Samuel – The First Circuit Rider
by John C. Westervelt
For three hundred and fifty years, between the time of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan and the crowning of King Saul, judges ruled Israel. The last judge was Samuel.
Elkanah lived in Ramah in the hill country of Ephraim, five miles north of Jerusalem, with his wives Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was barren. Once a year Elkanah traveled fifteen miles north to Shiloh where he and his family worshiped at the temple by offering sacrifices to God.
Peninnah reveled in provoking Hannah about her barrenness. After arriving in Shiloh and eating her evening meal, Hannah made her way to the temple. In the midst of her emotional pain, she pleaded with Jehovah, saying, “If You will give me a son, I will return him to You for service in Your kingdom.” Within the year Hannah gave birth to a son and named him Samuel.
Three years later Elkanah took Hannah and Samuel along with a young bull, some flour, and a skin of wine to the temple in Shiloh. The sacrifices were placed on the altar, and Samuel was dedicated to the Lord. Then Elkanah and Hannah returned home, but Samuel stayed with Eli the priest and ministered before the Lord.
When Hannah went with her husband each year to Shiloh to sacrifice to the Lord, she took a little robe for Samuel. After making the robe, she would rinse out the tear stains before giving it to Samuel. Eli sensed Hannah’s sadness, so after their sacrifice he said, “May the Lord bless you with more children.” In time Hannah gave birth to three sons and two daughters. During those years, Samuel grew in stature and in favor with God and man.
Word from the Lord was rare at that time, and visions were infrequent. Eli was an old man, and his eyesight was growing dim. One evening, Eli and the boy Samuel were lying down on beds not far apart in the temple where the ark was kept. During the night, the Lord called out, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”
Eli said, “I did not call, my son, lie back down.”
The Lord repeated His call, and Samuel went back to Eli. On the third time, Eli said to Samuel, “If the Lord calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”
The Lord told Samuel that He was going to judge Eli’s house because of the sins of Eli’s sons. This would leave Samuel as the priest at Shiloh. In time, all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.
The Philistines, who occupied the southern coastal plain of Palestine, were a powerful military people. The regular skirmishes between the Philistines and Israelites slowed during the years that Samuel was judge. Israel’s land was restored, and the Philistines stayed in their land.
Samuel was an early-day circuit rider, traveling from his home in Ramah to the nearby towns of Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah to judge disputes among the people.
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges over territories of Israel. Much to his sorrow, his sons took bribes and perverted justice. As a result, the elders of Israel gathered in Ramah and asked Samuel to appoint a king.
After much time in prayer, Samuel received the Lord’s instructions for anointing Saul as king of Israel. Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty-two years.
In the latter days of his reign, Saul began to disobey God, so the Lord instructed Samuel to anoint David as a replacement king. Saul, knowing that David would become king someday, tried to kill David. While being chased, David had an opportunity to kill Saul, but David refused to murder the king appointed by God. Not long afterwards, Samuel died, leaving Saul in charge, but recognizing that he would one day be replaced by David, a man after God’s own heart, as per God’s plan.
Throughout his life, Samuel called on the Lord’s name, and the Lord answered him. He was recognized as a prophet and a judge. Samuel was instrumental in making the transition from the period of the judges to Israel’s monarchy. His success was due to his willingness to listen to the Lord’s voice, from the first moment he heard Him as a child, and to follow His instructions.
Copyright 2002 by John C. Westervelt
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