Samuel, Saul, and David stand out as the three central figures of 1 & 2 Samuel.
He was ''God's son'' from the moment of his birth. ''Therefore I have given him to the Lord'' (not ''lent'' as in the A.V.) [1:28]. The word, common to the Babylonian and Hebrew tongues before their separation, becomes a witness to the antiquity of the book. It disappeared from the language of the Israelites so completely that no Jewish student of the Bible, ancient or modern, was able to explain it. But it is evident that it was in common use in Hannah's day; for she wanted every one to know that he was altogether the Lord's own, and she must have chosen a word, therefore, which every one could understand.
The name ''God's son'' takes us a step further. The resemblance between Hannah's Song and that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, [is remarkable]. Mary's Song is not a repetition of Hannah's, yet both see the same vision. It is a vision of the earth's full salvation, and of the Lord's Christ. ''The adversaries of the Lord,'' sings Hannah, ''shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall He thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength unto His King, and exalt the horn of His anointed'' -- that is of His Messiah (1Sam 2:10). ''He hath showed strength with His arm,'' responds Mary: ''He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts... He hath holpen His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever'' (Luk 1:51-55).
Hannah's Song, and the name she gave her child, are alike a prophecy of Christ. She has the honor of being the first to use the name ''Messiah.''
''The Divine title 'Lord of Hosts' never occurs in the Pentateuch; it occurs for the first time in 1Samuel 1:3. After this, it occurs very frequently, especially in the prophets-- 281 times in all. If the Pentateuch was written by a multitude of writers in the later age, when this title for Jehovah was so much in vogue, how is it that not one of them has in the Pentateuch used this expression even once?''
Samuel was a type of Christ in combining the offices of prophet, priest, and ruler. The Schools of the Prophets founded by him are a foreshadowing of the Lord's service in pouring out His Spirit upon apostles, evangelists, and teachers.
Above all, Samuel was a picture of Christ in his life of prayer and intercession. From the time that God ''called Samuel''-- the story we have loved from childhood [ch. 3] -- his life was one of continual communion. Samuel had access to the ear of God, and his own ear was open to God's voice. He and Moses are God's chosen examples of intercessors. ''Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people'' (Jer 15:1). Samuel said to the rebellious nation, ''God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you'' [1Sam 12:23]. ''Jesus... ever liveth to make intercession for them'' [Heb 7:25].
Jonathan made an everlasting covenant with David (18:3; 20:15,16; 23:18): ''He stripped himself of the robe that was on him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.'' So Christ stripped Himself of His glory, and He has covered us with the robe of His righteousness, and has armed and girded us for the fight. Jonathan strengthened David's hands in God (23:16), and the Lord says to us, ''My strength is made perfect in weakness'' [2Cor 12:9]. The picture falls short, as all pictures do, of the glorious reality. Jonathan, at the risk of his own life (20:33), sought to reconcile his father to David. Christ laid down His life as ''the propitiation for our sins'' (1John 2:2). He is our Mediator, our Advocate with the Father, and has made us sharers of His throne in glory.
The little town of Bethlehem is the birthplace alike of David and of his greater Son. The quiet years of toil with his father's flock remind us of the years spent at Nazareth and in the carpenter's shop. Many of the Psalms recall David's watch over the flock:
''When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers,
the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained;
What is man, that Thou are mindful of him?
and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?'' (Psa 8:3,4)
''The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament showeth His handywork...'' (Psa 19:1)
On the same plains round Bethlehem, the shepherds kept watch over their flocks by night, while the star which guided the wise men shown over their heads, when, lo, the angel of the Lord brought them the good tidings of great joy, of the birth, in the city of David, of a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. ''And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men'' [Luke 2]. Those who have watched the sunrise from those plains where David must often have watched it, tell us that no words can describe its magnificence. ''In them hath He set a tabernacle for the sun; which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race'' (Psa 19:4,5).
The Eastern sheep-fold is an enclosure, open to heaven, with a small place of shelter at the back, and enclosed with a rough, stone wall. At one corner, there is a tiny doorway, but every shepherd is himself the door. He sleeps in the doorway to guard the sheep at night. He stands in the doorway as they come home in the evening, and examines every sheep before it goes in. He has a bowl of water for the thirsty sheep, and a bowl of oil for the wounded ones; he anoints with oil those whose heads have been bruised against the rocks. The imagery of the twenty-third Psalm does not change in the middle, as some have thought, to that of an indoor banquet; the imagery of the shepherd's care is sustained throughout.
The Shepherd and the King were blended in David and in David's Son. A true king must always have the heart of a shepherd. When David saw the Angel of the Lord about to destroy Jerusalem, he cried: ''I it is that have sinned, and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? Let Thine hand be on me... but not on Thy people'' (1Chron 21:17).