His Death And After
The Life And Times Of Samuel The Prophet
(1 Sam. 19: 18-24; 25: 1; 28: 7-20)
AFTER the anointing of David we hear no more of Samuel, except incidentally, till the day of his death, some sixteen years later. David, driven out from the court of Saul, and forced to flee from his very wife and home, turns for refuge, not to his kindred in Bethlehem, nor to the many thousands in Israel who had lauded him so loudly for his exploits, but to his aged and trusted friend Samuel.
Even his wife Michal (though she really loved him and braved her royal father's wrath to screen him) unthinkingly adds to the odium his enemies heaped upon him by saying, "He said unto me, Let me go; why should I kill thee?" As another has said, "David suffered both from friends and foes," as did his Lord after him.
"So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth."
He felt that the man of God was one in whom he could implicitly trust, and would prove himself to be indeed "a friend in need." Samuel is not like the priest Ahimelech in chapter 21 who "was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee?" No; he was in the current of God's thoughts and well understood how matters were between Saul the rejected of God, and David His anointed. Unhesitatingly Samuel received David and identified himself with him, not fearing the wrath of the king." He changed his quarters from Ramah to Naioth - a suburb of Ramah, probably, and a school of the prophets, some think.
"And it was told Saul, saying, Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah. And Saul sent messengers to take David." But when the messengers arrive and see Samuel standing in the midst of the prophets, overcome by the power of the Spirit they all begin to prophesy. Saul sends yet other messengers and it happens to them as to the first; when he sends the third time it is the same with these.
"Then went he also to Ramah..., and he asked and said, Where are Samuel and David? And one said, Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah. AND he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came in to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day, and all that night. Wherefore they say, is Saul also among the prophets?" (chap. 19: 22-24).
"Where are Samuel and David?" the king demands in his wrath. He links their names together as joint traitors to the crown, and it is to the prophet's everlasting honor that he was classed with David's enemies as being one with him - identified with the man - rejected one in his life's darkest hour. It had been the crowning act of his life to anoint him, and it is now the closing act of his life to protect him from the rage of Saul, whom he was soon to supersede. The next notice of Samuel is his death.
"And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran" (chap. 25:1).
In the wise ordering of God, Samuel's decease just at the time of Saul's partial or pretended reconciliation to David, is recorded in the previous chapter. This lull in the storm of persecution against his friend was a suited time for the prophet's demise. Matters in the kingdom were quiet for the moment, and would not only give the prophet opportunity to say his farewell words of advice and affection to David, and other of his friends, but it permitted also his having a national burial at which all Israel might attend. David was evidently present, as maybe gathered from the final clause of the verse, "And David arose and went down to the wilderness of Paran."
How gracious of God thus to let His aged and faithful servant end his days in peace and quietness, and be buried in a manner befitting one worthy of the highest honours the nation could bestow. So in him we see fulfilled the faithful word, "Them that honor Me I will honor, and they that despise Me shall be lightly esteemed."
Would that we might leave this friend of God, and ours, resting in honor and peace in the sepulchre of his fathers. But once more he is to appear in the sad circumstances of Saul's apostasy and utter rejection by God, when in his desperation he once more inquired of him whose godly counsels he had refused.
In the gruesomeness of the story of "the witch of Endor" we find Saul in extremity desirous of communicating with the dead, and he asks, "Bring me up Samuel." To her surprise and consternation, Samuel appears, and she cries to Saul, in her terror, "Why hast thou deceived me? - for thou art Saul."
"And the king said unto her, Be not afraid; for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself" (chap. 28: 13, 14).
Yes, he bows himself now before the spirit of the prophet; but too late. He had refused his admonitions in life, and now from the grave he is to hear his final doom pronounced.
"And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do" (chap. 28: 15).
Poor wretched man! He asks advice now of him whose counsels he had hitherto refused to obey, but like Esau who had despised the blessing, "he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears." "Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?" Samuel asks the God - abandoned man. He then reminds him of the words he had told in his unwilling ears many years before:
"The Lord hath done for himself (margin ) as He spake by me: for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thy hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day" (chap. 28:17,18).
He then tells him of the overthrow of the host of Israel on the morrow, and the death of himself and his sons. Poor Saul! He feels the pangs and bitterness of death beforehand. He reaps already something of his sowing. "Moreover," the prophet says, "the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me." Saul is made to know, not only of his approaching end, but that of his sons also, that he might know for a surety that his house should not continue.
Twice he is told of the coming defeat of his army and the triumph of the Philistines. Thus he is to carry with him to the grave the knowledge of the utter ruin into which his departure from God had plunged the nation.
"Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel." Alas! for many weary years he had despised the counsel of the Lord through His holy prophet; now his end is near. He is made to know it, and terror lays hold upon him, prostrating him to the ground like one dead. The pangs awaiting him in the future have begun, as a glimpse of the life to come.
Our tracings of the life of Samuel end here. His holy, blameless life, replete with wholesome lessons of fidelity, devotedness and trust in God was not an uneventful, quiet one. He rests from his labours, but it is ours to continue the conflict against the powers of darkness, and like him, may we stand in the breach, do what in us lies to serve God, and love and intercede for His beloved though oft straying people.
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