Saturday, February 26, 2011

SESSION 19: 1 Samuel 16-31

If you desire an email of this session for ‘Thinking through the Bible’, send your request by email to You may also request a full set of notes on the OT Historical Books if you want to read more than this summary of the session presented on Sunday morning. Those who attend the sessions on Sunday mornings benefit the most by reading the Book of the Bible as if they were living at the time of the Book we are covering in the session.

If you haven’t been doing it up to this time in reading and thinking through God’s Story, you cannot help but begin to do what Peterson says about reading the Samuels: In the reading, as we submit our lives to what we read, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but to see ourselves in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.

God is preparing David for the throne in Israel, and as David entered Saul’s life, the king wasn’t even aware of it. The Lord spoke to Samuel about it: “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons” (1 Samuel 16:1). It doesn’t take long to discover what God’s relationship with David would be like. Samuel anointed David, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward (1 Samuel 16:13).

David is introduced to Saul through a servant. The Lord brought a distressing spirit upon Saul, so that Saul’s servant recommended a young man who had every quality any person would admire:
“Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him” (1 Samuel 16:18).

  • Why was Samuel mourning for Saul? He was heartbroken over the king’s deliberate disobedience; Samuel knew from the outset that Saul was chosen by the people with no regard for God’s choice; Saul was a perfect example of being self-absorbed, lacking loyalty to anyone but himself; 1 Samuel 16:2 shows the heart of Saul: And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.”
  • The people based their choice of Saul as king on outward appearances; they saw him as their chosen king and not as God’s anointed; God had Samuel anoint Saul, thus giving Saul the opportunity to serve according to the requirements of a king given by Moses.
  • This contrasts with the Spirit who was removed from Saul, and given a distressing spirit. This distressing spirit in 1 Samuel 16:14 in the Hebrew describes something that is troubling and annoying. Music would calm this spirit. It is helpful to note that the focus of the story is that God uses David through this spirit. A question worth pondering is when the Spirit of the Lord departs from a person, what replaces it? There is no indication that a vacuum is left.
  • The contrast between Saul and David is a lesson for the people to learn the difference between a king the people choose and a king the Lord chooses.
  • The first recorded time in the Old Testament that the Spirit of God came upon a person and remained was when David was anointed by Samuel.
  • David had all the traits of a ‘perfect’ young man. He used them wisely because God was with him.

A war with the Philistines provided the occasion that demonstrates the qualities of David’s character. The giant, ten-foot tall Goliath of Gath had troubled Saul and his army (1 Samuel 17:4). Young David, who had been sent by his father from his home in Bethlehem to visit his three eldest brothers in the camp, accepted the challenge to fight the Philistine giant with the simple weapons he had learned to use as shepherd boy. David had some training in a life of faith while tending his father’s sheep. Think about Moses’ training as a sheepherder in Midian. Where others saw an invincible giant, David saw a man who was not in a covenant relationship with God. This Philistine giant was being permitted to “defy the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26), and David knew that God would not defend him.

  • This story of David’s courage in the face of a giant reminds us of Joshua and Caleb’s courage when they faced the giants in Canaan.
  • David knew many stories of how God led His people, so he could recognize Goliath’s foolish threat.
  • David’s own father did not put him in the lineup (1 Samuel 16:8-11). David knew what it was to be a servant (he served his father), which prepared him to be king.
David was brought into Saul’s court and into the company of Saul’s son, Jonathan, after the victory over Goliath and the Philistines. Two men of faith met, reflected in Jonathan’s trust in the Lord at the time of battle:
Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6).
God brought these two men of faith together to fulfill His purpose for Israel. Jonathan and David entered into a covenant of friendship to remain loyal friends till death. As a sign of this covenant, Jonathan gave David his own robes and his weapons. This act was prophetic, for Jonathan was giving David all that could have been his on the throne. Jonathan was willing to lay down his all for the sake of a friend, who could have been his rival.

1 Samuel 18:5 sets the tone for all the military expeditions David had in Saul’s army:
So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. This description takes us back to Joshua 1:8, where Moses instructs Joshua in the way of wisdom:
This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success (Joshua 1:8, AMP).

David’s success roused Saul’s jealousy to the point that, in a fit of madness, he made an attempt on David’s life as he was playing before him. When schemes devised to ensnare David failed repeatedly, Saul began to persecute him. Saul’s fear of David finally settled into deadly enmity, and he gave orders to slay David:
Now Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David… (1 Samuel 19:1).

Even in his own home, David was not safe, for Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him and to kill him in the morning (1 Samuel 19:11). Michal, David’s wife, warned him of this. Saul intended for her to be “a snare to [David]” (1 Samuel 18:21), but her love for him made her choose to side with him rather than with her father. Michal used the same technique as Rahab the harlot of Jericho (Joshua 2:15): she let down her husband through a window (1 Samuel 19:12). David thus escaped with his life, but he lost the comfort of his home and marriage and set out on the lonely road of an outcast.

David had nowhere else to go but to the old prophet who had first anointed him. Samuel dwelt in Ramah in the Judean desert (1 Samuel 19:18). When Saul heard that David lived with Samuel at the school of the prophets, he sent messengers to fetch him. The whole plan backfired for Saul. Every messenger he sent began to prophesy. Finally, Saul went himself, and he received the Spirit of God so that he also prophesied, and then laid prostrate all day and all night. Having set out to destroy David, Saul had been frustrated by Jonathan, Michal, Samuel, and now finally by God Himself.

David passed through a long period of discipline and trial at the hand of Saul. God used these experiences to draw out his faith and patience, and prepared him for his life work as king. In the midst of this period, the aged prophet Samuel died (1 Samuel 25:1), and David had to turn to God alone.

During this time in his life, David applied what he learned from Samuel, reflecting in Saul’s plots of evil against him: he consulted the Lord. When Saul called the people together for war, David turned to the priest:
“Bring the ephod here.” Then David said, “O Lord God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake.” (1
Samuel 23:9-10).
His conversation with the God of Israel brings to mind the intimate relationship God had with Moses.

David possessed trained and patient faith that not only trusted in God’s help, but also waited for God’s time. In his last encounter with Saul, David came to realize that no matter how he approached him, Saul would not change his attitude. This tested David’s faith so that 1 Samuel 27:1 records what was on his heart:
“Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul.” David moved into the area of the Philistines with his family and men. He lived in Ziklag for sixteen months, during which time he continued his raids upon the enemy that lay along the border of Judah.

  • The Philistines were Israel’s servants because of David’s victory over Goliath, so he was safe in Philistine territory (1 Samuel 17:9; 27:1).
  • Ziklag is listed among the cities of Judah (Joshua 15:31), but at this time it was under Philistine control.
Saul’s self-willed life ended in utter ruin and disaster during a final war with the Philistines. Finally, he decided to inquire of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him. Saul had rejected the Lord and as a consequence was rejected by the Lord. This takes us back to Samuel’s announcement to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:23 (NIV):
“For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

In desperation, Saul sought for a medium:
Saul said to his servant, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her” (1 Samuel 28:7). The servant knew of one living at En Dor. It is helpful to notice the development of this incident:

  • Joshua 17:12: …the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of [En Dor], but the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land. Saul returned to an area where worship of foreign gods had a stronghold.
  • Judges 17:5, 13: The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest… Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest!” This story illustrates the darkened understanding of the time, descending to the level of superstition. 
Saul’s consultation of a medium is a clear indication of unfaithfulness and disobedience. In the days when Saul followed the Lord, he had thrown all the mediums out of the land, thus obeying the requirement found in Leviticus 20:6 (GNT):
“If any of you go for advice to people who consult the spirits of the dead, I will turn against you and will no longer consider you one of my people.”

Saul had rejected the counsel of prophet, priest, and son, and instead turned to a spiritist for advice, which unknown to him, would bring judgment from God! The type of divination in which this medium engages was common in Palestine and the Middle East. The spirits of the ancestors were often invoked in times of trouble or difficulty, or for predictions about the future. The spirits consulted are demonic, but they usually take the shape of someone familiar, impersonating that person in order to oppress others or demand a sacrifice.

Samuel (or a demon taking on his appearance) appeared when the medium woman was asked by Saul to bring him up, but the sight of Samuel alarmed her. This was something outside her usual experience of magic arts. For some reason the Lord allowed an actual appearance of Samuel, or a likeness of him, to visit Saul. It is clear from the medium’s reaction that she could not compel him to appear. Notice that it does not tell us that the medium brought Samuel up. It merely states that when the woman saw Samuel, she cried out:
“I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth” (1 Samuel 28:12-13).

The spirit representing Samuel brought God’s last warning to Saul, which was a repeat of the judgment when God rejected Saul as king:
“…the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor…” (1 Samuel 28:17; see 15:28). This judgment on Saul totally sapped his strength. The man who had made self-will his rule of life had no power of will left.

  • At the end of his life, Saul called on the Lord and was ignored. He had a history of not listening, and nothing had changed at the end of his life (1 Samuel 28:6).
  • If Saul had killed the Amalekites when he was told to, they would not have finished him off.
  • En Dor was in Philistine territory.
  • The spirit surprised the medium, for she had not even called it up. The text says the medium saw Samuel (1 Samuel 28:12), so we need to keep this in mind no matter what view we hold to regarding “a spirit ascending out of the earth” (1 Samuel 28:13). The point of the story is that God was getting a message across to Saul.
  • The message delivered by Samuel to Saul was simply a repeat of the judgment pronounced on him previously.
  • The lesson is that we should not seek the will of God in unholy ways.
Only a brief description is given to the final battle described in 1 Samuel 31, for the tragic death of Saul became the issue. After the death of Saul’s sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchisha, archers seriously wounded Saul. Once again he tried to take control of his own life by telling his armor-bearer to finish him off. He refused, so Saul took his own life. To the very end, Saul would not find strength in the Lord. His armor ended up in the temple of the Ashtoreths! As an act of gratitude for Saul rescuing them (1 Samuel 11), the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days (1 Samuel 31:11, 13).

God had cleared the way for David to ascend the throne without blame for Saul’s end. But David did not rush in to claim it. He still had to wait on God’s divine timing. He received news of Saul’s death while still in exile, and his reaction was not jubilation. He and all who were with him mourned the deaths of Saul and Jonathan and all the others who had fallen.

In preparation for our next session, read God’s continuing story in 2 Samuel 1-24 about God’s relationship with David as the second king of Israel.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


With Sunday, February 20th being part of a long weekend, we did not move forward in God's Story, but reviewed our approach to reading and thinking through the Bible. We were reminded to read through 1 Samuel 16-31 and consider how God prepared David to become the second king of Israel.
As we are ‘Thinking through the Bible’, it is important to see ourselves in God’s Story. This is what we can pass on to the next generation. Here are some ways to think about this…

The Psalmist wrote about the importance of passing on God’s Story to the next generation:
Listen, my people, to my teaching,
and pay attention to what I say.
I am going to use wise sayings
and explain mysteries from the past,
things we have heard and known,
things that our ancestors told us.
We will not keep them from our children;
we will tell the next generation
about the Lord's power and his great deeds
and the wonderful things he has done.
(Psalms 78:1-4, GNT)

You descendants of Abraham, his servant;
you descendants of Jacob, the man he chose:
remember the miracles that God performed
and the judgments that he gave.
The Lord is our God;
his commands are for all the world.
He will keep his covenant forever,
his promises for a thousand generations.
(Psalms 105:5, 7-9, GNT)

Ours is a whole new world, and nothing has been more adversely affected by postmodernism than the church and its relationship to God’s Word.
Postmodernism thrives on chaos. It desires to destroy all moral criteria and replace it with no criteria. So our young people prefer virtual reality based on emotions to actual reality based on reason. As a result, biblical ignorance is intensifying, even in the church. As we seek more entertainment and less biblical truth, the erosion increases.
While we weren’t paying attention, everything became unhinged. Our world is no longer the world of our grandparents…or of our parents for that matter. I should say, they were eroding. We slipped from what we used to call a “modern world” into a “postmodern world” without even realizing it. We’ve drifted from a “Christian era” into a “post-Christian era.” That’s why we’ve found ourselves in a world that is less friendly to the church and more than ever disconnected from the Bible. So it’s no surprise that today’s citizen is more biblically ignorant than people of virtually any other time since the Dark Ages.
Ours is a whole new world, and nothing has been more adversely affected by postmodernism than the church and its relationship to God’s Word – the Holy Scriptures. When the Bible loses its central place in the church’s worship – even if good things replace it – the fallout is biblical ignorance. The longer substitutes replace the preaching of the Word as the centerpiece of Christian worship, the more we will witness the drift into ignorance intensifying… Over time, a congregation that is distant from the Word of God seeks more entertainment and less biblical truth.
Even in a culture marked by postmodernism and addicted to consumerism, the church doesn’t need gimmicks to attract people. Instead it needs biblical truth taught in an interesting manner and lived out in unguarded authenticity – in our relationship with our Lord and with one another (The Church Awakening, Charles R. Swindoll, 2010, Cover, Introduction, and Conclusion).

Eugene Peterson writes in the Introduction to 1-2 Samuel in The Message:
…the biblical way is not so much to present us with a moral code and tell us “Live up to this”; nor is it to set out a system of doctrine and say, “Think like this and you will live well.” The biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, “Live into this. This is what it looks like to be human, this is what is involved in entering and maturing as human beings.” We do violence to the biblical revelation when we “use” it for what we can get out of it or what we think will provide color and spice to our otherwise bland lives. That results in a kind of “boutique spirituality” – God as decoration, God as enhancement. The Samuel narrative will not allow that. In the reading, as we submit our lives to what we read, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but to see ourselves in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.

The time and effort we are taking in 'Thinking through the Bible' is hopefully encouraging you to see how you fit into God's Story.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

SESSION 18: 1 Samuel 1-15

If you desire an email of this session for ‘Thinking through the Bible’, send your request by email to You may also request a full set of notes on the OT Historical Books if you want to read more than this summary of the session presented on Sunday morning. Those who attend the sessions on Sunday mornings benefit the most by reading the Book of the Bible as if they were living at the time of the Book we are covering in the session.

If you are following the chronological chart, we are entering the time of the kings of Israel, beginning around 1,000 B.C. Eli and Samuel are the last two Judges of Israel. Eli dies and God uses Samuel to relate to Saul as the first king.

This map shows Israel in the days of King Saul. He came from the Tribe of Benjamin, living in Gibeah, which was five miles north of Jerusalem. It is identified as ‘Gibeah of God’, ‘Gibeah of Saul’, and ‘Gibeah of Benjamin’. It means ‘hill’, so in 1 Samuel 10:5 it is rendered as ‘the hill of God’.

1 & 2 Samuel provide God’s Story of Israel from the period of the last two judges (deliverers and temporary rulers), Eli and Samuel, to the last years of David, the nation’s second king – roughly one hundred years. It is the story of God and the nation’s leaders.

God established in Israel the purest theocracy, and had placed the symbol of His presence, the ark, at Shiloh. Through its repeated spiritual failure Israel was gradually made conscious of the need of outside deliverance. Although Samuel as their last judge was the greatest of all judges, Israel’s leaders found a way to reject him and ask for a king, “like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).

  • His name means ascent, high, i.e. ‘Jehovah is high’.
  • Descendant of Ithamar, the fourth son of Aaron.
  • High priest served by the young Samuel.
  • Civil judge for 40 years.
  • Age at Death: 98.
  • 1 Samuel 1-4.
Eli exercised the office of high priest in Shiloh at the time of the birth of Samuel. For the first time in Israel, Eli combined in his own person the functions of high priest and judge. He acted as a civil judge after the death of Samson (1 Samuel 4:18), and judged Israel for forty years, recorded in 1 Samuel 4:18: Then it happened, when he made mention of the ark of God, that Eli fell off the seat backward by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years.

There are few recorded incidents in Eli's life; the main interest of the narrative is in the other characters associated with him. Attention is given mostly to Samuel. In Eli's first interview with Hannah (1 Samuel 1:12), she is the central figure; in the second interview (1 Samuel 1:24), it is the child Samuel. When Eli next appears, it is as the father of Hophni and Phinehas. The two sons, both priests, took meat from sacrificial animals before they were dedicated to God. They also slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting (1 Samuel 2:22, NIV). This earned for them the title “men of Belial” (or “worthlessness”).

God pronounced divine judgment on Eli because of his lack of reverence for God, demonstrated by failing to discipline his sons. Eli administered no stern rebuke to them, but only a gentle rebuke of their greed and immorality. Thereafter, he was warned by a nameless prophet about the downfall of his house, and of the death of his two sons in one day (1 Samuel 2:27-36). This message was later confirmed by Samuel, who had received this word directly from Yahweh Himself (1 Samuel 3:11).

  • It never says that Eli was under the influence of God’s Spirit.
  • Eli’s sons not only ‘slept with the women’, but they slept with those women who were ‘serving’ the Lord!
  • Eli sort of confronted his sons because he knew about their conduct, but he only went so far as to tell them that they were making him look bad.
  • Eli didn’t train his sons, but he trained Samuel; God was in control of this relationship as He prepared Samuel for a ministry.
  • Eli died ‘sitting down on the job’; we don’t have any other pictures of priests sitting down.
  • The time of the Judges shows how Israel, and then the Levites, and then the priests, became corrupted. This shows how bad things became, but God remained faithful.
  • Samuel’s sons did the same things, which show that a father’s righteousness is not transferable; faith is not genetic. Many great men of God have wayward children and family problems. We can have ‘bad’ families, and then have one member come to God and change the generations to come. We don’t need to carry guilt over what our own children do, for they are responsible for their own choices. We should remember that as parents we are called to do what is best for our children.
  • We should remember that raising children in a Christian family offers the opportunity for a Christian heritage to be passed on.

  • His name means asked of God or heard of God, found in 1 Samuel 1:20: So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the Lord.”
  • Father: Elkanah, Levite (1:19-20), of Ramathaim-zophim, on the mountains of Ephraim.
  • Mother: Hannah.
  • Brothers: 3 unnamed.
  • Sisters: 2 unnamed.
  • Sons: Joel, Abijah.
  • Prophet and priest, anointed both Saul and David as king.
  • 1 Samuel 1-16; 19:18-24; 25:1; 28.
After the disastrous defeat of the Israelites by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:1-11), Samuel does not appear again in history for a period of twenty years. During most of this time the Ark of the Lord rested in Kiriath Jearim, and all the house of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord (1 Samuel 7:1-2). Samuel, who had learned that loyalty to Jehovah was necessary for Israel’s deliverance from its foes, issued a proclamation exposing the sin of idolatry and urging commitment to the Lord. He summoned the tribes to assemble at Mizpah to spend a day in penitence and prayer. At this assembly Samuel was recognized as judge (1 Samuel 7:3-6).

  • The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God in Israel. When the Hebrews left Egypt, the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night represented His presence.
  • God did not wipe out the Philistines when they possessed the ark. He was showing His power to others and not only to Israel. The Philistines saw God’s power and learned that Israel’s God was the one true God.
  • When they returned the ark to Israel, it is obvious that God was in control by directing the ‘stupid’ oxen to their destination.
Given to the nation of Israel in answer to Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 1:11), Samuel was himself a man of prayer. The nation assembled to hear him pray, recorded in 1 Samuel 7:5: “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” When the people in their ingratitude and sinful impatience rejected him and asked for a king, this truly great man did not take revenge but, having denounced the sin, answered, “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” (1 Samuel 12:23, NIV). He said this because he knew that for the sake of His great name the Lord would not reject His people (1 Samuel 12:22).

  • An indication that we are not praying is that we do not love our neighbor.
  • How old was Samuel when his mother brought him to Eli? It seems that he was very young because it says that it happened when he was “weaned”. In the ancient Near East this was likely around the age of three years. It could mean that it was when he was prepared for what this was like in the outside world.
It should be no surprise to us that Israel wanted an earthly king. Think back to:

Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:10 (NCV):
“Kings will come from Judah's family;
someone from Judah will always be on the throne.
Judah will rule until Shiloh comes,
and the nations will obey him.”

Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:7 (NCV):
“Israel's water buckets will always be full,
and their crops will have plenty of water.
Their king will be greater than Agag;
their kingdom will be very great.”

Moses’ prediction in Deuteronomy 17:14: 
“When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me…’” Moses takes this further and tells Israel: “The Lord will bring you and the king whom you set over you…” (Deuteronomy 28:36).

Several factors contributed to Israel’s demand for a king:
Judges 21:25: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. The nation was oppressed by neighboring nations and was politically disunited, unstable, and morally corrupt (1 Samuel 2:17-36).
1 Samuel 8:7-9 (NIV): Samuel, a godly judge, prophet, and priest, had made judges of his two sons who perverted justice, thus making them unworthy to lead Israel (1 Samuel 8:1-3). The elders in Israel used this to seek a king to govern them. This displeased (means ‘to see the evil in something’) 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.”

1 Samuel 8:20 (NIV):  “Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” They imitated the surrounding nations, rather than seeking God’s leader for them because they were forgetting that Israel’s strength was to be unlike the other nations.

  • Samuel had exposure to Eli’s responses to his sons, which may have had an effect on how Samuel related to his sons; this may have been the only way he knew how to relate to sons.
  • It was a sad time in the history of Israel. As 1 Samuel 3:1 says, “Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days.”
  • Why does it seem so long before God stepped in to do something about a country that was coming apart? It may be that God was showing Israel that they couldn’t do it on their own.
The Lord told Israel through Samuel that a king would take from them. The cost would be high. There would be forced labor and taxation of a tithe (ten percent). The king and his court had to be supported, so he would take their sons and daughters, their property, their harvests, and their flocks and herds. Their choice young men would serve in the army as well as in the king's fields. Their daughters would cook and bake for the king. He would take their property and part of their harvest in order to feed the officials and servants in the royal household (1 Samuel 8:10-22).

Pleasing the Lord was not Israel’s priority; what they wanted was visible protection against their enemies: someone to judge them and fight their battles, someone they could see and follow. The progression of their demands is obvious:
  • 1 Samuel 8:6: The elders said, "Give us a king…”
  • 1 Samuel 8:19: The people refused to obey Samuel, and they said, “No, but we will have a king…”
  • The world always looks for a king – a deliverer!

1 Samuel easily falls into two parts:
  • Samuel, the Last Judge (1-7)
  • Saul, the First King (8-31)

Elkanah had two wives. Peninnah, had children, while his other wife, Hannah, had no children. The rivalry between them made Hannah miserable. The Lord had closed her womb (1 Samuel 1:5), not as a form of punishment but to control His plans.
  • Elkanah was a ‘fathead’, claiming to be as good as ten sons (1 Samuel 1:8); he was arrogant!
  • It’s impossible to treat more than one wife the same. There is always a favorite.
  • God’s Story up to this time does not have a specific command against polygamy, but every time we read about it, the story is bad. The first record of polygamy recorded in Genesis shows a man who murdered others.
  • God’s requirements from the beginning are clear in God’s Story: one man for one woman. God never uses the word “wives” for one man.
  • Noah had one wife as a righteous man; God started over with humanity.
  • “Lord of hosts” (1 Samuel 1:3) is the first time this title for Yahweh in God’s Story. The title expresses the Lord’s sovereignty over all earthly and heavenly powers.

Elkanah would go to Shiloh annually to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts (1 Samuel 1:3). This title of God occurs here for the first time in the Old Testament. It expresses the Lord’s sovereignty over all earthly and heavenly powers.

Hannah also attended the house of the Lord and prayed while she wept bitterly. She made a vow: “Yahweh of Armies, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a boy, then I will give him to Yahweh all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head (1 Samuel 1:11.WEB). Hannah saw herself as the Lord’s servant, born to fulfill God’s pleasure, so she did not seek a child purely for her own satisfaction or focus on the need for someone to care for her in her old age. She was willing to dedicate her child to Yahweh solely for God’s service. After two or three years Samuel was weaned from his mother, Hannah was required to make a sacrifice to fulfill her vow. Samuel was brought to the house of the Lord in Shiloh to minister to the Lord before Eli the priest. Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 reveals much of Yahweh’s attributes:

None as holy as Yahweh (see Exodus 15:11).
None besides You (See Deuteronomy 4:35).
God of knowledge (see 1 Samuel 16:7).
Kills and makes alive; brings down to the grave and brings up
(see Deuteronomy 32:39).
Makes poor and makes rich (see Deuteronomy 8:17-18); brings low and lifts up.
Guards the feet of His saints (see Deuteronomy 31:8).
Those who oppose Yahweh will be shattered; thunder against them from heaven (1 Samuel 7:10).
Will judge the ends of the earth (see Genesis 18:25).
King of kings:
Give strength to His king (Numbers 24:7).
Every verse of her prayer begins with Yahweh and focuses on Him. She begins with adoration and worship, and continues by rejoicing in the Giver, and not the gift.

Samuel grew, and Yahweh was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground (1 Samuel 3:19, WEB), so that two rebellious brothers and a passive father did not prevent Samuel from being known as a prophet of Yahweh (1 Samuel 3:20, WEB).

  • Hannah’s prayer reminds us that God was not lost during bad times. It expresses everything we need to know about God; it gives a full picture.
  • Hannah’s prayer focuses on Yahweh as Helper, Holy, Judge, and He makes some rich and some poor.
  • Hannah cared for her children as God cared for Israel.
  • This God has always been the same God!

In his address at Saul’s coronation as king, Samuel reviewed all the righteous acts of God, and then gave them a reminder of God’s blessing if they obey, and a warning against forsaking God: “If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. However, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers” (1 Samuel 12:14-15).

The account of Saul begins in 1 Samuel 9. As he wandered into the village of Ramah in pursuit of a lost herd of donkeys, Samuel confronted him with the message that he was the one for whom all Israel longed (1 Samuel 9:20) and told him in 1 Samuel 10:1: “Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance?” Saul is not acknowledged as king, but simply prince or captain.

Saul would be uneasy until he knew what had become of the donkeys. So Samuel immediately established his reputation with Saul as a true prophet by telling him that the donkeys had been found, before Saul even mentioned them.

Because of inter-tribal enmity and political tension, the process by which Saul actually became king was rather extensive:
  • First, Samuel privately anointed him (1 Samuel 9:27-10:1).
  • Then he gave him a succession of signs to confirm the truth of Samuel’s words (1 Samuel 10:2-13). After Saul had been filled with the Spirit, he prophesied among the prophets, as Samuel had predicted. Since this incident was intended to be a sign, it was most likely a momentary prophetic ability rather than a permanent endowment.
  • Consequently, Saul received a ministry of the Holy Spirit, which if he heeded, would have made him a young man mighty in war and an able monarch (1 Samuel 10:6, 9-13).
  • Later Samuel called the nation together at Mizpah, and God publicly identified young Saul as king on behalf of the people (1 Samuel 10:17-25). Samuel reminded the people of the implications of having a king over them and then wrote his words down on a scroll that he deposited before the Lord. The people were left in no doubt about what their choice would mean for them, even as Samuel dismissed them to return to their towns.  Some Israelites initially refused to accept this Benjamite ‘nobody’ (1 Samuel 10:27). Once Saul boldly and effectively delivered an Israelite city from the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:1-11), the entire nation enthusiastically acknowledged him as king (1 Samuel 11:12-15).
  • After Saul delivered an Israelite city from the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:1-11), Samuel formally surrendered to King Saul the civil rule of the nation (1 Samuel 12:1-13). Yet he reminded the people that God was still the ultimate Monarch of Israel (1 Samuel 12:14-19).
We are not simply given a history of Saul’s reign, as much as we are given an account of the events that show his wrong attitude toward God that led to his rejection. His two grave errors took place during a war with the Philistines:
  • 1 Samuel chapters 13-14: Saul took the credit for his son's victory at Gibeah in order to impress the people and get them to follow him. Then he thought a sacrificial vow would give him victory when his heart was not right with God!
  • 1 Samuel chapter 15: God would give Saul one more chance to prove himself, this time by utterly destroying Israel's old enemies, the Amalekites. But Saul did not obey the Lord: he kept the best of the spoils for himself and failed to kill Agag, the king. As it was in war Saul had shown his strength, so it was in war he showed his weakness.

Three qualities of his self-willed character are shown by incidents that are recorded in his wars:
  • Impatience (1 Samuel 13): Saul’s excuses for taking over the priestly duties did not take into account that obedience to God through the prophet Samuel was necessary in order to fulfill the basic condition of the theocratic kingship – God was King, and any earthly king was to obey the Owner of the nation! Samuel announced to Saul that his kingdom would not continue.
  • Rashness (1 Samuel 14): Saul’s rash restriction that prevented his army from any rest and refreshment nearly cost Jonathan, his son, his life.
  • Deceit (1 Samuel 15): In his failure to eliminate the Amalekites, Saul rather lied to Samuel about it rather than confess his neglect.
Although Saul continued as king of Israel, in God’s sight he had no kingdom: “I am grieved [sorry, GNB] that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was so troubled that he cried out to the Lord all that night (1 Samuel 15:11, NIV). Samuel said to [Saul], “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel away from you today and given it to someone who is a better man than you. Israel's majestic God does not lie or change his mind. He is not a human being — he does not change his mind” (1 Samuel 15:28-29, GNT). God was deeply troubled about Saul and the suffering and failure that would come on Israel because their king had turned away from the path of obedience.

In preparation for our next session, read the story in 1 Samuel 16-31 about God’s preparation of David to be king over Israel.

  • Samuel’s address sounds like that of Moses and Joshua.
  • Saul’s temporary ability to prophesy shows that he was able to receive God’s guidance. The sad story is that he neglected what God provided for him in order to be a good king.
  • Samuel was always Saul’s prophet, and he tried to help Saul do what was right. He was saddened when Saul disobeyed.