Leadership in the Bible 
Judges and 1 Samuel

Leadership in the Bible Part 3 

Leaders in Judges and 1st Samuel

Introduction - after 28 years of Joshua’s leadership, the people suddenly have no leader who speaks directly to God. There would be courts and leaders, but no national leader. During this period, God would also choose leaders called judges who would rally the people, often to repent, thus deserve God’s help, and to conquer and expel foes. The people often were righteous and followed God’s ways, but there were periods of shortcomings and straying.

We will examine leaders in this time, noting the strengths of the best judges as well as the weaknesses of others who fell short.

1. Conquest of Canaan. Judah is picked by God as the first leader in this period. He, with Simeon’s help, would fight to liberate the land for their tribes. Judah, some say, was picked first in honor of Nachson (now there’s a story of leadership to recall!).

Judah achieves conquests, including, importantly, Jerusalem, Gaza, Zephath, Ashkelon, Ekron, though the text notes a portion of Jerusalem related to Benjamin (Jebusites) was not taken.

Caleb gives daughter to the one who conquers Kiriath-sefer, Othniel.

Joseph (Manasseh and Ephraim) go up to Beth-el. Certain communities were allowed to remain, particularly and dangerously the Amorites in the mountains of Dan. 

2. Idolatry - Emissary of God in 2 reminds the people of the covenant and points to wayward practice in the face of it as well as consequences that will flow from it (in the form of the Canaanites as persistent thorns).

3. The people weep. Ready for true admonition, they accepted God’s chastisement.

Period of the Judges

1. Recitation of Joshua - life, leadership, and death. Yet, a new generation arises that does not know God or His deeds. A generation failed in its duty, in tolerating evil and associating with the people. Idolatry began to penetrate their society.

2. Leaders had died, and new leaders did not arise.

3. A pattern emerges that will be sustained through the book - idolatry, chastening, and deliverance. God would set up judges who would save them from the hand of their oppressors. Judge here means one who is appointed by God and is a leader who has inspired the confidence of the people and leads them back to obedience to God. After the death of a judge, the people would begin to start, and the cycle would continue.

Othniel  and Ehud - Chapter 3 

1.  First Judge - Othniel.

2. After doing what was evil in God's eyes and being delivered to  Canaanite and foreign kings, the people cried out to God to save them. The spirit of God first falls upon Othniel, Caleb’s nephew who led the capture of Kiriath-Sefer. (Recall this also led to his marriage to Caleb's daughter).

3. Some sages also think he was a scholar who helped them restore the mitzvot that had been lost and became both a secular and Torah (ethical) leader.    

4. Was victorious in throwing off the oppressor in battle. 40 years of righteousness and peace. Othniel likened by Jotham in 9:9 to an olive tree, symbolizing Torah knowledge, bringing honor to God and Israel, refusing to trade mission for more mundane task over barren trees. Also, olive oil used in Menorah and offerings in Temple.

5. The nation slips back into sin. Ehud, a Benjaminite and a man with a "withered right hand," is set up by God as a savior. He had a sword with 2 sharp edges girded under his garments (Sages say as representative of both oral and written Torah). Ehud kills the oppressive king, Eglon. He and his troops defeated Moab.

Deborah - Chapter 4

1.  Israel strays again. They fall prey to a Canaanite king.

Read Judges 4:6-10

She sent word to Barak, Abinoam’s son, from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “Hasn’t the Lord, Israel’s God, issued you a command? ‘Go and assemble at Mount Tabor, taking ten thousand men from the people of Naphtali and Zebulun with you. I’ll lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to assemble with his chariots and troops against you at the Kishon River, and then I’ll help you overpower him.’”

Barak replied to her, “If you’ll go with me, I’ll go; but if not, I won’t go.”

Deborah answered, “I’ll definitely go with you. However, the path you’re taking won’t bring honor to you, because the Lord will hand over Sisera to a woman.” Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 He summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh, and ten thousand men marched out behind him. Deborah marched out with him too.

2. Deborah was a prophetess and "a fiery woman." Most think this means energetic and decisive. Her being a prophet had a special sense of God's direction. Also, she decided matters of law. She became the next judge.

3. Barak offers to help and famously says "if you go with me, I will go; if not, I will not." This has come over time to be seen as a key message of the need for cooperation and mutual support as key to success. He leads the army.

4. God is prepared to deliver through miracle, but the people must do their part by raising an army. He organized from various tribes.

5. Sisera and his army are routed. He flees to Jael but is revealed. Total victory.  

Read Judges 5:1, 7, 9-11, 15-18.   A Song of Victory

At that time, Deborah and Barak, Abinoam’s son, sang:

When hair is long in Israel,
    when people willingly offer themselves—bless the Lord!

Hear, kings!
    Listen, rulers!
I, to the Lord,
    I will sing.
I will make music to the Lord,
    Israel’s God.

Lord, when you set out from Seir,
    when you marched out from Edom’s fields, the land shook,
    the sky poured down,
    the clouds poured down water.
The mountains quaked
    before the Lord, the one from Sinai,
    before the Lord, the God of Israel.

In the days of Shamgar, Anath’s son,
    in the days of Jael, caravans ceased.
Those traveling by road
    kept to the backroads.
Villagers in Israel would not fight;
    they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
        until I, arose, a mother in Israel.
When they chose new gods,
    then war came to the city gates.
Yet there wasn’t a shield or spear to be seen
    among forty thousand in Israel!
My heart is with Israel’s commanders,
    who willingly offered themselves among the people—bless the Lord!

10 You who ride white donkeys,
    who sit on saddle blankets,
    who walk along the road: tell of it.
11 To the sound of instruments at the watering places,
    there they repeat the Lord’s victories,
        his villagers’ victories in Israel.
Then the Lord’s people marched down to the city gates.
12     “Wake up, wake up, Deborah!
    Wake up, wake up, sing a song!
Arise, Barak!
    Capture your prisoners,
        Abinoam’s son!”
13 Then those who remained marched down against royalty;
    the Lord’s people marched down against warriors.
14 From Ephraim they set out[f] into the valley,
    after you, Benjamin, with your people!
From Machir commanders marched down,
    and from Zebulun those carrying the official’s staff.
15 The leaders of Issachar came along with Deborah;
    Issachar was attached to Barak,
    and was sent into the valley behind him.
Among the clans of Reuben
    there was deep soul-searching.
16 “Why did you stay back among the sheep pens,
    listening to the music for the flocks?”
For the clans of Reuben
    there was deep soul-searching.
17 Gilead stayed on the other side of the Jordan,
    and Dan, why did he remain with the ships?
Asher stayed by the seacoast,
    camping at his harbors.
18 Zebulun is a people that readily risked death;
    Naphtali too in the high countryside.

1.      Barak joins in the song. On the very day of victory.

2. The song, as with the song of the sea, has spiritual power in a special celebration of God’s miracle. It suggests an extremely heightened awareness of God’s presence and holiness.

3. The people bless God after chastisement. Song of praise to God.

4. Victory ascribed to the Almighty God, Master of the universe and Master of Israel, giver of Torah.

5. Recounts contribution (though incomplete) of Shamgar and Jael which some sages say was due to inability to lift spiritual level of people. They were fearful of living in unwalled cities.

6. “Until I Deborah arose.” 7. Deborah means bee in Hebrew. The sting can produce painful harm (on enemy or evil inclination), but it also produces sweet honey. Ideal way is to embody of sweetness of spiritual growth and service to others and to aggressively attack evil inclination in oneself and in oppressors. Tzedek and mishpat. Charity and justice. So, the twin traits of her name put the nation back on track.

7. Mother in Israel - as if she gave birth to a new nation or a new possibility for the nation. Discipline and love. No lack of modesty here.

8. “My heart is with the lawgivers of Israel who are devoted to the people, saying, “Bless HaShem.” 9. She expresses gratitude to those in the past and in the present who hold and transmit the traditions and the principles of the people and the faith. They helped lead the people in the right path, and so Deborah associates with them and praises them.

9. People can now ride and walk the roads without fear, both scholars and teachers as well as merchants and businessmen. Rather than hearing the sound of arrows going overhead, water drawers can be speaking of righteous deeds of God, in open cities (in diverse, spread out areas?). 11. With God, one has dominion over the mighty.

10. She describes the response of the tribes, the roles they played and the help they gave, referring explicitly to Reuben’s cowardly indecision as well as the absence of Gilead and fleeing of Dan. Meroz (?) was blamed for failing to support. Zebulun and Naphtali bore the brunt of the battle.

(Isn’t it essential for elders to know and tell the differentiated roles of people, exposing those who fell short and especially praising those who excelled and contributed the most?)

11. The powerful and well-supported Sisera was totally defeated, owing to God, and so decisively it was as if the heavens actually fought alongside. (20). Deborah credits Jael, who ultimately killed Sisera, in the tradition of the matriarchs, “by women in the tent will she be blessed.” 24. Her effort, which was beyond her inclination, skill, and normal activity, made victory and the future of the nation possible.

(Again high honor given to those who merit it with courage and action above and beyond.)

12. Deborah closes with the hope that all God’s enemies be destroyed and that all who love God be like “the powerfully rising sun.” Notion of rising in splendor, like sun in powerful display of light, climbing to top of sky at mid-day.

Like Torah scholarship, which sheds light to help guide people in the world and in life.

Some say this teaches people who suffer with joy that they will be rewarded one day with a revelation as brilliant as the powerfully rising sun, with brilliance revealed, that suffering, too, emanates from God and is ultimately for their benefit.

Or, as the sun gets brighter and warmer as it gets higher, so one who advances in Torah study becomes more radiant.

Surely, in that the people have come again to live more in God’s way for these 40 years, they are like unto “the powerfully rising sun.”

Jotham likens Deborah in 9:11 to a fig tree, which, as Rashi says, is sweet; she was sweet in giving up her personal concerns and devoting herself to the Jewish people. Also, sweet and ripe fruit in Torah she taught and spoke prophecy. (Yalkut Shimoni)

Gideon - Chapter 6-8

1.      The sin that follows is thought to be especially grievous, partly in that the people allowed Deborah’s inspiration to dissipate. Jealousy and a lack of human compassion are prevalent and on a new scale.

2. Midian rises and oppresses, cruelly. After cry and repentance from the people, God selects Gideon, as a judge. Some say he was selected by the angel because he was found threshing wheat at a winepress, after having taken over from his father who he felt, if caught by the Midianites, would be unable to flee. He, thus, honored his father at great peril and was thus worthy that God’s children would be rescued through him.

3. Gideon asks the angel if God was with them how could all this have happened? It appears as if God deserted them. God says with his strength he will rescue Israel. Though weak and few, he is assured God will be with him. Incredulous, he asks for a sign, which he is given.

Gideon makes an offering and builds a monument there and called it Hashem is our peace. Gideon’s humility reflects faith in God’s promise of peace and that all peace stems from God alone. This name of God, Peace, suggests that God is always present to harmonize all the contradictory and antagonistic forces of nature. He is the ultimate life-maintaining Force.

Gideon is directed to destroy the idols, including those of his father. The people are furious at the sight of what he did. His father comes to his defense.

4. The spirit of God clothes Gideon. 34. Gideon blows the shofar. He sends messengers and recruits forces. Gideon asks for another miracle, which God grants.

The Fight and Conclusion of Gideon- 7-8

1.      The recurring theme that it must be God’s victory, not human, is manifested in a reduction in forces, here down to a mere 300! This is unusual in that the human role is usually important so long as God’s hand is acknowledged. The reduction was based on a purging of those inclined to bow to idols and/or lacking in self-respect. (Wouldn’t it be such that a fighting force would be better even if smaller if without these sorts?!)

2. God sends Gideon into the Midian camp to see an omen. It was an image of a roasted barley bread rolling. The Hebrew word for roasted, pronounced differently, suggests emptied, as if to suggest the people’s spirit had been emptied, perhaps of righteous people. This explains how Midian gained power. The salvation comes from the barley bread, which alludes to the Omer, suggesting that God’s blessings, here salvation, come from God. They saw it as a sign of Gideon’s sword. This gave Gideon needed confidence.

3. Gideon attacks, after organizing into 3 companies, with shofars and empty jars with torches. The sound of the shofars and the breaking jugs and the light. Some say this recalls Sinai (with flame and sound). Timed to changing of the guard, with attacks from 3 sides, leading enemy to try to flee in the 4th direction. This totally confounded the Midianites. Victory.

4. Ephraim was offended that Gideon had not recruited them. He mollifies them with humility and praise. 8.

5. There were still 2 Midianite groups Gideon needed to chase and defeat, yet Succoth and Penuel wouldn’t help or even provide food to the troops. Impudence? Fear? Ingratitude? Gideon threatens punishment after the battle for this aloofness. He captures the fleeing kings after a surprise attack and misdirection, and later afflicted the two groups with fitting “customized” punishments. (Strong evidence of leadership in all this.)

6. Gideon is offered hereditary rulership, extending to son and grandson. He declines, saying Ruler is God. Humility. The people, some say, wanted leadership, also, to avoid backsliding.

7. Gideon tries to fashion a monument the people would rely upon to recall God’s saving hand in later times. Gideon likened by Jotham to a grapevine 9:13), for just as wine is poured on altar, Gideon built an altar. Rashi says wine gladdens God because it’s used in temple service, and it raises the spirit of man. Others, including Radak, make the appropriate point that upstanding people use wise to good purpose, but others become intoxicated and do reprehensible things. Indeed the altar didn’t work. It just became a focus of most people’s idolatry when they began to stray again after he died.

8. He retired and lived peaceably (with his many wives). He returned to use of more modest name his father gave him. He had many children, including Abimelech, who would be the next judge. (Should Gideon have remained active as a judge?)

9. After Gideon’s death, the people then showed no gratitude to God or Gideon’s family. Gratitude is an essential virtue, without which people are prone to fall prey to idolatry and to stray on their own paths.

Abimelech - 9

1. Fights to become the sole ruler, at the expense of relatives and others. He is treacherous in taking out all his rivals. Jotham tells a parable of the price that is paid by the people for the deference of other leaders (such as the previous three outstanding judges) but the aggressive seeking of power by Abimelech. He is likened in the parable to a thorn, which produces no benefits for any and harms those who come close to it. The other trees preferred service to power; this only takes nourishment and gives nothing, seeking power. Further, when dry, it becomes flammable, threatening harm to others.

What a poetic description of good uses of power in leadership, versus bad.

Jotham closes with bitterness and sarcasm, saying if they go with Abimelech and are right, fine. But, if theyre wrong, destruction and bad times follow. Abimelechs behavior is revolting, using power with force and arrogance (Rashi). God brings about retribution to match, in achieving discord between him and erstwhile supporters.

2. Gael challenges Abimelech, and Abimelech crushes him, destroys Shechem, and Thebez. Consumed with vanity until the end, his death is precipitated by a woman throwing a millstone on his head. So, one who murders others on a stone is killed by a stone. (Yalkut Shimoni).

Tola, Jair, and a New Era - 10

1. Tola judges for 23 years.

2.  Jair judges for 22 years.

3. Idolatry leads to Philistine control. Chastening. Ammonites come, too. The people cry out. God responds and reprimands. They remove the gods from their midst. (The cycle in Judges)

Jephthah - 11

1.      From now on until Samuel, God does not provide Israel with all-embracing love-devoted great leaders. Lesser leaders, with lesser victories. Salvation is just enough, as if God has lost patience with this cycle repeating itself over and over again.

2. Jephthah was a mighty man of valor but was of a strange woman and not altogether of the peoples liking. Considered to be the least of the judges.

3. Jephthah confronts king of Ammon. They debate control over the land. With no willingness of the king to change, Jephthah, with Gods delivering spirit, defeats Ammon. (He made an inappropriate vow beforehand, though, which leads to a bad result that dominates much of the chapter.)

Ephraim - 12

1. Low spiritual level of nation illustrated by civil war between Ephraim and Jephthah, over a perceived slight.

2. Ibzan, then Elon, then Abdon ruled.

Samson - 13-16

1.      The people strayed. The Philistines conquer. But this time Divine salvation (through Samson) will be only partial, though Samson was a great man who might have been able to do more. The Philistines continued to rule the land until Samuel and David.

2. Samson is prepared to be a Nazirite. An angel appears to the mother. And Manoah appeals for God’s help in raising the lad, which leads to further statement of the requirements of being a nazirite. Samson is born and given the name relating to sun, which can be both benevolent and harmful or sun and shield. The spirit of God resounded in him around the camp. Torah? A blessing and nearness? There, and now re-ignited? A designation of Samson to help deliver (in part) the people on behalf of God, or perhaps give them relief.

3. Samson will not achieve a full deliverance as did other judges, so his strategy had to be different.

4. His strategy appears to some the odd, and heretofore forbidden, practice of marrying Philistine women. Samson goes “down” to do so. Becomes “too attracted” to women of beauty. He rips apart a lion that confronts him, showing both his strength and God’s support of him and his capacity to overcome evil and other obstacles.

5. He finds a woman who pleases him. He finds bees in the body of the lion he killed, with honey. He took honey to his parents.

6. He then marries the woman and had a festival. He posed a riddle to guests. They cajole the wife to get the answer to the riddle from Samson to win the bet. She betrays him.

(The riddle comes from his encounter with the lion and the bees: what is sweeter than honey, and what is stronger than a lion? From the eater came forth food; and from the strong came forth sweetness. 13-18.

Interesting meaning possibilities: there’s sustenance out of a powerful beast one overcomes? Sweetness can be the product derived from something strong and is stronger than the inherent strength in it?)

7. Samson avenges them by killing a number of them.

8. Long story about Samson’s provocation, Jews’ turning him over, and the miracle from God that permitted a loosening of the Philistines’ grip.

9. Samson goes to Gaza and cavorts with a harlot. He loves Delilah. Sages say there’s no mention of God’s spirit resting upon Samson in this chapter, which is the reason his strength betrayed him. He allows his spirit to be diminished. She diminishes it, even more than in her revealing secrets of  his physical strength. In any event, she betrays him, though he foolishly lets her do so several times. She finally gets the secret of the nazirite as to the cutting of the hair.

God leaves him as his devotion to God departed from him. It’s only represented by the loss of the hair, which takes place as his piety is lost in his succumbing to the wiles of Delilah.

As he repents and asks for God’s support, in an appeal to the God of both mercy and judgment (and as his hair begins to grow back), his strength is returned to effect vengeance on the Philistines who saw his fall as a sign of the power of their gods.

He dies to sanctify God’s name.

Conclusion to Judges - Chapters 17-21

1.      Though the people remain generally loyal to God over these 369 years, leadership is now weak, and two serious moral aberrations occur at the end of the book. This all gives rise to the desire for a king. There is considerable debate when these events actually took place.

2. One is the making of Micajehu’s graven image. He engages a Levite to support him and his mother in their “temple.”

Some Danites come to this temple and ask for God’s support in their search. The Levite gives them a blessing. They succeed and then loot the temple and ask him to join them. Micah is upset but sees there’s little he can do. The Danites create a new city with the image at its center, all while God’s House was in Shiloh.

3. The other begins in chapter 19, involving a concubine in Gibeah, who deserted her Levite husband. He tries to retrieve her from his father-in-law’s house. They stop on the way home in Gibeah and are shown no hospitality. One old man tries to help, but lawless people of the town bang on doors and insist on the man being brought out, presumably to be sodomized. Instead they violate the concubine. Oddly, the Levite chops her up into 12 pieces (one piece to each tribe) to rally the nation to vengeance.

(Story has likenesses and differences with that of Sodom.)

The nation is united in revulsion and responds vigorously. 20. Sages say this shows high moral standard of nation, but how in the world was there ever such a spirit in which in a town in the land of Benjamin where such a thing could happen? Indeed Benjamin refuses to turn the offenders over.

The united tribes lose! Sages say this is because they asked God the wrong question. (?) Or they relied on their own strength, instead of God. Or they didn’t seek accommodation first. They try again and lose again. This is said to be because they had continued to tolerate the graven image in the previous story. (That makes sense. What a mess, though.)

Finally, the tribes prevail, after asking for God’s help in a third encounter, perhaps after repenting. Huge casualties. Virtual end of the tribe of Benjamin.

They go to Shiloh to pray and repent. Remorse. Mercy toward Benjamin. Built an altar there to ask for God’s help, made offerings both in gratitude for victory and to make peace with God and to begin to atone for the sin and the massive loss of life.

Though controversial, this included a unique way of Benjamin to obtain wives in order to continue to exist as a tribe, all of their women having previously perished. Since the women would be from Shiloh, the idea was they might be especially righteous and improve over time the character of the tribe. (Lovely redemptive idea at the end of a terrible story.)

We recall Jacob likening Benjamin to a “predatory wolf.” Some say this is what that foresaw. Or perhaps it wasn’t negative, but rather to the men here grabbing wives, allowing themselves to be revived, brought back from the sin at Gilbeah. Repentance is always possible, and this turning for this tribe is one of the most powerful in the Tanakh.

4. The Book ends with an idea that haunts the beginning of Samuel: “In those days there was no king in Israel; a man would do whatever seemed proper in his eyes.” 21:25. After these two stories, no wonder the people clamored for a king!

III.  Brief Discussion of Years between Deborah and Samuel


Preview and Youth - Discussion of Hannah

Preview and Youth

1.      He was born, we are taught, only in response to Hannahs prayer, which included the vow that his life would be in service to God. 1:11, 27-28.

2. His name, Radak says, is from words, sheul mayael, borrowed from God. Or name of God. Or, as in text, requested from God. 1:20.

Read 1 Samuel 1:21-22. 

21 When Elkanah and all his household went up to make the annual sacrifice and keep his solemn promise, 22 Hannah didn’t go. “I’ll bring the boy when he is weaned,” she told her husband, “so he can be presented to the Lord and stay there permanently."

3. He would settle there forever.The town? Or in a sanctuary? Or in service to God wherever he was for his life. 1:22.

4. Hannahs prayer includes the request that God give power to His king and raise the pride of his anointed one. This is about the kings Samuel will anoint on behalf of God as well as the future Messiah. This foretells Samuels role in helping shape the destiny of his nation and the future. 2:10.

5. Samuel served Eli, the Kohen, as a young boy. Rashi says serving a righteous scholar is like serving God. 2:11

C. Read 1 Samuel 2:11. 

11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy served the Lord under Eli the priest.

6. Samuel shows virtue in his early service to God, growing in piety and stature, even in the midst of a declining environment in which peers did evil deeds. The Mishnah teaches we must choose behavior both pleasing to men AND God. 2:18, 20-21, 26.

7. It was a time when the word of Hashem was scarce.vision was not widespread.3:1. The lamp of God, though, had not yet gone out.3:3. God calls to Samuel in prophecy and speaks of the downfall of Eli and his sons and the loss of the Tabernacle. 3:10-14.

The Era of Samuel Begins

1.  God was with Samuel, and Samuel did not cast any of his words to the ground. Samuel was faithful as a prophet to God,and all knew it (meaning it must have been manifest and visible in his actions and words to many observers.) 3:19:20

2. As foretold, the Philistines defeat Israel. Simply having the Ark did not protect them; failing to pray, repent, and turn back to God dooms them, and false fronts are of no help. 4:10. When the Ark is taken, glory has been exiled from Israel.4:21, 22.

3. The Ark returns, though with lack of respect by those who first saw it>punishment.

Signs of Samuels Leadership

1. a. The ark was stationed in a spot for 20 years in which the entire House of Israel was drawn after Hashem.Samuel says to the whole people that if they return to God with all your hearts,remove foreign gods, direct hearts to God, serving Him alone,they will be restored. They did so, and he committed to pray to Hashemfor them. 7:1-5.

b. It is said that it had been 350 years since the time of Joshua that the righteousness of the entire nation had been expressed so emphatically, largely, according to Rashi, because of Samuels leadership and dedication.

2. The people fasted and made offerings and poured forth water (spirit?) to God at Mizpah (where Joshua had, with Gods help, miraculously defeated the Canaanites).

3. Israel was delivered by God from the Philistines, and they were liberated.

4. Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 7:15. Totally devoted to the people. Constantly traveling to teach, judge, and elevate the people. Worked so hard he got old before his time. He reversed many generations of decline.  7:15-17.

The People Seek a King

1. Samuels sons did not act properly as judges, suggesting not necessarily like father like son.He either erred in raising them or choosing them, or was too old to supervise them or lead any more, or even a leader cant guarantee good leadership of children or the nation past a certain point in time. The people want a king. 8:1-6.

H. Read 1 Samuel 8:1-22 (or portions thereof)

Now when Samuel got old, he appointed his sons to serve as Israel’s judges. The name of his oldest son was Joel; the name of the second was Abijah. They served as judges in Beer-sheba. But Samuel’s sons didn’t follow in his footsteps. They tried to turn a profit, they accepted bribes, and they perverted justice.

So all the Israelite elders got together and went to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “Listen. You are old now, and your sons don’t follow in your footsteps. So appoint us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” It seemed very bad to Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us,” so he prayed to the Lord.

The Lord answered Samuel, “Comply with the people’s request—everything they ask of you—because they haven’t rejected you. No, they’ve rejected me as king over them. They are doing to you only what they’ve been doing to me from the day I brought them out of Egypt to this very minute, abandoning me and worshipping other gods. So comply with their request, but give them a clear warning, telling them how the king will rule over them.”

10 Then Samuel explained everything the Lord had said to the people who were asking for a king. 11 “This is how the king will rule over you,” Samuel said:

“He will take your sons, and will use them for his chariots and his cavalry and as runners for his chariot. 12 He will use them as his commanders of troops of one thousand and troops of fifty, or to do his plowing and his harvesting, or to make his weapons or parts for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, or bakers. 14 He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his servants. 15 He will give one-tenth of your grain and your vineyards to his officials and servants. 16 He will take your male and female servants, along with the best of your cattle and donkeys, and make them do his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and then you yourselves will become his slaves! 18 When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you chose for yourselves, but on that day the Lord won’t answer you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel and said, “No! There must be a king over us 20 so we can be like all the other nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles.”

21 Samuel listened to everything the people said and repeated it directly to the Lord. 22 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Comply with their request. Give them a king.” Samuel then told the Israelite people, “Go back, each of you, to your own hometown.”

2. Samuel is disturbed the people want a king like other nations,yet prays to God for advice. God says its tantamount to a rejection of the Divine, tells Samuel to warn them all the bad that will come of it, and, in effect, Samuel will continue to be the moral authority of Israel.

3. The way the king will act is in direct contrast to Torah prescriptions for the king, likely because the people wanted a king like all the other nations,not the king of the Torah. The people insist, especially wanting a leader in war, and God relents and Samuel moves forward.


1.  Saul: exceptional, goodly, handsome. 9:2.

2. Samuel is called man of God.9:10. Serves as a first seer, prophet. God prepares Samuel with awareness of Saul. 9:15-16. Samuel serves God by doing duty of honoring Saul, including a special feast, preparing and teaching him for his new role. Samuel is true to his role as seer but fully loyal to Gods plan that another become king. 9 generally. 

Anointment and Beginning of Rule of Saul

1. Samuel describes and implements anointment and foretells next steps. God transforms Saul with a new heart.After events and rituals, Samuel gathers the people. He reminds them that they had rejected the saving God and wanted a king over them. They are presented with Saul and reminded of the protocol of kingship.While there were naysayers, the army went with him with the view that his heart was inspired by fear of God.

2. Some sages say the protocol refers to his earlier statements of what kings would do. I think it means Torah obligations for kings. 10:25.

Saul Proves Himself

1. When the people were threatened, Saul became angry as the spirit of God passed over.This could mean spirit of superior strength, transforming Saul into a fierce warrior. A fulfillment of Samuels prophecy. 10:6.

2. Saul cut two oxen up and sent pieces through the country, saying whoever does not follow Saul AND Samuel into battle would find this done to his oxen. 11:7. Whats this about? Some sages say it was to suggest that people not united for God and with Gods leaders and rather fearful would be split up and die, as with the oxen. 

Samuels name is brought to bear because of the authority he bears in causing the people to follow. So, Samuels leadership plays out in his designee, even though he is not there and has directly passed the baton.

The people go forth with a dread of God, as if one man.This is the unity required to prevail, and that which leadership, at its best, achieves.

3. Saul shows special respect to Judah. 11:8. This may be partly because Judah felt entitled from tradition to be the source of the king (which it would be with David), but it wasnt so yet because Saul was a Benjamite. Good politics?

4. Through strategy, cunning, unity, and force, the forces defeat the enemy quickly under Saul. 11:9-12.

5. Though Saul had the power to punish and kill those who had not been loyal, he preserves the day for celebration, probably further garnering power. 11:13.

6. Samuel rallies the people, culminating in full authority of Saul and festivities and offerings, and rejoicing. 11:15. This is its own way of leading.

Samuels Reproof of the People

1. 12:1-5. Samuel addresses the people. Trust is key to leadership, so he begins by making clear his leadership has always been about their welfare, never his or for his gain. The people (or God?) affirm him by saying, A witness!

2. 12:6-15. Very important address. a) Goes back to Gods blessings, righteous deeds, and saving hand and provision of great leaders. They stray and mostly insist if they had a king theyd be ok. He reminds and warns them again, even and especially in the wake of victory, that the only true Sovereign is God. This means, in part, that core virtues (Gods ways) are always central, that the people tend to forget it, and that leaders must always remind, teach, and insist upon their staying true to them.

3. Samuel lays out the idea that prayer to God, leadership within the mitzvot, and living in the way are sufficient, without need of a king. At the least, straying while under a king will be unavailing. 12:16-19.

4. The Philistines threaten. Saul makes a sacrifice out of desperation (and with some reason), yet ahead of Samuels direction to wait to do so. Samuel criticizes him, yet Saul does not confess error. This double failure - to follow right direction and refusal to confess - dooms his leadership ultimately. Theres error in not being true to God and hubris in the king. The combination goes against the Biblical ideal of leadership. 13:11-15.

5. To his credit, Saul continues in duty even in face of the rebuke and loss of many of his troops.

Jonathans Miracle

1. Jonathan achieves a miraculous victory over the Philistines. Salvation ultimately is from God. 14.

2. A God-inspired terror took hold.14:15

3. God saved Israel on that day.14:23.

4. Saul won great victories and consolidated the kingdom, though the Philistine threat persisted all his life/reign. 14:47.

Samuel Instructs Saul and Later Must Reject Him

1. The king serves God. In that respect, Samuel instructs Saul to deliver on Gods command to destroy Amalek. Saul largely succeeds BUT shows pity on the king and certain animals. This is now the second time Saul acts independently of direction from Samuel, Gods prophet. God is aggrieved, as is Samuel 15:10. (interesting that this king cohabits before his death, gives rise to children who ultimately sire Haman, according to the sages, so this turns out to be misplaced mercy).

2. God rejects Saul, as a result, and Samuel carries out the mission of delivering the edict to Saul.

3. Does HaShem delight in offerings as in obedience to the voice of HaSehem? To obey is better than a choice offering.Because you have rejected the word of HaShem, He has rejected you as king.15:22-23. This becomes a principal theme in Prophets.

4. Outward acts were but symptoms of the inner disintegration that disqualified Saul.” “Spirit of rebellion.There is the idea that a person can be forgiven and given a way back, but the king forfeits leadership under such circumstances. Samuel stands in the position to enforce.

5. Agag is executed, as Saul commendably makes an effort to do right. Yet, he has forfeited leadership. Samuel mourns this but moves forward.

The Rise of David

1. God challenges Samuel as if he mourned for Saul too long. We must subordinate our emotions to Gods will. Here it is to move on to anoint Gods choice for king, though it involved some fear that Saul would have been extremely upset over doing so. 16:1. God protects but expects us to be careful and mindful for our safety.

2. Samuel goes to meet with Jesse and the family. Samuel sees the powerful, impressive Eliab and assumes it will be he. God reminds Samuel not to judge a book by its cover.God sees into the heart.16:7. We later learn that this fellow had an anger problem, shown when David encounters Goliath in 17. Sages say God would not judge an individual ahead on straying, but the inclination is disqualifying for the role as leader.

3. Samuel is patient as the others come forward, waiting for guidance from God.

4. David is humble, still tending the sheep. 17:11.

5. Well into the story, when Saul is seeking to kill David, David flees to Samuel, where he is seen by the sages as being supported by the holiness that surrounded Samuel and the prophets that surrounded him. 19:20-24. This spirit seems to affect to the good all who are in its midst.

The Death of Samuel

1. Samuels death is reported when his work is completed, just as Saul acquiesces to David, as if our lives are lived, as is our leadership, in the accomplishment of our duties.

2. All Israel came to eulogize him, measure for measure, as he had traveled all over Israel to serve them. 

V. Conclusion

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Leadership in the Bible  - Part 3 Study Guide - Deborah and Samuel

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