototype of these was the first prophet in the land to speak to the entire nation once they were installed in Canaan – i.e. Samuel.  It would be true to say that Moses initiated and set in place a written piece of work that put down the parameters and definitions of what a prophet was and what the prophets would actually say.

Moses, like all prophets, spoke by God’s authority. To contradict Moses was like contradicting God. Samuel was the first prophet in Israel who addressed the whole nation and was acknowledged as the spiritual leader of the all the tribes. He attained that position by no other reason than the force of his integrity and character. David ruled the nation by virtue of him being anointed king. Samuel was there by virtue of who he was and what he carried  in his person from Yahweh.

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Samuel and all who followed him as prophet stood as heirs to the prophetic commission of Moses and his definition of the prophetic role. It goes without saying, at least to this writer, that all Old Testament prophets point forward to our Lord Jesus Christ who was as a second Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15 – 22). Needless to add, Moses was the pale shadow of which Christ was the substance that created the shadow.

Having said this, however, we assert that the first “proper” prophet, “official” prophet, acknowledged by the nation in his lifetime in Israel as a prophet, was not Moses (who never entered the promised land), but Samuel (1 Samuel 3:1-14). Samuel being captivated and immersed in the Mosaic covenant and its ramifications to the nation, was appointed by nobody but God Himself as a “judge,” “priest,” “prophet,” and forced by circumstance to be a kingmaker under God’s mighty hand.  I have read one Old Testament professor  who in describing Samuel succinctly said that he “defined the role of the prophets as guardians of the theocracy.” What a fantastic description!  He was the gatekeeper for the nation’s access to God’s thoughts and opinions. The people screamed for a king “like the other nations,” however it was Samuel’s burden to make sure that they understood that no one could supplant God’s authority over His people no matter how good or bad any king might have be. Samuel’s huge burden, a burden that turned out to be the crux of his legacy was the unenviable task of rebuking King Saul, and to challenge the entire nation to remain faithful to Yahweh’s covenant, as brought to them via Moses.

On these grounds, I assert that Samuel is the prototype of all that followed him. It is as if Samuel fleshes out the Old Testament Prophetic Constitution. He sets the stage, lays the tram lines, lays out the map for the army of people that came after him, those we refer to as the Classical Prophets, the Writing Prophets, or the Hebrew Prophets of the Old Testament.

No other prophet seems to ever fill Samuel’s shoes. Moses only had his role for forty years. With all the others, none of them seem to have been life long prophets, none of them had the social kudos and the administrative weight of responsibility within the nation, as Hannah’s son. We do not hear of the whole nation mourning for any of those that follow him.

Please hear my heart on this. In no way at all am I in anyway trying to demean any of the prophets because of the brevity of their ministry, their small contribution to the canon of scripture, or their lack of success in turning the nation around. God forbid that anybody should do such a thing. According to the Lord Jesus all of Samuel’s successors died because of the hardness of the heart of the Israeli people. On top of that, the man whom Christ declared to be the greatest was badly dressed, lived in the desert and ministered for no longer than three months at the extreme. I am referring of course to John the Baptist. John was dressed in camel skin and spent the vast majority of his ministry stood in the Jordan river soaking wet. I met a Jewish man once who told me that there is only one thing in the world that smells worse than camel skin, and that was wet camel skin. No great prophetic robe for John as there was for Samuel.

But I finish these notes on Samuel with an encouragement for my readers to read these notes again and consider the greatness of this man.

May God raise up more men of this calibre in the world, men who, by the word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, can extend the kingdom of Heaven.

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Categories: An Acorn becomes a Mighty Tree., Being a Prophet is a privilege, God's own Training School., History teaches everything including the future., Matured in the Keg, The Prophetic Benchmark | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

After a Century of Rebuilding a Nation Single Handed the Great Man Passes

State Funeral in the Nations Great Loss.

(1 Samuel 25:1)

Samuel died, and all the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him.”

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Nebi Samuel. The Prophet Samuel’s Tomb.

Here we are at the dreaded, yet sadly expected line of 1 Samuel 25:1. We can’t discuss this without digging into death, dying and what is left behind after a person has died. We are talking of bodies! Cadavers! We are face to face with the dust we came from, and the dust we return to. We are also confronted with the loss of greatness. A giant! More than a giant! A man continent had left the planet! The hole in the national psyche and confidence was enormous. Samuel died!

Since David left Samuel with Saul lying on the ground prophesying to the sky, as well as anybody else that happened to be in hearing distance, the two survivors of that trio had travelled quite some distance on their Timeline of life.

David and Jonathan had renewed their covenant of friendship having come to an accurate perception of the state of mind as well as the full motivation and rationale of Saul against David. Jonathan was truly trapped between a rock and a hard place. He was compromised by a deep and loyal love towards his father, and his brotherly love towards David. How hard must it have been for Jonathan to maintain both those relationships?  As a “by the way,” the discussions that some have concerning whether or not David and Jonathan had a homosexual relationship with all their talk of love and commitment, the shedding of tears and David’s comment of how Jonathan’s love surpassed the love of women, I personally find ridiculous.  The lifestyle and culture of David’s day, and the biblical context of morality and what was right and wrong, render the thought so utterly insane as to be beyond belief. There were prophets and men of God around David enough to have pointed the finger and told the king, “You are the man!”  If God shared with the prophet Nathan the facts of David’s adultery and murder because of an immoral heterosexual relationship, Gad or Nathan would have visited David very quickly about an immoral homosexual relationship. Both David and Jonathan were married in a heterosexual and relationship at the time.  Closeness of relationship with two people of the same sex is not a problem at all with God. It is the physical acts of a sexual nature between two people of the same sex and/or sodomy that scripture condemns.  But that is another subject for another day.

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A sign that speaks for itself

Moving on! David had taken the sword of Goliath from the priest Ahimelech at Nob while Doeg was secretly listening to them. He saw and heard the whole conversation and exchange of goods.  David knew that Doeg was there, as it happened, and suspected that he would report Ahimelech’s “treason” to the severity of the King. Ahimelech had no thoughts of disloyalty at all towards Saul, a fact which, if Doeg had been a man of integrity, he would have made plain to Saul. However he did not. If there was any sin involved in the discussion between Ahimelech and David it was David telling lies about having been on a secret mission for Saul in order to get the bread of the presence to eat and the sword of Goliath to carry. Doeg presented that story in such a pejorative manner that Saul ordered Doeg to kill Ahimelech and a huge number of Levites who were working with him.

David had also gone through the utter humiliation of pretending to be mad, i.e. insane, to save his life before the king of Gath.  Thereafter David stayed for various lengths of time at many different places. Adullam was one of the first camp sites he stayed at where up to 400 men joined him, including his brother’s and his father’s household. This suggests that the big house at Bethlehem, where David had been brought up, was deserted until David became king. The vacated home was of necessity for familial safety. Saul was after the family of Jesse. Then he went, strangely, to Mizpah in Moab, where his father stayed for safety by permission of the Moabite king.  This part of the story is oh so weird to this writer! Why?  Simply because it informs us that David’s parents were safer in the hands of a heathen king than they were in Israel in the hands of the king of Israel.

After that, the prophet Gad had a word from Yahweh that David should return to Judah, in the forest of Hereth.  It is at this point the scripture tells us of the horrific murder of 80 valiant priests simply because Ahimelech had given David Goliath’s sword and some bread. This word from the prophet Gad we later find out was extremely wise and propitious for David’s cause. When redistributing the gold and other items of booty taken from the heathen cities and nations that David had conquered or destroyed, he sent it to those towns, villages and cities that had looked after him while he was in his wilderness years. Many are listed;

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The tomb itself inside Nebi Samuel.

“David sent it to those who were in Bethel, Ramoth Negev and Jattir;  to those in Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa and Rakal; to those in the towns of the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites; to those in Hormah, Bor Ashan, Athak  and Hebron; and to those in all the other places where he and his men had roamed.” (1 Samuel 30:27-31). What horrible days they must have been. That word, “roamed,” sounds lonely, distraught and desperate.

Back in David’s camp the plot progressed by David slaying many Philistines while stopping the Philistine occupation of the Israeli city of Keilah. We are also told that Abiathar, the rightful High Priest joined David’s ranks and had brought with him the High Priest’s ephod.

In the latter end of 1 Samuel 23 and the whole of chapter 24 we have more details of Saul’s relentless pursuit of David, together with his army. What an incredible waste of manpower and national resources over the years. David left Keilah and was hiding and camping in as secretive manner as one could with what were now 600 men. The scripture says that David was moving, “from place to place.”  He stayed in the desert strongholds and then in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. During all this time he was being pursued by Saul and his forces. He stayed for a while in Horesh of Ziph. There Jonathan came to tell him that the king was on the way having found out where David was. Jonathan and David reconnected with the covenant between them and separated. That was the last time David and Jonathan ever saw each other in this life. David finished up in the Desert of Maon after the people of Ziph had betrayed him to Saul. After acting on this vital piece of information, Saul and his army were on the cusp of taking David when news arrived that the Philistines were attacking somewhere else in Israeli held territory, and so Saul had to leave his obsessive search for David to defend his own people. How ironic that, if it was not for that timely act of the Philistines, David would have possibly been killed. David moved to and lived in the strongholds of Engedi after that fracas.

After what was obviously a prolonged period at Engedi, Saul finally discovered David’s secret hideout and took his crack troops to attempt more time to take and kill the son of Jesse.  It was here that, arguably, Saul’s most humiliating experience occurred. He stopped at a certain cave to relieve himself. Soldiers were expected to go to the toilet on the road side whether urinating or defecating, or be shrouded in bushes if there were any. But that was not appropriate for the king. So we have the remarkably graphic story of Saul actually walking alone into the cave where David and his men were hiding. It was obviously a very long and tunnelled cave. While Saul threw his cloak aside and crouched to toilet, he actually had his back to David and was within striking distance for murder. The word picture that the scripture creates could not in any way put Saul in a more embarrassing, humiliating or vulnerable position. Famously, David cut off the corner of Saul’s cloak. His conscience was sensitive to what he had done, but he told his men that he flatly refused to endanger the life of “The Lord’s anointed.” A lesson he had obviously learned from Samuel. Thank God for the living word shared by a prophetic heart.

All these things must have taken several years to have occurred between the point of time that David left Samuel, and the point of time when Samuel passed on.

Samuel died at a ripe old age. Some Rabbis say he was ninety-eight while others affirm he was more than a hundred. He had been Israel’s thirteenth judge and its first prophet to the whole nation within the parameters of the Promised Land. All of Israel mourned Samuel’s death, and many turned out to see him buried in the grounds of his own family home in Ramah, probably in a tomb already prepared for him. Nebi Samuel (Samuel’s Crypt) still stands today.

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Inside Nebi Samuel.

David lost an important and influential friend, mentor, prophet and father figure too. How he must have wished to have Samuel’s mind on many issues!

Did David attend the funeral and join in with the national mourning, as he absolutely would have wanted to do?  Authorities differ in opinion. Those that believe David attended the funeral press the point of culture and decency, saying that Saul’s animosity would have been dropped for the duration of the mourning for the great prophet. “Jewish culture,” they say, “would have demanded that this is what would have happened.” Those that think David could not possibly have been allowed at the funeral, stress the opinion that Saul’s demented hatred of David was far too intense to be dropped for a funeral, no matter how deeply times of mourning were part of the psyche and cultural norms of Israel.

I have not the slightest idea as to which side of this debate is correct. My own opinion, however, is to say that if David had gone to Samuel’s funeral, I believe it would have been clearly stated in the scripture. I do not feel confident to assert my position any more than to make that statement.

Samuel is like a shadow of John the Baptist. Samuel and the Baptist are twin brothers in this regard. Both of them were great prophets. (Jesus said John was the greatest of them all). Both of them were forerunners of a great king. Both of them were Nazarites, and involved with preparation of a new age and culture that was to sweep over and beyond their mortal lives. All of Israel mourned for Samuel, while Christ Himself expressed grief at John’s death. John was killed because of rash words by mad king Herod who actually liked him. Samuel would possibly have been killed by a mad king if he had not experienced Yahweh fighting for him. Just like David, Samuel knew that King Saul would have loved to see him dead. Remember it was Samuel that asked Yahweh, “How can I go? (to Jesse’s home) if Saul hears it, he will kill me” (1 Samuel 16:2). In exactly the same way, the Lord kept David from the hands of the wicked. It is clear that Saul feared Samuel in much the same way as Herod feared John the Baptist. When both these kings had their respective prophets out of the way, they would have both been free to be as barbaric as they pleased.

2 Nebi Samuel

Click on this Map to read its content.

No matter how far back in history Samuel’s demise may have been, no matter how slowly news was circulated in Israel during those days, the entire nation was informed and was in distress with grief. The whole of Israel felt the tragic impact of the bereavement of one of God’s greatest. All of Israel was very profoundly moved by the departure of prophet Samuel ben Elkanah. We have no hard figures or statistics of how he was or was not listened to, of how people were or were not turned to faith, but there could not have been many who had not come to revere the man who turned the political, spiritual and social state of the nation around. He had become such a conspicuous figure in his lifetime to the degree that he impacted the destiny of the nation long after his death. He would have been greatly missed, and much spoken about and thought of, especially during the days of the nation mourning for their loss of him. Even now from the lofty future, some 3,000 years ahead of Samuel’s life and death, we can still see and understand the power and influence of the child who was given to God as the firstborn of an erstwhile barren Hannah.

Samuel’s awesome influence and impact on Israel had been of the same ilk as Moses. Hannah’s son exerted an influence on the nation of a similar status to that which stands connected with the prophet of the Exodus. He may have not been associated with such a stirring existential crisis in history as Moses was, but Samuel moved in the supernatural for a longer period than Moses, and the nation was clearly in slavery to a different kind of taskmaster than was  present in Moses’ hour.  As for the nation of Israel, as it was when they left Egypt and stayed in the desert to enter Canaan as an orderly theocracy – the experience can be compared as to the similar parallel situation of the chaos that Samuel was born into, and the kingdom it had become by the time of his death. It is arguable which of the two prophets had the more stubborn generation to contend with. Moses laid the foundation of a sacrificial system and theology that would stand until Messiah came.  Samuel laid foundations of which the superstructure of David’s and Solomon’s reign was solidly based. Moses left Israel with the book of Deuteronomy to guide the nation, while Samuel left them with a kind of written constitution in place, for kings right throughout the centuries to consult. The fact that Jerusalem was razed to the ground and the royal family was bundled off to Babylon did not in anyway mean that God had rescinded the monarchy. Christ was and still is the rightful heir of David’s throne when He was born, and will sit on David’s throne when He returns. Samuel punched his seal on a long generation by the same deep spirituality and relationship with God that Moses swam in. He hoisted the same high flying banner of intense reverence for Yahweh as Moses did. He was conjoined to the same profound belief in the reality of the covenant between Israel and Yahweh, just as Moses was. On top of all that, by pawing over every word that Samuel ever spoke we cannot miss the truth that he was gripped by the same conviction of the inseparable connection between a pure worship towards God, that brought a wonderful holistic flow of prosperity on the one hand of obedience, and an idolatrous defection and national calamity on the other if the covenant was broken. Walking with God precipitated Israel’s national prosperity. Idolatry was nothing but incipient poverty for the entire Israeli population. On all these issues, Moses and Samuel were identical twins conceived by the same seed and wearing the same clothes.

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When reading the entire Old Testament, it can be said that nobody, had ever done more to rivet this truth on the minds and hearts of the people than Samuel, excepting the man that came down from Sinai with the Decalogue under his arms. It was the life mission of Samuel to show Israel that it made a huge cosmic difference to them in every conceivable way how they responded toward Yahweh, in worship, trust, and obedience, or without those godly traits. Samuel declared out and out battle to the death on the cold worldly idolatrous spirit, that permeated Israel in his early days – a spirit that is so natural to us all when we slacken our hold on Christ.

No doubt with many people of Israel, Samuel would be associated with a severity that would be said to push spirituality too far. But now Samuel had died many would be thinking they had not pursued God and the covenant far enough. Human beings have a trait of only counting their blessings, as those blessings die. “All the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him.” It would have been a huge State funeral in a nation utterly bereaved. It was the man that could not be replaced. His weight, insight and character was such a thing that nobody else could be promoted or “put in office” to replace him. Samuel was so unique that all Israel could do was grieve for his going.

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What an incredible testimony Samuel had been for all that was good and holy. If it was not for this man’s character Israel could have been under the jackboot of another heathen invasion and praying for God to raise up yet another Judge to lead them into freedom.  As one writer puts it when considering 1 Samuel 25:1, “What a living temple, what a divine epistle, written not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart!”

Where was Israel going now? What had they got now that Samuel was missing from the picture? All they had was a demonised king that seemed to spend most of his time chasing the hero of the people around the caves and strongholds of the hills and mountains of Israel. Whisperings and rumours that Saul was to be replaced by somebody else were rampant. It is no wonder the nation mourned and lamented the departure of one of Israel’s greatest sons. Perhaps the greatest! It was probably voiced, discussed and gossiped about that David should be the next king, however at the moment of Samuel’s death, it must have seemed like Saul was going to live interminably.

We feel almost sure that Samuel’s death could not have been properly responded to by David because of Saul’s issues about both he and the demised prophet. Saul may have even been relieved at Samuel’s passing. We shall see, soon afterwards however, that whatever Saul’s feelings and thoughts were at the point of Samuel’s death, he was later extremely desperate to know what the dead Samuel’s advice was on matters of State

It may have also been rumoured that David was simply in hiding or even dead. Nobody in Israel rightly knew the truth. It could not possibly have been known that he was moving towards actually living with some Philistine king in a Philistine city. That would have been a closely held secret at the time.

In Samuel we have the ultimate of a servant spirit, trained and disciplined from infancy to smother his own will and pay unbounded regard to the will of his Father in heaven. Samuel is the picture of the serene and holy believer, enjoying unseen fellowship with God, and finding in that fellowship a blessed balm for the griefs and trials of a wounded spirit. His conversation was in heaven. Samuel sowed to the Spirit, and of the Spirit he reaped life everlasting.

“Samuel died, and all the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him.”

Categories: 1 Samuel 25:1, An Acorn becomes a Mighty Tree., History teaches everything including the future., The Great Man Passes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Routine Life Style

ROUTINE LIFESTYLE.

A Circuit to reconnect the National Spiritual Circuitry. The Acorn becomes a Mighty Tree.

(1 Samuel 7:13–17)

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Where the Philistines Trod

There are ages in the history of nations that are referred to by the names of the people who made the biggest impact during that particular generation. We talk of the Victorian and the Edwardian era.  We talk of the Kennedy years, and more recently, of course, the Thatcherite as well as the Blairite days.  The Bible at this stage of the account of Samuel’s life takes a step back and gives us a typically skeletal account of the Samuelian epoch. The remarks mean little unless seen in the backdrop of the political state of the area at this period of history.

The Philistines were subdued. Tomes have been written concerning the rise of the Philistine people and their later decline. The period of time surrounding the looting of the Ark of the Covenant from Israel’s possession was probably the moment of  their greatest extension into Canaan.  From then on it was downhill all the way for the “Sea Peoples,” with only one or two moments of resurgence immediately preceding the rise of King Saul and the temporary disasters of Israel that were as a direct result of the disobedience of that king after Samuel had died. From that time on, the Philistines declined into absorption with the surrounding culture which was a strong and emerging Israeli domination reaching its peak in the days of David and the earlier years of Solomon’s reign. The absorption was such that David had Philistine Gittites (i.e. those from the city of Gath) on his personal bodyguard some sixty or so years after the victory at Ebenezer.  Back in Samuel’s day, Israel’s victory at Ebenezer left the Philistines very much under the shadow of Israel, though not quite under their thumb. They were still, however, very much a force to be reckoned with. “They came no more into the coasts of Israel” refers to incursions and taking of territory.  They still had, nontheless, fortresses amid the cities of Israel that were standing for another forty or fifty years.

Samuel demanded the cities back that had been previously lost to the Philistines. No one is sure whether it means that battles were fought in order to gain the cities back, or, the more likely option, that Israel’s resurgence of power and might left the Philistine lords with no alternative but to submit to the political pressure placed on them by Samuel to return the cities and the people of Israel within those cities, to Israeli protection and social life. The scripture mentions two of the great Philistine centres of population, saying that all the Israeli cities from one area to the other were returned to the oversight of Samuel’s fatherly eye.

The concept of the covenant and its overriding theme of “the Land” (i.e. Canaan) as being Israel’s divinely given possession was without doubt the only  biblical motivating factor of this re annexation. Canaan belonged to Israel (as, indeed, it still does). There was, however, no push to rid the world of the Philistines except when men were face to face in life or death warfare.

Israel had “peace with the Amorites” all the days of Samuel.  The significance of this statement is to let us know that not only were the Philistine people of the coastal plain subduedby Israel, but also, the strongest Canaanite tribe of the interior was corralled into submissive peace.  The peace of domination and subjugation under Israel’s God, and law was acceptable to Samuel as a, “Plan B,” option to the act of total obedience to the initial demands of Yahweh as they crossed the Jordan. At least this kind of submission brought the heathen nations to Yahweh. Not that we are suggesting that they all threw down their idols and worshipped the God of Israel; by no means.  But the rise of Israel as a powerful force in all departments of national life meant that those other races and cultures that were living among the cities of Israel were overcome by the stronger and livelier culture of the reborn nation of the covenant.  Syncretism and absorption of spiritual and religious values was as much sin as ever it was.  Now, under Samuel, Yahweh ruled and reigned, all other gods were false, demonic and/or idolatrous, and were therefore unacceptable. When those of the Canaanite and Philistine peoples turned to Yahweh, then the purpose of having annihilated the other peoples was circumvented. God did not want the other nations removed for racial reasons, but for the spiritual demonisation in their religions which permeated their culture and society. Their turning to Yahweh changed everything.

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Where the Judges trod.

The prayer life and dominating character of the prophet Samuel brought all nations into a posture of subjugation around Israel. This all began, observably, from the day of Ebenezer’s victory.

“Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.” The influence and supreme power of Samuel did not end with his life. It impacted after Nebi Samuel (Samuel’s tomb) had been built, We know this overtly because Saul wanted him raised from the dead for the richness of his advice and counsel.

Even Samuel’s prophetic words from beyond the grave came to pass. For a very long period, probably thirty to forty years after the divinely given victory at Ebenezer, Samuel was the Judge, the Prophet, the Priest, and the man with Yahweh’s ear – as well as His mouth. Although the elders later asked for a king, Samuel’s authority never dwindled even after the coronation of Saul. What they wanted was another man with the character and authority of Samuel.  Samuel, so they thought, was about to die of old age – so they asked for a king.  From a distance Samuel’s authority looked identical to any King’s rule. Samuel would clearly have cringed at that observation being verbalised. It was his total and rank submission to Yahweh that made him the almost “absolute” authority that he had become. Like the Centurion in Luke 7 his faith was built by the clear insight that he was under authority. That sureness of submission to his higher power made him as secure as a centurion in exercising authority and power within the parameters of Israel. Yahweh was and always will be the ultimate King and authority over Israel. Samuel submitted himself to Yahweh as King. The deeper his submission to the Almighty, the greater his authority over the people of Israel. Samuel was just like Joseph in the book of Genesis, i.e. he was second only to the King. Joseph’s king was Pharaoh. Samuel’s king was Yahweh Himself.

Samuel’s character was such that even though his “loose” official role as leader of the nation ceased at the appointment of Saul, and even though he vaguely retired from public office, he promised them that he would not cease to teach them the good and right way (1 Sam. 12:23), neither would he ever cease to pray for the nation.  It was the people that were in his heart, not the position that they had given him.  Israel’s greatest and most secret weapon during these days was not the strength of their armies, nor the metal swords and shields looted from dead philistine warriors, but a single human being when on his knees, now becoming advanced in years, dialoguing  with Eternal Almighty Yahweh.  The nation grew as he grew. Israel blossomed in the world as Samuel became more and more rooted in God. Oh how great was Samuel!

Samuel arranged for an annually completed circuit where he would sit as “Judge” over the people.  Four centres, namely Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah and his home town Naioth, were places of great religious significance and historical atmosphere – and they were all in the southerly tribal allotments of Benjamin and Ephraim.  This has led some to think that the exercise of Samuel’s power was basically among the southern tribes. The situation concerning the “anti-Judah” feeling, and the great North/South divide, has been previously highlighted in these pages and needs no repetition.  Even though there may still have been some warlike tension verbally buzzing within the encircling nations, Samuel was still strong and brave enough to travel. But even though he was acknowledged as God’s prophet from Dan to Beersheba, Dan never seems to have had the privilege of the great man’s physical presence.

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Where Samuel Trod.

Whether or not Samuel had any other reason for the choice of these four centres, apart from the fact of their place in Israel’s historical psyche, we will never know. However, without doubt, the preaching, teaching and judging circuit, together with his prophetic activities, consolidated the momentum of spirituality and dynamic faith that was rising across Israel in glorious epidemic like proportions.

The last statement on Samuel’s lifestyle over the next generation or so is concerning his home.  Samuel had fixed his abode in what had been his parent’s home city – the place of his birth.  Following the old custom of the long gone patriarchs he actually built an altar to worship at his home.

It needs to be remembered that at this time there was no national shrine to worship at, no formal seat of religion, no actual high priest (only Eli’s two young grandsons), and the Ark of the covenant was kept safely in the “city of the woods.”  We hear nothing of the Ark while it was in Kiriath Jearim, apart from one time when when Saul wanted to consult it during his reign.

Later on in First Samuel we read that the prophet was at Naioth.  There is no contradiction, merely a difference in attitude amongst the seventy translators that worked on the King James Bible, Naioth means “home.”  The word is translated as “home” many times in the Old Testament.  Why it is not done so with reference to Samuel, I cannot answer.  It probably signifies that people came to worship with Samuel and consult his advice through the medium of his prophetic gifting during his lifetime.  In Samuel’s day Naioth is always mentioned with the definite article before it, i.e. “The Naioth.” The altar was built on a high place over Ramah. It would be interesting to know if his father, and in particular his mother, were still alive in the real time of 1 Samuel 7, although it is doubtful.

That is all the scripture tells us about his days.  That is what the lines of print tell us.

However, what are we told “between the lines”?

There are many conclusions we can arrive at concerning Samuel’s life in Israel by comparing other scriptures, reading non-biblical history, and consulting Archaeology.

For instance, it seems that from 2 Chronicles 35:18, Samuel held a regular Passover.  The memory of the first Passover, as explained in the first five books of Moses, was not strictly based around the Tabernacle and its sacrificial altar.  They had no altars in Egypt on which to sacrifice to Yahweh, and the Tabernacle was not built until they had been several months out of Egypt.  So the Passover could still be accurately remembered and entered into even after the demise or secretion of the holy tent, and the secretion of the Ark of the Covenant. A great gathering of the nation  in order to hold the annual celebration of Passover would have cemented the nation together like glue. We have no idea how often Samuel held this national event, but as a strategy for building Israel into a unified nation it was a plan that could not have failed to improve the social dynamics of the twelve tribes.

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Samuel’s circuit for ministry and Judging.

The mention in second Chronicles was specifically connected to the size of the gathering. The inference is that Samuel made a successful job of gathering the entire nation to an annual Passover all the days of his life.  Strategically this was the social initiative par excellence.  It highlighted to Israel, and to any would be aggressors in the region that these tribes were one Nation. Interference with one may bring down the wrath of all.  It was also psychologically sound in uniting the nation as a single unit.  The people were made aware of the covenant plan and purpose of Yahweh for the nation of Israel, and that awareness was sustained for a generation.  Samuel’s covenant awareness undoubtedly continued to dominate his theology.

It is plainly suggested that Samuel secured public peace throughout his leadership days.  Godliness and prayer are, the bible argues, always the best defence policy for any nation.  He secured something in the spirit of the nation that lasted all through his mortal coil, in spite of Saul. That solid faith and robust spirituality added to David and Solomon’s reign for 80 to 90 years further.There were in Samuel’s time two kinds of authority; that which was sustained by force of arms and that which was held by sheer force of character and spirit.  Samuel was the ultimate example of the latter.  He was such a character that the aroma of his influence would be felt far into the future.

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.

A life time’s work is covered in these few sentences of scripture. Samuel ruled by virtue of what he was in himself, and he himself, was immersed into Yahweh.  He was what he was because of early training and his continuous growth in righteousness.  The “wild oats theory” is away from Godliness. The assertion that you must be profligate and a prodigal; before you can be a prince among men is a doctrine of demons.  Samuel was trained from the day of his birth. “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart form it”.

Samuel’s life was pure. Samuel’s goal was not power.  His object was not his own personal wealth. Under Samuel the stream of social justice ran clean and full.  It was Samuel’s great business to bring the judgment seat of Israel to a standing and reputation of awe, dread and honour.  In any Nation, much depends on the proper administration of justice.  It is of the first consequence to maintain it in a state of incorruption.  In the days of David, six thousand Levites were officers and judges (1 Chronicles 23:4).  This gives credit to Samuel for causing justice and honour to reign so highly in the population’s consciousness.  I fancy that in David’s day, and the early days of Solomon’s reign, the elderly would reminisce of the “Golden days of Samuel.” The public burden was light in the days of Samuel, for Samuel taxed nobody, except God and His resources. Not that we know of at any rate.

When a thoroughly trustworthy and dependable human being becomes the perceived assuring face of government and justice, the people are safe.  It has to be said, that the Vox Populai was the Vox Diaboli when they later asked for a king. Samuel’s opinion, however, was lost in God’s.  He did not run with his own ego’s opinion once he knew God to opine differently.

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.

No retinue or armed guards for Samuel.  It seems he was alone when he met Saul; as he was alone when introduced to David. He was accessible.  No pomp to swamp his simple life.  The secret, whispered, personal prophecy to Saul which was kept under cover at first, was gloriously vindicated publicly by the openly drawn lot.

When the Temple was finally erected,  the Levites still ministered in its holy environs and they alone officiated in the sacred courts; the chosen race of Aaron in the family, first of Ithamar, and then reverting to the Aaronic line through Eleazar, with Zadok alone, wore the jewels of the High Priest.  But in spiritual matters, as opposed to religious matters, the tribe of Levi never again had power supreme. From the days of Samuel, the prophets, with a totally undefined role were acknowledged as the people with the regular communication and correspondence with the heavenly King of Israel.

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James Tissot’s representation of the aged Samuel judging his people.

The whole subsequent story, as well as the previous account of Dan in particular, and the other tribes, leads us to suggest that the constant ongoing revival during Samuel’s day had least impact in the northern tribes. Dan in particular was a constant stronghold of idolatry. The split of the kingdom, when it came, suggests that the weakness was in the northern response to God. Which came first,the chicken or the egg?  Who knows?”  Samuel never ventured too far northward, and the northern tribes constantly indulged their inclinations to jealousy in that fact. Samuel’s work was so less marked up north, that when the strong hand of Solomon was removed to his family crypt, the northern tribes deserted their national loyalties completely, claiming that the southern tribes were monopolising the monarch too much.

The faith and its practice, the law, and the devotion of the northern tribes was nearly always soiled with idolatry throughout Israel’s history, right through to the northern dispersion in 722 B.C.

The places mentioned where Samuel judged were all holy sites, and at the different times of the year when Samuel was in session, they were undoubtedly carpeted wall to wall with people.  It is probable that all the sacred vessels were stolen with the razing of Shiloh, for Samuel and David collected loot over the next eighty years to contribute to the splendour of the temple that was to be built by Solomon.

Samuel’s life work was joining the dots of the geography of the twelve tribes, and to get them all to use joined up writing in their tribal communications with each other. Samuel was rewiring the house for an easier flow of relationship as one family, not twelve individual tribes. He was transforming Israel from being a bag of marbles into a bag of freshly harvested grapes.

Categories: 1 Samuel 7 verses 13 – 17, A circuit to reconnect the national spiritual circuitry, An Acorn becomes a Mighty Tree., Definition of a Prophet, Routine Life Style | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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