The books 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel belong together, they form one book. They give the account of the history of Israel from the end of the 12th century BC until the beginning of the 10th century BC. The protagonist of these books is not Samuel, but David. Samuel has written but is not the author of the books that bear his name. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel together with 1 Kings and 2 Kings form one book called ‘The book of the kingship’. That the books of Samuel are also about the kingship is shown by the fact that the king has been in the foreground since 1 Samuel 8.
The big theme in the books that bear Samuel’s name is not the person Samuel, but that of which he is the forerunner and what he introduces: the kingship. We find in both books of Samuel the history of the kingship in Israel for a new period led by the spirit of prophecy. The ultimate goal is to establish the kingdom of God in Him to Whom both the priesthood of Aaron and the prophetic order of which Samuel is the representative and the kingship of Israel in David point to: the Lord Jesus Christ.
The greatest of all Samuel’s deeds found in this book is the anointing of David. The books that bear his name are those that actually are about the true David, the great Son of David, the Anointed (1Sam 2:35), Christ, Who always stands before God’s attention. God always has His King in mind. Christ is the center of God’s counsels.
Jacob speaks of Him in connection with Shiloh and the ruler’s staff (Gen 49:10). We also hear it in the words of Balaam when he speaks of a star and a king (Num 24:17b). Moses speaks of Him in the royal law (Deu 17:14-20). At the end of the book of Judges the king is missing. There we see how things go then (Jdg 21:25).
The last word of the book of Ruth is the name “David”. This gives the content of the books of Samuel that follow immediately after the book of Ruth. In David God is going to fulfill His purpose. That purpose is that He will place His dominion in the hands of men. He does this with Adam, and he does this with David. This characterizes the kingdom of God. Both Adam and David fail. The thoughts of God are revealed in the Lord Jesus. He is the true Adam and the true David.
God wants to bring order in a sinful people through His king, after the priesthood has failed. That is why God is going to introduce His king. The anointed priest represents the people with God. The high priest Eli is a believer but fails completely. The priesthood as mediatorship has ended. At first, the king of the people, king Saul, also fails. Then comes God with His man. When he reigns, the priesthood also regains its meaning.
Eli is replaced by a prophet, not by a new high priest. With this, a new office has been introduced into the people. The prophet is also an intercessor. By his speaking to the people on behalf of God and by his intercession on behalf of the people with God, the prophet prepares the people to receive God’s king. This is only possible, however, after the king of the people has been there first. As an application for our time we can say that the service of the New Testament prophet brings the hearts of the people under the rule of the Lord Jesus.
In the book of Judges and the 1st and 2nd book of Samuel we see a picture of the history of professing Christianity. We can compare this with the history of the church on earth given to us prophetically in Revelation 2-3. In Judges we recognize the church in Thyatira (Rev 2:18-29). In Eli, in the beginning of 1 Samuel, we see the principles of Sardis (Rev 3:1-6). Eli is a believing man, but his works are not perfect. He has the name to live but is dead. We see this especially in his sons. In Judges little is said about priests. What is said of it shows us the degeneration of the priesthood in Eli’s sons. It is a picture of how the priesthood has developed in Protestantism.
Then God begins a new way of communicating with His people, namely through His prophet. A period begins which is reminiscent of what is said of the church in Philadelphia. After the death in Protestantism, presented in Sardis, the prophetic service comes to the fore in all its clarity. The church in Philadelphia is reminiscent of this. It is said of the believers in that church that they have kept God’s Word (Rev 3:8b).
There are two applications to make. The first application is the prophetic one for Israel. Prophetically we see in this book the remnant of Israel connected with David. We also see that David and his people are persecuted by Saul who is a picture of the antichrist. In Hannah and her son Samuel the spirit of the remnant comes to the fore.
The second application is the practical one for us. We live in the time when the Anointed is rejected. We are connected to Him as His subjects. We need the service of prophets. This does not mean prophets who predict the future, but prophets who apply God’s Word to the hearts and consciences. Like Samuel introduces David, so do prophets today introduce the Lord Jesus through their service. They bring us under His authority. They point out to us, by telling and explaining to us God’s Word, how we should submit to Him in practice.
Samuel’s service is important. He is both judge – which in a way can be compared to king – and priest and prophet. He is the first prophet in the sense of a man of God who, in a time of decay, acts to lead the people of God back to Him (Acts 3:24; 13:20b). We need such men and their service to bring our hearts back under the authority of Him to Whom “all authority has been given … in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:18b).
In God’s Word the name of Samuel is not only connected with the name of David but also with that of Moses and Aaron (Psa 99:6; Jer 15:1a). His name means ‘heard by God’ or ‘asked from God’. That name he makes true in his life as an intercessor for the people. Here too he is a type of the Lord Jesus. Samuel is “a man of God” (1Sam 9:6-10). The title ‘man of God’ is reserved for people who stand up for God’s rights in difficult times. Moses is called six times ”the man of God” (Deu 33:1; Jos 14:6; 1Chr 23:14; 2Chr 30:16; Ezra 3:2; Psa 90:1). In the New Testament Timotheus is so called (1Tim 6:11) and anyone who places himself completely under the authority of Scripture (2Tim 3:16-17).
The history of Samuel begins here as early as that of Samson began, namely before his birth, as later the history of John the baptist and of our blessed Savior. Some of the heroes of Scripture come out of nowhere, as it were. At their first performance they appear immediately in full service, while for others the life story from birth is described. But what God says of the prophet Jeremiah applies to all: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5a).
Some great men, however, are more noticed than others when they enter the world and are distinguished from ordinary people already at an early age, as is the case with Samuel. In this case, God acts according to His sovereignty and pleasure.
Samson’s history introduces him as a child of promise (Jdg 13:3), Samuel’s history introduces him as a child of prayer (1Sam 1:9-11). Samson’s birth is foretold to his mother by an angel, Samuel is prayed from God by his mother. Both births indicate which wonders happen through word and prayer.
To reflect: It is God’s purpose that in me a Samuel is being born and grows up, because of Hannah’s mind, exercises, and prayers in me.