Samuel was the first of Israel's great prophets, and the last of the judges. According to the text of the Books of Samuel, he also anointed the first two kings of the Kingdom of Israel: Saul and David.
The Bible does not give an exact date as to when Samuel was born or how long he lived. Clues from the sacred texts and evidence of Israelite culture found at the biblical city of Shiloh suggest that he may have lived somewhere between 1200 and 1050 BCE.
According to official sources, Samuel’s name derived from the Hebrew name “Shemu’el,” which is either translated as “name of God” or “God has heard”. Sometimes his name is translated as “besought of God”. To date, however, there is no mutual agreement among biblical scholars on the exact and complete meaning of the three syllables Sa-mu-el composing his name.
As in the case of other Hebrew prophets such as Ezekiel and Malachi, once again Igbo language revealed to be the source language able to provide an exhaustive explanation of Samuel’s name.
In Igbo, the three syllables Sa-mu-el are read Sa (or saa in Orlu dialect) — mu (or mmuo) — ele. The meaning of these segments are:
- Sa/saa ‘to shine’
- Mu or mmuo ‘spirit/god’ (as in aum mmuo ‘I am Spirit’ / ‘I am God’; or aum mu ‘I am Myself’; known as the Bible verse ‘I Am That I Am’ [Exodus 3:14]).
Note: The term also refers to the Nagas of Mu (Mmuo) and their Serpentine Goddess of Wisdom, the primal mother deity.
Ele , whereas El is used in Canaanite and Hebrew tradition to denote God, whom the Egyptians called Er/Re/Ra (as the Egyptians cannot pronounce the letter “l”), is the god-man and resident of the West African Duat (Underground Heaven). He is the Earth-god and male aspect of Ala, the Igbo female deity of the earth.
The coded meaning of the three segments composing the name Samuel — Sa/saa-Mmuo-Ele — can thus be summarized and translated as follow: “The Shining Spirit of the Earth God”.
A coded allusion to a shining earth-god associated with fertility represented by Samuel’s name is found in the biblical verse 2 Samuel 23:4: “He, is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when tender grass springs out of the earth.”
Another reference to earth gods is given in the Biblical story in which King Saul went to consult the Medium of Endor. In 1 Samuel 28:8-13 we read: And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth!
The association of the prophet Samuel with the Igbo earth-god Ele is revealed in 1 Samuel 28:13-14:
The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what you see?” And the women said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.” He said to her, "What is his form?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage.
Summarizing all the aforementioned evidence, it is possible to conclude that Samuel is a code-name of Igbo origin referring to Ele, the Earth Dweller of the West African Duat (Igbo Idu-At), whose alter ego is Obatala (Igbo Eri).
The alleged existence of an earth dwelling god and undergound heaven is not only suggested by the biblical story of Israel's King Saul, but also by Jonah, one of the minor prophets in the Hebrew Bible, who preached: “To the roots of mountains I sunk down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord of my God, brought up my life from the pit” (Jonah 2:6).