This book contains the personal history of Samuel who was the last of the judges. It also records the moral failure of the priesthood under Eli. In Samuelís prophetic office, we have the beginning of the line of the writing prophets, and from that time the prophet and not the priest is conspicuous in Israel. In the first book of Samuel, Israel as a theocracy ends, and the line of earthly kings begins with Saul.
The book has four main divisions:
1. Chs. 1 to 4. The story of Samuel to the death of Eli.
2. Chs. 5 to 8. From the capture of the Ark to the demand for a king.
3. Chs. 9 to 15. The reign of Saul to the call of David.
4. Chs. 16 to 31. From the call of David to the death of Saul.
THE STORY OF SAMUEL TO THE DEATH OF ELI.
The name of Samuel means ďasked of God.Ē His mother prayed for a son and when Eli the priest told her to go in peace and that her petition was granted, she dried her tears and believed God. In due time, Samuel was born. After he was weaned his mother brought him to Eli to be trained for service in the tabernacle, Ch. 1:27-28.
Eli, the priest, had two sons, Hophni and Phineas, who labored with him in the priesthood, but were wicked men. Their father chided them but allowed them to continue in office. A prophet was sent to Eli who told him that his two sons would die in one day, and that the house of Eli would be removed from the priesthood, Ch. 2:34-36.
The boy Samuel grew and was noted for his faithfulness to God. One night God called to him. When finally Samuel understood enough to respond, he received a message of judgment for Eli, Ch. 3:11-14. An outstanding testimony to Samuel is found in v.19. ďThe Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.Ē In course of time, the Philistines warred against Israel and prevailed over them. Thinking that the presence of the Ark would turn the tide of battle in favor of Israel, the people sent for it. Contrary to their expectation the Ark was captured by the Philistines and the priests Hophni and Phineas were slain. The lesson it teaches us is that Godís presence abides only when His people remain separated from the world. The news of the capture of the Ark was a great shock to Eli, who being of great age, fell backward and died of a broken neck, Ch.4: 17-18.
FROM THE CAPTURE OF THE ARK TO THE DEMAND FOR A KING.
In Ch. 5, we read of the havoc wrought among the Philistines through their capture of the Ark. Their god, Dagon, was thrown to the ground and its head and hands cut off, Ch. 5:4. Sickness broke out among the people in different places and many died. The Ark was sent back to the land of Israel. So terrible was its power against sin, that when the men of Beth-shemesh looked into the Ark, the Lord slew over 50,000 of them, Ch. 6:19-20. The men of Kirjath-jearim sent for the Ark and it was placed in the house of Abinadab, Ch.7: 1-2. For a full twenty years it remained there. The people of Israel lamented after the Lord. Samuel exhorted them to put away their idols and then prayed for them. God heard, and while the Philistines warred against them, Samuel prevailed in prayer, and the Philistines were defeated and troubled Israel no more during the days of Samuel, v.13. After this the people of Israel rejected the sons of Samuel as judges and asked for a king that they might be like the nations around them, Ch. 8:5-6. Samuel in grief of heart, took the matter to the Lord who told him that the people had not rejected him, but that in reality they had rejected their people had not rejected him, but that in reality they had rejected their Divine Ruler, v.7. Samuel warned the people that an earthly king would take away their liberty, but they held to their request just the same.
THE REIGN OF SAUL TO THE CALL OF DAVID.
In the next seven chapters, we read of the anointing of Saul, the son of Kish to be king. He was a man who just suited the fancy of the people as far as outward appearance was concerned. God gave them a man after their own hearts, Ch. 9:2, 16, but endowed him with good spiritual equipment so that he would be enabled to make the right beginning, Ch.10:6-7. Being naturally of a retiring nature, Saul hid himself when the time of his coronation arrived. He was brought forth and when the people saw him they shouted, ďGod save the king.Ē After this, Saul overthrew the Ammonites who besieged the city of Jabesh-gilead. Samuel rehearsed before Israel some of the deliverances God had wrought for them, and exhorted them to fear the Lord and serve Him or both they and their king would be overthrown, Ch. 12:24-25.
In Ch. 13 we get a glimpse of the instability of Saul. After one year he raised an army to fight the Philistines. Because Samuel delayed coming at a certain time, Saul took it upon himself to offer a sacrifice, vs.8-10. This was contrary to divine orders, and because of his failure to respect the Word of God, Samuel told Saul that his kingdom should not continue, v.14. Jonathan, Saulís son, with his armor bearer attacked the garrison of the Philistines, and it led to a great defeat of the enemy by all Israel, Ch.14. In Ch. 15, we read of Saulís incomplete obedience in not destroying all the Amalekites. Because of this Samuel told Saul he was rejected from being king, and that God would appoint a better man in his stead, v.28.
FROM THE CALL OF DAVID TO THE DEATH OF SAUL.
Samuel was sent secretly to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons to be king. While a number of fine looking young men passed before him God withheld His approval. The boy David was then called, and chosen, anointed, Ch.16:14. From that time forward the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. David, because of his musical ability, was appointed to play his harp in Saulís presence that he might be quieted, for an evil spirit would periodically trouble him. In Ch. 17, we read how David by the help of God slew the giant Goliath. Little by little the future king was growing in favor with the people. A love covenant was formed between David and Jonathan, Ch. 18:1&3. David was retained in the court of Saul, and in battle his victories were so marked that the people ascribed more glory to him than they did to Saul, v.7. This naturally annoyed Saul and he wherein he tried a number of times to kill David, see Chs. 19-21and launched a series of persecutions. On one occasion the Spirit of God protected David by causing the spirit of prophecy to come upon Saul himself, so that they were powerless to harm David, Ch. 19:18-24. Jonathan also, who saw clearly that David was Godís chosen one, shielded him from the wrath of his father. After that David went from place to place to escape the madness of the king.
Beginning with Ch.22, we read how David took his abode in the Cave of Adullam, where were gathered unto him a band of about six hundred men who were generally distressed, Ch. 22:2 & 23:13. With this band of men David would carry on a small-scale warfare against the Philistines, etc. Saul continued his persecution but David refrained from retaliating. On two occasions Saul was in his power, but David knew that God would in His own time and way give him the kingdom. In Ch. 25:1, a brief mention is made of the death of Samuel. Saulís days were surely numbered.
In Ch. 26, we read how he was quite forsaken of God and in desperation when warring with the Philistines he appealed for light to the witch of Endor. God miraculously caused the spirit of Samuel to appear and through him Saul heard of his doom. A short time later the Philistines utterly defeated the army of the Israelites, slew the sons of Saul, and Saul in despair killed himself, Ch. 31:1-5. Thus ended the life of a man who could have done well but he failed to walk with God.