1 Samuel

Introduction to the Book of 1 Samuel

1 Samuel
King Saul hurls his spear at Jonathan, confirming his intent to kill David (1 Samuel 20:33). Getty Images

Book of 1 Samuel:

The Old Testament book of 1 Samuel is a record of triumph and tragedy. Its three main characters, Samuel the prophet, Saul, and David are among the most powerful people in the Bible, yet their lives were scarred by far-reaching mistakes.

The people of Israel thought their nation would be more successful if they were led by a king, like the surrounding countries. 1 Samuel tells the story of Israel's change from a theocracy, a country run by God, to a monarchy, a country led by human royalty.

Samuel was the last of Israel's judges and the first of its prophets. Saul, anointed by Samuel, became Israel's first king. David, son of Jesse and Israel's second king, began a family dynasty that ultimately produced the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.

In 1 Samuel, God commands obedience from Israel's kings. When they follow his orders, the country prospers. When they disobey, the country suffers. In the companion book, 2 Samuel, we see a further unfolding of this theme.

Within this book occur the inspiring story of Hannah, the battle of David and Goliath, the friendship of David and Jonathan, and the bizarre seance with the witch of Endor.

Author of 1 Samuel:

Samuel, Nathan, Gad.

Date Written:

About 960 B.C.

Written To:

Hebrew people, all later readers of the Bible.

Landscape of 1 Samuel:

Ancient Israel, Philistia, Moab, Amalek.

Themes in 1 Samuel:

God is sovereign. Whether Israel was under judges or kings, its destiny ultimately depended on God, because all rulers answer to him.

Everyday events can be part of God's greater plan. Only God can see the big picture. He is constantly orchestrating events to work together to fulfill his purpose. 1 Samuel lets the reader glimpse behind the scenes to see how God used many people to turn David into the ancestor of the Messiah.

God looks at the heart. Both Saul and David sinned, but God redeemed David, who repented and walked in his ways.

Key Characters in 1 Samuel:

Eli, Hannah, Samuel, Saul, David, Goliath, Jonathan

Key Verses:

1 Samuel 2:2
"There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God." (NIV)

1 Samuel 15:22
But Samuel replied: "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (NIV)

1 Samuel 16:7
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 people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (NIV)

1 Samuel 30:6
David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God. (NIV)

Outline of 1 Samuel:

  • The rise of Samuel, capture of the Ark of the Covenant, Samuel's work as judge - 1 Samuel 1:1-7:17.
  • People of Israel demand a king - 1 Samuel 8:1-22.
  • Saul becomes king, battles Israel's enemies, God rejects Saul - 1 Samuel 9:1-15:35.
  • David is anointed king, defeats Goliath, befriends Jonathan, flees from Saul, Saul and his sons die in battle - 1 Samuel 16:1-31:13.

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.