Name of God. Son of Elkanah and Hannah, born in answer to his mother’s prayers (1 Sam. 1); as a child placed in Eli’s charge at the tabernacle at Shiloh (2:11; 3:1). After Eli’s death he became the great prophet and judge of Israel, and restored law and order and regular religious worship in the land (7:2–17). After Saul had been appointed king (see 8; 9:14–10:25), Samuel seems to have ceased to act as judge, but he continued to be the prophet and representative of Jehovah. The following are the chief events belonging to this later period of his life: he calls the people to witness to his own integrity (1 Sam. 12); reproves Saul for his presumption (13:8–15); bids Saul destroy the Amalekites, and reproves him for his disobedience (1 Sam. 15); anoints David (16:1–13); receives David at Naioth (19:18); his death (25:1). There are also references to him in 1 Chr. 6:28; 9:22; 11:3; 26:28; 29:29; 2 Chr. 35:18; Ps. 99:6; Jer. 15:1; Acts 3:24; 13:20; Heb. 11:32. Though not a priest, he performed priestly functions and constantly offered sacrifice at various places. His old age was saddened by the willfulness of Saul, and he is a signal example of faith, patience, integrity, and self-sacrifice through a long and trying career.
The account in 1 Sam. 28:5–20 of the prophet being brought back from the dead by the witch of Endor, at King Saul’s request, presents a problem. It is certain that a witch or other medium cannot by any means available to her bring up a prophet from the world of spirits. We may confidently be assured that if Samuel was present on that occasion, it was not due to conjuring of the witch. Either Samuel came in spite of and not because of the witch, or some other spirit came impersonating him.