2 Sam 2:18-26

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Background to the Book of Samuel

Historical Situation:  The story contained in the books of Samuel tells of the extraordinary change in the way Israel is governed. Up to this time, there had been various tribes who on occasions had come together to combat a threat from other nations. In each instance in the book of Judges, we are told how a person was raised by God to lead the tribes on this particular occasion. The Spirit of God settles on the person and even when this is not overtly mentioned in the story it is clear from the way the story progresses that we know God's hand is directly involved in the successful consequences.

1 and 11 Samuel tell us about the immense political changes and new government structures, which take place around the end of the 10th century BCE. The centre of government during the time of the judges was at Shiloh and by the time we get to the end of 11 Samuel, the centre of what is now an empire, has moved to Jerusalem.

The voices for setting up a monarchy became stronger and it fell to Samuel, the last of the judges, to be instrumental in the forthcoming tussle between those who wanted a monarch and those who believed that God would continue to raise up leaders as required.

The amount of material, which focuses on Samuel, Saul and David compared with the space given to the remainder of the Kings of Israel, is quite disproportionate. A total of fifty five chapters is given to these three people and forty seven chapters to all the remaining kings of both the northern and southern kingdoms.

We read in the books of Joshua and Judges about the gradual settlement of the Israelite tribes into Palestine, some encroaching from the south, others from the east and the north. It was clear there was fighting with other tribes and we become familiar with the names of the Edomites and the Moabites. However, the greatest threat became the Philistines who had settled in the west of Palestine along part of the coast. Because they had perfected the art of iron casting, they were able to make wheels and other tools which gave them a superiority in war. The settlement process took at least two hundred years from the time the tribes started to enter into Palestine.

One of the ancient traditions tells of the conquest of Canaan by slow stages, with each tribe fighting alone or, at best, in coalition with other tribes. Another tradition tells about the invasion, which attacked first the southern hill country, where Judah and Simeon defeated Adonibezek, took Hebron, Debir, and Hormah, but could not gain control of the coastal plain. The house of Joseph invaded the central highlands and captured Bethel. To the north, the tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali settled among the Canaanites, and, as they grew stronger, gradually forced them into slave labour. To the west, the tribe of Dan was hemmed in against the highlands and could not conquer the plains.

The books of Samuel tell us how first Saul became king and was commissioned to defeat the Philistines who were a very real threat to the survival of Israel. Next, we see the gradual disintegration of Saul's mental and physical health and the rise of David after his defeat of Goliath. David is portrayed positively as he saves Saul's life and negatively as he betrays his own people and fights for the enemy, although never against Israel itself. The Philistines thought he was doing this but David was fighting other tribes and killing everyone so there was no one alive to tell the Philistine commander what David was doing. Some of the negative qualities of David's actions and character are omitted in a later telling of his story (Books of Chronicles). It is well that we remember he was a person of mixed motives, great faith, courage, love, greed, need for power, who killed those in opposition to his desires, he was cruel and had fits of anger. His grief at the death of Saul and Jonathan is beautifully portrayed in the lament of 2 Samuel 1:19ff. In the second book of Samuel, we read of the rise and fall of David's reign.

Dates of the first 3 Kings of the United Kingdom


c.1020 - 1004 BCE


1004 - 965 BCE


965 - 928 BCE

Literary Background to the Book   In the English translations 1 Samuel comes after the book of Ruth which has finished with the genealogy of David and we move now into the story of how Israel got its first king and then David.

Martin Noth's publication of his book (1943) in which he proposed that the body of material from Deuteronomy to the end of Second Kings was called the Deuteronomic History has been accepted, in some form, by most people. He suggested that early in exile an author/group created this history using many different sources and traditions to compose this body of work in order to explain to the people in exile why that were there. It begins with the laws given to Moses (Deuteronomy) and demonstrates in the stories following the Book of Deuteronomy how the people, priests and especially kings disobeyed the law with the consequence that they lost the land and ended up in Babylon. They gained the land (Joshua & Judges) because it was given by Yahweh and lost it because they went after other gods and were generally disobedient in their religious and ethical practices.

There is one voice in the Deuteronomic History which believes the people tried to displace Yahweh as King when they called on Samuel to give them a king like the surrounding countries. This belief becomes a major factor in their punishment and exile because they failed to trust in Yahweh and their Kings were disobedient also.

There are many books which give introductions to the Deuteronomic History and the Old Testament Guides list some ideas.xx

Context of 1 Sam 2:18-26

The Book of Samuel begins the narrative which demonstrates God's involvement with the affairs of Israel as she moves from the chaos at the end of the judges period to the call for and establishment of the throne of David. Samuel's conception is by the grace of God (and the Lord remembered her, 1:19) and God continues to be in his life as Samuel plays an important role in the reshaping of Israel's history. The story eventually ends with the reign of King David, but it takes a long while to get there - 35 chapters before we get to the point that David is crowned king over Israel and Judah.

The story of the corrupt sons of Eli surrounds the continuing story of Samuel which begins in 1 Samuel 1 (we dealt with 1 Samuel 4-20 on Pentecost 23). Chapter 1 finishes with Hannah keeping her promise to God and taking the young child into Eli's care at Shiloh where she lends him to the Lord (v.28). 1 Samuel 2 begins with the lovely Song of Praise to God by Hannah (vv1-10) before it goes into detail about the sins of Eli's two sons.

After some brief news about Samuel, Hannah and Elkanah (vv.18-26) we read of a man of god visiting Eli. A 'Man of God' is a title in this early literature for a prophet and it used extensively in the Deuteronomic History books (Deuteronomy - 2 Kings). He uses the words which typify a prophetic oracle - Thus says the Lord. He prophecies the end of the house of Eli because they have abused their position and taken portions of the sacrifice which they had no right to take. Instead of the corrupt sons of Eli, God will raise up a priest who will be faithful. We know from the story that this person will be Samuel.

Insights/Message of 1 Sam 2:18-26

Literary:xxxx1 Samuel 1:18-20, 26 is part of a large narrative story which play an integral part in the story about the rise of Samuel and the fall of the house of Eli. We know how Samuel came to be part of the household of Eli (1 Samuel 1) and vv.12-17 give the detail of Eli's sons' abuse of their position as priests. Verses 18-21 and 26 interrupt this story with a few statements which connect both, back to the promise of God to Hannah, and forward to the role which Samuel will play in future events of Israel. Verse 18 mentions 'a linen ephod' which is a sort of apron worn by a priest. This gives us a clue, when we read later in chapter 2:35 that God will raise up a priest, we know to whom God refers. Verse 19 is a lovely motherly touch which shows that Hannah did not forget her son whom she had lent to the Lord and brought him a robe when she and Elkanah came to Shiloh every year to offer their sacrifices. Verse 21 demonstrates that Eli's blessing coupled with Hannah's faithfulness brings her three sons and two daughters. Verses 22-25 interrupt this little vignette about Samuel with further episode of the Eli saga in which he rebukes his sons for their inappropriate behaviour as priests. These verses close with the acclaim that Samuel was in favour with the Lord and continued to grow in this relationship.

Message / Theology:xxxxGod's word will come true and Samuel's destiny was decided before he was born when Hannah first made her promise to give him to the Lord. She demonstrates obedience versus the disobedience of Eli's two sons. She and her husband keep the sacrifice each year. Hannah shows the care of a mother by providing a robe each year for Samuel. A robe often had dual purpose to keep a person warm during the day and acted as a blanket at night.

Eli was caring enough to try to warn his sons that if they continued to act in their evil ways they would suffer. However, Eli will suffer also because of the sins of his two sons. Hovering in the sidelines is the person who has the opposite qualities and is faithful to God, growing in relationship. We know that Samuel is the one destined to become the one who will be faithful and act for God on many occasions.

It would be interesting to think how Hannah felt seeing her child each year for a short period only. Was it any easier for her than Eli watching his two sons behave in inappropriate and abusive ways? In both cases a parent had to let go a child/ren for different reasons. God is portrayed as in control and it is all happening in order that Samuel will find and anoint the future kings of Israel.

In the Christian Church we believe we have the freedom to make choices in life whether good or bad. We live with the consequences of those choices. We hope that God's grace will bring peace and reconciliation in our world. As Christians we know that being and doing good does not necessarily bring tangible rewards and indeed may bring suffering as it did to Jesus Christ. A large part of the Hebrew Scriptures suggest that faithfulness brings its just rewards. The message and story of Job challenges this theology. The Hebrew Scriptures demonstrate very clearly the struggles of the people to grow in new understandings of God as they underwent new experiences and revelation, which is why we can read about quite diverse theological views in the lectionary readings set for the Old Testament.


Resources/Worship for 1 Sam 2:18-26

Worship:xxxThe Dramatised Bible has 1 Samuel 12-26 set out very well as a character reading. It would be helped if it was put in context with 1 Samuel 1 in order that people know something of the flow of the story. Psalm 98 is a glorious psalm of Praise which would be a great opening psalm of praise said antiphonally


The Old Testament Guides (OTG) by Sheffield Academic Press are an excellent small resource which give many suggestions for readings on particular aspects in the bookof Isaiah.

The New Interpreter's Bible is another very helpful resource and published in the late 1990's - 2002 is more up to date than some earlier works.

Birch, B. The First and second Samuel. NIB. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998.
Brueggemann,W. First and Second Samuel. Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990
Gordon, R.P. 1 & 2 Samuel. OTG. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1984
Gunn, D.M. The Story of King David. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1978
Hertzberg, H.W. 1 & 11 Samuel. OTL. London: SCM Press, 1964.
Klein, R. 1 Samuel. WBC. Waco., Texas: Word Books, 1983.
Mauchline, J. 1 and 2 Samuel. NCB. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1971.

The Dramatised Bible: ed. Michael Perry. London: Marshall Pickering: Bible Society, 1989

Web sites with helpful lectionary resources: These links were updated 30/12/11