Philippe R. Sterling
1st and 2nd Samuel presents the establishment of a human monarchy to mediate the rule of God.
Samuel is not the author of the book though he may have contributed portions of it. The book carries the title “Samuel” because he is an important character in the transition of the theocracy from the Judges to the monarchy. The book was probably written near the end of David’s rule. The book traces selective events of the transition from the theocracy under the last of the Judges (Samuel) to the theocracy under the monarchy (the reigns of Saul and David) showing God’s blessing for covenant faithfulness and God’s discipline for covenant unfaithfulness thus encouraging God’s people to covenant faithfulness. The book opens with Samuel’s birth about 1120 BC and concludes near the time of royal succession from David to Solomon about 971 BC.
Literary Structure and Content
1st and 2nd Samuel divides into seven units:
1. The Eli and Samuel Narrative: God calls Samuel to play an important part in the nation’s history during the
transition period from the Judges to the monarchy (1 Samuel 1—3).
2. The History of the Ark: God’s power and abiding presence is vital for the welfare of the nation (1 Samuel 4—7).
3. The Samuel and Saul Relationship: The nation enters into the monarchy phase of its history in which Saul fails
to obey and is rejected by God (1 Samuel 8—15).
4. The Saul and David Conflict: God places his favor upon David who then is pursued by a jealous Saul (1 Samuel
16—31). The life of Saul demonstrates the serious effects of sin.
5. The King David Narrative: David increases in power as he is faithful to God and shows kindness to Saul’s family
(2 Samuel 1—10).
6. The Conflict over David’s Throne: David sins and experiences God’s discipline in the conflict over his throne
(2 Samuel 11—20). The latter phase of David’s life demonstrates the serious effects of sin.
7. The Six Appendices: Six appendices supplement the text to illustrate again that faithfulness to the covenant
results in God’s blessing and failure to follow the covenant results in discipline and death (2 Samuel 21—24).
The Eli and Samuel Narrative – Leadership Transition
Samuel succeeds elderly Eli and rules over all Israel.
I. Samuel’s Birth: Hannah miraculously gives birth to Samuel and returns him to God for service (1:1—2:11).
II. Eli’s wicked Sons: Samuel’s faithfulness contrasts with the unfaithfulness of Eli’s sons (2:12-36).
III. Samuel’s Call: God calls Samuel for service (3:1-21).
1. God responds to prayer and faith.
2. God blesses the righteous.
3. God judges the wicked.
4. God intervenes in the lives of his people according to his plan of redemption and the faith that meets that
The History of the Ark
I. The Loss of the Ark: The Philistines take away the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence, from Israel (4).
II. The Supremacy of God: Through the presence of the Ark God shows himself to be superior to the gods of
the pagans (5).
III. The Return of the Ark: God miraculously brings the Ark back to Israel (6).
1. The Ark symbolized God’s presence in the nation but the Israelites treated the Ark as if it were a magic tool in
2. The abiding presence of God is vital for the people of God.
3. God ultimately controls people and animals.
4. The correct response to God’s presence is to rejoice and offer sacrifice.
The Samuel and Saul Relationship – Leadership Transition
The nation asks for and receives a King who proves to be unfaithful.
I. Samuel as Judge: Samuel serves as a Judge in Israel defeating the Philistines (7).
II. Saul’s Reign: In reply to Israel’s request for a king in light of the dishonesty of Samuel’s sons, God gives
them Saul (8—11).
III. Saul’s Rejection by God: In response to Saul’s unfaithfulness God rejects him as King (12—15). Saul led
Israel for 42 years.
1. God’s people should not take matters into their own hands but rather be willing to wait for God.
2. Sin has serious consequences. Eli’s sons disobey and die. Samuel’s sons disobey and are set aside. Saul
disobeys and is set aside.
The Saul and David Conflict – Leadership Transition
Saul seeks to kill David but is himself killed.
I. David’s Anointing: Samuel anoints David as King who then successfully fights Goliath (16—17).
II. David in Saul’s Court: David’s rise in fame prompts Saul’s jealousy who then drives David from the royal
III. David’s Exile: David goes into exile and faithfully trusts God while being pursued by Saul (21—30).
IV. Saul’s Death: Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle with the Philistines (31).
David was not a usurper of the throne. He purposefully avoided taking action against the house of Saul. Jonathan, Saul’s heir, pledged his allegiance to David. God placed David on the throne. In time the nation fully acknowledged the fact.
1. We must respond in a proper way to God’s anointed. This has great implications for the Messiah in the line of
David who is anointed with the Spirit.
2. Victory comes from God and not our own strength.
Saul and David – A Contrast of Hearts
Saul – Followed after His own Heart
David – Followed after God’s Heart
God chose Saul to be King.
God chose David to be King.
God appointed Samuel to guide Saul.
God appointed prophets to guide David.
God gave Saul victory.
God gave David victory.
Saul did not fully obey God.
David obeyed God.
Saul sinned and made excuses.
David sinned and repented.
Saul loved himself.
David loved God.
The King David Narrative
I. Lament over Saul: David mourns the death of Saul and Jonathan (1).
II. King over Judah: God blesses David as he uses wisdom to unify the nation (2—4).
III. King over All Israel: God blesses David as he fully establishes the kingdom (5—10). David led Israel for
1. Our influence grows as we rely on God.
2. Worship is central to our lives – Jerusalem and the Temple.
3. Faithfulness to God has lasting significance – The Davidic Covenant.
The Conflict over David’s Throne
I. David’s Sin: God uncovers David’s sin who then admits his guilt (11—12).
David sends Joab to fight the Ammonites and besiege the royal city of Rabah.
David sins with Bathsheba and she conceives a child.
David covers up his guilt.
God uncovers David’s sin.
David admits his guilt.
Bathsheba’s child dies but her next child Solomon lives.
David fights against the Ammonites and captures the royal city of Rabah.
II. Absalom’s Revolt: Conflict within David’s house forces him into exile (13—17).
III. David’s Return: David returns to power (18—20).
1. Sin has serious consequences.
2. Though we are faithless God remains faithful.
The Six Appendices
I. Sin – The Gibeonites, the Famine and the Seven Sons of Saul (21:1-14)
II. Men – The Giant Killers (21:15-22)
III. Song – David’s Song of Praise to God (22)
IV. Song – God’s Oracle to David (23:1-7)
V. Men – David’s Mighty Men (23:8-39)
VI. Sin – The Census, the Plague and the Site of the Temple (24)
The books of Samuel tell the story of God making the kingship covenant with David. God wanted a king who would provide a good example of what his kingship was like. Samuel is God’s agent in anointing the king. Saul was the first anointed king but he failed to obey God. The people sought the wrong kind of king and God initially gave them the kind of king for whom they asked. David proved to be the king after God’s heart.
The formation of the Davidic covenant is the most important theological development in the books of Samuel. God chose David as king and promised him an eternal dynastic line (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 89:30-37; Isa. 9:7). David and his dynasty were to demonstrate what it means to rule under God. The line leads to Jesus who as Messiah is the Davidic king who perfectly demonstrates God’s nature and who will one day rule over the nations. Though initially rejected by the nation, the Messiah will eventually be acknowledged by the nation and will establish the kingdom. People who believe and faithfully serve him will reign with him.