Friday, April 01, 2016

Reading in Samuel This Week #1 (Chapters 1-12)

First Samuel Chart

Samuel coverThis week we move to the books of Samuel still with the same commentary set, 1 and 2 Samuel, The College Press NIV Commentary, by James E. Smith.  The book of Samuel tells the story of how God will fill the vacuum of godly leadership in Israel with His chosen king David. (Sadly David will make many of the same mistakes the previous judges made and sow the seeds of destruction in Israel which will lead to the Exile prophesied in Deuteronomy.) But first God must raise up the prophet who will bridge the gap between the Judges and kings: Samuel. Samuel will be a light in a very dark time to lead the nation. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The book begins by contrasting Samuel and his godly mother with the present leadership, Eli and his sons. While Hannah and Samuel are portrayed as faithful, humble and trusting in God, Eli and his sons are portrayed as immoral, abusers of power, weak and blasphemers. Israel is certainly in need of new leadership.

God directly and actively restrained the womb of Hannah for his own sovereign purposes. This should not be viewed as a judgment for some sin in her life necessarily, but as a trial which would refine her priorities and faith. 1 Samuel 1.6-8, 41

Hannah certainly had something to sing about: she (1) had given birth to a son, (2) saw her prayers answered, (3) knew the joy of giving a costly gift to the Lord, and (4) grasped the truth that God is in sovereign control of the whole world. 1 Samuel 2.1-8, 52

Chapter 3 begins the transition from the leadership of Eli to that of Samuel. A prophet predicts that Eli will be removed from leadership because of his lack of restraint on his sons as they use the power of the priesthood to take advantage of the people. Soon after God calls Samuel into his service and the people begin to see the results of this as Samuel speaks the Word of God.

Based upon the twofold indictment of the previous verse, the Lord through his prophet announced that his commitment to the priesthood would be rescinded...Thus was the family of Ithamar removed from the priesthood and reduced to insignificance. Eventually, after the coming of Christ, God cut off all the family of Aaron from the honor of the priesthood. 1 Samuel 2.30-31, 68–69

Shiloh regained its prestige as the central sanctuary of God’s people, not because the ark was there, but because an accredited man of God was there. 1 Samuel 3.19-21, 80

Chapter 4 begins the story of the "Journeys of the Ark of the Covenant." Israel is not faithful to battle the Philistine nation, so God will do it himself. It begins with the fulfillment of the judgment prophecy to Eli. Eli's godless sons take the ark into battle as though it were an idol and would manipulate God into giving them victory. God responds by destroying the Israelite army and putting the evil, oppressive Hophni and Phinehas to death, which leads to the death of Eli. The mention of Eli being "fat" as a factor in his death is a subtle reference to the punishment fitting the crime as he became "fat" from the meat that was stolen from the people's sacrifices. In 5-6 we see that God does not need the Israelite army to defeat the Philistines and their god Dagon. He shows who is really God by humiliating Dagon in his own temple and devastating the Philistine people until they return the ark to Israel with a gift that acknowledges their sin against YHWH.

Instead of seeking the face of the Lord through national repentance, they attempted to force God’s hand to intervene on their behalf by exposing the ark to danger, probably influenced by heathen neighbors who carried the statues of their gods or their symbols into battle. 1 Samuel 4, 84

The symbolism in the fate of Dagon is striking. (1) Decapitation was the ultimate humiliation inflicted in ancient warfare (cf. 1 Sam 17:51; 31:9). (2) The hands on the threshold suggest that Dagon was seeking refuge in his own temple. (3) Just as the Philistines had defeated Israel twice on the battlefield, so Yahweh had twice defeated Dagon on his own turf. 1 Samuel 5.4, 93

Chapters 7-8 focus on the judgeship of Samuel. He encourages the people to show their allegiance to YHWH by getting rid of their idolatrous foreign gods. When they do God gives them a great victory over the Philistines which produces 20 years of peace and prosperity. However, at the end of this period, with Samuel getting too old to lead the nation, they ask Samuel to appoint a king. The nation thus rejects their status as a specially chosen nation, with YHWH as king, in order "to be like other nations." In the end, their chosen kings will be worse oppressors than the Egyptian pharaoh. The seeds of exile are already being planted.

The Narrator...intends to depict the ark as no longer having any significant role in the active religious life of Israel. 1 Samuel 7, 108–109

The sin lies in (1) a failure to trust in the Lord to provide for them what he promised he would give them, viz., kings; (2) a desire for the splendor of a visible monarch; and (3) a desire to order their national affairs by sight and not by faith. 1 Samuel 8.9, 121

Chapters 9-11 are concerned with the anointing of Saul and his rise to the kingship. The theme running through the story is that God is giving the people the king that they want who will make them like the other nations. This does not bode well for the future, but there is an opportunity for it to work out well, if Saul will follow God and listen to His word through the prophet Samuel. It starts out well as Saul delivers the city of Jabesh-Gilead and the people acclaim him as king. Saul has everything he needs (the power of the Spirit) to lead the people and accomplish God's task to deliver Israel from the Philistines. It will depend on his willingness to submit to God and keep covenant.

Saul would need to remember that he was ruling God’s people and that he was acting as God’s agent. He would have to give an account someday for the way he governed God’s inheritance (people). 1 Samuel 10.1, 138

This is the first time when Samuel publicly charged the people with rejecting their God by requesting a king (cf. 1 Sam 8:7). Yahweh’s deliverances were tied to national repentance, the confession of sins and the purging of idolatry. What the nation really wanted was political independence divorced from spiritual responsibility. 1 Samuel 10.18-19, 146

Here the rushing of the Spirit conveys courage, wisdom, and determination. The decisive action and brilliant military planning by Saul in this situation is described as God-given. Being possessed by the Spirit of God is differentiated from human anger. Yet righteous anger is not incompatible with Spirit empowerment. 1 Samuel 11.6, 154

Samuel's speech in chapter 12 concludes the opening section of the Book of Samuel which describes the judgeship of Samuel and prepares for the next section, which will discuss the rule of Saul. Samuel lets the people know that their desire for a king was a rejection of God's rule over them and urges the people to repent. When they repent, he assures them that God would not abandon them if they would maintain allegiance to the covenant. However, he did not expect that the future kings would have the integrity and faith that he had shown as he led the people.

This verse sets forth beautifully the kingship as viewed from two perspectives. The people had desired a king, chosen by themselves, to represent the nation in temporal matters; Yahweh had given them a king to represent himself, with authority granted by God and limited by God. 1 Samuel 12.13, 167

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