Study Guide

1 Samuel Leadership

Leadership

Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. {assembled: Heb. assembled by troops} And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. {of your...: or, evil words of you} Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD'S people to transgress. {transgress: or, cry out}If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them. (1 Samuel 2:22-25, KJV)

Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad. If one person sins against another, someone can intercede for the sinner with the LORD; but if someone sins against the LORD, who can make intercession?" But they would not listen to the voice of their father; for it was the will of the LORD to kill them. (1 Samuel 2:22-25, NRSV)

Obvious alert: good leaders must be able to direct the people who follow them. Sadly for Eli, he fails in this task. His own sons do a lot of bad things, which causes the people to not have a good opinion of them. While leaders often have to rise above public opinion, it's also important for people to respect them. Eli's sons have created a terrible scandal, which later has a terribly high price: their lives.

And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them. And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests' offices, that I may eat a piece of bread. {Put: Heb. Join} {one of...: of, somewhat about the priesthood}. (1 Samuel 2:34-36, KJV)

The fate of your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you -- both of them shall die on the same day. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed one forever. Everyone who is left in your family shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread, and shall say, Please put me in one of the priest's places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.'" (1 Samuel 2:34-36, NRSV)

Some people believe that their actions don't matter that much, but the actions of Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas are far reaching. Because of their sin, their family will lose favor in Israel and eventually lose their positions as priests. God will choose another family of priests to take over. This is rather sad considering how faithful and good Eli is as a priest.

And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. {in circuit: Heb. and he circuited} And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD. (1 Samuel 7:15 -17, KJV)

Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. He went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all these places. Then he would come back to Ramah, for his home was there; he administered justice there to Israel, and built there an altar to the LORD. (1 Samuel 7:15 -17, NRSV)

If there's a job to be done, then Samuel's probably already done it. He works in the temple as a priest and a prophet, and we also read about some legal matters he attends to as a judge. Samuel maintained his position of leadership by regularly checking in with the people. Take note Shmoopers, the best way to be the boss is by letting everyone know you care.

When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." Samuel prayed to the LORD, and the LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (1 Samuel 8:1-7, KJV)

When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." Samuel prayed to the LORD, and the LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (1 Samuel 8:1-7, NRSV)

Perhaps the hardest part of being a leader is naming a suitable successor. But just because the word "success" is part of the word "successor," that doesn't mean that the person who follows you will be a good leader. Samuel is a great leader, but his sons are not. They take bribes. Justice is on sale to the highest bidder. You would think that Samuel would have learned a lesson from Eli. His sons were scoundrels, too. It sure doesn't look like Samuel was paying attention to all of the bad things the sons of Eli did. Now that Samuel is old, the people want a new leader, but they're upping the ante. They've decided that they want a king. The Israelites make the assumption that having a king will be better for them. Well, they haven't met Saul yet.

And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. {officers: Heb. eunuchs} And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. (1 Samuel 8:10-18, KJV)

So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day." (1 Samuel 8:10-18, NRSV)

When the people ask for a king, they really don't know what they're getting themselves into. They believe that a king will protect them from their enemies, but Samuel tries to warn them that a king has a lot more responsibilities than fighting everyone's battles for them. On top of that, a king is going to require money and land. Like those of most wise men, the words of Samuel fall on deaf ears.

And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen. And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent. {with...: Heb. as one man} And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. (1 Samuel 11:7-8, KJV)

He took a yoke of oxen, and cut them in pieces and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by messengers, saying, "Whoever does not come out after Saul and Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen!" Then the dread of the LORD fell upon the people, and they came out as one. When he mustered them at Bezek, those from Israel were three hundred thousand, and those from Judah seventy thousand. (1 Samuel 11:7-8, NRSV)

So how do you go about gathering troops to fight an enemy? Some countries require military service of all of their citizens. In times of war, some countries choose to draft soldiers. Those soldiers are forced to fight—whether they want to or not. Saul has an interesting tactic for bringing troops together: he threatens people. Okay so maybe this is more mean and evil than interesting. Hey Saul, you need to work on your people skills.

And the people said unto Samuel, Who is he that said, Shall Saul reign over us? bring the men, that we may put them to death. And Saul said, There shall not a man be put to death this day: for to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel. (1 Samuel 11:12-13, KJV)

The people said to Samuel, "Who is it that said, 'Shall Saul reign over us?' Give them to us so that we may put them to death." But Saul said, "No one shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has brought deliverance to Israel." (1 Samuel 11:12-13, NRSV)

Whenever you're a leader, someone will always criticize you. When Saul gets criticized, he shows mercy and forgiveness. We're guessing Saul has a limited supply of these nice qualities because they go away pretty fast once David comes around.

And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. {followed...: Heb. trembled after him} And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering. And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him. {salute: Heb. bless} And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. {made...: Heb. intreated the face}And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee. (1 Samuel 13:7-14, KJV)

Some Hebrews crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people began to slip away from Saul. So Saul said, "Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the offerings of well-being." And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived; and Saul went out to meet him and salute him. Samuel said, "What have you done?" Saul replied, "When I saw that the people were slipping away from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines were mustering at Michmash, I said, 'Now the Philistines will come down upon me at Gilgal, and I have not entreated the favor of the LORD'; so I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering." Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which he commanded you. The LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever, but now your kingdom will not continue; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart; and the LORD has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you." (1 Samuel 13:7-14, NRSV)

Priests and kings often work together for the betterment of their nation. The priest takes care of religious matters, and the king takes care of political matters. But sometimes kings and priests come into conflict. Here, Saul is waiting for Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice. Samuel does not arrive at the appointed time so Saul jumps the gun and does the priest's job. Uh oh. The fact that Saul offered a sacrifice might not seem like a big deal to us, but when Samuel shows up, he's ready to throw down. Lesson of the verses: if a priest has a job to do, let him. No micromanaging please.

And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food. (1 Samuel 14:24, KJV)

Now Saul committed a very rash act on that day. He had laid an oath on the troops, saying, "Cursed be anyone who eats food before it is evening and I have been avenged on my enemies." So none of the troops tasted food. (1 Samuel 14:24, NRSV)

Saul, why do you make such idiotic decisions? If your men have a battle to fight, they must be full in the belly. Sadly for Saul, this is just another tally on his list of oh-no-nos.

Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God. So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD. (1 Samuel 15:30-31, KJV)

Then Saul said, "I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God." So Samuel turned back after Saul; and Saul worshiped the LORD. (1 Samuel 15:30-31, NRSV)

Just because you're in charge doesn't mean you have all the answers. All leaders make mistakes, but good leaders have advisors to make sure this doesn't happen. In Saul's case, he has Samuel, but the leader-advisor relationship only works when you're willing to listen. Saul has a problem with that.

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul enquired of the LORD, the LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor. (1 Samuel 28:3-7, KJV)

Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. Saul had expelled the mediums and the wizards from the land. The Philistines assembled, and came and encamped at Shunem. Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. When Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, not by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, "Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, so that I may go to her and inquire of her." His servants said to him, "There is a medium at Endor." (1 Samuel 28:3-7, NRSV)

If you're a leader and you make a rule, people expect you to follow that rule. If you don't, you look like a hypocrite. In this story, Saul deems it illegal to associate with magic. So naturally Saul goes out and seeks magic when he feels it's necessary. Do you think Saul knew how terrible a leader he was?

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