the son of Elkanah and Hannah. He was born at Ramathaim-zophim, among the hills of Ephraim (see Ramah, 2). Before his birth he was dedicated by his mother to the office of a Nazarite, and when a young child, 12 years old according to Josephus, he was placed in the temple and “ministered unto the Lord before Eli.” It was while here that he received his first prophetic call (1 Samuel 3:1-18). He next appears, probably twenty years afterward, suddenly among the people, warning them against their idolatrous practices (1 Samuel 7:3-4). Then followed Samuel’s first and, as far as we know, only military achievement (1 Samuel 7:5-12), but it was apparently this which raised him to the office of “judge.” He visited, in the discharge of his duties as ruler, the three chief sanctuaries on the west of Jordan—Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh (1 Samuel 7:16). His own residence was in his native city, Ramah, where he married, and two sons grew up to repeat under his eyes the same perversion of high office that he had himself witnessed in his childhood in the case of the two sons of Eli. In his old age he shared his power with them (1 Samuel 8:1-4), but the people, dissatisfied, demanded a king, and Samuel finally anointed Saul under God’s direction and surrendered to him his authority (1 Samuel 12:1), though still remaining judge (1 Samuel 7:15). He was consulted far and near on the small affairs of life (1 Samuel 9:7-8) From this fact, combined with his office of ruler, an awful reverence grew up around him. No sacrificial feast was thought complete without his blessing (1 Samuel 9:13). A peculiar virtue was believed to reside in his intercession. After Saul was rejected by God, Samuel anointed David in his place, and Samuel became the spiritual father of the psalmist-king. The death of Samuel is described as taking place in the year of the close of David’s wanderings. It is said with peculiar emphasis, as if to mark the loss, that “all the Israelites were gathered together” from all parts of this hitherto-divided country, and “lamented him,” and “buried him” within his own house, thus in a manner consecrated by being turned into his tomb (1 Samuel 25:1). Samuel represents the independence of the moral law, of the divine will, as distinct from legal or sacerdotal enactments, which is so remarkable a characteristic of all the later prophets. He is also the founder of the first regular institutions of religious instructions and communities for the purposes of education.
Smith's Bible Names Dictionary (1866).