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1 Samuel



BOOK : 1 Samuel

Description : historical book telling of the period moving from judges to rule by kings, Saul the first king and David in preparation to take over.

Author: Possibly a combination of Samuel, Nathan and Gad

Date written : somewhere about the turn of the first millennium BC

Chapters : 31


Brief Synopsis:

•  Gets its name from Samuel the last of the judges, a prophet instrumental in making Saul king and setting up David for later kingship.
•  At the beginning of the book old Eli is a poor chief priest who eventually dies and Samuel is left as –judge-prophet-leader.
•  The people demand a king to be like other nations and eventually Saul becomes first king.
•  However Saul is self-centred rather than God-centred and the Lord tells Samuel to anoint David, a shepherd boy, in readiness to become the next king when Saul eventually dies.
•  Saul eventually seeks to kill David and David thus embarks on a life on the run until someone will kill Saul.
•  This happens at the end of the book in a battle.


Outline :

Ch.1-7 From Judges to a desire for a King

Ch.1-3 Samuel's birth, his youth, and his call to be a prophet
Ch.4-7 Defeat, the Ark taken, and restored

Ch.8-16 The first king: Saul

Ch.8 The people want a king
Ch.9-12 Saul becomes king
Ch.13-16 Saul's failure as king

Ch.16-27 The preparation of David

Ch.28-31 The end of Saul's reign

For a sense of continuity we also give an outline here of 2 Samuel:


Ch.1-20 David established as Israel 's second king

Ch.1 David's lament over Saul & Jonathan
Ch.2-4 David as king over Judah
Ch.5 David as king over all Israel
Ch.6-9 Blessing on David
Ch.10-12 David's failure
Ch.13-20 David's punishment
Ch.21-24 Final reflections on David's reign

The following is a suggested timescale covering some of these events:



Birth of Samuel (1Sa 1:20)


Birth of Saul


Saul anointed to be king (1Sa 10:1)


Birth of David


David anointed to be Saul's successor (1Sa 16:1-13)


Death of Saul and beginning of David's reign over Judah in Hebron  
(1Sa 31:4-6; 2Sa 2:1,4,11)


Beginning of David's reign over all Israel and capture of Jerusalem (2Sa 5)


David's wars (2Sa 8:1-14)


Birth of Solomon (2Sa 12:24)


David's census (2Sa 24:1-9)


End of David's reign (2Sa 5:4-5; 1Ki 2:10-11)


Key Verses :

Birth of Samuel, end of Eli's family

1:10,11 Hannah … made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life
1:20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him." (Samuel sounds like the Hebrew for ‘heard of God'. Also a good name for a prophet!)
2:27-35 A man of God came to Eli and said to him, "This is what the LORD says: …..Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?' ….. Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your family line….. `And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you--they will both die on the same day. I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always.
3:10-12 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening." And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family--from beginning to end.
4:14-18 The man hurried over to Eli….He told Eli, "I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day." Eli asked, "What happened, my son?" The man who brought the news replied, " Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured." When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy.”


Samuel's Ministry

3:19-21 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh , and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.”
7:2-4 It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD. And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel , "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.
7:7-13 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, "Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines." Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel 's behalf, and the LORD answered him. While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us." So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again. Throughout Samuel's lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines.
7:15-17 Samuel continued as judge over Israel all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also judged Israel . And he built an altar there to the LORD.
12:2-4 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right." "You have not cheated or oppressed us," they replied. "You have not taken anything from anyone's hand."
12:13-15 Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the LORD has set a king over you. If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God--good! But if you do not obey the LORD, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.


Movement to a king

8:4-9 all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."
9:15,16 Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: "About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin . Anoint him leader over my people Israel ; he will deliver my people from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked upon my people, for their cry has reached me."
10:1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the LORD anointed you leader over his inheritance?
11:15 So all the people went to Gilgal and confirmed Saul as king in the presence of the LORD. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the LORD, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration.
12:20-25 Samuel replied. "You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away."


Saul's Failure

13:7-14 Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul's men began to scatter. So he said, "Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings." And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. "What have you done?" asked Samuel. Saul replied, "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, I thought, `Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD's favor.' So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering." "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command."
(NB, Saul was not a priest but acted like one using ‘religion' to support him)
15:1-3 Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel ; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: `I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt . Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' "
15:7-11 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt . He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs--everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions." Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.
15:22,23,26-29 Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt . He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs--everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed….. But Samuel said to him, "I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel !"
As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors--to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind."


The Lord sets up David for future Kingship

16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel ? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king."
16:6,7 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
16:12,13 Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one." So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.


David serves Saul but eventually has to flee

16:19-23 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, "Send me your son David…. David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers… Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him
17:4,8,9 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath , came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall……Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel , "Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.
17:26,37,45,46,50 David asked the men standing near him, "What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel ? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" ….. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." ….. David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel , whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head….. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
18:6-16 When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, "I'll pin David to the wall." But David eluded him twice. Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul. So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. In everything he did he had great success, because the LORD was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.
18:28-30 When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days. The Philistine commanders continued to go out to battle, and as often as they did, David met with more success than the rest of Saul's officers, and his name became well known
19:1,9,10,18 Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David….But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the harp, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape…...When David had fled and made his escape, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there.


David on the run

20:1 Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?"
21:1  David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest
21:10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath .
22:1 David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam
22:3-5 From there David went to Mizpah in Moab and said to the king of Moab , "Would you let my father and mother come and stay with you until I learn what God will do for me?" So he left them with the king of Moab , and they stayed with him as long as David was in the stronghold. But the prophet Gad said to David, "Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah." So David left and went to the forest of Hereth .
23:5 So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah.
23:13,14 So David and his men, about six hundred in number, left Keilah and kept moving from place to place. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he did not go there. David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph . Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.
27:1,2 But David thought to himself, "One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand." So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maoch king of Gath.

Saul's Death

31:1-6 Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell slain on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines pressed hard after Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically. Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me." But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. So Saul and his three sons and his armor-bearer and all his men died together that same day.



A Book of Lessons


We have already with the brief synopsis and the ‘key verses' sought to portray something of this book, but because it is so action packed we want to include some more of the highlights, the things we can learn from the people in this book – and there are so many!


A. Hannah

•  Here we have (Ch.1) this wife unable, apparently, to conceive. Year by year she struggles with the jibes of the other wife. An unpleasant situation.
•  Eventually, on a trip to Shiloh where the Tabernacle was established, she cried out to God and committed any future child to God. He hears and honours her and she conceives and Samuel is born, a special man!


B. Eli

•  The aging priest overseeing the spiritual welfare of Israel – but not doing a good job.
•  He misunderstands Hannah (1:14)
•  He doesn't control his sons (2:12-16) and even though he chastises them (2:22-25) he fails to stop their wrong behaviour and is himself chastised by the Lord (2:29)
•  3:1-3 is ironic with its picture language matching Eli's spiritual state: In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.” Reflect on those underlined words.
•  His failure and death is tragic.

C. Samuel

•  As we've seen, an unusual birth which results in him as a child serving with Eli.
•  Three times he hears a voice calling him but doesn't realise it is God until Eli catches on and tells him. It is the start of his prophetic ministry.
•  We have seen him leading Israel as a judge and sadly when he grew old his sons were not following in his footsteps which provides opportunity for the people to ask for a king to follow him (8:4-9)


D. Saul

•  Saul was described as “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others,” (9:2) which made him the idea candidate for the choice of first king by the people.
•  Intriguingly it is the Lord who chooses him for the people, presumably knowing his disposition and propensity for failure. Nevertheless free will leaves is Saul's responsibility and guilt is still genuine for failure. He makes wrong choices!
•  Saul gets it wrong (as we have partly noted above) by using sacrifice as a means to stabilize the situation (Ch.13), his failure to kill the Amalekites (Ch.15) and by seeking out the witch of Endor (Ch.28) to seek guidance instead of seeking the Lord.
•  We might also include here his hostility against David. He was also foolish in binding the army in an oath (14:24-35) not to eat until nightfall and putting Jonathan in a difficult place and then threatening to kill him.
•  The fact that the Lord was able to use an evil spirit to provoke him (16:14, 18:10) means he was vulnerable to the enemy through disobedience (the only time then enemy is able to come in such a manner).

E. Jonathan

•  Shows himself to be an adventurer for the Lord, going out against a Philistine outpost. (13:3- Also 14:1-14)
•  Became best friend of David (18:1-4)

F. David

•  A good looking young man (16:12) who looked after his father's sheep (16:11), the youngest of eight sons of Jesse
•  Was also a harpist (16:18)
•  Became one of Saul's armour bearers for a while (16:21)
•  Took provisions to his brothers at the battle front (17:17)
•  Was courageous in killing Goliath (17:26-)
•  Had killed lions and bears while looking after the sheep (17:34-37) and had a strong relationship with the Lord (17:45).
•  Had success and was promoted in the army (18:5, also 18:13-16) but provoked fear in Saul which eventually ended up in David having to flee the royal court (20:1)
•  Bizarrely, this anointed man of God while on the run has to find protection from the enemy
•  To the king of Gath (Philistines 21:10)
•  To Moab for care of his family (22:3)
•  To the king of Gath (Philistines 27:1-)
•  Twice he refused to harm Saul (23:4-7,, 26:9)

G. The Lord

We should note here the number of times the Lord spoke into a variety of situations in this book:

•  2:27-36 To Eli through a “man of God” calling him to account for his sons.
•  3:11-14 About Eli through the child Samuel

•  Ch.5 & 6 To the Philistines through His actions against the idol Dagon and then

   through tumours and guiding the Ark home.

•  8:7- To Samuel about the people's rejection of Him
•  9:17- To Samuel about Saul
•  10:9- By blessing Saul and enabling him to prophesy.
•  11:16 By sending His Spirit on Saul to deal with Nahash the Ammonite
•  15:1-3 He commanded the destruction of the Amalekites
•  16:1- He directed Samuel to anoint a new king
•  23:1- Brought guidance to David while he was on the run



Concluding Comments

•  As we have just noted, this is an action packed book with a number of people standing out.

•  It is historically significant taking us from the period of the Judges into the period of the Kings.

•  It shows us the first king, Saul, and his failures, and the Lord's replacement, David.

•  It also shows us the ‘rough and tumble' of those days when fighting enemies who threatened you was very common. We see the development of David as a vanquisher of lions and bears who goes on to defeat giants and become a famous army leader, and then the leader of a rebel army on the run.

•  Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about David, described as “a man after God's own heart” (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22), is his attitude towards Saul. Although Saul keeps trying to kill David, David will not take the opportunities given him to kill Saul, who he still sees as ‘the Lord's anointed'.

•  An amazing book with many lessons.


Additional Bible Studies on this site:

    David on the Run - 1 Sam 16on