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Outlines Of Jewish History -Rev. Francis E. Gigot D.D.

I.

SAMUEL, THE LAST JUDGE:

              A. His Early Life:

              Birth; Youth; Early vision.

 

             

 

              B. His Judgeship:

              1. Favor and influence with the people.

              Cariathiarim.

 

                                          Masphath.

 

                            2. Miraculous victory over the Philistines; Subsequent peace.

 

                            3. Residence at Ramatha; Yearly circuits.

 

                           

 

                            4. Popular deman for a King:

              Why made? How considered by

 

                                                        Samuel?

 

                                                        God?

 

 

 

II.

SAUL, THE FIRST KING:

              1. His Election: (1 Kings 9, 10)

              By God (Anointment of Samuel).

 

                            By the People (The Law of the Kingdom Proclaimed).

 

             

 

              2. His first Victory over the Ammonites (1 Kings 11:1–11).

 

              3. Second Inauguration of the Monarchy at Galgal (1 Kings 11:12–15).

 

              4. Samuel’s last Appeal to the People; he withdraws (1 Kings 12).

 

§ 1. Samuel, the Last Judge

1. Samuel’s Early Life (1 Kings 1–3). It was during the high priesthood and judgeship of Heli that Samuel, the future introducer of the monarchy into Israel, was born in Ramathaim, a town which cannot be identified at the present day. His father, Elcana, was an Ephraimite of Levitical descent, who, despairing of offspring from Anna, his first wife, had—as allowed by Oriental customs—taken Phenenna for his second wife, and had become by her the father of numerous children. As usual in such cases, the wife not blessed with children had to bear the taunts of her more fortunate rival, and, despite the tender affection which Elcana evinced on all occasions for his first wife, Anna, in her ardent desire to obtain a son from Jehovah, vowed solemnly that her future child should be devoted to the Divine service, as a Nazarite, all the days of his life. Her prayer was heard, and her child, to whom she gave the name of Samuel, was accepted, when still in tender years, by the old high priest Heli for the service of the sanctuary.

In the midst of the general corruption of the time, the child grew in simplicity and innocence under the loving care of the pious women who had regular duties to perform in connection with the Tabernacle (cfr. Exod. 38:8; 1 Kings 2:22), of his mother, who visited him at stated times, and especially of Heli, who found in Samuel a devotion to his well being, and a readiness to follow his advice which the aged high priest had long looked for in vain in his own wicked children. Samuel’s work was naturally divided between such offices as his strength allowed him to discharge in connection with the sanctuary at Silo and the services he rendered to Heli, whom dimness of sight and increasing infirmities made largely dependent upon the help of others; apparently, the high priest slept in a chamber near the Tabernacle, and Samuel was ever within call during the night.

While Samuel was thus “advancing, growing on and pleasing both Jehovah and men” (1 Kings 2:26), it became more and more necessary that the wickedness of the two sons of Heli and the weakness of their father should be visited by a signal punishment, and the young Samuel was selected by God to announce to the old high priest the awful calamities now near at hand. In a vision during the night Jehovah, having called Samuel three times, revealed to him the terrible fate that awaited Heli and his house. Early the next morning Samuel complied with the positive injunction of Heli, that he should tell him his vision, and the defeat of Aphec together with its disastrous consequences soon proved to all Israel that Samuel was the chosen prophet of Jehovah, that is, one to whom He was pleased to manifest His will and to reveal Himself time and again (1 Kings 2, 3).

2. Samuel’s Judgeship (1 Kings 7, 8). For twenty years after the crushing defeat of the Israelites at Aphec the Philistines severely oppressed the people of God, and during this time Samuel passed from youth to manhood and acquired an ever-increasing favor with the people at large. At length, the time came when the young prophet thought he could speak with authority and point out to Israel that the reason why its enemies, although they had long before been compelled to restore the Ark of the Covenant (1 Kings 5–7:2), had ever since been allowed to dominate, was because the Hebrews had not served Jehovah only. He therefore bade them put away the idols of Chanaan, which divided their allegiance to the true God, and promised victory in the event of an attack. These words of Samuel, which were probably addressed to the people on the occasion of a religious meeting at Cariathiarim, where the Ark had been deposited, met with such success that Israel gave up openly all idolatrous worship and “served Jehovah only” (1 Kings 7:3, 4). Samuel profited by these generous dispositions to convene a general assembly of the nation at Masphath, probably about “five miles north by west of Jerusalem” (HENDERSON, Palestine, its Historical Geography, p. 113). The people solemnly pledged themselves to the exclusive worship of Jehovah, and not unlikely proclaimed Samuel as their judge, that is, as the leader now in charge of securing the deliverance he had promised to them (1 Kings 7:5, 6).

Naturally enough, the Philistines understood that the convention of Israel at Masphath was a direct menace to the continuance of their tyranny and accordingly they gathered their whole force to crush the Israelite insurrection. Great was the dismay of the Hebrews when contemplating the formidable attack now impending; yet they had confidence in Samuel’s power with God, and their trust in Jehovah and His prophet was rewarded by a victory which the sacred writer represents as miraculous. The results of this triumph were very great, for besides the actual loss of men sustained by the Philistines, these oppressors of the Israelites were so “humbled that they did not come any more into the borders of Israel,” and were gradually compelled to restore to the Hebrews the cities which they had taken from them. It seems also that the Amorrhites who had taken part with the Philistines hastened to make peace with Israel, and that this auspicious beginning of Samuel’s judgeship was followed by long years of national freedom and prestige (1 Kings 7:7–15)

During these long years of public prosperity Samuel resided at Ramatha, where he built an altar to Jehovah, and continued to be considered as the judge of Israel. Unlike those who had preceded him in the office of judge, he not only gave the example of personal faithfulness to the service of the true God, but also took it to heart to ensure a like faithfulness in the Divine service on the part of all those who recognized his authority. With this end in view, he made it his business to visit every year some of the spots consecrated by hallowed memories, there to offer sacrifice to Jehovah. The names of three of these venerated spots are mentioned in the sacred text, namely, Bethel, Galgal and Masphath; but besides “he often betook himself to other places at uncertain intervals to redress grievances, or to punish wrong doing, or to offer Divine worship” (see 1 Kings 16:2, sq.; DEANE, Samuel and Saul, p. 69). It was also to secure more effectively national faithfulness to Jehovah, that Samuel established those “Schools of the Prophets,” which have become so famous, and in which young men were especially trained for the prophetical mission, that is, for becoming the direct representatives of the God of Israel and promoting by every means in their power, purity of morals and of Divine worship throughout the land.

It was in this peaceful, and at the same time most useful, manner that the last judge of Israel spent the best years of his life, respected alike by the Israelites whom he governed with firmness and justice, and by the Philistines who remembered their former defeats. But as time went on and as he advanced in years, Samuel felt unable to support alone the whole weight of the administration, and accordingly appointed his two sons as judges over a part of the territory which recognized his authority. He placed them as his substitutes at Bersabee, on the extreme southern frontier of Palestine, with the sincere hope that by their services in that part of the land they would endear themselves to the people at large, and thus deserve a continuance in office after his death. Great indeed must have been his disappointment when the ancients of Israel came to the old judge and complained that, differently from him, his sons had proved greedy and rapacious men, had perverted justice and taken bribes; keener still must have been his grief when these same elders of Israel, voicing the actual feeling of the Jewish nation, asked for a king, saying, “Make us a king to judge us, as all nations have.” This popular demand for a king was no mere passing desire of only a section of the country; it was rather the natural outcome of a long and steadily growing tendency of the people at large towards a form of government capable of imparting unity and strength to the long-divided forces of the Jewish nation. It was also the natural outcome of the circumstances of the time: the Philistines, profiting by the weakness of the aged judge of Israel, had gradually recovered confidence in their arms and had succeeded in establishing strong garrisons in the very heart of the country (1 Kings 9:16; 10:5; 13:3); and the Ammonites, formerly subdued by Jephte, threatened again the region east of the Jordan (1 Kings 12:12). In presence of such enemies, the Israelites saw only one means of securing victory: it was to discard both Samuel, too old to be their general, and his two sons, plainly unworthy of the command, and to ask for a king.

However natural this petition of the Hebrews may now appear to us, it greatly displeased the old judge of Israel, whose former victories and lifelong services seemed to him undervalued by this bald request: “Make us a king to judge us.” Yet he did not reject their request at once, but, as was his wont, he prayed to Jehovah for guidance. In His answer God bade Samuel to hearken to the voice of the people, although by asking for a king to judge them, as all nations had, the Israelites had plainly shown how little they understood their glorious privilege to be different from other nations, and to have no other king but Jehovah. Before, however, granting the petition of his fellow-countrymen, the aged prophet drew for them a picture which embraced the principal features of the government of Eastern monarchs, and which was indeed calculated to make them pause before giving up the freedom and quiet and exemption from taxes, etc., which they had hitherto enjoyed, but which were to be sacrificed before the will of their future king. This remonstrance was of course useless, and the people having renewed their petition for a king, nothing else remained to be done but to select the one who was to be the first monarch of Israel; as this choice, however, was of the greatest importance, Samuel sent the people away, and waited for some further direction from Jehovah.

§ 2. Saul the First King

1. The Election of Saul (1 Kings 9, 10). The Biblical narrative does not tell us how long after granting the petition of the Jewish people for a king God made known to Samuel that on a certain day he would meet the man of the land of Benjamin, whom He destined to be the first King of Israel (1 Kings 9:15, 16); but we are told in detail by what succession of apparently trivial events this meeting was actually brought about. It makes us acquainted with the loss of the asses of Cis, a man of Benjamin; with the useless efforts of his son, named Saul, a man of goodly stature, to track them; with the happy suggestion of Saul’s companion to consult the seer—that is the prophet—of the land of Suph, a man famous for his correct predictions, and who had just come into the city to offer a public sacrifice in the high-place; and finally, with the actual meeting of Samuel and Saul, when the latter, addressing the former, said, “Tell me, I pray thee, where is the house of the seer?” Samuel, inwardly made aware that his questioner was the future King of Israel, answered that he himself was the seer and that the asses vainly sought after by Saul had been found. Then he announced to the son of Cis the exalted dignity to which Jehovah had called him. In vain did Saul plead the smallness of his tribe in Israel and the insignificancy of his own family, the prophet gave him the first place at the sacrificial meal, welcomed him to his own house, and the next morning accompanied him to the end of the town. There, the servant having been bidden to pass on, the last judge of Israel taking a little vial of oil, poured it upon the head of Saul, and thus anointed him the first king of the chosen people.

These were, of course, wonderful events in the eyes of Saul, and Samuel, to enable him gradually to feel that they were glorious realities, gave to Saul three signs which soon met with their perfect fulfilment. Nothing indeed was better calculated than this fulfilment to confirm Saul in his actual belief that he was the chosen of Jehovah for the Jewish throne, nothing, also, should have convinced him more firmly that the mysterious recommendation the old prophet made to him just before parting, namely, that he should wait for Samuel at Galgal seven days, and should not offer victims to God before his actual arrival, must be complied with to its fullest extent; and yet, we shall soon see that Saul discarded this parting recommendation of the prophet.

After returning home, the Anointed of Jehovah—as the Jewish kings are called in Holy Writ—preserved a prudent silence concerning what had taken place between Samuel and himself till his election should be ratified by the people. This ratification was effected in a general assembly which Samuel had convened in Masphath, and in which the old judge invited all to leave the selection of the king in the hands of Jehovah by the casting of lots. The lot fell upon Saul, and accordingly the son of Cis was presented to the people, who, struck with admiration for his kingly appearance, cried and said: “God save the king!” Before dismissing the assembly, Samuel told the people the Law of the Kingdom, whereby were probably meant some such limitations to the royal power as those which we read in the book of Deuteronomy (17:14–20; cfr. JAHN, Hebrew Commonwealth, p. 64, sq.), and having “written it in a book, laid it up before Jehovah.”

The ceremony ended, the people withdrew to their homes, and Saul returned to his little town of Gabaa—a place which has been identified with the modern Tell El Ful, about three miles north of Jerusalem—where he resumed his former humble duties (1 Kings 11:5). In thus acting, the new King of Israel evinced a consummate prudence, for under the circumstances of the time, when numerous and powerful opponents belonging probably to the great tribes of Juda and Ephraim openly derided him as wanting in military means for his office, he could do little more than to dissemble his resentment, and retire to private life till events should vindicate his election.

2. Saul’s First Victory over the Ammonites (1 Kings 11:1–11). A month had scarcely elapsed when a favorable opportunity arose for proving how mistaken the opponents of the new king were in their estimation of his warlike abilities. The children of Ammon, long recovered from the severe defeat inflicted upon them by Jephte, had invaded the territory of the Transjordanic tribes, and actually besieged the capital of Galaad, Jabes, which occupied a commanding position on the top of an isolated hill, and which is now identified with the ruins of Ed Deir, about six miles south of Pella, on the north of the Wady El Yabis. Despairing of a victorious resistance, the inhabitants of Jabes offered to surrender; but Naas, the Ammonite king, in his desire to avenge upon them the former defeat of his nation by the Galaadite, Jephte, refused to accept the surrender, unless the defenders of Jabes should consent to lose their right eyes, and thus become unfit for further military service. Naas agreed, however, to a respite of seven days, during which the inhabitants of the besieged city could implore the help of the other tribes of Israel. Their messengers, probably aware of the new royal office in Israel, went straight to Gabaa, and all the people, who heard their tale of woe, “lifted up their voices, and wept.” When in the evening Saul came back from the field, “behind the oxen with which he had been working” (EDERSHEIM, Bible History, iv, p. 52), he found his own town lamenting over the future fate of Jabes Galaad. At this news, “the spirit of God came upon him,” and cutting in pieces the oxen he was driving, Saul sent them to the various districts of Israel by messengers, saying, “Whosoever shall not come forth, and follow Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen.” The whole people obeyed the summons, and thus surrounded by spirited warriors whom he numbered in Bezec—the modern Ibzik on the hills opposite Jabes Galaad—Saul promised to the besieged town the most prompt relief. On the morrow, at break of day, the forces of Israel skilfully divided into three companies, attacked, routed the enemy, and rescued Jabes.

3. Second Inauguration of the Monarchy in Galgal (1 Kings 11:12–15). Nothing could have better vindicated in the eyes of the nation Saul’s Divine appointment as king over Israel than his short and glorious campaign against the Ammonites. In point of fact, the popular feeling ran so high that, in their enthusiasm, the Hebrews would have put to death, on the very evening of their victory, those who had at first refused to recognize Saul, had not the Jewish monarch intervened lest such excesses should stain that glorious day; “for to-day,” said he, ascribing all the glory to the invisible King of Israel, “Jehovah hath wrought salvation in Israel.”

After this moderate answer, which must have won to Saul the grateful admiration of his former opponents, Samuel thought it most opportune to confirm, in a most solemn manner, the sovereignty of the Jewish king. Obeying his summons, all the people met at Galgal, “the famous Benjamite sanctuary in the Jordan valley” (DEANE, Samuel and Saul, p., 108), “and there they made Saul king before Jehovah, … and Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced exceedingly.”

4. Samuel’s Last Appeal to the People: his Withdrawal (1 Kings 12). And now the time had come for the aged prophet to give up his official work, as judge of Israel. He therefore profited by the general meeting at Galgal to address a last appeal to the people at large. In a skilful discourse, he first challenged any charge against his own administration, and next insisted on the great truth, that national prosperity or adversity would depend in the future, as in the past, on the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of the people to the exclusive worship of Jehovah. Then, to give more weight to his parting words, he asked a miracle from the Almighty. It was then the time of the wheat-harvest (May–June), when rain is almost unknown in Palestine; yet, at the prayer of His prophet, God “sent thunder and rain.” This wonderful event led the people to a sincere confession of their distrust of Jehovah in asking for a king, and to an earnest entreaty to Samuel that he should pray for the public welfare. In his answer, the former judge of Israel promised never to forget the interests of his fellow-countrymen in his prayers to God, and again reminded the people that Jehovah would mete out to them recompense or punishment according to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness in His service.

And so the assembly parted, Israel to their tents, Saul to the work of the kingdom, and Samuel—no longer a judge, but still a prophet—to the difficult task of acting as the inspired instructor and guide of both king and people.








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