Handbook of 1 Samuel
Organization of the Kingdom
Samuel Saul David
Samuel was connecting link between Judges and the Kingdom.
Date, approximately 1100-1050 B.C
Scene of Samuel's Ministry
Ramah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem, was his birthplace, judicial residence, and place of burial (1:19 7:17;25:1).
Bethel, about 5 'miles north of Ramah, was Samuel's northern office. It was one of the four highest points in the land, the others being Mt. Ebal, Hebron and Mizpah. The view over the land from Bethel is magnificent. Here, 800 years before, Jacob had seen the
Mizpah, 3 miles west of Ramah, on Mt.Neby Samwil, was Samuel's western office. Here Samuel set up the "Ebenezer" stone (7:12). On its northern slope was Gibeon, where Joshua had made the "sun stand still."
Gibeah (its modern name, Tell-el-Ful), about halfway between Ramah and Jerusalem, was Saul's home.
Bethlehem, David's birthplace, and, later, the birthplace of Jesus, was 12 miles south from Ramah.
Shiloh, about 15 miles north of Ramah, was abode of Tabernacle from Joshua to Samuel, where Samuel ministered as a child.
Kiriath-jearim, where Ark was kept after its return from Philistines, was about 8 miles southwest from Ramah.
He was of Levitical parents (1 Chronicles 6:33-38). All honor to his mother, Hannah. A noble example of motherhood, her son turned out to be one of the noblest and purest characters in history.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Shiloh (1:3).
Joshua set up the Tabernacle in Shiloh (Joshua 18:1).
From year to year Israel went to Shiloh to sacrifice (1 Samuel 1:3).
David brought the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:15), about 1000 B.C.
Jeremiah (7:12-15), about 600 B.C., refers to Shiloh as destroyed.
The implication of these passages is that Shiloh was an important city from Joshua to David, and, after that, sometime before 600 B.C., it was destroyed, deserted and ceased to exist.
A Danish Expedition ( 1922-31), found in the ruins of Shiloh, potsherds of 1200-1050 B.C., bearing evidence of Israelite culture, with no evidence, of previous occupation, or later occupation till about 300 B.C. Albright dates the destruction of Shiloh about 1050 B.C. Thus, excavations exactly parallel the Biblical record.
The words in 31-35 seem to have application to Samuel, who succeeded Eli as Judge, and also as acting Priest (7:9; 9:11-14); but also have reference to a priesthood that shall last "forever" (35).
They were fulfilled when Solomon displaced Abiathar of Eli,s family with Zadok of another line (1 Kings 2:27; I Chronicles 24:3, 6).
But their ultimate fulfillment was in the Eternal priesthood Christ. In of chapters 8, 9, I0, we are told how Samuel initiated a change in the form of government, from Judges to the Kingdom. Under the kingdom, office of king and priest were kept separate.
As here, in verse 35, an Eternal priesthood is promised, so in 2 Samuel 7: 16 David is promised an Eternal Throne. Eternal Priesthood and the Eternal Throne looked forward to the Messiah, in whom they merged, Christ becoming man's Eternal Priest and Eternal King. The temporary merging of the offices of Judge and Priest in the person of Samuel, during the passage period from Judges to the kingdom, seems to have been a sort of historical forepicture of the final fusing of the two offices in Christ.
Samuel was a "Prophet" (1:20). He served as a "Priest" offering sacrifice (7:9). And he "Judged" Israel (7: 15-17), his circuit being Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah, with his main office at Ramah. He was the last "Judge," the first "Prophet," and founder of the "Monarchy";
sole ruler between Eli and Saul. His main mission was the Organization of the Kingdom.
The form of government under the Judges had been a sort of failure (see introductory note to the book of Judges). So God raised up Samuel to unify the nation under a King. (See on Chapters 8, 9, 10.)
The word "prophet" occurs occasionally before the time of Samuel, as in Genesis 20:7 and Exodus 7:1. But Samuel, it seems, was founder of a regular order of prophets, with schools, first at Ramah (1 Samuel 19:20); and afterward at Bethel, Jericho, and Gilgal, (2 Kings 2:3,5; 4:38). The priesthood had become quite degenerate, and contemporaneous with the organization of the Kingdom. Samuel, it seems, initiated these schools as a sort of moral check on both priests and kings.
These Prophets functioned through a period of some 300 years before the time of the Prophets who wrote the closing 17 books of the Old Testament. They are called "Oral" Prophets, to distinguish them from the "Literary" Prophets who wrote the books.
The leading "Oral" Prophets were: Samuel, organizer of the Kingdom; Nathan, adviser to David; Ahijah, adviser to Jeroboam; Elijah and Elisha, who led in the grand fight against Baalism.
The Ark, after its capture by the Philistines, was never taken back to Shiloh. Shiloh thenceforward ceased to be a place of importance. The Ark remained in Philistine cities for 7 months, in which time great plagues afflicted the Philistines.
It was taken to Beth-shemesh. Then to Kiriath-jearim, where it remained 20 years (7:2). Later it was taken to Jerusalem by David, who built a tabernacle for it (2 Samuel 6: 12; 2 Chronicles 1:4); which it occupied till Solomon built the Temple. Nothing is known of its history after the destruction of Jerusalem.
The Tabernacle, after the Ark was gone from Shiloh, was part time at Nob (21:1; Mark 2:26); and. part time at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 21:29); till Solomon laid it up in the Temple (1 Kings 8:4).
After the return of the Ark from the Philistines, Samuel, with the aid of God, administered a terrific defeat to the Philistines at the place where they had captured the Ark (4:1; 7:12).
Up to this time the form of government had been the "Theocracy". In a predatory world, where only the law of the jungle was recognized, a nation, in order to survive, needed to be fairly strong. So, God, accommodating himself to human ways, permitted his nation to UNIEY, as other nations did, under a King. The first king, Saul, was a failure. But the second king, David, was a magnificent success.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Saul's House in Gibeah (10:26). Albright (1922-23), found in Gibeah, in the stratum of 1000 B.C. the ruins of the fortress which Saul had built.
Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, which, in the days of the Judges, had almost been annihilated; and of the city, of Gibeah, where the horrible catastrophe had started.
Tall, handsome and humble, Saul began his reign with a brilliant victory over the Ammonites. Any misgivings about the new "Kingdom" disappeared.
Then followed Samuel's warning to nation and king, not to forget GOD, confirmed by a miraculous thunderstorm (chapter l2).
Saul's First Mistake (chapter 13). His successes rapidly went to his head. Humility gave place to pride. He offered sacrifice, which was the exclusive function of priests, This was the first sign of Saul's presumptive self -importance.
Saul's Second Mistake (chapter 14). His silly order for the army to abstain from food, and his senseless death sentence for Jonathan, showed the people what a fool they had for a king.
Saul's Third Mistake (chapter 15). Deliberate disobedience to God. For this he heard Samuel's ominous pronouncement, "Because you have rejected God, God has rejected you from being king."
It could not have been done openly, for then Saul would have killed David. Its purpose was to give David a chance to train himself for the office. God took David under His care (13).
David was short of stature, ruddy, of beautiful countenance, handsome, of immense physical strength, and great personal attractiveness, a man of war, prudent in speech, very brave, very musical and very religious.
His fame as a musician brought him to the notice of king Saul, who did not at the time know that he had been anointed to be his successor. He became Saul's armor-bearer. This threw David into association with the king and his counsellors.
It seems that David's first residence at the court was only temporary; that he returned to Bethlehem; that some years passed; and that, in the meantime, the boy David had so changed in appearance that Saul did not recognize him (55-58).
Socoh, where Goliath was encamped, was about 15 miles west of Bethlehem. Goliath was about 9 feet tall; his armor weighed about 150 pounds, and his spear-head about 20 pounds. David's offer, with only a staff and a sling, to take on Goliath, was en act of unheard of bravery and Amazing Trust in God. His victory thrilled the nation. He became at once the king's son-in-law, commander of armies, and the nation's popular hero.
David's popularity turned Saul against him. Saul tried to kill him, David fled, and for years was a fugitive in the mountains.
Jonathan's Friendship for David (chapter 20). Jonathan was heir to the throne. His brilliant victory over the Philistines (chapter 14), and his nobility of character, were good evidence that he would have made a worthy king. But he had learned that God had ordained David to be king, and his graceful effacement of himself from the succession, and his unselfish devotion to his rival, form one of the noblest stories of Friendship in history.
David escaped to the Philistines, feigning insanity. Sensing danger, he fled to the Cave of Adullam in west Judah; then to Moab; then back to south Judah, in Keilah, Ziph and Maon. He had accumulated 600 followers, Saul hot after him, but David always escaping, Many of the Psalms he composed in this period.
At En-gedi, Saul was trapped; but David, refusing to come to the throne by blood, spared Saul's life. And again, at Ziph, Saul acknowledged being a "fool"; but kept on being one.
At Maon, Abigail, a wealthy, tactful and gracious woman' became David's wife. David finally found refuge among the Philistines again, and was there till the death of Saul.
The Philistines invaded the land, and encamped at Mt. Gilboa. One of the Philistine princes had wanted David and his men to go along with them. But the other princes did not trust David. So, David remained behind, and, with his 600 men, guarded the South against the Amalekites.
Meantime, Saul, thoroughly frightened, sought, through a witch at Endor, an interview with the spirit of Samuel. The straightforward simplicity of the narrative seems to imply that the spirit of Samuel did actually appear. However, there is difference of opinion as to whether the apparition was real or fraudulent. At any rate, in the battle, Saul was slain. He had reigned 40 years ( Acts 13:21).
ARCHAEOLOGICAL NOTE: Saul's Armor (31:10).
It is here stated that Saul's "armor was Put in the house of Ashtaroth" in Bethshan, and, in 1 Chronicles 10:10, it is said that his "head was fastened in the house of Dagon."
Bethshan (Beisan) is just east of Mt. Gilboa, at the junction of the Jezreel and Jordan valleys. The University Museum of Pennsylvania (1921-30), uncovered in Bethshan, in the stratum of 1000 B.C., the ruins of a temple of Astaroth, and also a temple.of Dagon, the very same buildings in which Saul's armor and head were fastened: at least, it is proof that there were such temples in Bethshan in Saul's day.