This Week’s Readings
Monday, May 14: 1 Samuel 1-5
Tuesday, May 15: 1 Samuel 6-10
Wednesday, May 16: 1 Samuel 11-15
Thursday, May 17: 1 Samuel 16-20
Friday, May 18: 1 Samuel 21-25
The overall year’s plan is here.
1 Samuel 6-7
The major cities of the Philistines were along the Mediterranean coast south of Israel. You can see Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza on this map. We are told that Bethshemeth was north along the coast from these cities. Kirjathjearim and Mizpeh were each a step further inland from the coast. Mizpeh was most likely due north of Bethlehem (and thus Jerusalem), near Bethel.
God struck the inhabitants of Bethshemeth for looking in the ark. Apparently, the inhabitants of Kirjathjearim only handled it; they didn’t look in it. They even were wise enough to consecrate one individual to be in charge of it.
1 Samuel 8
I said yesterday that Samuel was the last judge of Israel, but as you can see, that’s not really true. Samuel’s sons, Joel and Abiah, were the last judges of Israel. Of course, they really didn’t get any chance to have the authority earlier judges, including their father, had. When the people were fed up and demanded a king, they went to Samuel, not his sons.
1 Samuel 9
The story of the coronation of Saul as the first king of Israel is a great story, but I never cease to marvel at the liberty that God gave to Samuel. When Saul and his servant went looking for the man of God, they found him sacrificing on a high place in his home town, where he had built an altar (7:17), and not at the tabernacle of God.
There was never any judgment or a rebuke to Samuel for doing this.
It tells me that our primary duty is to believe God, as we’ve been learning in Romans and Galatians. Samuel’s faith, like Abraham’s and David’s, was not a faith that did not work, but a faith that worked diligently in relationship with God. Sometimes, however, that involved complete ignorance of or indifference to at least parts of the Law of Moses.
"To obey is better than sacrifice," Samuel will eventually tell Saul. Obedience and faith go hand in hand. Sacrifice, law, and religion go hand in hand. There is a place for sacrifice and religious activities, but when they become an excuse for "sanctification" without obedience to God’s voice, God hates them.
1 Samuel 10
The difference between a judge and a king is that a king rules. A judge only judges, which means he only deals with those who come to him. He is not a ruler, just a person who makes the final call when one is needed. Leave him alone, and generally he will leave you alone.
A judge also doesn’t require taxes. He has no army. He has no palace. He needs no servants.
A king, on the other hand, rules. He raises taxes to support an army and to conduct all the affairs of state. He checks on the populace, ensuring their obedience to his laws, rather than merely making himself available as a judge does.
Thus, during the time of judges, God considered himself to be in charge. He was the King. When the people demanded a different king, God lets them know what it will be like. They are ready to be a kingdom, however, and God’s warnings do no good.
It is of interest to me that the people clamored for a king while Samuel’s sons were judges because they were corrupt. Having a corrupt judge means that you don’t have a safe court of appeal. That’s bad, but that’s not nearly as bad as having a corrupt king who is going to come to you and take your money and possibly your children!