1 Samuel 1:1 – Is Samuel a Priest?


1 Samuel 1:1


Samuel’s family is introduced here in 1 Samuel as Ephraimite. If that is the case, Samuel will have no more business in the tabernacle or officiating sacrifices than Saul would have. Is something else going on? 


Samuel’s father, Elkanah, is introduced as an Ephraimite from Ephraim. There is no mention here of Samuel having a connection to Levites, much less to priestly families. And yet, Samuel will conduct several sacrifices. Famously, Samuel will chide non-priests for conducting their own sacrifices (1 Samuel 13:2-14). Is Samuel being a hypocrite, or is there something else going on here? 

The writer of Chronicles, noticing an issue, is quick to point out that Elkanah and Samuel were Kohathite Levites (1 Chronicles 6:22-38). So, is this a simple case of differing ancestries? It may be. But the conquest narratives from Joshua note that many Kohathite Levites settled in the territory of Ephraim (Joshua 21:5), and eventually even Phinehas the high priest settled in the tribal allotment of Ephraim as well (Joshua 24:33). So, it may be that when Elkanah (and thereafter Samuel) is presented as an Ephraimite, we are being told more about geography than genealogy. Or it is at least very likely that among Samuel’s ancestors, Levites intermarried with their Ephraimite neighbors.  

In any case, even the psalms preserve a tradition that links Samuel with the Levite family of Moses and Aaron (Psalm 99:6). 

In a time when the high priestly line was shifting (Eli and his sons were descendants of Itamar, rather than Eliezer and Phinehas – the ordained high priestly line, according to Numbers 26:10-13), Samuel conducting sacrifices as a Levite, but not a priest, probably should be seen as only a small anomaly, before priestly formalization is concretized.