When Samuel died, all Israel gathered to mourn for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David set out and went down to the Wilderness of Paran.
1 Samuel 25:1. (RAMAH.)
1. The end of the great prophet's life is recorded in brief and simple words. This is according to the manner in which the death of men is usually spoken of in the Scriptures. Whilst their life is narrated at length, their death is either passed over in silence or mentioned only in a sentence, as of comparatively little consequence in relation to their character, work, and influence. There is one significant exception, viz., that of him "who once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."
2. In the last glimpse afforded of him before his decease he is described as "standing as one appointed over the company of the prophets," and occupied with them in celebrating the praises of God (1 Samuel 19:20). During the years that had since elapsed he was left unmolested by Saul; and it is hardly likely that David ever ventured to Ramah again, although he probably kept up indirect intercourse with his aged and revered friend (1 Samuel 22:5), and was often in his thoughts.
3. In connection with the mention of his death it is stated that "David arose and went down" (from "the hold" in the hill of Hachilah, to which he had returned from Engedi) "to the wilderness of Paran." He may have done so for reasons independent of this event, or without the knowledge of it; or possibly because he feared that with the removal of Samuel's restraining influence Saul might renew his persecution. However it may have been, the melancholy intelligence would speedily reach him.
4. "Samuel died." Good and great as he was, he could not escape the common lot of men. "One event happeneth to them all." But that which comes as a judgment to "the fool" (ver. 38) comes as a blessing to the wise. "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." The news of it came upon the people as a surprise and filled them with grief. "It was as if from that noble star, so long as it shone in the heaven of the holy land, though veiled by clouds, there streamed a mild beneficent light over all Israel. Now this star in Israel was extinguished" (Krummacher). "Another mighty one had passed away. The very heart of the nation sighed out its loving, weeping requiem. But who among them all mourned as that son of Jesse, on whose head he had at God's command poured the anointing oil, as he arose and went down to the wilderness of Paran? Doubtless in those waste places he heard again in living memory the echoes of the prevailing cry of him who was so great among those that call upon the name of the Lord. Doubtless his own discipline was perfected in this new sorrow, but he learnt in losing Samuel to lean more simply and alone on Samuel's God" ('Heroes of Hebrews Hist.'). We have here -
I. THE DECEASE OF AN ILLUSTRIOUS MAN: saint, prophet, intercessor, judge, restorer of the theocracy, founder of the monarchy. "He was a righteous man, and gentle in his nature; and on that account he was very dear to God" (Josephus). "Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, beloved of the Lord, established a kingdom and anointed princes over his people. And.before his long sleep he made protestations in the sight of the Lord, etc. And.after his death he prophesied, and showed the king his end" (Ecclesiastes 46:13-20). He died -
1. In a good old age. At what age we know not; but long ago he spoke of himself as "old and grayheaded" (1 Samuel 12:2). His protracted life was an evidence of his self-control and piety, a mark of Divine favour, and a means of extended usefulness. He was cut down not like "the flower of the field," which blooms for a day and is gone, nor like the spreading forest tree smitten by a sudden blast; but rather like the ripe corn, bending down beneath its golden burden and falling under the sickle of the reaper; arid "as shocks of corn are brought in in their season," so was he "gathered to his people."
2. At the proper time. When his appointed work was done, the new order of things firmly established, and he could by his continuance do little more for Israel, he was "taken away from the evil to come" through which the nation was to attain its highest glory. "He was the link which connected two very different periods, being the last representative of a past which could never come back, and seemed almost centuries behind, and also marking the commencement of a new period intended to develop into Israel's ideal future" (Edersheim). "If David's visible deeds were greater and more dazzling than Samuel's, there can be no doubt that David's blaze of glory would have been impossible without Samuel's less conspicuous but far more influential career, and that all the greatness of which the following century boasts goes back to him as its real author" (Ewald).
3. In peaceful retirement; removed from public strife, under Divine protection, surrounded by prophetic associates, reviewing the past, contemplating the present, and awaiting the final change. A holy and useful life is crowned with a peaceful and happy death.
4. In Divine communion, which constitutes the highest life of the good. In God (with whom he had walked from his childhood, and whose inward voice he had so often heard) he found his chief delight, to his will he cheerfully submitted, and into his hands he committed his spirit in hope of continued, perfect, and eternal fellowship. The ancient covenant to be "the God" of his people overshadowed the present and the future; nor did they suppose (however dim their views of another life) that he would suffer them to be deprived by death of his presence and love "All live unto him" and in him. He "died in faith." His decease was like a peaceful summer sunset.
"Not the last struggle of the sun
II. THE MOURNING OF A WHOLE PEOPLE. "And all Israel" (represented by their elders) "were gathered together" (out of common veneration and love), "and lamented him (whom all knew and none would see again), and buried him in his house at Ramah" ("the ancient and the manor house," so long his residence, and endeared to him by so many tender associations). It was "a grievous mourning," as when Jacob was buried at Machpelah (Genesis 1:11; Acts 8:2). The honour rendered to his memory was simple and sincere, very different from that which, it is said, was paid to his dust in later times, when "his remains were removed with incredible pomp and almost one continued train of attendants from Ramah to Constantinople by the Emperor Arcadius, A.D. 401" (Delany, 1:148). But "of Samuel, as of Moses, it may be said, 'No man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day'" (Stanley). The national mourning was an indication of -
1. The high esteem in which he was held, on account of his great ability, eminent piety, and beneficent activity - his integrity, firmness, gentleness, consistency, disinterestedness, adaptability, and living communion with God (1 Samuel 2:30; Psalm 112:6). "A true Christian. may travel in life under troubles and contempts; but mark his end, and you shall find (as peace, so) honour. Life is death's seed time; death life's harvest. As here we sow, so there we reap. He that spends himself upon God and man shall at last have all the honour that heaven and earth can cast upon him" (R. Harris).
2. The deplorable loss which had been sustained. "The men who had once rejected Samuel now lamented him; when the light of his presence was departed they felt the darkness which remained; when the actual energy of his example had ceased to act they remembered the strength of his principles, the consistency of its operation. There was a feeling common to man. Whilst we enjoy the gift we ofttimes forget the Giver, and are awakened only to the full consciousness of the value of that which we once possessed by finding that we possess it no longer" (Anderson).
3. The unjust treatment which he had received, and which was now regretted. His predictions had proved true (1 Samuel 8:11), and his course was fully vindicated. "The sorrow at his decease was the deeper, the more heavily the yoke of Saul's misgovernment pressed on them."
4. The continued influence he exerted upon the nation. "The holy expression stamped by him on the tribes of Benjamin and Judah remained for centuries uneffaced. Never was a single man more instrumental in sowing the soil of a district with the enduring seeds of goodness. It seems to have been mainly through his influence that piety found a home in Judah and Benjamin when it was banished from the rest of the country. Humanly speaking David could never have been king if Samuel had not prepared the way. He was to King David what John the Baptist was to Christ. Unquestionably he is to be ranked among the very greatest and best of the Hebrew worthies" (Blaikie). "And he being dead yet speaketh."
"O good gray head which all men knew,
1. Honour the memory of the good.
2. Praise God for their lives.
3. Imitate their example.
4. Carry out their purposes. - D.
And Samuel died, and all the Israelites were gathered together and lamented him.
1. The self-forgetting life. We want to learn to do good quietly, unostentatiously.
2. Joy in daily tasks.
3. Disinterested virtue. To live a good life in order to be missed, and nothing more, is one thing. But to live it without any such intention is another. Our virtue must be disinterested.
4. The life of service. So we speak of the useful life as the true one. The ideal life is that of consecrated service. Is there anyone living in loneliness who will say: "When I had not a friend in the world, when I came up from come country place and went into a certain church, that man befriended me?"
5. Active religion. "And Samuel died, and all Israel wept for him." We, too, must die. Will men weep for us? Will the world be sorry or will he clap his hands?
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