Samuel

Prophets in the Former Prophets

The books of Joshua, Judges, 1, 2 Samuel and 1, 2 Kings are known by three titles:

1) The Historical Books (along with a few other books).
2) The Deuteronomistic History (by scholars, because of connections to the book of Deuteronomy).  My dissertation was on the Deuteronomistic History.
Righteous Jehu and his Evil Heirs: The Deuteronomist’s Negative Perspective on Dynastic Succession (Oxford Theological Monographs).
3) The Former Prophets (within the Jewish tradition).  The Latter Prophets are also known as the Major and Minor Prophets.

One of the reasons the title Prophets makes sense for these books is that there are a lot of prophets mentioned.  Well, not really in the books of Joshua and Judges, but in Samuel there’s a fair amount, and in Kings there are tons (literally).  Hundreds of prophets are mentioned in the book of kings.

As I study, research and write about these books, I like to make charts and tables.  Here is a link to my family tree of the Kings of Israel and Judah.

I’ve included a table below that will appear in some form in a couple of books I’m working on, but those versions won’t be in color.  The title: Prophetic Figures in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua-Kings).  Prophetic figures include people the text calls a prophet,  a “man of God,” and several prophet groups (sons of the prophets).

The left column lists all the biblical references.
The middle column includes the prophetic figures, in red when the text provides a name, gray if anonymous, and pink for prophetic groups.
The right column lists the king (only for Samuel-Kings) who reigned while the prophet ministered.  The color coding, green for United Monarchy, blue for the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and yellow for the Southern Kingdom (Judah), matches the color coding used for the Family Tree chart mentioned above.

What observations and patterns do you notice about these prophets and kings?  Add your thoughts in a comment below.  In my next blog in a few days I’ll share a few of my own comments.

If you know people who study the Bible seriously, send them a link to this table.  They’ll find it helpful.

Prophetic Figures in DH

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Why was God so mean to Saul? Part 2 (1 Samuel 13, 15)

Saul’s sins involved a premature sacrifice (1 Sam. 13) and an incomplete slaughter (1 Sam. 15).  That doesn’t sound too bad, particularly in comparison to David’s murder and adultery.  And yet as we observed in a recent blog, those are the sins that got Saul in big trouble with YHWH and his prophet Samuel.

So, why was God and Samuel so harsh in judging Saul?  I see two reasons.

First, Saul as the initial king of Israel, his actions set a precedent for future kings.  And, as we read the story in the books of Samuel and Kings, later rulers struggled to obey.  Samuel had just made it clear to the people and their brand new king that they all need to obey diligently, and if they don’t, they’d be punished (1 Sam. 12:15, 25).  So, Saul’s decision to disobey Samuel’s command to wait, had consequences.  Leaders lead for good, or for ill.

Second, Saul should have known that he could trust YHWH and wait.  The clues are there in the text.  The description of the Philistine army, “like the sand of the seashore in multitude” is reminiscent of Gideon’s story where the Midianites are “countless as the sand of the seashore”.  And what was Gideon’s big problem, according to YHWH?  Too many soldiers.  The fact that Saul was losing men was a good thing.  He wasn’t going to need to do the lap like a dog trick.  Saul had just been reminded of the story of Gideon by Samuel (1 Sam. 12:11; Gideon is called Jerubbaal by Samuel).   Despite appearances, Saul should have trusted God. 

The final thing to note here, is that Saul’s judgment wasn’t as harsh as it may seem.  He was allowed to rule for another 15 years or so.  The main punishment fell upon Jonathan, who wasn’t able to succeed his father.  And Jonathan was an impressive guy.

But this is just the first judgment against Saul.  Come back later for the discussion of why God judged Saul so harshly for not completely slaughtering the Amalekites.  That’s a problem.

So, was Samuel too harsh or too lenient to Saul? 

Image of Samuel Reproving Saul from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Samuel_reproving_Saul_.jpg

Why was God so mean to Saul? (1 Samuel 13, 15) Part 1

Why was God so mean to King Saul?  A premature sacrifice (1 Sam. 13) and an incomplete slaughter (1 Sam. 15).  As sins go, those seem mild.  David, “a man after God’s own heart”, committed adultery and murder, and he got off lightly compared to the judgment that fell upon Saul.  Why was God so mean to Saul?

Let’s look at 1 Samuel 13.  Saul had already defeated the Ammonites (1 Sam. 11), and a Philistine garrison.  Now he’s getting ready to fight the Philistine army.  The prophet Samuel told Saul to wait for seven days at Gilgal, then he would come and make a sacrifice before the battle.  Saul is outnumbered.  According to the text, Saul has about 3000 troops and the Philistines have about 30,000 chariots and 6000 horsemen.  Saul is seriously outnumbered.  The Philistine forces are “like sand on the seashore” (1 Sam. 13:5).

To make things worse, Saul’s forces are starting to panic and desert.  Saul realizes he needs to act fast, and he can’t wait for Samuel any longer.  It’s been seven days.  He needs to take matters into his own hands.  He offers the sacrifice to ensure that they have God’s favor for their military efforts.

The moment Saul’s sacrifice is over, Samuel shows up.  Was he watching Saul all this time?  Samuel blasts Saul, “What have you done?!?”  Then Samuel tells Saul that God would have given him an eternal dynastic promise (David got one of those: 2 Samuel 7), and his kingdom is going to be cut off.

Seems harsh, don’t you think?

Why do you think Samuel and God were so harsh toward Saul?  (to be continued…)

Image from http://www.thebricktestament.com/king_saul/saul_rejected_for_seeking_gods_favor/1s13_14-15.html

“How long will you go on being drunk?” (1 Samuel 1)

“How long will you go on being drunk?”

When the priest Eli sees Hannah mumbling something as he sits at the door of the temple, he assumes she’s drunk, so he asks this question (1 Samuel 1:14).  Although Eli’s remark is less of a question, more of an accusation, and he concludes his speech by telling Hannah to put away her wine.  If Hannah were drunk, then Eli’s rebuke would be appropriate.  He’s a priest, so it’s his job to help keep people on the straight and narrow.  (Although, he wasn’t doing a good job with his own sons–see 1 Sam. 2:12.)

The problem is Hannah’s not drunk, just desperate.  She’s desperately praying for a child.  Hannah is barren, but her husband Elkanah has 2 wives, and the other wife, Peninnah is fruitful.  To make things worse Peninnah taunts Hannah, and this has been going on for years.

So, poor Hannah is literally pouring out her heart before YHWH, begging, pleading for a son (whom she promises to dedicate to YHWH), and then Old Eli comes up and starts insulting and accusing her.  Eli is in charge of Israel spiritually, but the man has no spiritual discernment.

How would you respond if you were Hannah?

I would have bitten his head off.  “You jerk! Leave me alone and focus on those loser sons of yours.”  To her credit, Hannah responds as graciously as one could imagine.  She calls Eli “my lord” and refers to herself as “your servant”.  She’s vulnerable and explains her predicament.

To his credit, Eli changes his tune and speaks a word of blessing to her that God apparently honors by giving Hannah a son, Samuel, who after being weaned was returned to Eli where he grew up.

The text continues to portray Hannah positively (in contrast to Eli and his sons) as her prayer of praise is recorded in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, and echoes of Hannah’s prayer appear in Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).

This text clearly views Hannah, the female without leadership responsibility more favorably than the male with leadership responsibility.

She prays earnestly.  She speaks graciously.  Her words are recorded at length by the biblical authors.

He lacks discernment.  He speaks rudely.  His parenting of his two evil sons is condemned by God.

I want to be more like Hannah, than Eli.  To give people the benefit of the doubt.  To use my authority not to insult or put down those outside of power structures (either male or female).  I want my words to bless others in future generations.

To men in positions of spiritual leadership, be like Eli at the end of the story, not like him at the beginning.  Bless godly women, don’t curse them.

Why do people in positions of authority sometimes act like Eli?

Image (Jan Victors, Hannah giving her son Samuel to the Priest, 1645) from http://www.wga.hu/index1.html