In the midst of the great achievements of Samuel's leadershipthe spiritual revivals, the national reforms, and the deliverances from servitude to enemy nationsthere was an open revolt by the people against God's plan of government. This revolt was followed by developments of serious moment to the nation. It produced contrasting and contradictory conditions. It developed situations radically opposed to one another, with prospects at once the brightest and the darkest. It brought forth the truest loyalty to God and the rankest apostasy, the height of prosperity and the extreme of adversity; the most satisfying tranquillity and the most devastating revolutions.
But notwithstanding the regrettable changes that took place and the perilous conditions that developed, the records of those years and events show that there was, during that period, a marked manifestation of the prophetic gift, and that it exercised a powerful influence for good in movements that imperiled the welfare of the people and the cause of God. In order to know and to appreciate fully the great value of the services rendered by this heaven-sent gift in those momentous events, it is necessary to give them careful study.
One of the most serious and far-reaching events for evil occurred in the closing years of the splendid leadership of the prophet Samuel. That was nothing less than a revolution in the government God had established for His people. It was conducted by the nation of Israel. The sinister though veiled purpose of this revolution was to get rid of divine kingship and the restraining influence of the prophetic gift.
The record of this serious affair is given by the prophet Samuel:
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and
thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 1 Sam. 8:4, 5.
This demand of Israel was alarming and displeasing to Samuel. It was so audacious, so revolutionary, so full of peril, that Samuel would return no answer until he had received direct instruction from the Lord. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them . Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. 1 Sam. 8:6-9.
Having received this definite instruction, Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. 1 Sam. 8:10, 19, 20.
The seriousness of this revolt against the government of Jehovah was set forth with still greater emphasis at the time of the coronation of the king that had been chosen. On that occasion Samuel said to the people:
When ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the Lord your God was your king. Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the Lord will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call unto the Lord, and He shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking you a king. So Samuel called unto the Lord; and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. 1 Sam. 12:12, 16-19.
From Adam to the time of the prophet Samuel the Lord had been both recognized and gladly accepted by His people as their divine king. He had ordained a form of government for His loyal subjects which should continue to the end of time.
Although the details of administration may have been few and comparatively simple in the beginning, and even for generations, yet the plan of the government was, from the first, as perfect and complete as when later fully organized by Moses and administered by Samuel.
That the Lord Himself should establish and operate the government of His people as their king was imperative. But by yielding to sin, Adam had come under the dominion of Satan. He lost the power of self-restraint with which he had been endowed at creation. He was rendered incapable of governing himself, and by his sin this same ruin had been brought upon the whole human family.
Knowing the nature of sin and its terrible effects on the human heart, the Lord foresaw what would take place among menthe maladministration of government; the misconception and disregard of human rights; the enactment of unjust and oppressive laws; the bribery and corruption of courts; the devastating wars of nations. All this was open to His infinite mind. He saw that only His interposition could save the world from oppression, revolution, and anarchy. Therefore in great mercy and compassion He instituted a form of government which, if accepted and carried out, would insure to every subject equality, justice, and tranquillity. Thus mankind would be saved from the oppression, warfare, and continual revolution that would otherwise surely come upon them.
That government was not a man-made monarchy, nor was it a democracy. It was a theocracy,a government in which Jehovah was recognized and revered as king. His kingship was very definitely and gratefully accepted by His loyal people in olden times. Isaiah declared in clear, positive terms: The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king.
Isa. 33:22. The psalmist acknowledged God as king above all: God is my king of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. Ps. 74:12. Said Jeremiah: The Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting king. Jer. 10:10. Of that theocracy one has written:
The government of Israel was administered in the name and by the authority of God. The work of Moses, of the seventy elders, of the rulers and judges, was simply to enforce the laws that God had given; they had no authority to legislate for the nation. This was, and continued to be, the condition of Israel's existence as a nation. From age to age, men inspired by God were sent to instruct the people, and to direct in the enforcement of the laws.Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 603.
That was a theocracy, a theocratic government, a government which received its authority, power, laws, and administration directly from God. Regarding the method chosen by the Lord for the administration of His government, another says:
In Him all the powers of the state, legislative, executive, judicial, were united . He exercised His governmental offices for the most part through men whom He raised up . The stability of the state under the theocratic form of government depended in the first instance and ultimately on the faithfulness of God to His election and His promises; but the success of the theocracy at any given period was conditioned by the attitude of the people toward God and toward the provisions of the covenant. Their obedience to God and reliance on Him were requisite.Dictionary of the Bible, John D. Davis, art., Theocracy, pp. 773, 774.
This theocratic government could not be administered by the Lord without a channel of communication between Himself and man. The gift of prophecy was that channel. It was the method by which Jehovah, the invisible King, revealed His will, made known His laws, selected His administrators, and raised up godly men to be His messengers, who were to receive from Him inspired messages for kings, princes, priests, and people. Following a clear statement regarding the nature of a theocracy and its administration, W. M. McPheeters says:
The realization of such an idea was only possible within the sphere of what is known as special revelation. Indeed, special revelation o! the divine will, through divinely chosen organs, to divinely appointed executive agents, is, itself, the very essence of the idea of a theocracy.The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol. V, art., Theocracy, p. 2965.
By the term special revelation the writer means the revelations given through the prophetic gift.
During the time from Adam to Samuel, a period of nearly three thousand years, the divinely appointed leaders in God's ideal government were patriarchs, prophets, elders, and judges. Some of these great leaders were brought into the world by special providences of God for a definite and extraordinary service He wanted to have rendered. Among these were Isaac, Moses, Samuel, and later, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and Paul. Others were appointed by the Lord as occasion required.
It was while Samuel was administering the affairs of government for Jehovah that Israel rose in revolt. Samuel, it will be recalled, came into the world by divine providence. Said his pious, God-fearing mother, For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: therefore also I have lent [returned, margin] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. 1 Sam. 1:27, 28.
In due time the Lord imparted to Samuel the prophetic gift. All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord. 1 Sam. 3:20.
By the providence of God Samuel became Israel's upright, incorruptible judge and administrator of the theocracy.
Since the days of Joshua, the government had never been conducted with so great wisdom and success as under Samuel's administration. Divinely invested with the threefold office of judge, prophet, and priest, he had labored with untiring and disinterested zeal for the welfare of his people, and the nation had prospered under his wise control. Order had been restored, and godliness promoted, and the spirit of discontent was checked for the time . The days of Israel's greatest prosperity
had been those in which they acknowledged Jehovah as their king,-when the laws and the government which He had established were regarded as superior to those of all other nations.Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 603-605.
What amazing ingratitude and blindness Israel manifested in rejecting God, their divine King, and choosing a faulty human being to take His place! Truly, this was, as Samuel declared, great wickedness. It was one of the supreme wrongs of the Israelites. By this desperate act Israel rejected God as their king. By the same act they also rejected the government God had established for the greatest possible benefit of His people.
Yet more than that, they rejected His prophetic gift, that open channel of communication between heaven and earth. Thus, on their part, Israel completely separated themselves from God and from all that He had put in operation for their safe guidance and protection. All this may not have been intended or even foreseen by them at the moment, but it was nevertheless all involved in their determination to have a man instead of God as their leader.
This was the hidden, subtle purpose of the mastermind back of the revolt against the theocratic government. Israel was then the only nation on earth that recognized the true God or had any communication with Him. Every other nation had turned from the Creator to false gods and to heathen worship. If, now, Israel's connection with Jehovah, their King, could be broken, the estrangement and separation of the human race would be complete. Satan would then gain his original purpose. This, he undoubtedly reasoned, would establish forever his sovereignty over man and the dominion given him at creation.
But Satan's ambitious, long-cherished scheme was not allowed to reach the full consummation he had purposed. True, the nation rejected Jehovah as king. They put a mere man in His place. They rejected the prophetic gift by spurning its messages. But the breakthe separation of Israel from Godwas not entire, for the Lord did not abandon the nation altogether. He
did not refuse to take any part in governmental affairs, He did not abdicate in favor of their king. On the contrary, while He allowed them to have a human, visible king, He continued to maintain a measure of authority over both king and people. He maintained at least a limited theocratic government for centuries. He overruled in the affairs of the nation as He saw fit and best. Nor was the prophetic gift withdrawn. This gracious channel of communication was kept open. Indeed, it was opened wider than ever to meet the new needs and dangers that had been created and multiplied.
At no other time in the history of God's people has there been a greater manifestation of the prophetic gift. The Scriptures record the names and the services of thirty different prophets from Samuel to Jeremiah. Besides these thirty who are named, several unnamed prophets are mentioned, to whom definite duties were assigned. The records also speak of the sons of the prophets, and of companies of subordinate prophets. The records further show that nearly every one of the forty-two kings from Saul to Zedekiah was counseled by these prophets.
Thus in great compassion and kindness the Lord dealt with kings and people. Some of the kings welcomed the prophets and gave heed to their messages as from the Lord. For such He wrought marvelous deliverances in times of great peril. He sent messages of warning to kings whose evil ways were corrupting and destroying His people. In some cases the Lord brought severe punishment upon those who rejected His messages.
In the history of Israel's kings and prophets from Samuel to the final destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah may be obtained the fullest and clearest understanding of the purpose, the service, and the value of the prophetic gift. Here are recorded the conditions which the prophets met, the messages given them to deliver, the reactions of those to whom the messages were delivered, and the fierce conflicts into which some of the prophets were drawn by kings, priests, and people. The results were often strange and unaccountable.
And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah. 1 Sam. 25:1. This is the brief word regarding the passing of this great prophet and eminent judge. His death marked the close of the time of the judges, for he was the last and the greatest in that class of the nation's leaders.
The following appropriate and beautiful tribute to the life of this man of God will be read with both profit and pleasure:
The death of Samuel was regarded as an irreparable loss by the nation of Israel. A great and good prophet and an eminent judge had fallen in death; and the grief of the people was deep and heartfelt. From his youth up, Samuel had walked before Israel in the integrity of his heart; although Saul had been the acknowledged king, Samuel had wielded a more powerful influence than he, because his record was one of faithfulness, obedience, and devotion. We read that he judged Israel all the days of his life .
The nation had lost the founder and president of its sacred schools; but that was not all. It had lost him to whom the people had been accustomed to go with their great troubles,lost one who had constantly interceded with God in behalf of the best interests of its people. The intercession of Samuel had given a feeling of security; for the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
It was when the nation was racked with internal strife, when the calm, God-fearing counsel of Samuel seemed to be most needed, that God gave His aged servant rest. Bitter were the reflections of the people as they looked upon his quiet resting place, and remembered their folly in rejecting him as their ruler; for he had so close a connection with Heaven that he seemed to bind all Israel to the throne of Jehovah. It was Samuel who had taught them to love and obey God; but now that he was dead, the people felt that they were left to the mercies of a king who was joined to Satan, and who would divorce the people from God and heaven.Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 663, 664.
Closing his review of the life and accomplishments of Samuel, A. S. Geden says:
It is not without reason, therefore, that he has been regarded as in dignity and importance occupying the position of a second Moses in
relation to the people. In his exhortations and warnings the Deuteronomic discourses of Moses are reflected and repeated. He delivers the nation from the hand of the Philistines, as Moses from Pharaoh and the Egyptians . In nobility of character and utterance also, and in fidelity to Jehovah, Samuel is not unworthy to be placed by the side of the older lawgiver. The record of his life is not marred by any act or word which would appear unworthy of his office or prerogative.The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol. IV, art., Samuel, p. 2678.
In one of his psalms, David makes significant reference to Samuel: Moses and Aaron among His priests, and Samuel among them that call upon His name; they called upon the Lord, and He answered them. Ps. 99:6.
Moses, Aaron, and Samuel were three of the greatest prophets of Old Testament history. Placing Samuel with Moses and Aaron, men who called upon the Lord and received marvelous answers, is a divine recognition of the great achievements wrought through the mighty intercessions of Samuel for Israel.
Another very remarkable statement concerning Samuel occurs in the book of Jeremiah:
Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go. Jer. 15:1.
Israel had gone so far in rebellion against the Lord in rejecting the messages of His prophets that He said to Jeremiah: Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness. This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from Me, saith the Lord; because thou hast forgotten Me, and trusted in falsehood. Jer. 13:24, 25.
Evidently on hearing this Jeremiah began to pray for the
people, for he says: Then said the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people
for their good (Jer. 14:11); and to show him how unalterable was the
decision, the Lord said: Though Moses and Samuel stood before
Me,even if those mighty intercessors should lift their voices in
Israel's behalf,yet My mind could not be toward this people