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The Prophets: Samuel
The English "Samuel" originated from the Hebrew name, pronounced shem-oo-ale. The Hebrew name itself is based on two Hebrew terms, shaw-mawh, which means to clearly hear, and a Name of God, pronounced ale (see El). Samuel originally meant to hear the LORD clearly, which in the prophet Samuel's case, was an extremely appropriate name for him.
Samuel was a Levite (as was another who had served in a position of judge and prophet as Samuel did - Moses; see Levites), born as a result of his childless mother's prayer to the LORD.
"1:10 And she was in bitterness of soul [see Where Is Your Soul?], and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. 1:11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head." (1 Samuel 1:10-11 KJV)
When the prayer was answered and the child was born, he was given to the service of the LORD (that is, to Christ - see 'Before Abraham Was, I AM') while yet a boy, under the care of Eli, the high priest at the time when the Ark of the Covenant (see also Arks Of The Covenant) was at Shiloh.
"1:27 For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 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." (1 Samuel 1:27-28 KJV)
"All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD"
The LORD first spoke to Samuel when he was still just a boy. It was an announcement of Samuel's calling - and of the removal of Eli who had become lax in his duties.
"3:11 And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. 3:12 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. 3:13 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. 3:14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever." (1 Samuel 3:11-14 KJV)
And so Samuel grew in stature as a prophet of the LORD as he grew from a boy into a man.
"3:19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. 3:20 And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD." (1 Samuel 3:19-20 KJV)
Israel was God's chosen nation (which served as a physical prophecy of God's coming chosen spiritual nation - see Physical and Spiritual Israel). As such, there was no need for a division between "political" leadership and "religious" leadership. The nation was based upon God's Law, and God was their King, so, as God's prophet "7:15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life." (1 Samuel 7:15 KJV)
At the end of Samuel's life however, as happened to Eli, when it became obvious that Samuel's sons did not have the integrity of their father (a typical situation throughout history in which nations eventually become corrupt and perverted away from the high principles of their founding fathers - most of the western "Christian" nations today have lost their sense of morality and truth and are now in a state of decay from within), the people of Israel decided that they wanted to choose Samuel's successor. The result was the beginning of the Israelite monarchy (see the Fact Finder question below), first with Saul, then David. The prophet Samuel anointed both of them as king.
"10:24 And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king. 10:25 Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. 10:26 And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched." (1 Samuel 10:24-26 KJV)
Fact Finder: The Israelite monarchy was established in the time of Samuel, in effect to succeed Samuel. What happened to the kings of Israel over the centuries? Who is the ultimate King of Israel - and of all the world?