Daily Bible Study Tips –

1 Samuel: Samuel, King Saul, & David



1 Samuel 2:1-11
1 Samuel 3:1-20, 1 Kings 17:8-24
1 Samuel 8:1-22, Samuel warns Israel against kings.
1 Samuel 8:4-20
1 Samuel 9:1-10, 9:15-10:1b, Samuel anoints Saul as king.
1 Samuel 14:47-48, 52, 15:1-23, 30-31, 34-35, Saul doesn’t work out.
Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 57: 1 Samuel 15:1-3, 9-30, The Sacrifice of Saul, by John Pinas or Rombout van Troyen
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
1 Samuel 16:1-23, Samuel anoints David as king.
1 Samuel 17:1-7, Goliath
1 Samuel 17:8-33
1 Samuel 17:34-51
1 Samuel 19:1-19, David flees from King Saul to Samuel.
1 Samuel 24:1-25:1, Saul continues to pursue David; Samuel dies.

2 Samuel

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1 Samuel 2:1-11

Samuel was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets.  His mother was barren, but she promised that if God would give her a child, she would give him for service to the Lord.  First we read her song of rejoicing that she has been granted a son, and then we read about the capture of the Ark of the Covenant and the death of Eli, the priest who raised Samuel. 


Note that the Israelites lost the battle.  It's a long story, but here's the summary:   They were having trouble with the Philistines, so they went to get their "God in a box" (the Ark) and bring him to the battlefield so that he would be forced to fight for them.  God doesn't work that way, so as an object lesson to the Israelites, he gave the battle to the Philistines, who were showing him a lot more respect.


1 Samuel 3:1-20, 1 Kings 17:8-24

Hannah was barren.  This was a calamity for a Jewish woman, on two counts--first, everyone attributed her barrenness to some fault in her, and second, she had no one to take care of her in her old age.  Even worse, Hannah's husband Elkanah's other wife had children.  Hannah made a vow that if the LORD would grant her a son, she would dedicate him as a Nazirite for his whole life.  She prayed so fervently before the LORD that the priest, Eli, rebuked her for drunkenness.  When she explained her grief, he gave her a blessing.  A year later, she had a son, Samuel.  From the time he was weaned, he was raised by Eli.  Each year, Hannah would bring Samuel a new coat.  Our passage today tells what happened while he was a child.  Samuel was a mighty man of God, the first of the prophets, and a king-maker who anointed both Saul and David.


In our reading from 1 Kings, the widow is in a similar position--without her son, she would be completely destitute. 

  By the way, the words "May God do so to you (more often 'me') and more also" are a stylized way of replacing the actual words spoken, which invoked a curse on the hearer (or speaker) if he or she didn't perform the action in question.  The writer didn't want the curse on himself, so he put these words in instead.  It means roughly—and complete with dashes— "I'll be d---d if I" … let that happen/don't do this/let you do this, or whatever.  It's a very common idiom in the OT.


1 Samuel 8:1-22, Samuel warns Israel against kings.

For about 400 years after the Exodus, the Israelites had no central government. Each tribe was ruled by its elders. From time to time, one or a few tribes would be oppressed by various Canaanite peoples, and God would raise up a "Judge," first to lead the tribe or tribes in battle and then to continue to lead or "judge" them throughout his or her lifetime. This position was not hereditary or even continuous. Eventually the Israelites were having substantial difficulties with the Philistines (who were the major nuclear power of the time), and many of the people felt that having a king, like other nations, was the solution to this political problem. Many others felt that they already had a king – God – and that consequently they didn't need no stinkin' earthly king. Samuel, the last of the judges and first of the prophets, belonged to the latter group; however, God had another plan and told Samuel to go ahead and anoint a king whom He would select. Nevertheless, both God and Samuel thought that the Israelites ought to have fair warning about what they were getting into.


1 Samuel 8:4-20

After the Israelites returned from Egypt to the Promised Land (as told in the book of Joshua), they spent about 400 years in a loose confederation of tribal groups, each group and tribe ruled by its elders.  Occasionally they would need a military leader for a multi-tribal group, and God would raise up a judge to lead them.  Typically the judge led the military engagement, and then continued to judge for his or her lifetime (the book of Judges).  Samuel was the last of the judges and the first of the prophets (not counting the Patriarchs, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam).  Toward the end of the period of the judges, there arose considerable tension over the issue of a king.  Some people wanted a regular king, primarily to lead them militarily against the increasingly more technologically advanced Canaanite peoples.  Other felt God was  doing fine as their king, and they wanted to stick with the system of judges.  Samuel, who had always been unique in having a religious role as well as a role as a judge (see I and II Samuel), belonged to the latter camp.  After the incident we read about today, God told Samuel to find and anoint Saul as King over Israel.  David followed Saul, and David's son Solomon followed David.  Although the kingdom was divided after the death of Solomon, the monarchical system lasted for several hundred years in both kingdoms.


1 Samuel 9:1-10, 9:15-10:1b, Samuel anoints Saul as king.

In vs. 10:1, Samuel anoints Saul as king over Israel. Anointing was an ancient practice, but Saul was the first political leader to be anointed. Anointing was sort of like a combination of election-and-swearing-in and ordination. That is, it was both a selection for and sign of office and a seal of approval from God. Prior to this time, only priests, sacrifices, and holy items for the Tabernacle were anointed.* Anointing continued for hundreds of years to be the standard way of choosing a king who was not a direct descendant of David. Now you are probably saying, "Ho hum. Why is she telling us this?" Two reasons. First, this quarter we are going to see a bunch of kings anointed by prophets, so you need to know what's going on. More importantly, "Messiah" means "anointed one." So does "Christ." Vs. 10:1 shows that Jesus Christ is not only High Priest but also King, because He is "the Anointed One."

(*Individuals could also rub oil on their own skins, but this was more of a cosmetic deal, and is only mentioned twice prior to this verse – once as a general comment and once about an individual. Interestingly enough, the individual is Ruth, the great-grandmother of David.)
1 Samuel 14:47-48, 52, 15:1-23, 30-31, 34-35, Saul doesn’t work out.

Don't you just hate it when you invest a lot of time and effort in an employee, a student, or a friend, and then they insist on doing something that causes the job, the grade, or the friendship to crash and burn? I had an intern at Sandia who did good work for me. The intern moved on to another Sandian, a friend of mine, and did even better work. Then the student was terminated for apparently falsifying timecards. My friend spent months agonizing over whether he could have done anything to save this student. God and Samuel find themselves in a similar position with Saul. He was doing a great job of leading the kingdom and fighting the enemies of Israel. But then he did something that was in direct opposition to what he had been directed to do. I think it's very telling that when he got caught, he didn't say, "Oh, man! I really screwed up! Is there anything I can do to get right with God?" Instead he first denied any wrongdoing (vss. 20-21), and then he said, "Please don't embarrass me in front of the people" (vs. 30). (How often do we care more about what people think than what God thinks?) Saul could have been the founder of a great dynasty, but instead God decided to find somebody for the job who was more in tune with His requirements.


Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 57: 1 Samuel 15:1-3, 9-30, The Sacrifice of Saul, by John Pinas or Rombout van Troyen (8/18/15)

One of the problems modern genealogists face is that the Internet is a wealth of information, but unfortunately a lot of it is misinformation or even disinformation! Sorting the true from the false is as difficult as it’s always been, but now there’s much more to sort through. The same is true about Biblical and theological commentary – please be very, very cautious about believing what you see on some web sites, starting with mine. I try to do my part by not posting stuff I know to be false, but an error is bound to be repeated a thousand times. I also try not to post hateful, unChristian stuff, or judgmental stuff, but I’m human, and sometimes something slips through that sounds worse than I intended. You should let me know.

Anyway, this picture seems to be The Sacrifice of Saul, by either J. Pinas or Rombout van Troyen, but I can’t find a truly authoritative reference, so who knows? (There’s a similar painting by van Troyen called The Daughter of Jephthah.)

I said in the previous step that David was in trouble with Nathan, and Saul was in trouble with Samuel. What did Saul do that was so bad? He disobeyed God directly by sparing Agag; he disobeyed indirectly by letting the people disobey God; he lost confidence in God and started sacrificing before Samuel arrived; and he blamed everybody else for what he had done. In short, he was rebellious and arrogant. And to top it all off, he isn’t even sorry – “Yeah, yeah, I’ve sinned,” he says. “But just don’t tell the people.”

Previous Step. Next Step.
The Sacrifice of Saul. Click to enlarge.
"The Sacrifice of Saul" by John Pinas or Rombout van Troyen, from the Gamble family Bible, now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.


1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (6/9/09)

Do you remember Richard Nixon? He is a tragic figure in American history. Here was a man who devoted his entire career to public service, finally made it to the top, did at least a couple of things that could have qualified him for a "top ten" list, and then blew it. His story and Saul's story are the same story. When you read about Saul, you don't know whether to be sorry or amazed. How could somebody to whom God had given so much talent and such a great opportunity make such a mess of things? (Certainly we would have done better than that, right?) God was sorry about Saul, but that didn't prevent him from finding someone else to take his place as the founder of a dynasty to inherit the earthly kingdom of God.


1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

What do you suppose the Bible means when it says, "The LORD was sorry..." about something?  Many people think that this reflects a primitive theological understanding, in which human emotions are mistakenly attributed to God.  I wonder.  God had chosen Saul to be king of Israel, and Saul certainly had a lot of good qualities.  Unfortunately, he lacked the quality of obedience to God, and God told Samuel that now he was going to reject Saul and choose someone else.  Wouldn't we regret that Saul hadn't worked out?  And aren't we made in the image of God? 

David is one of the great figures of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  His name means "beloved," and truly he was beloved of God.  After about 400 years without any central government, the people of Israel had asked God to give them a king, primarily to lead them in battle against other belligerent nations of Canaan.  God had selected Saul, but unfortunately Saul had not turned out as well as expected.  In today's passage, God tells the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king as Saul's successor.  During King Saul's lifetime, David remained loyal to the king in spite of Saul's periodic attempts to murder him.  After Saul's death, David was made king of Israel.  Until the coming of Jesus, no other king of God's people was so great or so close to God as David. 


1 Samuel 16:1-23, Samuel anoints David as king.

My family has a small business. We get quite a few mailings from various tax offices. Most of these are ordinary instructions and forms that I expect and recognize. Occasionally I get something in a plain white envelope, which I'm not expecting and don't recognize, and I think, "Uh oh. What have I done wrong now?" The elders in Bethlehem had the same reaction when Samuel came to them. Even by that time – Samuel was a very early prophet – people had realized that God doesn't normally send you a prophet with good news. Priests bring ordinary instructions, but prophets generally bring the message that you have done something wrong. On this occasion, Samuel came to anoint David as king of Israel. Meantime, Saul continued to deteriorate. Samuel was concerned that Saul might kill him; his servants were concerned that he was going over the edge. David was summoned to play the harp for the King Saul. Did you know that harp music can lower your blood pressure and heart rate? Saul loved David both for the music and for who he was – not yet knowing that he was the next king.


1 Samuel 17:1-7, Goliath

One of John Wesley's guidelines was that we should take the scripture at face value, unless that leads us to an absurdity.  Some folks think it's absurd for a Philistine soldier to have been 6 cubits and a span (about 9 feet) tall.  A very brief internet search turned up the following well-documented information:

So I think we had better go with Goliath being about 9' tall (6 cubits).  Since the cubit is the length of a man's hand and forearm, which can vary a little, Goliath could have been a little less than that.  Nevertheless, his tremendous size is not absurd.


1 Samuel 17:8-33 (6/16/09)

Back in the bad old days when I worked, I had a boss that used to refer to unfunded work that should be done anyway as "God's work." The Philistines were a wealthy world power – you probably read about them in your history classes as the Phoenicians. The infant kingdom of Israel was not. The Philistines had horses and chariots; Israel had foot soldiers. The Philistines were in the Iron Age; Israel was still in the bronze age. So all in all, Saul and the army of Israel were showing keen insight and good military judgment when they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

David saw the situation differently. He wasn't concerned with the big picture, but rather with the small piece of the big picture that was directly in front of him: Goliath. True, Goliath was a big guy, and well-armed, but David sized him up and decided that overall he wasn't any bigger or better armed than a lion or a bear. And besides that, he was an uncircumcised Philistine who had the effrontery to taunt the armies of the living God. David decided that somebody had to do God's work, and that the somebody was apparently him. God doesn't expect us to solve the problems of the whole world, but he does expect us to attack the small piece of the problem that's directly in front of us.


1 Samuel 17:34-51 (4/27/09)

Shepherding was a respected profession in ancient Israel. Jacob, Moses, and David were all shepherds. Abraham was considered a man of great wealth because of the size of his flocks and herds. Shepherding wasn't an easy job: the hours were long, the responsibilities were great, and the work was dangerous. In addition to finding pasture and water, delivering lambs, and locating strays, the shepherd had to protect the flock from wild animals. Asiatic lions are smaller than African lions, but formidable nevertheless at 250 to 400 pounds. The Syrian brown bear is the smallest variety of brown bear (which includes grizzlies and Kodiak bears), weighing in the neighborhood of 200 to 300 pounds. The Palestinian shepherd also had to deal with smaller predators like the Iranian wolf (55 to 70 pounds) and the leopard (100 pounds or so). Because he routinely had to deal with lions and bears in order to protect his flock, David had no fear of the Philistine champion Goliath. "The LORD has saved me from lions and bears," David said, "he will save me from this Philistine."


1 Samuel 19:1-19, David flees from King Saul to Samuel.

We saw in I Sam. 16:13 that "the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David " when Samuel anointed him. For the most part, people took delight in David – Saul's son Jonathan was his closest friend, Saul's daughter Michal was his wife. The army loved him. Those upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rests are normally extremely attractive to other people; in fact the root of the word "charisma" is charis, which means "grace" or "favor." In the OT, man and God show "grace" about equally, although in the NT it is nearly always used to mean God's grace or favor. Saul's reaction to David's charisma was mixed. On the one hand, he also loved David. On the other, he was jealous of David's popularity and too unstable to take it in stride. Finally, David had to leave Saul's court to save his own life, and he flees to Samuel.


1 Samuel 24:1-25:1, Saul continues to pursue David; Samuel dies.

Today we read about one of several incidents in which Saul is trying his best to kill David, but David refuses to harm Saul on the grounds that Saul is the rightful king, chosen by God. Every time this happened, Saul looked worse and David looked better in the eyes of the people.


Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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