Samuel - Last of the Judges

Who Was Samuel in the Bible? Prophet and Anointer of Kings

Samuel in the Bible
Jesse presents his sons to Samuel, by James Tissot. Culture Club / Contributor / Getty Images

Samuel was a man chosen for God, from his miraculous birth until his death. He served in several important positions during his life, earning God's favor because he knew how to obey.

Samuel's story began with a barren woman, Hannah, praying to God for a child. The Bible says "the Lord remembered her," and she became pregnant. She named the baby Samuel, which means "the Lord hears." When the boy was weaned, Hannah presented him to God at Shiloh, in the care of Eli the high priest.

Samuel grew in wisdom and became a prophet. Following a great Philistine victory over the Israelites, Samuel became a judge and rallied the nation against the Philistines at Mizpah. He established his house at Ramah, riding a circuit to various cities where he settled the people's disputes.

Unfortunately, Samuel's sons, Joel and Abijah, who had been delegated to follow him as judges, were corrupt, so the people demanded a king. Samuel listened to God and anointed the first king of Israel, a tall, handsome Benjaminite named Saul.

In his farewell speech, the aged Samuel warned the people to give up idols and serve the true God. He told them if they and King Saul disobeyed, God would sweep them away. But Saul did disobey, offering a sacrifice himself instead of waiting for God's priest, Samuel, to do it.

Again Saul disobeyed God in a battle with the Amalekites, sparing the enemy's king and the best of their livestock, when Samuel had ordered Saul to destroy everything.

God was so grieved that he rejected Saul and chose another king. Samuel went to Bethlehem and anointed the young shepherd David, son of Jesse. Thus began a years-long ordeal as the jealous Saul chased David through the hills, trying to kill him.

Samuel made yet another appearance to Saul--after Samuel had died!

Saul visited a medium, the witch of Endor, ordering her to bring up the spirit of Samuel, on the eve of a great battle. In 1 Samuel 28:16-19, that apparition told Saul he would lose the battle, along with his life and the lives of his two sons.

In all of the Old Testament, few people were as obedient to God as Samuel. He was honored as an uncompromising servant in the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11.

Accomplishments of Samuel in the Bible

Samuel was an honest and fair judge, dispensing God's law impartially. As a prophet, he exhorted Israel to turn from idolatry and serve God alone. Despite his personal misgivings, he led Israel from the system of judges to its first monarchy.

Samuel's Strengths

Samuel loved God and obeyed without question. His integrity prevented him from taking advantage of his authority. His first loyalty was to God, regardless of what the people or king thought of him.

Samuel's Weaknesses

While Samuel was spotless in his own life, he did not raise his sons to follow his example. They took bribes and were dishonest rulers.

Life Lessons

Obedience and respect are the best ways we can show God we love him. While the people of his time were destroyed by their own selfishness, Samuel stood out as a man of honor.

Like Samuel, we can avoid the corruption of this world if we place God first in our life.

Hometown

Ephraim, Ramah

References to Samuel in the Bible

1 Samuel 1-28; Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1; Acts 3:24, 13:20; Hebrews 11:32.

Occupation

Priest, judge, prophet, anointer of kings.

Family Tree

Father - Elkanah
Mother - Hannah
Sons - Joel, Abijah

Key Verses

1 Samuel 3:19-21
The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel's words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. (NIV)

1 Samuel 15:22-23
"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams..." (NIV)

1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (NIV)