These are trying times. As we await our soldiers’ inevitable invasion of Gaza, we are all on edge. We know that the current lull in rocket attacks is merely the calm before the storm. The soldiers at the front are not really “soldiers”; they are our sons and daughters, our husbands and fathers. We pray, but it is difficult to focus. We try to get work done, but find ourselves repeatedly checking the news for the latest updates. And if we’re honest, we feel lost. “I raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come?”
The British novelist, L.P. Hartley, wrote that “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” (The Go-Between). Though it’s true that much has changed since ancient times, it is precisely by looking back – to the greatest ancient book in human history – that we can find our footing during times such as these. The Bible is ancient, but it is not history. Every book in the Bible, even those that seem to be historical, is meant to guide us today, in 2023.
“Many prophets arose for Israel, double the number of [the Israelites] who came out of Egypt. But only the prophecy which contained a lesson for future generations was written down, and that which did not contain such a lesson was not written” (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 14a).
The Talmud is telling us that every book of the prophets is for all generations – including the “historical books”! The Book of Samuel, which we will begin to study in the weeks ahead, may superficially seem to be a book of history. In fact, however, it is the guidebook of redemption, a book written for our times.
“The sages teach us that there were many prophets throughout the generations, but most did not leave us books, for only the prophecy that was needed for all generations was written down. The word of God was revealed in a particular time and place, but it has a broader value that continues for generations… until the end of time… We must become accustomed to the notion that these books are also relevant for us. The word of God is “a great voice which did not cease” (Deuteronomy 5:19). It is a great voice which lasts for all time… Therefore it is upon us to reflect and see the value of these things that were said by the prophets for us. We must examine the relevance of Zerubbabel and Joshua, Ezra and Nehemiah, for the atmosphere of our own times. The more we become accustomed to opening our ears to this approach, to absorbing the meaning of the word of God for our generation, so will we merit a truer understanding of the events of our time” (Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, Behaalotecha).
As believers, we must accustom ourselves to viewing the events of our time through the prism of the eternal Bible. The stories of the Book of Samuel, of Hanna, Elkana, Samuel and David are far more than stories. They are a blueprint for modern Israel’s current crisis. The prophets of the Bible do not only predict the future, they teach us how to interpret the events of our time.
Though the Bible speaks to every generation, it speaks more clearly now than it ever has before.
“But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4).
The Malbim, a classic commentary from the 19th century, explains the meaning of this verse. “Because Daniel knew that the time of redemption was in the very distant future, he said that these matters are sealed until the end of times… But at the end of times the uncertainties will be removed, and the closer it gets to the end times, the uncertainties will be clarified little by little. For we know that the redemption must come before the 7th millennium. Therefore, in earlier times, the uncertainties were very great and the certainties very few, but the closer we get to the 7th millennium, the certainties will increase the uncertainties will be lessened, and through this, knowledge will increase.”
According to the Hebrew calendar, we are currently in the year 5784, only a few hundred years before the 7th millennium. More than any of the generations that came before us, we are privy to seeing God’s plan for redemption. Our great-grandparents wondered when and how the promises of the prophets would come true. We, however, do not need to wonder. We have witnessed the miraculous return of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel. We are watching, in real-time, as God fulfills one prophecy after another. We have front-row seats to the redemption of the world!
Like the people of Israel at the time of Samuel, we are once again in our homeland, struggling to unite the many tribes of Israel. And just as Samuel’s generation was threatened by the evil Philistines, we too are threatened by evil Palestinians, whose sole goal is to perpetrate another genocide upon the Jewish people.
How will we overcome our enemies? How will we unite the many tribes of Israel? The Book of Samuel, more than any other, provides the answers. Please join me, and let us study together.