SAMUEL! What memories rise up at the mention of this name-redolent with all that is lovely and dear to the Christian's heart—a name honoured of God, and coupled in His Word with that of Moses and Aaron, and David (Ps. 99:6; Jer. 15:1; Heb. 11:32). We love Samuel because he loved and honoured God. Jehovah had said by the man of God immediately preceding Samuel, "Them that honor Me I will honor" (1 Sam. 2:30), and this word was fulfilled to a marked degree in the career of Samuel, into whose instructive life we are about to look. This will appear in detail as we proceed in our study.
Suffice it to remark here, that through all the changes of times and government in Israel during his long life, from the rule of the judges, including his own, to that of the kingdom under the unhappy Saul, he was held constantly in honor, even in his retirement from public life in Ramah; and at his death he was universally mourned, and honoured with a national burial (I Sam. 25:1).
Samuel has been called "The Israelitish Aristides," but the comparison reflects honor on the Athenian rather than on the Hebrew. He was the first of the "successional prophets" (Acts 13:20; 3:24) though Moses, and even Abraham, were prophets before him (Ps. 105:15; Deut. 18:18).
His name, heard, or asked, of God, is strikingly indicative of one of the chief characteristics of his godly life of intercessory prayer, in which he sometimes, like his great Antitype, continued all night (1 Sam. 15:11; Luke 6:12). He ever: stood inflexibly firm for the word of God, as witness his prompt execution of Agag; and from his lips have come down to us the words spoken on that occasion, which have meant so much to the people of God ever since: "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Sam. 15:22). Yet we find that he was not devoid of tenderness; his mourning for the rejected Saul betokens a heart of more than ordinary sensitiveness (1 Sam. 16:1).
Samuel is one of the very few blameless characters of Biblical history; for we must not conclude from the complaint of the people (ever ready to exaggerate, when seeking an excuse for a course in which their conscience is uneasy), that Samuel had really failed in reference to his sons, or refused to remove them, had it been in his power to do so. It is possible that he was not as exacting of them in connection with the exercise of their judgeship as he should have been, though there is no certain evidence of this. They were his natural and legitimate successors, and were perhaps the best that Could be had at the time. No, we love to think of him as Samuel the Blameless, and honor him, not only for the exalted position he occupied, and for his work's sake, but for his personal excellences as well.
With these few words of introduction, we proceed to the happy task of a more minute examination of his life, his Character and his times.