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Samson's "serpent-like attacks and adder's bites" did
not deter the Philistines from considering the tribes
within reach as their subjects, or more correctly
speaking as their slaves, nor did it prevent them from


ill-treating the Israelites. Jephthah's victories over
the Ammonites did not cause the enemy to relinquish
his claims over the eastern tribes of Reuben, Gad,
and the half of Manasseh.

After the deaths of Jephthah and Samson, the
state of affairs became still more dismal. It was,
however, precisely this sense of extreme weakness
which led to a gradual recovery of strength. Several
tribal leaders must have come to the conclusion that
this connection with neighbouring populations, and
the adoption of idolatrous customs had brought
the people to the verge of ruin. The remembrance
of the God of their fathers no doubt once more
revived in their hearts, and awakened their sleeping
consciences to a sense of duty. The men who had
been thus aroused called to mind the Sanctuary
dedicated to their God at Shiloh, and they repaired

Towards the close of the judges' period, Shiloh
once more became a general rallying point. Here
the Levites, the guardians of the Law, still resided,
and they used their opportunities to urge, at the
meetings held in times of distress, that a denial of

o '

Israel's God and the worship of Baal had brought
all this misery upon the people. There also lived
in Shiloh a priest who was worthy of his ancestors
Aaron and Phineas. He was the first Aaronite,
after a considerable time, whose name has been
recorded for posterity. He was simply called Eli,
without the addition of his father's name, and the
only title of honour he bore was that of the priest
at Shiloh. Eli is described as a venerable old man,
on whose lips were words of gentleness, and who
was incapable of giving utterance to severe censure,
even of his unworthy sons.

This aged man could not fail to exercise a bene-
ficial influence, and win warm adherents to the Law
which he represented, if only by the example of his
moral worth, and by the holy life he led. When


Shiloh was visited, in ever-increasing numbers, by
desponding worshippers from the tribes of Ephraim
and Benjamin, as also from the tribes on the trans-
Jordanic side, some were murmuring at the suffer-
ings imposed upon them, and others complaining of
the hard treatment they endured at the hands of the
Ammonites; but Eli would exhort them to rely on
the ever ready help of the God of Israel, and to give
up the worship of strange gods.

By such exhortations he might have brought about
a better state of mind among his hearers, if the
respect felt for him had been likewise enjoyed by his
two sons, Hophni and Phineas. They, however, did
not walk in the ways of their father; and when the
people and Eli were overtaken by severe misfor-
tunes, these were supposed to be a punishment of
heaven for the sins of Eli's sons, and for the weak
indulgence displayed by the High Priest.

The Philistines still held sway over the tribes in
their vicinity, and made repeated attacks and raids
on Israel's lands. The tribes attacked became so far
skilled in warfare that they no longer sought to
oppose the enemy in irregular skirmishes, but met
them in open battle. The Israelites encamped on
the hill Eben-ha-Ezer, and the Philistines in the plain
near Aphek. As the latter possessed iron war-
chariots they proved superior to the Israelites, of
whom four thousand are supposed to have fallen in
battle. The Israelite warriors, however, did not take
to flight, but kept to their posts.

In accordance with the counsel of the elders, the
Ark of the Covenant was brought from Shiloh, it
being believed that its presence would ensure
victory. Eli's sons were appointed to escort it.
Nevertheless, the second battle was even more
disastrous than the first. The Israelite troops
fled in utter confusion ; the Ark of the Covenant
was captured by the Philistines, and Hophni and
Phineas, who attended it, were killed. The Philis-


tines pursued the fleeing troops, and spread terror in
every direction. Breathless with fear, a messenger
of evil tidings arrived in Shiloh, and brought the sad
news to the anxious people, and to the high priest
Eli, who was sitting at the gate.

The news that the Ark of the Covenant had been
captured affected the aged priest even more than that
of the death of his sons ; he dropped down dead from
his seat. It now seemed that all glory had departed
from the house of Israel. The victorious Philistines,
no longer content to make foraging expeditions
through the country, forced their way from west to
east until they reached the district of Shiloh. They
destroyed that town, together with the Tabernacle,
which had been a witness to the blissful days of
Moses. A later poet describes this time of trial with
a heavy heart. 1

The strength and courage of the people were
entirely overcome by this defeat. Those tribes which
until now had been foremost in every encounter
were crushed. The tribe of Ephraim suffered
though not undeservedly most severely by the
overthrow of the Sanctuary, which, in Eli's time, had
been recognised as a place for popular meetings.
Every chance of union, especially amongst the
northern tribes, who, however, had not been con-
cerned in the disastrous strife, seemed to be cut off.

The Philistines were impressed with the idea that
by capturing the Ark of the Covenant which they
supposed to be the safeguard of the Israelites and
by destroying the Sanctuary, they had vanquished
the Israelite people. But they were painfully unde-
ceived. As soon as they had carried off the Ark of
the Covenant to the neighbouring town of Ashdod,
the country was visited by various plagues. In their
terror, the Philistine princes determined to follow the
advice of their priests and magicians, and send back

1 See Psalm Ixxviii. 60-64 ; Jeremiah vii. 12.


the Ark, accompanied by expiatory offerings, after it
had been in their possession for seven months. It
was accordingly sent over the boundaries, and taken
to the town of " Kirjath Jearim " (Forest Town), situ-
ated on a hill, where it was guarded by the Levites
of the district ; but it was so little missed by the
people that decades passed before they even remem-
bered their loss. In the eyes of the untutored
Israelites, neither the contents nor the great age of
the tablets of the Law preserved in the Ark were of
great importance. Meanwhile these misfortunes
the destruction and loss of the Sanctuary at Shiloh
had aroused a desire for a better state of things.
Those who were not utterly indifferent could per-
ceive that the true cause of the evil lay in the
religious and political dissensions. The Levites, who
had escaped during the destruction of Shiloh, and
had settled in other towns, probably prepared the
public mind for a return to the belief in God. Per-
haps also the return of the Ark of the Covenant
from the land of the Philistines exercised an ani-
mating influence, and raised hopes of better days.
The longing for the God of Israel became daily
more widely diffused, and the want of a steadfast
and energetic leader was keenly felt a leader who
would bring the misguided people into the right
path, and raise up those who were bowed down with
sorrow. And just at the right moment a man ap-
peared who brought about a crisis in Israel's history.

Samuel, the son of Elkanah, was the man who
reunited the long-sundered bonds of communal life
amongst the Israelites, and thereby averted the
threatening decay and internal corruption. His
greatness is illustrated by the circumstance that he
is placed second to Moses not only in chronological
sequence, but also in prophetic importance. 1

Samuel was an elevated character. He displayed
the same unbending conscientiousness towards him-

1 Jeremiah xv. i ; Psalms xcix, 6.


self as towards others. Living amidst the people,
coming into daily contact with them, he surpassed
the men of his time in love of God, purity of heart,
and unselfishness. In addition to these qualities he
was distinguished by the gift of prophecy. His
spiritual eye pierced the clouds which hid the future.
He proclaimed his prophetic visions, and they came
to pass. Samuel was descended from one of the
most distinguished Levitical families, from the same
Korah who had incited the rebellion against Moses
in days of old. Samuel inherited intensity of feeling
from his mother Hannah, whose fervent though
inaudible prayer has formed a model for all ages.
At a tender age his mother secured a place for him
as one of the attendant Levites in the Sanctuary at
Shiloh. He had daily to open its gates; he took
part in the sacrificial service, and he passed his nights
within the precincts of the tabernacle.

At an early age the gift of prophecy, unknown to
himself, was awakened within him. Whilst wrapped
in deep sleep he heard himself called from the
inner recess of the Sanctuary where the Ark of
the Covenant reposed. This was Samuel's first
vision, and happened previous to the defeat of the
Israelites by the Philistines, the capture of the Ark
of the Covenant, the death of Eli and his two sons,
and the destruction of the Sanctuary. Samuel's
services ceased with the last-named event, and he
returned to his father's house at Ramah in deep

The misfortunes which had befallen his people,
and especially the ruin of Shiloh made an over-
powering impression on Samuel, whose youthful
mind was filled with the highest aspirations. In the
Levitical circle, in which he had grown up, it was a
fixed belief that the trials undergone by the people
resulted from their denial of the God of Israel. To
have no Sanctuary was considered equivalent to
being without God.



The sacred writings enshrined in the Ark enjoined
righteousness, justice, mercy, and the equality of all
Israelites without distinction of class, as commanded
by God; but little or nothing was said of sacrifices.
Samuel, who was nearer by many centuries to the
origin of the Israelitish nation than were the later
prophets, was, like them, convinced of the fact that
God had not ordained the deliverance of His people
solely in order that they might sacrifice to Him
only, but that they might carry His laws into effect.
The contents of these records of the Law represented
the will of God which the Israelites were to follow
with implicit obedience. This Law was a living force
in Samuel's heart, and he grew to be the medium by
which it became indelibly impressed on the people;
to give effect to its teaching was the task of his life.

The fact of having no Sanctuary was, as has been
shown, deemed equivalent to being abandoned by
God. Gradually, however, Samuel seems to have
taken up a different train of thought No Sanctuary,
no burnt-offerings. " Is sacrifice absolutely neces-
sary for a pure worship of God, and for a holy life
in His ways?" This thought became matured within
him; and later, on a fitting occasion, he preached on
this theme thus: The sacrifices are of little impor-
tance; the fat of rams cannot win God's approba-
tion ; in what, then, should the service of God consist ?
"In strict obedience to all that He has com-
manded." During his sojourn in Shiloh, Samuel had
not only made himself acquainted with the contents
of the stone tablets which were kept in the Ark of
the Sanctuary, but he became versed also in the
book of the Law emanating from Moses, and he
was entirely filled with their spirit. The living word
was the means which he employed to attain his end,
for he was endowed with impressive eloquence.
From time to time he had prophetic dreams and
visions. These revealed to him that his convictions
were not the mere suggestions of his own mind or


heart, but were sanctioned or inspired by a higher
Being. The prophetic inspirations consisted of
teachings or commands; they were combined with
an unveiling of the near future, and bore the char-
acter of revelations. Animated by his prophetic
visions, Samuel communicated them to his hearers,
probably at his native place, Ramah, where his repu-
tation had preceded him. These communications,
which foreshadowed extraordinary events beyond
the limits of common foresight, he seems to have
expressed in orations and in rhythmic utterances,
abounding in poetic metaphors and similes.

Whilst in Shiloh, he had been repeatedly vouch-
safed prophetic visions, and these had been con-
firmed. It soon went forth in the environs of Ramah,
and in ever-widening circles that a prophet had
arisen in Israel, and that the spirit of God, which
had rested on Moses and had led him to deliver the
children of Israel from Egypt, had now descended on
the son of Elkanah. In the interval, during a long
succession of centuries, no prophet, in the full sense
of the word, had arisen. The fact that God had
raised up a second Moses encouraged the hope
that better times were at hand. Samuel's first en-
deavour was to reclaim the nation from the idola-
trous worship of Baal and Astarte, and from a
superstitious belief in the oracular powers of the

The desire of a portion of the people to abandon
their evil ways materially assisted Samuel in his
efforts. His irresistible eloquence was concentrated
in the one theme that the gods of the heathen were
nonentities who could neither help nor save. He
declared that it was folly and sinful to consult the
lying oracles and the jugglery of the soothsayers,
and that God would never desert the nation whom
He had chosen. These words found a powerful
response in the hearts of those who heard them.
Samuel did not wait for the people to come to him


in order that he might address them, but he went
forth to them. He travelled through the whole land,
appointed public meetings, and announced to the
multitudes the lessons revealed to him by the spirit
of God; and the people, stirred by his prophetic
utterances, and roused from the lethargy into which
they had been plunged ever since their misfortunes
had commenced, now began to revive. The right
man had come, whose words could be followed in
days of care and trouble. The eyes of the nation
naturally turned towards him.

Had Samuel stood alone, he would scarcely have
been enabled to effect so desirable a transformation.
But he had a number of assistants on whom he could
rely. The Levites, whose home was in Shiloh, had
fled when the town and the Sanctuary were de-
stroyed. They had been accustomed to surround
the altar and to serve in the Sanctuary. They knew
no other occupation. What were they to do now in
their dispersion? Another place of worship had not
yet been founded to which they might have turned.
Several Levites therefore joined Samuel. His great-
ness had impressed them when he lived in Shiloh,
and he now employed them to execute his plans.
Gradually their numbers increased until they formed
a band of associates (C/iebel], or Levitical guild
(Kehillali}. These disciples of prophecy, headed by
Samuel, contributed materially to the change of
views and manners among the people.

Another circumstance served at that time to rouse
the nation from its apathy. During the entire period
of the Judges' rule, the men of Judah had not taken
the slightest share in public events. Dwelling far
away in their pasture-fields and deserts, they seemed
to have no part in the life of the other tribes. They
called themselves by the name of Jacob. Utterly
secluded, they led a separate existence, untouched by
the sorrows and joys, the battles and conquests, of
the tribes living on both sides of the Jordan. The


Jebusites, who possessed the district between the
mountains of Ephraim and Judah, formed a barrier
between these tribes and the Israelites dwelling in
the north.

It was only the repeated incursions of the Philis-
tines on Israel's territory which seem to have
aroused the tribe of Judah, and forced it out of its
retirement. It was probably to strengthen them-
selves against the attacks of their enemy, who
sought to lay the yoke of serfdom on their necks,
that the men of Judah stretched out a helping hand
to the neighbouring 1 tribes. Whatever circumstance

& o

may have influenced them, it is certain that in
Samuel's days, the tribe of Judah with its depen-
dency, the tribe of Simeon, took part in the com-
mon cause. Jacob and Israel, divided during all
the centuries since they first entered Canaan, were
now at length united. It was, without doubt,
Samuel who brought about this union.

Judah's or Jacob's entry into history marks the
accession of a new, vigorous and rejuvenating ele-
ment. The tribe of Judah had found but few towns,
and by no means a developed town liie in the terri-
tories it had acquired. The only city worthy of note
was Hebron ; the other places were villages for
cattle-breeders. Both the refinement and the de-
pravity resulting from the influence of the Philistines
had remained unknown to the tribes of Judah and
Simeon. The worship of Baal and Astarte, with its
coarse and sensual rites, had not established itself
among them. They remained, for the most part,
what they had been on their entry into the land
simple shepherds, loving peace and upholding their
liberty, without any desire for warlike fame or for
making new conquests. The simple customs of patri-
archal life seem to have endured longer in Judah than
elsewhere. This accession of strength and religious
activity could certainly not have been rendered pos-
sible without Samuel's commanding and energetic


intervention. The son of Elkanah, though no war-
rior, was looked upon as a firm supporter on whom
both houses could lean. For many years Samuel,
assisted by the prophetic order of Levites, pursued
his active course with zeal and energy; the people
regarded him as a leader, and he, in fact, by his
inspired zeal, led them on to conquest. A victory
gained near Eben-ha-Ezer, where, many years before,
the Philistines had overcome the Israelite troops and
had carried off much booty, now produced a mighty
effect: it revived the courage of the Israelites and
humbled the Philistines.

During the next decade the people once more
enjoyed the comforts of peace, and Samuel took
measures that prosperity should not efface the good
results of previous misfortunes. It was his earnest
endeavour to consolidate the union between the
tribes, which was the true foundation of their
strength. Year after year he called together the
elders of the people, explained to them their duties,
and reminded them of the evil days which had
befallen the Israelites through their godlessness,
their intermarriage with strange nations, and their
idolatrous excesses; he also warned them against a
return to these errors. Such assemblies Samuel held
by turns in the three towns which came into notice
after the destruction of Shiloh namely, in Bethel, in
Gilgal, and in Mizpah where prayers for victory over
the Philistines had been offered up in the former
campaign. At Ramah, the place of his residence,
frequent meetings of the various tribes took place ;
and here the elders sought his advice in all im-
portant matters. At divine services Samuel not
only caused sacrifices to be offered up, but with the
aid of the Levites he introduced the use of stringed
instruments in order to arouse the devout feelings of
the people.

Through him a new element was introduced into
the divine service of the Israelites viz., songs of


praise. Samuel, the ancestor of the celebrated
psalmists, the sons of Korah, was the first who com-
posed songs of praise for divine service. His grand-
son, Heman, was considered the chief psalmist and
musician, and he ranked in fame with Asaph and
Jeduthun, who flourished in the subsequent genera-
tion. The charms of poetry and music were by
Samuel brought to bear upon the religious service,
and they left a lasting and ennobling impression on
the minds of the people. The employment of choirs
of Levites and singers rendered the sacrificial rite of
minor importance.

The priests, the sons of Aaron, took up a less
respected position, and were, to a certain extent,
neglected by Samuel. Achitub, a grandson of Eli,
had saved himself after the destruction of Shiloh by
taking refuge in the small town of Nob, near Jeru-
salem. He had carried away with him the high
priest's garments; and various members of the
house of Aaron having assembled there, Nob be-
came a sacerdotal town. Here, it seems, Achitub
had erected an altar, and also a tabernacle on the
model of the one which had been destroyed in
Shiloh. He even appears to have made an Ark
of the Covenant in Nob, instead of the one carried
off by the Philistines. The Israelites apparently
disregarded the fact that the new ark was wanting
in the essential contents, the stone tablets of the

Notwithstanding the eventful changes effected by
Samuel through his great gifts and untiring energy,
the condition of the people was anything but satis-
factory. He had given special attention to the cen-
tral and southern districts, and had appointed his two
sons, Joel and Abijah, to act as judges the one in
Beer-sheba, the other in Bethel but the north was
left unrepresented.

With increasing years Samuel could not display
the same activity as in his youth and riper man-


hood. His sons were disliked, being accused of
misusing their power and of accepting bribes.
There were no men of energy amongst Samuel's
followers, and thus the ties which held the people
together gradually slackened. In addition it must
be noted that just at this period the country of
Israel's greatest enemies was transformed into a
kingdom. The Philistines had either of their own
free will chosen a king, or had been forced to do so
by one of the rulers of their five cities. The town of
Gath became the capital. The ambition of the Phil-
istine king now turned in the direction of fresh con-
quests; he seems to have made successful attacks on
the Phoenicians, and to have laid waste the town of
Sidon. In consequence of their defeat the Sidonians
took refuge in their ships, and on a rock which pro-
jected far out into the sea they built a town which they
called Zor (Tyre), the city of the rock. Meanwhile
the Philistines became possessors of the entire terri-
tory between Gaza and Sidon, and it seemed easy to
them, with their increased power, to subjugate Israel;
hence a fierce warfare ensued between them and the
Israelites. The Ammonites also, who had been
humiliated by Jephthah, now rose again under their
warlike king Nahash, and began to invade the pos-
sessions of the tribe of Gad and the half of Manasseh.
Powerless to defend themselves, these tribes sent
messengers to Samuel, entreating him to supply
efficient aid. They at the same time expressed a
wish which, though entertained by the entire people,
was deeply painful to the prophet. They demanded
that a king should be placed at the head of the
Israelite community, who could compel the various
tribes to unite in joint action, and might lead them
to battle and to victory. There was now to be a
king in Israel. Samuel was amazed when he heard
these demands. A whole people was to be de-
pendent on the whims or the will of a single indi-
vidual ! Equality of all members of the nation before


God and the law, the entire independence of each
family group under its patriarchal head, had become
so identified with their mode of life, that any change
in their condition seemed incomprehensible and
fraught with the heaviest misfortunes.

It was now necessary to give a new direction to
the destinies of the people. Samuel's clear intellect
disapproved of the radical change ; yet his inherent
prophetic gift compelled him to accede. The king-
dom of Israel was brought forth in pain : it was not
the offspring of affection. Therefore it never could
find a natural place in the system of Israel's organisa-
tion, but was at all times considered by more dis-
cerning minds as a foreign element.



Establishment of a Kingdom Saul His Position and Character
His secret Election at Mizpah Humiliating Condition of the
Nation under the Philistines Declaration of War Assemblage

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