1 Samuel

The Birthing of a Dynasty

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An Introduction to Courses

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Taster Course

A short introduction

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Starter Course

Getting into the guts of what’s going on

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Main Course

The meat! And what to do about it!

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Dessert Course

Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of 1 Samuel is to understand not only the key developments in the story, but also the spiritual principles that weave through them. First, ‘1 Samuel’ recounts the transition in the government of God’s people from a theocracy of ‘charismatic’ prophets into a Monarchy, and the way God prepared David to be king of his people. But secondly, the stories are told in order to describe the more important development of the ‘critical path’ of the Spirit in the heart of the people of God. ‘1 Samuel’ is therefore a feast for every apprentice of Jesus who has set their hearts to ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33). The power of storytelling enables us all to learn what works and what doesn’t work.


hear
Hear
Listen Here

1 Samuel has 31 chapters. It is the first part of four books that recount the long history of God’s people, from the end of the period of the Judges to their exile in Babylon. This history is told as a compilation of stories about individuals; mostly kings and prophetic people.

Click on the link above for an audio version of 1 Samuel.

 

Since it is always important to allow scripture to be scripture, with 1 Samuel we must allow the stories to be stories and to speak for themselves. Indeed, for hundreds of years these stories would have been passed down ‘orally’ from generation to generation. Disciples of Jesus will therefore best engage with 1 Samuel by taking time to listen to the whole of the stories, not just parts of them. We should set aside significant periods of time and listen to whole sections at one sitting, for example, chapters 1-7 telling the end of the period of the judges, or, 8-15 describing the failure of Saul’s kingship.

Listen to these chapters along with the BfL podcasts on 1 Samuel.


Read
Read

1 Samuel has 31 chapters. It is the first part of four books that recount the history of God’s people, from the end of the period of the Judges to their exile in Babylon. This history is told as a compilation of stories about individuals; mostly kings and prophetic people.

 

Take time to read whole sections in one sitting:

Chapters 1-7

Chapters 8-15

Chapters 16-31

 

 


Watch
Watch

King David (1985, Richard Gere).

 

 

Peaky Blinders

A brilliantly scripted and filmed series about violent gang warfare in Birmingham. The Peaky Blinder gang rise to prominence through the series. All the subjects of violence and sex are touched upon as well as issues such as the nature of being Gypsies. As the stories develop, the issues touch the matter of ‘honour among thieves’, and the refusal to sink to certain levels. The struggle for power and the nature of gang warfare parallels Saul’s struggle to hold onto power and his capacity to do anything to maintain his power.

 


Study
Study

1 Samuel is collection of stories recounting the transition from the ‘charismatic’ theocratic leadership of the Judges into a Monarchy. As such, the book should be studied in two ways. First, to discern the collected progression from the stories themselves, but second, for the themes and subjects in them. There are several important themes and topics in ‘1 Samuel’ which need to be studied carefully: the activity and power of the prophetic; the place of prayer, worship and priesthood; the problem over whether or not, or to what extent, the Monarchy was God’s intended plan; the righteous nature of God; and the way God prepares a man or woman for leadership and office.

 

BfL recommends careful study of the ‘Verse by Verse’ section in the Main Course.


Meditate
Meditate

Begin your time with God each day by taking three or four verses, ‘wallowing in them very deeply’, and then live the rest of the day in the light of their truths.

 

 

Suggested verses for meditation

 

1:11   ‘And she made a vow, saying, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life”.’

 

7:12   ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’

 

15:22   ‘To obey is better than sacrifice.’

 

17:36 ‘Your servant has killed both lion and bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defiled the armies of the living God.’

 

30:6   ‘But David found strength in the Lord his God.’

 

 

 


learn
Learn

Consider learning:

 

30:6   ‘But David found strength in the Lord his God.’


Challenge
The Challenge

The Challenge

 

Explanation:  We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that being challenged spurs them on to master a subject.

 

Here are ten questions about ‘1 Samuel’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

Easy:

Q1   Saul went to visit a witch. Where did she live?

Q2   Why did Eli rebuke Hannah?

Q3   Why did the people of Israel want a king?

 

 

Straightforward:

Q4   What were the sons of Eli doing that was so sinful?

Q5   What dramatic answer did God give to Samuel’s prayer that demonstrated his anger with the people for rejecting him and choosing a king?

Q6   What did David and his friend Jonathan have in common?

 

 

Difficult:

Q7   Hannah committed Samuel to God to be a Nazarite. What three things did Nazarites abstain from?

Q8   List some of the spiritual disciplines practiced in 1 Samuel.

 

 

Testing:

Q9   List some of the specific interventions by the Lord in the stories in 1 Samuel.

Q10   Expound the axiom ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’ (15:22).

 

 

Answers:

A1 – Endor.

A2 – Because he thought she was drunk.

A3 – They wanted to be like all the other nations (8:20).

A4 – They were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt (2:17).

A5 – God sent a thunderstorm (12:18).

A6 – They had both, on two different occasions, attacked the Philistines on their own and brought about a victory for Israel. 

A7 – Alcohol, cutting their hair, and any contact with dead bodies.

A8 – 1) Fasting (1:8,18, 31:11). 2) Prayer (1:10, 3:16, 12:23, 15:11). 3) Worship (2:1-11, 16:23, 18:10).  

A9 – 1) The Lord revealed himself to Samuel through his word (3:21).

2) The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod (5:6).

3) The Lord struck down some of the people of Beth Shemesh because they looked into the Arc of the Covenant (6:19).

4) The Lord tells the people that Saul is hiding in the baggage (10:22).

5) The Lord sent thunder and rain (12:18).

6) The Lord told Samuel to go to Jesse’s home, and then told Samuel to anoint David as king. The Spirit of God then came on David in power (16:13).

7) The Spirit of God came on Saul and he prophesied (19:23).

8) The Lord caused Saul and his men to fall into a deep sleep (26:12).

A10 – It is more important to obey God’s commands than to not quite obey them and make up the difference by giving an offering to the Lord. Saul was commissioned to do an important work for God, but he was afraid and he gave way to the demands of his men and then tried to make up for it by making a sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel rebukes him for failing to obey God 100% on this crucial assignment.

 

taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Video - The book explained in 4 minutes
    • Video
      Summary - All the key features in a one page summary
    • Summary

    Summary

     

    The first book of Samuel is a truly delightful collection of stories about women and men whose lives shaped the beginning of the Israelite monarchy. Out of the federation of tribes came the first kings to rule over God’s people. The presenting cause of this was the need for leadership in the face of aggressive neighbouring nations.  However, Samuel, who was by far the most prominent of the ‘charismatic’ leaders that ‘judged’ Israel, was strongly against the appointment of a king, teaching that this decision was in essence a rejection of Yahweh himself.

     

    This paradoxical tension develops in two ways. The first king, Saul, is a tragic tyrant who quickly makes all kinds of mistakes and becomes a capricious, dangerous bully because of his personal and public insecurity. God then instructs Samuel to anoint David, ‘a man after his own heart’ (13:14), to be king over his people. The stories in the second part of ‘1 Samuel’ tell how David’s power grows and how he is prepared for kingship. It is important to see that in the big picture the Israelites’ demand for a king results in a succession of kings who ultimately lead them to reject God, and thereby lose their inherited promised land: they are taken to Babylon as slaves. But in the long-term, God himself in Jesus his Son comes to live among us and teaches us how to enter the Kingdom of heaven.

     

    ‘1 Samuel’ is a collection of ‘community stories’. Stories about heroes that have been told and retold over hundreds of years. They are history, yes, but not the sort of history we would write today: they are a history not of civil events (although plenty of these are included), but of the ‘critical path’ of the Spirit in the heart of the people of God. ‘1 Samuel’ is therefore an absolute feast for every apprentice of Jesus who has set their hearts to ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33). The power of storytelling enables us all to learn what works and what doesn’t work. We learn from what goes wrong, and we learn from what goes right. Here are stories of outrageous faith, courage, persistence, bullying, wisdom, answered prayer, violence, patience, high principles, worship, times when heaven touches earth, and even, dare I add it, humour.

    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Who are your heroes? What do you admire about them? Who is the most tragic person you’ve ever known?


    watch video

    Question 2 -

    Have you ever encountered a prophetic ministry like Samuel’s?


    watch video

    Question 3 -

    Which 21st Century world leader today is most like king Saul?


    starter course

    podcasts

    the essentials

    Questions

    10 mins

    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes
    • Podcasts

    Holy Habits in '1 Samuel'

    When God brings to birth ...

    The voice of God and the silence of God

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

     

    1 Samuel is a book of 31 chapters that tells stories about the beginning of the monarchy in Israel roughly between 1,050BCE and 970BCE, and specifically about the first king, Saul. The book describes Samuel anointing Saul, then David, and the rise and fall of Saul. It is a book about heroes. Samuel is a heroic prophet whose life and work provides new direction for God’s people after the shame and demise of Eli’s priesthood at Shiloh. The tragedy of Saul’s life follows a similar pattern, as David is established as king following Saul’s failure to follow Yahweh.

    The decline of Eli and his sons is set against the rise of Samuel, and this pattern is mirrored by the decline of Saul and the rise of David. These stories are gripping, intriguing and riveting. Some have been told and retold over hundreds of years by professional community storytellers. The stories are recounted to communicate overarching spiritual principles and truths.

    The political context is significant in that there was no dominant regional empire at this time. The Philistines on the western coast were the main aggressors, and their influence pushed the Israelite tribes towards unification and the protective strategy of a monarchy.

    Genre:

     

    Although various different literary genres are found in 1 Samuel, the dominant genre is ‘Hero Story”. The leading heroes are; Samuel, Saul and David, and the minor heroes are Hannah, Eli and Jonathan. More specifically, the story of Saul is a ‘tragedy’, the story of David and Goliath is a ‘battle story’ and Hannah’s song in chapter 2 is a ‘praise song’. The whole book reads as stories that have been told and retold over hundreds of years by professional community storytellers. Lastly, we should note the contrast that this genre of ‘hero’ stories is to the ‘usual’ pattern of Biblical history found in the briefer listing of kings throughout the books of 1 & 2 Kings.

    Structure:

     

    Part 1   Chapters 1 – 7   The end of the era of the Judges

    Samuel becomes judge in place of Eli: Samuel’s birth and commissioning – the failure and corruption of Eli’s priesthood – the death of Eli and the end of his priestly dynasty – the Philistines capture the Arc of the Covenant but return it to Israel soon afterwards because of what they suffer as a result – Samuel leads and ‘judges’ Israel for 20 years, during which there is a national turning to the Lord (and rejection of Baal) – the Israelites defeat the Philistines, recapture two of their towns and enjoy a time of peace.

     

    Part 2   Chapters 8 – 15   The creation of the monarchy

    The transition of power from Samuel to Saul: The People demand a King – Samuel anoints Saul – Samuel hands over executive power to Saul – Saul delivers the town of Jabesh Gilead – Samuel’s last address to Israel – Saul’s early reign and failure – Samuel rebukes Saul – Jonathan attacks and routs the Philistines – Saul is rebuked by Samuel for failing to completely destroy the Amalekites.  

     

    Part 3   Chapters 16 – 31   God prepares David to be king

    After being anointed by Samuel, Saul tries to kill David:  Samuel is told to anoint David because of his heart towards God – Saul chooses David to lead worship in the court – David kills Goliath – Saul’s son Jonathan makes a covenant with David – Saul tries to kill David because of his rising popularity. However, although David escapes, Saul’s hostility increases dramatically even to the point where others are killed in the struggle between the two men – when David refrains from taking the opportunity to kill Saul, Saul turns back from trying to kill David. However, this proves to be only a temporary respite, and Saul’s desire to kill David is quickly incited again – after David has refrained from taking the chance to kill Saul a second time, he fears for his life and gains permission to live with the Philistines – David carries out raiding parties against towns in the southern desert – the Philistine leaders refuse to let him fight alongside them in a new campaign against Israel – David discovers that the Amalekites have destroyed his stronghold at Ziklag and taken their families. He pursues and defeats them and captures their loot – Saul meanwhile has gone to seek guidance from a witch because the Lord is no longer speaking to him – Israel is defeated by the Philistines and Saul and his sons are killed in the battle.

    Note also the “summaries” at the end of each section: 7:13-17, 14:47-52.

    Main themes:

    1. Israel’s transition from an association of tribes overseen by a theocracy of occasional charismatic “judges” into a monarchy.
    2. The transition from a king who typifies the Mid-Eastern tyrant to one who is loyal to Yahweh. The essential issue is not so much whether Israel has a king, but what sort of king Israel has. Will the monarch, as the earthly representative of Yahweh, be faithful to Yahweh and display Yahweh’s character?
    3. The power and influence of the prophetic alongside godly spiritual disciplines.
    Literary Genre >
    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    Hannah prayed her heart out but experienced unanswered prayer. Have you ever faced a similar situation? How should we react when God does not seem to be answering our prayers?


    Question 2 -

    Why exactly was Saul a bad king? Why did Yahweh reject him?


    Question 3 -

    Samuel was anointed with the gift of prophecy and David was gifted in leading worship. During the past three or four decades, the worldwide church has seen strong development in both these ministries. For example, Hillsong has consistently produced outstanding worship songs which have been sung by the worldwide church, and we continue to watch the emergence of men and women operating with increasing levels of prophetic anointing. Where might ‘1 Samuel’ be telling us all this is leading?


    Question 4 -

    The people asked for a king. Who and what did God give?


    Question 5 -

    The story of the birthing of the dynasty of King David begins with a woman in tears praying. What does this tell us about the sort of ‘story’ that is being written? What does it tell you about how you can make your mark on history? Do you know any “Hannahs”?


    main course

    Chapter by Chapter

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Chapter by Chapter - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • 1 Samuel 1-7 "The end of the Judges"
    • /
    • 1 Samuel 8-15 "The creation of the Monarchy"
    • /
    • 1 Samuel 16-31 "David's preparation for Kingship"

    Part 1   Chapters 1 – 7   The end of the era of the Judges

    Samuel becomes judge in place of Eli: Samuel’s birth and commissioning – the failure and corruption of Eli’s priesthood – the death of Eli and the end of his priestly dynasty – the Philistines capture the Arc of the Covenant but return it to Israel soon afterwards because of what they suffer as a result – Samuel leads and ‘judges’ Israel for 20 years, during which there is a national turning to the Lord (and rejection of Baal) – the Israelites defeat the Philistines, recapture two of their towns and enjoy a time of peace.

     

     

    Chapter 1   Samuel is born

    Many of the leading Biblical stories begin by describing women (Exodus 1, Ruth (as a prelude to David), Luke 1-2), and this story begins with Hannah who, after struggling to conceive, has a son called Samuel whom she dedicates to the Lord. The story focuses on her distress at being unable to conceive, the answer to prayer given through the mediation of the priest Eli, and the dedication of the child as a Nazarite to the Lord. Hannah’s story echoes the infertility of the matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel) in the face of God’s promise to Abraham that he would have a son through whom all of humanity would be blessed. It also continues the Biblical theme of suffering being redeemed in a way that establishes God’s purposes, and also that the great works of God are often birthed through suffering. Since Samuel becomes one of the greatest prophetic people in scripture, Hannah can be viewed as the mother of the prophetic tradition, and in a different sense as an agent of the establishment of the monarchy. Her role is important and strategic, and her character should be studied as a role model not only of godliness, but of a deeper ‘process’ in which powerful works of God are brought to birth and established. Perhaps it is Hannah’s commitment to prayer that is most impressive. Instead of turning on her rival Peninnah, she turns to the Lord. She persists in prayer despite Eli’s foolishness, and when her baby is born she nurtures him and then keeps her promise and gives him back to the Lord as a Nazarite – a person given to a life of prayer. My experience is that so often it is the women in a church who are dedicated to prayer and who know the power of prayer, because they have suffered and prevailed.

    V11   Nazarites were the ‘monks’ of the Old Covenant. Their lifestyle is described in Numbers 6:1-21

     

     

    Chapter 2   Eli’s corrupt priesthood 

    The first songs of praise in the Old Testament are mainly by women (Exodus 15, Judges 5, 1 Samuel 2). Hannah’s praise psalm is about victory and the Lord upholding justice. There is a note of vindictiveness in v5, but it would be wrong to see the whole song as directed against Hannah’s rival. Her view is on the intervention of God on behalf of those who suffer. There is an echo in this short story of the bigger story that is about to be told: of David’s deliverance from Saul, his vindication by God, and his response of praise in ‘the psalms of David’.

    The chapter then moves on to Eli the priest. The sin of Eli was that he did not discipline his sons. He warned them (2:23), but he did not discipline them, restrain them or remove them from office (3:13). The sin of Eli’s sons was their desecration of the offering (taking the best meat for themselves) through which they demonstrated their contempt for the worship of Yahweh. This desecration was equivalent to idolatry and it led to immorality, because what a person does with their spirit is then evidenced in their bodies and their souls (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). That is why the first command is to love the Lord with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Luke 10:27). This chapter is therefore about worship. Hannah’s song is a high triumph of worship and it stands in contrast to Eli’s sons who treated the worship of Yahweh with contempt. Apprentices of Jesus should always maintain worship at the centre of our discipleship in the Kingdom.

     

     

    Chapter 3   The Lord speaks to Samuel

    This chapter contains important insights into the operation of the prophetic. It is astonishing that the Lord ‘came and stood’ (3:10) and called to Samuel, and then ‘continued to appear at Shiloh’ (3:21). The endowment of such an advanced level of the prophetic gift on a young boy is without parallel in scripture, except of course the Saviour himself. Perhaps this is because the corruption of Eli’s priesthood had reached such an advanced level. The Lord had been quietly at work through Ruth about three decades earlier preparing the dynasty of the future King, but unusual intervention is needed at this point through the prophetic bringing correction to the priesthood. Here a young boy is commissioned into the prophetic with a dramatic ‘deep end of the swimming pool’ word of revelation and correction. The Lord does exceptional things when his plans require them. When he works, he works towards a long-term goal. I have witnessed some people receive very powerful prophetic giftings when they become Christians, and others have received high level prophetic anointings when they are filled with the Spirit. It is an extraordinary thing to witness. But prophetic people need to be pastored properly, and sadly because Samuel was not pastored (or we might say ‘mentored’) by Eli, he himself became a poor role model for Saul.

     

     

    Chapter 4   The Ark is captured and Eli dies

    Eli was warned by ‘the man of God’ in 2:27-36, and then by the Lord through Samuel (3:11-14) that his sons would die and his priesthood would be ended because he had not restrained them from abusing the worship of God’s people. Eli had shown remorse (3:18) but no confession or repentance. This chapter tells the story of how that judgement happened. The Philistines defeated Israel, captured the ark, and killed Eli’s two sons. The final comment is made by Eli’s daughter-in-law, who when hearing the news miscarries her baby and dies stating that ‘the glory has departed from Israel’ (4:22). The death of Eli and his sons serves as a ‘minor plot’ foreshadowing the ‘major plot’ of the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan at the end of 1 Samuel. But in the fuller historical scope, this defeat foreshadows the 70 years of exile at the end of the whole (civil) history of Israel that runs from 1 Samuel 1 to 2 Kings 25. This chapter shows us that God does not spare us from the results of our decisions. He allows us to reap the results of our disobedience and foolishness in order to establish his greater purposes: to set up a monarchy so that Jesus would one day be the King of the Jews. This is a reminder that we should expect dark chapters in the history of the church where God allows the corrupt and rotten things that we choose to die a very public death. They must die and their lineage must be ended. God’s great purposes for humankind and the universe will be fulfilled, and ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’ (Habakkuk 2:14). The children of God will be revealed (Romans 8:19).

     

     

    Chapter 5   The Philistines panic at the presence of the Ark

    Here we see God being God. The very presence of the Ark caused increasing panic among the Philistines. First, the Philistine god is humiliated, and then tumours break out on the people of Ashdod, and then Gath, and then when the people of Ekron panic the rulers decide to send the Arc back to Israel. There is a strange truth that God’s presence has the effect of blessing those who worship and love him, while at the same time causing devastation to those who don’t. Paul describes his gospel ministry as being ‘the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved’ and ‘the smell of death’ to those who are perishing (2 Cor 2:16). It is ironic that even though the Philistines do not follow and obey Yahweh, they demonstrate better understanding and respect for the Ark than the Israelites and the priests in the house of Eli.

     

     

    Chapter 6   The Philistines return the Ark to Israel

    The hand of God is seen in the cows leading the ark straight to Beth Shemesh (6:9,12), and it is seen in the judgement on those who looked into the Ark (v19). The Philistines show more spiritual insight than the Israelites, although their reasoning has more to do with pagan fear of punishment than any love of Yahweh. This chapter teaches about the fear of God whose severe interventions are witnessed with Achan (Joshua 7), with Uzza (2 Sam 6), and with the sons of Aaron when they presumed to play with the holy fire of God (Lev 10). It is seen in the immediate judgement of Saul for witchcraft (1 Sam 28), the judgement of Korah (Num 16), in the New Testament in the incident with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), and later with Elymas (Acts 13). The chapter ends with the Ark being kept at Kiriath Jearim, whose inhabitants had established a reputation for being strongly nationalistic, but not before 70 of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh had been put to death by God for looking into the Ark – an action specifically forbidden in the law. 21st Century liberal secular humanity does not warm to the concept of such an interventionist deity; I have addressed the issue in the podcast.

     

     

    Chapter 7   A period of peace under Samuel’s leadership

    This chapter is a summary review of the 20-year period following the incident with the Ark of the Covenant told in chapters 4-6. This period was marked first by a national returning to the Lord during which the Israelites rejected their Baals and Ashtoreths (alters and fertility symbols), confessed their sins, and repented with fasting. This led to the second development, a national gathering for worship which the Philistines tried to prevent. However, they were dramatically defeated and Samuel used the occasion to establish a national monument at Ebenezer acknowledging and reminding the Israelites that ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ (v12). Israel subsequently recovered the towns of Ekron and Gath from the Philistines and there was a time of peace. Samuel both operated as a ‘circuit judge’ throughout Israel, and (no doubt because of his powerful prophetic ability) was the leader of a national revival in commitment to the Lord.

     

    Part 2   Chapters 8 – 15   The creation of the monarchy

    The transition of power from Samuel to Saul: The People demand a King – Samuel anoints Saul – Samuel hands over executive power to Saul – Saul delivers the town of Jabesh Gilead – Samuel’s last address to Israel – Saul’s early reign and failure – Samuel rebukes Saul – Jonathan attacks and routs the Philistines – Saul is rebuked by Samuel for failing to completely destroy the Amalekites.

     

     

    Chapter 8   Israel asks for a king

    The opening statement ‘When Samuel grew old’ (v1) carries the strong implication that a change is about to happen. We are then told that Samuel appointed his two sons as ‘Israel’s leaders’ (v1) but, because they were corrupt, just as Eli’s sons had been, the elders of Israel insisted that Samuel should appoint a king.  This was also so Israel could be like all their neighbouring nations. Most of the chapter is the long description of Samuel’s warning of the deprivations and slavery that would ensue if a king were appointed. The key perspective is then given: it is not Samuel that the people are rejecting, but the Lord. Samuel’s exceptional prophetic gifting was not in question, but his wisdom and pastoral skill were – as is often the case with exceptionally prophetically gifted individuals. This was one of the reasons why the elders asked for a king. The learning here is that the prophetic ought to be subject to the pastoral, and certainly in the New Testament, must be subject to those with apostolic giftings (1 Corinthians 12:28).

     

     

    Chapters 9 – 10   Samuel anoints Saul as king

    Chapter 9 tells the story of a young man who went in search of donkeys and found a kingdom, but it also gives extraordinary insight into the way the prophetic operates. It shows the way Samuel was led by the Spirit, his ministry as priest, and his authority as Judge in Israel. The previous day, the Lord had shown Samuel what to do: to prepare meat, to set aside a specific piece for the ‘special person’, to invite guests, and what to say. Over 30 years of ministry I have heard a number of stories of disciples being led by the Spirit to do things like this, and then finding that the Lord arranges exactly what he has previously revealed. Again we see the divine and the human working together: God even brings Saul to Samuel’s very gateway (v18), just as he brought Eve to Adam, Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10:20), and Rebecca to Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24). God’s overriding hand is seen directly at the key points. This chapter is therefore about guidance and the fulfilling of God’s will. It should be studied carefully as a text for learning how and why God intervenes, and the features of prophetic guidance. We should note that although God powerfully intervened in the appointment and anointing of Saul as King, nevertheless Saul was a terrible king who failed badly.

     

    In chapter 10 Saul is anointed king first physically by Samuel, and secondly by the Spirit of God. This is followed by a public ‘selection’ in which Saul is identified and made King of Israel. Whereas chapter nine reveals Saul’s astonishment at being made king, chapter ten reveals his deficiencies: he is frightened of telling his uncle that he has been anointed king by Samuel, and he hides in the baggage – hardly the behaviour of someone to lead God’s people! When some ‘scoundrels’ (v27) speak against him, he cannot find the strength to challenge them. While he appears to be an impressive man recognised for many fine public qualities, it is soon clear that he has severe character flaws: he cannot handle dissent, and he is unsure about his task as king or whether he even wants it. We see another of Samuel’s faults here. Just because something is God’s will, does not mean that it has to happen immediately. Saul was not ready to be king, and it would have been wiser and better for everyone if Samuel had trained and prepared Saul for kingship over say a two-year period. Instead he simply anointed him and left him to learn on the job, which of course had been Samuel’s own experience since he had not learned the voice of the Lord from Eli. In the Kingdom, those who are anointed must then be trained before they are let loose in ministry (10:7); it is disastrous if they are not trained, and this is especially the case for prophetic people.

     

     

    Chapter 11   Saul delivers the city of Jabesh Gilead

    This short chapter describes the highpoint of Saul’s kingship. He bravely summons the Israelites, attacks and routs the Ammonites, and delivers the people of Jabesh Gilead. Saul is magnanimous in victory, refusing to take vengeance on those who had opposed his kingship and directing the people’s attention to the Lord as the deliverer. For Samuel this event is particularly significant because Saul has behaved in the way the ‘judges’ behaved: the Spirit of the Lord came on him and he delivered Israel. This is probably the reason why Samuel immediately builds on this victory to reaffirm Saul as King of Israel at Gilgal. Since Samuel had already confirmed Saul publicly in a civil event (10:17-25), this reaffirmation at Gilgal seems to be both a further public confirmation of Saul as the transition from judges to monarchy progressed, and also a religious event given Joshua’s covenant dedication of Israel to the Lord at Gilgal (Joshua 5). Samuel also seems to have had in mind something similar to the event at Ebenezer (7:12). Such places are important because they remind us about what God has done, although there is always a danger that communities will subsequently turn such monuments into idols and then commit idolatry. Nevertheless, it is also an entirely appropriate act of faith, and indeed a ‘Holy Habit’, to practice ‘pilgrimage’ in order to remember and rehearse the decisive acts of God in history. For example, pilgrimage to two outstanding acts of faith, the orphanage buildings that George Muller built by faith in Bristol, and O’Loughlan House in Lesmahagow, Scotland, built through the faith of Stewart Brown, had a very powerful effect on me as a young disciple at the Navigator Training Programme in 1977.

     

     

    Chapter 12   Samuel’s farewell speech

    The victory feast after Saul’s defeat of the Ammonites provides an occasion for Samuel to deliver his last oration to Israel. The speech expresses the ambiguous struggle between the prophetic and the political. Despite the victory over the Ammonites, Samuel cannot celebrate Saul’s kingship because he is profoundly disturbed by Israel’s underlying betrayal of loyalty to the Lord. He invokes a thunderstorm to prove the Lord’s displeasure. The people then acknowledge their sin, and this gives Samuel an opportunity to exhort them to be loyal to the Lord. It is a little surprising to realise that this chapter is the only place in the book where the law of covenant is referred to. There is a great deal in ‘1 Samuel’ about the leading of the Spirit so this chapter serves to root the ‘spirit’ events in the context of Moses and the covenant law.

     

     

    Chapter 13   Samuel rebukes Saul

    Saul takes on the role of priest and offers a sacrifice because Samuel is delayed and the troops are beginning to scatter. Samuel views this as an act of unbelief and rebukes Saul, telling him that the Lord is going to take the kingdom away from him (v14). Saul then numbers his troops, something that the Old Testament always views as an act of unbelief. The chapter ends describing the weakness of the Israelite army: apart from Saul and Jonathan, no one had a sharpened weapon. The king has been rebuked by the one who appointed him, the army is weak, and the prophet is angry and disgruntled.

     

     

    Chapter 14   Jonathan attacks and defeats the Philistines

    The leading story here is Jonathan’s courageous attack on the Philistine outpost, which led to panic in their camp and their subsequent defeat. Jonathan shows exceptional courage and faith, attacking the Philistine outpost with only his armour-bearer with him. God then responds by routing the enemy. But the chapter ends awkwardly with the unfolding repercussions of Saul’s foolish oath binding the army to fasting, and bringing Saul to the point of nearly killing Jonathan the hero of the victory. This story therefore gives further insights into Saul’s complicated character, despite his success in battle against the Philistines and the Amalekites. Saul is an example of foolish discipleship. He knows something of prophetic ministry, because the Spirit has come on him to prophesy, and he knows something about answers to prayer (v41), but his oath – a curse – is an attempt to coerce, even force, the help of the Spirit of God on Israel’s behalf on the day of battle. He is confused, forceful, desperately insecure, foolish and therefore exceptionally dangerous. Disciples of Jesus must learn to hear from the silence of God (v37) just as they learn from the voice of God (10:22). God was silent before Saul’s final battle (28:6), and God was silent for four hundred years before the ministry of John the Baptist began. Jesus was silent before Herod because Herod had rejected the voice of God speaking to him through John the Baptist, and he was silent at his trial before Pilate.

     

     

     

    Chapter 15   Saul fails to obey the Lord

    We should first note that this chapter, which is a unit in itself, occurs after the authors have made their summary comment on Saul’s reign (14:47-52). As such, it seems to be prioritised as the leading event of Saul’s reign. Although it seems that Saul obeyed God, when questioned by Samuel, Saul twice admits to giving in to the men’s demands because he feared them (v24, 30). Since the story is introduced as the one major work that God wanted Saul to do (v1-3), his disobedience means that he is rejected as king. The phrase ‘to obey is better than sacrifice’ (v22) is used and developed in different ways in scripture, but here its meaning is straightforward: complete and full obedience on primary issues is imperative, partial obedience on primary issues is unacceptable. The story is not a comfortable read in today’s 21st Century with its commands from the Lord himself through Samuel to destroy the Amalekites, including the women, children and animals. The idea that God should command the annihilation of a whole people group including the infants and vulnerable is astonishing, indeed horrific. How could this be his intention? While recognising that this is a serious difficulty, there is a degree of mitigation through understanding the nature of iniquity (although that reason is given elsewhere and not in this chapter). Samuel’s criticism of Saul focuses on his failure to obey the Lord’s command, and it is probably that which will explain why the Lord instructed such severe action. The Amalekites were brutal, violent and they practiced child sacrifice. Scripture seems to teach that this wickedness was so embedded in their community that it had passed the point of sin and had become iniquity. Perhaps this was the fundamental reason why they so viciously attacked God’s people in the desert (v2). The Scriptures seem to describe them as a community that had become so committed to violence and occult evil that in Old Testament terms, they had passed the point of repentance and there was nothing left for them but judgement, just as the older generation of Israelites reached the point where their rebellion was so committed that there were no remaining chances for them (Numbers 25). The Amalekites had tried to destroy the Israelites from the moment they came out of Egypt. Paul Copan’s book “Is God a moral monster?” is helpful in examining the wider context of these difficulties, and showing, for example, that far from being ‘totally destroyed by the sword’ (v7), scripture itself repeatedly mentions the Amalekites in later chapters in the Old Testament. Even David failed to destroy them. So Saul’s ‘I completely destroyed them’ (v20) seems to refer to the destruction of one of their military garrisons rather than their whole population; Copan argues this persuasively. God’s strategy is usually to cause the enemy to destroy itself, as in Judges 7, 2 Chronicles 20:17 and even 1 Samuel 14:15, and it may have been God’s intention that once Agag was dead the Amalekites would panic and destroy themselves.

    Part 3   Chapters 16 – 31   God prepares David to be king

    After being anointed by Samuel, Saul tries to kill David:  Samuel is told to anoint David because of his heart towards God – Saul chooses David to lead worship in the court – David kills Goliath – Saul’s son Jonathan makes a covenant with David – Saul tries to kill David because of his rising popularity. However, although David escapes, Saul’s hostility increases dramatically even to the point where others are killed in the struggle between the two men – when David refrains from taking the opportunity to kill Saul, Saul turns back from trying to kill David. However, this proves to be only a temporary respite, and Saul’s desire to kill David is quickly incited again – after David has refrained from taking the chance to kill Saul a second time, he fears for his life and gains permission to live with the Philistines – David carries out raiding parties against towns in the southern desert – the Philistine leaders refuse to let him fight alongside them in a new campaign against Israel – David discovers that the Amalekites have destroyed his stronghold at Ziklag and taken their families. He pursues and defeats them and captures their loot – Saul meanwhile has gone to seek guidance from a witch because the Lord is no longer speaking to him – Israel is defeated by the Philistines and Saul and his sons are killed in the battle.

     

     

    Chapter 16   Samuel anoints David as king

    Samuel anoints David as the future king, and then in a separate event Saul chooses David to play (worship) music when he is troubled by an evil spirit. Once again, Samuel’s behaviour gives penetrating insight into the prophetic ministry. He is led very clearly to Jesse’s house, even at the risk of his life. He is led to David as the one to anoint, even when the others are presented and rejected. The phrase ‘but the Lord looks at the heart’ (v7) has become a leading insight and maxim of the divine. The Spirit of God comes on David from the point of his anointing, and a few verses later we see David excelling in worship. It is the task of apostles and prophets to anoint. The absence of the Spirit of God in Saul opens the door for an evil spirit – as per the religious leaders of Matthew 12:43-45. This is the principle of Matthew 13:12. This little story shows the power of worship in spiritual warfare. The (young) man with the Spirit ministers to the (older) man without the Spirit. The reason why Saul was calmed by David’s playing was that David was worshipping God, and that worship brought Saul back to the experience of having the anointing of the Spirit on him. The worship of God in the Spirit brought Saul (a measure of) the peace of God.

    We should note the chiastic structure in verses 14-23:

    A. God’s Spirit leaves Saul (v14).

    B. A resolution is proposed (v15-16).

    C. Saul gives permission (v17).

    D. David is recommended (v18).

    E. Saul calls David (v19)

    D1. David arrives (v20-21a).

    C1. David wins Saul’s approval (v21b-22).

    B1. Saul experiences a resolution (v23a).

    A1. The Evil Spirit leaves (v23b).

     

    This structure therefore focuses on Saul’s call of David, which is the human earthly counterpart to the divine call of David through Samuel.

     

     

    Chapter 17   David kills Goliath

    In the last chapter David was chosen both by God and by the King of Israel; in this story, David is shown to be equal to the task of leading God’s people. This delightful story illustrates the deep and priority theme in scripture that God’s principle for defeating the enemy is through the small, not the large. God establishes his purposes and vindicates his people by judging in their favour. David triumphs over Goliath. Gideon’s weak army routs the Midianites. God sends an octogenarian to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt and overcome the greatest empire on the earth at that time. In Hezekiah’s time, Jerusalem was delivered from the enemy by one angel. God uses the little man Paul who ministers in weakness and fear (2 Cor 12:9). It is the foolishness of the cross that is the wisest thing on the earth. It is the two little persecuted churches that have no charge against them in the book of Revelation (Rev 2:8-11, 3:7-13). Weak, vulnerable and forgotten in prison, Joseph is suddenly raised to the highest place of government in Egypt. The leading prophecy of Daniel 7 endorses this point: the people of the Most High are established because, and only because, the Court rules in their favour. David defeats Goliath because he has repeatedly killed the animals that came against the flock, even bears and lions (v34). So what’s the problem? This ‘uncircumcised Philistine’ is simply setting himself up for the same treatment. David is not taking a massive step of courage and faith; he is simply doing again what he has always done while protecting his sheep. Through practice, he has become brilliant with the sling.

     

     

    Chapter 18   David makes a covenant with the king’s son and marries the king’s daughter

    Jonathan and David have both attacked the Philistines on their own, and on their own have brought victory to Israel. They alone know the risk, the fight, and the faith in the Lord that this requires, and this is why Jonathan immediately sees a kindred spirit in David and ‘loves him as himself’ (v3). Their love for one another expresses the deep truth that the closer disciples get to the Lord and take steps of faith, the closer disciples get to one another. In the big picture, God is preparing David for kingship, and now he gives David a strong and deep friendship with the man who ‘naturally’ would have inherited the kingship from Saul. The remainder of the chapter contains a number of short stories through which the tension between Saul and David rises, along with Saul’s fear of David. David excels in everything and the chapter ends with David married to Saul’s daughter Michal and continuing to excel in military campaigns.

     

     

    Chapter 19   Saul tries to kill David four times

    Saul’s unpredictable vacillations drive this chapter. David is saved by both the king’s son and his daughter. First, Saul’s general instruction to his court is overturned through Jonathan’s intervention. Saul’s second attempt, a repeat of an earlier incident, fails because David avoids the spear and escapes. Saul then fails in a more subtle third attempt of manipulating his daughter, but the final attempt to capture and kill David is thwarted by God himself. Not only are the soldiers overcome by the Spirit, but so ultimately is Saul himself! Those who have not had first-hand experience of the prophetic and its overwhelming power when the Spirit comes on a worshipping community will be baffled by this story and explain it away with all kinds of “superior rational causes”, but in doing so they only demonstrate their spiritual ignorance. Samuel and the prophets are worshipping in the Spirit and a series of outsiders are caught up in this until finally Saul himself is overwhelmed for a whole day and night. There are contemporary stories of such occurrences: Sarah Edwards in the Great Awakening, Rees Howells’ prayer in community before the Second World War and some of the occurrences in the powerful work of the Spirit in the 1994 ‘Toronto Blessing’. When heaven itself comes down, those present are no longer conscious of time – sometimes for days – and only the presence of the Lord is known. We should note that even the evil and the wicked can be caught up in such a work of the Spirit. I have heard of the Spirit doing similar things today. Those outside Christ are suddenly calmed by Christ and worship him, and then the Spirit lifts and their previous lifestyle returns. Again, as always the test is; ‘you will know them by their fruit’ (Matt 7:16). And I know some who were caught up by the Spirit in his work when he came in power, who prophesied, laid their hands on the sick, and served God in his church, but a decade or two later live lives shaped and driven by immorality.

     

     

    Chapter 20   Saul tells Jonathan that he wants to kill David

    The deep and strong friendship between David and Jonathan is the central subject of this chapter. Their friendship was the basis of their covenant, but we should also recognise that they both stood to inherit Saul’s kingdom, so their covenant was a deliberate intention to protect each other and the Israelite people from civil war in the event of Saul’s death (23:17). The basis of their friendship was their faith in Yahweh, and their courage in battle. Both had taken courageous steps of faith, David with Goliath and Jonathan with the Philistines (chapter 14). The story in this chapter is narrated in a rather laboured way, but the point is that Jonathan realises that not only is his father determined to kill David (v33), but he doesn’t show much concern even for his own son’s life (v30-33). The story celebrates friendship between these two men (v42), and is a lovely insight into the depth of possible bonding between human beings. David himself speaks about this in 2 Samuel 1:26. The chapter tells about the end of their friendship, in the sense that after this event they only met once again (23:16) when, very crucially Jonathan prepares David for the crucial testing of his preparation for kingship – compare 23:16 with 30:6. Jonathan is the ‘older brother’ that David never had in his own family.

     

     

    Chapter 21   David flees from Saul

    This chapter should be read along with Psalm 52. David goes to Ahimelech the priest, probably with the intention of soliciting his help, but he is betrayed by Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd, about whom Psalm 52 is written. Ahimelech gives David food, (temporary) protection and a sword. But he then leaves his men and seeks protection with Achish the ‘king’ of Gath, a Philistine city. David is alone (with some men) and friendless. Everyone is afraid of him, because no-one wants to ally themselves to him and then be deemed the enemy of King Saul, which is exactly what then happened to Ahimelech (22:11.) When God states that he will raise a man up, he then works at that man’s character in preparation for the future promotion. David is isolated from his family, from his men (who do not go with him to the Philistines), and from his friend Jonathan. God does not rush this stage of preparation. David has to go through all of it on his own; it is only in the next chapter that people start joining him (22:2). David lies to Ahimelech and is reduced to feigning madness. God leads David into a place where all his circumstances seem to be in contradiction to the promise that God has made about his life and future (16:13). In Psalm 52 David expresses the heart of his situation: ‘But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you for ever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of the saints’ (Psalm 52:8-9).

     

     

    Chapter 22   Saul slaughters the priests

    With the situation escalating sharply, David takes action to look after his family. First he is joined by his brothers, and then he places his parents under the protection of the king of Moab. He becomes a focus for all who are fleeing because they are in debt, or are ‘discontented’, which probably means they have fallen foul of Saul and are also fleeing from him. But the bulk of the chapter is a description of Doeg the Edomite proving his loyalty to Saul by killing 85 priests. The chapter ends with Abiatha, the son of Ahimelech, fleeing and joining David. Abiatha was to prove a vital companion to David at a key moment (30:6-7). David may have lost Jonathan’s friendship, but the Lord gives him a new companion who also loves and serves Yahweh.

     

     

    Chapter 23   Saul closes in on David

    David obeys the Lord, and does what the Lord says, even though he is alone in making the decision as his men are against the plan – ‘we are afraid’ (v3) – and it involves the greater risk of attacking the Philistines. David defeats them handsomely, and carries off a large amount of loot. By doing so, he wins the respect of his men. The key feature is the way David hears directly from the Lord. This brief story shows it is quite right to ask the Lord twice, as long as we are genuinely committed to obeying what he then commands. The remainder of the chapter describes David fleeing and hiding from Saul. Jonathan is his only true friend and he comes ‘to David at Horesh and help[s] him to find strength in God’ (v16)This is the last time they meet, and Jonathan’s faith and encouragement is a crucial example to David later at Ziklag (30:6). The citizens of Keilah are untrustworthy and the Ziphites betray David to Saul, and at one point Saul almost catches David (v26), but God intervenes by allowing the Philistines to attack and therefore draw Saul away from the chase. The Lord allows his servants to go through such seasons. We should understand this firstly as parental discipline, which should never be despised (Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:7-12). But it is also training for higher responsibility in ministry. God allows it to go on and on and on, and when we are in seasons like this we do have to ‘fight for ourselves’ in the sense that we have to ‘pray as if everything depended on God, and use our brains and energy as if everything depended on us’ as they say in the Ignatian tradition. The acid test, the absolute lifeline, is whether or not we know the voice of the Spirit. David did. Jonathan did. Saul didn’t. David’s men didn’t. The Keilah population didn’t. The Ziphites didn’t. The fact is that such life and death survival forms us and prepares us at the deepest parts in our characters. David became a great leader because he knew the voice of God, and he obeyed God. This life experience is open to any and every child of God in the new covenant: ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me’ (John 10:27).

     

     

    Chapter 24   David spares Saul’s life

    A lovely story in which David refuses to kill Saul when he has the chance to do so, even though Saul was actively trying to kill David. David has a strong conviction that no one should kill the one God had anointed. The king was God’s anointed, and he represented God and he answers to God, not to human beings. Saul himself states at the end of the story that David is more righteous than he is, and that he will be king of Israel. Saul’s pursuit of David that began in earnest with the four attempts to kill David in chapter 19 is now concluded – at least temporarily – with David swearing an oath that when he is king he will not kill Saul’s descendants.

     

     

    Chapter 25   David takes Abigail as his wife

    This story does not make easy reading. David is running a protection racket, and his behaviour, specifically his intention to kill every male in Nabal’s house, is the sort of vicious bullying we associate with South American drug cartels and the Russian Mafia. There is however some ambiguity. At that time there was no national police force so some form of vigilante force necessarily operated in every community. In this light, David’s claims of v21 may be viewed as fair. Abigail is portrayed not so much as a godly, but as a canny and savvy woman who read the signs much more clearly than her drunk, wealthy ‘fool of a’ husband. David interprets Nabal’s death as being the Lord’s hand (v39) but the reader’s response is muted.  Perhaps God did call Nabal home early in order to protect David from bloodshed, but this story demonstrates the ambiguity of David’s life and behaviour at this stage and from one perspective, this story is a crucial step in the development of the side of his character that led to the terrible turning point of his life: his arrogant, lawless violence in demanding and having sex with Bathsheba, and then killing her husband to cover it all up (2 Samuel 11). This chapter is a serious dip in David’s story, and it teaches disciples of Jesus that the greatest temptations often come just after the greatest victories. In view of all this, it is a little surprising to find the leading theme of the entire book of 1 Samuel in v28: ‘for the Lord will certainly make a lasting for my master, because he fights the Lord’s battles’.

     

     

    Chapter 26   Saul again tries to kill David

    This story continues the story of chapter 24. The Ziphites, who have already tried to ingratiate themselves to Saul and win his favour (23:19), again inform Saul where David is hiding. Those who see this story as a repeat of chapter 24 need to provide a convincing explanation why the editors would have missed such blatantly obvious repetition. Saul’s unstable character is evidenced in the way that despite his ‘repentance’ and his contrite words to David (24:16-22), he quickly capitulates and resumes his pursuit to kill David. We should note the character developments charted between the two stories: Saul’s confession of being a fool (24:21), corresponds to Nabal’s foolishness (25:25). The way the story is told places emphasis on David’s absolute conviction that it is God’s business to handle the one he anoints, and no-one should take the life of the ‘Lord’s anointed’ (v9-11). This springs from David’s own experience as a shepherd boy, where his love for God was expressed in poetry and worship and then God anointed him through Samuel. David really did know that God was his protector: so many of his early psalms express this in terms of God being his refuge, his strong tower, his shelter, and taking protection under his wings (Psalms 61:1-5, 59:9, 91:1-4, etc). David knew that if he killed Saul, God would avenge Saul directly. The double events of chapter 24 and 26 lead directly to 27:1-2.

     

     

    Chapter 27   David flees to the Philistines

    Since Saul reneged on his agreement with David (24:16-22) and tried to kill him (chapter 26), David, in fear for his life, takes his band of 600 men into the Philistine territory and lives at Gath. There he submits to Achish, the ruler of Gath, who gives him the settlement at Ziklag. From there David conducts raiding parties on the three Canaanite tribes (27:8), but he reports to the Philistine commander that he has been attacking semi-Israelite people, that is, descendants of the Israelites who were not ‘main-stream’ Israelites. David ‘covers up’ this deception by ensuring that when he conducts a raid, he kills every adult (v9) so there is no one who could report this deception to Achish. What David did was evil, and we should also recognise that David’s practice of ‘covering up’ his killing, both from the Israelites and from the Philistine commander, formed a habit and pattern that led to him trying to ‘cover up’ his adultery with Bathsheba by having Uriah killed. You cannot cover up one sin with another. The habit of little sins leads to greater sins.

     

     

    Chapter 28   Saul seeks guidance from a witch

    The Philistines assemble a large army to attack Israel. Saul is terrified when he sees their forces, but when he seeks guidance from the Lord, the Lord does not answer Saul, and we should presume that this is because of Saul’s insistent desire to kill David. Saul then seeks guidance from a witch. The Bible is disarmingly frank about real life issues and in this chapter describes a séance in which the prophet Samuel is invoked from the grave. It is mentioned clearly, openly but with the severest warning. And it demonstrates that those who engage in such practice are immediately judged by God. Within 24 hours, Saul was dead, his sons were dead, his dynasty was ended forever, his army was defeated and his kingdom was effectively given to the man he feared most! Never, never, never engage in spiritism, necromancy, or any occult activity. These forces are real, they are powerful, but most of all they deceive, destroy and bring severe judgement. The danger of deception is precisely that you are completely unaware that you are being deceived. We should note the contrast between the clarity with which God speaks to the young boy Samuel at the beginning of this book and his silence to Saul at the end.

     

     

    Chapter 29   Achish sends David back to Ziklag

    This chapter follows on from the narrative of chapter 27. It describes the refusal by the commanders of the Philistines to allow David to fight for them in the forthcoming battle with the Israelites. The Philistine leaders very sensibly fear that in the heat of battle, David will turn and fight for Israel against the Philistines and in doing so prove his loyalty to his people. Achish is therefore forced to send David and his men back to their Philistine home of Ziklag. Although David is spared fighting the battle, in the overarching process of his preparation by God for kingship the importance of this story lies in the fact that he loses his place within the Philistine community. He cannot count on the trust of the Philistine leaders.

     

     

    Chapter 30   David’s test at Ziklag and the Amorite defeat

    Sent back home by the Philistine commanders, David returns to his home in Ziklag to find his village burned by the Amalekites and all the villagers, their wives and children taken captive. His men blame him and speak of killing him. At this point David is entirely alone, except possibly for Abiatha the priest. Everyone, from his men (including his brothers) to Saul, the Philistines, the Ziphites, all individuals and communities stand against him and his cause seems lost, but ‘David found strength in the Lord his God’ (v6). This was what Jonathan had done for him, (23:16), and now at the point of acid testing, David makes the right decision and turns to the Lord for strength. This is the turning point of David’s entire preparation for kingship. It mirrors the moments in the Saviour’s life when he prayed all night after the feeding of the 5,000, after they tried to make him king, and his praying in Gethsemane. From this point on, the trajectory of David’s life is to gain increasing power to the point where he is the king of God’s people, and when God himself makes a covenant with him (2 Samuel 7).

     

     

    Chapter 31   Saul is killed

    This chapter continues the narrative from the end of chapter 27 describing Saul’s battle with the Philistines. The death of Saul and the defeat of Israel, already foretold by Samuel in the séance, are described succinctly. The book ends with the brief story of the men of Jabesh Gilead, who were especially loyal to Saul because he had fought for and delivered them from the Nahash the Ammonite (chapter 9), recovering the bodies of Saul and his sons, burning their bodies, giving them proper burials and fasting for seven days. Their fasting was the fasting of deep mourning, shock and dismay that the purposes of God should have reached such a seriously low point. Disciples of Jesus need to learn how to fast and when to fast. This powerful spiritual tool should be exercised at God’s time and in God’s way. The fasting by the people of Jabesh Gilead was instrumental in bringing to power the greatest political king Israel ever had.

     

     

    1 Samuel 8-15 "The creation of the Monarchy" >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Applications
    • /
    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of 1 Samuel:

    ‘1 Samuel’ recounts the transition in the government of God’s people from a theocracy of ‘charismatic’ prophets into a monarchy. More importantly, within this context of transition, it is also the study of the way God prepared David to be king of his people. Both of these are described, not through a programmed management strategy such as we might read in a MA dissertation on political theory, but through ‘community stories’ about heroes that have been repeatedly retold and passed down over hundreds of years within the Israelite community.

     

    The leading imperatives:

    In terms of Christian ethical behaviour, there are very few imperatives in the book of ‘1 Samuel’ because as a historical account, and not a document expounding religious law, it is the study of how God intervenes and works in human lives. The imperatives of ‘1 Samuel’ are almost all found in the one section where Samuel exhorts the Israelites to remain faithful to the Lord (chapter 12).

    12:14-15 ‘If you fear the Lord and serve him and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God – good! But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your fathers.’

    12:20   ‘”Do not be afraid”, Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart”.’ 

    12:21   ‘Do not turn away after useless idols.’ 

    12:23  ‘As for me far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.’ 

    12:24-25‘But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil both you and your king will be swept away.’

    15:22  To obey is better than sacrifice.’

    The implied imperatives:

    As a historical record, the stories of ‘1 Samuel’ have power to motivate and envision those who want to grow as disciples of Jesus. In chapter 1, as we study the way Hannah prayed and how her prayer was answered, we have the opportunity to learn how to pray with greater effectiveness. When we hear the story of David killing Goliath, we learn that he only did to Goliath what he had so often done before to the animals that attacked the sheep. ‘1 Samuel’ is not so much a serious attempt to record history (certainly not by 21st Century standards) as it is a serious attempt to understand the ways of God as he influences women and men so they learn to follow him as he fulfils his agenda for humankind. Herein lies its power for the 21st Century reader. Here are a few things we disciples can learn, if we want to:

    • In Hannah’s prayers, we see an example of an answer to persistent prayer.
    • Chapters 9-10 give some of the deepest Biblical insights into how the prophetic ministry operates.
    • Jonathan’s reckless courage and faith (chapter 14) will motivate those who yearn to pioneer Kingdom ministry.
    • Probably the most important study in ‘1 Samuel’ is the study of how God prepares David to be king of his people. There are so many important features we can learn about the way the Lord will prepare each of us for the work of ministry he has planned for us.
    • The depth and strength of friendship between David and Jonathan is a truly profound insight into the depth of human relations.
    • ‘But David found strength in the Lord his God’(1 Samuel 30:6). This single moment is the turning point in the entire narrative of 1 Samuel, and the apprentice of Jesus ought to study the development up to this point, at this point, and after this point. It was David’s lowest moment. It was his turning point. It was the point at which David’s character turned from being a man into being a king.
    • We can learn from Saul’s tragic confusion, his spiritual blindness, his terrible impulsive behaviour and his fear.
    • Again and again we read stories in ‘1 Samuel’ that give insights into how each of God’s children can learn to listen to and hear the voice of the Lord.

     

    Applications:

    • Fasting, intercession, prophecy and listening to God are all mentioned in this book and are developed here in ways that go beyond what had happened up to this point in Israel’s history.
    • Endurance: David is prepared for kingship through many years of trials: ‘If we endure we will also reign with him’ (2 Tim 2:12).
    • The need to live in a repentant lifestyle with God.
    • Learning how to hear God: the difference between David and Saul was that David knew how to hear God’s voice. David knew how to make contact with God for himself – Saul didn’t.
    • David was made king because he had a heart like God’s: ‘Guard your heart with all vigilance for from it flows the springs of life’ (Proverbs 4:23).

     

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

    • God prepared David for kingship by training him to face and overcome many difficulties over many long years. A careful study of the lives of many of the great women and men of the Kingdom shows a similar pattern. Disciples of Jesus need to learn endurance and perseverance (Hebrews 12:7-11, 2 Timothy 2:3, 4:5). Holy Habits such as fasting and submission, when practiced wisely and carefully, will cultivate in us the long-term ability to ‘take up our cross and follow him’ (Mark 8:34).
    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    David enquired of the Lord (23:2). Every man and woman faces times in life when we desperately need to hear what God is saying to us. When you face exceptionally situations how do you actually ‘enquire of the Lord’?


    Question 2 -

    The underlying development in 1 Samuel is David’s preparation for kingship. So we should ask: why did he struggle so much; why did things seemed to get worse before they got better; and, what was God trying to teach him through the progression of the things that happened to him?


    Question 3 -

    Prophetic ministry plays a dominant part in 1 Samuel. Where is it used well, and where badly?


    watch video

    Question 4 -

    What leadership characteristics were Yahweh/Samuel looking for? What makes a good king? What makes a bad king? What does God actually want in terms of leadership for his people?


    Question 5 -

    ‘The Lord looks at the heart’ (16:7) This is an important axiom and insight into the way God works, and it ought to influence the way we choose and appoint people in churches. What sort of features ‘of the heart’ should you consider when you next use your influence to appoint someone to a position in church?


    Question 6 -

    What should we do when the voice of God is silent (28:6)?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A prayer based on 1 Samuel 

    O Lord, teach us to pray like Hannah, hear your voice like Samuel, have courage like Jonathan, and, like David, worship you with an undivided heart, believe in you for great victories, and find strength in you alone. In your name, Amen.

     

     

     

    Comment:

    O Lord, teach us to pray like Hannah (1:11), hear your voice like Samuel (3:10), have courage like Jonathan (14:6), and, like David, worship you with an undivided heart (16:7), believe in you for great victories (17:36-37), and find strength in you alone (30:6), in your name, Amen.

     

     

     

     

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries

    Commentaries on ‘1 Samuel’

    (Updated: December 2017)

     

    Commentary Comment
    English Standard Version Study Bible Useful information, maps and summary. In my view this probably provides the best support information on ‘1 Samuel’.
    Dale Ralph Davis: ‘1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart

    Christian Focus; 2000

    Reasonably helpful in places, but generally far too wordy, dull and not particularly enlightening.

     

     

      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Sermon Series on 1 Samuel:

    (Updated: December 2017)

     

     

    Comment:   1 Samuel contains some of the greatest and most loved stories in the Bible, so this book is a feast for those preachers who love to preach from Biblical stories.

     

    Series Title:   God’s Heroes and the Birthing of a Dynasty

     

    Strategy for preaching through 1 Samuel:

     

    • ‘1 Samuel’ is too long for a consistent chapter by chapter approach; with festivals this would take around eight months.
    • It would be more profitable to approach the book in one of these ways:
      1. A series on the spiritual disciplines (Holy Habits) that are practiced: prayer, fasting, worship, confession, teaching scripture, etc.
      2. A series studying the way that God prepared David for kingship.
      3. A series studying the way God establishes David’s dynasty.
      4. A series on each of the heroes:

     

    Text Title Theme
    The Heroes in ‘1 Samuel’
    Chapter 1

     

    ‘Hannah – the woman who prevailed in prayer’ The birthing of the dynasty begins with Hannah entering into the ‘barrenness’ of the Matriarchs. Her prayers for a child are answered and her son is committed to God as a Nazarite.
    Chapter 3-4

     

    ‘Eli – the corrupt priest’ Eli and his sons were in charge of guarding the Ark of the Covenant at Shiloh and conducting the nation’s worship, but their corruption and indifference led to the end of their priesthood.
    Chapter 3, 9 and 10

     

    ‘Samuel – the man anointed in the prophetic’ Samuel is exceptionally gifted by God to hear God and minister to God’s people through the prophetic ministry.
    Chapters 13 and 15

     

    ‘Saul – the king who failed’ Saul is tragic hero. A man who in many ways did do well, but because he was crippled with insecurity and fear, he failed to do God’s work and became a violent and feared tyrant.
    Chapter 14

     

    ‘Jonathan – a brave man’ Jonathan was a humble, courageous, loving man whose life was marked by integrity, loyalty and kindness.
    Chapter 17

     

    ‘David’s courage’ David’s faith and courage stand out in this story of his fight with Goliath.
    Chapter 30

     

    ‘David’s strength’ The moment of David’s testing before he became became king.

     

     

     

    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    Leadership, especially church leadership, is compromised by ungodly character. Study the characters of the 6 heroes in 1 Samuel (Hannah, Eli, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, David) and list their high points of godliness and their failings.


    Question 2 -

    Apart from 12:20-25, there is hardly a single reference in 1 Samuel to Moses, or the covenant, or anything in the law of the covenant. Is this a problem, and should we be concerned about such an absence?


    Question 3 -

    Samuel anointed Saul as king over God’s people, but he did not teach Saul how to be a good king, nor did he mentor him. Rather, it seems that Samuel allowed his indifference towards Saul’s appointment and his own loss of power and influence to turn his own heart against Saul. Because Saul was deeply insecure, fearful, impulsive and capricious he quickly became a dangerous tyrant, with the result that Samuel himself then became frightened of Saul. Deep in the heart of ‘1 Samuel’ there is a struggle between the power of the charismatic prophetic leader, and the power of the appointed civil leader. Have you seen this struggle in churches today? What should be the relationship between the prophetic people and the church leadership? How should church leaders cultivate the prophetic ministry?


    Question 4 -

    In 1 Samuel 15, God instructs Saul through Samuel to destroy the Amalekites. Is this a problem?


    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

    Taster Course Questions

     

    QQQ         

    Who are your heroes? What you admire about them? Who is the most tragic person you’ve ever known?

    https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2014/04/heroes-our-time-top-50

     

     

    QQQ         

    Have you ever encountered a prophetic ministry like Samuel’s?

    http://bethelredding.com/content/prophetic-ministry

     

     

    QQQ         

    Which 21st Century world leader today is most like king Saul?

    Comment: 

    Who are the leaders demonstrating fear, jealousy, capricious reactionary behaviour?

     

     

     

     

    Starter Course Questions

     

    QQQ         

    Hannah prayed her heart out but experienced unanswered prayer. Have you ever faced a similar situation? How should we react when God does not seem to be answering our prayers?

    Comment: 

    Keep praying on the basis of God’s promises, and ask God why he is not answering. 

     

     

    QQQ         

    Why exactly was Saul a bad king? Why did Yahweh reject him?

    Comment:

    The specific reasons are: 1) He offered a priestly sacrifice when he had no authority to do so (13:13), and 2) He was afraid of his men and did not carry out the Lord’ command (15:24-26).

     

     

    QQQ         

    Samuel was anointed with the gift of prophecy and David was gifted in leading worship. During the past three or four decades, the worldwide church has seen strong development in both these ministries. For example, Hillsong has consistently produced outstanding worship songs which have been sung by the worldwide church, and we continue to watch the emergence of men and women operating with increasing levels of prophetic anointing. Where might ‘1 Samuel’ be telling us all this is leading?

    Comment: 

    That God is preparing the worldwide Church for an important new phase of ministry in the world.

     

     

    QQQ

    The people asked for a king. Who and what did God give?

    Comment:  

    Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven.

     

     

    QQQ

    The story of the birthing of the dynasty of King David begins with a woman in tears praying. What does this tell us about the sort of ‘story’ that is being written? What does it tell you about how you can make your mark on history? Do you know any “Hannahs”?

    Comment:  

    It clearly indicates that the ‘history’ is being related in order to communicate the spiritual developments of the nation, not the civil details.

     

     

     

    Main Course Questions

     

    QQQ

    ‘David enquired of the Lord’ (23:2). Every man and woman faces times in life when we desperately need to hear what God is saying to us. When you face exceptionally situations how do you actually ‘enquire of the Lord’?

     

     

    QQQ

    The underlying development in 1 Samuel is David’s preparation for kingship. So we should ask: why did he struggle so much; why did things seemed to get worse before they got better; and, what was God trying to teach him through the progression of the things that happened to him?

     

     

    QQQ

    Prophetic ministry plays a dominant part in 1 Samuel. Where is it used well, and where badly?

     

    https://www.charismanews.com/opinion/40186-the-5-biggest-mistakes-we-make-in-prophetic-ministry

    Comment:   

    Incidents of good prophetic ministry in 1 Samuel: 2:27f, 3:1-4:1, 9:1-10:24, 15:14, 16:13.

    Incidents of bad prophetic ministry: Chapter 28.

     

     

    QQQ

    What leadership characteristics were Yahweh/Samuel looking for? What makes a good king? What makes a bad king? What does God actually want in terms of leadership for his people?

    Comment:    

    A good king is one who represents God to his people, this is why David is chosen as being a man ‘after God’s heart’ (13:14).

     

     

    QQQ         

    ‘The Lord looks at the heart’ (16:7). This is an important axiom and insight into the way God works, and it ought to influence the way we choose and appoint people in churches. What sort of features ‘of the heart’ should you consider when you next use your influence to appoint someone to a position in church?

    Comment:    

    Godliness, faithfulness to the gospel, goodness and wisdom (Matthew 24:45-47).

     

     

    QQQ         

    What should we do when the voice of God is silent (28:6)?

    Comment:  

    Humble yourself before the Lord. Search your heart. Confess your sins. Listen. Pray, not for what you want, but that ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. Wait. Keep focused on the Lord.

     

     

     

    Dessert Course Questions

     

    QQQ         

    Leadership, especially church leadership, is compromised by ungodly character. Study the characters of the 6 heroes in 1 Samuel (Hannah, Eli, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, David) and list their high points of godliness and their failings.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Apart from 12:20-25, there is hardly a single reference in 1 Samuel to Moses, or the covenant, or anything in the law of the covenant. Is this a problem, and should we be concerned about such an absence?

    Comment:    

    It is interesting that there is so little about the Old Covenant Law, but this need not be a problem. We are told what we need to know, and all that happens in ‘1 Samuel’ happens within the wider context of the call to obey Yahweh, as mentioned in 12:20-25.

     

     

    QQQ         

    Samuel anointed Saul as king over God’s people, but he did not teach Saul how to be a good king, nor did he mentor him. Rather, it seems that Samuel allowed his indifference towards Saul’s appointment and his own loss of power and influence to turn his own heart against Saul. Because Saul was deeply insecure, fearful, impulsive and capricious he quickly became a dangerous tyrant, with the result that Samuel himself then became frightened of Saul. Deep in the heart of ‘1 Samuel’ there is a struggle between the power of the charismatic prophetic leader, and the power of the appointed civil leader. Have you seen this struggle in churches today? What should be the relationship between the prophetic people and the church leadership? How should church leaders cultivate the prophetic ministry?

    Comment:

    Put very simply: both are needed. Prophetic ministry will spin out of control if it is not submitted to properly instituted church leadership (1 Corinthians 12:28), but conversely the leadership of the church will itself stultify and lose direction if it is not influenced by and alert to the prophetic revelation that God gives to those in its membership who are gifted prophetically by the Spirit. The Prophetic should never be allowed to bully the church leadership, they must be humbly submissive to the leaders and allow the leadership to exercise its own responsibility to the Lord for discharging those prophetic words that, after careful discernment, are deemed to be from the Lord.

     

     

    QQQ         

    In 1 Samuel 15, God instructs Saul through Samuel to destroy the Amalekites. Is this a problem?

    Comment:

    Yes, at face value. But this particular incident seems on careful study to be a garrison of Amalekites, not the whole Amalekite nation. Even David did not destroy the Amalekites. Paul Copan’s book ‘Is God a moral monster?’ is helpful on this difficult subject.

     

      Coaching Questions -

    Coaching Questions for the 1 Samuel Pod Sessions

                                                                                    

    Podder:

     

    Sections Point to be noted
    Opening: What’s the main thing happening with you at the moment?

     

    At the end of our last pod you said you would be happy for me to ask you this question …How have you got on?

     

    How did you go about engaging with 1 Samuel?

     

    Are there specific things you want to talk about today from your study of 1 Samuel?

                …any questions,

                …or things you don’t understand?

     

    Which stories made the greatest impression on you?

     

     

    Substance – Message and Theology:

     

     

    QQQ Use the questions for 21st C.    

     

    QQQ – How would you assess Samuel’s leadership of God’s people?

     

    QQQ – What were the essential differences between Saul and David?

     

    QQQ – How did God prepare David for kingship?

     

    QQQ – How do you find strength in the Lord (30:6)?

     

    QQQ – What ‘Holy Habits’ can disciples of Jesus learn from 1 Samuel?

     

    Your insights:

     

     

    Application:

     

    Holy Habit:

    QQQ – What question shall I ask you when we next meet in the light of the application that you have made from our study today?

     

    QQQ – See 1 Samuel 30:6. How do you find strength in the Lord your God?  How can you grow stronger in this?