Note: Our Associate Pastor’s wife (who was leading some of our church’s ladies in a chronologically based Bible Study) asked if I knew whether or not the Old Testament prophet Samuel was descended from the tribe of Levi, since 1 Samuel 1:1 implies his father was from a different tribe, that of Ephraim.

The answer to this question carries some heavy theological weight, given that Samuel acts as a high priest would in several spots throughout Israel’s Old Testament history, and only people descended from Levi were allowed to serve in the Old Testament priesthood. If Samuel was NOT a Levite, it is a cause for much discussion.

I answered off-handedly that I was certain that Samuel was a Levite (since I had no reason to suspect otherwise) and that the Ephraim reference probably had more to do with the geography of his home than his ancestry, but since I couldn’t name a chapter and verse proof off the top of my head, I told her I’d look into it. Here’s the answer, which I’ve expanded on greatly for the sake of completeness, and because you as my reader were not present at the original conversation.

Subject: Samuel was a Levite

In answering the question regarding 1 Samuel 1:1, it appears that Samuel was, contrary to conclusions easy to reach when reading that particular passage, indeed a Levite.

Samuel, judge/prophet of Israel
The Old Testament prophet Samuel, as imagined by artist Claude Vignon, painted in the 1600s

Samuel’s Levitical heritage comes through his father Elkanah, who was a descendant of Korah (you may remember him from the story of the exodus, demanding that Moses recognize the entire nation as worthy to serve as priests) who was himself a Levite.

Part of Korah’s infamous rebellion against Moses may have been caused because he resented the idea that Aaron was high priest, a job he may have wanted for himself. Perhaps Korah had higher social standing among the Levite tribe – but that is all just speculation, we trust what the Scriptures tell us about the man and his foiled plan.

The story of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16 clearly states that Korah’s sons were spared his punishment, and we see the “sons of Korah” mentioned in some of the Psalms. It is from one of these sons of Korah that the prophet Samuel is descended.

As for how we link the prophet Samuel to the rebellious Korah’s line, we turn to 1 Chronicles 6:22-27. This passage establishes that Samuel’s father Elkanah was a descendant of Korah, who was in turn a descendant of Kohath, who was in turn a descendant of Levi. Thus, we can say with Scriptural certainty that Samuel is a member of the Kohathite branch of the tribe of Levi.

The names provided for Samuel’s ancestors in 1 Samuel 1 and those in 1 Chronicles 6:22-27 do not line up nicely and neatly when placed side-by-side, but we must remember that some OT references to ancestry are less focused on creating a family tree with no skips in the branches and are more focused on giving the names of the more well-known or major personalities. Some OT books’ verses are written as strict geneological records, others are simply establishing tribal (or in the case of 1 Samuel chapter 1, geographic) connections.

So Samuel is a Levite through his father’s line. The use of “Ephraimite” to describe Elkanah should be taken to be a geographic modifier, like calling someone a “Memphian” who lives in my city, but may have come from somewhere else originally. The tribe of Ephraim had an area of land that the tribe was associated with, and perhaps Elkanah came from that area and was well-known and/or respected as coming from there.

For additional comments, I’ve taken a passage from a book on Jewish history:

…Samuel was a descendant of Kohath …The Sidrah tells us how Korah (son of Kohath) made rebellion against Moses, and how Moses modestly defended himself, arguing that he never used his authority for his own benefit; that he never even borrowed someone else’s donkey. The Prophet Samuel uses almost the same words in defending his office against those desiring a king. To be sure, there was no actual rebellion against Samuel, but the very fact that the Jews demanded a king seemed to be a protest against the great judge and prophet, who had served them so truly and faithfully.

Allow me to share an insight here: How ironic/poetic that God would use a descendant of Korah, in Samuel, to defend the covenant relationship between God and people established through God’s servant, Moses!

Whereas Moses was pictured as standing more or less “alone” against Korah’s crowd, which sought change in the time of the exodus to spread the power of the priesthood among all the people; we see in 1 Samuel that Korah’s descendant, Samuel, is seen as standing “alone” against the crowd which sought change in the form of consolidating power in the form of a king in the time after Moses. Continuing from the book:

Samuel, as we have mentioned, was a descendant of Korah, and this shows us the power of repentance. Korah himself did not repent, but his children repented in time to save themselves from the horrible death that befell their father and his followers. “And the sons of Korah did not die.” They merited that the great Prophet Samuel should be one of their descendants. The children of Korah were also outstanding singers and poets among the Levites. They are the authors of a number of Psalms which have remained for ever with the Jewish people, along with those of Moses and King David, and the others who all together have given us the Book of Psalms.

I found the view of Samuel’s father Elkanah living in the land of the Ephraimites is shared by Ronald F. Youngblood’s analysis of 1 & 2 Samuel in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary edited by Frank E. Gaebelein.

Youngblood’s analysis of 1 Samuel 1 states that “The Chronicles genealogies identify Samuel as a member of the Kohathite branch of the tribe of Levi and an ancestor of tabernacle and temple musicians (1 Chron 6:16, 22, 31-33). The reference to Samuel’s father as an Ephraimite, then, relates to the territory where he lived rather than to his tribal origin. Allotted no patrimony of their own, the Levites lived among the other tribes (see Josh 21-20-22, where, however, Ramah is not specifically mentioned as a Levitical town).

That Ramah is not mentioned as a Levitical town earlier supports rather than denies the reasons for mentioning that later Samuel makes his home there. His decision to reside in a town not specified as “Levitical” may have been seen as unusual, and therefore worthy of several mentions by the writer(s) of 1 Samuel.


– end –

12 thoughts on “(Archive) Biblical Questions: Samuel’s Levitical Ancestry

  1. Thanks for this post. Came across a reference in the Chumash on Korah’s ancestral connection to Samuel and this clarified it well for me.

  2. Thank you for the information. It is significant indeed that God has picked from the family of Korah a priest to serve before Him. It truly underscore the mercy and redemptive nature of God. I think it is also key that Samuel was one who hears from God and obeys, because of his obedience, God also hears him and let not one of his word drop to the ground without being fulfilled. Therefore the priesthood was transferred due to Eli’s disobedience and Samuel’s obedience.
    One question, though, was Samuel considered a high priest? The high priesthood seemed to later revert back to Eli’s family until Abiathar?

  3. Thank you, Pastor, for this short study which is very helpful to establish the lineage of Samuel and include him in the Levitical lineage. This shortened my search by some good length of time, I am sure. God bless you!

  4. By the way, Pastor, my wife who is a Memphis native also sends her appreciation as this assisted in her study for a Bible study she was teaching tonight.

  5. Korah was at one time one of the two wealthiest men who ever existed he had come into one of three treasuries of Gold that Joseph had in Egypt. The Rabbi’s said that it would take 300 white mules to carry the locks and keys alone to his treasure. I am a descendant of Korah and ironically enough to this day all of the men in our family on the Curry side die premature natural deaths at the prime of their life. Curiously It is my conjecture that many of the Korahite’s ended up in North Western Europe. Where the name was galecized to McMurrich if you look up the famous Muiredach O’Daly of the McMurrich’s you can see that they carried on the oral traditions In a book called INVENTING SCOTLAND that I was reading for free online if you scroll down to around 50 it tells how this writer named James Mcpherson had traveled to Scotland to the Clan Ranald of the McDonalds where Muiredach had exiled to. To try to borrrow one of two famous books in their possession namely the red and black books of Clan Ranald while they were there. The Chief told them of a far more ancient book that had been in our families possession which was a written compilation of all of the oral histories, geneologies etc… that are family had been responsible for maintaining for thousands of years it was said to span back to Adam and Eve. McPherson it was said never returned it and he returned a book denuded of it’s cover eventually which was suspiciously much smaller than the RED BOOK OF CLAN RANALD which had been lent out. It is a zionist attempt to suppress the fact that North West Europeans are Israelites. They try to highjack our heritage Revelation 3:9 I know the blasphemy of those who call themselves Jews but do lie but are the synagogue of Satan. That’s what God has to say about them. They try to hide under the umbrella of “gods chosen’ to protect them while they try to advance the antichrists agenda. Also another thing I found curious was this and I don’t feel to proud to admit this particular fact but I read on a wickipedia thing about Who were the druids and what did they do. I could tell by the description that they were giving. They my Mcmurrich ancestors were and acted as druidic priests. Because the descriptions and story lines add up If you look up Curry surname on ELECTRIC SCOTLAND it explains how they were the most illustrious body of learned men. Descended of Royalty though just under as far as reigning but in ways more revered and important. But if they had come from exile in Egypt or Babylon or Assyrian it might account for the unfortunate pagan practices they were engaging in. I mention this because I was looking up one of many ‘paranormal’ type things that I have called AN DA SHEALLADH or second sight. It is an extremely fine tuned gift of spiritual discernment and prophetic knowledge. Which it would make sense that our family (the druids or sons of Korah) would have that. Because one of their functions or duties which God specifiically told Samuel who told David they were the ones to be doing it was gate keepers and entrance keepers to the temple and treasuries and it was up to there judgment and discretion who could be allowed in and who could not and they were to immediately kill any violators at their discretion. (the Holy Spirits discretion) It is almost like I can read people’s mind feelings and intentions as if they were my own and apparently there are a large number of gaelic peoples who have this gift. Alot of the prophets in the Bible were descendants of Korah. Just thought you might be interested.

  6. I read from Hebrew for Christians that Samuel is a descendant of Kohath. It shocks me. I then searched it from the Internet. Your message came in. Very enlightening, very useful. Many thanks.

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