Saturday, August 23, 2008

Prophet Samuel (4) - Sons of Samuel

The consequence of Samuel’s aggrandizement of power was manifested in his family.

When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba (1 Sam 8:1-3).
Samuel was wrong to appoint his sons as judges, because God had not commanded him to set up a ruling dynasty. The prophetic calling was not hereditary, so Samuel should not have been appointing his sons as his successors. By taking this action, he contributed to the nation’s desire to have a king, because he trained them to be ruled by one man and created the expectation that this role was hereditary.

Bad appointments produced bad behaviour.
But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice (1 Sam 8:1-3).
Samuel’s sons were dishonest and perverted justice. This is what happens when a few people are given a monopoly over justice. Monopoly power makes them vulnerable to greed and corruption. In God’s system of decentralised judges, no one has a monopoly position, because people are free to choose which judge they will ask to adjudicate. If a judge becomes corrupt, they will become redundant, as they will have no cases to decide.

There great irony in the corruption of Samuel’s sons is that his first prophet word had been a challenge to Eli, the High Priest who had turned a blind eye to the corruption of his own sons. By ignoring the failings of his sons, Samuel fell victim to the first sin that he had called. This is a warning to prophets to stay within their calling. By taking on the role of judge and priest that were not part of this prophetic calling, Samuel make himself vulnerable to the sins that he have seen in others. Samuel should have stuck to being a prophet.


Gene said...

Samuel was raised in the house of Eli, His example of how to manage his house was rooted in his observation and perhaps mentoring at the hands of Eli. Blind leading blind.

This is a straightforward generational curse. Happens all the time, Divorce, wife beating, alcahol, etc. Children emulate what they see.

Samuel wasn't abusing power by appointing his sons. He was following a pattern. Aaron and his sons. Eli etc. This part of the story is more about understanding that what we model is what we reproduce.


The Man of God that came to Eli.

I see no biblical evidence (that I can find at least, perhaps you know of some) that this Man of God was Samuel. In Vs 26 Samuel is clearly identified. In 27 it's not clear it was him. I suspect he was not the Man of God in this case.

The language he uses to Eli doesn't seem to indicate it as well.

Your trying to make this all about power and nepotism is a gnat strained too hard.

When all you have is a hammer every circumstance looks like a nail needing pounding. That's true in theology as well.

BUT, I love you Ron, you are a challenge and You challenge me. That's OK. Iron and Iron and so.

Ron McK said...

Hey Gene
Its not like you to be minimising sin. :-)

Of course, the prophecy in 1 Sam 2:27f was not Samuel. His first prophecy was in 1 Sam 3 when he told Eli what he had heard God say in the night. This was a confirmation of the warning against Eli.

This may have been a generational curse, but that is not the point. Samuel was called to be a prophet. He had a clear word from God when he was young that what Eli had done was wrong. Seers are not the blind following the blind. An angry father is not an excuse for a prophet's anger. Part of the prophetic role is to cut through these inherited patterns. Samuel did this at times, but on this one he failed. Appointing his sons was wrong, even if was the result of misunderstanding.

PS My only hammer is the word of God.

Unknown said...

So as curious as the failure of Samuel's son makes me, there are a few observations wrong about the points many of you have made. Firstly, Samuel was a Levite and therefore a priest. Though his family hailed from the land of Ephraim, his was a Levitical family. Throughout Israel, the Levites settled among the other tribes in order to serve the Lord at the local altars, etc, and to perform the local priestly duties (e.g. baby dedications--not everyone trekked to Shiloh for that, nor could all afford it.) So let's clear that up: Samuel was a priest by blood right; what makes him unusual is that he began his training as a toddler whereas the typical Levite began training for service in the temple at 25. (You can research the rabbinical writings on all of this.)

Secondly, the Lord appointed Samuel as a judge, pursuant to the death of Eli, who was also a judge (see 1 Sam 4.18). Soooo, Samuel's prophetic commissioning was inclusive of both priest and judge. He didn't stray outside the boundaries of his calling but rather was right in the middle of his appointment by God.

Thirdly, he was not subject to a generational curse of Eli's house because the Lord not only cut off Eli's house--which, if Samuel were a "spiritual" son, included in the House of Eli, he'd have died too--but he had his own heritage, through Elkanah, to draw on. So that's just a fallacious argument.

Fourthly, Samuel happens to rank, within Jewish traditional and rabbinical estimation, on par with Moses and Aaron in terms of influence and significance. Samuel stood at a transitional cusp from a political system of judgeships to that of a monarchical rule.

Fifthly, Samuel established the school of the prophets/sons of the prophets tradition as well as trained the sons of Korah in minstrelsy/prophetic song before the Lord, a lasting legacy that prevailed for generations (perhaps David learned this of Samuel too, being the Psalmist that he became?).

Lastly, Samuel's sons' errors do not mean he sinned, but his sons did. Now why Eli got rebuked by the Lord but apparently Samuel did not, when both of their sets of sons committed grave sins, remains a mystery. It doesn't excuse his failure to correct his sons, but we must remember two things: "we all stumble in many ways" and, as Paul put it, the lives of the saints of old were recorded for OUR instruction.

Don't hold others to a stand from which you excuse your own failings! And perhaps the tendency to major on the negatives rather than take account of all the noteworthy fruit that Samuel produced says more about one's own self than about Samuel??

Ini said...

Lovely response. Couldn't have said this better.

Unknown said...

How many wives did samuel marry and what is the wife's name if one?