Samuel’s Early Childhood
The apple of his parents’ eyes, (mother, Hannah and father Elkanah - I Samuel 1:1-2 TLB), young Samuel spent his childhood at the Tabernacle in keeping with a promise his mother made to the Lord (I Samuel 1:11; 26-28). Samuel assisted Eli, the priest [I Samuel 3:1 TLB]: Samuel, though only a child, was the Lord’s helper and work a little robe just like the priest’s [I Samuel 1:2 TLB]. The little boy Samuel blossomed while working and growing up in the Tabernacle and grew in favor: Little Samuel was growing taller and he was becoming everyone’s favorite (and he was a favorite of the Lord’s too) [I Samuel 1:26 TLB]. Little Samuel continued to develop and connect with the mission God had for him: As Samuel grew, the Lord was with him and people listened carefully to his advice. And all of Israel from one end of the land to the other knew that Samuel was going to be a prophet of the Lord. Then the Lord began to give messages to him there at the Tabernacle in Shiloh, and he passed them on to the people of Israel. [I Samuel 3:19-21 TLB].
Samuel Becomes Israel’s Judge
As an adult walking into his calling, Samuel seized the opportunity to lead Israel back into the graces and favor of God. This was during a time when Israel was in a sorrowful state, believing that God had abandoned them. The Israelis besought the leadership of Samuel to help them reconnect with God’s favor and deliverance. Thus, Samuel gave them instruction: At that time Samuel said to them, “If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your Ashtaroth idols. Determine to obey only the Lord; then he will rescue you from the Philistines” [I Samuel 7:3 TLB]. Then Samuel told them, “Come to Mizpah, all of you, and I will pray to the Lord for you” So they gathered there and, in a great ceremony drew water from the well and poured it out before the Lord. They also went without food all day as a sign of sorrow for their sins. So it was Mizpah that Samuel became Israel’s judge [I Samuel 7:5-6 TLB].
Samuel’s leadership and Israel’s obedience resulted in:
- A victory over the Philistines and a reprieve from future invasions from them
- A release and return of cities between Ekron and Gath that had been conquered by the Philistines to Israel
- Peace between Israel and the Amorites [I Samuel 7:12-14 TLB]
Samuel’s work as Israel’s judge continued for the remainder of his life. Samuel heard cases from Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, surrounding territories, and well as in Ramah, his home [I Samuel 7:13-17 TLB].
Emotional Distress and Heartbreak
Samuel was getting on in years and retired from his post as judge and appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah, as judges in his place [I Samuel 8:1 TLB]. Unfortunately, both sons were greedy and otherwise lacking in integrity engaging in unethical acts such as accepting bribes [I Samuel 8:2-3 TLB]. The people brought these matters before Samuel and it is here, that we see one of the more pronounced examples of disappointment and heartbreak. Afterall, Samuel was a righteous leader who heeded God’s instructions and no doubt, Samuel expected his sons to follow a righteous course. Now, instead of carrying on the legacy of a judge, the people demanded a king instead. The Bible tells us: Samuel was terribly upset and went to the Lord for advice [I Samuel 8:4-6 TLB].
It was not unusual for a spiritual leader to have a heavy heart because of the ungodly and reckless lifestyle of his sons. It was Eli whose sons Phineas and Hophni were evil and did not love the Lord [I Samuel 2:12 TLB]. They robbed the sacrificial offerings and treated the people’s offerings to the Lord with contempt [I Samuel 2:13-17 TLB]. But now, the dishonor is taking place at the hands of Samuel’s own sons.
Samuel complied with the people’s wishes to have a king and with God’s permission to seek out and anoint a king [I Samuel 10:1 TLB].
However, when the first appointed king of Israel, Saul, the son of Kish, a rich, influential man from the tribe of Benjamin [I Samuel 9:1 TLB], it did not come without advice: One day Samuel said to Saul, “I crowned you king of Israel because God told me to. Now be sure that you obey him [I Samuel 15:1 TLB]. Some readers may say these were famous last words because of the foreboding events to come.