Monday of Week 1 Per Annum (10th January): I Samuel 1.1-8; Psalm 115; Mark 1.14-20
The 54 chapters of the two books called Samuel continue the history of Israel after the book of Judges. It begins with the story of the birth of Samuel, who is consecrated as a prophet even before he is born, and continues long after Samuel’s death until nearly the end of King David’s reign. It is impossible to say who the author of this lengthy work was.
The sons of the high priest Eli, Hophni and Phineas, are candidly dismissed as ‘scoundrels who cared nothing for the lord.’ [2.12] Like the book of Judges with its repeated refrain that ‘there was no king in Israel, and every man did as he pleased’ [Judges 21.25] the books of Samuel from the first set out the necessity for the establishment of monarchy in Israel. The judges could not keep the nation true to the Torah, the gracious ‘teaching’ of the lord; neither could the priests. Monarchy, though, wasn’t an inevitable development; Samuel himself expressed extreme reluctance about it [I Samuel 8.7-9] and Moses was said to have prophesied darkly about the likely misdeeds of a future king. [Deuteronomy 18.14-20; 28.36-37]
Samuel (who lived in the 11th Century Before Christ), therefore, is a transitional figure: the last of the judges, and the one who would anoint the first two of Israel’s kings. According to the Chronicler [I Chronicles 6.33], Elkanah his father was a Levite (that is, of the hereditary priestly line), though that isn’t mentioned in I Samuel. Like many others, Samuel’s birth is presented as the lord’s gracious act in the life of a barren woman. [cf Luke 1.7]