Rev. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.
We begin our outline of the books of I and II Samuel by following the three main divisions—chapters 1-12 which deal with the history of Samuel; chapters 13-31 which cover the rule of Saul; and chapters 1-24 of II Samuel which give us the details of David’s reign as king.
1. The history of Samuel as he restores the theocracy in Israel (chapters 1-12).
A man of Ephraim, Elkanah, had taken two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was barren. Yearly, Elkanah went to the house of the Lord at Shiloh to sacrifice. During this time he showed his love to Hannah by giving her a worthy portion of the meal, for he knew that-she was of troubled soul, being childless. Peninnah added to her woe by mocking her during these annual pilgrimages, so much so that she wept during the meal. Elkanah tried to comfort her by asking, “am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (I Sam. 1:1-8).
Hannah left the table and prayed to God in bitterness of soul, asking for a son. She vowed to the Lord that if He would give her a son, she would return him to the Lord all the days of his life. Eli the priest interpreted her action as drunkenness and admonished her to put away her wine. She in turn informed him of her prayer and he encouraged her to go in peace and the God of Israel grant her petition. As a result of this her countenance was no more sad (I Sam. 1:9-18).
They returned home to Ramah and Hannah soon conceived and bore a son, Samuel, “for I have asked him of the Lord.” During the subsequent annual pilgrimages to Shiloh, Hannah remained home as she prepared Samuel for the day she would take him to the temple that he might abide there forever.
This time came when she had weaned him. She and Elkanah traveled to Shiloh and gave him to Eli the priest in fulfillment of her vow (I Sam. 1:19-28). She expressed her gratitude to God in a song of praise, in which she acknowledged that God had done great things. He maketh the barren to bear seven and she that hath many children is waxed feeble (I Sam. 2:1-10).
Samuel began to minister unto the Lord before Eli, the priest. He had to contend with the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, who were sons of Belial, who knew not the Lord. They demonstrated their contempt for the sacrifice by forcefully taking meat from the people, even when it was still raw, rather than using what remained. This made the people abhor the offerings. They even lay with the women that assembled at the tabernacle (I Sam. 2:11-17, 22). Samuel was of a different spirit. He grew and was in favor both with the Lord and with men.
When Samuel’s parents came yearly to sacrifice and his mother brought him a little coat, Eli blessed them and said to Hannah, the Lord give thee seed. She became the mother of 3 sons and 2 daughters (I Sam. 2:18-21, 26).
Eli by now was very old and he heard about the evil done by his sons. He admonished them, but failed to discipline them or remove them from the priesthood. A man of God came to Eli to admonish him for honoring his sons above Jehovah. He warned him that his household would be cut off and his two sons would die in one day, (I Sam. 2:22-36).
Samuel continued to minister before the Lord in the temple. The word of the Lord was precious and there was no open vision. Samuel received his first call from God when he had lain down to sleep. Three times he heard his name called and he went to Eli, only to learn that Eli had not called him. Eli instructed him to say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” The Lord then told Samuel that He would bring to pass the judgment He had pronounced upon the house of Eli for his refusal to restrain his evil sons. The next morning Eli asked him about this and Samuel told him all. From this time forth, the Lord appeared to Samuel, and all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of Jehovah (I Sam. 3:1-21).
The judgment that fell upon the house of Eli came in connection with Israel’s battle with the Philistines. Israel was in Ebenezer and the Philistines were in Aphek. When the first attack was made, 4000 men of Israel were slain. Israel decided to fetch the ark out of the tabernacle in Shiloh. When the sons of Eli brought it into the midst of the camp, the Israelites shouted, and that struck fear in the hearts of the Philistines. With greater determination they fought. The result being that 30,000 footmen of Israel were killed, the ark was taken, and Hophni and Phinehas were slain.
When the messenger of this sad news came to Eli at Shiloh, the 98 year old man fell back from off the seat and broke his neck and died. The wife of Phinehas was with child. When she heard that her husband was dead she went into labor and died in childbirth. She named her child Ichabod, the glory is departed from Israel (I Sam. 4:1-22).
The Philistines placed the ark of God in the temple of Dagon at Ashdod. The image fell down twice before the ark. During the second time the head and palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold. The Lord struck the men of Ashdod with emerods and many died. The Philistines realized it was the hand of God because of the ark, so they carried the ark to Gath. The same thing happened there and also in Ekron (I Sam. 5:1-12).
After the ark was in the land of the Philistines for seven months, the priests and diviners among them suggested they return the ark to Israel and fill it with an offering (5 golden emerods, 5 golden mice, one for each of the lords of the Philistines). They should place it upon a new cart drawn by 2 milk cows, but the calves had to stay in the stall. If the cows take the ark to Israel they will know that it was Jehovah who sent the plagues and not chance. The cows took the ark straight to Bethshemesh. The men were in the fields harvesting at the time. They rejoiced to see the ark. They cut up the wood and offered the cows as a burnt offering. The Levites placed the ark upon the great stone in the field of Joshua.
When the lords of the Philistines saw this, they returned. But the men of Bethshemesh looked into the ark and Jehovah smote them, killing 50,070 men. In desperation they sent notice to Kirjathjearim to come and fetch the ark. They came and placed the ark in the house of Abinadab and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark. The ark remained there for 20 years (I Sam. 6:1-7:3).
Samuel exhorted Israel to put away the strange gods, Baalim and Ashtaroth, and to return to the worship of Jehovah with the assurance that God would deliver them from the Philistines. As Samuel prayed and offered sacrifice at Mizpeh, the people repented and the Lord thundered upon the Philistines and they were smitten before Israel. Samuel erected the stone with the name, Ebenezer, hitherto hath the Lord helped us. The cities from Ekron unto Gath were restored to Israel. Mention is made of the judgeship of Samuel, and of his yearly circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpeh to Ramah where he lived (I Sam. 7:4-17).
When Samuel was old he made his sons Joel and Abiah judges in Beersheba. They were wicked and sought after money and took bribes and perverted judgment. This prompted the elders of Israel to come to Ramah and ask Samuel to make a king like all the nations (I Sam. 8:1-5). Samuel took his displeasure to the Lord and He instructed Samuel to give them their request, only he should protest solemnly. This Samuel did and warned the people that such a king would make slaves of their children and would tax them heavily so that they would cry to Jehovah, but He would not hear. The people persisted in their request (I Sam. 8:6-22).
Reference is made to Kish, father of Saul, whose asses were lost. He requested of his son, a choice young man and goodly, that he take one of the servants and seek the asses. When they arrived at the city of Zuph, Saul was of a mind to return to his father. The servant suggested he visit a prophet (which before was called a seer) in the city and perhaps he could assist in finding the asses. With a fourth part of a shekel in hand, Saul encountered the maidens going out to draw water. They guided him to the place of sacrifice where they met Samuel.
The Lord had told Samuel ahead of time to expect Saul and to anoint him as king. Samuel assured Saul the asses were found and greeted him as the “desire of all Israel” (I Sam. 9:1-24). They spent the entire day and night together. When they walked alone outside the city, Samuel poured a vial of oil upon Saul and said, “The Lord hath anointed thee captain over his inheritance.” He gave him signs to prove that God had called him: first, two men would meet him at Rachel’s sepulchre and inform him that the asses were found. Second, he would meet three men in the plain of Tabor, on their way to sacrifice, and they would give two loaves of bread to Saul. Finally, at the garrison of the Philistines, a company of prophets would meet him, they would prophesy, and the Spirit of the Lord would come on Saul and he would prophesy with them. He was to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to join him there. All these things took place as Samuel had said (I Sam. 9:25-10:16).
While Israel was gathered at Mizpeh, Samuel warned them that they had rejected God as being their king. The new king was chosen by casting of lots. The tribe of Benjamin, the family of Matri, Saul the son of Kish was taken. Saul hid among the stuff and God revealed to them his location so they could find him. As they took him to Samuel they saw that he was taller than all the people from the shoulders upward. The duties of his rule were written in a book. Saul returned to Gibeah and the children of Belial rejected him (I Sam. 10:17-27).
Nahash the Ammonite came to Jabeshgilead and offered to make a covenant of peace with them if he could thrust out their right eyes. During the seven days of waiting they contacted Saul who in turn raised an army of 300,000 men of Israel and 30,000 of Judah and completely destroyed the Ammonites. The people were encouraged and wanted to kill all who had rejected Saul. Saul prevented this and the kingdom was renewed at Gilgal (I Sam. 11:1-15).
Samuel testified of his faithful ministry among the people. They agreed that their request for a king was not due to the failure of Samuel. He rehearsed before them the care of God during all the years of their history. He warned them to obey Jehovah, and by the sign of the thunderstorm during wheat harvest the people were brought to fear Jehovah greatly. He called them to repent and be confident that Jehovah would not forsake His covenant; and he assured them that he would continue to pray for them (I Sam. 12:1-25).