1 Samuel

Book summary

1 Samuel covers two transitions in Israel’s leadership, and the start of a third:

  • Eli to Samuel, the last of Israel’s judges

  • Samuel to Saul, Israel’s first king

  • Saul to David, Israel’s second king

The transition from judges to kings is an important juncture in the history of Israel. God establishes his holy standards for Israel’s kings, and it’s during this time that we see the rise of many of God’s prophets, whose books cover the last third of the Old Testament.

Chapters 1-7 — Samuel, Israel’s last righteous judge

Ch 1-3 — Samuel’s birth and prophetic calling

Ch 1:1-20 — Hannah’s prayer
  • In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on 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 for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” (1 Sam. 1:10-11)

Ch 1:21 to 2:11 — Hannah dedicates Samuel and prays
  • [Hannah said to Eli,] “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there. (1 Sam. 1:25-28)

Ch 2:12-36 — Corruption of the House of Eli
  • Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. (1 Sam. 2:12)

  • [A man of God came to Eli and said to him,] “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘… And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you — they will both die on the same day.’ (1 Sam. 2:31,34)

Ch 3 — The Lord calls Samuel
  • The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Sam. 3:10)

Ch 4-7 — Trouble with the Philistines

Ch 4 — The Philistines capture the Ark, and Eli dies
  • [A man brought news to Eli of the battle:] “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. (1 Sam. 4:17-18)

Ch 5-6 — The Philistines return the Ark
  • [God afflicts the Philistines with tumors.] “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” (1 Sam. 5:11)

Ch 7 — Samuel subdues the Philistines
  • So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Sam. 7:3)

Chapters 8-15 — Saul, Israel’s first king

Ch 8 — Israel asks for a king

  • [Samuel appointed his two sons, Joel and Abijah, as Israel’s leaders.] But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. 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 Sam. 8:3-5)

  • [Samuel prayed.] And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” (1 Sam. 8:7)

Ch 9-12 — Transition from Samuel to Saul

Ch 9-11 — Samuel anoints Saul, who is declared king
  • Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?” (1 Sam. 10:1)

Ch 12 — Samuel’s farewell address
  • 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 perish.” (1 Sam. 12:24-25)

Ch 13-15 — Saul fails as king

Samuel rebukes Saul
  • 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 perish.” (1 Sam. 13:13-14)

The Lord rejects Saul as king
  • Saul does not completely destroy the Amalekites as God had asked. Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night. (1 Sam. 15:10-11)

Chapters 16-31 — David, Israel’s upcoming king

Ch 16 — Samuel anoints David

  • The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Sam. 16:1)

  • Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” (1 Sam. 16:10-12)

Ch 17 — David and Goliath

  • As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. (1 Sam. 17:48-49)

Ch 18-19 — Saul tries to kill David

Saul’s first attempt to kill David
  • Whatever mission Saul sent him on, David was so successful that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the troops, and Saul’s officers as well. (1 Sam. 18:5)

  • As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” (1 Sam. 18:7-8)

  • The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully on Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” But David eluded him twice. Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had departed from Saul. (1 Sam. 18:10-12)

Saul’s keeps trying to kill David
  • Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there.” (1 Sam. 19:1-2)

  • Saul sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed.” (1 Sam. 19:11)

Ch 20-31 — David in exile

Ch 20 — Jonathan protects David from Saul
  • Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?” (1 Sam. 20:1)

Ch 21:1 to 22:5 — David flees
  • David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. (1 Sam. 21:1)

  • That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. (1 Sam. 21:10)

  • David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. (1 Sam. 22:1-2)

Ch 22:6 to 23 — Saul pursues David
  • But the king said, “You will surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family.” Then the king ordered the guards at his side: “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because they too have sided with David. They knew he was fleeing, yet they did not tell me.” (1 Sam. 22:16-17)

Ch 24-26 — David spares Saul’s life twice
  • He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. (1 Sam. 24:3-4)

  • [David said to Saul,] “This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’” (1 Sam. 24:10)

Ch 27-31 — The end of Saul’s reign
  • Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell dead on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines were in hot pursuit of Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-Shua. The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically. (1 Sam. 31:1-3)