We are going to begin a study of First Samuel, but in the beginning, the two books of Samuel formed one historical book. It was separated into two books around 200 BC when the Tanak was translated into Greek. Samuel wrote some of the book but most of the book takes place after his death, so whoever else did is unknown. These books are called Samuel because they describe his ministry and the long lasting affect of it. Samuel will bridge the gap between Samson the Judge and David the King. The Talmud says Samuel wrote chapters 1-24 of this book, and Gad and Nathan the Prophets are considered to be the authors of the rest of it (remember, it was originally one book). 1 Chr 29.29 may be alluding to this.
The books were written to represent the transition from the time of the Judges to the time of the Kings. Samuel is the central figure and the last judge and first prophet (Acts 3.24, 13.20). One of the key themes is the choosing of a king (12.31). Samuel designated David, just like Yochanon designated Yeshua, so Samuel is a type of the “forerunner.” Both Samuel and Yochanon were Nazarites (Num 6.1-21) and both were Levites with a miraculous birth. Both will contend with a corrupt priesthood.
The name Samuel is pronounced “Sh’muel” in Hebrew and it means “name of God” and “heard of God.” As we have said in the previous books, we are not going to go through this book verse by verse, but we will give an overall survey of it injecting concepts that we need to know and understand along the way.
In 1 Sam 1.1-8 we learn about Elkananh (“God has created”) and his two wives, Hannah (“favor”) and Peninnah (“pearl”). Elkanah and Hannah will be the parents of Samuel and 1 Sam 1.1 says that Elkanah was “an Ephraimite” because he was a Levite living in Ephraim (1 Chr 6.28-33). He loved Hannah but the Lord had “closed her womb.” Peninnah would provoke her to irritate her because of this, and this went on year after year. Elkanah would go up to Shiloh where the Mishkan was to keep the three pilgrim festivals as required by the Torah. He would perform korbanot and give the portions to his two wives, with Hannah getting a double portion. Her irritation was so bad that she would not of the korbanot portions because these were considered a Lord’s Supper or a “meal consecrated to God” and you must have joy in your heart, so she would not eat. Elkanah took it personally and finally asked her why she was so sad and not eating the portions and he said to her, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
1 Sam 1.9-18 says she went to Shiloh where the Mishkan was. You can go to Shiloh today and see where the Mishkan stood for many years because you can see the outline of the site. Eli was the High Priest and he had two sons named Hophni (“pugilist”) and Pinchas (“mouth of brass”) and they are mentioned because they were notorious for being wicked priests. Eli was sitting on a seat by the doorpost of the “temple of the Lord.” This is a curious name for a tent, but by this time the Mishkan was in transition from a tent to a building. The bottom half was made of stone and it was covered by animal skins.
Now, Hannah was praying for a son and she promised Yehovah that he would be a Nazarite, totally dedicated to the Lord. Eli was watching her mouth and she was speaking in her heart but her lips were moving. Her voice was not heard. This teaches us about biblical “meditation.” It is a prayer spoken, so let’s talk about this concept.
In Gen 24.63 we see Isaac “meditating” and in Josh 1.8 it says, This book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it (no hint of an oral law here); for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success. The word for success is “sakal” and it literally means “understanding and insight”. The word for “meditate” is “hagah” and it means “to mutter or murmur, to growl or speak” to oneself in a low tone.
Biblical meditation is speaking in a low tone to yourself about the things of God. It does not carry the idea of the eastern concept of meditation, where one contemplates inwardly. Biblical meditation is outward. It consists of prayer, meditating on the works of God (Psa 143.5) and remembering the things that once faced us but now are free of them (Isa 33.18). It has several meanings related to this, and in 1 Chr 16.9 it says, “Sing to him, sing praises to him; speak (meditate) on all his wonders (acts).” What passes for meditation in many circles today has pagan roots and has little to do with biblical meditation.
Eli thought she had been drinking, but Hannah said she wasn’t, but she is a woman “oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord.” Notice the Hebrew parallelism here. Spirit (ruach) and soul (nefesh) are synonymous. For more information on this concept go to our teaching on this website called “Heart, Mind, Soul and Spirit in Hebrew thought.” Eli told her to go in peace and “may the God of Israel grant your petition.” This alludes to the angel visiting Miriam in Luke 1.26-38. Eli and his two sons will symbolize a decaying priesthood and corruption, similar to when Yeshua was born.
In 1 Sam 1.19-28 we learn about the birth of Samuel, and a miraculous birth it was. This again alludes to the birth of Yochanon Ha Matvil (John the Immerser). After the morning Tamid service (Num 28.1-8) she went before the Lord again and worshiped. Elkanah and Hannah returned home and had relations, and Yehovah remembered her prayer, and in due time (“circuit of days”) Hannah conceived a son and gave birth. She named him “Shm’uel” (Samuel).
Now, Elkanah went up again with all his household to offer the yearly korban and pay his vows during the one of the three pilgrim festivals. However, Hannah would not go up with him until Samuel was weaned. Then she would come to the Mishkan and appear before the Lord and give Samuel to him so that he may stay there “forever.” Now, let’s look at this word “forever.”
In Hebrew it is the word “olam” and it seems to mean “indefinitely” with reference to the nature of the thing being described. If the nature is God, then olam truly means eternally. If it is referring to a human, it means as long as he lives. If it is a relationship, it means as long as the conditions exist upon which the relationship was based still holds. Olan does not mean “eternally” but it is relative to some base.
For example, the ages in Jewish eschatology are called the Olam Ha Zeh (present age of 6000 years) and the Olam Haba (World to come). They are long periods of time. The Olam Ha Zeh will end when certain conditions change. That time period ends after 6000 years and then we enter the Atid Lavo (also called the Day of the Lord, Millenium or the Sabbath of God, etc). The word “olam” does not mean “eternal.” Other uses of olam can be seen in Deut 32.7, 33.15; Hab 3.6; Exo 14.13; Jer 17.4, 25.9, 31.4; 1 Sam 2.30. In other words, olam does not necessarily mean “continuously in force throughout infinite time, no matter what happens.” It also does not mean “irreversible” or something God cannot end if he wants to, or should certain conditions change.
When Hannah weaned Samuel she took him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh and slaughtered a bull. She brought Samuel to Eli and reminded him that she prayed for a son, and here he is. She dedicated (“shaal” in Hebrew meaning to “loan”) Samuel to Yehovah as long as he lives and he will be a Nazarite like Yochanon Ha Matvil (Luke 1.15-17).
In Part 2 we will pick up in 1 Sam 2.1-10.