1 Samuel – Friday Night Genesis Friday, Oct 5, 2012Intro to the BookThis month we are looking at the book of 1 Samuel, and with it we are getting into thethick of the historical accounts of the nation of Israel. The books that we are now comingto have a pretty interesting history. In the original Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) thebooks of Samuel were one book, as were the books of Kings. However, in the time ofAlexander the Great, in 4th century BC, scattered across the vast Greek empire the Jewsbegan to translate their Bible into Greek, and this translation is called the Septuagint. Inthe Septuagint both Samuel and Kings got lumped together and called the Book ofKingdoms. In 4th century AD, when Rome ruled a good chunk of the world, a fella by thename of Jerome was commissioned to translate the Bible into Latin, a translation knowntoday as the Latin Vulgate. In it, these books were split into four parts – Kings 1 thru 4.Consequently in some older English translations, like the King James or the Douay-Rheims you may find notes referring to 1. Samuel as 1. Kings and going clear through to4. Kings. The contents of our next four books in the series is still the same, but it is worthnoting that they had been divided up in different ways over the course of history.Historically we are looking at 11th century BC. We are not entirely sure when Samuelwas born and died, but we know that Saul became king somewhere around 1050 BCand died around 1007 BC, which is where the book of 1. Samuel ends. Samuel himselfis described as the last of the judges of Israel. So in this book we are moving from theera where judges led Israel to the era when kings started ruling over Israel.God cares about the things we care aboutIt was difficult choosing what to talk about this evening. There is so much good and wellknown material in the book of 1. Samuel! From the boy Samuel at the Temple, the lossof the Ark of the Covenant to the Philistines and its subsequent return, anointing of Sauland David as kings of Israel and their games of cat and mouse, the heartwarming storyof David and Jonathan and their friendship, and of course, probably the best known storyfrom the Bible – whether you grew up in a church or not – the story of David and Goliath.The little boy going against the giant in armor and winning with nothing but a stone and asling, then cutting off the giants head and walking around with it for the rest of the day….I bet they didn’t tell you that part of the story when you were a kid!One of the biggest and most consequential stories in this book is the move to establish aking. This wasn’t God’s idea. The people asked for it. What is more astonishing is thatGod grants the request. It was a somewhat odd request. Samuel, a well respected judgeand leader was getting on in years and had appointed his sons as judges. But his sonswere corrupt in the way they carried out their duties, and so the natural solution was toestablish a hereditary monarchy instead. Hadn’t they just learned that sons do notnecessarily follow in the footsteps of their fathers?! I suspect that the more telling linewas: “so that we can be like all the other nations” (1. Samuel 8:5,20).You may wonder what the big deal is. Whether the person leading the nation is a judgeor a king – you still have a leading figurehead. As you ponder that, it may be of somehelp to consider that Americans made George Washington their first president and nottheir first king. What it meant in the case of Israel was that God was no longer theirultimate King. God had already given them the laws of the land. God was already
leading them in battles. God was already collecting tithe, and God already had the wholetribe of Levi essentially in the capacity of public servants, and had put aside towns andland for their use among the other tribes. Judges were there to merely apply the lawsthat God had already given, and Levites to educate about the laws. The bottom line isthat the nation would still look to God for leadership and legislature. By establishing aking of their own they were electing to look to a human for leadership instead. It meantthat now there would be new laws established by the king, laws which may or may notconflict with the law God gave them.God is fully aware of this when He tells Samuel: “Listen to all that the people are sayingto you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” (1.Samuel 8:7).This also meant that now in addition to tithe and the tribe of Levi that belonged to God,there would be taxes, servants and property taken in order to also support the kingshousehold. God, through Samuel, warns them of all this in plain Hebrew, but the peopleagree to take on the additional burdens because they want to have a king real bad. Thiswas evidently very important to them and so God gave them what they want – instructingSamuel to search for a king. Eventually God led him to Saul, a man who was everythingthey thought they would want in a king. He was an “impressive young man”, the Bibletells us, “without equal among the Israelites – a head taller than any other.” (1. Samuel9:2). There might have been a minor flaw with the guy, he did after all try and hide in theluggage during his own coronation, but he looked good and the people loved it. It wasimportant to them that they have a king like the other nations and God had granted themtheir wish.There is another, more personal story in 1. Samuel, where God cared about the thingsthat were important to people. In the very first chapter we read a story of 2 ladies both ofwhom had something, but wanted what the other had. Hannah and Peninnah were bothmarried to a fella named Elkanah. Hannah was Elkanah’s sweetheart, and most scholarsspeculate that it was likely that he married her first, since his love and affection for herare obvious. Whenever they went to the temple, Elkanah would give Hannah a doubleportion of the food. I know in today’s diet crazed world that doesn’t make too muchsense, but back then this was significant. Hannah, unfortunately, was unable to havechildren. This too was a big deal in Israel. Each tribe, clan and family had their allottedinheritance in the promised land, and so it was of utmost importance to continue thefamily line. If you don’t believe me, just consider how many genealogies we have alreadyread up until now, and we haven’t even got to Chronicles yet! And there were also thelaws about the duty of brothers or close relatives to continue the family line of adeceased relative which we discussed last month in the story of Naomi, Boaz and Ruth.Offspring was important, and Hannah was unable to produce any. Which is wherePeninnah comes in. Peninnah was evidently a regular baby-factory, lavishing Elkanahwith sons and daughters – plural.And this is where things get complicated. Hannah had Elkanah’s love and affection, butshe wanted kids. Peninnah had the children, but wanted Elkanah’s love and affection.Each woman wanted what the other one had, and they were driving each other crazy.This pressure cooker always seemed to blow during their annual pilgrimage to thetemple. Jealous at the sight of Hannah receiving the double portion from Elkanah,Peninnah would start taunting Hannah about her inability to have children until Hannahwas reduced to tears and lost all appetite. She was so distraught that Eli the priest
thought Hannah was drunk when he saw her. But Hannah was not drunk. She hadreached the end of her rope and was crying out to God for help.Of course, the first thing God could have done is to tap Elkanah on the shoulder and say“Hey, dude, you got a wife too many! Just a hunch, but it might have something to dowith the drama in your household.” But God didn’t go down that route, which puzzlesmany saints today. It seems the practice was all too common in the day, and as thesaying goes: all babies need to crawl before they walk. Much later apostle Paul wouldinstruct those choosing elders and deacons in their local churches to look for men whoare a husband to but one wife. But for now, we only have stories like this one ascautionary tales as to why polygamy may not be such a good idea.Another tack God could have taken is to say “Be grateful for what you do have. Isn’t thelove of your husband worth to you more than 10 sons?” But God didn’t do that either.Having children was important to Hannah, and because God cared about her and whatwas important to her He gave her the son that she craved. In fact, God cared about bothHannah and Peninnah and answered both their prayers.Yes, I know that we are not told anything further about Peninnah, but read between thelines. "When the man Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annualsacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband,After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will livethere always." (1. Samuel 1:21, 22) So Hannah remained at home with Samuel until hewas weaned. Heres the thing: in Biblical times, babies were not commonly weaned untilafter the age of three. Until then, they were totally dependent upon their mothersbreastfeeding. That means, then, that for at least three years, Hannah stayed home withSamuel while the rest of the family journeyed to the temple. Peninnah now had Elkanahall to herself for at least three years when they made these special trips to the temple,the sole object of his love and affection. For Peninnah these trips that brought so muchtension and jealousy were now something to look forward to.And Hannah? The Bible tells us that after Samuel she had another 3 sons and 2daughters. In the end, both women received what they wanted. Hannah had childrenand Peninnah had special time with Elkanah. God found a way to give both of them whatmattered to them, because they mattered to Him. And God is no different today. Hecares about what we care about. Big things, small things, it doesnt matter. He caresabout the things that matter to us because we matter to Him.