Questions From Readers
■ Was Samuel a prophet? I had thought so, but reading Hebrews 11:32 in my Bible suggests that he may not have been.
Yes, Samuel was both a prophet and a judge. The way Hebrews 11:32 reads in some Bibles may create confusion on this point, but the verse can be rendered so that it is understandable.
While Samuel was yet a boy Jehovah began to use him to deliver pronouncements, and all Israel came to recognize Samuel as a prophet. (1 Samuel 3:1-21) King Saul turned to Samuel for information that a prophet might provide. (1 Samuel 9:6, 9; 28:11, 15) Once “the elderly ones of the prophets [were] prophesying, and Samuel [was] standing in his position over them.” (1 Samuel 19:20) Along with his prophetic work, Samuel judged the people.—1 Samuel 7:15-17; 12:6, 7.
Samuel’s being a prophet, though, might be questioned because in many translations the list of men of faith in Hebrews 11:32 reads like this: “There is not time for me to give an account of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, or of David, Samuel and the prophets.” (The Jerusalem Bible) That could be understood to mean that Samuel was distinguished from the prophets, just as were David and the judges Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah.
However, some translations insert “other” at Hebrews 11:32. The Living Bible reads, “ . . . Jephthah and David and Samuel and all the other prophets.” Elsewhere in the Christian Greek Scriptures we find instances where “other” appropriately is inserted for clarity. For instance, according to the Authorized Version, at Luke 21:29, Jesus said: “Behold the fig tree, and all the trees.” That does not make the best of sense, for the fig tree is itself a tree. So Jesus’ words can be rendered in English: “Note the fig tree and all the other trees.”—New World Translation; Today’s English Version; New English Bible; compare Luke 13:4.
Accordingly, the New World Translation renders Hebrews 11:32 in a way that is clear and that harmonizes with the Hebrew Scriptures: “For the time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David as well as Samuel and the other prophets.”