22: The Strange Events of 1 Samuel
The Judgment of Eli & his family
The Judgments on the Philistines
Judgment back in Israel
The Importance of the Nature of God
The making of a King – his rise and fall
Introduction & Overview
Samuel leads us on from the uncertainties of life under judges, to
their first prophet-judge and then their first king. It is still a
topsy-turvy time but not a roller coaster as we saw in Judges. We
have seen something of these judgments as we considered them in Part
1 but now we consider them in the historical context as God's acts
of disciplinary judgment and even terminal judgment, depending on
the requirements of the circumstances.
might consider the following as a skeleton outline of 1 Samuel's history
The last days of the priest-judge, Eli
The days of a prophet-judge, Samuel
The days of the first king, Saul
The days of preparation for the second king, David
The Judgment of Eli & his family
start with the judgment executed, the fulfilment of God's word.
Sam 4:10,11 So
the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every
man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty
thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli's two
sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
Sam 4:18 When
he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the
side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old
man and heavy
Sin of the family
Sam 2:12,17,22,25 Eli's
sons were wicked men; they had no regard for the LORD….. This sin
of the young men was very great in the LORD's sight, for they were
treating the LORD's offering with contempt….. Now Eli, who was very
old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and
how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent
of Meeting….. His sons, however, did not listen to their father's
the above passages more fully and you will see the sins of these two
sons of the Chief Priest, Eli, who
their role as priests in both the way they took meat for themselves
from the sacrifices, and
way they slept with women serving at the Tent of Meeting.
might also add their disregard for their father.
Sam 2:27-36 (Parts only) Now
a man of God came to Eli and said to him, "This is what the LORD
says….. Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves
on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel ?'
…. The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the
strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old
man in your family line…. what happens to your two sons, Hophni and
Phinehas, will be a sign to you--they will both die on the same day.
will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according
to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house,
and he will minister before my anointed one always.
confronts Eli with the sin of his sons and his own failure to deal
still had time to repent and deal with them but he didn't
Sam 3:11-14 And
the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in
Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.
At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against
his family--from beginning to end. For I told him that I would judge
his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made
themselves contemptible, B and he failed to restrain them. Therefore,
I swore to the house of Eli, `The guilt of Eli's house will never
be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.'”
receives the same message which Eli makes him tell him
twice the Lord has warned Eli and given him opportunity to repent
word being fulfilled
Sam 4:1-4 Now
the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines…. Israel
was defeated by the Philistines ….. the elders of Israel asked, "Why
did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let
us bring the ark of the LORD's covenant from Shiloh …..they brought
back the ark of the covenant …. And Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas,
were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
the circumstances come about that ensured Eli's two sons appeared
on the battlefield
Israel did not realise that the Philistines
were God's discipline (see Judges and previous chapter)
Israel 's superstition thought that God would
come with the Ark and help them
as we read at the beginning, the battle went badly and the two sons
were killed and the Ark taken.
Eli hears the news the shock of the Ark being taken makes him fall
off his chair and (being a heavy old man) break his neck.
judgment has been executed by what we might call ‘natural means' brought
about by a combination of the failure of Eli to guide Israel properly
and the people's superstition.
they were casualties of the general discipline of the Lord through
the Philistines as indicated in the previous chapter.
is obvious is that the Lord stayed His hand and did not kill these
three men directly and, in fact, gave two clear prophetic warnings
of where their present lifestyle would lead, thus giving plenty of
time for repentance which never came.
The Judgments on the Philistines
Sam 5:2-4 Then
they carried the ark into Dagon's temple and set it beside Dagon.
When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon,
fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They
took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning
when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground
before the ark of the LORD ! His
head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold;
only his body remained
Sam 5:6,8-12 The
LORD's hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod
and its vicinity; he brought devastation upon them and afflicted them
with tumors…. "Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath
." So they moved the ark of the God of Israel . But
after they had moved it, the LORD's hand was against that city, throwing
it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young
and old, with an outbreak of tumors. So they sent the ark of God to
Ekron . As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the
people of Ekron cried out, "They have brought the ark of the
god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people." So they
called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, "Send
the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place,
or it will kill us and our people." For death had filled the
city with panic; God's hand was very heavy upon it. Those who did
not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went
up to heaven
Philistines, you may remember were enemies of Israel, often plundering
from the south west.
had, seen in a previous verse, observed that the presence of the Ark
represented ‘a god'
they put this ‘god' next to theirs, their god Dagon suffers badly.
It is almost laughable.
that was not all; the people of Ashdod started having tumours (large
boils) break out on them.
quickly associate these with the arrival of this ‘god' and so pass
it on to the next town, Gath.
break out there and so they move it quickly on to Ekron.
there is gets worse for death breaks out and the people there know
straight away what was happening and so the Ark gets sent back to
purpose of the tumours was obviously to discipline and bring this
people to their senses so that they would realise that this God was
not one to be trifled with.
best we might say is that they had plenty of warning with the tumours
in the first two towns before the judgment turned worse.
Judgment back in Israel
Judgment on the return of the Ark
Sam 6:14-21 The
cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped
beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and
sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. The Levites took
down the ark of the LORD, together with the chest containing the gold
objects, and placed them on the large rock. On that day the people
of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the
LORD. But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting
seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the
LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt
them, and the men of Beth Shemesh asked, "Who can stand in the
presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from
here?" Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim,
saying, "The Philistines have returned the ark of the LORD. Come
down and take it up to your place.
Ark is returned to Israel and initially the Levites treat it well.
some of the men of the area treat it almost as a tourist attraction
and look inside it – and they die. We aren't told how but it is attributed
to the Lord.
- The clear message again, is that the
Lord is holy and you should be very careful how you treat Him.
- It is all part of God's overall requirement
that Israel convey what they nkow of Him faithfully to the rest of
the world. This is All-mighty God we are dealing with here - Creator
of all things! Let's expand on this some more.
The Importance of the Nature of God
the chapter 20 in Part 20.5, ‘The Critical Nature of this action',
we pointed out that what was at risk here, in the instructions to
Israel to be distinct from the Canaanites, was the very future of
Israel, the possibility of the Gospel and, indeed, the very future
of the world which hinged on these things. We also noted that it is
all about the question, will Israel be able to be a holy nation that
reveals God and His goodness to the world, and will they remain
in existence as that people into which the Son of God may eventually
chapter 21 we considered that perhaps one of the reasons the Lord
persevered with Israel was to reveal His persevering grace and mercy
in the face of the ongoing sin and stupidity of the human race as
seen in Israel.
all these things are different elements of the revelation of or about
God. You may remember that the early chapters of this book are all
about the character of God and we focused on His love and goodness
and His perfection or holiness. It is that latter element that comes
to the fore here in 1 Samuel.
Lord has tolerated the driftings away again and again of Israel (seen
in Judges) and has simply disciplined them in an effort to draw them
back to Himself and to a place where they can receive His blessing
on their life as a nation. You would have thought that the Law of
Moses, and how it was received after the Exodus and at Mount Sinai,
would have been passed on to generation after generation who would
have learned from it, but one of the things that comes through in
the Bible, is that every generation has to learn for itself.
our respective nations we may have had godly people and many godly
experiences recorded in history but we, the present generation, have
to come to these things and come to belief for ourselves. Thus it
is that the Lord expressed Himself to subsequent generations in the
Old Testament to reiterate or confirm what earlier generations knew
– that He is holy, perfect, complete, morally upright and lacking
nothing and therefore utterly different.
because of the presence of Sin in every one of us, that propensity
to self-centredness and godlessness, it means He is having to confront
a resistance to repentance in all of us. We saw it earlier in this
chapter in respect of Eli and his sons, having been warned prophetically
twice, but refusing to repent. But, as we said before, the entire
life and future of the nation is at stake here and so there are times
when, for the sake of the nation and the sake of the world, it is
as if He has to up the stakes of judgment to shake up those who should
have known better and to maintain His reputation that He is
the God who is all-powerful
and all knowing, the Creator of this world, and is also
holy and perfect and good
and loving, but holding His people to account
that the rest of the world will see and understand. How they then
respond is up to them and He will hold them accountable at the end.
three instances we have seen so far in this chapter have had the same
end result but there are two different elements to be observed:
Eli, and his sons, and
no doubt others who heard about it, had had warnings from the Lord
through His (prophetic) word.
The Philistines would
have known about Israel's history even though they compartmentalised
it off from their own and their own experiences and own gods, and
it is clear from their responses that they were superstitious and
this at least would have put them on their guard against offending
‘the gods'. They knew what they were doing as soon as tumours started
appearing and after Dagon was brought down.
The men back in Israel
should have known better about how to treat the Ark. Israel were
a people of history and that history was all to do with God and
His dealings with them. Some of them surely would have passed on
the teaching and the testimony, and so they should have known better.
and again in these accounts we have to say, the people “should have
known better”. In the early chapters of Romans the apostle Paul makes
it clear that God holds us responsible according to the knowledge
or revelation we have and that comes in two ways:
revealed word of God, the Bible
for both of these means we have an issue with God for which He will
hold us to account. It was so in the people we've considered and is
The Making of a King, his rise and fall
the account of the life of Israel progresses through this book we
come to a point of time where we would expect a judgment, but don't
get one – at least not in the obvious way.
want a king
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel
at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not
walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the
other nations have.”
the truth was that Samuel's sons “did
not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted
bribes and perverted justice,” (v.3) but that wasn't
a good excuse for what they wanted.
Sam 8:7-9 And
the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying
to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me
as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out
of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they
are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let
them know what the king who will reign over them will do."
Lord sees their heart and sees through their excuses
spells out to them the cost of a king (v.11-18) but they refuse to
heed him even though he warns them, “When
that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have
chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”( v.18)
The Lord gives them a king and blesses him
what is incredible about all this is that, despite the people rejecting
the Lord, the Lord gives them exactly the man they are looking for
Saul was, “an impressive young man
without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the
others.” (9:2) Even more than this we find the Lord providing
for Saul and encouraging him in every way possible.
fill the picture more fully the Scriptures show
the Lord has Samuel anoint Saul, (10:1)
He changes Saul's heart, (10:9)
He gives him words of knowledge that are fulfilled
to encourage his belief, (10:2-7)
He sends His Spirit on him in power to release
him in prophecy, (10:10)
He reveals him as king through the drawing
lots process, (10:20,21)
He comes upon him by His Spirit to stir him
to rise up to lead His people, (11:6)
He sends fear on the people to encourage them
to rise up and obey Saul. (11:7)
In SEVEN ways the Lord is there for Saul to equip him and enable him
to be the king the people want. No one could say that the Lord hadn't
helped Saul. Seven is the number of perfection and so we might say
that the Lord has done everything He could to establish Saul.
tragedy of Saul is that despite all of the Lord's help, Saul uses
his own human reasoning again and again and gets it wrong. He gets
at Gilgal where he impatiently and wrongly
acted as a priest (13:8,9)
when he failed to destroy the Amalekites as
these he receives the Lord's censure through Samuel:
Sam 13:13,14 “Samuel
said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you;
if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for
all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought
out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people,
because you have not kept the LORD's command."
Sam 15:22,23,28 "
Does the LORD delight
in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice
of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better
than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected
the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king." …… "The
LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it
to one of your neighbors--to one better than you.”
chapter 16 on we see the rise of David although he does not become
king until Saul is eventually killed on the battlefield (at the very
end of the book). Whereas we might have expected the Lord to judge
and remove Saul, quite a long period of time passes before he dies
in battle and there is no reference to the Lord having a hand in it.
was known as a man after God's own heart (1 Sam 13:4 / Acts 13:22)
and we see this heart expressed when
David twice refuses to raise his hand against ‘the Lord's anointed'
(1Sam 24:6,10 & 26:9,11,16,23) – if the Lord wants to remove
him that is something else, and
anguishes when Saul and Jonathan die (2 Sam 1:17-27), and
anguishes when Abner was murdered (2 Sam 3:31-36)
he was clearly a warrior, a man of war, he respected even his enemies
and did not rejoice in their deaths. As with God, death was not something
to rejoice over.
judgments we have observed in 1 Samuel tend not to be so dramatic
as some of the earlier ones we have seen in the Pentateuch. The reason
for this is that deaths – which do appear to occur in line with divine
pronouncements – appear in more understandable circumstances, for
Eli's sons die in the midst of battle
Eli himself falls and with the rigidity of
old age breaks his neck
Saul also dies in the heat of battle
none of these cases is the Lord specifically ‘implicated' although
prophetic words beforehand suggested life would be terminated early.
over the border
it comes to the Philistines and the Israelites just over the border,
the Lord is specifically mentioned and the tumours can be attributed
to Him as can the death of some of the Philistines and the seventy
Israelites over the border.
Holiness of God
because of this there is clearly an air of holiness
and a requirement to acknowledge the holiness of the Lord that runs
right through the book:
Eli's sons are clearly disregarding the Lord
and ignoring any holy aspects of the priesthood and the priestly
Eli himself is similarly doing exactly the
same, as he fails to hold his sons to account.
The Philistines find themselves in trouble
when they seek to demean the name of the Lord, putting the Ark alongside
their idol and then for casually moving it around and instead of
seeking to quickly return it to Israel they pass it on one to another,
knowing bad things are associated with it and that it is obviously
The Israelites clearly have forgotten that the God who brought them
into being at Sinai is a holy God and who warned people not to even
touch the mountain on which He would be revealed without His consent.
Those watching Saul must have looked back over the part years how
he had suffered with an evil spirit and remembered how he had been
chastised by Samuel and realised that here was a man who fell short
of the requirements of the Lord God of Israel .
each case there is a learning element associated
with what happens. They all involve death but they are all observed
by onlookers and that is what makes them so important, things that
will stem the tide of unbelief and godlessness and the temptation
to worship ‘other gods'. Yes, each of these things will say things
to the onlookers:
When the Ark is taken and Eli and his sons die, his daughter-in-law
recognizes the awfulness of this and names her newly born son, Ichabod,
“the glory had departed (1 Sam 4:21,22). She knows that Israel are
in a terrible place where God's glory, His presence has left them.
The Philistines recognize that they have something or someone in
their midst who is more powerful than their inanimate idol, Dagon,
and they quickly realise His power and hence pass the Ark on to
the next unsuspecting city. They don't have full understanding but
they are starting to grasp that that there is something here bigger
and more powerful than anything they have known before.
The Israelites, watching their friends die off, because they have
looked inside the Ark , suddenly realise they are dealing with a
holy God who holds us accountable when we disdain Him. They realise
they are vulnerable and are also in the firing line if they behave
We aren't told how people felt about Saul's death but we do have
David's song of anguish over it, declaring, what a waste this was,
and implied behind that was how tragic it was that this man had
not learned and had not repented when he had been chided by the
Lord through Samuel. There were goods things about him but he had
failed to deal with the bad things.
is the key point that we must emphasise here, that these various deaths
were vital warnings to the rest of the nation that they were a special
people, a different people, a people marked out to reveal God to the
world. Part of that was to show that when we live contrary to God's
design, it always ends badly. Sometimes that is things brought specifically
by God while at other times they are things that are just the natural
outworkings of wrong behaviour.
balance this we should also emphasise the Lord's activity to warn,
help or encourage.
Eli received two prophecies to try to stir him to take action and
bring change before disciplinary judgment came
Saul, as we saw above, received at least seven things to help and
encourage him as he became king.
After he twice failed, he also received two sets of chastising which,
surely should have brought repentance in anyone less set in their
we can say from these things is that again and again God's grace is
revealed, enabling opportunities for people to repent and succeed.
The judgments only come after those expressions of grace have been
each of the things in this chapter come in a context of information
and warning. Prophecy abounds and where prophecy abounds people can
never say they were not warned. They may say they chose to disregard
it but that simply places the responsibility for the bad outcome on
them. These are serious lessons, powerful lessons and they are true.
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