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GOD SAVE THE KING: Why Study First (I) Samuel

A powerful prophet, a promising potentate, a perishing Philistine, and persistent paranoia - welcome to the Book of I Samuel. This book tells us the transition from the time of the judges to the birth of Israel’s monarchy. Another way to look at it is the theocracy of Israel, where God was king, evolved into a man-led monarchy. Seen in this context, Israel’s monarchy is not a sign of progress nor a divine promotion.

I Samuel starts with the birth of the most credible prophet in Israel since the time of Moses - Samuel. Following this is the birth of the Israelite monarchy, the rise of Saul and David, and their bizarre interaction. Highlights include the rise of Samuel, the destruction of Shiloh and journeys of the Ark, the temporary neutralising of the Philistine threat, David’s victorious confrontation of Goliath, and David’s life as a fugitive from Saul. As usual in Scripture, there is no whitewash of the main characters. The story is told as it is. The book ends with the death of king Saul and his sons by the hand of the Philistines on the slopes of Mount Gilboa in northern Israel.


The original name of the book comes from Samuel, or shmu’el. This can be translated ‘heard of God,’ ‘petitioned of God,’ or even ‘his name is God.’ Though it, along with II Samuel, were originally one account in Hebrew, in the 285 BC Greek language translation of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Septuagint (LXX), separates the two books.


The person who wrote I Samuel is anonymous. The Talmud nominates Samuel, who could have easily written part of it (though it is unlikely he wrote about his own death in Chapter 25 or of the encounter with the witch at En Dor in Chapter 28). I Chronicles 29:29 speaks of the books of Samuel the seer, Nathan the prophet and Gad and Gad the prophet. Possibly all three were involved in the authorship of I Samuel, with Samuel writing the earlier portions and the other prophets writing the latter.


There were three categories of ‘anointed’ ones in ancient Israel. The prophets, priests and kings. All three are part of I Samuel: Eli the priest, Saul the king, and Samuel the prophet.

While these three offices involved anointed ones, only in Jesus do you have ‘the Anointed One’ (Messiah in Hebrew, Christ in Greek) or ‘the King of kings, Lord of lords, Anointed of the anointed.

As we learn elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus is:

    Anointed a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15);

    Anointed a priest like Melchizedek (Psalm 110:; Hebrews xxx);

    Anointed a king like David (II Samuel 7; I Chronicles 17)


It tells the story of transition from the time of theocracy, where God ruled through the judges, to the monarchy where a man is king. This centralisation of power into human hands came with demands and risks, including the lack of balance of power and accountability. You will learn about a corrupted priesthood under Eli, reprobate sons who were incapable of succeeding him, a rising monarchy and prophets who provided ‘checks and balances.’ For centuries prophets were ‘oral’ and later they became the written prophets, whom are featured in the Old Testament.

The time will come that the theocracy and monarchy will combine in One Person, Jesus Christ, when He comes to earth to reign again in the period we know as ‘The Millennium’ or 1,000 year reign (Revelation 20:4-6). Every believer should long for that day!


I Samuel 13:14: But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.

I Samuel 15:22: And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.            


Revival in I Samuel

    Hannah’s prayer (1)
    A humbled people (2)
    A prophet’s prayer (7)

Backsliding of Saul

    God promised all would be well if Israel and her king would fear Him (I Sam 12:12-15). Yet, Saul failed God. Here’s how:

    1.  Sin of presumption by assuming the priests function at the altar (13:11-13);
    2.  Unjust to Jonathan (14:44);
    3.  Partial obedience - which is always disobedience - in the matter of Amalek (15:23);
    4.  Mistreatment and persecution of David (18:29);
    5.  The final straw: communing with a witch (28:7).

I.         From Eli the judge to Samuel the prophet (1:1-3:21)

    Hannah’s masterful prayer
    Eli’s sinful sons
    The call of Samuel

II.      Samuel the Judge (4:1-7:17)

    Philistine conquest of Israel
    Eli and sons die
    Shiloh destroyed
    Ark of God taken and returned
    Israel repents and revives under Samuel
    Philistines subdued

III.    From Samuel the prophet to Saul the king (8:1-12:25)

    Samuel’s sons are rejected
    God is rejected in favour of a human king
    Samuel warns Israel about the manner of a king
    Samuel anoints Saul
    Saul coronated
    Saul’s victory on behalf of Jabesh-Gilead

IV.   Early reign of Saul (13:1-15:9)

    Presumption at the altar
    Foolish curse

V.     Saul and the rise of David (15:10-31:13)

    Saul rejected by God
    David anointed by Samuel
    David slays Goliath
    Saul persecutes David (18-26)
    David goes to Philistia

    Saul visits the witch and dies on Mount Gilboa


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