Profile Of The Prophets - Samuel

by Joseph Hunting

The nation of Israel had passed through a crucial period aptly summed up in the last verse in the book of Judges: "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes". For several hundred years since the conquest of Canaan the nation had been ruled by judges that had been raised up to deliver Israel from their oppressors. The last of these was Samuel. Not only was he a judge and mediator over the people, he was also prophet and priest.

The birth of Samuel was under unusual circumstances. His mother, Hannah, was barren, not by natural causes, but by Divine decree, "because the Lord had shut up her womb" (1 Samuel 1:6). After much travail of spirit Hannah prayed that if the Lord would give her a son she would "give him unto the Lord all the days of his life" . Her prayer was heard and in due time Samuel was born.

Hannah kept her vow and as soon as the child was weaned she took him to Shiloh to minister before Eli, the High Priest. It was during his childhood years that the Lord called Samuel and told him the fate of Eli's sons. "And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him ... and all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord."

In those days the Philistines warred against Israel and captured the Ark of the Lord, and the land and people were devastated. Under great duress they lamented after the Lord. Samuel discerned that the basis of their troubles arose from their idolatry and failure to serve the God of Israel. "And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only and He will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines." (1 Samuel 7:3).


A great crisis developed during the ministry of Samuel that altered the course of Israel's destiny. Instead of giving their allegiance solely to the Lord the people desired an earthly king as had all the nations surrounding them. Because the situation that arose was so grievous and its result so shattering we will quote the text in full. "And it came to pass when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of the second was Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes and perverted judgement.

"Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: FOR THEY HAVE NOT REJECTED THEE, BUT THEY HAVE REJECTED ME, THAT I SHOULD NOT REIGN OVER THEM." (1 Samuel 8:1-7).

In spite of Samuel's pleading that Israel should not commit this folly, "the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay, but we will have a king over us; that we may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us, and go out before us and fight our battles." Thus Saul was anointed as Israel's king.

Samuel's great love and fatherly care for Israel following the appointment of Saul is revealed in the following: "And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not, ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; and turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great Name's sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you His people. Moreover, as for me, GOD FORBID THAT I SHOULD SIN AGAINST THE LORD IN CEASING TO PRAY FOR YOU." (12:20-23).

Samuel ministered to Saul during his early years but Saul's disobedience, or to be more correct, his partial obedience proved to be his undoing and it was Samuel who had to reprove the king. Finally when Saul disobeyed the command of the Lord to utterly slay all the Amalekites and their sheep and cattle Samuel said: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams ... because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath rejected thee from being king." (15:22-23).

What had begun with so much promise ended with failure and rejection. One cannot but ponder the spiritual application of Samuel's words in our own daily experiences. "And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his (Saul's) death: nevertheless, Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel." (15:35).


Samuel's next assignment was to seek out and anoint the successor to the throne. Whereas the Lord had previously revealed to Samuel that he was to anoint Saul this was not the case with David. On arriving at Bethlehem-Judah Samuel called for Jesse's sons to be brought before him. "And it came to pass when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, surely the Lord's anointed is before him. But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, for I have refused him." (16:6-7). And so it was for each of the other seven sons that came before Samuel. Finally, completed nonplussed Samuel asked Jesse: "Are here ALL thy children?" and Jesse replied, "There remaineth yet the youngest, and he keepeth the sheep." This youngest member of the family who was not considered eligible was the one of God's choice -- David, "a man after God's own heart".

We are not told Samuel's age when he died. However, he was an old man when he anointed Saul to be king. It was many years later when David dwelt in strongholds at En Gedi that Samuel died and was buried at Ramah, a city of Benjamin a few miles north of Jerusalem.

There is a sad sequel to the life of Saul and his last encounter with Samuel. Saul besought the witch of En Dor to convene a séance and commune with Samuel. In this strange encounter Samuel recounted before Saul his failure to obey the Lord's commands and finally prophesied that Saul and his sons would die at the hands of the Philistines on the following day.

Samuel was the last of the Judges of Israel. He lived during a period when Israel needed strong leadership and he never failed to provide the word of the Lord when the occasion demanded it.

The highest tribute that could be paid to Samuel was made hundreds of years after his death. The prophet Jeremiah links Samuel with Moses as the two great intercessors for Israel before God. "Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight and let them go forth." (Jeremiah 15:1).