I Samuel :: Catholic News Agency
I Samuel

Author: Unknown

Date Written: 930-517 BC


1 Samuel and 2 Samuel were originally one book and should be read as one continuous story.  1 Samuel tells Israel's history from the lives of three major characters: Samuel, Saul and David.


The book opens at the end of the period of Judges.  Samuel himself is the last judge of Israel and he anoints the first two kings of Israel.  The Lord did not want the people to have a human king because he wanted to be their king (12:12).  Yet they insisted on having a human king that would lead them in battle against the surrounding nations.  So the Lord tells Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king of Israel.


Saul's reign is marked first by a military success against the Ammonites (11), but the new king soon makes a drastic mistake.  He makes a sacrifice on his own, when he was supposed to wait for the prophet Samuel's arrival.  For this grievous error the Lord strips him of the kingship (13:14).  Saul sins several more times: He does not follow the Lord's instructions to destroy the Amalekites (15:9).  He is filled with a murderous rage toward David and repeatedly tries to kill him.  He kills many priests (22).  He practices necromancy (28) and he finally commits suicide (31).


After the kingship is taken away from Saul, Samuel privately anoints David as the new king of Israel (16).  Without knowing about this anointing, Saul invites David to his court to play the lyre because of his musical skill.  Then in a famous episode, David kills the giant Goliath and rises to popularity in Israel (17).  At this point, Saul becomes jealous of David's fame and begins to plot his death.  Throughout the rest of 1 Samuel, Saul continually tries to kill David.  David narrowly escapes from him on several occasions.  Yet David demonstrates his obedience to the Lord by refusing to kill Saul, the Lord's anointed king, on two occasions (24, 26).  


A few people help David avoid Saul.  Saul's son, Jonathan, is David's friend and gives him advance warning to save his life (20).  The priest, Ahimelech, gives David the holy bread from the sanctuary when he is running for his life (21).  David gathers around himself a group of military men which help defend him from Saul and fight several battles.  The Philistine, Achish of Gath, gives David a place to stay on two occasions.  On the first occasion, he pretends to be crazy so that Achish will not kill him (21).  But the second time, he almost marches into battle with Achish against Saul until the other Philistines object to his presence (27).


1 Samuel illustrates the transition of a holy nation led by prophetic judges into a holy kingdom led by a holy king, David.  It uses particular characters to show foolish and sinful behavior.  Eli the priest allows his sons to profane the holy practices of the sanctuary.  Samuel's sons also do evil things and their unjust behavior prompts the people to ask for a king.  Saul's many errors catch up with him even though he tries to ward them off by attempting to kill David.  Yet several characters exemplify righteous behavior.  Hannah thanks the Lord for his faithfulness.  Samuel follows the voice the Lord.  David seeks to fulfill God's calling on his life.  Jonathan helps his friend who is in trouble.


The new holy kingdom gets off to a rocky start with Saul's sinfulness.  Yet the Lord provides a great leader in the person of David, whose leadership skill and faithfulness to the Lord become more evident in 2 Samuel.  Saul's counter-example of grasping onto something the Lord is taking away is a powerful lesson for us.


By Mark Giszczak


Latest Videos:

Follow us: