We were near Ramah in the tribe of Benjamin. There were many places known as Ramah, because the name meant a hill or high place, and there were many high hills in Israel. But this was the hometown of Samuel. As we approached the town, we saw a small gathering, and Sippore flew into the sky to scout this new territory.
“It is the judge,” Samuel said. “Elon the Zebulunite 46 has set up courts in many towns and comes here at times to judge disputes among the people. He is here today.”
As we drew near, we heard Elon render his verdict in the case before him. “You must pay him for his loss, because you started the fire, and therefore the fire was yours,” he declared. “You shall allow your neighbor to graze in your best field. 47 Let the law be enforced. This case is closed.”
The court ended, and the people turned and saw us drawing near. When they saw Samuel, they marveled, for they knew him well, and they knew that he had been sold as a slave to pay the Philistine tax. Samuel waved to them and said in a loud voice, “I have returned! I have been redeemed!”
Samuel led us to his home nearby, and as word spread, the crowd following us grew to a small multitude. As we finally drew near to Samuel’s house, his mother and father ran toward us with open arms. A four-year-old boy lagged behind, trying in vain to keep up.
“Samuel, my son!” Elkanah called. “You have returned! Once again, God has been gracious and has answered our prayers! My son was dead and has come to life again! He was lost and has been found!”
I helped Samuel to the ground, and he ran into his father’s arms. The crowd behind us, including Elon, cheered and praised God for His deliverance. Hannah took him into her arms as well, weeping for joy. “How are you?” she asked. “Are you well? Did they hurt you?”
“I am very well,” Samuel assured her. “My friends redeemed me before we arrived in the land of the Philistines, and they brought me home.”
Another woman, holding a baby, came running toward us and waited impatiently for her turn to hug Samuel. “This is my other wife, Peninah,” 48 Elkanah said to me. “These are my sons, Amram, Merari, my daughter, Miriam, and our baby, Deborah.” The boys appeared to be about eight and ten. Miriam, a toddler, appeared to be about two years old. The baby was introduced as Deborah.
“You have a fine family,” I said to the proud father, dismounting from Pegasus.
“And now it is complete once again,” he said. “How can we ever thank you? Who are you? Where are you from?”
“We come from a family of Ephraim in a distant land,” I explained. “God sent us here with a word to give to a man and his wife near Zoreh in the tribe of Dan. We were with them when we saw the Philistine tax collector returning to the land of the Philistines. We noticed that he had a small boy with him, and when we learned that he was from Israel, we redeemed him and brought him back to his family.”
“But you are not a family member,” Elon said. “You had no obligation to redeem him. 49 Why would you do this?”
“We are all part of the family of God,” I said. Looking at Hannah, I added, “We have a gracious God, as you know. Your son, Hannah, is special, for he has been promised to God. He is therefore a son of God. Though God allowed him to be sold into the hands of evil men for a time, He has redeemed him and has brought him back from Sheol.”
“How can we ever thank you?” Elkanah said earnestly. “Such a reunion deserves a great feast, but we have nothing to offer you,” he said tearfully.
“Do not concern yourself with that,” I responded. “You shall have your feast, for God has provided for this as well.” Then turning to the crowd, I asked in a loud voice, “Who has a calf that I may purchase for a great feast?”
A man stepped forward. “I have one,” he said.
“And I,” said another.
“Then let us kill two calves,” I said, looking at the size of the crowd. “God has provided plenty of meat for everyone today.”
“I have some wine,” Elkanah volunteered. “Though the drought has been quite severe again this year, it has not consumed the entire harvest.”
“You can ill afford to give what little wine you have,” I replied, “but I will purchase it from you out of the abundance that God has provided for this occasion. Keep track of how much the people drink, and I will pay you a fair price for it.”
“You are too generous,” Elkanah said humbly.
“God is generous,” I replied. “I am only a steward. I give what is not mine according to the will of heaven. I have also learned that God measures riches, not by how much is accumulated, but by how much is given with joyful hearts.”
We dismounted, and Pegasus and Pleiades walked beyond the crowd to graze in a nearby field. I paid the price for the calves without haggling. The calves were fetched, the fires were lit, and the children scurried around to make the feast ready. Elkanah brought the first barrel of wine. Many hands went to work, and once the calves were butchered, it did not take long to boil pieces of meat in the pots and to cook other portions on flat skillets or grills. Some would simply put a stick through a piece of meat and cook it over the open fire. There would be plenty for everyone.
Elon escorted me to a seat of honor among the men. Hannah, Peninah, and the other women surrounded Sipporah and plied her with many questions to get a woman’s point of view about these events. Women like to know such details. I think that she will do more talking tonight than she has done this entire trip, I thought with an inner smile.
“How long have you been the judge in Israel?” I asked Elon.
“Ibzan died a few years ago,” Elon said, “and the tribal chiefs elected me to lead Israel and to judge the people.”
“I met Ibzan at the tribal council six years ago,” I informed him.
“I heard about you and your horses,” he said with a smile. “You created quite a controversy!”
“I was sent from a far country with a very important word from Yahweh,” I replied. “My wife and I have now returned to follow up on our first visit and see how Israel is faring.
“We are doing about as well as one could expect,” Elon said. “The Philistines allow us to live our lives normally and do not interfere with my duties as the judge or with Eli’s duties as the High Priest. Perhaps the biggest problem is with the priestly families. The Philistines take the tithe that normally goes to them, and they tax the priests as well. So not only have the priests lost much of their income, but now they must tithe to the Philistines!”
“The priests, then, must be impoverished,” I commented.
“Many of them cannot afford to take the time to minister in Shiloh,” Elon continued. “So the work of the tabernacle suffers, even though the Philistines allow them to continue their sacrifices.”
“What about Elkanah?” I asked. “I hear that he was too poor to pay the tax.”
“Yes,” Elon responded. “He has a vineyard which ought to give him a small income, but the drought in recent years has taken all of his resources, and it seems that he had another poor harvest this year.”
“Yes, I heard about the drought,” I said with an inquiring look.
“Judah and Benjamin have been in a drought during the entire captivity,” Elon said. “Many have simply left their inheritance and have gone to Moab and other countries.”
“The rains will come now,” I said confidently. “Watch for the early rain after Sukkoth. The seed will not be wasted. Next year will be a good year of harvest.”
“That is good news indeed,” Elon said. “I hope you are right.”
The men insisted that I tell the entire story of Samuel’s redemption from the beginning, including an introduction to the far country where we lived. They had heard from others about our first visit with the tribal chiefs six years earlier, mostly because they had heard of our great horses. The stories only got better with each telling.
I told them that God had sent us back in a follow-up mission without mentioning how Harpazo had transported us quickly by the Spirit. I told them how “we” had killed a large python that had terrorized the Philistines living in the Valley of Sorek on the border of Dan, and how we had sold it to a tanner in Timnah. I did not think it wise to speak of the supernatural strength of the little boy who actually killed it. They might hear of it eventually, of course, but meanwhile, it was better that he remained more anonymous in his early years.
I told them how we had seen the Philistine convoy coming along the road on their way to Ashdod, carrying the taxes that had been collected from Israel. When I told them how much I had paid to redeem Samuel, they were indignant at the exorbitant price. But they grew calmer when I explained that God had not been taken by surprise, nor was God short of money. After all, if the Philistine had known just how valuable this boy was, he would not have sold him for so little!
“The commercial value of life is cheap,” I said, “but every man and woman is priceless in the sight of God. And furthermore, how can one put a price on the life of a prophet?”
“Why were you willing to pay more than thirty pieces of silver for him?” Elkanah asked curiously.
“Thirty is the price of a slave. I paid more than that, because to me, Samuel is no slave. The call of God is upon him, and he is priceless.”
“Are you implying,” Elon asked, “that Samuel is a prophet?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Though he is yet young, he is already gifted. He already knows more than his father and mother of spiritual things and the nature of Yahweh. He will be given to Eli at the end of the coming feast, and the High Priest will instruct him further in the word of God. His training would not be complete without learning the ways of the priesthood. Even the sons of Eli will train him by a negative example, so that Samuel will know the contrast between good and evil.”
Elon nodded knowingly, but made no further comment, lest he should speak evil about the house of Eli.
When I told them how we had been accosted by a band of robbers, and how their leader had been thrown from Pegasus when he had tried to ride him, the men laughed. “He had no better luck than Ibzan, when he tried to ride Pegasus six years ago at the Tribal Council,” I said. “He became angry, but God delivered us out of their hands. A lion roared nearby, and they all fled for their lives.”
“Thank God for His mercy,” Elon said. “But were you not in danger as well from the lion?”
“No,” I said, “for we were there by the providence of God and were being led by His Spirit, where we are always safe. Though we often walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil, for God is with us. 50 He often leads us into paths that are considered dangerous from men’s perspective. But we are never in real danger when we are on a mission from God. We walk with Him by faith, not by sight. 51 Trials, in fact, are necessary to prove that faith works.”
“You speak of Yahweh in familiar terms,” Elon said. “How is it that the great Creator of the universe can be on such friendly terms with a mere man? Some would say that this approaches blasphemy.”
“I am a son, not a servant,” I explained. “Servants live by the covenant that God made with Israel at the Mount. Sons live by the second covenant that God made with Israel in the plains of Moab. Servants must do the will of God. Sons want to do it. God created us for fellowship. He is intimately connected to His entire creation, because He created all things out of Himself. 52 He can never be disconnected from Himself, and man was His highest achievement. Also, Abraham and Moses were called friends of God. 53 They were not exceptions, but examples of the relationship that the Creator desires with all men and women from the least to the greatest.”
“Women, too?” Elon asked with an incredulous look.
“Yes, women also,” I responded. “Was not God known to Abraham as El Shaddai, ‘The Breasted One,’ 54 the great Provider and Nourisher of all? God is as much a woman as a man, openly calling Himself both Shaddai and Yahweh.”
“When He first created mankind,” I continued, “did He not create them male and female in His own image? 55 You men are called to manifest the nature of Yahweh. The women are called to manifest the nature of El Shaddai. God is One, both male and female, but He separated Eve from Adam 56 in order that we might each have a portion of the nature of God. At the same time, we find that we need each other in order to know and experience the full nature of God.”
The men looked at each other, not knowing what to say. This was very different from what had been taught to them.
“You all know Hannah’s story,” I added, looking at Elkanah with a knowing smile. “See how she prayed, and how God answered her prayer. She wept, 57 and God treasured each tear and let none of them fall to the ground, for God is a Collector of tears. Would God answer the prayer of one who had no relationship with Him? Hannah knows God very well, and she hears the voice of El Shaddai. The voice sounds different from that of Yahweh, but both voices come from the same God in heaven. Men are not the only ones allowed to speak to God—or to hear His voice.” 58
“Why, then, are only men called as priests to minister in the tabernacle? Does this not indicate that women should remain in the outer court when speaking to God? Is there not a difference?”
“The men were given this calling,” I said, “not because they are able to draw closer to God, but because men represent the spirit, while women represent the soul. The divine order teaches us that we must worship Him in Spirit and in truth and that the soul must follow the leading of the Spirit. This is the reason God called men to take the lead in ministering in the tabernacle.”
“On an individual level,” I continued, “each of us was created as spirit, soul, and body. 59 Your spirit is like your breath, 60 the soul is in the blood, and the flesh is the body. Even as it is your breath that gives life to your blood, which is then diffused throughout your body, so also does the Spirit of God give life to your soul and body. Your soul ought to follow the leading of your spirit, not the other way around.”
“Do all Levites minister to God as priests?” I then asked them.
“No, only the sons of Aaron,” Elkanah answered.
“Are the other Levites not unqualified to minister to God in the sanctuary?” I asked. “If women are to be kept at a distance from God, then the same is true about most of the Levites—even the men among them. In fact, only the High Priest may approach God in the Most Holy Place. Does this mean that most of the sons of Aaron must also maintain a distance between them and God? No, truly, truly I say to you that the day will come when the whole earth will be filled with the same glory of God 61 that resides in the Most Holy Place. God does not intend to remain restricted to a single location. He will break forth as the dawning of the sun to be seen by all men and women and in all nations of the earth. Is He the God of Israel? Yes, but He is also the God of the whole earth.” 62
The men were surprised, and they remained silent.
“Did not God reveal this to Moses?” I asked. “Do you think that the glory of God will be seen only in the face of Moses? 63 No, I tell you, it will be seen in all of creation, for that was the original purpose of all that He created. When Israel failed to manifest His glory, it appeared that God had failed. But when Moses reminded God of this, he was told that not only would Israel be filled with His glory, but also the whole earth. This is the purpose of God, and so it is an easy thing for Him to put His glory upon women as well as men.”
We talked far into the night, while feasting on the fattened calves, before sleep finally overpowered the flesh. Many divine secrets were revealed that night. Most were soon forgotten as soulish memories dimmed and no one had the revelation to pursue truth to higher ground. Only that which was heard by the ears of the heart and seen with enlightened eyes remained. Yet even those things were forgotten within a few generations, overwhelmed by the great veil of sleep that overshadows all flesh.
- Judges 12:11
- Exodus 22:6
- 1 Samuel 1:2
- Leviticus 25:48, 49
- Psalm 23:4
- 2 Corinthians 5:7
- Romans 11:36
- Exodus 33:11; James 2:23
- Genesis 17:1 says, “Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai.” The Hebrew word shad means “breast,” a symbol of provision.
- Genesis 1:27
- Genesis 2:21-23
- 1 Samuel 1:10
- 1 Corinthians 14:36. In the previous verses that appear to forbid women to speak in church, Paul was quoting from Chloe’s letter listing various disputes in the church. In verse 36 Paul expressed indignation at such a teaching. Obviously, the word of prophecy came not only from men but women also.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23
- Ruach, the Hebrew word for spirit, means both breath and wind.
- Numbers 14:21
- Isaiah 54:5
- Exodus 34:29