The book of First Samuel comes after Ruth, but follows the book of Judges chronologically, as Ruth took place “during the time of the judges” (Ruth 1:1). In the wake of Israel’s moral and spiritual failure under the leadership of the judges, the need for Israel to have a wise, faithful leader becomes apparent.
First Samuel is part one of the story of the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel. First and Second Samuel are one continuous story, but are separated in the Bible because the earliest manuscripts were written on two scrolls.
The book is named for the prophet Samuel, whom God uses to raise up the first kings of Israel.
The book opens with Samuel’s origin story. Samuel grows up in the tabernacle, where God’s presence dwells. At a young age, God speaks to him, and he becomes a prophet, or messenger of God. God uses Samuel to share important messages with the Israelites about who God is and what He plans to do for His people.
The rest of First Samuel follows the lives of Samuel, Saul, whom God chooses as the first king of Israel, and David, whom God chooses to take Saul’s place as king.
The story mainly focuses on the rise and fall of King Saul and his relationship with David. Though Saul starts out as a king full of promise and charisma, he is dishonest and prideful. He lets his pride control him, eventually leading him into a state of mental instability, paranoia and disobedience to God.
While Saul is still king, God tells Samuel to go to Bethlehem and find David, a humble shepherd boy and the youngest of seven sons. God chooses David to be the next king, and David goes on to slay Goliath the giant and rise in the ranks in Saul’s army.
Saul becomes extremely jealous of David and tries to kill him more than once, though David has never wronged Saul and has even shown him great respect and loyalty.
The book ends with Saul’s tragic death, leaving David poised to become the next king.
Pride vs. humility: Saul and David are living examples of God’s attitude toward pride and humility. Saul’s pride worsens throughout First Samuel, and as it does, his leadership suffers. David remains humble and faithful to God throughout the story, and his leadership continues to strengthen.
1 Samuel 8:4-5: “So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’”
1 Samuel 16:7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”
1 Samuel 17:47: “’All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.’”
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
First Samuel shows the contrast between Saul’s heart and David’s heart. Where Saul’s pride makes him doubt and disobey God, David’s humility allows him to trust and obey God.
God uses the character of these two men to show the importance of the condition of our hearts.
Saul serves as a warning to reflect on our flaws and humble ourselves before God, so as not to end up like him. David is an example of patience and trust in God’s timing, regardless of circumstances.
Ultimately, God is in control. He is able to use both Saul and David to establish the Kingdom of Israel.
But we will see in Second Samuel, God is able to do more with David’s obedience than with Saul’s pride.