Sam'uël (Heb. Shemuel', שַׁמוּאֵל [on the signification, see below]; Sept. and New Test. Σαμουήλ), the last of those extraordinary regents that presided over the Hebrew commonwealth under the title of judges (q.v.), and the first of the line of the prophets (q.v.) specially so called (Ac 13:20). As such he possesses peculiar interest in the history of the chosen people. SEE SAMUEL.
I. Name. — Of this different derivations have been given:
(1) שֵׁם אֵל, "name of God;" so apparently Origen (Euseb. H. E. 6, 25), i.q. Θεοκλητός.
(2) אֵל שׁוּם, "placed by God."
(3) שָׁאוּל אֵל, "asked of God" (1Sa 1:20). Josephus (who gives this interpretation, Σαμούηλος, Ant. 5, 10, 3) ingeniously makes it correspond to the well-known Greek name Θεαίτητος.
(4) שׁמוּעִ אֵל, "heard of God." This, which is the most obvious, may have the same meaning as the previous derivation, which is supported by the sacred text (1Sa 1:20).
II. History. —
1. Private Life. — The circumstances of his birth were ominous of his future career. He was the son of Elkanah, an Ephrathite or Ephraimite, and Hannah or Anna. His father is one of the few private citizens in whose household we find polygamy. It may possibly have arisen from the irregularity of the period, but more probably from the sterility of his wife Hannah, whom, as she is always named first, and is known to have been the favorite, he probably married first. The usual effect of polygamy was felt in Elkanah's household. The sterility of Hannah brought upon her the taunts and ridicule of her conjugal rival, who "provoked her sore, to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb" (1Sa 1:6). The jealousy of Peninnah was excited also by the superior affection which was shown to Hannah by her husband. "To Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah" (ver. 5). More especially at the period of the sacred festivals did the childless solitude of Hannah create within her the most poignant regrets, when she saw her husband give portions to all the sons and daughters of Peninnah, who, exulting in maternal pride and fondness, took advantage of these seasons to subject the favorite wife to a natural feminine retaliation. Hannah's life was embittered, "she wept and did not eat" (ver. 7). SEE HANNAH.
The descent of Samuel's father, Elkanah, is involved in great obscurity. In 1Sa 1:1 he is described as an Ephraimite. In 1Ch 6:22-23 he is made a descendant of Korah the Levite (see the table below). Hengstenberg (on Ps 78:1) and Ewald (2, 433) explain this by supposing that the Levites were occasionally incorporated into the tribes among whom they dwelt. The question, however, is of no practical importance, because, even if Samuel were a Levite, he certainly was not a regular priest by descent. In virtue of his semi-sacerdotal lineage as a Levite, and especially by the authority of his office as a prophet, he hesitated not to perform priestly functions, like Elijah and others. The opinion was, nevertheless, in former times very current that Samuel was a priest — nay, some imagine that he succeeded Eli in the pontificate. Many of the fathers inclined to this notion, but Jerome affirms (Advers. Jovin.), "Samuel propheta fuit, Judex fuit, Levita fuit, non pontifex, ne sacerdos quidem" (Ortlob, "Samuel Judex et Propheta, non Pont. aut Sacerd. Sacrificans," in the Thesaurus Novus Theol. Philol. Hasaei et Ikenii, 1, 587; Selden, De Success. ad Pontiff. lib. 1, c, 4). The American translator of De Wette's Introduction to the Old Testament (2, 21) say's he was a priest, though not of Levitical descent, slighting the information of Chronicles, and pronouncing Samuel at the same time to be only a mythical character.
Samuel's birthplace is one of the vexed questions of sacred geography, as his descent is of sacred genealogy. SEE RAMATHAIM-ZOPHIM. All that appears with certainty from the accounts is that it was in the hills of Ephraim, and (as may be inferred from its name) a double height, used for the purpose of beacons or outlookers (1Sa 1:1). At the foot of the hill was a well (1Sa 19:22). On the brow of its two summits was the city. It never lost its hold on Samuel, who in later life made it his fixed abode.
The combined family must have been large. Peninnah had several children, and Hannah had, besides Samuel, three sons and two daughters. But of these nothing is known, unless the names of the sons are those enumerated in 1Ch 6:26-27. It is on the mother of Samuel that our chief attention is fixed in the account of his birth. She is described as a woman of a high religious mission. Almost a Nazarite by practice (1Sa 1:15), and a prophetess in her gifts (2:1), she sought from God the gift of the child for which she longed with a passionate devotion of silent prayer, of which there is no other example in the Old Test.; and when the son was granted, the name which he bore, and thus first introduced into the world, expressed her sense of the urgency of her entreaty — Samuel, "the asked, or heard, of God." Living in the great age of vows, she had before his birth dedicated him to the office of a Nazarite. As soon as he was weaned, she herself, with her husband, brought him to the tabernacle at Shiloh, where she had received the first intimation of his birth, and there solemnly consecrated him. The form of consecration was similar to that with which the irregular priesthood of Jeroboam was set apart in later times (2Ch 13:9) — a bullock of three years old (Sept.), loaves (Sept.), an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine (1Sa 1:24). First took place the usual sacrifices (Sept.) by Elkanah himself; then, after the introduction of the child, the special sacrifice of the bullock. Then his mother made him over to Eli (vers. 25, 28), and (according to the Heb. text. but not the Sept.) the child himself performed an act of worship. The hymn which followed on this consecration is the first of the kind in the sacred volume. It is possible that, like many of the psalms, it may have been enlarged in later times to suit great occasions of victory and the like. But ver. 5 specially applies to this event, and vers. 7, 8 may well express the sense entertained by the prophetess of the coming revolution in the fortunes of her son and of her country.
From this time the child is shut up in the tabernacle. The priests furnished him with a sacred garment, an ephod, made, like their own, of white linen, though of inferior quality, and his mother every year, apparently at the only time of their meeting, gave him a little mantle reaching down to his feet, such as was worn only by high personages, or women, over the other dress, and such as he retained, as his badge, till the latest times of his life. He seems to have slept near the holy place (1Sa 3:3), and his special duty was to put out, as it would seem, the sacred candlestick, and to open the doors at sunrise.
2. Samuel's Call. — In this way his childhood was passed. It was while thus sleeping in the tabernacle that he received his first prophetic call. The stillness of the night, the sudden voice, the childlike misconception, the venerable Eli, the contrast between the terrible doom and the gentle creature who has to announce it, give to this portion of the narrative a universal interest. It is this side of Samuel's career that has been so well caught in the well known picture of Sir Joshua Reynolds. The degeneracy of the people at this time was extreme. The tribes seem to have administered their affairs as independent republics; the national confederacy was weak and disunited; and the spirit of public patriotic enterprise had been worn out by constant turmoil and invasion. The theocratic influence was also scarcely felt, its peculiar ministers being withdrawn, and its ordinary manifestations, except in the routine of the Levitical ritual, having ceased. The "word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision" (1Sa 3:1). The young devotee, "the child Samuel," was selected by Jehovah to renew the deliverance of his oracles. According to Josephus (Ant. 5, 10, 4), he was at this time twelve years old. As he reclined in his chamber adjoining the sacred edifice, the Lord, by means adapted to his juvenile capacity, made known to him his first and fearful communication — the doom of Eli's apostate house. Other revelations speedily followed this. The frequency of God's messages to the young prophet established his fame, and the exact fulfilment of them secured his reputation. The oracle of Shiloh became vocal again through the youthful hierophant (1Sa 3; 1Sa 19-21). From this moment the prophetic character of Samuel was established. His words were treasured up, and Shiloh became the resort of those who came to hear him (1Sa 3:19-21). The fearful fate pronounced on the head and family of the pontificate was soon executed. Eli had indulgently tolerated, or leniently palliated, the rapacity and profligacy of his sons. Through their extortions and impiety "men abhorred the offering of the Lord," and Jehovah's wrath was kindled against the sacerdotal transgressors. They became the victims of their own folly, for when the Philistines invaded the land an unworthy superstition among the Hebrew host clamored for the ark to be brought into the camp and into the field of battle. Hophni and Phinehas, Eli's sons, indulging this vain and puerile fancy, accompanied the ark as its legal guardians, and fell in the terrible slaughter which ensued. Their father, whose sin seems to have been his easiness of disposition, his passive and quiescent temper, sat on a sacerdotal throne by the wayside, to gather the earliest news of the battle, for his "heart trembled for the ark of God;" and as a fugitive from the scene of conflict reported to him the sad disaster, dwelling with natural climax on its melancholy particulars — Israel routed and fleeing in panic, Hophni and Phinehas both slain, and the ark of God taken this last and overpowering intelligence so shocked him that he fainted and fell from his seat, and in his fall, from the imbecile corpulence of age, "brake his neck and died" (1Sa 4:18). In the overthrow of the sanctuary we hear not what became of Samuel. According to the Mussulman tradition, Samuel's birth was granted in answer to the prayers of the nation on the overthrow of the sanctuary and loss of the ark (D'Herbelot, s.v. Aschmouyl). This, though false in the letter, is true to the spirit of Samuel's life.
3. Samuel's Civil Administration. — When the feeble administration of Eli, who had judged Israel forty years, was concluded by his death, Samuel was too young to succeed to the regency; and the actions of this earlier portion of his life are left unrecorded. The ark, which had been captured by the Philistines, soon vindicated its majesty, and, after being detained among them seven months, was sent back to Israel. It did not, however, reach Shiloh, in consequence of the fearful judgment upon Beth-shemesh (1Sa 6:19), but rested in Kirjath-jearim for no fewer than twenty years (1Sa 7:2). It is not till the expiration of this period that Samuel appears again in the history. Perhaps, during the twenty years succeeding Eli's death, his authority was gradually gathering strength; while the office of supreme magistrate may have been vacant, each tribe being governed by its own hereditary phylarch. This long season of national humiliation was, to some extent, improved. "All the house of Israel lamented after the Lord;" and Samuel, seizing upon the crisis, issued a public manifesto, exposing the sin of idolatry, urging on the people religious amendment, and promising political deliverance on their reformation. The people obeyed, the oracular mandate was effectual, and the principles of the theocracy again triumphed (1Sa 7:4). The tribes were summoned by the prophet to assemble in Mizpeh; and at this assembly of the Hebrew comitia, Samuel seems to have been elected regent (1Sa 7:6). Some of the judges were raised to political power as the reward of their military courage and talents; but Samuel was raised to the lofty station of judge, from his prophetic fame, his sagacious dispensation of justice, his real intrepidity, and his success as a restorer of the true religion. His government, founded not on feats of chivalry or actions of dazzling enterprise, which great emergencies only call forth, but resting on more solid qualities, essential to the growth and development of a nation's resources in times of peace, laid the foundation of that prosperity which gradually elevated Israel to the position it occupied in the days of David and his successors. This mustering of the Hebrews at Mizpeh on the inauguration of Samuel alarmed the Philistines, and their "lords went up against Israel." Samuel offered a solemn oblation, and implored the immediate protection of Jehovah. With a symbolical rite, expressive, partly of deep humiliation, partly of the libations of a treaty, the people poured water on the ground; they fasted; and they entreated Samuel to raise the piercing cry for which he was known in supplication to God for them. It was at the moment that he was offering up a sacrifice, and sustaining this loud cry (compare the situation of Pausanias before the battle of Plataea, Herod. 9:61), that the Philistine host suddenly burst upon them. He was answered by propitious thunder, an unprecedented phenomenon in that climate at that season of the year (comp. 1Sa 12:18: Josephus says [Ant. 6, 2, 2] that there was also an earthquake). A fearful storm burst upon the Philistines; the elements warred against them. "The Highest gave his voice in the heaven, hailstones and coals of fire." The old enemies of Israel were signally defeated, and did not recruit their strength again during the administration of the prophet judge. Exactly at the spot where, twenty years before, they had obtained their great victory, a stone was set up, which long remained as a memorial of Samuel's triumph, and gave to the place its name of Ebenezer, "the Stone of Help," which has thence passed into Christian phraseology, and become a common name of Nonconformist chapels (1Sa 7:12). The old Canaanites, whom the Philistines had dispossessed in the outskirts of the Judean hills, seem to have helped in the battle; and a large portion of territory was recovered (ver. 14). This was Samuel's first, and, as far as we know, his only, military achievement. But, as in the case of the earlier chiefs who bore that name, it was apparently this which confirmed him in the office of "judge" (comp. 12:11, where he is thus reckoned with Jerubbaal, Bedan, and Jephthah, and Ecclesiastes 46:15-18). From an incidental allusion (1Sa 7:14), we learn, too, that about this time the Amorites, the Eastern foes of Israel, were also at peace with them another triumph of a government "the weapons of whose warfare were not carnal." The presidency of Samuel appears to have been eminently successful. Its length is nowhere given in the Scriptures; but, from a statement of Josephus (Ant. 6, 13, 5), it appears to have lasted twelve years (B.C. 1105 -1093), up to the time of Saul's inauguration. SEE CHRONOLOGY. From the very brief sketch given us of his public life, we infer that the administration of justice occupied no little share of his time and attention. He visited, in discharge of his duties as ruler, the three chief sanctuaries (Sept. ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἡγιασμένοις τούτοις) on the west of the Jordan- Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpeh (1Sa 7:16). His own residence was still his native city, Ramah, or Ramathaim, which he further consecrated by an altar (ver. 17), after the patriarchal model, like Abraham. Such a procedure was contrary to the letter of the Mosaic statute; but the prophets had power to dispense with ordinary usage (De Wette, Bib. Dogmat. § 70; Knobel, Der Prophetism. der Heb. 1, 39; Kister, Der Prophetism. d. A. und N.T. etc. p. 52). In this case, the reason of Samuel's conduct may be found in the state of the religious economy. The ark yet remained at Kirjath-jearim, where it had been left in terror, and where it lay till David fetched it to Zion. There seems to have been no place of resort for the tribes, the present station of the ark not having been chosen for its convenience as a scene of religious assembly. The shrine at Shiloh, which had been hallowed ever since the settlement in Canaan, had been desolate from the date of the death of Eli and his sons — so desolate as to become, in future years, a prophetic symbol of divine judgment (Jer 7:12-14; Jer 26:6). In such a period of religious anarchy and confusion, Samuel, a theocratic guardian, might, without any violation of the spirit of the law, superintend the public worship of Jehovah in the vicinity of his habitation (Knobel, Der Prophetism. der Heb. 2, 32).
At Ramah Samuel 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. One was Abiah, the other, Joel, sometimes called simply "the second" (vashni, 1Ch 6:28). In his old age, according to the quasi-hereditary principle already adopted by previous judges, he shared his power with them; and they exercised their functions at the southern frontier in Beersheba (1Sa 8:1-4). These young men possessed not their father's integrity of spirit, but "turned aside after lucre, took bribes, and perverted judgment" (ver. 3). The advanced years of the venerable ruler himself, and his approaching dissolution; the certainty that none of his family could fill his office with advantage to the country; the horror of a period of anarchy which his death might occasion; the necessity of having some one to put an end to tribal jealousies, and concentrate the energies of the nation, especially as there appeared to be symptoms of renewed warlike preparations on the part of the Ammonites (12:12) these considerations seem to have led the elders of Israel to adopt the bold step of assembling at Ramah with the avowed purpose of effecting a revolution in the form of the government.
4. Retirement from Public Office. — Down to this point in Samuel's life there is but little to distinguish his career from that of his predecessors.
Like many characters in later days, had he died in youth, his fame would hardly have been greater than that of Gideon or Samson. He was a judge, a Nazarite, a warrior, and (to a certain point), a prophet. But his peculiar position in the sacred narrative turns on the events which follow. He is the inaugurator of the transition from what is commonly called the theocracy to the monarchy. The misdemeanor of his own sons precipitated the catastrophe which had been long preparing. The people demanded a king. Josephus (Ant. 6, 3, 3) describes the shock to Samuel's mind "because of his inborn sense of justice, because of his hatred of kings as so far inferior to the aristocratic form of government, which conferred a godlike character on those who lived under it." For the whole night he lay fasting and sleepless, in the perplexity of doubt and difficulty. In the vision of that night, as recorded by the sacred historian, is given the dark side of the new institution, on which Samuel dwells on the following day (1Sa 8:9-18). The proposed change from a republican to a regal form of government displeased Samuel for various reasons. Besides its being a departure from the first political institute, and so far an infringement on the rights of the divine head of the theocracy, it was regarded by the regent as a virtual charge against himself, and might appear to him as one of those examples of popular fickleness and ingratitude which the history of every realm exhibits in pro. fusion. Jehovah comforts Samuel in this respect by saying, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me." Being warned of God to accede to their request for a king, and yet to remonstrate with the people, and set before the nation the perils and tyranny of a monarchical government (8:10), Samuel proceeded to the election of a sovereign. Saul, son of Kish, "a choice young man and a goodly," whom he had met unexpectedly, was pointed out to him by Jehovah as the king of Israel, and by the prophet was anointed and saluted as monarch. Samuel again convened the nation at Mizpeh, again with honest zeal condemned their project, but caused the sacred lot to be taken. The lot fell on Saul. The prophet now formally introduced him to the people, who shouted, in joyous acclamation, "God save the king!" Not content with oral explanations, this last of the republican chiefs not only told the people the manner of the kingdom, "but wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the Lord." What is here asserted of Samuel may mean that he extracted from the Pentateuch the recorded provision of Moses for a future monarchy, and added to it such warnings and counsels and safeguards as his inspired sagacity might suggest. Saul's first battle being so successful, and the preparations for it displaying no ordinary energy and promptitude of character, his popularity was suddenly advanced and his throne secured. Taking advantage of the general sensation in favor of Saul, Samuel cited the people to meet again in Gilgal, to renew the kingdom, to ratify the new constitution, and solemnly install the sovereign (1Sa 11:14). The assembly was held at Gilgal, immediately after the victory over the Ammonites. The monarchy was a second time solemnly inaugurated, and (according to the Sept.) "Samuel" (in the Hebrew text, "Saul") "and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly." Then takes place his farewell address. By this time the long, flowing locks, on which no razor had ever passed, were white with age (1Sa 12:2).He appeals to their knowledge of his integrity. Whatever might be the lawless habits of the chiefs of those times — Hophni, Phinehas, or his own sons — he had kept aloof from all. No ox or ass had he taken from their stalls — no bribe to obtain his judgment (Sept. ἐξίλασμα) — not even a sandal (ὑπόδημα, Sept. and Ecclesiastes 46:19,. It is this appeal, and the response of the people, that have made Grotius call him the Jewish Aristides. He then sums up the new situation in which they have placed themselves; and, although "the wickedness of asking a king" is still strongly insisted on, and the unusual portent of a thunderstorm in May or June, in answer to Samuel's prayer, is urged as a sign of divine displeasure (1Sa 12:16-19), the general tone of the condemnation is much softened from that which was pronounced on the first intimation of the change. The first king is repeatedly acknowledged as "the Messiah," or anointed of the Lord (vers. 3, 5); the future prosperity of the nation is declared to depend on their use or misuse of the new constitution; and Samuel retires with expressions of goodwill and hope: "I will teach you the good and the right way... only fear the Lord..." (vers. 23, 24). It is the most signal example afforded in the Old Test. of a great character reconciling himself to a changed order of things, and of the divine sanctions resting on his acquiescence. For this reason it is that Athanasius is by Basil called the Samuel of the Church (Basil, Ep. 82). SEE MONARCHY.
5. Residue of Samuel's Life. — His subsequent relations with Saul are of the same mixed kind. The two institutions which they respectively represented ran on side by side. Samuel was still, by courtesy at least, judge. He judged Israel "all the days of his life" (1Sa 7:1-15), and from time to time came across the king's path. (But these interventions are chiefly in another capacity, which are unfolded below. The assertion may mean that even after Saul's coronation Samuel's power, though (formally abdicated, was yet actually felt and exercised in the direction of state affairs (Hävernick. Einleit. in das A.T. § 166). No enterprise could be undertaken without Samuel's concurrence. His was an authority higher than the king's. We find Saul, having mustered his forces, about to march against the Philistines, yet delaying to do so till Samuel consecrated the undertaking. He came not at the time appointed, as Saul thought, and the impatient monarch proceeded to offer sacrifice — a fearful violation of the national law. The prophet arrived as the religious service was concluded, and, rebuking Saul for his presumption, distinctly hinted at the short continuance of his kingdom. Again, we find Samuel charging Saul with the extirpation of the Amalekites. The royal warrior proceeded on the expedition, but obeyed not the mandate of Jehovah. His apologies, somewhat craftily framed for his inconsistencies, availed him not with the prophet, and he was by the indignant seer virtually dethroned. He had forfeited his crown by disobedience to God. Yet Samuel mourned for him. His heart seems to have been set on the bold athletic soldier. But the breach was irreconcilable, and they must separate. The parting was not one of rivals, but of dear though divided friends. The king throws himself on the prophet with all his force; not without a vehement effort (Josephus, Ant. 6, 7, 5) the prophet tears himself away. The long mantle by which he was always known is rent in the struggle; and, like Ahijah after him, Samuel saw in this the omen of the coming rent in the monarchy. They parted, each to his house, to meet no more. But a long shadow of grief fell over the prophet. "Samuel mourned for Saul." (It grieved Samuel for Saul." "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul?" (1Sa 15:11,35; 1Sa 16:1). SEE PROPHET. But now the Lord directed him to make provision for the future government of the country (1Sa 16:1). To prevent strife and confusion, it was necessary, in the circumstances, that the second king should be appointed ere the first sovereign's demise. Samuel went to Bethlehem and set apart the youngest of the sons of Jesse, "and came to see Saul no more till the day of his death." Yet Saul and he came near meeting once again at Naioth, in Ramah (19, 24), when the king was pursuing David. As on a former occasion, the spirit of God came upon him as he approached the company of the prophets with Samuel presiding over them, and "he prophesied and lay down naked all that day and all that night." A religious excitement seized him; the contagious influence of the music and rhapsody fell upon his nervous, susceptible temperament and overpowered him. SEE SAUL.
The remaining scriptural notices of Samuel are in connection with David's history. SEE DAVID.
6. Decease and Traditions. — The death of Samuel is described as taking place in the year of the close of David's wanderings. It is said with peculiar emphasis, as if to mark the loss, that "all the Israelites" — all, with a universality never specified before — "were gathered together" from all parts of this hitherto divided country, and "lamented him," and "buried him," not in any consecrated place, nor outside the walls of his city, but within his own house, thus in a manner consecrated by being turned into his tomb (1Sa 25:1). His relics were translated "from Judaea" (the place is not specified), A.D. 406, to Constantinople, and received there with much pomp by the emperor Arcadius. They were landed at the pier of Chalcedon, and thence conveyed to a church near the palace of Hebdomon (see 4 Acta Sanctorum, Aug. 20).
The situation of Ramathaim, as has been observed, uncertain. But the place long pointed out as his tomb is the height, most conspicuous of all in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, immediately above the town of Gibeon, known to the Crusaders as "Montjoye," as the spot from whence they first saw Jerusalem, now called Neby Samwil, "the Prophet Samuel." The tradition can be traced back as far as the 7th century, when it is spoken of as the monastery of St. Samuel (Robinson, Bib. Res. 2, 142). SEE ZOPHIM. A cave is still shown underneath the floor of the mosque. "He built the tomb in his lifetime," is the account of the Mussulman guardian of the mosque, "but was not buried here till after the expulsion of the Greeks." It is the only spot in Palestine which claims any direct connection with the first great prophet who was born within its limits; and its commanding situation well agrees with the importance assigned to him in the sacred history. SEE MIZPEH.
His descendants were subsisting at the same place till the time of David. Heman, his grandson, was one of the chief singers in the Levitical choir (1Ch 6:33; 1Ch 15:17; 1Ch 25:5).
The apparition of Samuel at Endor (1Sa 28:14; Ecclesiastes 46:20) belongs to the history of Saul. We here follow the inspired narrative, and merely say that Saul strangely wished to see Samuel recalled from the dead, that Samuel himself made his appearance suddenly, and, to the great terror of the necromancer, heard the mournful complaint of Saul, and pronounced his speedy death on an ignoble field of loss and massacre (Henderson, On Divine Inspiration, p. 165; Hales, Chronology, 2, 323; Scott, On the Existence of Evil Spirits, etc. p. 232).
It has been supposed that Samuel wrote a life of David (of course of his earlier years) which was still accessible to one of the authors of the book of Chronicles (1Ch 29:29); but this appears doubtful. Various other books of the Old Test. have been ascribed to him by the Jewish tradition — the Judges, Ruth, the two books of Samuel (the latter, it is alleged, being written in the spirit of prophecy). He is regarded by the Samaritans as a magician and an infidel (Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 52).
The Persian traditions fix his life in the time of Kai-i-Kobad, second king of Persia, with whom he is said to have conversed (D'Herbelot, Biblioth. Orient. s.v. "Kai-Kobad").
III. Samuel's Character — So important a position did he hold in Jewish history as to have given his name to the sacred book, now divided into two, which covers the whole period of the first establishment of the kingdom, corresponding to the manner in which the name of Moses has been assigned to the sacred book, now divided into five, which covers the period of the foundation of the Jewish Church itself. In fact, no character of equal magnitude had arisen since the death of the great lawgiver.
1. Samuel's character presents itself to us as one of uncommon dignity and patriotism. His chief concern was his country's weal. Grotius compares him to Aristides, and Saul to Alcibiades (Opera Theol. 1, 119). To preserve the worship of the one Jehovah, the God of Israel, to guard the liberties and rights of the people, to secure them from hostile invasion and internal disunion, was the grand motive of his life. His patriotism was not a Roman love of conquest or empire. The subjugation of other people was only sought when they disturbed the peace of his country. He was loath, indeed, to change the form of government, yet he did it with consummate policy. First of all, he resorted to the divine mode of appeal to the Omniscient Ruler — a solemn sortilege — and brought Saul so chosen before the people, and pointed him out to them as peerless in his form and aspect. Then, waiting till Saul should distinguish himself by some victorious enterprise, and receiving him fresh from the slaughter of the Ammonites, he again confirmed him in his kingdom, while the national enthusiasm, kindled by his triumph, made him the popular idol. Samuel thus, for the sake of future peace, took means to show that Saul was both chosen of God and yet virtually elected by the people. This procedure, so cautious and so generous, proves how little foundation there is for the remarks which have been made against Samuel by some writers, such as Schiller (Neue Thalia, 4, 94), Vatke (Bibl. Theol. p. 360), and the infamous Wolfenbüttel Fragmentist (p. 200, ed. Schmidt).
But there are two other points which more especially placed him at the head of the prophetic order as it afterwards appeared. The first is brought out in his relation with Saul, the second in his relation with David.
2. He represents the independence of the moral law, of the Divine Will, as distinct from regal or sacerdotal enactments, which is so remarkable a characteristic of all the later prophets. As we have seen, he was, if a Levite, yet certainly not a priest; and all the attempts to identify his opposition to Saul with a hierarchical interest are founded on a complete misconception of the facts of the case. From the time of the overthrow of Shiloh, he never appears in the remotest connection with the priestly order. Among all the places included in his personal or administrative visits, neither Shiloh, nor Nob, nor Gibeon (the seats of the sacerdotal caste) is ever mentioned. When he counsels Saul, it is not as the priest, but as the prophet; when he sacrifices or blesses the sacrifice, it is not as the priest, but either as an individual Israelite of eminence, or as a ruler, like Saul himself. Saul's sin in both cases where he came into collision with Samuel was not simply that of intruding into sacerdotal functions, but of disobedience to the prophetic voice. The first was that of not waiting for Samuel's arrival, according to the sign given by Samuel at his original meeting at Ramah (1Sa 10:8; 1Sa 13:8); the second was that of not carrying out the stern prophetic injunction for the destruction of the Amalekites. When, on that occasion, the aged prophet called the captive prince before him, and with his own hands hacked him limb from limb in retribution for the desolation he had brought into the homes of Israel, and thus offered up his mangled remains almost as a human sacrifice ("before the Lord in Gilgal"), we see the representative of the older part of the Jewish history. But it is the true prophetic utterance such as breathes through the psalmists and prophets when he says to Saul in words which, from their poetical form, must have become fixed in the national memory, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
3. Samuel is the first of the regular succession of prophets: "All the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after" (Ac 3:24); "Ex quo sanctus Samuel propheta coepit, et deinceps donec populus Israel in Babyloniam captivus veheretur,... totum est tempus prophetarum" (Augustine, Civ. Dei, 17, 1). Moses, Miriam, and Deborah, perhaps Ehud, had been prophets. But it was only from Samuel that the continuous succession was unbroken. This may have been merely from the coincidence of his appearance with the beginning of the new order of things, of which the prophetical office was the chief expression. Some predisposing causes there may have been in his own family and birthplace. His mother, as we have seen, though not expressly so called, was, in fact, a prophetess; the word Zophim, as the affix of Ramathaim, has been explained, not unreasonably, to mean "seers;" and Elkanah, his father, is, by the Chaldee paraphrast on 1Sa 1:1, said to be "a disciple of the prophets." But the connection of the continuity of the office with Samuel appears to be still more direct. It is in his lifetime, long after he had been "established as a prophet" (1Sa 3:20), that we hear of the companies of disciples, called in the Old Test. "the sons of the prophets," by modern writers "the schools of the prophets." All the peculiarities of their education are implied or expressed — the sacred dance, the sacred music, the solemn procession (1Sa 10:5,10; 1Ch 25:1,6). At the head of this congregation, or "church, as it were, within a church" (Sept. τὴν ἐκκλησίαν, 1Sa 10:5,10). Samuel is expressly described as "standing appointed over them" (1Sa 19:20). Their chief residence at this time (though afterwards, as the institution spread, it struck root in other places) was at Samuel's own abode, Ramah, where they lived in habitations (Naioth, 19, 19, etc.) apparently of a rustic kind, like the leafy huts which Elisha's disciples afterwards occupied by the Jordan (Naioth = "habitations," but more specifically used for "pastures"). SEE NAIOTH.
In those schools, and learning to cultivate the prophetic gifts, were some whom we know for certain, others whom we may almost certainly conjecture, to have been so trained or influenced. Two eminent individuals had a casual or remote connection with them. One was Saul. Twice at least he is described as having been in the company of Samuel's disciples, and as having caught from them the prophetic fervor to such a degree as to have "prophesied among them" (1Sa 10:10-11) and on one occasion to have thrown off his clothes, and to have passed the night in a state of prophetic trance (1Sa 19:24); and even in his palace the prophesying mingled with his madness on ordinary occasions (1Sa 18:9). Another was David. The first acquaintance of Samuel with David was when he privately anointed him at the house of Jesse. SEE DAVID.
But the connection thus begun with the shepherd boy must have been continued afterwards. David, at first, fled to "Naioth in Ramah," as to his second home (1Sa 19:19), and the gifts of music, of song, and of prophecy, here developed on so large a scale, were exactly such as we find in the notices of those who looked up to Samuel as their father. It is, further, hardly possible to escape the conclusion that David there first met his fast friends and companions in afterlife, prophets like himself — Gad and Nathan. In the prospect of a regal form of government he seems to have made the prophetic office a formal institute in the Jewish nation. These academies were famous for the cultivation of poetry and music, and from among their members God might select his special servants (Gramberg, Religions-Id. 2, 264; Vitringa, Synag. Vet. 1, 2, 7; Werenfels, Diss. de Scholis Prophetar.; De Wette, Comm. fib. d. Psalm. p. 9). For a different view of the schools, see Tholuck, Literar. Anzeiger, 1831, 1, 38. We are informed (1Ch 9:22) that the allocation of the Levites for the Temple service was made by David and Samuel the seer; i.e. that David followed some plan or suggestion of the deceased prophet. It is stated also (26:28) that the prophet had made some munificent donations to the tabernacle, which seems to have been erected at Nob, and afterwards at Gibeon, though the ark was in Kirjath-jearim. Lastly (29:29), the acts of David the king are said to be written in the book of Samuel the seer. SEE PROPHETS, SCHOOLS OF.
It is needless to enlarge on the importance with which these incidents invest the appearance of Samuel. He there becomes the spiritual father of the Psalmist king. He is also the founder of the first regular institutions of religious instruction, and communities for the purposes of education. The schools of Greece were not yet in existence. From these Jewish institutions were developed, by a natural order, the universities of Christendom. It may be added that with this view the whole life of Samuel is in accordance. He is the prophet the only prophet till the time of Isaiah — of whom we know that he was such from his earliest years. It is this continuity of his own life and character that makes him so fit an instrument for conducting his nation through so great a change.
Accordingly, Samuel is called emphatically "the Prophet" (Ac 3; Ac 24; Ac 13:20). To a certain extent this was in consequence of the gift which he shared in common with others of his time. He was especially known in his own age as "Samuel the Seer" (1Ch 9:22; 1Ch 26:28; 1Ch 29:29). "I am the seer," was his answer to those who asked "Where is the seer?" "Where is the seer's house?" (1Sa 9:11,18-19). "Seer," the ancient name, was not yet superseded by "Prophet" (ch. 9). By this name, Samuel Videns and Samuel ὁ βλέπων, he is called in the Acta Sanctorum. Of the three modes by which divine communications were then made, "by dreams, Urim and Thummim, and prophets," the first was that by which the divine will was made known to Samuel (1Sa 3:1-2; Josephus, Ant. 5, 10, 4). "The Lord uncovered his ear" to whisper into it in the stillness of the night the messages that were to be delivered. It is the first distinct intimation of the idea of "Revelation" to a human being (see Gesenius, in voc. גָּלָה). He was consulted far and near on the small affairs of life; loaves of "bread," or "the fourth part of a shekel of silver," were gratuities offered for the answers (1Sa 9:7-8). SEE PRESENT.
From this faculty, combined with his office of ruler, an awful reverence grew up round him. No sacrificial feast was thought complete without his blessing (1Sa 9:13). When he appeared suddenly elsewhere for the same purpose, the villagers "trembled" at his approach (1Sa 16:4-5). A peculiar virtue was believed to reside in his intercession. He was conspicuous in later times among those that "call upon the name of the Lord" (Ps 99:6; 1Sa 12:18), and was placed with Moses as "standing" for prayer, in a special sense, "before the Lord" (Jer 15:1). It was the last consolation he left in his parting address that he would "pray to the Lord" for the people (1Sa 12:19,23). There was something peculiar in the long-sustained cry or shout of supplication, which seemed to draw down as by force the divine answer (1Sa 7:8-9). All night long, in agitated moments, "he cried unto the Lord" (1Sa 15:11). The power of Samuel with God, as an intercessor for the people, is compared to that of Moses (Jer 15:1; Ps 99:6). See Plumtre, Life of Samuel (Lond. 1842, 18mo); Anon. Life and Times of Samuel (ibid. 1863, 12mo).