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Samuel (Hebrew: שמואל, Shemūʼēl; "Name means::heard of God") (ca. Born::25 Teveth 2853 AM–fl. Flourit::15 Sivan 2903 AMDied::Abib 2944 AM)[1] was the fifteenth and last Judge of Israel. He also anointed the first two kings of the United Kingdom of Israel.[2][3][4]

Early Life

Samuel was a member of::Levite, the son of Hannah and Elkanah. He was born in the hill country of Ephraim, because his father was a descendant of::Kohathite and in fact a Korite. Hannah had prayed earnestly to God that she would have a son, and had pledged that if she had a son, she would dedicate that son to God as long as he lived.

The meaning of Samuel's name is either "heard of God" (from the same root as the name of Ishmael)[5] or "name of God" (from the same root as the name of Shem).[6]

The Bible gives few clues to the date of the birth of Samuel, but Floyd Nolen Jones[1] suggests that it occurred at least thirty years before the capture of the ark (see below). Samuel was probably conceived immediately after the preceding Passover, because Passover is the most likely candidate for the annual sacrifice in which Elkanah and Hannah participated. (1_Samuel 1:1-20 ) Therefore his birth would have occurred about two hundred eighty days later.

When Samuel was five years old, his mother brought him to Eli, the high priest, at Shiloh. (1_Samuel 1:21-28 ) Every year she would bring him a new robe to wear. (1_Samuel 2:18-20 )

When Samuel was twelve years old, he heard a voice calling his name. He thought that Eli was calling him, and so he woke him up. Eli denied having called him. This happened again, and then a third time, and this time Eli told him that if he heard the voice again, then he should answer as though the voice belonged to God.

The voice spoke again, and Samuel answered, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." Then the voice identified itself as belonging to God. God said that something was about to happen that would make every man's ears tingle who heard about it. This thing concerned Eli, whose two sons had been performing their duties for years in an improper and offensive manner. God said that they would not be able to atone for their sins forever by burnt offerings alone, and that Eli would suffer as well, because he knew what his sons had been doing and did not properly chasten them for it.

Samuel was afraid to tell Eli what God had told him, but Eli forced him to tell it. When Samuel had spoken, Eli, in a resigned manner, said that God would act as He saw fit. (1_Samuel 3:1-18 )


In the winter of 2883 AM, Samuel became an adult, because thirty years was the age of adulthood for Levites. But almost three months earlier, Samuel's tutor and mentor died. The Israelites and the Philistines fought a major battle near Aphek on or about 1 Bul 2883 AM. The Israelites suffered four thousand casualties, and then the elders of Israel sent for the ark of the covenant. Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, carried the ark to the battlefield.

They never came back. An unnamed Benjaminite came from the battlefield to report that Israel has suffered thirty thousand additional casualties, including Hophni and Phinehas, and that the ark had been captured. Eli, when he heard that, fell backward in his chair, broke his neck, and died. (1_Samuel 4:1-18 )

Seven months later, a cart drawn by two milk cows came to Beth-shemesh. The ark was on this cart, along with a box containing five golden hemorrhoid-like boils and five golden mice. Unhappily, 50,070 people looked inside the ark, and God killed them all for this sacrilege. So the city elders of Beth-Shemesh asked the elders of Kiriath-jearim, a Gibeonite town, to keep the ark, and they did. (1_Samuel 6 )

Battle of Mizpah

Twenty years later, Samuel's career as a Judge began in earnest. On or about 15 Sivan 2903 AM, Samson took his awesome revenge by pushing apart the pillars of the Temple of Dagon, thus causing its collapse and killing all the Lords of the Five Cities of the Philistines and three thousand other people in addition to himself. (Judges 16:23-31 ) This act would not have sufficed by itself to deliver the people of Israel, and the Philistines were probably enraged.

But perhaps Samuel saw this as an opportunity. He said nothing about Samson's revenge and everything about the bad behavior that had caused God to allow the Philistines to dominate them for forty years. He told them to stop worshiping Baal and Asherah and worship God alone. This time the people of Israel agreed and followed through. Then Samuel summoned all the Israelites to gather at Mizpah. They did, and Samuel led them in a solemn ceremony of repentance. (1_Samuel 7:1-6 )

The Philistines heard about the gathering and sent their army to Mizpah. The Israelites were afraid, but instead of deserting Samuel, they asked him to continue to intercede for them to God. Samuel sacrificed a nursing lamb as a burnt offering. Then when the Philistines came near, God sent a thunderstorm to confuse them, and the Israelites routed them and chased them as far as Beth-car. Indeed Israel reconquered a number of cities that the Philistines had occupied. (1_Samuel 7:7-14 )

Circuit judge

Samuel at first established a judicial circuit that included Ramah, his home, and the cities of Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. (1_Samuel 7:15-17 ) But five years later, Samuel appointed his two sons, Joel and Abijah, to serve as judges in Beersheba. But these two men were not honest, as Samuel was; they took bribes and judged their cases in a dishonest manner. (1_Samuel 8:1-3 )

Then the elders of Israel made a request of Samuel that broke his heart: they demanded that he appoint a king to be a permanent and hereditary "judge." Samuel prayed to God about this, and God told Samuel to let the elders speak their peace, because they had not rejected Samuel personally, but had rejected God as their ultimate Judge. So Samuel warned the people of what having a king would mean: standing armies, conscription, and taxation. But the people insisted on having a king, so that they could be "like all the nations." (1_Samuel 8:4-20 )

Appointment of Saul

Finally God ordered Samuel to appoint a king for the people of Israel. (1_Samuel 8:21-22 ) Specifically, God told Samuel to expect a certain Benjaminite to come to him, and that man would be God's appointee. The Benjaminite, Saul, arrived in 2909 AM, asking to see the seer, or prophet. Samuel told Saul that he was the prophet, and that Saul should stay and dine with him. Samuel also told Saul that some donkeys that he had lost had been found. Saul accepted Samuel's invitation, and Samuel set before Saul a reserved portion. (1_Samuel 9:15-24 )

The next day, Samuel asked Saul to rise early, so that they could start traveling toward Bethel and the tomb of Rachel. On the way, Samuel asked Saul to send his servant ahead of him. (1_Samuel 9:25-27 ) Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured the oil over Saul's head. He told Saul then that God had chosen Saul to be Israel's first true king. (1_Samuel 10:1 )

Samuel again summoned all the Israelites to Mizpah and gave them this message: they had rejected God as their direct Ruler and asked for a king, and now God would give them one. Then he cast lots, and the lot fell successively on the tribe of Benjamin, then the Matrite clan, and finally Saul. At first Saul hid from Samuel next to his tribe's baggage train, but Samuel had him fetched out. Saul actually stood head and shoulders taller than all the Israelites. Samuel announced Saul as the choice, and the people acclaimed Saul as their king, except for a few malcontents who refused to accept his authority. (1_Samuel 10:17-27 )

Almost immediately Saul fought a battle against King Nahash the Ammonite, and won. Then the people demanded of Samuel that he deliver up the malcontents for summary execution, but Saul overruled them. Samuel then summoned the people to Gilgal and repeated the coronation of Saul. (1_Samuel 11 )

Samuel then gave an address to the people on Valedictory::1 Sivan 2909 AM. He reviewed the history of the era of the Judges and rebuked the people for asking for a king. God sent a thunderstorm to underscore His displeasure, but Samuel advised the people never to turn away from God, and that God would not abandon His people. (1_Samuel 12 )

Quarrels with Saul

Samuel would have two occasions to quarrel with Saul. The first occurred in the second official year of Saul's reign (2911 AM/1093 BC). The Philistines gathered a very large force of 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen, while Saul had only 3,000 infantrymen, divided between himself and his son Jonathan. Samuel told Saul to wait for him to come to the camp at Gilgal to make a burnt offering. Samuel was late in arriving, and when he arrived, he found Saul making the burnt offering without waiting for Samuel.

Samuel told Saul that if he had only waited, God would have established his kingdom forever. Now, that was not to be. In fact, Samuel predicted that God would soon find another man to be king instead of Saul. (1_Samuel 13:1-14 )

The second quarrel was over Saul's treatment of the Amalekites. Samuel gave Saul a direct message from God to attack the Amelekites and destroy them completely. Instead of doing this, Saul captured King Agag of Amalek alive and also preserved some livestock and other valuable spoil. This sin was very similar to the sin of Achan the Troublemaker at Jericho. Samuel came to Saul and rebuked him for the last time, saying that Saul had disobeyed God in taking spoil when God's orders had been for complete destruction. For this, God would eventually remove Saul as king of Israel. At first, Saul tried to lie to Samuel and say that he had obeyed God's orders, but his soldiers had disobeyed in the taking of spoil, but Samuel would not accept this. Then Saul admitted that he had sinned against God and asked Samuel's pardon, but now pardon was not for Samuel to grant, and Samuel said so. Finally Saul tried to hold Samuel by catching hold of his robe, and succeeded only in tearing the robe. Samuel told Saul that God was not an ordinary man, given to changing His mind. (1_Samuel 15:1-31 )

The last thing that Samuel did was to summon Agag and execute him summarily. Samuel then went back to his home in Ramah. He never saw Saul again. (1_Samuel 15:32-35 )

Anointing of David

In 2934 AM (1070 BC), God sent Samuel to Bethlehem, the small town south of Jerusalem near the site of the tomb of Rachel. Bethlehem was the home of a family of the tribe of Judah that descended from Nahshon, the first clan leader of Judah during the Exodus of Israel. God told Samuel to take a heifer with him and tell anyone who asked that he had come to Bethlehem to offer a sacrifice to God. Then he would invite Jesse and his sons to attend.

Jesse came, and he and seven of his sons stepped forward. Samuel looked at each son in turn, and God said that Samuel should look for another son. Samuel passed over seven young men and then asked Jesse whether he had any other sons. Jesse said that he had an eighth son who was left to tend the sheep. Samuel told Jesse to summon him.

Then the eighth son arrived. This was a boy of about fifteen, ruddy and with a handsome face. God told Samuel, "This is the one." So Samuel took a flask of oil and anointed the boy with it. This was David, who would eventually succeed Saul as king. (1_Samuel 16:1-13 )


Samuel died in 2944 AM (1060 BC) and was buried in Ramah. This occurred during the civil war between David and Saul. (1_Samuel 25 )

Five years later, Saul made his infamous consultation of the Witch of Endor and asked her to conjure the spirit of Samuel for him. An apparition of Samuel then gave Saul his final warning: that because he had consistently disobeyed God, he would fall in battle with the Philistines. (1_Samuel 28:1-18 ) That disaster happened the next day. (1_Samuel 31:1-8 )

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates a feast day for Samuel on August 20.[7]

Critical Views

Wayne Blank readily acknowledges[6] that multiple authors wrote the two Books of Samuel. No other inference is reasonable, because Samuel died before the events of the first book were complete.

Hirsch and others cite several unnamed authorities as saying that the present Books of Samuel (originally published as one volume) were written much later than the events that they describe, and are actually compilations of often inconsistent stories. [2][4][8] Hirsch also declares, with no warrant, that the Masoretic Text of the books of Samuel is "corrupt."[8]

The main objection seems to be to the two different narratives concerning the accession of Saul. But these authorities never consider that Saul might have received two separate acclamations. The first acclamation occurs after a choice by lot. The apparent reliance on randomness is misleading. God is Sovereign over all events, and therefore nothing is truly random. The second acclamation follows a military victory as decisive as the victory of Gideon, and such a victory would be a further sign that Saul had the blessing of God, at least at first.

Preceded by
Successor of::Samson
Member of::Judge
Flourit::15 Sivan 2903 AMDied::Abib 2944 AM
First Member of::Prophet
Flourit::Abib 2865 AMDied::Abib 2944 AM
VacantTitle next held bysucceeded by::Nathan

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Jones, Floyd N., The Chronology of the Old Testament, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004, p. 279 and Chart 4
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hirsch EG, Bachler W, and Lauterbach JZ, "Samuel," The Jewish Encyclopedia, n.d. Accessed December 26, 2008.
  3. Konig, G, "Samuel," AboutBibleProphecy, n.d. Accessed December 26, 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Samuel." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed December 26, 2008 <>.
  5. "Samuel," WebBible Encyclopedia, n.d. Accessed December 26, 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Blank, Wayne, "Samuel," Daily Bible Study, 2001. Accessed December 26, 2008.
  7. Samuel by OrthodoxWiki
  8. 8.0 8.1 Hirsch EG, "Samuel, Books of," The Jewish Encyclopedia, n.d. Accessed December 26, 2008.