Samuel, First Book of

1 Samuel; 1 Samuel 2; 1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 3; 1 Samuel 4; 1 Samuel 5‑6; 1 Samuel 7; 2 Samuel 14:14; 1 Samuel 8; 1 Samuel 9‑10; 1 Samuel 11‑12; 1 Samuel 13; 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 14; 1 Samuel 15; 1 Samuel 16; Matthew 3; 1 Samuel 17‑19; Hebrews 2; Romans 1:2‑4; 1 Samuel 20‑31; 1 Samuel 25:1; Jeremiah 15:1; Revelation 13  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The personal history of Samuel is contained in this book: it opens with his birth. He was the son of Hannah and Elkanah, a descendant of Korah, of Ranathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim. He was given by God in answer to the prayer of his mother, and was consecrated by her as a Nazarite from his birth, and “lent to the Lord” as long as he lived.
1 Samuel 2. The beautiful prayer, or song, of Hannah recognizes the sovereign grace of God that brings down pride, and exalts the poor and weak. Israel had been brought low in the time of the Judges, and needed to learn that all strength and exaltation must come from God. This prophetic song looks forward to the time when God shall judge the ends of the earth by His King and His Anointed (1 Sam. 2:1010The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed. (1 Samuel 2:10)). The wickedness of the sons of Eli is then brought out, and Eli is solemnly warned by “a man of God.” Samuel had been growing and was in favor both with Jehovah and with men.
1 Samuel 3. The word of Jehovah was precious: there was no open vision: the priest had failed. God called Samuel, but he supposed it was Eli. On this being repeated three times, Eli instructed him, if he was called again, to say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” He was called again, and said, “Speak; for thy servant heareth” (omitting as yet the word “Lord”). God now began to make revelations to Samuel. Because Eli did not restrain his sons, judgment should fall upon his house. When told of this, Eli answered, “It is the Lord: let Him do what seemeth Him good.” Samuel became God’s servant for the crisis: the Lord was with him, and none of his words fell to the ground. From Dan to Beersheba Samuel was recognized as the prophet of Jehovah.
1 Samuel 4. Israel was smitten before the Philistines; but instead of turning to the Lord and confessing their sins, they sent for the ark of the covenant, saying that it should save them, and made a great shout; but God was not in this act, the Israelites were smitten, including the two sons of Eli, and the ark was captured by the Philistines. When Eli heard the sad news he fell back and died. The wife of Phinehas also, in giving birth to a son, called his name Ichabod, “no glory,” and died.
1 Samuel 5-6 rehearse the judgments of God on the Philistines while the ark was in their possession, and the fall of their god Dagon. Also the return of the ark, and God’s judgment on the men of Beth-shemesh for looking into it.
1 Samuel 7. The ark was taken to Kirjath-jearim. After twenty years the people lamented after the Lord, and Samuel said they must put away their strange gods, and prepare their hearts to the Lord and serve Him only, and He would save them. They gathered at Mizpeh, poured out water before the Lord as a token of repentance (compare 2 Sam. 14:1414For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him. (2 Samuel 14:14)), and confessed their sins. On the Philistines coming to attack them they begged Samuel to cry unto the Lord for them. He offered a sucking lamb as a burnt offering, thus recognizing the ground of the relationship between the people and God. The Philistines were subdued: God thundered upon them. They came no more to attack Israel, and the cities they had taken were restored. Samuel raised up a stone and called it EBEN-EZER, that is, “the stone of help.” Samuel went on circuit and judged all Israel. He resided at Ramah, and erected an altar there. The days of Samuel were exceptional: he was not a priest, but he offered sacrifices, and had this altar without either the tabernacle or the ark. He was the man of faith in those days, being owned of God as the upholder of His people.
1 Samuel 8. There is a change here. Samuel was growing old, and had appointed his two sons to be judges; but they took bribes and perverted judgment. The people, making this the excuse, begged Samuel to appoint them a king, that he might be their judge “like all the nations.” God had separated them from all the nations, and He bade Samuel tell them that in asking a king they were rejecting, not Samuel merely, but Himself; yet He told Samuel to listen to their request.
1 Samuel 9-10. God caused Saul the son of Kish providentially to go where Samuel was, and then pointed him out as the one to be anointed as king, that he might save Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. On Samuel presenting him to them—a man taller than the rest of the people, and consequently approved according to man’s natural judgment—they shouted “God save the king.”
1 Samuel 11-12. On Nahash the Ammonite declaring that he would make a covenant with the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead only on the condition of thrusting out all their right eyes, to “lay it for a reproach upon all Israel,” Saul was stirred to action by the Spirit of God, and the Ammonites were slain. Samuel called the people to Gilgal (the place where the flesh had been judged), and Saul was made king before the Lord, and peace offerings were offered. Samuel solemnly appealed to the people, first as to his own integrity, and then as to God’s faithfulness, and to their own waywardness. A sign was given them; they were not to fear, but be faithful, and mercy would be the result.
1 Samuel 13. Saul is left without Samuel and is put to the test. He had been told that he was to go to Gilgal and wait there seven days for Samuel, for Samuel was the link between Saul and the Lord (1 Sam. 10:88And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and show thee what thou shalt do. (1 Samuel 10:8)). Saul tarried the seven days, and then, because the people were leaving him, he “forced himself,” as he says, and offered a burnt offering. Samuel came as soon as he had finished, and rebuked him for not keeping the commandment of the Lord, and announced that his kingdom should not continue. Samuel left him, and Philistine “spoilers” spread themselves in the land. The Israelites were in weakness, they had even to resort to the Philistines to sharpen their weapons.
1 Samuel 14. The Israelites were hiding themselves in caves. Jonathan, Saul’s son, was a man of faith: he had previously attacked the Philistines, and now, with his armor-bearer only, began again to smite them. God sent a great earthquake, and the Philistines smote one another. The Israelites also attacked them, and there would have been a greater victory had not Saul, in fleshly zeal, put all under a curse who should eat before the evening. Jonathan, who had not heard of this, tasted a little honey. When evening arrived the people hasted to kill and eat, and would have eaten with the blood had not Saul restrained them. He raised an altar unto God, and then inquired of God, and would have put Jonathan to death for eating the honey had not the people prevented it. Saul had all the outward forms of reverence for God, but he was not a man of faith; he called the Israelites Hebrews, missing the point of their relationship with God. Still God used him to subdue some of the enemies of Israel.
1 Samuel 15. Saul is now put to a final test. A message is sent him from God to go and utterly destroy Amalek. Saul however saved the best of the sheep and oxen under the plea of these being for sacrifice. Agag was also brought away alive. Yet Saul said he had obeyed the word of the Lord. Samuel uttered that important principle, “To obey is better than sacrifice,” telling Saul that God had rent the kingdom from him. Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord: he then finally left Saul.
1 Samuel 16 commences a new section in the book. Samuel was told by the Lord not to mourn for Saul: He had rejected him. Samuel was then sent to Bethlehem to anoint David. The Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from that day, but He departed from Saul, and an evil spirit troubled him. David, as a skilful player on the harp, was sent for by the king. Saul, a figure of the first man, having been tested and found wanting, the beloved one (David) is brought forward: he is announced as a type of Christ (compare Matt. 3).
1 Samuel 17-19. David must have left Saul, and we know not exactly what interval elapsed before David slew Goliath. His victory over the giant is a striking type of Christ’s victory over the power of Satan in the cross (Heb. 2). In returning triumphant, David is a type of the risen Christ; he must have the first place, even as Christ of the seed of David according to the flesh is declared Son of God with power by resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:2-42(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (Romans 1:2‑4)).
Saul set David over the men of war, but the praises of the women, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands,” raised his envy, and he eyed him from that day and attempted to kill him. Having failed in this he sought to ensnare him by demanding, as a dowry for his daughter, a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. But the Lord prospered David everywhere and Michal became his wife.
Jonathan’s heart was knit to David, and he endeavored to divert his father from his murderous intentions. Michal also protected him and saved his life. David fled to Samuel, and on Saul sending messengers to take him, the Spirit of God was on the messengers and they prophesied. When this had taken place three times, Saul went himself, but the Spirit of God came upon him also, and he prophesied: David was saved.
1 Samuel 20-31. Nothing could teach Saul wisdom—to let God’s anointed one alone: it is thus that man cannot bear to be superseded by Christ. Then began the flight of David from the wrath of Saul, and Saul’s pursuit of him; the grace of David in twice saving the life of Saul when he had him in his power; the wickedness of Saul in slaying the priestly house of Ahimelech; the mistake of David in joining himself to the Philistines, from which the Lord delivered him; and his discipline in the destruction of Ziklag, and the carrying away of his two wives with the inhabitants, but in mercy all were recovered.
In the meantime Samuel had passed away, with the simple notice that he died, and all the Israelites gathered together and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah (1 Sam. 25:11And Samuel died; and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran. (1 Samuel 25:1)). He was a faithful prophet of God (compare Jer. 15:11Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. (Jeremiah 15:1)), though, alas! his house failed in his sons as judges.
When Saul approached his end, and could get no answer from God, he resorted to the witch at Endor: just as man, who has rejected Christ these 1,800 years, will at the close of this age, in the apostasy of Christendom, give himself up to Satan (Rev. 13). Samuel was raised, who foretold the speedy death of Saul and of his sons: see DIVINATION. A battle with the Philistines was fought on the next day, three of Saul’s sons were slain, and Saul, being sore wounded, fell on his sword, and was put to death by an Amalekite. The bodies of Saul and of his sons were hanged up on the wall of Beth-shan, but were rescued during the night by men of Jabesh-gilead, burnt, and the bones buried under a tree.
The First Book of Samuel shows a solemn change in the manifest relationship of Israel with God. Not only had the priest failed in the house of Eli, but the ark of the covenant, the symbol of Israel’s relationship with God, was in the hands of their enemies, this being permitted by God to bring things to an issue. He raised up a faithful prophet in Samuel, who also in a measure acted as priest, thus providing in grace a means of communication with his unfaithful people. Their demanding a king was virtually refusing God as their sovereign, though we know that according to the purpose of God there was to be a king as type of the Lord Jesus, King of Israel. The history of their first king shows that royalty, as everything else committed to man, was quickly followed by failure.