Daily Bible Reading for March 11, 2014: 1 Samuel 1-5
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Author: Anonymous, although many believe Samuel wrote a large portion of 1 Samuel
Date: Evidence suggests Samuel was written after the Judah and Israel split into two nations. The events of 1 Samuel begin near the end of the 11th Century BC.
Context: Samuel was born to parents who had found favor with the Lord. They made regular trips to the tabernacle to worship in accordance with Mosaic Law. During one of these trips, Samuel's mother, Hannah, went to the tabernacle one night to pray because she was devastated that she had been unable to produce a child. Two things stand out in this passage. First, God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman. Additional people in a marriage lead to unhappiness and problems. Second, we see the ethical and moral decay in Israel at this time through the eyes of the priest Eli. Eli is more accustomed to drunk people "worshipping" in the tabernacle than people earnestly praying to the Lord! While the decay has been occurring for years, he has allowed it to persist by refusing to punish his sons who blatantly reject the Lord. God gives Hannah a son, who will be offered up in service to Him. It is through her son that Israel will enter a new age. Samuel will be raised in the way of the Lord under Eli's tutelage. As Samuel grows, we see the contrast between him and Eli's sons. Eli is informed by a messenger of God that his sons have turned away from the Lord and will be killed. The time of Eli's family serving as priests is coming to an end. Samuel meanwhile, is growing in the Lord. Contrary to popular thought, Samuel was not a young boy when he was called, but likely in his teens, due to the responsibilities he had within the temple. In chapter 4, Israel is at war with the Philistines. After suffering a defeat, they call for the Ark of the Covenant to be brought out to the battle field to ensure their victory. The Israelites are remembering the times of the past, such as the battle of Jericho, when the Ark would deliver the enemy unto the Israelites. What they are failing to remember is the faith, the loyalty, and the worship of the one true God that went along with the victories. The Israelites now held a pagan view of the Ark; believing that simply possessing it would guarantee victory. It did not. Accompanying the Ark was the wicked sons of Eli, who were killed in battle as foretold. The Ark was captured by the Philistines who placed in the temple of their god Dagon as a trophy. The Ark is not a trophy, nor will the Lord permit it to be used as such. Whichever city had possession of the Ark suffered severe illnesses. The statue of Dagon was found bowing to the Ark and later missing his hands and head, the sign of a military defeat.
World History: Samuel's mother promised that no razor would touch Samuel's hair. Some argue that Hannah was making a Nazarite vow. If you remember from Judges, Samson was a Nazarite; his hair remained uncut, he drank nothing made from fruit of the vine, and avoided dead people. The passage does not specify if Samuel fulfilled the final two requirements for a Nazarite. Dagon is a know Babylonian and Philistine god. King Hammurabi references him at the beginning of the Hammurabi Code. Originally Dagon was a fertility god. Later accounts reference him as a grain god and then a fish god.