1 Samuel Introduction

Background

An important and interesting note about the text of 1 Samuel, as well as 2 Samuel, is that unfortunately the Hebrew text of both of these books has not been well-preserved.

The two books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book in the ancient Hebrew Canon. They were divided when the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament was written.

Samuel was the last of the judges (1 Samuel 7:15). When Samuel sought to install his two sons as judges, they were rejected, not having Samuel's integrity (1 Samuel 8:3). It was during this period of time when Israel began to make their demand for a king.

The book of 1 Samuel gives us Israel's transition from being a theocratic monarchy to a dynasty monarchy. Up to Samuel, God chose His leaders as needed; Israel rejected Yahweh's selection process and wanted a dynasty like other nations so they would never be without physical leadership.

Samuel was not merely a judge but also a priest (1 Samuel 7:9; 13:11-14) and prophet (1 Samuel 3:20). He founded the “school of the prophets,” and mentored other prophets. His school lasted for centuries and served Judah and Israel during important departures and spiritual lapses in their history. Even Saul was swept up into the prophetic euphoria at one time (1 Samuel 19:20). He was never king of Israel in the sense of a dynasty but was used of God to anoint Saul as king and also the beginning of the kingly dynasty of Israel, David.

The authorship of the Samuel scroll is unknown, although it does seem that at least some of its source material comes from writings from Samuel (1 Chronicles 29:29), before his death, and some from a book titled "Jashar" (2 Samuel 1:18). So we assume Samuel, for the most part, wrote the first twenty-four chapters of the book himself, but he could not have written any further as the events of chapter 25 to 31 fall after his death.

It is assumed Nathan or Gad or both, who were trained by Samuel, wrote the rest of 1 Samuel, along with 2 Samuel (1 Chronicles 29:29).

Purpose

In some ways, this book’s purpose is multifaceted. It is of course a historical narrative and thus the purpose is to preserve the history of the people of Israel. However, this purpose is much too simplistic and does not keep in mind the divine authorship and divine purpose for the text.

First of all, the book reminds the reader of who is truly the ruler of the nation of Israel and then tells the stories of the consequence of others who try to take up this position autonomously or on their own. Everything falls apart for them; all goes poorly.

Saul is a failed king, and this is made clear and predicted by Samuel and Yahweh from the beginning. There is too much of Saul seeking to seize the throne to make his leadership successful.

David, the anointed shepherd boy after God’s own heart, though all expected him to be the great king who would usher in a new dawn for the nation, also had his moments of pride and arrogance, forgetting Who guided his footsteps.

Yahweh is revealed in Samuel as the only true sovereign over His people, and all else would ultimately fail without submitting to Yahweh, the true King.

The other purpose of this book is to show the reader a mirror of our lives in the stories of three men: Samuel, Saul, and David.

Samuel: Teaches us that obedience and service to the Lord is all that matters in this life. Circumstance does not need to dictate our outcome—anointing trumps all.

Saul: The study of Saul is a warning! It shows us the madness of insecurity and challenges us to fully yield our hearts to Yahweh in all things.

David: The life of David is a study in a man who believed Yahweh could heal and restore after a life buried in sin and failure. In David, God reveals what He can do with His promises when they are believed.

Outline of the Book:

A simple three-point outline can be used for 1 Samuel to help us identify the movements of the story and changing of scenes and main characters throughout. This outline would look like this:

I. The Life of Samuel - Chapters 1-7
II. The Rise of Saul - Chapters 8-15
III. The Fall of Saul and Rise of David - Chapter 16-31