The Books of the Kings.

(From the Second Pentateuch of the Old Testament in volume 2 of the Numerical Bible)

F. W. Grant.

That the king is contemplated from the beginning of the book of Samuel is plain from the close of Hannah's song. Samuel himself anoints both Saul and David. And yet it is as plain, nevertheless, that he, as the prophet of God, and to whom the proposition of the people to make them a king is only a species of rebellion against God, (a view of it sanctioned by the Lord also,) — he is in some sort antagonistic to the kingdom. All through it the prophets abide as guard and balance. They are not of course hostile, because it has been legitimated by the authority of Him who is the source of all authority, but they watch it, none the less, jealously. No wonder, if it be the fact that "man being in honor abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish." They perish because they have no link with God, whom by their very nature they are incapable of knowing. Man is not incapable, and here is his responsibility; but he is capable, alas, of forgetting God, and the higher he is lifted up, the easier is it for him to do this. He becomes like the beasts: in which we see the suitability of Nebuchadnezzar's punishment to his sin (Dan. 4) — made to take his place among the beasts till his pride is humbled, and he owns that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men."

Here was indeed the prophet's voice to the monarch, and here is the prophet's place. He stands for the rule of the Most High, into collision with which the rule of man comes so readily. Here is his vocation at all times, and here is Samuel's antagonism to the kingship in Israel. He foresees and warns the people of what will be its character — a warning which, as we know, history so completely justifies.

And yet Judges has closed with the detail of evils which implied the need of a king. The judges were themselves but deliverers raised up temporarily by God to meet the condition into which the people were constantly falling, and which was but the issue of every man's doing that which was "right in his own eyes." How many can be trusted as judges in their own case? The very office of the judge testified, therefore, to the need of some stronger and more continuous rule than that they exercised.

Yet the dwelling-place of God was in the midst of Israel, as we know, with a priesthood organized that they might have access to Him, and that by Urim and Thummim His voice might be heard in their midst. In fact, save early in the history of the Judges, in the case of the war with Benjamin, — and how little rightly then! — we do not hear of one consultation of the divine oracle during all that period! In the beginning of the present book we are brought back to Shiloh and the priesthood, but only to show us everything in ruin there. The priests are corrupt, the offering of the Lord is despised. In their strait with the Philistines indeed, the people have recourse to the ark, but as a charm, in such a way as only to show how entirely they have lost the sense of the divine holiness, and in result only to bring upon themselves a catastrophe by which for a long period all this medium of communication with God is practically set aside. Shiloh is deserted, the ark at one place, the tabernacle at another, while Samuel as prophet of the Lord offers sacrifice in different places, thus clearly recognizing the break-down of the legal ritual. The ark returns no more to the tabernacle, but is brought by David to Zion, and his son Solomon builds the temple for its abode.

All is in transition therefore in this book; and the king it is who comes forward as the restorer, and the establisher of the new order. Thus the need of the king is emphasized, and the-divine sanction is put upon the institution.

Add to this that the provision had already been made in the law itself (Deut. 17:14-20) for just such need and request on the part of the people, — "When thou shalt say, I will set a king over me, like all the nations round about me." The whole style of this, and the desire to be like the nations, stamp it indeed as the will of man and unbelief. That it is foreseen and met, just as the Lord here meets it, in no wise shows it to be approved of Him. Yet that their request is granted shows that there is that in it which accords with what is in His mind, and by which His purposes will be carried forward toward fulfillment.

The first king is speedily set aside. But then David, a man after God's own heart, is promoted to the kingdom, which in his hand extends a long way toward the limits of the ancient promise to Israel, while he is promised the perpetuity of it in his seed, spite of all failure. Might it not seem as if now there would be no check or interruption to the blessing thus connected with the presence of the king?

Yet the following book shows us a wholly different, contrasted picture. Solomon indeed begins it with the building of the temple, and increased and manifold glories; but in his son's reign at once ten tribes are rent away, and thenceforth, though intermittent, decay creeps on. Finally, both thrones are leveled to the dust; and that of David which promised to be so stable has never yet been restored. The monarchy ends with an Ichabod completer than that which preceded it, and now protracted for nearly twenty-five hundred years.

What are we to gather from what seem such utter contradictions? Thank God, as Christians the key is in our hands. We know that David and Solomon were but shadows of the true King; that He is come, but, rejected of Israel, is gone up to take another throne on high; that He is David's Seed yet David's Lord; and that in His hands the kingdom is safe, though the time of its setting up once more is delayed for the accomplishment of other purposes which are now being fulfilled; that for this King the earth still waits, and will never have its blessing until He comes to bless it with a reign of power and righteousness.

Let us not deceive ourselves. This kingdom is not set up yet. We are, it is true, as Christians, "in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:9) but not in His "kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:12). Nor are we to see this gradually ushered in by plenteous increase in gospel harvest-fields. No doubt there is blessing at home and the gospel is going to the heathen on the other hand the mask of Christianity is almost dropped off the face of the mere profession, and revealing the dominant spirit of Christendom as that of unbelief. The Church of Christ has no more answered to its responsibility than did Israel of old. And the need — (although men know it not, all the social movements of the day proclaim it) — is for the KING! Yes, a true Potentate, safely to be trusted with power, and who will wield it. As the angels said to those men of Galilee, who gazed up after Him whom the cloud had just hidden from their sight: "This same Jesus shall come again in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." And when those blessed "feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives," whence He then went up, — when "the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee," — then "the Lord shall be King over all the earth in that day there shall be one Lord, and His Name One." (See Zech. 14.)

But we are not now to dwell upon this blessed time. Even in its very failure and evil, the day of the kings of Israel anticipates and prophecies it. This we shall hope to consider in its place. So much as has been said will prepare us for the mingled promise and disappointment that fill the pages we are now to study. The ruin of man still, as ever, makes us to realize that from God alone must salvation come and as this is realized, the assurance that from Him it shall come grows into a glorious certainty of expectation, which even yet beckons us on for the grand fulfillment, now so near to come.

The connection of the king with the ark, and the habitation of God on earth, is very clearly evidenced in the hundred and thirty-second psalm, where David is, as so commonly, the type of a greater, from whom he is yet, on that very account, distinguished. David's afflictions are pleaded, his zeal to find a dwelling-place for God on earth, and that for his sake the face of His anointed may not be turned away. The anointed is of course the king, but, I think, as standing in general for the kingly power in Israel. And this is answered in the promise, "Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne." A conditional pledge as to his children follows, but there is One Seed, one special Anointed, or Messiah, who shines through all. He is the true David and his Seed alike. He it is who by His sufferings and His heart for God secures the abiding presence of Jehovah with His people. The shadows pass, because they are but shadows but the kingship abides for the sake of the Man after God's heart, who alone also meets the need which exists in the heart of the people also, and who lives eternally to meet it. Wrongly interpreted as it has been before, the "Desire of all nations" is found at last in Him.

The next psalm gives us the complementary thought. There it is of Aaron we hear, not of David, and the unction that flows down from him. The Messianic interpretation alone unites these different things, by pointing to the "Priest upon His throne" (Zech. 6:13), who thus doubly gives the habitation of God to be amongst and accessible to men. Thus alone the permanent temple shall be built, the partial type of which is seen in the reign of Solomon. The glorious reality transcends all types: the throne of God is His; the glory of God is seen in His face. And thus the books of the Kings (Samuel, as well as what is commonly-called so) make good their claim to the Leviticus place among the historical books. In these books of Kings the sanctuary has plainly a proportionate importance beyond that which it has in any other of this second Pentateuch, except perhaps Chronicles, which is, as we know, the resume from another point of view of this very history. Joshua sees the ark in the parted Jordan, and in its temporary rest in Shiloh. In Judges we lose sight of it almost throughout. In the Captivity books, though the temple is rebuilt, the ark and the glory are alike gone. In the Kings, on the other hand, while prophet, priest and king for the first time appear together, all these are seen in their relation to that dwelling of God in the midst from which of necessity they gather all their significance. For while the priest is manifestly connected with it, the king is but the delegate of that throne in the sanctuary whose supremacy over all the prophet stands for and enforces.

The Books of the Kings therefore fill well the third place in the historical books, if we should not rather call them, with the Septuagint, the "Books of the Kingdoms": for this title gives the fuller thought, not merely of a succession of mortal because sinful men upon the throne of Israel, but rather of this "kingdom of men" upon the one side in its relation to the Kingdom of Him who ruleth over all, and in whose throne, as delegate, the king of Israel sat. Among these books of the Kings or Kingdoms, Samuel evidently has its place, as the first (where the Septuagint places it). Samuel and Kings, as we name them, should be, however, as they were originally, but one book each.

The scope and divisions may be more concisely stated: —

The BOOKS OF KINGS show us the history of the Sanctuary-Throne in Israel, with Prophet, Priest and King as its interpreters among men: these, in the offices they fill, and in their own failure to fill them, pointing forward to the Three-fold Anointed One, whose glory it will be to sustain all these relationships in unbroken, perfect unity of power and blessing. Of these books —
1. Samuel shows us the sources and beginning of human sovereignty in Israel.
2. Kings, the progress of the kingdom: its increase then its division and internal strife to final dissolution.


Scope and Divisions of the Book.

Samuel, as just now said, shows us the origin of human sovereignty in Israel. It has two sources, apparently, and in some sense truly, quite diverse from one another, yet combining in the end harmoniously.

First, there is the will of the people, which is, as expressed by them, a real rejection of the Divine Sovereign as such. But there are needs which underlie, though these are all summed up in the evil heart of unbelief which departeth from the living God. Could the best provision that could be made avail against this?

Yet the need of a king had been recognized before, and illustrated by the terrible recitals at the end of Judges. Man being what he is, grace as seen in the priesthood will not accomplish by itself the end of righteousness. "Let favor (grace) be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly. … When Thy judgments are in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isa. 26:10, 9.) The centralization of power in one hand strong enough to maintain this has always been a necessity, and in Christian times is seen as much as ever. But where is the man that shall unite power and righteousness after this fashion? Thus the world still waits for the reign of Christ.

The people's choice of the king is shown in Saul; God's choice in David: He too fails, and becomes but the type and prophet of Another in whom prophet, priest and king are united, and the divine and human kingdoms become one also.

There are six divisions: —
(1 Sam. 1 — 7.) Samuel: the prophet as the agent of the Divine Sovereignty.
(1 Sam. 8 — 15.) Saul: the people's saviour.
(1 Sam. 16 — 2 Sam. 9.) David, the man after God's own heart.
(2 Sam. 10 — 12.) His failure also.
(2 Sam. 13 — 21:14.) The Divine Throne vindicates itself.
(2 Sam. 21:15 — 24.) Overcoming.


Division 1. (1 Sam. 1 — 7.)

Samuel: the Representative of the Divine Sovereignty.

Samuel the prophet fittingly introduces the story of the kings, — fittingly crowns the first kings himself. He is the representative of the higher throne from which alone they derive their authority. The prophet (see Deut 18:15, sq., notes), as such, chosen from any class among the people, raised up of God as needed, not deriving his office from any of his predecessors, but from God alone, necessarily expresses the sovereign will of God. Samuel, in the circumstances of his birth, peculiarly does this; still more, under those in which he is brought forward by the Spirit of God, when the priesthood has failed, and the ark is no more sought after, and he has alone to stand in the terrible gap thus made.

But he is also thus the witness of the divine sufficiency. All else has failed, but God has not failed. In the very lowest estate, the Ichabod of the nation Samuel, with nothing to help or accredit him except that God who spike into his ear, lifts up the nation into triumph and blessing.

And here a new title of God is found, which, in connection with those related and contrasted "kingdoms," which in the Septuagint give such fitting title to the books, claims for the divine not merely supremacy but totality of power. This is "Jehovah of Hosts," or "Jehovah, God of Hosts": where there is no need to speculate whether stars or angels, or even the hosts of Israel, are intended. "The God of Hosts" claims all these for Him. In this title the divine kingdom reveals itself in contrast with all others, which are sustained or confounded as they move in subjection to it or not. Thus the moral of the book is given at the opening of it.

1. Samuel's origin and birth are carefully given to us: we may be sure, not as matters of simply historical interest. What importance, in this case, can we attach to this genealogy of unknown names? Let us remind ourselves that we are in the kingdom of God, where wheel is adjusted to wheel in His chariot of progress. How good it is to be permitted to escape from the babble of the unmeaning into a world like this, where everything is significant! There may be, no doubt, here depths and heights which we cannot explore. Still we are encouraged onward, and at every step gain something in view. How wonderful are these Scripture histories in this way, as making us aware everywhere of the pervasive presence of the Almighty and All-wise!

(1) Nothing, in fact, could be much simpler than is Samuel's genealogy here, or the steps by which we reach the Nazarite prophet. Reading the five names in reverse order, and remembering that we have thus to read the numerical order also backwards, we find in the fifth place, under the number of responsibility, Zuph, "the watcher," or "observer." It is the only name of which the meaning is at all doubtful. Most, perhaps, would render it "honeycomb," the Hebrew word standing for this. On the other hand, the derivation is as simple for the other meaning; and the alternative reading in Chronicles (Zophai in 1 Chr. 6:26, and Zuph or Ziph in verse 35), with its presumed connection with Ramathaim-zophim, leads us back to the former, also. In its spiritual connection, certainly, to be an "observer" in the sphere of responsibility is the beginning of all blessings. Zuph is an Ephrathite, therefore "fruitful"; and we cannot wonder that his son Tohu, under the number of experience, speaks of being "low, sunk down," — humiliation; and this being ever the way of blessing and of the knowledge of the Lord, the next name, under the number of manifestation, is Elihu, "my God" — or my Mighty One — "is He." Still, in the way of progress, and under the salvation number, we have then Jeroham, "he is tenderly loved"; and we end here, under that of obedience and divine sovereignty, with Elkanah, whom "God has purchased," or "acquired." How easily, of such a stock as this, comes forth a Samuel!

Elkanah's town is that of Samuel afterwards, — Ramah, or ha-Ramah, "the height." The name we have had elsewhere, but not the place, which here we find in its full title to have been Ramathaim-zophim, "the two heights of the watchers." The prophet's place was always that of a watcher, and the prophet's face always toward the slowly coming dawn; and the "height" is in natural connection with the place: those who are in it are, by that very fact, lifted up out of the world. All this is in perfect keeping with Samuel's association with Ramah. For us, also, the connection of the dawn with the kingdom for which still we wait is necessary and obvious: but why "two heights"? May it not be that there is the positional height of our place in Christ, of which other Ramahs have already spoken to us (pp. 133, 150), and the spiritual elevation answering to this? Certainly God has thus provided for the Elkanahs, His "purchased" ones today; and this is the place for a Samuel — should there be any now to exercise the judge's office in Israel. For any right judgment of things at large, the coming of the Lord must be before us, we must be watchers for Him! Is not the state of Christendom, and the cause of that state also, depicted in His own words, — "but if that evil servant shall say, in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken" (Matt. 24:48-49)? How unutterably solemn the warning that follows!

We are next told of Elkanah's two wives, who repeat in some respects the story of Sarah and Hagar. If Sarah be, as we have seen in its place, the principle of grace, the very name of Hannah is "grace." And she, too, is naturally a barren woman. Peninnah differs, however, in many ways, from Hagar. She is no bondwoman, and would not seem to stand for the principle of law; but is, on the other hand, the "adversary" of her rival, which could not in the same way be said of Hagar. Similarly she flourishes while Hannah is barren, but grows feeble after she has become fruitful. Her name, Peninnah, is of doubtful meaning, but probably signifies "shining, glittering"; and she may represent the earthly objects which so easily distract the heart even of Christians from that which should alone hold it. Would that Elkanah's bigamy were less easily to be applied to Christians! That it was openly indulged as lawful, instead of marring, this does in fact only make the lesson more forcible: "happy is he who condemneth not himself in that which he alloweth." After all, Elkanah did love Hannah: but grace cannot be reconciled to a barren love without fruit.

(2) No wonder if the going up to worship the Lord always provokes afresh this sorrow. But now she can bear it no longer: out it bursts in a vow of Nazariteship — of separation to the Lord of the child she covets. Would that all brought forth from us, even by grace, had thus the sign of consecration to God upon its head, the confession of entire dependence upon Him attached to that which is brought forth!

The last of the judges, Samson, who had "begun" to deliver Israel from the Philistines, had been, as we know, a Nazarite also; and we have seen (p. 239) the meaning of this. Here that alone is particularized in which Samson had so signally ailed. How easily the strong man fails in this grace of dependence just by reason of his strength! Samuel is, in fact, the very opposite of Samson. If anything more than another characterizes him it is the spirit of prayer. Was he not himself the fruit of it? Is not that which is brought forth from us all naturally the incarnation, so to speak, of the spirit in which it has been conceived?

The first glimpse of the priest here is already a sad one. Eli, meaning "high," or exalted," expresses the moral condition of the priesthood, as we are shortly to be made to see. Personally he had a heart for the Lord, but not sufficiently to stand for Him; and with him the whole order to which he belongs is becoming decrepit. His spiritual sense is blunt, as is his nature. He cannot discern the character of the sorrowing woman before him; sees, indeed, but the moving of lips, and misconstrues it; pronounces a judgment which has speedily to be recalled. Yet this awakens in him no self-judgment, no discernment of his own levity: and this we shall find in Eli all the way through.

The ordered way of blessing is being closed up, and God is finding new channels for His grace to be poured into. Such is His way; for His grace must not lack expression while the need is there that demands it. The cry of distress may be misinterpreted, even by His people; but His own ear cannot be stopped.

(3) We come immediately, therefore, to the realization of this: Samuel is born, and named by his mother "heard of God." What she says is evidently not the interpretation of the name, but the reason for her giving it him. The name speaks of God as El, the Mighty One, who in might has answered her; the reason speaks of Jehovah. Indeed, how much beyond her prayer has been the answer! For she does not appear to have looked on to this child becoming, as he does, the deliverer of Israel. Perhaps she never lives to see him in this character. God acts in the fullness of His own love and wisdom; and what a light will eternity throw upon the issue of our prayers!

Samuel is born to be in a peculiar way the servant of the Lord; but he must be weaned before he can become this, and we cannot refrain from thinking upon the one hundred and thirty-first psalm here: "Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, even as a child is weaned from his mother; yea, my soul is even as a weaned child." That is says Perowne, "As a weaned child no longer cries, frets, and longs for the breast, but lies still and is content, because it is with its mother, so my soul is weaned from all discontented thoughts, from all fretful desires of earthly good, waiting in stillness upon God, finding its satisfaction in His presence, resting peacefully in His arms." This surely is what is required for proper service: the childlike spirit, but the spirit of a weaned child. Alas, how few, proportionately, of the professed servants of Christ have attained to this!

The weaning accomplished, Samuel is taken and presented to the Lord, with a bullock for a burnt-offering. The type of whole-hearted consecration in service is easily to be read in this; but it is Christ of whom it speaks, in whom alone servant and service can be accepted of God. He who serves best will be most conscious of this. The servant, too, to serve aright, must be trained up in the sanctuary. There alone we can get clear eyes for it, and the light of heaven. So, as we will remember, the Levites were given to the priests; and the book of the Sanctuary, Leviticus, precedes the wayside service of the book of Numbers. The last words of the Chapter refer, I suppose, and as the connection would imply, to Samuel. He would be, according to the commentators, about three years old, which in Palestine would be, however, proportionately older than with us.

Hannah's heart is full, and bursts out in prophetic song, in which God's ways with her are expanded into general principles, which, in the end, are applied to the purification and blessing of the earth under God's King — Messiah. The king and the kingdom thus are introduced at the beginning of the book, and yet go beyond David or any successor of his in the days that immediately follow, and take in the whole breadth of the earth, and the final rule of Christ over it.

The song has four parts, — the first of which celebrates as the God of her salvation the faithful, omnipotent, and omniscient God (verses 1-3). Her heart is joyful, her strength is raised up, her mouth utters boldly her challenge to all enemies. Jehovah is her joy and exultation: for it is He who has become her Saviour. None is holy as He; nay, none can be put beside Him: the rock is a faint image of His faithfulness, who is not simply her — but "our" — God. Well may man's pride be abased, and the loose ungoverned speech hushed before Him: for all knowledge is His, and actions are weighed by Him.

The second is the salvation part (verses 4, 5), — which includes in it, also, the bumbling of the adversaries. The bows of the mighty are broken: their weapons of war are no more; they that stumbled for very weakness, are, on the other hand, given a strength that girds or braces them up for activity. They that were full to satiety with bread have now to hire themselves out to obtain it, while the hungry now are in turn filled. Now she comes to her own case, though not, of course, in the details: the barren has borne seven, and she that has borne many is grown feeble.

These, of course, are simply specimen deliverances; but we have to go further to find the full thought, and that resurrection is a principle of the Lord's ways: he is the God of resurrection. That He should abase pride and destroy the wicked, that is easy to understand; but resurrection means that for the righteous also the way of life must be first of all a way of death. Pride in them, also, must be abased: they must learn in themselves what man is, and the righteous penalty for what he is; in the prostration of human strength they must learn the power and grace that consist with holiness in the Lord's salvation. So now the third part (verses 6-8 a): —

Jehovah kills and makes alive, too: He brings down to Hades, and brings up out of it. And from the poor and needy — from the dunghill itself — He lifts up those that He makes His princes, and sets on a throne of glory.

These principles are of the widest application, and will receive the widest application in a coming day, when the strife between good and evil shall be coming to a final end: and this is the thought of the fourth part (verses 8b-10)

For the pillars of the earth belong to Jehovah: that is, the foundations of the dry land which are set up in the deep, and upon which the world that men inhabit stands. All that sustains the present condition of things, she tells us, depends upon the will of Jehovah, unchangeably holy as He is. Thus these principles will finally and everywhere prevail. He keepeth the feet of His saints, and the wicked are silent in darkness [such is the day that is rapidly drawing near]: for by strength shall no man prevail. They that strive with Jehovah shall be broken in pieces; out of heaven shall He thunder upon them; [now we see the day in its broad features]: Jehovah shall judge the ends of the earth; and shall give strength unto His King, and exalt the horn of His Anointed."

Here is plainly the day of Christ; and the regeneration of the earth will exhibit fully all these principles. Israel must herself go down into the depths, and come up in resurrection. All the pride of man shall be abased, and the Lord alone exalted in that day. To this Hannah, with her prophetic eyes, looks on, and the whole of the "books of the kingdoms." How clearly is their character marked by the song of this Israelite woman!

2. We have now put before us, in manifestly contrasted paragraphs, the degradation of the priesthood and the rise of the prophet that is soon to be. God has thus provided that the link between Himself and His people should not be snapped even in the awful disaster that is about to overtake them. How good is He, and how righteous in His goodness! Yet how easily may we mistake Him, too! He who would judge with God must not judge by the appearance: the moral and spiritual are the only means of it; and this must seem a thing so evident as to need no enforcement; yet the apostle did not think so, and the history of Christianity in every generation shows abundantly the need.

The moral degradation of the priesthood is here shown as complete. The mercy of God warns repeatedly, in vain, of impending judgment. Eli is morally weak; his sons utterly profane; and alas, the people, save a small remnant, are away from God. Many are the lessons of such a contrast as is here presented to us.

(1) This one verse, with its simple statement, may seem too insignificant altogether to form even the smallest section. But even this may serve to point a moral in such a connection as this. God concerns Himself with what is little: yea, there is nothing that is too little for Him. And here was a fresh affirmation in this new beginning, — His power to exalt and to abase, His refusal of evil wherever found, and the individuality also of each soul with Him. What a gospel in the Old Testament for children is in the notice and acceptance of this little child! A little child this, that ministered not to Eli merely but to Jehovah, and finding his record in the inspired Word!

(2) In contrast with Samuel's service is now shown us the sin of the priests, a profanity which, in its essential features, has been often enough repeated since. External nearness to God, without the knowledge of Him, has ever been the occasion of the worst departures from Him. To one away from the sanctuary some sense of the divine would naturally more attach to it, which in the daily intercourse with sacred things tends more and more to pass away. Eli's sons are thus practisers and preachers of a godlessness which at first shocks and then communicates itself to the people round. A holiness that is but external is the worst unholiness. Here nothing but the rites remained to speak of God; but even these were impiously violated by the rude hands of those whose duty it was to lead men in obedience. Shamelessly and openly they made themselves fat with the offerings of Jehovah's people, and that with violence which defied Him to His face.

(3) The narrative returns, after this recital, which has shown the moral state leading to the collapse of the priesthood shortly in Israel, to show us Samuel, clothed anticipatively with the priestly ephod. This was, as we have seen (Ex. 28:5-14, n.), essentially the shoulder-piece, and which held (in the case of the high-priest) the breastplate also. Girt about the person, it was the expression of a service whereby the people of God were sustained before God in a love which never forgot that which was due to Him. It was the mediator's robe, and the priests were thus characterized as those who "wore a linen ephod." (ch. 22:18.) No other did this besides the priest,* except here Samuel, and upon one great occasion (2 Sam. 6:14) David, and these two cases are strictly parallel: in each it showed that the burden of Israel's maintenance before God had devolved upon the person wearing the ephod.

{*Samuel is shown, in the book of Chronicles, to have been, by descent, a Levite (1 Chron. 6:88-35); and thus, it has been asserted, could wear the ephod; but we have no hint in Scripture of the Levites doing this, but the opposite.}

It is true that the materials were different: there was here no beauty of various color, nor gold, as in the high-priest's dress, the full blossom of the priestly. But on the other hand, the simple white linen* was that in which the priest went on the day of atonement into the holiest of all, and speaks of the absolute purity fit for the presence of Him who dwells in the sanctuary. Thus, while it points to Christ, the antitype all through here, — priest, prophet, king, alike, — it clearly marks the contrast between the man of God's choice and the licentious priesthood that gives way to him.

{*As here, bad is the word for linen.}

The coat, which year by year his mother brings to him, is in harmony with this. It is the meil, which was also part of the high-priest's dress, the "robe" of the ephod, although kings, nobles, and others wore it also. The robe of the high-priest, like the ephod, had its distinctive characters; as to that of Samuel we have nothing told us: the connection, however, cannot well be doubted. The ephod must have been furnished by the sanctuary; and thus two witnesses united here their testimony to him. The higher kingdom was thus already manifesting itself.

Hannah also, significant in her name and history, as we have seen, now becomes fruitful. She has three more sons, — four sons, therefore, and two daughters, the presage of the triumph of divine grace. None the less must the holiness of God's ways be affirmed, and the corruption of the priesthood have its answer in judgment. But "Samuel grew before Jehovah."

(4) The further fact is now developed that, the priesthood being such as we have seen, there is no power over them to stand for God, and restrain the evil. Eli is in the threefold relation to these wanton transgressors of father, high-priest, and judge in Israel; but he does nothing but expose his incapacity. Nor is it mere age that can account for this. It is significant that for the contempt of Jehovah's ordinances, which has been already before us, we do not even hear of a rebuke. When to this is added the immorality so naturally connecting itself with it, Eli argues with them and protests, but that is all. He uses not the rod which is put into his hands, and which might have even saved his sons themselves. He leaves them to go unchecked to the divine judgment which he foresees, but does nothing effective to avert; and, in fact, the judgment comes upon them.

Again Samuel is noticed, briefly but in comprehensive contrast. The record anticipates what, long after, is said of the Lord in His childhood, that he grew up in favor both with Jehovah and with men. He is thus every way the opposite of the God-forsaken priests. Though but a child, he is uncontaminated with the evil in the presence of which he grows up, a witness of the individuality that belongs to us, though amid a multitude, and apart even from the restraint and discipline of home. He is a child, but thus with his inheritance in the future, while the priesthood is failing and passing away.

(5) The sentence upon Eli and his house is now pronounced. Of "the man of God" who now comes forward to utter it we know nothing more, — not even his name. The sentence is a decree of degradation for degradation, with the cutting off of Hophni and Phinehas, the chief offenders. God would raise up for Himself a faithful priest to walk before His anointed, — a second intimation of the coming kingdom. Joshua had stood before Eleazar (Num. 27:21); and, for the time, the high priest had had the foremost place in Israel. This is to be changed, and even the "faithful priest" is to walk before the king. Priesthood has failed to maintain the link between God and His people. Now the king is to be the link, although he, too, will fail and pass: only the "threefold cord" of prophet, priest, and king, as found in Christ, will not be broken; and power put into His hand cannot fail or be forfeited any more. Toward this all these types point, though Christ is not directly spoken of here. The "faithful priest" was raised up in Zadok, as the representative of the line of Phinehas and Eleazar: Eli was a descendant of Ithamar, Aaron's fourth son, and not of Eleazar, who thus for a time had lost the high-priesthood promised to Phinehas forever (Num. 25:13.) Phinehas has thus the promise fulfilled to him, as it were, in resurrection and abidingly: in the kingdom yet to come, the sons of Zadok will again keep charge of the sanctuary. (Ezek. 44:15.)

Through all, the typical meaning distinctly shines: for God throughout is thinking of His Son. Eleazar, as we have seen fully elsewhere, is as Aaron's third son, — in whom, also, after the death of Nadab and Abihu, the priesthood revives, — the distinct type of Christ as a risen Priest, whose intercessory place is the fruit of His work accomplished. His resurrection means the acceptance of His atoning death; and thus He is Eleazar, the true "help of God" for His dependent people.

Ithamar, the fourth son of Aaron, as that, and according to his name, "where the palm is," implies a practical righteousness, which is connected with practical walk. Now as long as Eleazar retained the high priesthood, Ithamar could serve in his lower place well and acceptably, for "to do good and to communicate," and thus the whole Christian life, are "sacrifices," which, as priests, we are called to offer up to God. But these are entirely dependent upon that one only propitiatory sacrifice which Eleazar, the risen priest, reminds us of. Let Ithamar displace Eleazar, then Ithamar himself loses himself hopelessly. Eli, the "exalted," Hophni, "my fist," and quite another Phinehas, "mouth of brass," from the one of the higher line, sufficiently characterize the history here; while the line of Eleazar, when it revives revives in Zadok, "the righteous one," — righteousness in the right line and Person, "Jesus Christ, the righteous," — and all is again secured.

Precious it is to see Israel's sorrowful history written in golden letters such as these! Thus the higher kingdom is in action all through the book, not merely in the lives of individuals, but in the ordering of the state at large. Unto it the lower, when it comes, must be in complete subjection, representing it in character truly among men, or pay the forfeit.

3. The priesthood being thus adjudged, we now find the prophet openly brought forward, God thus providing that there should be no lapse on His side, fail as all else may. Samuel is therefore now called, and established before all Israel as the mouthpiece of Jehovah to them, before the predicted judgment falls upon Eli's house.

(1) The call comes suddenly at night, when men are asleep, but not the Shepherd of Israel. The dim eyes of the priest, the suggested near failure of the tabernacle-lamp, are no mere embellishments of the picture. Such was the state of things which necessitated the new interposition of the Lord. Eli was there in his place, but the Voice addresses not Eli, — not even though the message concerns him intimately and sadly. For the face of God is averted from him.

To Samuel we find the Voice is something audible, — not a simple intimation or impression on the heart. It is, at the same time, very human: the youth imagines it is Eli that is speaking; and that three times over, for he has not yet learned to recognize Jehovah. Eli himself is thus made also to understand that He is speaking, before the subject of the communication is made known to him, — though his heart, as we see afterwards, presages but too well.

Yet this divine-human Voice, how sweet it is! In all dispensations it is the same. Calling one, too, by one's name, for by name He knows His sheep. But may we not also, like Samuel here, mistake the voice divine because it is so human, — expect it as afar off, miss it because it is nigh?

(2) The message confirms the previously announced doom of Eli's house. But what need to repeat again what had already been so fully said? Is not once said enough for God? Does it not imply that God yet waits, even though the thing is said, upon man's repentance? expects men to cry to Him, to give Him, as it were, opportunity to repent? Why should He warn at all, if not for this?

But Eli, though he bows under God's hand, does not turn to Him after this fashion. His spiritual sense is dulled, so that he cannot discern the undertone of pity in the threatening wrath; nor has he energy to take up the authority entrusted to him, and act for Him whom he has so long ignored. Thus judgment takes its course.

Samuel, though with a natural fear in which different elements would unite together, approves himself as able to stand for God, and tells him all. His first message is of evil, and to those with whom he has grown up. It is needed, perhaps, for himself, in view of the place that he is to take in the crisis at hand. And though he fears, he does not listen to his fears, nor refuse the burden laid upon him, but bears it faithfully.

(3) Thus Jehovah is with him, and his prophecy finds a wider field. Jehovah reveals himself through Samuel; and thus, on the very eve of judgment, appeal is made anew to the hearts and consciences of the people. It did not avail to prevent disaster; but it did surely to maintain faith in a remnant, and bring some hearts to the living God. But whatever might be the result as to the people, God at least glorified Himself in goodness, as He ever does, and has left us as witnesses of a love, which to us, indeed, has been how much more wonderfully displayed!

4. (1) But now the day of inevitable ruin comes, and Israel is smitten before the Philistines. It would seem by the language as if Israel had provoked the conflict. In striking contrast, and yet in as plain congruity, with what takes place afterward, we are told that they encamped beside Ebenezer, doubly emphasized by two articles, "the stone of the help." Samuel, we know, actually set up the stone afterwards in commemoration of victory; and this makes the anticipative mention of the name so significant. According to the unchanging nature of God occurred the victory then, the defeat now. Self-confidence goes along with departure of heart from Him, as generally is the case, and insures the issue. Once more smitten with considerable loss, they ask indeed why Jehovah has done this. They realize it to be from Him, and yet do not seriously inquire of Him, nor humble themselves in His presence. Stranger than all, they would bring this God who has smitten them, unappeased, into the camp to fight in their behalf! Perhaps their thought is that this very reliance upon the ark will propitiate Him. How vain, in any case, is such a hope! True, it is the "ark of the covenant of Jehovah"; and, as such, they appeal to it. But was there not the "vengeance of the covenant" as faithfully promised as the blessing for obedience? What a sign of disaster that, as it is written, "Hophni and Phinehas," with their already predicted doom hanging over them, "were there with the ark of the covenant of God"!

On the other hand, it is no wonder that the Philistines are as much disconcerted, for the moment, by the presence of the ark, as Israel are encouraged. With them the deity was inseparably connected with the symbols of His worship, and they remembered yet the power displayed in Egypt. Jehovah's witness to Himself there had not been in vain, though men might, after all, refuse it. Alas, they did! Alas, not they alone have done so! So they stiffen themselves in pride, and will be men, — yes, indeed, too surely, "men," — and are unexpectedly successful: they gain a great victory, slay thirty thousand men, and capture the ark of God itself, — little imagining that they are but fulfilling His word, and instruments in His hand, after all: a lesson in "evidences," which should at least make us careful. Hophni and Phinehas are slain, and the priesthood necessarily collapses, and is for the time set aside.

(2) Eli's death ensues upon the news of the disaster. The circumstantial detail fixes the attention and impresses the heart, and is designed to do so. The old man, who has left the glory of God in the hands of his profligate sons, and let the ark go from him at the will of the people, yet manifests at the last the good that is in him, and is taken away from the evil to come. Shiloh passes also out of the history, and the sanctuary of God from Ephraim, the lesson of which has been already suggested (Joshua 18:1, n.)

(3) A woman's voice pronounces the word of distress, stamping it upon the fruit of her womb, Ichabod, "no glory." This was, indeed, what Israel had brought forth, the fruit of her departure from God: His glory had, in turn, been removed out of their midst. "For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their graven images. When God heard this, He was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel, so that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which He placed among men; and delivered His strength into captivity, His glory into the enemy's hand." (Ps. 78:58-61.) All dooms presage the final doom, and so it is here. The "outer darkness" will be when those who have said to God, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways," shall have their awful prayer fulfilled! And who can imagine what this means? But "there," we are told, "shall be the wailing and gnashing of teeth."

5. The history goes with the ark into the Philistines' land. Their victory becomes their own defeat; which yet, as a testimony to them, might be mercy, — the only mercy that their hostility permitted. They themselves would find, and would have to own, the powerlessness and folly of their idols in the presence of God, with whom they also had to do; although we know of no permanent effect of it, except their restoration of the ark, with offerings for the trespass they had committed.

(1) The ark is taken to the city of Ashdod, the "spoiler," and put as spoil into the temple of Dagon, the chief Philistine god. Though they know Jehovah's power as a reality, they look at Him as now subdued by the great might of Dagon: for the gods of polytheism could war against one another, as we know. In thus placing it beside their deity, there seems intimated, however, a certain respect. All the more would be their confusion on finding, the next morning, Dagon prostrate upon his face, as if worshipping before the ark. But they are willing to think it an accident, and they replace the idol in its old position. Next morning it is prostrate again, but not to be so easily replaced, for the human parts — the head and hands — of the composite fish-god are cut off, and lying on the threshold, and only the Dagon, the fish-part, is left him. The confusion man has made is thus undone; the human joined to the bestial is seen to be but contemptible and to be trodden under foot, and the creature is prostrate in the presence of the Creator. How well for them, if they had learnt these lessons! Instead of this, where the desecrated head and hands have lain, the worshipers in Ashdod no more dare to step! So little is idolatry a thing of the mind merely, that, face to face with God, they will pick up and reverence their mutilated idol. "When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." This is the spiritual genealogy of idolatry, wherever it is found. And such is man!

(2) The Lord's hand falls, therefore, next upon the Philistines themselves; and they are smitten with boils or tumors, which cannot be, apparently, more clearly defined. As with the similar plague in Egypt (Ex. 9:8-12, n.), the external plague may naturally symbolize and lay bare the inward condition, the corruption which consumes the sinner, and underlies all his departure from God. Unwilling to humble themselves fully under Jehovah's hand, they send the ark about from one place to another, only spreading the evil wherever it goes, until they end the unequal conflict by its restoration to the Israelite territory.

(3) Seven months the ark had been in the Philistines' land. At last they call together the priests and diviners, and inquire how they are to send it back. Their advice is to send back with it a trespass-offering, after their heathen fashion, five golden images of their boils, and five golden mice, which were at the same time ravaging their fields. But, after all, they speak somewhat doubtfully, for where will not unbelief find an argument? — and propose an expedient by which it may be tested whether possibly yet it might be a chance that had happened to them. In result it is proved conclusively that Jehovah is the God. of Creation, supreme above all the natural instincts: the kine, though unaccustomed to a yoke, take the cart with its sacred burden directly away from where their calves are shut up, even while lowing after them, and take the straight road to Bethshemesh, a priestly city near the Israelite border. There, at the border, they stop, still under the eyes of the Philistine lords, at a great stone upon which the Levites place the ark, and where the kine are offered up a burnt-offering to Jehovah.

Thus the Philistines have Jehovah's sovereignty demonstrated to them in the precise terms which they have themselves chosen, — the goodness of God thus meeting them with what should have turned them from idolatry forever, and brought them to His feet. But they go back, after all, to worship instead the humbled Dagon.

But the men of Bethshemesh also incur divine judgment for their profane treatment of Jehovah's ark, and follow the example of the Philistines in sending it elsewhere. The men of Kirjath-jearim respond to their invitation, and there it abides for long in the house of Abinadab, kept by Eleazar his son. There David found it afterwards "in the fields of the wood (jaar)" (Ps. 132:6). Yet the long-suffering of the Lord endured. He had already provided, as we know, the instrument of deliverance.

{*1 Sam. 6:14, 18. The Septuagint reads, "the great stone," eben for abet. This is probable, though others think abet, "mourning," to be intended, from the mourning connected with the judgment which follows.}

{*1 Sam. 6:19. It is impossible to suppose that Bethshemesh had 50,000 inhabitants, still less "men";  and the Hebrew text shows signs of interpolation. Literally it reads, "seventy men, fifty thousand men." Josephus, and a few of Kennicott's MSS., omit the larger number, with the approbation of Thenius, Keil, Erdmann, and others. Fausset would read, "seventy men, fifty out of a thousand men."}

6. (1) Twenty years now elapse. A long discipline of sorrow is required before the humbled people turn with their heart to God. During all this time Samuel is patiently laboring for Him, urging upon them whole-hearted return, and the absolute putting away of all strange gods, the necessary hindrance to their deliverance. At last the Baals and Ashtoreths are put away, and throughout the land Jehovah alone is served. Then the deliverance, which would have been else but a letting loose for evil, is ready to be accomplished.

(2) Samuel now distinctly takes the place of mediator. He is, of course, ideally the prophet, not the priest; but in every type of Christ something of His full place is seen. In connection with the prophet, who brings the message of God, the subjective side of salvation is emphasized — repentance and turning to God; but Samuel turns to God also for the people, and offers even the priestly sacrifice. There is not a hint of what some imagine — the intervention of a priest in this latter case; and in the case of Gideon and others, though not so formally, we have had already the performance of priestly acts. Samuel is the child of prayer, and he is ever also the man of prayer. The repentance of the people enables him confidently to take the place of intercession for them: "Gather all Israel to Mizpah," he says, (the outward manifestation of the heart-unity now existing among the people), "and I will pray Jehovah for you." He is, like Samson, the Nazarite, set apart from the womb to Jehovah, and in whom, as not in Samson, the spiritual side of this is shown. He is thus victorious in a strife in which Samson fails, and "not by might, nor by power," but through the Lord in whom he trusts. All Israel are gathered to Mizpah, and draw water and pour it out before Jehovah, acting out the piteous plea of the woman of Tekoah afterwards (2 Sam. 14:14): "We must needs die, and are as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again." But here they own that the dissolution of their lives in vanity and misery is the consequence of their sin: "We have sinned against Jehovah"; and now, according to the principle which has been before announced as to the Lord's deliverances, that when He delivered He raised up a judge, the judge appears again: "Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah."

This brings about the inevitable conflict. They had not gathered for battle; and were, in fact, in the extreme opposite condition to their former self-confidence in which they had provoked the Philistine attack. On the other hand, nothing more surely provokes the attack of the enemy than united Israel suppliant before the Lord. Accordingly, at once we hear of them in movement, while Israel, scarcely armed and helpless, can only urge on Samuel to cry ceaselessly to God for their deliverance. Happily they can say now, with truth of heart, "Jehovah our God": when did He fail to appear for those who could say so?

Samuel's reliance is not on spear or shield. He takes one sucking lamb, and offers it as a whole burnt-offering to Jehovah. This is his plea, and thus he cries to God for the people; and Jehovah answers. The offering does not, as most commentators say, represent the newly pledged obedience of the people, — poor ground of confidence as it would be in such a strait: but Christ, from his birth, the absolutely devoted One, the "Lamb," as in the perfect youth of glorious manhood. How blessed a Substitute for the tardy and spotted obedience of our best performances! While Samuel offers, the Philistines draw nigh. Who shall convert the crowd of feeble and affrighted people into warriors? All the more shall the Lord, therefore, Himself be seen: Jehovah thundered with a great voice on that day against the Philistines": how would all His former witness in their land interpret to them this voice! "And they were smitten before Israel."

No great victory, after all, for Israel to boast of; except they will boast themselves in the Lord: a victory, therefore, safe and glorious, — the very best that could be. "And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them as far as below Beth-car," — the "house of the [skipping] lamb": Israel, seen now as identified with the lamb sacrificed in their behalf, housed and happy.

So Ebenezer at last gains its name — the "stone of help." "The Philistines were humbled, and came no more into the border of Israel." The cities taken by them are restored; and Jehovah's hand is against them all the days of Samuel. With the rise of the king, matters assume, as we know, another aspect.

(3) Samuel is now the prophet-judge in Israel. The judge shadows the king, although not that; and thus we see in Samuel, as a type of Christ, the intimation of what in Him are united in full reality, — priest, prophet, king. It is only an intimation, not the reality, and thus points, as does the whole Old Testament, beyond itself. All types must, for this reason, be imperfect: the "shadow, and not the very image." (Heb. 10:1.) Yet the shadow has its proportional completeness: the high priest, as answering by Urim, became in so far the prophet and judge, — two things which naturally come together; the king, as we see him in David, is fully the prophet, while he orders the priestly service, and brings the ark to Zion. But here, for reasons we may see afterward, the type cannot be so complete.

There are four stations at which, in yearly circuit, Samuel judges the people. Let us notice, as illustrative of the exact method of Scripture, that three of the places are distinguished from the fourth, which is his own abode. They should thus stand the numerical test throughout; and being in circuit, show, perhaps, an orderly connection in their meanings also. Let us see if this hope be justified.

Naturally, as judicial stations, they will speak of different points of view, according to which judgment will be exercised; according to which Christ, as Son of man (for all judgment is committed to him as that) views the people He has redeemed. This will probably show us, also, why it is the fourth place at which he abides, — Ramah.

Bethel is the first station. It is a name which we are well acquainted with, as with what it stands for. Bethel is the "house of God" (El, the Mighty One), and we see in Jacob the discipline connected with it, as well as the mighty work that is done by this — the transformation of Jacob into Israel. In the order of the Genesis-histories Jacob follows Isaac, in whom we have, as Paul in Galatians teaches us, the children of the free woman, born into the liberty of the sons of God. Bethel is thus a keynote word, which tells of the rule of God as Father over His house, with the blessed consequences of this.

But Christ is "Son over the house of God,"* and this character of judgment must belong to Him. We begin, therefore, first with that which is first of all our place. Children of God, and with the Spirit of adoption, we must be His children (Matt. 5:45), acting in character, and showing likeness to Him, as "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). The Father's judgment is to develop and maintain this in us; and this, therefore, is plainly the first judicial station of our Samuel.

{*Heb. 3:6. where we must read, with the Revised Version, "over his house," — God's, — not "his own," as in the common version.}

The second is Gilgal, where the reproach of Egypt was rolled off Israel; and this, as we have elsewhere seen (p. 43), was the reproach of slavery. In what we have just now considered, we have already had implied for us the liberty of sons (and this is the connection with the present); but it is circumcision that at Gilgal brings into practical liberty. Circumcision it is that makes Gilgal; and circumcision is the "putting off the body of the flesh" (Col. 2:11, R.V.), "having no confidence in it." (Phil. 3:3.) This goes with what is the positive side for the Christian, the worship of God in the Spirit, and glorying in Christ Jesus; and thus the free, holy, happy service of love is maintained.

The negative attainment without the positive is impossible; but it is the negative that is here insisted on: as the second place implies, the deliverance, the setting free. The judgment here is thus the complement of what Bethel has shown us.

The third station is one more difficult to realize in its exact meaning. Mizpah (or Mizpeh) means simply the "watchtower," and the general thought is susceptible of different applications. (See pp. 104, 134.) The third place, which naturally connects itself with the sanctuary and the presence of God, would suggest, however, that the watching is to be taken as in Hab. 2:1, "I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me." The gatherings to Mizpah in the book of Judges (Judges 20), and just now, according to the word of Samuel, have both, more or less, this character. It would appear, therefore, that what is implied in it is the watchfulness of one to whom the path of faith is a reality, and thus the positive guidance of God from day to day. So were Israel guided, as we know; and even more does the promise on His part speak the need of it, "I will guide thee with mine eye." (Ps. 32:8.) For this there must be patient and steady watching; and the whole difference between a right path and a wrong is implied in it. Abstract right and wrong are by no means the whole question, and do not settle the matter for us. Beyond this lies all the will of God, personally, for each one of His own, with which is involved His whole right over them, but also the display of His wisdom and goodness abidingly in their behalf. Here, then, is a distinct ground of judgment from either of the former, a third station for our Prophet-Judge.

The fourth is Samuel's own city, Ramah, the "height." The name is, in its full length, Ramathaim-zophim, the "two heights of the watchers." Here we are in connection clearly with the last thought. The meaning and application we have already had. It suggests the place in Christ, linked with his appearance as Man in the presence of God for us, the dwelling-place of the Son of man, that it is His as Man being emphasized by the fourth place here. Yet we have traveled, in fact, in circuit, as Samuel did: for this we cannot disconnect from His own saying, "My Father, and your Father; my God, and your God;" or from the end designed by God, "that He should be the first-born among many brethren." We are looking, therefore, toward Bethel again.

But here is the abiding ground of judgment, even as "walk ye in Him" is our peculiar responsibility as Christians. With this the circle of responsibility is complete. Here, too, is the altar to Jehovah, our place of acceptance and worship. The Lord make us realize in all this the fullness and depth of His precious word!