🔼The name Samuel in the Bible
The name Samuel is applied to two men in the Bible:
- The first Samuel to appear is a son of Ammihud, from the tribe of Simeon, who is among the officials who are assigned to divide Canaan among the tribes of Israel (Numbers 34:20).
- The more famous Samuel is the last of the judges and the one who anoints Saul, the first king of Israel. His mother is Hannah and his father is Elkanah. Samuel was a Nazirite from before his birth (1 Samuel 1:11). This Samuel is mentioned three times in the Greek New Testament (spelled Σαμουηλ, Samouel; Acts 3:24 and 13:20, and Hebrews 11:32).
🔼Etymology of the name Samuel
There are two ways to go with the name Samuel, although it obviously consists of two elements, and the final one is אל (El), either the prominent Canaanite deity whose name became applied to the God of Israel, or the common abbreviation of Elohim, the genus God:
The first part of the name Samuel may come from the noun שם (shem), meaning name:
The other way to go to take the first part of the name Samuel from the verb שמע (shama'), meaning to hear:
For a meaning of the name Samuel, NOBSE Study Bible Name List goes with the noun שם and reads Name Of God and adds: a godly name. Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) goes with the verb שמע and proposes Heard Of God.
Jones' explanation is attractive because it seems to fit the story (Hannah prayed for a child and was heard), but also because this verb is the base of the name Simeon, which is the name of the tribe where the name Samuel originated. A drawback of Jones' explanation is that it fails to address what might have happened to the letter ע (ayin) that's part of the verb but not of the name Samuel.
Still, note that the third son of Jesse is named שמעא (Shimea, which is related to Samuel) in 1 Chronicles 2:13 but שמעה (Shimeah) in 2 Samuel 13:3 and 13:32, and שמה (Shammah) in 1 Samuel 16:9 and 17:13. The latter variation also omits the letter ayin.