The Book of 1 Samuel

April 13, 2019

Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for April 14, 2019

The Book of 1 Samuel

The book of 1 Samuel is the ninth book of the Bible. It contains 31 chapters and 810 verses although that number of verses is disputed by some Bible readers because of the way chapter ten ends in some translations, such as the New Living Translation. There’s material enclosed in parenthesis explaining how the Ammonite king, Nahash, humiliated the people of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh who chose to inherit land east of the Jordan. King Nahash would gouge out the right eye of each of the people of those tribes. This narration is absent in some translations.

The book of Samuel introduces the reader to the transition from the period of the judges to that of kings in Israel. The book starts out with the miraculous birth of Samuel whose mother, Hannah, prayed fervently to the Lord for a son. When her prayer was answered and she had a son, she waited until the boy was weaned and then took him to Eli the chief priest at the Tabernacle at Shiloh to serve the Lord. She had promised that she would do so if the Lord gave her a son. She kept her promise. Samuel served with Eli in the shrine as soon as he was old enough to do so.

God had from the very beginning been Israel’s king. Even when He promised that His people would have a human king in the future, still He, Yahweh, was to remain as the true king above the human king. But Israel rejected God’s kingship and opted for a human king only. 

The times were uncertain in themselves. The surrounding nations were menacingly getting stronger by the day and they threatened to attack Israel. The religious life was at a low ebb. Eli the chief priest was not doing a good job of hearing from God. Moreover, he was old with sons who openly abused the religious system. The people longed for a unifying leader who would organize the nation to meet the political challenges facing them. They wanted a king over them like all other nations they knew. Samuel was a good leader, but he too was getting old. No worthy individual was around to lead the nation. So, the people clamored for a king.

This asking for a human king saddened Samuel. He reminded the people that they had God as their King. The people insisted to have a human king. God sent Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king of Israel. Saul started out strongly and soon won over even skeptics who doubted his ability to deliver the nation from its enemies. But Saul was not deeply committed to God. He disregarded God’s directives and went about his duties as if the end justified the means.  There were occasions when he thought he would please God by disobeying Him. God rejected him and chose the shepherd boy David to be king in his place. 

David was very different from Saul. He was a brave warrior and a gifted leader. He also played music. He believed strongly in God and encouraged the people to be careful to obey God. Saul was not happy with the anointing of David as king in his place. Saul hunted David down to kill him. But Jonathan, Saul’s own son whom Saul wanted to be king after him, was a friend of David. Jonathan envisioned David as the future king of Israel and himself as next to him in rank. 

There are lessons to be learned from the three main characters of the book, Samuel, Saul, and David. And there are lessons to be learned also from the lives of other characters such as Hannah, Penninah, Elkanah, Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, Abigail, and Nabal. Can you think of some? Share with someone what you learn from any of the characters.

Above all, I urge us to note that the solution the people clamored for to solve their political problems, that is, having a human king in place of Yahweh, was, in the end, no solution. The real solution, which they ignored and set aside, was routine obedience to God. Obedience to Him is the solution we are looking for to a host of our personal and national problems. Can we wake up?

The Case for Christianity: Answer Book 

by Lee Strobel (2014: 21 – 23)

How does the beginning of the universe point specifically to the God of the Bible?

The event surrounding the beginning of the universe—the Big Bang—tells quite a bit about the Creator.  “There are several qualities we can identify,” Dr. William Lane Craig explained in The Case for a Creator. “The cause of space and time must be uncaused, beginningless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal being endowed with freedom of will and enormous power,” he said. “And that is the core concept of God [that is, the God of the Bible].

Astronomer Robert Jastrow elaborated. “The essential element in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis is the same,” he explains. “The chain of events leading to man [sic] commenced suddenly and sharply, at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy. 

My colleague Mark Mittleberg summed up the argument in his book Confident Faith:

“But that leaves us with the realization that something outside of the universe caused it. That “something” would have to be big enough, smart enough, powerful enough, and old enough—not to mention have enough of a creative, artistic flair–to be able to pull off such a grand “effect.” That sounds suspiciously similar to the divine being described in the book of Genesis, which starts with these words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Or, as Robert Jastrow puts it famously at the end of God and Astronomers,

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

The evidence related to the Big Bang doesn’t tell us everything, but it tells us quite a bit about the cause behind the universe—a Cause whose characteristics correspond to the God of Scripture. 

Isaiah 44:24 says, “This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself.”

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