Samuel: The prophet who established kingship in Israel

by Narelle Atkins

The prophet Samuel was dedicated to the Lord by his mother, Hannah, at a very young age. He grew up in the temple and ministered before the Lord under Eli, the priest.

“The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a Prophet of the Lord.” 1 Samuel 3:19-20.

Samuel played an instrumental role in Israel’s transition from the rule of Judges to a monarchy. He was a judge over Israel throughout his lifetime and when he grew old he appointed his sons as judges for Israel.

In 1 Samuel 8 we learn that Samuel’s sons were wicked and did not walk in the ways of their father. The elders of Israel requested Samuel appoint a king to lead them like the kings of the surrounding nations. They wanted a king who would lead them out and fight their battles.

Samuel was not happy with their request and he prayed to the Lord. The Lord told Samuel that it was not him they had rejected. The Israelites had rejected the Lord as their king. Samuel told the people the Lord’s response to their petition and how their lives would not be improved under a king (see 1 Samuel 10-18). The Israelites refused to listen to Samuel and the Lord’s response was to give His people an earthly king.

Samuel anointed Saul, a Benjamite, as the first king of Israel. Saul was not a good king and, as earlier foretold by Samuel, the Israelites suffered under Saul’s rule. Samuel later anointed David as the king of Israel. David had a difficult relationship with Saul and he did not rule over Israel until after Saul’s death.

Hannah: A faithful wife

by Deborah Horscroft

Hannah was the favourite wife of an Ephraimite called Elkanah. Hannah shared the same fate as many famous women of the Old Testament, in that she was unable to do what the culture deemed most important, and that was to have children. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah had produced children and took every available opportunity to rub Hannah’s nose in her “failing”. When the times of sacrifice and celebration came, Hannah became so depressed she could not eat.

In her anguish, Hannah poured her heart out to God. She lived in evil and chaotic times where the faithful were few. She wanted a son, not just for her own sake, but to serve God. She made a vow that would be unthinkable for most mothers. She would give up her son to God’s service, for his whole life.

Evidence of the moral and religious deterioration of the time is seen in Eli the priest’s reaction to Hannah crying and pleading before the Lord. He assumed she was drunk. Certainly Eli’s own sons had been behaving abominably in the temple, taking the offerings that belonged to God by force and treating the serving women in the temple as prostitutes, with no regard for the Lord.

1 Samuel 3:1 tells us that in those days there were few visions and it was rare to hear from God, yet Hannah knew when she fell pregnant that she had received an answer from the Lord. Her prayer of pleading became a prayer of praise.

Hannah rejoiced in a God who has power over life and death, who loves justice and is a refuge for the humble. Similar prayers of praise are recorded by King David (2 Samuel 22) and Mary (Luke 1:46-55).

Hannah’s prayer was prophetic, looking forward to the reign of God’s anointed king, David, and ultimately of the Messiah. (Messiah and Christ are the Hebrew and Greek words for “the anointed”.)

If you read through 1 and 2 Samuel you can follow the leadership of Hannah’s son Samuel, culminating in the anointing of David.