Thursday, September 2

Book Overview: 1st Samuel

The Book of 1st Samuel. Calling it "The Book of 1st Samuel" sounds odd, since it has "1st" in the title. I contemplated for some time whether or not I should put all of the books that are separated into parts (1st/2nd Samuel, 1st/2nd Kings... 1st/2nd/3rd John, etc) into one overview, or separate. However, each Book was separated for a reason, and they will stay that way - so whether the title sounds odd or not, this is the way in which we will proceed. (Photo credit to: Bible Hero Posters)

1st Samuel tells of the final Judge, Samuel, who was also a prophet. It tells of the first two Kings - Saul and David, how they came to be anointed as Kings, and the events surrounding their lives. The infamous stories of David and Goliath, God's Call of Samuel, Samuel's Spirit and Saul, as well as many others are found in this book.

This is the ninth Book Overview in a series of 66 Books. These overviews, as previously stated, do not interfere with the regular lessons, but these are written so that it may provide readers with details about the book, things that they may have missed, and will hopefully peak your interest so that you will read the book, the entire Bible, in fact, as God wants us to do. Now, onto the Book of 1st Samuel.

Title: Books of Samuel [1st Samuel] (English), Sefer Sh'muel ספר שמואל (Hebrew) The two books of Samuel were originally written in Hebrew, as one collective work. However, the books were split into two separate works, since by different authors.

Authorship: Traditionally, the authors of these two Books of Samuel are said to be Samuel, Gad, and Nathan. Samuel is believed to have written the first 24 chapters of 1st Samuel. Whereas Gad, who was the companion of David (1 Samuel 22:5), is believed to have continued the history from that point, and Nathan is believed to have completed the Books of Samuel, and was probably the one who arranged the two books in the form that we now have. (1 Chronicles 29:29).

Written: Sometime between 1043 BC - when Saul was crowned King, and just before 1004 BC - when David captured Jerusalem. So, between 1043-1004 BC.

Summary: "1st Samuel records the last days of the judges of Israel, the first days of the period of kings for Israel, and how Israel rejected God's leadership in favor of human leadership. 1st Samuel shows the stubbornness and evilness of the human heart, and how we should rely on God for true leadership."

Overview: 1st Samuel 1-7 gives the account of Samuel, who is the last of the Judges, and how he prepares and makes way for the coming of the kings.
1st Samuel 8-31 goes on to tell of King Saul, the first King of Israel, and of David, the boy who later becomes King.

The story of the events surrounding the birth of the prophet Samuel and his mother Hannah can be found in 1st Samuel 1-3. 1st Samuel 16-17 tell of David, how he was chosen by God, and how he killed the Giant, Goliath.

1st Samuel 31 ends the book with the death of King Saul, which was prophesied to occur by Samuel the day before, by his the spirit of Samuel.

Points: The Ark of the Covenant makes a return appearance in 1st Samuel 4. The Philistines steal the ark, which never returns to Shiloh. The Ark plagues the Philistines (1st Samuel 5) who proceed to hand it back over to Israel, after holding it for seven months.

A point about the calling up of Samuel. He was called up "out of the earth." In ancient Hebrew cosmology, similar in many ways to Sumerian, Greco-Roman and Egyptian understandings of the afterlife, upon death one would descend into the underworld. This is merely one example of this ancient understanding of the afterlife, seen all throughout Scripture. It was along these lines (the fact that individuals such as Abraham or Samuel were in the underworld) that the later Apostle's Creed said of Jesus, "He descended into Hell" to bring them up.

Saul chased David all over, for he was jealous of David. After he had killed Goliath, he became a leader, as well as a Psalmist who played for King Saul. The people would sing, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands," which greatly angered Saul. He made several attempts to kill David, all unsuccessful, as David would succeed Saul as King.

Saul often went into battle without consulting the Lord. He often did whatever he wanted without consulting the Lord. Since he was unfaithful, and rebuked God, when it came time for Saul to ask for God's Advice, God was silent. So Saul had gone to see the medium, so that Samuel could help him. Samuel was brought up - but not by the witch of Endor.

With careful study of the text of 1st Samuel 28, we can deduce that the reason the medium was shocked to see Samuel and realized that she was with Saul, who had disguised himself, was because God intervened, allowing Saul to speak with the real Samuel. Samuel then told Saul that he would die the next day. "The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me." (1st Samuel 28:19)

Samuel's terrifying prophecy was fulfilled the following day. Saul had asked his armor-bearer to kill him, "But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it." His sons died directly after. After this, the Philistines publicly displayed Saul's body in their temple... But David, taking up mantle, defeated the Amalekites.

On the west of Jordan, near Jericho, there once stood Gilgal. The only thing that marks the location today is a mass of stones by a large, immense tree. It was first the camping site of the Israelites in Canaan, as well as Joshua's Headquarters, and had become an important city by the time of Samuel. It was on the eastern limit of the circuit when he was a Judge of Israel. After Saul had been chosen and proclaimed as King at Mizpeh, Samuel said, "Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there." (1st Samuel 11:14-15) The people who were there re-assembled at Gilgal, and rejoiced.

In the time of David, the "hollow of a sling" was a military weapon as well as a Shepherd's defense against beasts such as wolves, as well as used for recalling sheep that strayed by dropping the stones in front of them. The pad  which holds the projectile being netted or woven into a concave shape was called "the hollow." (1st Samuel 17:40) Goliath was defeated with one stone - only with God did David accomplish this task.

Even while David was being chased by Saul, he had many opportunities to kill him. David spared his life on each occasion, but proved that he could have killed him - in 1st Samuel 24, David cut off the corner of a sleeping Saul's robe, and then came out of the cave and called to Saul, telling him and showing him that he spared him, and that he meant him no harm. David again spares Saul's life in 1st Samuel 26. Here, Saul was asleep, and had the spear in the ground next to him. David could have taken the chance there and then, but chose to take the spear, and then called out, showing Saul that he had the spear, and could have killed him, but did not.

Jonathan, who was the son of Saul, developed a brother-like kinship with David. They were best friends, and confided in each other often. On one occasion, when David believed Saul wanted to kill him, as "an evil spirit... came on Saul... [and] tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall." David asked Jonathan if he would go to his father at the New Moon feast the following Day and tell him, "David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan." David said to Jonathan that if Saul responded warmly, then he was safe, but if he responded in anger, then he was in danger. The following day, Saul's temper flared up, and he told Jonathan that he intended to kill David. (1st Samuel 19:9-20:33) The legendary friendship of David and Jonathan lasted until Jonathan's death, the same day as his faith Saul.

1st Samuel marks the first book where a King of Israel from the Davidic line where Jesus descended from first appears. David comes onto the scene in 1st Samuel 16. God tells Samuel that he has turned his face from Saul, and that he has chosen one of the sons of Jesse in Bethlehem. Samuel believed the new king to be several different sons of Jesse.

First Eliab, Abinadab, then Shammah. Then Jesse had seven other sons pass by Samuel. Each time, the Lord had not chosen that one. Finally, Samuel inquired if there was another. "There is still the youngest. He is tending the sheep." When Samuel saw David, God said, "Rise and anoint him; this is the one." Thus, the royal line of King David began.

I hope that you have enjoyed this Book Overview, and have gained some insight into this book of the Bible - enough to make you want to read the rest for yourself. We can learn much from this book - from the faithfulness of Samuel's mother, Hannah, to answering our call from God (Samuel), to gaining insight into the Royal Line of Jesus' Ancestors (Jesse, David), along with a myriad of other things.

1st Samuel is packed full of battles, adventure, history, and a great narrative that keeps you reading. For the entire text, I would recommend either a NIV or KJV Bible. What happens once David is crowned King? The answer lies in the next Book Overview for 2nd Samuel.

Next Book Overview: Book of 2nd Samuel
Previous Book Overview: Book of Ruth

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