There once was a man who lived in Ramathaim. He was descended from the old Zuph family in the Ephraim hills. His name was Elkanah. (He was connected with the Zuphs from Ephraim through his father Jeroham, his grandfather Elihu, and his great-grandfather Tohu.) He had two wives. The first was Hannah; the second was Peninnah. Peninnah had children; Hannah did not. Every year this man went from his hometown up to Shiloh to worship and offer a sacrifice to God-of-the-Angel-Armies. Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, served as the priests of God there.
I Samuel 1:1-3
And so begins the next chapter of our story. We see the family of priests Eli and his two sons ministering in the tabernacle in a place called Shiloh. There are references here to the “temple” but the temple is still nearly a hundred years from being built. For now, some temporary structure, probably some oft-repaired version of the tabernacle built by Moses, houses the ark of the covenant and the other items of worship.
This is the scene where something quite extraordinary is going to happen. A minor upset in the way of things that’s going to have impact for centuries to come.
Eli, as with all of the priests, is a Levite, a descendant of Jacob’s son Levi. These were selected from all Israel by God himself to belong especially to him as a replacement for the first born, which belonged to God.
This was because the final plague in Egypt, as you may recall, was the death of all the firstborn. To protect themselves, the Israelites had to take blood from a lamb and sprinkle it on the door posts of their houses. When the angel of the Lord passed by to slay the firstborn, they would see the blood on the door and “pass over” the house. This is the origin of the feast of passover.
Consecrate every firstborn to me – the first one to come from the womb among the Israelites, whether person or animal, is mine. You are to set aside the first birth out of every womb to God. Every first birth from your livestock belongs to God. You can redeem every first birth of a donkey if you want to by substituting a lamb; if you decide not to redeem it, you must break its neck.
When the time comes and your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you tell him, ‘God brought us out of Egypt, out of a house of slavery, with a powerful hand. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, God killed every firstborn in Egypt, the firstborn of both humans and animals. That’s why I make a sacrifice for every first male birth from the womb to God and redeem every firstborn son.’ The observance functions like a sign on your hands or a symbol on the middle of your forehead: God brought us out of Egypt with a powerful hand.
As a result, God claimed the firstborn of every womb, the people and the livestock both, for himself. But God knew that this was going to be disruptive, so, instead of the firstborn, he claimed the Levites.
God spoke to Moses: “I have taken the Levites from among the People of Israel as a stand-in for every Israelite mother’s firstborn son. The Levites belong to me. All the firstborn are mine – when I killed all the firstborn in Egypt, I consecrated for my own use every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They belong to me. I am God.”
The Levites then ministered to the Lord and served him as a proxy for the firstborn. It was always the firstborn’s place, but the Levites stood there for them.
And so Eli ministered in the house of the Lord as a Levite. He offered the sacrifices and trimmed the oil lamps and ran the team of Levites that were responsible for taking care of the place of worship in every way.
But things were changing. Troubled by her barrenness Hannah cried out to God.
Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried – inconsolably. Then she made a vow: Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me By giving me a son, I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.
1 Samuel 1:10-11
God gives Hannah a child as she requested and she names him Samuel. After she weans him she bring him into the temple and leaves him to grow up as a priest before God.
Also, something was happening with Eli as well.
Eli’s own sons were a bad lot. They didn’t know God and could not have cared less about the customs of priests among the people. Ordinarily, when someone offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant was supposed to come up and, while the meat was boiling, stab a three-pronged fork into the cooking pot. The priest then got whatever came up on the fork. But this is how Eli’s sons treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh to offer sacrifices to God. Before they had even burned the fat to God, the priest’s servant would interrupt whoever was sacrificing and say, “Hand over some of that meat for the priest to roast. He doesn’t like boiled meat; he likes his rare.” If the man objected, “First let the fat be burned – God’s portion! – then take all you want,” the servant would demand, “No, I want it now. If you won’t give it, I’ll take it.” It was a horrible sin these young servants were committing – and right in the presence of God! – desecrating the holy offerings to God. In the midst of all this, Samuel, a boy dressed in a priestly linen tunic, served God. The boy Samuel stayed at the sanctuary and grew up with God. A Hard Life with Many Tears.
I Samuel 3:12-18, 21b
Eli was not a bad man, but he had grown old and fat and blind with age. His sons were bad men and were running rampant. The remainder of the Levites was falling apart. Many people teach that the time of the Levitical priesthood lasted until Jesus, but it did not. The High Priest line ended with Eli. It was time for this priesthood to be replaced with a priest from Ephriam.
But the boy Samuel was very much alive, growing up, blessed by God and popular with the people. 27 A holy man came to Eli and said: “This is God’s message: I revealed myself openly to your ancestors when they were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. 28 Out of all the tribes of Israel, I chose your family to be my priests: to preside at the altar, to burn incense, to wear the priestly robes in my presence. I put your ancestral family in charge of all the sacrificial offerings of Israel. 29 So why do you now treat as mere loot these very sacrificial offerings that I commanded for my worship? Why do you treat your sons better than me, turning them loose to get fat on these offerings, and ignoring me? 30 Therefore – this is God’s word, the God of Israel speaking – I once said that you and your ancestral family would be my priests indefinitely, but now – God’s word, remember! – there is no way this can continue. I honor those who honor me; those who scorn me I demean. 31 “Be well warned: It won’t be long before I wipe out both your family and your future family. No one in your family will make it to old age! 32 You’ll see good things that I’m doing in Israel, but you’ll see it and weep, for no one in your family will live to enjoy it. 33 I will leave one person to serve at my altar, but it will be a hard life, with many tears. Everyone else in your family will die before their time. 34 What happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be the proof: Both will die the same day. 35 Then I’ll establish for myself a true priest. He’ll do what I want him to do, be what I want him to be. I’ll make his position secure and he’ll do his work freely in the service of my anointed one.
I Samuel 2:26-35
Samuel grows up in the presence of the Lord and becomes the final Judge of Israel—a prophet of the Lord most holy and honored, from the tribe of Ephraim.
Samuel grew up. God was with him, and Samuel’s prophetic record was flawless. Everyone in Israel, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, recognized that Samuel was the real thing – a true prophet of God. God continued to show up at Shiloh, revealed through his word to Samuel at Shiloh.
I Samuel 3:19-21
The Israelites came to Samuel and demanded that the Lord give them a king so they could be like the other nations. After warning them what this would cost them, God tells Samuel to anoint Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin to be king over all of Israel. Saul was everything you’d want in a king—tall, handsome, charismatic, and powerful.
Also, many people don’t realize that there were only three kings that reigned over all twelve tribes of Israel and Saul was the first of the three. But even though God chose Saul, he wasn’t the one God wanted to be king. Saul was there to set the scene for another king, one that would come from the house of Judah.
You, Judah, your brothers will praise you: Your fingers on your enemies’ throat, while your brothers honor you. You’re a lion’s cub, Judah, home fresh from the kill, my son. Look at him, crouched like a lion, king of beasts; who dares mess with him? The scepter shall not leave Judah; he’ll keep a firm grip on the command staff until the ultimate ruler comes and the nations obey him.
Saul wasn’t a bad man, but the hand of the Lord had appointed a replacement for him because Saul had obedience problems. He wasn’t exactly disobedient, but he had a knack for just missing the mark of what God wanted him to do.
Instead, God appoints David to be king—David of the house of Judah—David the eighth son of his father Jesse.
Wait a minute! How can God appoint the eighth born son to be king? The firstborn belonged to him. Why wasn’t David’s oldest brother appointed king? How can this be?
Think back to what we’ve already learned. When Jacob bought the birthright from Esau, he bought it for all time. I call this birthright “the wild card anointing” because it doesn’t appear to obey any of the rules. Issac wasn’t the firstborn either, but was the younger brother of Israel. And yet, this Melchizedek anointing was passed through him, for “Your descendants will come through Isaac” (Genesis 21:12).
That birthright Jacob passed on to his grandson, Ephraim. I Chronicles 5 tells us that that birthright stayed in the line of Ephraim. This anointing was for the Chief Ruler. Keep in mind that, when we’re discussing these things, David and Jesus are interchangeable.
For the Messiah to come, his bloodline had to be established with the proper anointing. To ensure this, David was anointed king three different times.
God addressed Samuel: “So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I’ve rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I’ve spotted the very king I want among his sons.” Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, “God hasn’t chosen any of these.” 11 Then he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?” “Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.” Samuel ordered Jesse, “Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.” 12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health – bright-eyed, good-looking. God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.” 13 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. Samuel left and went home to Ramah.
I Samuel 16:1,10-13
After all this, David prayed. He asked God, “Shall I move to one of the cities of Judah?” God said, “Yes, move.” “And to which city?” “To Hebron.” So David moved to Hebron, along with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David’s men, along with their families, also went with him and made their home in and around Hebron. The citizens of Judah came to Hebron, and then and there made David king over the clans of Judah.
II Samuel 2:1-4
Then all Israel assembled before David at Hebron. “Look at us,” they said. “We’re your very flesh and blood. In the past, yes, even while Saul was king, you were the real leader of Israel. God told you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel; you are to be the ruler of my people Israel.'” When all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, David made a covenant with them in the presence of God at Hebron. Then they anointed David king over Israel exactly as God had commanded through Samuel.
I Chronicles 11:1-3
God has a plan for everything he does. The three anointings of David were each to inject him with a different portion of God’s anointing.
- Anointing from Samuel, representative of the tribe of Ephraim. From this anointing, the blessing that Abraham received from Melchizedek was injected into the House of David.
- Anointing from Judah. The authority to rule given to Judah prophetically by Jacob in Genesis.
- Anointing from Israel, almost certainly given by the Levites. Injection of the Levitical anointing for carrying out of God’s law.
David was the first to be anointed prophet (by the prophet Samuel of the Melchizedek line), priest (by the Levitical priesthood), and king (by the house of Judah, the royal line established by Jacob). So with this triple anointing, God has set the stage for the coming of the Messiah. The bloodline is ready. Now lets see what David does with this triple anointing.
On to Part 3.