The Famous Man Named Samuel

Title: The Famous Man Named Samuel

Bible Book: Hebrews 11 : 32

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Children, Rebellious; Parenting; Father



Have you ever known someone that was famous?

Many of you know that I used to travel and work with an evangelist who is fairly well known in certain circles. And I remember that when we would go into certain areas in the southeast for his revival meetings, if we stopped at a restaurant, it was almost inevitable that someone from a local church would recognize him and come over and speak. Sometimes when this would happen, I would just tell him, “Tom, I’m going to go wait in the car while you sign autographs.”

You’ve probably heard the old joke about the fellow who claimed that everybody in the world knew who he was…

The fellow’s name varies from version to version, but let’s use the name Bubba for our version. Once when Bubba got a new job, he said to his new boss, “Boss, everybody in the world knows who I am.” Of course, the boss didn’t believe him, so he told him to prove it. Bubba told him to ask the next person who came through the door if they knew who he was. The boss did, and sure enough the next customer said that they recognized Bubba immediately. Well, the boss knew that it must have been a coincidence. He said, “That doesn’t prove that everyone knows who you are.” Bubba said, “OK, pick somebody else.” Bubba’s boss has just the person in mind! “President George Bush. You don’t know George Bush.” Bubba says, “Oh yes I do. He and I were on the college debate team together.” His boss wouldn’t believe it, but he agreed to fly to Washington where he and Bubba caught up with the president at a press conference. They worked their way through the crowd until Bubba got close enough to catch George’s eye and he hollered, “George!” The president said, “Bubba!” After the press conference they visited with him for 30 minutes, and Bubba’s boss was stunned. But he said, “Well, that’s just two people in one country. That doesn’t mean everyone in the whole world knows who you are!” Bubba says, “OK, pick someone from anywhere in the whole world and I’ll bet you that they know who I am.” Bubba’s boss knows just who to pick, so he says, “The Pope. The Pope doesn’t know who you are.” Bubba assured him that the Pope knew him well, and to prove it they fly to Rome, where the Pope is saying mass at St. Peter’s. They work their way through thousands of people toward the front and Bubba says, “Boss, we’re never gonna get through all these people together, so I’ll go on up there to the balcony with the Pope and have him wave to you to prove that he knows me. The boss finally sees Bubba come out on the balcony with the Pope who waves directly to him. Bubba, looking down, sees his boss pass out. He gets back down to him and manages to revive him. And Bubba said, “Boss, what happened?” Bubba’s boss looks at him and says, “I still didn’t believe your claim to fame until the fellow next to me said, ‘Is that the Pope up there with Bubba?’ And that was a little more than I could take!

The sixth name in Hebrews 11:32 is the name “Samuel.” And if you had lived during the transitional period of Israel’s history at the end of the time of the judges and the beginning of the time of the kings, you would have come to the conclusion that everybody knew who Samuel was.

As we have been focusing upon these names in Hebrews 11:32 individually, we have come to realize that each of these men in their own way was an unlikely candidate in God’s service. Each of them had an area of weakness, a shortcoming, an obstacle to overcome. Each of them, for their own reason, could have asked the question, “Can God really use me?”

The title of our series has been “Unlikely Heroes,” and so far, we have looked at…

“The Fearful Man Named Gideon”

“The Feeble Man Named Barak”

“The Fleshly Man Named Samson”

“The Forgotten Man Named Jephthah” and

“The Fighting Man Named David”

Today, we’re looking at the sixth name in this listing, and it is “The Famous Man Named Samuel.”

Someone said that the celebrity of today is all but forgotten tomorrow. And we refer to the fleeting “15 minutes of fame.” But for a period of probably 60 to 70 years during his lifetime and for several centuries after his death, Samuel was as famous in the Hebrew world as Billy Graham has been in our world in the last 60 years.

In fact, the McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia says of Samuel…

So important a position did he hold in Jewish history as to have given his name to the sacred book, now divided into two, which covers the whole period of the first establishment of the kingdom, corresponding to the manner in which the name of Moses has been assigned to the sacred book, now divided into five, which covers the period of the foundation of the Jewish Church itself. In fact, no character of equal magnitude had arisen since the death of the great lawgiver.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says that…

Outside of 1st Samuel the name of the great judge and prophet is found in Jeremiah 15:1; Psalms 99:6 and in 1 and 2 Chronicles (as well as Acts 3:24, Acts 13:20, and Hebrews 11:32). The reference in Jeremiah seems intended to convey the same impression that is given by the narrative of 1 Samuel, that in some sense Samuel had come to be regarded as a second Moses, upon whom the mantle of the latter had fallen, and who had been once again the deliverer and guide of the people at a great national crisis.

Listen to the words of Jeremiah 15:1…

(Jeremiah 15:1) 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.

The English poet Lord Byron said, “I awoke one morning and found myself famous.” And that may have been Samuel’s experience as God brought him to prominence in Israel. Though Samuel became very well-known, he was actually born into a rather obscure family of the tribe of Ephraim. As we look at the life of this man who was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets…

I. Let’s Consider The Start Of This Famous Man

A. We Have The Record Of His Fervent Mother

1. There Was A Distressing Problem In Hannah’s Life (1 Samuel 1:1-8)

Hannah had no children … because the LORD had shut up her womb

2. There Was A Desperate Prayer On Hannah’s Lips (1 Samuel 1:9-20)

(1 Samuel 1:10) And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.

prayed – Hebrew 6419. palal, paw-lal'; a prim. root; to judge (officially or mentally); by extens. to intercede, pray:--intreat, judge (-ment), (make) pray (-er, -ing), make supplication.

(1 Samuel 1:15) And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.

And notice the answer to her prayer…

(1 Samuel 1:20) Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel (the name means “asked of God”), saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.

B. We Have The Record Of His Faithful Ministry

1. Notice How He Was Given To Ministry (1 Samuel 1:24-28)

(1 Samuel 1:28) Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says of the phrase “I have lent him to the Lord” that it means “I have not lent him for a time, to be recalled, but given him.”

2. Notice How He Was Growing In Ministry (1 Samuel 2:18-21)

(1 Samuel 2:18) But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.

ministered – Hebrew 8334. sharath, shaw-rath'; a prim. root; to attend as a menial or worshipper; fig. to contribute to:--minister (unto), (do) serve (-ant, -ice, -itor), wait on.

(1 Samuel 2:21) And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

As he grew up, he contributed to the work of God under Eli’s leadership.

C. We Have The Record Of His First Message

1. The Source Of This Message Was Jehovah (1 Samuel 3:1-10)

(1 Samuel 3:8) And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child.

LORD – Hebrew 3068. Yehovah, yeh-ho-vaw'; from H1961; (the) self-Existent or Eternal; Jeho-vah, Jewish national name of God:--Jehovah, the Lord.

2. The Substance Of This Message Was Judgment (1 Samuel 3:11-18)

(1 Samuel 3:12-13) In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. {13} For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.

judge – Hebrew 8199. shaphat, shaw-fat'; a prim. root; to judge, i.e. pronounce sentence (for or against); by impl. to vindicate or punish; by extens. to govern; pass to litigate (lit. or fig.):-- + avenge, X that condemn, contend, defend, execute (judgment), (be a) judge (-ment), X needs, plead, reason, rule.

II. Let’s Consider The Steps Of This Famous Man

In Psalms 37:23, David said, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” And perhaps David had learned this great lesson from Samuel, for this had certainly been a reality in the life of the prophet.

A. Notice The Establishing Of His Ministry

(1 Samuel 3:19-21) And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. {20} And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. {21} And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

(1 Samuel 4:1) And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.

1. Notice The Term For His Established Ministry

(1 Samuel 9:9) (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)

He was called a “Seer” because he could perceive and see things that other people couldn’t see.

2. Notice The Territory Of His Established Ministry

(1 Samuel 7:15-17) And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. {16} And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. {17} 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.

Bethel – means the house of God, and this reminds us of the primary aspect of the man of God’s ministry

Gilgal – means a wheel or rolling thing, and this reminds us of the progressive aspect of the man of God’s ministry

Mizpeh – means observatory or watch-tower, and this reminds us of the protective aspect of the man of God’s ministry

Ramah – means the high place, and this being where Samuel lived reminds us of the personal aspect of his ministry

judged – Hebrew 8199. shaphat, shaw-fat'; a prim. root; to judge, i.e. pronounce sentence (for or against); by impl. to vindicate or punish; by extens. to govern; pass to litigate (lit. or fig.):-- + avenge, X that condemn, contend, defend, execute (judgment), (be a) judge (-ment), X needs, plead, reason, rule.

B. Notice The Encouragement Of His Ministry

1. Samuel Encouraged The People To Return To The Lord In Their Allegiance

(1 Samuel 7:2-4) And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. {3} And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. {4} Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.

a. They Sought The Lord

all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD

lamented – Hebrew 5091. nahah, naw-haw'; a prim. root; to groan, i.e. bewail; hence (through the idea of crying aloud) to assemble (as if on proclamation):--lament, wail.

b. They Served The Lord

served the LORD only (vs. 4)

served – Hebrew 5647. 'abad, aw-bad'; a primary root word meaning to work; by implication it means to serve. It has the idea of being a servant or a slave or a worshipper.

2. Samuel Encourage The People To Remember The Lord In His Assistance

(1 Samuel 7:10-12) And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. {11} And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar. {12} Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.

Ebenezer – Hebrew 72. 'Eben ha-'ezer, eh'-ben haw-e'-zer; from H68 and H5828 with the art. ins.; stone of the help; Eben-ha-Ezer, a place in Pal.:--Ebenezer.

C. Notice The Exercises Of His Ministry

1. Samuel Exercised Leadership In State Matters

a. God Used Samuel When A Kingdom Was Requested In Israel

(1 Samuel 8:6-7) But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. {7} And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

1 Samuel 10:1,20-24

b. God Used Samuel When A Kingdom Was Rejected In Israel

(1 Samuel 15:26-28) And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. {27} And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. {28} And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.

c. God Used Samuel When A Kingdom Was Replaced In Israel

(1 Samuel 16:1) And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.

2. Samuel Exercised Leadership In Spiritual Matters (1 Samuel 19:18-24)

(1 Samuel 19:20) And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.

The Barnes’ Notes Commentary says of the fact that Samuel was “standing as appointed over them,” that it means “as Overseer, or leader.”

(1 Chronicles 9:22) All these which were chosen to be porters in the gates were two hundred and twelve. These were reckoned by their genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their set office.

The lasting impact of Samuel’s ministry among the people can be seen through two different events in the scriptural record…

1. We See His Impact Through The Testimony And Witness Of The People Of His Dignity

(1 Samuel 12:3-5) Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. {4} And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man's hand. {5} And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought (a speck or point or fault) in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.

2. We See His Impact Through The Tears And Weeping Of The People At His Death

(1 Samuel 25:1) 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.

III. Let’s Consider The Sons Of This Famous Man

While the great evangelist Billy Sunday was winning the country to God in the early 1900’s, his own three sons were engaged in all the activities that he preached against. It is said that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but in some cases that formula doesn’t hold true. Samuel had become famous doing the work of God, but as Erma Bombeck said, “Don’t confuse fame with success.” Through their inappropriate conduct, Samuel’s sons brought blame to his fame.

A. As We Read Of Samuel’s Sons, We Are Reminded Of Their Early Stumbling

(1 Samuel 8:1-5) And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. {2} Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba. {3} And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. {4} Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, {5} And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

1. We See The Particular Expressions Of Their Sinfulness

(1 Samuel 8:3) And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.

2. We See The Public Embarrassment Of Their Sinfulness

(1 Samuel 8:4-5) Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, {5} And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

B. As We Read Of Samuel’s Sons, We Are Reminded Of The Eli Situation

1. Notice The Rebellion Of Eli’s Sons (1 Samuel 2:12-17,22-25)

(1 Samuel 2:12) Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.

(1 Samuel 2:22) 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.

2. Notice The Rebuke Of Eli’s Sons (1 Samuel 2:27-36)

(1 Samuel 2:27) And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house?

And in his message, he said to Eli…

(1 Samuel 2:34) 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.

Sadly, even though Samuel knew very well of the sinfulness of Eli’s sons, he watched history repeat itself as his own sons made the same mistakes and committed some of the same types of sins.

C. As We Read Of Samuel’s Sons, We Are Reminded Of Their Eventual Service

1. Notice Their Attendance With The Multitude

(1 Samuel 12:1-2) And Samuel said unto all Israel, Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you. {2} And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day.

Adam Clarke said…

[My sons are with you] It is generally agreed that these words intimate that Samuel had deprived them of their public employ, and reduced them to a level with the common people.

But perhaps (after some 25 years when the sin of the sons was first mentioned), it could also suggest that the sons had now turned toward the right path.

2. Notice Their Appointment In Ministry

(1 Chronicles 6:28-32) And the sons of Samuel; the firstborn Vashni, and Abiah. {29} The sons of Merari; Mahli, Libni his son, Shimei his son, Uzza his son, {30} Shimea his son, Haggiah his son, Asaiah his son. {31} And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest. {32} And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order.

Additional Notes:

In discussing Samuel’s older son, Fausset’s Bible Dictionary says of the name Vashni in 1 Chronicles 6:28 instead of Joel as in 1 Samuel 8:2 that “Joel” may have dropped out from 1 Chronicles 6:28, and “Vashni” will mean “and the second.”

The McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia commented on the notations in the scripture that Samuel’s father Elkanah is mentioned both as being an Ephrathite (of the tribe of Ephraim) in 1 Samuel 1:1 and as being in the lineage of the Levites in 1 Chronicles 6:23-28 by saying…

The descent of Samuel’s father, Elkanah, is involved in great obscurity. In 1 Samuel 1:1 he is described as an Ephraimite. In 1 Chronicles 6:22,23 he is made a descendant of Korah the Levite. Hengstenberg (on Psalms 78:1) and Ewald explain this by supposing that the Levites were occasionally incorporated into the tribes among whom they dwelt.

And then Samuel’s son Joel (at least I believe that this is the Joel referred to in 1 Chronicles 15:17) had a son named Heman, who also served in the music ministry…

(1 Chronicles 15:17&19) So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Ethan the son of Kushaiah; … {19} So the singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan, were appointed to sound with cymbals of brass;

If this Heman was in fact Samuel’s grandson, notice how he was involved…

(1 Chronicles 16:41-42) And with them Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest that were chosen, who were expressed by name, to give thanks to the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever; {42} And with them Heman and Jeduthun with trumpets and cymbals for those that should make a sound, and with musical instruments of God. And the sons of Jeduthun were porters.

And then Heman’s sons got involved…

(1 Chronicles 25:1) Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals: and the number of the workmen according to their service was…

(1 Chronicles 25:4-6) Of Heman: the sons of Heman; Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamtiezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth: {5} All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn. And God gave to Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. {6} All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king's order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman.


I mentioned Billy Graham earlier. In his book “Rebel With A Cause,” his son Franklin Graham recounts his teenage years of rebellion, of drinking beer, and smoking, and riding motorcycles. But he also recounts his conversion and how God eventually used him in ministry. Now, Franklin’s son Will is a preacher.

Can God use a Samuel even when his children mess up? He can use you, and He can restore your children and use them, and your children’s children!

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