In the Book of 1Samuel, the 3 main characters are: Samuel, the last of the Judges; Saul, the first of the Israelite Kings and; David, the second and greatest of the Kings.
In 1Samuel 1-7, the focus is on Samuel. In the early growth of Israel as a nation, the only other person who had a comparable impact to Samuel was Moses. Samuel was not only a Judge but he was also the one with whom the office of Prophet became more organized. He founded the Schools of the Prophets and formalized the prophetic order (1Sam. 10:5,9-13; 19:19-24).
Some Old Testament scholars believe that these groups of prophets were very instrumental in teaching the general populace of Israel basic truths of the LORD, and also teaching people how to read and write. Even the shepherd-boy David could have come under the influence of this School. It could explain why David was able to be so prolific in the writing of so many of the Psalms.
It is a common practice of God to raise up key leaders among His people when times are difficult and prospects are most dim. When Samuel is born to the previously barren Hannah, Eli the Priest has not only grown physically fat (1Sam. 4:18) and physically blind (1Sam. 4:15), but he has grown spiritually fat and blind. He has refused to discipline his 2 priest-sons, who are taking the best of the animal sacrifices which are to be consecrated to the LORD (1Sam.2:12-17). The 2 sons are also having sex with the women who are serving at the Tent of Meeting (1Sam.2:22). The LORD rebukes Eli with these words: “Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor you sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?”(1Sam. 2:29)
The LORD does not sit idly by. He will not let His name be profaned.In one day, Eli’s sons perish and Eli himself dies. (1Sam. 4:10-20)
In their place, the LORD raises up Samuel. The word of the LORD was rare and visions were not many under Eli (1Sam. 2:1). But the LORD is actively involved in Samuel’s life and the prophetic word begins to be heard in Israel.(1Sam. 3:19,21)
During Samuel’s lifetime, Israel transitioned from a theocracy to a monarchy. God was the invisible King of Israel but the Israelites wanted an earthly king just like the surrounding nations (1Sam. 8:4). Samuel is called to anoint Saul as the 1st king of Israel (1King 10:1). Saul starts well as the king but then becomes a tyrant. The LORD ends up taking the kingship from Saul’s family line because of his selective obedience to God’s word.
In Sam. 15:22b, 23 we read these well-known words of Samuel to Saul: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” Samuel ends up anointing David as the new king, a man after God’s own heart (1Sam. 13:14).
Eli’s sons and Saul were all guilty of wilful disobedience to God’s revealed will. They occupied important positions within the Jewish nation but this didn’t give them immunity from God’s judgment. In fact, because they flagrantly disobeyed God’s word, they were even more accountable to God’s judgment. In 1Sam. 4:4-6, Eli’s sons brought the ark of the covenant (symbolizing God’s presence) into battle with the Israelites against the Philistines. Israel was badly defeated by the Philistines, Eli’s sons died and the ark of the covenant captured.
The ark of the covenant was no magical lucky charm. Because of the wickedness of the sons, God’s presence didn’t go with Israel into battle. Instead, He judged His people. The Christian believer today should not be presumptuous either. The LORD will not overlook our rebellion. Let us keep faith with the LORD and with each other. “To obey is better than sacrifice…..rebellion is like the sin of divination.” In Christ’s love and service, Pastor John