Introduction to 1 and 2 Samuel
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #001
February 3, 2015
Tonight we are going to begin a study. I’ve been warning about this so to speak for the last six months; that we’re going to begin a study of 1 & 2 Samuel. We studied 1 & 2 Kings awhile back. We studied Judges and Ruth, and in between those two sections of Scripture we have the books of Samuel, 1 & 2 Samuel. I chose as a subtitle for the series The Battle is the Lord’s. This comes from 1 Samuel 18, when David is fighting Goliath, because we all face monsters, giants. We all face overwhelming circumstances in our life, and the only thing that can give us strength to overcome those horrific circumstances is a realization that it is not by our might or power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit; and that is the only way that we can overcome and address the challenges that we have in life. The battle is the Lord’s, and within the scope of 1 & 2 Samuel we’re going to see a lot of illustrations spiritually related to individuals, but we are also going to see a lot of implications for politics. 1 Samuel 7 is one of the greatest chapters related to political science in all of the Scripture, and is foundational for understanding the role of government and the role of authority as laid down in the Scripture. So that is going to be a significant chapter.
We see a lot related to authority especially during the time of Saul’s latter years, when he is chasing and persecuting David. Twenty-five different times Saul seeks to take David’s life, and yet David never retaliates. He never seeks to justify any kind of opposition against the authority of Saul, even though Saul is in rank carnality and rebellion against the Lord. David has already been anointed by Samuel to be the future king of Israel. David understood that any change was to be done by God and in God’s timing, and it wasn’t for him to instigate a rebellion or to attempt to overthrow Saul, or when he had the opportunity to take Saul’s life when he could have been justified. A rationale could be made that David had every right to do so because Saul was unjustly seeking David’s life. And many people would say that David, and in fact some of his own men said that David would have been perfectly justified to have taken Saul’s life on two different occasions; and yet David recognized the principle that he dare not even touch the Lord’s anointed. And at the one time that he cut the helm off of Saul’s robe, David was so overwhelmed by guilt afterwards that he came and made admission of his guilt to Saul and sought his forgiveness, recognizing that that was an act of supreme disrespect to the Lord’s anointed.
There are some harsh and hard lessons there for us because we live in a country, a democracy, where political criticism is a blood sport; and especially when there is an administration in power that is as hostile and antagonistic as it can possibly be to the principles of divine establishment and the principles of God’s Word. And yet, what we learn from Samuel is that there is never any justification for slander and gossip and maligning even when we think it is justified. And over the last several years I have noticed that just because we disagree with the administration, it seems like conservatives and many Christians will just believe anything that they hear on the Internet or from somebody else against this administration. Now it may or may not be true, but gossip is communicating information about someone else when you are not a part of the solution or a part of the problem; and it may be true, and it may not be true. Gossip is not spreading something false that’s slander, but it could be spreading something that is true, personally true. I think we have every right in this government under our situation to evaluate legal policies, legal philosophies, and things and decisions that are in the public realm that are against the Constitution and run contrary to the laws of this nation or run contrary to the laws of God and divine establishment.
But personal attacks, that often characterize so many of these kinds of attacks, are completely off base for anybody who is a believer. We cross over into this line. It is so easy with email, passing on emails to people; it’s just e-gossip. It’s e-gossip and i-slander, and Christians should not engage in that. We should always take the high ground. We should always be above the fray in these sorts of things and always focus on that which is demonstrable and objective.
But those are some of the lessons we’ll going to learn as we go through 1 Samuel. That even when things are at their darkest, and when we begin in 1 Samuel 1, things are at their darkest in the lowest point in the history of Israel. It is all because of their rejection of God; and when we end at the end of 2 Samuel we find that things have turned around 180 degrees. Israel is at the apex of their prosperity, their spiritual strength, and their blessing from God. And it is not because of something they did. They didn’t suddenly discover a better political philosophy, a better sociological theory, a superior economic approach; it’s because they shifted from disobedience to God to obedience to God. The ultimate causative factor in history is positive volition. It’s not suddenly discovering the Austrian School of Economics, the Chicago School of Economics, or socialism, or communism, or whatever the theory of the day is. It’s discovering the truth of God’s Word. Because when you start with the foundation of God’s Word and its emphasis on the five divine institutions, these other things are going to fall out naturally. We have to come to understand that this is God’s world, God’s creation, and He has established the laws on the basis of which society and politics is part of the structure of society, on the basis of how society works.
So we’re going to look at things in terms of cultural transformation, and that is going to emphasize the grace of God. I’ve often thought that 1 & 2 Samuel ought to be called the Gospel According to Samuel because it starts off with Israel in a condition of absolute spiritual depravity. They are under the heel, under the domination of the Philistines. They are, as it were, spiritually dead. There is no hope for them. They are fragmented under the moral and spiritual relativism of the period of the judges, as depicted especially in the family of Eli the high priest and his two sons, who are about as corrupt and self-absorbed and self-serving as any leader could possibly be. Yet Israel turns around; turns around because of godly righteous leaders like Samuel and later David, but it is God who is the One who makes the change. It’s not because they suddenly discovered some new method, some new theory, or some new philosophy. It’s that the people became obedient to the LORD, and fundamentally their leaders led them in that direction. It’s a factor of leadership. So what we are going to do tonight is begin with an introduction.
Next time we’ll get into an overview, and we’re going to be looking at both 1 & 2 Samuel because in the original Hebrew manuscript, it was one book. We saw the same thing with 1 & 2 Kings as well as 1 & 2 Chronicles. It is that when this was translated, the Hebrew text was translated into the Greek text in the Septuagint; by that time they were using scrolls, and there was a certain set length of the scroll; and it was too long to put all of these books onto one scroll, so they split them into two; and they became known as 1 & 2 Samuel. We’ll get into that in just a minute. So we start off with an Introduction to a book:
We always need to answer a few questions. Whenever you start to read anything, you need to do an overview whether you are reading a novel, whether you’re reading a history book, an economics book, a textbook; whatever it might be, fiction or non-fiction, get an understanding of the overview of the book. What is it talking about? So when we look at any book of Scripture, we always need to do some diligent work in just understanding some of the background. Typically this would go under the topic of an introductory Old Testament (OT) study or a survey of the OT. So we ask questions like:
What is the title of the book? Why is it called this? That is significant here. It was not so significant with 1 Peter. Who wrote Samuel? Who is the author? When was it written? When did these events take place?
Chronology is such an important factor. We are going to get into so many different issues related to events that you’ve never studied before, places you’ve never heard of before, people whose names are hard to pronounce, like Ishbosheth and Mephibosheth, and names that you probably would not call your dog because you can’t pronounce them. So we have to learn who these people are, the various battles that take place; there are some tremendous examples of warfare and battles that take place in these chapters, and there’s a lot to learn there in terms of personal courage and trust in the Lord because ultimately He is the One who controls the battle.
To whom was it written? In any book of the Bible we need to address that question. Who was the originally intended audience? We need to address the question: what is the backdrop?
We are so many centuries removed from this. The events covered in 1 Samuel basically go from about eleven hundred, maybe 1104/1105 B.C. with the prayer of Hanna, Samuel’s mother in 1 Samuel 1, up to just prior to the death of David at about 970 B.C. So we are looking at a period of about 130–140 years that are covered, roughly 1000 B.C. So we’re talking about a period 3,000 years ago in a world that was quite different. The technology was quite different. In fact one of the things that we learn in 1 Samuel is the importance of understanding arms control: the importance of understanding arms control because the Philistines have managed to advance into the Iron Age, but the Israelites were still in the Bronze Age. And we are told in 1 Samuel that the Philistines refused to allow blacksmiths to operate within Israel. It was gun control. It was an Iron Age–Bronze Age form of gun control, but it was gun control. It was arms control.
How do you keep a population in subjection? You prevent them from having the latest technology to defend themselves. And so the Philistines would not allow anyone who had skill with iron, any blacksmiths, to function. The Jews had to bring their metal plows and other tools to the Philistines in order to get them sharpened and in order to get them repaired. And very few Israelites soldiers had iron weapons. So you have a whole situation where you have an army that is armed with bronze weapons going against an army that is armed with iron weapons. It’s a great lesson there on the dangers of arms control and it’s a great time to study the importance of the 2nd Amendment. And then we will look at what the central message is in these books.
What is the central message? As I pointed out earlier, I think the central message revolves around the grace of God, that only God can turn things around in our lives. When things are an absolute mess it’s only the grace of God that can transform things form cursing to blessing. And then finally, the final question is just to get an idea of some of the key themes and characteristics of the book:
What are the key themes and characteristics? So the first question we are going to address is, what is the title of this book?
1. In the English Bible it is called Samuel, 1 & 2 Samuel. It gets this because the Septuagint divided these into two separate books. It was originally one book called Samuel in the Hebrew. The Septuagint divided it up into two, but it looked at these four books that we refer to as 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings as:
2. LXX First Kingdoms, Second Kingdoms, Third Kingdoms, and Fourth Kingdoms. Those are the titles in the Septuagint.
3. The Latin Vulgate was the first to entitle the first two books as Samuel and to identify them as Samuel.
4. It was divided due to the length of the scrolls.
Now the English title for Samuel is used because the first significant leader in the book is Samuel. 1 Samuel revolves around three key people: Samuel, Saul and David. If you’ve got that, you’ve got your outline for 1 Samuel. It is biographical basically. It’s Samuel, Saul and David, and once you get that down, then you can divide up and understand all of the other chapters. So Samuel is significant because he is both priest and judge. He’s the last of the judges in the period of the judges. Now the English word “judge” doesn’t convey the same idea as the OT concept of a judge. The OT concept of a judge was a cross between a military leader, a spiritual leader, and a civic leader in some cases. In a few cases they would make decisions in difficult cases and settle disagreements between people; but when we look at the book of Judges, and we’ll need to go back and do a couple of overviews on the book of Judges because that helps us understand the culture of the time, but when we look at that we see that they primarily seem to have a military function to deliver or rescue Israel from military opponents, and in some cases those who had brought then into subjection for a number of years.
So this is the reason Samuel is important. He is the last judge in the time of the judges, and he is arguably the greatest of all the judges. But he is also a failure. This is one of the things that we see in studying many books of the Bible: that the great spiritual leaders also are presented with all of their flaws and all of their failures. And Samuel, not unlike Eli, has sons that are not following the Lord and are not following him. So when in 1 Samuel 6–7 the people look at Samuel’s sons, they say “well we don’t have anyone who can take Samuel’s place. We want to have a king like everybody else.” And what do you hear there? What you should hear is they are still operating on a lack of trust for God. They are still operating on a moral relativism, which was the real problem during the period of the judges. So Samuel is both a priest and a judge, but he is also something else. He’s the first prophet following Moses. He’s really the first prophet taking the office of prophet in the OT. He will anoint the first two of Israel’s kings. He will anoint Saul, and then he will anoint David. So he also stands as sort of a type of Christ.
5. Now that phrase “type of Christ” is sort of an antiquated phrase. It means an example or a foreshadowing of the Person of Christ from the Greek word TUPOS, meaning a shadow image of something. Because Samuel was prophet, judge and priest. Christ is prophet, priest and King. So Samuel is prophet, priest and judge. He’s not a king. So he foreshadows these roles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now as I pointed out earlier, the first thing we need to address is, what is the title of the book? And a couple of other things we need to point out are that in the Hebrew Bible, Samuel was part of the Former Prophets. Remember, the Hebrew Bible is divided into three sections:
• The Law or the Torah.
Torah actually means in its core semantic meaning “instruction or teaching.” We think of it in a more technical sense of law in terms of the codification of the Mosaic Law. But Torah in its core meaning has an idea of instruction. It is teaching the people how they should live. And so that is the first division that is the first five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
• The next division has to do with The Prophets.
This goes from Joshua all the way through Ezekiel excluding in the English Bible Esther and 1 & 2 Chronicles.
• That (Esther and 1 & 2 Chronicles) comes under the category of The Writings.
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon and Lamentations; these all go in the category of The Writings. You have your former Prophets, which are: Joshua, Judges, (Ruth was in The Writings. Ruth wasn’t with “The Prophets,”), 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings. And then you have Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and The Twelve. That’s how it is organized in the Hebrew Bible. So Samuel is part of The Prophets called the Former Prophets. You had the Former Prophets and you had the Latter Prophets. The Latter Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and The Twelve.
6. In the English Bible, “Samuel” is in the section called Historical Books.
The English Bible is arranged like the Septuagint arranged things, so that you have the history of Israel in the first section. From Genesis through Esther it tells the history of the Jewish people. Those are mostly narrative type historical books; so Samuel is in the Historical Book section in the way that things are organized in the English Bible.
What is the title of the book? So we’ve looked at the title.
Who wrote Samuel? Well you all are going to say, “Well Samuel wrote Samuel. Isn’t that obvious?” Well, not exactly because Samuel doesn’t survive 1 Samuel. So who wrote the rest of it? Samuel dies around 1 Samuel 22 or so. I don’t remember exactly, somewhere in there. So who writes the rest of Samuel? Who writes into 2 Samuel? Samuel dies before David becomes king. So we have to address this issue of who wrote Samuel. Well, according to the Jewish Talmud:
1. Baba Bathra 14 b–15a indicates it was Samuel. But, as I pointed out, Samuel couldn’t write the whole thing.
2. Others have suggested that Samuel probably wrote the first fourteen chapters of Samuel. He might have written a little more. These are just guesses. And then Gad, who is the next major prophet would have written 1 Samuel 15–2 Samuel 8. And then the main prophet at that point following Gad is Nathan, who would have written 2 Samuel 9–24. Nathan probably lived into the first two or three years of Solomon’s reign. So the authorship would have been mixed. Now we don’t know that for sure. One thing we do know about Samuel is that Samuel authored some other works according to 1 Samuel 10:25 and 1 Chronicles 29:29 and according to 1 Samuel 10:5 he had a school of prophets. So there is a group of men who had the gift of being a prophet who worked together, and some of them had short term ministries. Some had other more significant ministries. We’re told about an unnamed prophet who confronted Eli earlier on in the book. So there were these other less well known, even unnamed, prophets who were operating. As part of that, they were keeping a record, and they were keeping a history of Israel at that time; and we know that there are references within the text of Scripture to other writings that the writers of Samuel and Kings would draw information from. So under the guidance and direction of God the Holy Spirit, they had access to these various historical records and chronicles; and then they would write sort of an editorialized view of history.
The historical books of the Bible are not history per se. It is not just stories. They are stories with a purpose: to teach various doctrinal points. They are God’s interpretation of history, especially in light of what He said in Deuteronomy and in light of the blessings and cursings part of the Mosaic Covenant. So as we read through the historical books of the OT, you really see the outworkings of the Mosaic Covenant and how God blesses Israel when they are obedient, and how He brings judgment upon Israel when they are disobedient. So we come to the next topic. So we’ve looked at the title, who wrote Samuel?
WHEN it was written?
1. Some people suggest a late date of 722 B.C. Now that is pretty late. There are a few peoples called the Deuteronmics School, there are a few more liberal scholars who try to date everything after the Exile or in the middle of the Exile. But there are some real problems with that, and most conservatives and evangelicals reject that. Some suggest that it reaches its final form around 722 B.C., which is when the Assyrians destroy the northern kingdom of Israel. Now in the process of collecting and bringing together the books into their final form, we don’t really know how that process took place or how long it took place. There are hints within the scope of the writing of these books that for example, you will read phrases that say something like “as it is today,” which indicates that the writer is pointing out that if you go to such and such a location you can see that something is still there at the time when it was written. Some times these later prophets, as they collected things under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, would insert editorial comments. They are not just their opinion: this is under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit pointing out the divine interpretation of these events. So some suggest a late date at the time of the defeat of the northern kingdom.
2. Others argue for the time of the division of the kingdom, around 930 B.C. when the northern kingdom is ripped away from the southern kingdom and you have the ten northern tribes go into a tax rebellion against specifically, primarily the tribe of Judah, and against Solomon’s son Rehoboam because he wanted to impose such heavy taxes upon the people. So this would make sense for some. It is based upon what appears to be an identification of the tribe of Judah as a distinct entity in several passages such as: 1 Samuel 11:8; 1 Samuel 17:52; 1 Samuel 18:16; and 1 Samuel 27:6. That it is written at a time when Judah seems to be separate from the northern kingdom. The weakness with that view is that 2 Samuel 5 also seems to treat Judah as a separate entity even when David is king and the kingdom is being united. So you can’t really rely on that.
3. Others will try to make the date around 960 B.C., which is just after Solomon became king. Part of the significance of what goes on in Samuel is that it is presenting a defense of the Davidic monarchy, why God replaced Saul and Saul’s dynasty with David and his family, and justifying the descent of the line through Solomon. And so some suggest that this occurred in 960 B.C. Solomon ascended the throne in 971 B.C. So this would have been just after Solomon became king, which is covered in the first couple of chapters in 1 Kings.
4. But most conservatives suggest that it occurred during David’s reign since the text doesn’t mention
David’s death at all. It ends before David dies. So the idea is that since it doesn’t mention David’s death that it reached about 98% of its final form before David died. So it is often thought that these other prophets, Gad and Nathan, were also involved in recording these events and in bringing this record to its final form.
Now when we look at the next question, “when did these events take place?” you have to put this within its historical context. When we were Israel back in November we had a guide for one day. You’ve heard me mention him before. We saw a little film that he did on The Sacrifice, Joel Kramer. Joel made an interesting observation. Joel at an earlier stage in his career pastored a church north of Salt Lake City and about 10 or 12 years ago he was producing some videos related to Mormonism, trying to educate and instruct Christians on how to evangelize Mormons and to understand some of the problems with Mormonism. Joel kept making an interesting point when we were looking at so many places: that you can go to the land of Israel, and you can go to Jericho, and you can go to Jerusalem, and you can go to Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal and Shem, and you can go to Samaria, and you can go to the Galilee in Capernaum and Magdala where Mary Magdalene was from. You can go to all these places because they happened at a particular geographical location at a particular time in history. You can study all that. But you pick up the book of Mormon, and you can’t go to any of those places. We don’t know where they are. There is never any archeological evidence that any of those places ever existed or any of those people ever existed.
The Bible is located in a specific time and in a specific place with specific people who up to a point are historically attested. Now just because they are not historically attested doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. It just means we haven’t uncovered evidence. In fact many liberal scholars rejected the idea that David was anything more than a legend until about 10–15 years ago when they discovered an inscription referencing the House of David. Then all of a sudden they think, “Well maybe David was a real person after all.” Nothing that has been discovered in archeology has ever contradicted or disproven anything in the Bible. So we need to look at a little time line to understand when these events took place. So here is the timeline starting from the left and moving to the right. Because remember we’re in B.C., so we’re starting with bigger numbers and moving to smaller numbers.
The benchmark date for Israel is 1446 B.C., which is when the Exodus occurred. This is when they left Egypt. They crossed the Red Sea and went to Mt. Sinai. How long were they at Mt. Sinai? Does anybody know? Test time! How many of you have been reading your Bible and paying attention? One year. They are at Sinai one year. They celebrated the first Passover as they got out of Egypt, and just before they left Sinai they celebrated the second Passover. So they are there a year. And then they left to go to the Promised Land, and they stopped at a place called Kadesh Barnea down in the Negev. From there they sent out the twelve spies. The spies came back because they didn’t understand their mission. They misinterpreted God and they thought that God said go and see “if” we can take the land; and God said, no, go and spy out the land that I’m going to “give to you.” So they failed to properly interpret the promise that was clearly there that God had already given them the land; and because they failed to interpret God literally, they came back scared to death! Ten of the twelve came back scared to death because there were giants in the land, there were many people in the land, and they had fortified cities and they said, “Ah! We can’t do it!” So God said because of their lack of faith, that generation would not be allowed to enter into the Promised Land.
So they spent how many years wandering around in the wilderness? 38? Okay, just wanted to make sure that you are paying attention to Scripture. The total is 40 years, but remember they already spent a year where? They spent a year at Sinai, and they spent another year at the end traveling around before they got in. So from 1446 B.C., when they came out of Egypt, until 1406 B.C. when they crossed the Jordon and entered into the Promised Land you have 40 years. Then there are about 6–7 years covering the period of the conquest, and that is covered in the first part of Joshua. Then they have to make a lot of administrative decisions, and that is the second part of Joshua. That is that section you get kind of bored with when you are reading through because it is like reading title deeds; because that is exactly what it is. God is describing what part of the land and where the borders and boundaries are between each of the tribal allotments. And then from 1399 B.C. to 1360 B.C. you have a period of consolidation. This is basically summarized in the Judges 1.
Then there is an approximately 300-year period known as the time of the Judges. This is a time when Israel goes through this cyclical pattern where they are disobedient to God, and God brings discipline upon them. They cry out for a deliverer, and God sends a deliverer and rescues them. And then we go through it all over again, teaching us that basically we want God to get us out of trouble, but we don’t want God to keep us out of trouble. We only want to come to Bible class when things aren’t going so well in our life. But when things are going pretty well, we don’t really need God. He’ll be handy when we need Him. So we treat Him like He’s a good luck charm, a talisman, a rabbit’s foot; and we just hope that when it comes time to rub the rabbit’s foot in the right way that God will do what He’s suppose to do. So we have the Period of the Judges, and things just get cyclically worse.
The Period of the Judges starts with the first judge whose name was Othniel. He becomes Caleb’s son-in-law. And nothing negative is said about Othniel or his wife, Acsah. She is treated with respect. She treats her father with respect. They honor one another, and she demonstrates wisdom. It is a very short vignette on Othniel and Acsah, but we see a woman who depicts some of the attributes of the godly woman in Proverb 31. A lot to say about the role of males and females in a regressive degenerate society, and what happens in the book of Judges. If you’ve never listened to my series on Judges, you need to do that, because as the Israelites get more and more degenerate, you get into role reversal and the women become masculinized, and the men become feminized, and you have role reversal.
One of the by-products of that kind of pagan role reversal is sexual abuse and abuse of women. So you come to the end of Judges, and you have a couple of episodes that are appendices tacked on at the end of the book, and you see how horribly they treated women. How sexist they became because the Bible teaches that God created males and females equally in God’s image, and they have different roles; but they are to be honored and respected. When you shift into paganism that reverses polarity, and once you have the breakdown in biblical role distinctions and you no longer understand biblical masculinity and biblical femininity, then you end up in a complete collapse of both marriage and the family, which is the foundation, the pillars of any stable society. That’s exactly where we are today; and this is where the situation ends up at the beginning of Samuel. And we see how even tough Elkanah honors his wife Hannah. He’s got a second wife. This is not honoring to his wife. So we see that marriage has been perverted, and you have polygamy. And you see how the role of both the man and the woman have broken down during this Period of the Judges.
So we have this Period of the Judges, and the last four Judges are Jephthah, Samson, Eli, and Samuel. Now a lot of people don’t understand this. When you go through the book of Judges, the Judges go from bad to worse. And they are described warts and all. The only one that has no warts is the first one, Othniel; and the last one which is Samson in the book of the Judges. Eli and Samuel are both in 1 Samuel. The last judge, who is Samson: there is nothing good said about him. He’s a womanizer. He has tremendous disrespect for his parents. He has disrespect for God. There’s not anything that he does that has any spiritual significance whatsoever. He is disobedient to God. He disobeys his Nazarite vow time and time again. It’s not until he is captured and has his eyes put out by the Philistines that he finally decides well maybe he needs to obey God; and he has his one moment of triumph right at the end when he destroys the temple of Dagon where they’ve held him as a captive. So that’s Samson.
The next to the last judge is Jephthah. Jephthah is a little bit better than Samson, but he is the son of a prostitute. He grows up on what we would call the east bank over in Jordan, the Transjordan area. He is a brigand. He doesn’t know a whole lot of doctrine. He doesn’t know a whole lot about the Bible, which is typical of some of these judges; and he enters into a bargain with God. God has already commissioned him to defeat the Ammonites who are oppressing Israel from the east. The Ammonites had their capital in a place called Rabbah, which today is known as what? Amman, the capital of Jordan. So they are coming from that direction. They are defeating, they’re oppressing the Israelites, and in comes this brigand, this land pirate. You know, he’s just one step removed from a terrorist. But he knows how to win battles and he’s a believer, but he really doesn’t have a whole lot going for him other than that; and he decides that the way to really make sure that God is going to give him victory in the battle is that he’s going to make a deal with God that he’ll sacrifice whatever comes out of the door of his house to meet him when he comes home; that he’ll sacrifice that to God as an olah, as a burnt offering.
Now in our studies on the birth of Christ and the manger, remember I pointed out, in the ancient Near East for hundreds of years the people built their houses. This is seen archeologically. They would have an inner courtyard and inner stable where they would bring the animals inside the house in a special area, especially during inclement weather. You don’t want your animals dying out in the cold. It gets cold over there. There was snow again this year in Jerusalem. So you would bring these animals, your most prized possessions, inside the house. And so Jephthah would have thought that when he came home maybe a sheep or goat or a calf would come out of the house. But his daughter comes out, and the Scripture says he did to her exactly what he vowed. He offered her as a human sacrifice to God. Some people try to get around that because they are too squeamish. They don’t understand that what the writer of Judges is teaching is that each progressive generation is getting more and more like the Canaanites. When you start off, there is a clear distinction between the Israelites and the Canaanites, but by the time you get to the end of the book of Judges, which is the same basic time period at the beginning of Samuel, you basically have a culture that is more depraved and more pagan than the Canaanites. They are out Canaaniting the pagans because they’ve rejected God, and that happens to every culture.
So you have this period of the judges and the way I have those names staggered is that Jephthah and Samson basically overlap. Samson’s judgeship, he’s focused on the oppression from the Philistines, which is down toward the Gaza strip. You have Gaza, and Gath, and Ekron, and Ashkelon. These are the areas of the Philistines, and then Jephthah is across the Jordan. Eli is in the center of the hill country in Samaria as is Samuel and they overlap one another. So they are very close in time. Something you don’t always get from reading the Scripture. So that is the period of the judges. And then this is going to be followed by the period of the united monarchy of Saul the first king, David the second king, Solomon the third king. I always like to ask people a little trivia question. Who is the first person anointed king and crowned king of Israel? Abimelech. I am glad that some of you have listened. It is not Saul. In Judges 9 Abimelech, whose name means “my father’s king” is anointed and crowned king by the citizens of Shechem. Now I did not say who was the first person God anointed to be king? I said who is the first person crowned king of Israel? And it says in the text that the men of Shechem crowned Abimelech king of Israel.
Now here is our time slide:
Jephthah’s dates are roughly 1150 to 1100 B.C. Samuel, according to the chronology I based this on, is born about 1115 B.C. Others would put it a little later at 1105 B.C., but somewhere 1115–1105 B.C. So he is born before Jephthah dies. Samson is born in 1123 B.C., when Jephthah is about 25 years of age, and he dies in 1084 B.C. Samson’s life clearly overlaps that of Samuel. Saul is going to become king in 1050 B.C. That is only 34 years after Samson dies. It is important to understand. These are very close together and they overlap. Samson lived from 1115–1020 B.C. Saul lived from 1075–1011 B.C., which is when David becomes king. You have the Ammonite oppression to the east. You have the Philistine oppression to the south. And when you get to the end of the book of Judges, Samson is the only judge that doesn’t deliver the people. The book of Judges is very depressing. It ends on a horrific note, a horrible note. There is civil war with Benjamin, so that at the end of Judges, you are just looking at the survivors of Benjamin, and you say this is the most spiritually depraved tribe in the entire country. Where did Saul come from? Saul comes from Benjamin. God’s making a point. That did not happen by chance. He chose someone from Benjamin for a particular point. So we’ll see this slide again, but it helps us to see the connection between the key players at the beginning of 1 Samuel and the last two judges in the book of Judges.
Now we come to the next question, which is, to whom was this written?
Well, most agree that 1 Samuel was written to the generation of Jews in Solomon’s time. It is giving them a divine viewpoint picture of where they came from out of that low point when they bottomed out during the period of the judges to the high point with David, to teach the people that the only way that your culture is going to survive is if you are walking with God. If you’re not walking with the Lord, if you are disobedient to the law of God, the instruction of God, then your culture is going to implode. When it implodes it becomes weak, and then foreign aggressors will dominate. So the book was written. Part of it may have been written to teach Solomon about the importance of obedience to the covenant, that that would bring prosperity and blessing both individually as well as nationally. Individually it would bring an abundance of children. The children would be spiritually positive, and there would be longevity of the kings. Nationally it would bring success plus prosperity, economic prosperity. They would have victory over their enemies, and they would extend their sphere of influence.
The next question has to do with the backdrop. What is the backdrop? Understanding the backdrop, and primarily we understand this in light of what I’ve already taught, it’s the spiritual dimension that’s the most important. Judges 17:6 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel.”
“No king in Israel” is sort of a double entendre. It indicates there’s no physical king in Israel, but the real king according to the Mosaic Law was God. It is a theocracy. God is to rule over Israel in the Mosaic Law. God is the ultimate Ruler, and where the leaders would meet God is at the tabernacle with the priest, and God was king. But they had rejected. There is no human king, and they had rejected God as their King and substituted their own opinions. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. And there’s no clearer indictment of our nation today than that statement. Everyone is doing what’s right in their own eyes. And the end result of that is spiritual anarchy, moral anarchy, and that leads to economic and political anarchy. Everything will fall apart unless you have what? Either one of two things, either there is a massive spiritual shift and the people turn back to God, or you have to have a strong man authority to come in and establish a dictatorship or tyranny or a monarchy, because if the people are behaving irresponsibly and like juveniles without any respect for authority, to prevent absolute chaos, somebody has to be the adult in the room. And historically this is what happens. If the people refuse to exercise their freedom responsibly, which is where this nation is, then you only have two options, either turn back to God and grow up and become mature, or somebody will make you do it through the force of government.
Judges 21:25 says the same thing, “… there is no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
When God the Holy Spirit repeats Himself with two verses that are identical, He really wants you to pay attention to that point. That is the backdrop for understanding the situation.
At this time the Philistines are the strong power. The Egyptians are weak. What destroyed the Egyptian monarchy, the Egyptian hegemony? What destroyed it was the Exodus. The 10 plagues wiped them out economically, militarily, politically, so that Egypt isn’t mentioned again in the Bible until you get into the period after the division of Israel into the northern and southern kingdom, roughly around 940–930 B.C. So for roughly 500 years the Bible is silent about Egypt. Egypt dominates up until the Exodus; and it will dominate and be a major player against Israel again after 940 B.C. But in the meantime they are silent. Egypt is trying to reestablish their power and their economy down in Africa. The Assyrians have risen partially once, but they got pushed back by the Arameans, so they haven’t risen on the horizon yet. You are left with a power vacuum south of the Hittite Empire, which is in modern Turkey south of Syria; and it is in that vacuum that David rises, and Solomon, and they extend the empire.
The other great empire that’s taking place at this time are the Phoenicians in Tyre and Sidon, but their focus is maritime. They control the Mediterranean. Long before it was a Roman lake it was a Phoenician lake, and they controlled it and sent their traders out. So as David came up, he entered into an alliance with Hiram of Tyre. And David controls all of the land routes, all of the interstates going through the Middle East. He’s in control of it, and everything on the sea is controlled by Hiram the king of Tyre; and between the two of them, they dominate the world. There is a peace like the Pax Romona later on. There’s a peace in the world to some degree at that particular time. That gives us a bit of an introduction.
Next time I’ll bring out some of the theological themes as we go through a flyover of both 1 & 2 Samuel. I’m going to try to cover… I’ve covered Revelation in 30 minutes or 45 minutes, but to cover 1 & 2 Samuel in one hour will be a bit of a challenge. But all you have to do is to remember basically it’s Samuel, Saul, David; and then you see the establishment of David in Hebron; then you see the rise and solidification of David’s kingdom; and then the collapse of David’s kingdom due to his carnality in the second half. If you’ve got that, you’ve got everything. You can figure it all out from there.