- SAMUEL (Heb. שְׁמוּאֵל), Israelite judge and prophet who lived in the 11th century B.C.E. His name is very close to that of the ancient Babylonian royal ancestor of Hammurapi, Sūmû-la-il, and similar in form to other amorite names such as Sūmû-Abum, Sūmû-Samas, and others (HALOT, 1438). Standing at the close of one era and the beginning of another, Samuel was instrumental in the painful, but necessary, transition from a loose confederation of Hebrew tribes to a centralized monarchy. He played a part in events which eventually saw his people completely freed from subjection to the Philistines and from the threat of the utter loss of national life. -The Biblical Account The record of Samuel's career in I Samuel 1–16, which is intricately interwoven with that of Saul, the first king, involves many baffling questions. It tells a story about the birth of a "child of prayer" to Hannah and Elkanah in an Ephraimite home in Ramathaim-Zophim (1:1) or Ramah (1:19). His mother dedicated him to a Nazirite life in the important sanctuary of Shiloh (1:11, 28; 2:11; 3:1). Here the aged priest eli , whose sons were lewd and impious good-for-nothings, officiated (2:12–17, 22–25). A rare divine revelation came to the boy in the night, involving terrible judgment on the house of Eli; and this was the beginning of a career that marked Samuel as a "prophet of YHWH" (3:20). Chapters 4–6 recount the shattering defeat of the Hebrews by the well-equipped Philistines; worst of all, the ark of YHWH was captured, the immediate house of Eli wiped out, and, probably (Jer. 7:12, 14), the vital Shiloh sanctuary was permanently razed. Samuel is next depicted as a "judge" (I Sam. 7), first in the sense of a charismatic deliverer in a battle of miraculous proportions (verse 13 seems to be highly idealized) and then as an arbiter of disputes, traveling over a considerable area covering Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, and Ramah (7:16–17). Samuel was married and had two sons, Joel and Abijah, who acted as judges in Beer-Sheba (8:2; cf. I Chron. 6:13). Two or more divergent accounts of the founding of the monarchy follow. One (9:1–10:16) is favorable to the kingship regarding it as the answer to the desperate needs of the hour. Another (7:3–8:22; 10:17–19; 12:1–25) reacts, sometimes violently, against such a move. Some think there is a third account (10:20–11:15; see samuel , Book of; see below, Critical Evaluation). One cannot be completely certain about Samuel's attitude toward the people's request for a king (cf. 10:1 with 10:19). It is clear, however, that the political crisis demanded a much more closely knit government if the Hebrews were to survive as an entity. One account has an Ammonite attack on Jabesh-Gilead pushing the handsome Benjaminite Saul into a position where, after an impressive victory, he was publicly acclaimed as king (chapter 11). Another shows Samuel's gift of clairvoyance aiding Saul in locating his father's lost donkeys. Samuel then acted as priest at the local hill shrine and by divine revelation he anointed, the next morning, the surprised Saul as leader or prince (nāgid) of Israel to rescue her from her pressing foes. Shortly thereafter, in a public conclave at Mizpah, Samuel cast the sacred lot and Saul was chosen; then the older man delivered an address explaining the rights and responsibilities of a king, and a written record was made. An immediate clash with the Philistines followed; first a small-scale outpost skirmish, then a significant victory. However, in 7:3–8:22; 10:17–19; and 12:1–25, Samuel denounces the idea of monarchy as apostasy, since the Lord has always been the king and savior of Israel. Yet by divine revelation Samuel is directed to give grudging consent (8:22). Chapter 15, a later account evidently based on earlier tradition, portrays a heartrending break between Samuel and Saul, a permanent and devastating rejection of the king (15:34–35; but cf. 19:24). This had already been foretold (e.g., 13:13–14). It is not clear whether the issue was simply the king's failure to obey the provisions of the ḥerem of the holy war, or whether it was that Samuel surmised that Saul was aspiring not only to political but also to religious prerogatives. At any rate, except for his mention as head of a band of ecstatic prophets in 19:18–20, his death notice in 25:1, and a séance in which his ghost was brought back in chapter 28, Samuel permanently leaves the stage. -Critical Evaluation Scholars (e.g., A. Weiser) have moved somewhat away from seeing completely mutually exclusive (pro-monarchical and anti-monarchical) accounts in I Samuel 1–16. The alternative is a series of varying concepts that developed in different circles, and existed side by side. Such traditions were finally strung together somewhat loosely without an attempt at reconciling them. Moreover I. Mendelsohn showed that the Israelites would have been quite aware of the dangers of oppressive monarchical government from what they saw around them in their own century. Thus Samuel 8:11–17 does not need to be a late reminiscence, as was once claimed. Nonetheless, one must allow for idealization in certain of the traditions. While many questions cannot be answered with certainty, it is clear that Samuel played a powerful part in the formation of the monarchy, and the titles of seer, prophet, judge, and priest are indicative of his influence, perhaps in different circles. As is true of Moses, so many roles are assigned to him that it is difficult to define the historical nucleus of the Samuel traditions. He was later claimed as a levite (I Chron. 6:12–13), as one of the founders, with David, of the system of gatekeepers of the Tent of Meeting (I Chron. 9:22), as a great intercessor comparable to Moses (Jer. 15:1), and as ranking with Moses and Aaron. According to Ps. 99:6, God spoke to Samuel along with Moses and Aaron in the Cloud Pillar. The Bible portrays Samuel as an incorruptible leader (I Sam. 12:3–5), and as the Lord's spokesman in guiding Israel, in critical days, from the old era into the new, and her greatest leader since Moses. (John H. Scammon / S. David Sperling (2nd ed.) -In the Aggadah Even before his birth, "a heavenly voice went forth" and proclaimed the imminent delivery of a righteous man. When people observed his deeds, they were certain that he was this righteous individual (Mid. Sam. 3:4). Shortly before Samuel's novitiate in the sanctuary, Eli succeeded to the three highest offices in the land, those of high priest, president of the Sanhedrin, and ruler over Israel (Tanḥ. Shemini, 2). However, Eli's sons were not worthy to succeed him, but "Before the sun of Eli set, the sun of Samuel rose" (Gen. R. 58:2). The greatness bestowed on Samuel was not granted to any other king or prophet. No one ever challenged his authority and five terms of praise were applied to him: faithful, honored, prophet, seer, and man of God (Mishnat R. Eliezer, p. 151). He rebuked the people shortly before his death, refraining from doing so earlier lest people be embarrassed upon meeting their censurer (Sif. Deut. 2). Samuel was an incorruptible judge, who refused compensation even when he was legitimately entitled to it (Ned. 38a). He went on circuit to judge the people in order to spare them the trouble of coming to him. Accordingly, God spoke directly to Samuel, unlike Moses who first had to go into the tabernacle to receive the divine message (Ex. R. 16:4). He refused to enjoy hospitality at public expense, taking his personal requirements with him on his journeys (Ber. 10b). Despite the fact that his sons did not follow in his way, Samuel did have the satisfaction of seeing one of them mend his ways and become the prophet Joel (Mid. Sam. 1:6). Samuel did not object to the appointment of a king in principle, since it was commanded in the Bible (Deut. 17:15). His objection was to the fact that the people demanded a king "that we may be like other nations" (Sanh. 20b). Samuel's failure to recognize David until he was revealed to him was a punishment for his arrogance in saying to Saul "I am the seer" (I Sam. 9:19; Sif. Deut. 17). Although Saul should have died immediately after his sin during the Amalekite war, Samuel interceded for him. He prayed that his life be spared at least for the duration of his own life, pleading that his action in anointing Saul be not destroyed before his eyes. God was hesitant to grant this request since the time of David's succession was rapidly approaching. In order to fulfill Samuel's request and to prevent the people from ascribing Samuel's death to his sins, Samuel was made to age rapidly, and though he was only 52 when he died, the people were under the impression that he died as an old man (Mid. Sam. 25:2; Ta'an. 5b). Samuel wrote only part of the book which bears his name. It was completed by Gad the seer and Nathan. He also wrote the books of Judges and Ruth (BB 15a). (Aaron Rothkoff) -In Islam In Sura 2:247–9 it is related that the people of Israel requested that the prophet appoint a king to rule them. However, when the prophet informed them that Allah had chosen Ṭālūt (Saul), they refused to crown him as their king. In post-Koranic literature it is said that this reference is to the prophet Samuel (Shamwīl); details are also related about his life and deeds, which are interwoven in the tales of Saul and David. It is noteworthy that the name Shamwīl is no longer used in the Arabic language and only the name of al-Samaw'al is to be found. (H. Z. Hirschberg) -In the Arts Treatment of the prophet Samuel in the arts generally involves the two kings of Israel whom he anointed, Saul and David, although Samuel himself does figure independently in some works, particularly in art. Literary interest in the subject has been somewhat restricted. In the English verse epic Davideis (1656) by Abraham Cowley, Samuel expresses the writer's own antagonism toward the concept of monarchy during Oliver Cromwell's republican Commonwealth. The theme later inspired Pieter t'Hoen's Dutch novella, Samuël de Profeet; of De Joodsche regeering hoe langer hoe erger (1796), but interest thereafter lapsed until the 20th century. Samuel then makes a dramatic appearance in D.H. Lawrence's play David (1926), and is denigrated in Samuel the Kingmaker (1944), one of the English writer Laurence Housman's fiercely anti-biblical Old Testament Plays (1950), which makes the prophet a spiteful, jealous impostor. This treatment finds a contrast in the respectful approach of Abraham l'hébreu et Samuel le voyant (1946), a biblical verse epic by the French Jewish writer Emmanuel eydoux . A related subject is treated in two 20th-century plays about Eli, Samuel's priestly guardian and mentor: Beit Eli; o Aron ha-Elohim Nilkehah (1902), a Hebrew drama by Meir Foner, and Silo is krank… (1956), a drama in Afrikaans by the South African writer Daniel François Malherbe. In Christian art, Samuel's attributes are the lamb he offered in sacrifice (I Sam. 7:9) and his horn of unction. Figures of Samuel with the lamb are found on the Gothic cathedrals of Chartres and Rheims; at Chartres he is placed between Moses and David. The presentation of Samuel to Eli by his mother Hannah, who dedicated him to God (I Sam. 1:24–28) is a subject found in the third-century C.E. murals of the synagogue at dura-europos . It also occurs in medieval wall painting and manuscripts, including the 13th-century St. Louis Psalter, the 14th-century Queen Mary Psalter, and the 15th-century German Second Nuremberg haggadah (Schocken Library, Jerusalem). There are a number of examples from the 17th-century Dutch school, including a painting by rembrandt (Bridgewater Collection, London) and one by his pupil, Barent Fabritius (Art Institute, Chicago). A touching study of Samuel and Eli was painted by the U.S. portraitist John Singleton Copley (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut) whose painting of Samuel denouncing Saul is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The English artist Sir Joshua Reynolds painted studies of Samuel as a child and the infant Samuel in prayer (I Sam. 3:4); these are at Dulwich College and in the National Gallery, London. Samuel's slaying of Agag, whom Saul had failed to kill (I Sam. 15:32–33), appears in a 13th-century Hebrew manuscript from France (British Museum Miscellany, add. 11639) and in a mural in the Basle town hall by Hans Holbein (1497?–1543). The anointing of David by Samuel (I Sam. 16:13) appears in the murals of Dura-Europos. This subject has also been popular in Christian art, where David is regarded as the "anointed one" par excellence, the type and ancestor of Jesus. The scene appears in medieval frescoes, carvings from the Gothic cathedrals, and in Byzantine and Western manuscript illumination. Samuel's posthumous appearance before Saul on the latter's visit to the witch of Endor (I Sam. 28:8ff.) was a rare subject in the Middle Ages. It later received melodramatic treatment from the 17th-century painter Salvator Rosa (Louvre); and there is a watercolor by william blake in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Musical works in which Samuel is the main figure are few; they include Andreas Hammerschmidt's songs to a play by Keimann, Samuel (1646); Anton Cajeta Adlgasser's oratorio, Samuel und Heli (= Eli; 1763); a Spanish oratorio by José Duran, Samuel presentado al Templo (1765); Simon Mayr's oratorio, Samuele (1821); an early American oratorio, Samuel, by Homer Newton Bartlett (1845–1920); and Die Jugend Samuel's, an oratorio by Victor hollaender (1866–1940). A recent work is the inbal troupe's The Boy Samuel. -Tomb of Samuel Traditionally sited on al-Nabī-Samwīl, the highest mountain overlooking Jerusalem. Theodorus Lector records that the Byzantine emperor, Arcadius, in 406 removed the bones of Samuel to Constantinople where he built a church next to the Hebdomon (Eccles. Hist., 2:63). The 10th-century geographer, al-Muqadasi, mentions a monastery at al-Nabī-Samwīl. Ramah of the Bible was later identified with ramleh and consequently Samuel's grave was located there (cf. I Sam. 25:1; 28:3). The Karaites had a synagogue at Ramleh in 1013. Benjamin of Tudela records in 1173 that the crusaders had removed Samuel's remains from there to al-Nabī-Samwīl (A. Asher, The Itinerary of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela (1927), p. 42). In 1099 the site was named by the crusaders Montjoie (Mons Gaudii) because it was from there that they caught their first sight of Jerusalem; among the Jews and the Latins al-Nabī-Samwīl was generally called shiloh (Silo) through mistaken identity. Baldwin II (1118–31) gave the hill and surrounding land to the Premonstratensian order who built a church on the site in 1157 on the hill al-Burj, south of al-Nabī-Samwīl. In 1187 the church was captured and ruined by Saladin. Muslims and Jews turned the ruins into prayer houses. Jewish pilgrims also identified the site with the graves of Hannah, Elkanah, and his two sons as well as with the mikveh of Hannah. On the 28th of Iyyar (the traditional date of Samuel's death) thousands of Jews gathered in medieval times at the shrine from all over the Diaspora and Ereẓ Israel to light lamps there, offer charity, and pray. It was so usual for them to drink wine at these festivities, that owing to excesses a takkanah was passed by the Jerusalem rabbi forbidding "those under the influence of drink from going to al-Nabī-Samwīl" (Zikhron bi-Yrushalayim, 503). Pantaléo de Aveiro reports that in 1560 Jews went to the grave every eight days to light candles and had obtained the right of residence on the site from the sultan (Itinerarioda Terra Sancta (1927), 424) and an English traveler in 1601 reported that the Jews cut their hair there (The Travels of John Sanderson (1931), 100). From other sources it appears that fathers took their sons there to trim their hair as an offering. The Karaites also spent two days of Passover on the site singing special hymns to Samuel. In the 18th century Jews used to bring money, clothes, and jewelry there and burn them there as an offering, but about 1730 the Turks closed up the cave, built a mosque and prayer house there, and forbade the Jews to enter. After this few Jews went, and they had to pay for entrance. The land around the shrine was acquired by the group Naḥalat Israel Ramah in 1887 but attempts to settle there failed. The mosque and tower were almost completely destroyed in World War I and later rebuilt. Few Jews pray there now owing to the doubtfulness of the site's authenticity. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Noth, Hist Isr, 168, 175; Bright, Hist, 165–6; W.F. Albright, Samuel and the Beginning of the Prophetic Movement (1961); G. Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 1 (1962), 324–7. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1913), 65–70; 6 (1928), 215–37. IN ISLAM: Ṭabarī, Ta'rīkh, 1 (1357 A.H.), 329–30; idem, Tafsīr, 2 (1323 A.H.), 378–9; ʿUmāra, Ms. fol. 39r–39v; Thaʿlabī, Qiṣaṣ (1356 A.H.), 227–9; Kisā'ī, Qiṣaṣ (1356 A.H.), 250–8. In the Arts: R. Wischnitzer, Samuel Cycle in the Wall Decoration of the Synagogue at Dura-Europos (1941; repr. PAAJR, 11 (1941), 85–103); M. Roston, Biblical Drama in England (1968), index. TOMB OF SAMUEL: M. Benveniste, The Crusaders in the Holy Land (1970), index; Z. Vilnay, Maẓẓevot Kodesh be-Ereẓ Yisrael (1951), 153–62. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Birch, The Rise of the Israelite Monarchy: The Growth and Development of I Samuel 7–15 (1976); J. van Seters, In Search of History (1983); idem, EncRel, 12 (2005), 8099–8100; G. Ramsey, ABD, 5:954–57; A. Brenner (ed.), Feminist Companion to Samuel and Kings (2000). See also bibliography to samuel , Book of.
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.