We continue the historical books of the Old Testament today by jumping into 1 Samuel. The books of Samuel have no natural division between them, and in fact could be considered, along with the books of Kings, as a complete work. “Samuel,” the book, is named for its first character, the last “judge” of Israel, who plays a prominent role in the first quarter of the work.
When we get to 1 Samuel, Biblical dates get slightly easier to nail down. The opening of 1 Samuel is set at somewhere around 1100 B.C. It’s been hundreds of years since Israel left Egypt and settled in the Promised Land. The Philistines are now a major power in Southwest Canaan, and without a major empire maintaining order in the Middle East, various smaller kingdoms are increasing their influence around Israel.
Our book opens by establishing the political situation within the context of the personal. There was a certain man…of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah… We know from the opening verses that the sacrificial system is functioning, with Elkanah going year by year to Shiloh. We know that priests – at this time sons of Eli – are serving the LORD of Hosts at the Tabernacle.
We also find that the second of Elkanah’s wives, Hannah, is childless, and that this barrenness is a source of pain and strife, just as it was for Jacob’s wives. If you guessed that the LORD would intervene, and that Hannah’s child might be important, you would be right.
After Hannah’s celebratory song in chapter 2, the author allows Samuel to grow up while shedding light on the disgrace of Eli’s sons. The table for the rest of this story is set when there came a man of God to Eli…
Pay attention to how the LORD is acknowledged throughout: worshipped, acknowledged for both closing Hannah’s womb and for opening it, and for hardening the hearts of Eli’s sons. Think back on the privileges and expectations of the priests that are laid out in detail in Leviticus.
And hear this final word of the LORD’s prophet, which will cast its shadow over our story for years to come: “And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.”
Our verse for this week is Matthew 11:28: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
1 Samuel 1 and 2. Now let’s read it!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.