An Introduction to 1 Samuel

20 February 2015

What happens in 1 Samuel?

First Samuel basically tells the story of how Israel went from having no king to having a king. The events happen around 1050 BC.  In the first few chapters, we meet Hannah, a godly woman who becomes the mother of Samuel, and Eli, an elderly priest. Later on, Saul is anointed (by Samuel) as Israel’s first king. As Saul turns away from God, young David is appointed by Samuel to be the future king.  David later famously kills the giant Goliath.  He goes on to become the leader of Saul’s armies, which makes Saul increasingly jealous.  Before the book ends, things have gone from bad to worse for Saul, culminating in his death in battle, while things continue to get better and better for David.  The book ends on the cusp of David beginning to reign over the people of god.

What is the main message of the book?

The big idea of this book is that God honours those who honour Him. We see this in the life of Hannah who honours God in the midst of her suffering, and God blesses her with a baby boy. We see this in the ministry of Samuel as he honours God wholeheartedly and is used tremendously in the life and leadership of Israel. We see the principle that God honours those who honour him in the contrasting lives and leadership of both Saul and David.  Saul does not ultimately honour God and so, despite his privileges, has his kingship and life taken from him.  In contrast, David the shepherd boy honours God and God raises him up until he is the imminent king of Israel.  Therefore the key lesson for us today is simply, profoundly and certainly that God honours those who honour Him.

An overview of 1 Samuel: 

There are four main sections in the book.  Chapters 1-3 describe Samuel as a little boy and the context into which he is born and raised.  Chapters 4-7 see Samuel established as a judge over Israel.  Chapters 8 to 12 are the heart of the book, covering the transition from judgeship to kingship.  This section begins with the request for a king from the people and ends with Samuel’s long speech in which he hands over leadership of Israel to Saul.  The final section is the longest, from chapter 13 to 31, and covers Saul’s reign from its beginning to his death.  In this final section Saul progressively disintegrates whilst David progressively becomes stronger. Hannah’s song in chapter 2 is a richly theological passage, which summarises the essence of the books theology (Mary’s song in Luke chapter 1 echoes Hannah’s song).  In summary, Hannah’s song in chapter 2 and Samuel’s speech in chapter 12 are two key pillars of the theology of the book.  They can both be summarised in the phrase ‘God honours those who honour him’.

Read more in our 1 Samuel series booklet

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.