THE MESSIAH IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: PART 3
SAMUEL AND THE GOSPEL
by Doug Ward
A few years ago, our family enjoyed reading Walter Wangerin's The Book of God: the Bible as a Novel (Zondervan, 1996). In this book, Wangerin
vividly and faithfully relates the story of the Promise of the Messiah,
beginning with the calling of Abram and ending with the resurrection of Jesus
Christ and the founding of the
In this series of articles, we are tracing the Promise of the Messiah chronologically through the Old Testament, from the Garden of Eden to the time of Malachi, in a different way-via a succession of wonderful prophecies. These prophecies, considered together, reveal the character and mission of the Messiah in remarkable detail. They formed a key part of the message of the early Church and have brought many to faith in Jesus Christ throughout the ensuing generations, right up to the present day.
The first two parts of the series discussed the messianic prophecies given
in the Pentateuch and the book of Job, which predict the coming of a male
descendant of Judah who would defeat Satan, rule over all nations, and be a
prophet like Moses and a divine mediator between God and man. In this
installment, we move ahead to the time when the children of
The Era of the Judges
After the death of Moses, Joshua and other leaders of his
generation guided the Israelites in the conquest of much of the
Intermittently the suffering of the Israelites awakened them to repentance,
and God raised up judges to deliver them. Sadly,
During this bleak period of
The Significance of Samuel
Samuel played a key transitional role in the history of
In the sermon recorded in Acts 3:12-26, the apostle Peter would later state that Samuel was also one of those who announced the coming of the Messiah: ``Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.'' (Acts 3:24, KJV) Although no messianic prophecies spoken by Samuel are recorded in the Bible, the gospel was indeed indirectly given through Samuel in at least two ways.
First, Samuel (whose name means ``heard of God'') is a type of Jesus in the
circumstances of his birth and childhood (see for example [1, pp. 13-16]).
Samuel's birth was a miracle, the result of the fervent prayer of his mother
Hannah (I Samuel 1), and Hannah's prayer of thanksgiving (I Sam. 2:1-10) is
similar to Mary's expression of rejoicing in the Magnificat
(Luke 1:46-55). In particular, both Hannah and Mary emphasize that God humbles
the proud and exalts the humble. Like Mary and Joseph, Hannah and Elkanah made regular pilgrimages to worship God (I Sam.
1:3; Luke ). Samuel as a young
boy served under Eli the priest (I Sam. ),
while Jesus discussed aspects of Torah with teachers at the
According to David Daube [1, pp. 13-14], there is also a rabbinic legend that the boy Samuel once corrected Eli on a technical point involving sacrificial regulations. If this story was extant in the first century, it could further explain why Luke saw Samuel's boyhood as typical of Jesus' boyhood.
A Prophecy of God's Anointed King
Another aspect of Samuel's link to the announcement of the Messiah lies in the fact that God inspired two Messianic prophecies to be given when Samuel was a child. Both are recorded in I Samuel 2, and both refer to God's ``anointed one.'' The Hebrew word for ``anointed one'' is mashiyach, the very source of the English word ``messiah.'' (See Grace and Knowledge, Issue 4, pp. 5-6 for a good discussion of this Hebrew word.)
One of these prophecies is part of Hannah's prayer of thanksgiving. In her prayer, she rejoices in the fact that a righteous and holy God rules over all of the universe, protecting the saints and punishing the wicked. The prayer concludes with these words:
`` It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.'' (I Sam. 2:9-10, NIV)
Notice that the parallel structure of the last sentence of verse 10 identifies God's king with His anointed. One of the Targumim (Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew scriptures) emphasizes this parallelism by rendering ``exalt the horn of his anointed'' as ``magnify the kingdom of his Messiah''[2, p. 71].
Thus in Hannah's prayer, we see yet another reference to a coming king. God
had earlier promised Abraham that ``kings will come from you'' (Gen. 17:6, 16)
and repeated to Jacob that ``kings will come from your body''(Gen.
35:11). In the last
installment of this series, we discussed Jacob's prediction that a king
commanding ``the obedience of the nations'' would come from the tribe of
How would the prophecy of Hannah be fulfilled? Up to that time,
A Prophecy of God's Faithful Priest
While the boy Samuel was serving ``before the Lord'' under Eli
the priest (I Sam. , 18), the
corruption of Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas dishonored God and undermined the faith of
The unnamed prophet also made statements that have implications far beyond the immediate fate of Eli's family. The long overall time span of the prophecy is signalled by the introductory phrase ``the time is coming'' (v. 31). This phrase is often used to announce events to occur in the distant future- see for example Amos 8:11; . With this in mind, let us consider verse 35 (NIV):
``I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always.''
As translated here, verse 35 seems to point to a line of priests that would serve the Messiah forever. Perhaps the ``faithful priest'' was Zadok, a priest of David's time whose descendants were later predicted to minister in the future millennial temple (Ezekiel 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11).
There is also another reading of this verse that depends upon a slightly different translation of one word-the pronoun rendered ``he''. It is usually assumed that this pronoun refers to the faithful priest. But what if it is the house, rather than the priest, which will minister before the anointed one? Then another interpretation is possible: the faithful priest and the anointed one could be one and the same!
Kaiser [2, p. 74-76] makes a very convincing case for this latter reading of verse 35. He points out that Jesus is the One who, more than anyone else, does what is in God's heart and mind (John 8:28-29, e.g.). In addition, we are told in Hebrews 3:1-2 that Jesus is our faithful high priest today. Finally, the firmly established house of I Sam. 2:35 is identified in Hebrews 3:6:
``But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.''
In this prophecy, as in several others that we have studied so far, judgment from God is accompanied by a reassuring announcement of future hope in the promise of the Messiah. For us today, there is great encouragement in I Sam. and Heb. 3:1-6. If we walk closely with the Anointed One now, we can look forward to serving before Him forever.
As Peter proclaimed in Acts 3:24, Samuel was indeed instrumental in announcing the gospel. His childhood looked forward to that of Jesus, and his loyal ministry under Eli the priest is a model for the Church's service before its faithful High Priest. Late in his life, Samuel anointed King David, a type and ancestor of our great King who will return to judge the world.
To David, God would bring one of the greatest announcements of the Promise through the prophet Nathan. We will discuss this momentous prophecy in our next installment.
1. David Daube, The New
Testament and Rabbinic Judaism, The Athlone
2. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The
Messiah in the Old Testament, Zondervan,
File translated from