The period of Israel’s judges—from the death of Joshua to the anointing of Saul—is divided into two biblical records: the Book of Judges and the opening chapters of 1 Samuel. The early editors of the Old Testament, who determined the division of this material, were doubtless guided by a sense that the ministry of Samuel provided an essential narrative hinge between the judges and kings of Israel. It seemed to those editors that Samuel’s importance lay less in his sequence with the other judges than in his preparation for the monarchy. Israel’s memory tied him closer to Saul and David than to Ehud and Jephthah.
If we look for comparisons between the ministries of Samuel and Israel’s other judges, Deborah provides the clearest resemblance. Neither she nor Samuel was remembered as a warrior, though each of them inspired others—Barak and Saul—to combat. The ministries of both Deborah and Samuel, moreover, were associated with Ramah, where the Israelites gathered to consult them (Judges 4:5; 1 Sam. 7:17).
Also, Samuel’s mother, Hannah, came—like Deborah—from “the mountains of Ephraim.” The biblical editors suggest this connection by placing the canticles of Deborah and Hannah near the beginnings of their respective books.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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