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There is no biblical evidence that Samson went to Shiloh to worship God at the tabernacle where Eli and his sons were ministering. Samuel was there as well, for he was the son of a priest and had been dedicated to God at an early age. No doubt they all knew each other well, and for this reason, I wrote My Father’s Tear and Power of the Flame in a way that portrayed the friendship between Samson and Samuel, and I also showed the antagonism between Samson and Eli.
The Philistine captivity essentially defined the entire ministry of Eli, for his ministry lasted 40 years, and he died just as the 40-year captivity was ending. Both Samuel and Samson were born around the beginning of the same captivity. Samson was probably about 20 when he was elected Judge, and he died 20 years later in the temple of Dagon.
The 40-Year Types and Antitypes
The 40-year Philistine captivity itself was a type and shadow of the Church during the 40 Jubilees of Church history. That captivity was thus similar to Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness under Moses, as well as Israel’s kingdom under the 40-year reign of King Saul. Each of these 40-year cycles give us insights, in different ways, to later Church history.
Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness under Moses shows us the rebellious nature of the “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38 KJV). It shows us why both Israel and the church had to wander in the wilderness before they could enter the Promised Land. Since faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17), their refusal to hear God’s voice at Mount Horeb resulted in weak faith—too weak for them to face the giants in the Promised Land. So Hebrews 3:19 says,
19 And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief [apistian, “lack of faith”].
This set the pattern for the church in later years, ending only recently after 40 Jubilees of wilderness wandering.
Likewise, the 40 years of Saul’s reign portrays the same cycle in terms of the Kingdom in a political sense. It tells us that the Kingdom began with Pentecost in Acts 2:1, when the Holy Spirit crowned the church, even as Saul himself had been crowned king on the day of wheat harvest, or Pentecost, in 1 Samuel 12:17. Yet that kingdom was again characterized by rebellion, for Samuel chided Saul for his disobedience in 1 Samuel 15:23,
23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.
This tells us that the church kingdom that began on the leavened feast of Pentecost has been a leavened kingdom. The problem began as soon as men began to reject the baptism of fire, and it progressed as men began to assume that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was only for the first century. Some teach that when John died in 100 A.D. that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased. Such teachers are known as Cessationists.
The church, then, ruled as Saul, not as David. Samuel said that Saul was guilty of “insubordination” (1 Samuel 15:23). The Hebrew word is patsar, “to be stubborn.” Though it is a different Hebrew word from that which is used in the law of stubborn sons (Deuteronomy 21:18, 20), the meaning is the same. The point is that a stubborn son may be disinherited when he proves himself to be unworthy.
Saul was a stubborn son, and so his family lost the right to rule when God replaced him with David. So also, in church history, the Roman popes have been insubordinate to Christ, thinking that the throne was theirs to rule according to their own will. Hence, they have already been replaced by the overcomers (“David”), whom God has been raising up in this generation. That replacement process began on Pentecost, May 30, 1993, on the 40th Jubilee of the church.
The High Priesthood of Eli
The 40 years of Eli’s rule, wherein he refused to correct his corrupt and lawless sons, is a picture of the church as well. Like Saul, Eli was in rebellion against God. But whereas Saul pictured the church’s political role as king of the Kingdom, Eli was a priest and therefore represented the church in its priestly capacity. Eli’s line was ultimately replaced by Zadok in the early years of Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 2:27, 35).
Zadok was a type of Melkizedek, and his appointment prophesied of the change of priesthood that was to occur later. Hebrews 7:9-12 says,
9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. 11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.
The author of Hebrews shows that the Levitical priesthood was flawed and inadequate, and so it had to give way to an older order of priests whose head was Melchizedek, rather than Aaron. So also Eli, who was of Levi (and specifically of Phinehas) was replaced by Zadok. This replacement, however, only prophesied of a greater fulfillment yet to come, for even Zadok was of the line of Aaron, though not of Phinehas. The Zadok line ended with the Hasmonean dynasty of king-priests when Antigonus was put to death by Herod in 34 B.C.
When the last of the Hasmonean kings had passed, Jesus was sent to replace not only Zadok specifically but also the entire Aaronic priesthood of Levi. The church, however, reverted back to Old Covenant thinking, rebelled against the laws of God, and proved itself once again to be unworthy of the priesthood. In more recent years the Roman church has been shown to be as Eli in that it has refused to depose its rebellious sons (pedophile priests).
Samuel himself was a prophet sent by God to minister as a true priest in the tabernacle at Shiloh. In his youth, a man of God was sent to Eli to tell him that because he had refused to hear the word of the Lord in regard to his rebellious sons (1 Samuel 2:29), God was going to replace him. 1 Samuel 3:11-13, we read what God told the prophet:
11 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. 12 In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves, and he did not rebuke them.”
This prophecy was fulfilled only gradually. It took some years before Samuel grew to maturity. Finally, Eli and his sons died on the same day, but even then his grandson Ahitub succeeded him as the high priest, and when he died, his son Ahijah wore the ephod (1 Samuel 14:3). Ahimelech was next in line, and finally his son Abiathar succeeded him (1 Samuel 22:20). Abiathar was the last of Eli’s line to hold the high priesthood, for he was replaced by Zadok, who was from a different family of priests.
Even then, as we said earlier, this only replaced that particular family of Levi and Aaron. It would be a thousand years later when Jesus, who was of the Melchizedek Order, replaced Aaron and Levi altogether.
The church was supposed to follow the pattern of Melchizedek, and indeed, it did so in a small way. The priests were no longer of a particular lineage. However, as time passed, they reverted to Old Covenant methods of worship, complete with priestly robes, incense, physical temples, and (unfortunately) the traditions of men.
Samson Brings Down the House
Samson died in the temple of Dagon after toppling the main pillars holding up the roof (Judges 16:29, 30). That final act as a Judge angered the Philistines, who soon mustered an army to punish the Israelites as a whole. Most people miss this fact, because the narrative ends in Judges 16:31 with the death and burial of Samson.
The final chapters in the book of Judges seem to be misplaced, chronologically speaking, because it gives a story of a much earlier time shortly after Israel had entered the land of Canaan. The territory allotted to the tribe of Dan was mostly Philistine territory in the plain, but they were unable to conquer that portion of the land. A few of the Danites, including Samson’s ancestors, occupied the hills overlooking the plain, but the Philistines had chariots of iron and were able to defend the plains.
So a group of Danites went north and conquered Laish, renaming it the city of Dan. The story in Judges 17-21 is about the apostasy that occurred among the Danites in Laish (Dan). Samson himself, however, was born in Zorah that overlooked the plain where the Philistines lived. These last chapters in Dan are inserted at the end of the book of Judges in order to give us some background leading to the story of Samson himself. So these chapters were not really misplaced.
The story picks up again with the birth of Samuel in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. He was born about the same time that Samson was born and were about the same age. Samuel himself was the author of both books, so there is no doubt that he knew Samson personally. Samuel’s early life is set forth in the first three chapters of 1 Samuel. Then the story picks up where Judges 16 ended, and we find that the Philistines had sent an army against Israel. 1 Samuel 4:1 says,
1 Thus the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek.
The initial battle saw about 4,000 Israelites killed (1 Samuel 4:2). The second battle was more significant, and 30,000 Israelites were killed, including the two sons of Eli (1 Samuel 4:10, 11). The Ark was also taken and brought to the temple of Dagon in Ashdod (1 Samuel 5:1). When word came to Eli in Shiloh, he fell backward from his perch and broke his neck (1 Samuel 4:18). Tradition says that it was actually Saul who was the runner bringing the bad news to Eli.
The point is that Samson’s final act of judgment upon the Philistines indirectly brought about the death of Eli and his sons, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the man of God many years earlier.
In the big picture, this history lesson shows us the role of the Ark at the end of the period of the Judges, for it is the Ark that ultimately sets Israel free from their Philistine captivity. The Philistines took the Ark at the time of the feast of Tabernacles, and they returned it seven months later (1 Samuel 6:1) at the time of Pentecost, while men were harvesting wheat (1 Samuel 6:13).
The presence of the Ark in the temple of Dagon in Ashdod had overthrown their god (1 Samuel 5:3, 4), and the people were smitten with “tumors” (1 Samuel 5:6). The KJV correctly reads, “emerods” (hemorrhoids). Why would God do such a thing?
Philistine religion was based upon a male god (Dagon) and a female god (Atargatis). Dagon was a fish god (merman), while Atargatis was a fish goddess (mermaid). Together, they portrayed a bad marriage, wherein each competed with the other for power and influence. In the courtyard of the temple of Atargatis, worshipped in the Philistine city of Askelon, there was a pond holding sacred fish. It was said that if anyone stole one of them, he would be afflicted with hemorrhoids.
Thus, when God smote the Philistines with hemorrhoids for stealing the sacred Ark, they understood the meaning of this divine judgment. That was how God induced them to give the Ark back to the Israelites.
I learned this while doing historical research for my book on the life of Samson, Power of the Flame. Alas, I learned this particular detail too late to include it in that book.
When the Ark was returned, the oxen took it to Beth-shemesh, (House of the Rising Sun) a small community on the ridge overlooking the valley and the road to Timnah and Ashdod. Shemesh means “the sun,” and it is also the root of Samson’s name. The wheat harvesters there were not qualified to open the Ark, and when they did so, they were struck down (electrocuted). This all plays into the message in the sequence of the Judges’ names, as we saw earlier.
The actual end of the Philistine captivity came shortly after the Ark was returned to Israel. Then Samuel led Israel into battle against the Philistines and defeated them (1 Samuel 7:10, 11). Samuel, being the one that God had anointed as the “faithful priest” (1 Samuel 2:35) to replace Eli, fulfilled the role of the overcomers at the time of the end, as the captivity of the church ends in our time.