“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” (1 Samuel 25:1).
While our study primarily concerns he life of David, we cannot bypass the death of the prophet Samuel. Though Samuel had more involvement in the life of King Saul, it was he that first anointed David in preparation for his future administration in Israel.
He had spent his early life in Shiloh training as a servant to the priest Eli, and as a young boy learned to listen to the voice of God’s Holy Spirit. “And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest” (1 Samuel 2:11) … “Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10). It is he that the Lord used to form the first monarchical government and anoint its first king. “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” (1 Samuel 10:1). As Israel’s first prophet he is credited with creating the first Bible School, or a school of the prophets (see 1 Samuel 19:20). He, and the prophets, collected many of the treasures that would eventually be place in the Temple that David planned, and it is likely that he organised the requirements of the servant and priests, as well ceremonies for the same. “Out of the spoils won in battles did they dedicate to maintain the house of the LORD. And all that Samuel the seer, and Saul the son of Kish, and Abner the son of Ner, and Joab the son of Zeruiah, had dedicated; and whosoever had dedicated any thing, it was under the hand of Shelomith, and of his brethren” (1 Chronicles 26:27-28) … “These were reckoned by their genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their set office” (1 Chronicles 9:22).
Scripture never says anything negative about the prophet Samuel, instead it describes him as being a true man of God … “Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them” (Psalm 99:6); a man of prayer … “Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth” (Jeremiah 15:1) … “Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23); and a man of faith … “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets” (Hebrews 11:32).
The prophet Samuel died at the age of ninety-eight. He had been Israel’s thirteenth judge and its first prophet. All of Israel mourned Samuel’s death, and many turned out to see him buried in the grounds of his own family home in Ramah, probably in a tomb already prepared for him. Our opening verse appears to indicate, and there is no reason to suppose otherwise, that David attended Samuel’s funeral service, after which he gets clear of Saul, who was probably there as well, by going to the wilderness of Paran in southern Judea. It is possible that he wrote Psalm 120 just after Samuel’s funeral. “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me. Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.”
The ministry of Samuel is a shadow of John the Baptist’s. Both were prophets, Nazarites, and involved with preparation of coming the Kingdom of God. The people mourned for Samuel, maybe because they realised that he was someone whom Saul honoured and feared. It is certain that Saul feared Samuel in much the same way as Herod feared John the Baptist. With him out of the way, the king was free to be as barbaric as he pleased. David lost an important and influential friend too. This mourning was not the typical custom, but was from the heart. “Those have hard hearts, that can bury their faithful ministers with dry eyes, and are not sensible of the loss of them who have prayed for them, and taught them the way of the Lord” (John Wesley). Just like David, Samuel knew that King Saul would have loved to see him dead, “And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me” (1 Samuel 16:2), but in exactly the same way the Lord kept him from the hands of the wicked.