1 Samuel

1 and 2 Samuel have the same main subject. It is about how the country would have a king. One king should rule the whole country. The two books are about establishing this rule in the land of Israel.

This book begins with the last two judges. Our attention is on them. But they were probably only important leaders of tribes. One was Eli. He served as a judge and a priest. And there was Samuel. He served as a judge and a prophet. The book can divide into three parts. But the parts are not equal. There are three main people. First, there was Samuel, then Saul, and then David.

The People Demand (Chapters 1-8)

The people wanted a leader. They wanted him to lead them in God's ways. Their priests were selfish. And the nation lacked two other things. First, their leaders were bad examples. Their moral behaviour was bad. Second, their military resources were not sufficient (4:1-10. Compare 8:1-5).

The book's first section is just like life in any age. There was a mixture of happy and sad events. There is the story about Samuel's birth. This story is in chapters 1-3. We also read about Hannah's delight. Chapter four tells the sad story about Ichabod's birth. It is also sad to read about Eli. He had great sorrow.

We learn about two families. They are Elkanah and Eli's families. They were very different. There was goodness (1:1-3, 21 and 2:1-11). Elkanah's family loved God. They served God too. And there was Eli's family. His sons were greedy (2:12-17).

We have Hannah's prayer of thanks in 2:1-10. This is similar to Mary's song in Luke 1:46-55. (People give a name to Mary's song. It is the Magnificat. This is a Latin word for the first words of the song.) The ideas are the same in Hannah's prayer and Mary's song. Their language is the same too. Here are some of the subjects:

  • Someone who is happy
  • Salvation
  • Someone who is holy
  • God hates pride
  • Help for the poor
  • Defeat of enemies
  • Food for the hungry.

Mary sang her song when she visited Elizabeth. It was a most important day. Mary might have been thinking about Hannah's prayer at that time. There is great value in knowing God's word.

The Ark is the main subject in chapters 4-7:

  • The enemy captured the Ark (4).
  • There was victory because of the Ark (5).
  • The Ark returned (6).
  • The Ark had a special place (7).

In chapter 8 there is a change. Attention began to move away from the Ark. Attention moved towards a king (8:5). The people had a natural desire for a leader. And this was not wrong. But they made a choice. They refused to have God as their king. They did not want him to rule over them (8:7). And this was wrong.

The Lord knows everything. And he could see their future. He saw that they would be unhappy (8:11-18). We might think that something is naturally right. But, it might not always be best for us in a spiritual way. God let the people have what they wanted. But their request was selfish. And it had terrible results. (Compare Psalm 106:15.)

The People Regret (Chapters 9-15)

The first period that Saul ruled was good. It seemed that he would be a great success. He was attractive and strong (9:2). He cared about other people (9:5, 7). And he was humble (9:21). He controlled himself (10:26, 27). He was fair (11:6). And he had courage (11:7-11). However, power can spoil people. And power changed Saul.

The people demanded to have a king. Samuel said that this made God very sad (12:17-19). However, everything could still go well for them. But they must do something first. They must obey God (12:14, 20-22).

Saul was the leader that the people appointed. He should have been a good example. But he was a bad example. Often, he did not obey God in practical matters. And he often refused to do what God wanted in spiritual matters. (See 13:8, 9, 13-14; 15:3, 9, 11, 13-15, 22-23.) Saul's rule started with great joy. But God ended it in sorrow (15:26, 28, 35; 16:1). Saul was still king officially. But God did not accept him as the people's king.

Interest now changed. It moved away from this proud man. Saul would not obey God. So, interest moved to a boy. He was not important or famous. He was only a shepherd. This meant that he cared for his father's sheep. They were out on Bethlehem's hills. (Compare 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 and Psalm 78:70.) God was sorry that Saul had ever become king. His leadership was bad. So the people were sorry that he was still their king.

The People Refuse (Chapters 16-31)

God chose the new king (16:5-12). And Samuel anointed him with oil (16:13). This showed that God was choosing him. It showed that God was giving him the equipment for his new job too (16:13). God left Saul. Saul had become completely selfish. Nobody else mattered to him.

This is the last section of 1 Samuel. Saul hated David. And he tried to destroy him. David was king; but he had to run away. This is a very sad story. Saul had been a true servant of God. Now, he tried to stop God's purposes. There is a clear lesson here. It is this. Anybody who fights against God will always fail.

Jonathan was Saul's son. But he had no desire to be king. David was his friend. And he knew that David would be ruler. He knew that this was God's purpose (23:14-18).

The main points of the final section are:

Samuel anointed David (16). God knew that David's attitude and desires were right. (Read 16:7 and Psalm 147:10, 11.)

David had a test (7). David met Goliath. This proved that David had complete confidence in God (17:37, 47). He did not trust in human help (17:38, 39).

David suffered because Saul hated him (18). Saul soon became jealous (18:8, 29).

David's enemies chased him (19). Saul continued to chase David, which was sad. It went on almost until the book's end.

David received support (20-22). David was not alone. He had a loving friend. Jonathan encouraged him (20). He also had a loyal priest (21, 22). David was escaping. And the priest was kind to him (21:3, 6). But this kindness caused the priest's death (22:16-19).

David had disappointments (23-26). People were not grateful. And these four chapters repeat this fact. David saved Keilah (23:1,5). But this would not save David. The people of Keilah were not grateful. God warned David that the people would give him to Saul (23:12).

David was good to Saul. David could have killed him, but he did not do so (24). And Saul seemed to understand this (24:16). But it was just feelings at the time. He was not truly grateful (25). Another time, David did not kill Saul (26). But they never became friends again (26:25).

David had protection (27-31). David made a major decision. The Philistine people were the enemies of the Jews. But David spoke to their king. He asked the king if he could live in his country (27:1). However, David was clever. He used his new protection. He fought against Israel's enemies. Meanwhile, the enemy thought that David was fighting his own people (27:8-12). From this unusual position, he could do two things. He could keep away from Saul. And, at the same time, he could save his own nation!

Then there was a hard situation. The Philistine king asked David to fight with them. He would be fighting against his own people, the Jews. But God protected David (29:3-11). David fought someone else instead (30:1-20), and he defeated them. Meanwhile, the Philistines fought Israel. And they defeated them. They killed Saul and Jonathan (31:1-6).

The book ends with a great story. It describes hard times. But there were heroes.

There was cruelty (31:8-10). But there were brave people (31:11-13). And there were loyal people too. (Read 1 Samuel 11:1-11.)

A Final Thought

Saul was greedy and jealous. And these things destroyed his life. He confessed something very sad. He did this just before he died. He said, ‘I have been foolish. I have sinned very much’ (1 Samuel 26:21). He completely wasted his life. There are several stories like this in the Bible. The Bible is an honest book. It tells the story as it really is. It does not tell it how we would like it to be.