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Today's Study

1 Chronicles 6:16-26: Was Samuel a Levite or an Ephraimite?

Which tribe did Samuel come from? Why does 1 Samuel 1:1 list him as being from Ephraim, while Chronicles declares he was a Levite?

Critical commentators suppose that Samuel's father, Elkanah, was depicted as a Levite, even though there was nothing in the Samuel narrative that said as much, because the chronicler noted that there was an Elkanah in the line of Kohath and the line of Samuel. Therefore, he mistakenly, or deliberately, attached Samuel's name to the line of Kohath.

But there is an indication in the Samuel narrative that he was from a Levitical line: the fact that he was accepted by the high priest Eli to be an apprentice. Later, when Samuel reached maturity, he functioned as a priest and conducted sacrifices at various centers in Israel.

But what about 1 Samuel 1:1? It simply states that Elkanah was "from" Ramathaim-zophim, or "Ramathaim, a Zuphite," on Mount Ephraim, or the hill country of Ephraim. Typically the Levites would be assigned to "Levitical cities" throughout Israel. Numbers 35:6 knows of forty-eight cities so designated, but we do not know if Ramathaim was one of them.

Our conclusion is that Elkanah was a Levite assigned to, or living in, Ephraim. Even the ancestry listed in Samuel accords with that given in Chronicles. No contradiction, therefore, need be assumed.