Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Was Samuel the Prophet a Ephraimite or a Levite?

Q: Do Prophet Samuel belong to Levi tribe of Israel or Ephraim tribe? In the light of 1 Samuel 1:1-2 we come to know He was an Ephraimite, while 1 Chronicles 6:33-38 says He belonged to Levi tribe. So What does that mean, is this a contradiction?

A: "Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children." (1 Samuel 1:1-2).

" 33 And these are the ones who ministered with their sons: Of the sons of the Kohathites were Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, 34 the son of Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Eliel, the son of Toah, 35 the son of Zuph, the son of Elkanah, the son of Mahath, the son of Amasai, 36 the son of Elkanah, the son of Joel, the son of Azariah, the son of Zephaniah, 37 the son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, 38 the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel." (1 Chronicles 6:33-38).

This story begins with a family. They live in the hill country of Ephraim, the land that would later be known as Samaria. Ramathaim means “two heights” (dual). Its singular form is “Ramah.” 1 Chronicles 6 lists Samuel’s ancestors as coming from the Kohathite branch of the tribe of Levi, though not from the priestly line of Aaron. Thus, when his father is called an “Ephraimite” it is an indication of WHERE he lived, not his tribal origins.

The Levites had no tribal inheritance of their own. But they were assigned cities throughout the other tribe's regions
(Num 35:2-8). The Lord was their inheritance. And so, they could be found residing in the lands of all 12 tribes. We see that the Bible indicates clearly that Samuel's father was a resident of the place of Ephraimites when it says, "a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim". People had this tradition in the olden times and even now to call themselves using the name of the dominant tribe in the place where they live in. It gives them a good social standing, acceptance and freedom to survive economically. The same must have happened with Samuel's Father, he must have identified himself with the tribe of Ephraimites for living a good life. There is still one other way along with the above reason why Elkanah could be called an Ephraimite. Taken in combination with the Chronicles genealogy, this opening verse of 1 Samuel, suggests that Elkanah's ancestor Zuph may have been an Ephraimite adopted in to the family line of Levi. This might have given a unique standing as a priest among the Ephraimite, even though he was dominantly of the tribe of Levi.

Elkanah's status as a member of the priestly tribe helps to explain why his son Samuel wore an Ephod
(1 Sam 2:18), was permitted to sleep in the temple compound at Shiloh (1 Sam 3:1-15), and was authorized, later on, to perform ritual sacrifices before the Lord (1 Sam 7:9; 10:8).

The word has no contradiction, but it is our lack of understanding the Old Testament culture that makes us think that it is a contradiction. What does the Lord say about these things,
"Search from the book of the LORD, and read: Not one of these shall fail; Not one shall lack her mate. For My mouth has commanded it, and His Spirit has gathered them." (Isaiah 34:16). If we really search the Scripture with an open heart for the Lord to speak to us, we will find no contradiction as the Spirit who gathered these in to the Sacred Book [i.e. the Holy Bible] will begin to unveil the mate of that particular Scripture to us. So be like the Berean Christians who were commended by the Holy Spirit for searching the Scripture to find clarity and authenticity about the truth that was told them (Acts 17:10-12). Praise the Lord! 


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