Samuel [Săm'uel]—heard, asked of god, offering of god or appointed by god.
Samuel was the earliest of the Hebrew prophets after Moses and the last of the Judges. He was the son of Elkanah of Ephraim (1 Sam. 1:1), and of Hannah, Elkanah’s other wife. Samuel was her first-born and possibly saw the light of day at Ramah (1 Sam. 2:11; 7:17). Hannah bore Elkanah five other children (1 Sam. 2:21). There are many points of resemblance between Hannah and Mary, the mother of our Lord (1 Sam. 2:1-11 with Luke 1:46-56).
Samuel was a Nazarite (1 Sam. 1:11), the character of the vow being:
Abstinence from intoxicating drinks; self-denial and separation from sensual indulgence.
Free growth of hair, indicating the complete dedication of all the power of the head to God.
Avoidance of contact with a dead body as a token of absolute purity of life (Num. 6).
Samuel’s call to service came when weaned and dedicated to God by his mother (1 Sam. 1:24-28; 3:1-18). When Samuel was around twelve years of age he received his first revelation of the Lord, which was a clear message of doom against Eli’s guilty house (1 Sam. 3:11-14).
Samuel’s ministry was of a fourfold nature. We see him:
I. As a prophet. As a prophet of the Lord (1 Sam. 2:27-35; 3:19-21; 8:22), his faithfulness was a rebuke to the unfaithfulness of Eli. To the end of his days Samuel exercised the office of prophet and his ministry was not in vain. Under the impact of his courageous pronouncements Israel renounced her idolatry and shook off the yoke of the Philistines.
II. As an intercessor. Samuel was born in answer to prayer and his name constantly reminded him of the power of prayer and of the necessity of maintaining holy intimacy with God. Samuel deemed it a sin not to pray for others (1 Sam. 7:5-8; 8:6; 12:17, 19, 23; 15:11).
III. As a priest. Although Samuel was only a Levite and not a priest by descent, the words, “I will raise up,” imply an extraordinary office (1 Sam. 2:35; 7:9, 10; 13:8-10; Judg. 2:16). The exercises of priestly functions are proved by the following:
By intercession (1 Sam. 7:9).
By offering sacrifices (1 Sam. 7:9, 10).
By benediction (1 Sam. 10:17, 25).
By anointing kings (1 Sam. 10:1; 16:13).
IV. As a judge. Of Samuel it is said that he “judged Israel all the days of his life.” Even after the government of Israel had changed from that of a theocracy to a monarchy, Samuel still acted as a circuit judge, going from place to place giving divine judgment upon moral and spiritual questions, and maintaining in the hearts and lives of the people the law and authority of Jehovah (1 Sam. 7:15-17). The appointment of his own sons as Judges to succeed him (1 Sam. 8:1) was a parental mistake, for their wickedness gave the people reason for demanding a king (1 Sam. 8:5).
The universal reverence and love the nation had for Samuel is proven by the grief manifested at his death. “All Israel lamented him” (1 Sam. 25:1; 28:3). His passing as one of the great heroes of Hebrew history makes impressive reading. Faith was the animating principle of his honored life and labors (Heb. 11:32).