Samuel, the Last Judge

KEY VERSE: “The LORD said unto Samuel, Harken 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.” —I Samuel 8:7

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: I Samuel 7:15 – 8:22

IN THE EARLY post-Mosaic times there was no sustained leadership in Israel, neither military nor governmental. In moments of crisis, temporary generals or judges would arise at the Lord’s bidding, and vanquish the enemy. This leader would then return to his ordinary life. An example of such a case may be found in the Book of Judges, in which Gideon is informed of a Midianite invasion. He left the wheat harvest, organized a successful resistance to the intruders, and then returned to finish the harvest.—Judges, chapters 6 to 8

For a long time, this method served Israel rather well. Its flaws, however, are evident as early as the fifth chapter of Judges. Various tribes who had sworn to come to their mutual defense did not always do so. There was no power of enforcement, no standing army, no assurance of when or if the leader would arrive, or if he would be respected. The people approached Gideon for a more permanent arrangement. “Rule over us,” they asked. Gideon refused.—Judges 8:22

In the meantime, God was permitting the development of a prominent prophet and judge. This judge was promised to the service of the Lord as a Nazarite by his mother, Hannah, before his conception. (I Sam. 1:11) After he was weaned, his mother took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh and left him there in Eli, the High Priest’s charge. Annually his mother visited him and brought him a new coat. (I Samuel 2:18,19) As he grew older, Samuel became more likeable from both God’s standpoint, and from that of men.—vs. 26

The Lord continued to lead and guide Samuel and was with him in all things. Soon the people of Israel understood that Samuel’s faith had established him as a prophet of the Lord. (I Sam. 3:20) This young man succeeded Eli as judge, and also served as an acting priest. When Samuel became old, he had made his sons judges over Israel. But they turned aside from serving God acceptably. Then all the elders went to Samuel and said, “Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”—I Sam. 8:1,4,5

Samuel was displeased with the demand of the people, and he prayed to the Lord to discern His wishes in the matter. It was at this juncture that God spoke the words recorded in our key text. The Lord instructed Samuel to warn the people concerning what to expect from a king. “Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king.” (I Sam. 10:8) Despite their loss of certain liberties under the new, monarchal arrangement—as well as no longer having the God of the Universe as their king—they still insisted on having a man anointed to rule over them.

Jehovah directed matters so that Samuel anointed the Benjamite, Saul, as king of Israel (I Sam. 8:6 to 10:1), and so Saul was designated by lot as king at Mizpeh.—I Sam. 10:17-24

Samuel, Israel’s last judge, continued to serve the Lord and Israel to the end. Toward the close of his career, God commissioned Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as Israel’s future king. Jesse’s youngest son, David, was called from pasturing the sheep, and anointed in the midst of his brothers. (I Sam. 15:14 to 16:13) Of David God said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.”—Acts 13:22

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