User:RobertC/OT Lesson 21

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Lesson 21: God Will Honor Those Who Honor Him (1 Sam 2-3, 1 Sam 8)

Hannah's song (1 Sam 2:1-10)[edit]

  • Mine horn is exalted in the Lord (v. 1). See 1 Sam 2:1 lexical notes for significance of this phrase. See also the notes at Ps 75:4-5. David Seely suggests the horn symbolizes a king and is prophetic of Samuel calling David to be a great king for Israel.
  • Pride theme (vv. 3-4, 7-8). Notice the theme of pride and humility in verses 3-4 and 7-8.
  • First occurrence. This seems to be the first time that this theme has been explicitly raised in the Old Testament (in Judges and Ruth the theme seems to be raised implicitly).
  • Precursor to kings. This seems to be a fitting precursor to the beginning of the kings of Israel (where class distinctions likely arise), and comprises an interesting parallel to the theme of pride in the Book of Mormon.
  • Other scriptures. The theme of of God exalting the humble and debasing the proud becomes and important OT theme (see esp. Ps 113:6-7; in Ps 113:9 this theme is related to a barren woman who is given progeny). In the NT, see Matt 13:12; Luke 14:11; 18:14; 2 Cor 11:7; Philip 4:12. In the BOM, see Alma 4:13. In the D&C, see 101:42; 112:3; 124:114.

Samuel is righteous, sons of Eli are wicked (1 Sam 2:11-36)[edit]

  • Meaning of Samuel. Samuel means "son of El (God)" (think Elohim).
  • Sons of Belial (v. 12). See notes for 1 Sam 2:12.
  • The Lord would slay them (v. 25). See notes on verse 25 on how to interpret the Lord wanting to slay the sons of Eli. Compare this with the discussion of OT phraseology at Talk:Judg 14:16-20 (and related links).
  • I will raise up a faithful priest (v. 35). See discussion at 1 Sam 2:35 regarding this as a reference to Zadok.

Samuel's call (1 Sam 3)[edit]

  • There was no open vision (v. 1). See notes for 1 Sam 3:1—this means visions were not widespread.
  • Summary. From the Word Biblical Commentary:
This chapter concludes the series of stories about the youth of Samuel. Throughout this chapter we see the figures of Samuel and Eli in comparison and contrast; their depictions anticipate what is to happen in following sections.
Samuel receives the word of Yahweh for the first time, and this reception happens in connection with the ark and the Shiloh sanctuary and at a time when the word of Yahweh was only rarely revealed. Though Samuel seems naive, and even timid, with his threefold going to Eli and his fear of telling him Yahweh’ message, he also is a proper recipient of revelation, calling himself Yahweh’ servant and expressing his willingness to listen or obey. By telling us that Yahweh was with Samuel and fulfilled all his promises to him, that all Israel acknowledged him as prophet, and that Yahweh kept on appearing, the author provides a picture of Samuel that makes clear his qualifications for the task of inaugurating the kingship (chaps. 7–2) and for transferring its honor to David (1 Sam 16).
The information about Eli is primarily negative. He is the one who first recognizes that Yahweh is calling, to be sure, and he acknowledges the rightness of Yahweh’ judgment, after having forced Samuel to tell him the full truth. But the principal data about Eli is concentrated in vv 11–4: the judgment of Yahweh threatens him and his house, with no mention of any survivor. The word against Eli helps the reader understand why leadership passed to the prophet Samuel during the inauguration of the monarchy, and why the sons of Zadok rather than the sons of Abiathar come to preeminence in the priestly accounts of Dtr. Eli’ acceptance of the new era is expressed not only by his wish that Yahweh would do what seems good to him, but also by his calling Samuel twice, “my son.”
Before the narrator proceeds with the leadership role of Samuel, he tells of the death of Eli and his sons and the loss of the ark, all of which are portents of what will happen at Nob. The next time we hear of Samuel, he will be an adult, associated with a great deliverance from the Philistines. His absence from the ark narratives frees him from any blame for the defeat of Israel at the first battle of Ebenezer and the subsequent perilous consequences for the ark!

The Institution of kingship (1 Sam 8)[edit]

  • See 1 Sam 8:9 commentary page regarding the question of God's view of an Israelite king.
  • See Kingship in the related links.
  • Positive and negative views on kings:
  • Negative view of kings. From R. Scott Burton (see link and reference below):
Two attitudes regarding kingship are found in 1 Samuel. They have been joined so well in our present account that it is now impossible to isolate clearly one from the other, though many have undertaken the venture. 4 However, the main distinction between the two can be discerned easily.
The most prominent attitude concerning kingship is vigorous and lucid in its dictum that Israel's acceptance of, or more accurately, its demand for, kingship was another of its numerous and infamous steps away from the proper worship of the Lord and toward the futile and polluted worship of Baal. This tradition maintains that kingship was instituted over the revealed objection of the Lord and the prophet who represented him, Samuel. Upon hearing Israel's request for a king, "that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles" (1 Sam 8:5, 20), the Bible records that Samuel was "displeased" (1 Sam 8:6). Samuel sorrowfully reported to the Lord Israel's tragic request and received a most disturbing reply:
They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee (1 Sam 8:7, 8).
At the coronation of Saul (according to 1 Sam 12), Samuel protested against Israel:
Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the Lord, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking you a king.
So Samuel called unto the Lord; and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.
And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king (12:17-19; see also 1 Sam 9:18, 19).
While Samuel softened his condemnation of kingship, this polemic against Israel's abandonment to kingship ideology endured throughout Israel's and Judah's history and can be detected throughout the Old Testament. The book of Judges recounts how Gideon, responding to Israel's petition that he be a ruler over the tribes, refused to be made a king, cautioning, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you" (Judg 8:22, 23). This is a clear avowal that God and only God was "King of Israel." The two functions of the king mentioned in 1 Sam 8:20, i.e., judging (being the lawgiver) and commanding the armed forces, had always belonged to the Lord. When Israel had been in danger of being driven into the Red Sea by an Egyptian force bent on renewing Israel's subjugation, Moses delivered the authoritative message: "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day. . . . The Lord shall fight for you" (Ex 14:13, 14). Moses' successor, Joshua, reaffirmed: "One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you" (Josh 23:10). Nearer to home, it had only been a few short years since the very people who were asking for a king to deliver them from the foe had been provided a wondrous testimony that the Lord was more than able to fight Israel's battles.
The Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.
And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth-car (1 Sam 7:10, 11).
Hosea, a great Israelite prophet of the eighth century, recorded one of the Lord's many grievances against his chosen people: "They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not" (Hosea 8:4). Thus, Israel's desire to have a mortal fight its battles and deliver her laws not only demonstrated a characteristic lack of faith but was also a direct and grave violation of Israel's inspired charter.
Samuel's speech recorded in 1 Samuel 8 concerning "the manner of the king that shall reign" (1 Sam 8:11) indicates additionally that Samuel held reservations about kingship, largely due to a king's habit of exacting taxes from his subjects. Samuel warned against a king by reminding Israel that he would tax all their resources: people, produce of the land, livestock, and money (cf. Mosiah 11:3-4).
  • Positive view of kings. From R. Scott Burton (see link and reference below):
The second attitude in 1 Samuel regarding the monarchy is a bit more positive in its view. It suggests that the Lord, not the people, initiated the process which resulted in Saul's coronation as king of Israel, and that God appointed kings in Israel as a blessing in response to faithful prayer—not as an act of wrath in response to rebellion (cf. Hosea 13:11). The Lord told Samuel:
To morrow about this time I will send thee a man . . . and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me (1 Sam 9:16).
In 1 Sam 11, Saul appears as another in a long line of charismatic leaders. Upon hearing the news of the Ammonite invasion of Jabeshgilead,
the Spirit of God came upon Saul . . . and his anger was kindled greatly.
And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel . . . saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen (1 Sam 11:6, 7).
Israel did indeed gather themselves unto Saul, and as a result the Ammonites were soundly defeated. Upon returning from their victory, the Israelites were summoned to Gilgal by the Lord's prophet, Samuel, to "renew the kingdom there. And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal" (1 Sam 11:14-15).
This more positive outlook of kingship can be found throughout the Old Testament and finds its ultimate expression in the hope of a Messiah ("anointed one") developed fully in the intertestamental period and so dominant in the New Testament.
The book of 1 Samuel not only contains two contrasting views of the monarchy—one positive and the other negative—but also demonstrates how they were able to coexist. Both Saul and David began their reign with an air of promise; yet neither was able to fulfill that promise. Both were true to Israel's pattern of piety: short periods of repentance and obedience, followed by stubborn rebellion during which they did exactly as they pleased, regardless of prophetic counsel. Throughout her history, Israel was neither able to abandon the desire for a humble king, nor able to fully and comfortably embrace the kingship of a mortal man.

Other passages[edit]

1 Sam 4-6[edit]

In addition to the narratives that focus primarily on Samuel, Saul, and David there are a group of narratives in 1-2 Samuel that focus on the ark of the covenant (1 Sam. 4-6; 2 Sam 6). Instructions for the building of the ark are recorded in Exodus 25:10-22. Its lid was made of solid gold and at each end was a golden cherub. The Lord told Moses that he would be present in the space above the lid of the ark between the two cherubim, and from this place he would give Moses commandments for Israel (v. 22). Subsequently, the ark held the two tablets of the Decalogue (Exod 25:16, 21; 40:20; Deut 10:5). Because of the close identification of the ark with the presence of God among his people, he is said to be "enthroned between the cherubim" (1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2), which suggests that the ark was viewed as the throne of the Lord from which he guided and ruled over his people.
Because of the close identification of the ark with God's presence (cf., e.g., the role it played at the crossing of the Jordan [Josh. 3-4) and the fall of Jericho [Josh 6]) it is not surprising that when the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines (1 Sam 4) the elders requested that the ark be brought to the battlefield. They thought that this would guarantee God's presence with them and thus ensure victory in battle. To their dismay, they were again defeated, and, worst of all, the ark was captured by the Philistines. From this incident it is clear that God cannot be manipulated by his people, and that his connection with the ark was not automatic or mechanical, but spiritual.
When the Philistines placed the ark in the temple of their god, Dagon, at Ashdod, the next day they found that the image of their deity had fallen to the floor and broken in pieces before the ark of the Lord (1 Sam 5). In addition a plague of tumors broke out among the people of the city of Ashdod. When the ark was moved to other cities the same tumors appeared among their inhabitants. Eventually the Philistines were forced to send the ark back to Israel where it remained for twenty years in the house of Abinadab in Kiriath Jearim (1 Sam 6:1-7:2). In these chapters it becomes clear that while the Lord will not permit his people to manipulate the symbol of his presence to gain victory over the Philistines, neither will he permit the Philistines to conclude that because they defeated the Israelites, their god, Dagon, was more powerful than the God of Israel.
The ark remained in obscurity during the reign of Saul. It was not until David was made king that the ark was returned to its rightful place at the political and religious center of the nation. David brought the ark to his capital city, Jerusalem (2 Sam 6). In so doing he confesses that the nation's ultimate sovereign is the Lord, who sits "enthroned between the cherubim, " and that his own kingship is subordinate to divine authority. This is the perspective of a covenantal king.
When, in his later years, David was driven from Jerusalem by the revolution led by his son, Absalom, the ark was brought along by the priests who fled from the city. But David said, "Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord's eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you, ' then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him" (2 Sam 15:25). Here David recognizes the true significance of the ark as a symbol of the presence and power of the great King of Israel. He knew that possession of the ark was not an automatic guarantee of the Lord's blessing. He also understood that it was proper for the ark to remain in Jerusalem, because ultimately the Lord was the true Sovereign of the land.
  • Death of Eli and his sons. Notice that Eli's two sons die on the same day as foretold in 1 Sam 2:34.
  • Set up for chapter 8. From the Word Biblical Commentary (Explanation for Chapter 5):
Chapter 4 presented a theological surprise. Though Israel and even the Philistines had expected Yahweh’s hand to be victorious, the Philistines and (by implication) their god Dagon had won a total victory over him. But any expectation that Dagon would continue to have the upper hand is totally reversed in chap. 5 as Yahweh humiliated Dagon and cut off his head and hands, right in his own sanctuary. Dagon prostrated himself before Yahweh and recognized his superiority. His lying on the ground was the posture of a badly beaten, former champion.
In a subsequent, victorious march through the Philistine cities of Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron, the hand of Yahweh defeated the Philistines despite their strategic assemblies and their self-reliant arrogance. The Philistines had heard about Yahweh’s victories over the Egyptians (4:8; cf. the hand of Yahweh and his plagues mentioned in the Exodus accounts, Exod 9:3). Now they were to learn firsthand of his real power in history, just as Dagon discovered Yahweh’s superiority in the divine realm.
The judgment on the Elides had brought with it the defeat of Israel at Ebenezer, but this did not, in fact, mean that Yahweh had abandoned his people in anger, or that Yahweh was in any way inferior to Dagon even though that is what the Philistines may have thought as they installed Yahweh’s ark in their temple.
Through it all, the person who arranged the book of Samuel was creating a context for evaluating the people’s request for a king in chap. 8. The ark itself (chap. 5) and the judgeship of Samuel (chap. 7) had been effective channels for Yahweh to defeat the Philistines. Did Israel need any other kind of helper, such as an earthly king, to bring deliverance? The clear answer to these questions in 1 Samuel is no, though the book eventually reports a compromise by which earthly kingship is, nevertheless, a God-blessed institution—at least potentially.
But before those questions are addressed and resolved, the ark must return home, or at least it must get out of complete Philistine control. How Yahweh brought that about is the subject of chap. 6.
  • Parallels with Exodus. From the Word Biblical Commentary (Explanation for chapter 6):
A number of allusions or references to Israel’s experience in Egypt suggest that the ark’s departure from Philistia was seen as a kind of second Exodus. We noted the possible correspondence between the seven months of the Philistine plague and the seven days of the first plague. Even more certain are the parallels between the despoiling of the Egyptians and the Philistine reparation offerings. The mice were destroyers in Philistia as the Destroyer had appeared in Egypt. The Philistines were warned not to harden their hearts as the Egyptians had, lest Yahweh abuse them as he had the Egyptians. Other contacts with the Exodus tradition are the way in which the Egyptians and Philistines “sent something away and let it go”(vv 6 and 9), and, of course, the presence of the hand of Yahweh both in Egypt and in Philistia.

1 Sam 7[edit]

The following excerpt, from the Word Biblical Commentary (Explanation), argues that 1 Sam 7 shows that a king is not necessary for Israel to have military success (thus Israel's request for a king is truly unrighteous):

At the beginning of his account of the rise of kingship, Dtr has placed a narrative showing that kingship, or at least the kingship of Saul, was militarily unnecessary. The sins at the end of the period of the Judges (Judg 17–21), in addition to the sins of Eli’ house, resulted in the defeat at the hand of the Philistines as reported in the Ark Narrative (4:1–7:1). Though the ark had been returned to Kiriath-jearim, its twenty-year stay there continued the experience of oppression. Chap. 7 completes the deuteronomistic cycle by telling of Israel’ turning to Yahweh with mourning, confession, and prayer, and of Yahweh’ great deliverance through the agency of Holy War. This victory completely erased the miseries of the first battle of Ebenezer; the name of that town, ironically, now expressed Yahweh’ faithfulness clear to the end of the pre-monarchical period. The victory connected with Mizpah in 1 Sam obviated the military need for the king chosen at Mizpah (10:17). Although Dtr incorporated the History of David’ Rise (1 Sam 16–2 Sam 5) and its evidence of Philistine harassment and even dominance in the later life of Samuel, the editor’ theological understanding is that Yahweh gave a repentant Israel total victory over the Philistines as long as Samuel lived. It was only after Samuel’ death that Saul lost his life to the resurgent Philistines. The final defeat of the Philistines, of course, was accomplished by David whom Dtr evaluated in general quite highly. Samuel’ victory over the Philistines had the same effect as deliverance by a judge though Samuel’ own role was not that of a military hero. What Samuel did in bringing Israel to repentance, in praying for Israel in time of distress, and in traveling a judicial-circuit of cities in central Palestine was all part of what it meant for him to judge Israel. Divine help is conditioned, at least in the final shape of this chapter (DtrN?), on the putting away of foreign gods. If such repentance and turning to Yahweh had been consistently followed, the defeat of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, in 721 and 587 respectively, could have been avoided.

Related links[edit]

  • Samuel
  • Kingship