The Book of 1 Samuel

1 Samuel Overview

The first book of Samuel is a turning point in the history of Israel. They have been given Judges over and over again, repeating the pattern of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration, but something is different during the period of 1 Samuel. It has been a long time since Israel has heard from God in the form of a Judge, or in any form, for that matter. The people are restless with this cycle they are living, and God gives them Samuel who will serve as a Judge but also as a prophet of God. During Samuel’s time, however, he sees more and more corruption happening. Eli, the priest, has allowed his sons to get out of hand. God punishes his family, and Samuel is left with a people of God who are hungry for a king. Although Samuel warns them about how a king will rule them, they persist and God gives them Saul. Saul rules for a while and defeats some of Israel’s enemies, but he isn’t fully devoted to God. Saul’s disobedience leads to rejection by God, and David is anointed king.

David is a man after God’s own heart and begins to take prominence in the story, although Saul is still king. After leading Israel in the defeat of Goliath and the Philistines, David is hunted by Saul. David is saved because of his relationship with the son of the king, Jonathan. Saul continues to attempt to murder David, but God protects him from Saul’s hand. Although David has plenty of opportunities to kill Saul, he obeys God and is rewarded by God for his obedience. At the end of this first book of Samuel, Saul dies and David is poised to take over as king of Israel.

Foundational stories in 1 Samuel (and where to find them):

  • Samuel’s miraculous birth: Chapter 1
  • Hannah’s gratefulness: Chapter 2
  • The Call of Samuel by God: Chapter 3
  • Ark of God captured by the Philistines: Chapters 4-5
  • Samuel serves to judge Israel: Chapter 7
  • Israel demands a king: Chapter 8
  • Saul becomes king: Chapters 9-10
  • New Kingdom under Saul: Chapter 11
  • Saul fights and disobeys: Chapter 13
  • Fighting against Israel’s enemies: Chapter 14
  • God rejects Saul: Chapter 15
  • David anointed King: Chapter 16
  • David and Goliath: Chapter 17
  • David and Jonathan’s friendship, David’s marriage: Chapter 18
  • Saul attempts to murder David: Chapters 19-20
  • David spares Saul’s life: Chapter 24
  • Samuel dies: Chapter 25
  • David spares Saul’s life again: Chapter 26
  • Saul dies: Chapter 31

Where 1 Samuel fits in the whole story of the Bible: 1 Samuel is foundational to the establishment of Israel as a “Kingdom.” Despite Samuel’s warnings, the people of Israel go from being ruled by God (theocracy) to being ruled by a king (monarchy).  The ensuing chaos that comes from Saul’s disobedience teaches the reader a lot about how God blesses obedience. God’s sovereignty is displayed throughout the book as He repeatedly shows His interest in the daily lives of His people.

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