Royal history begins with the book of Samuel. After 350 years the rule of the Judges ended. The next 500 years, kings ruled Israel. Samuel was the last of the Judges while Saul was the first of the kings and he reigned for 25 years.
The book begins with the story of Samuel’s barren mother Hannah who promised God that if He would give her a son she would dedicate him to serve God. God answered her prayer and Hannah was faithful to her promise. “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.” Samuel was a man of prayer and he lived with the priest Eli.
As a young boy Samuel woke up to the voice of God calling him. “Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” (1 Sam 3:4) We each have a calling, a purpose, a way in which to serve God. “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.” ( 1 Sam 3:19)
Eli had ruled for forty years as both Judge and Priest. Both of Eli’s sons acted disgracefully. As leaders, this resulted in Israel’s declining moral corruption. God warned Eli of the downfall of his house. “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”” ( 1 Sam 4:22)
When the nation of Israel asked for a king, Samuel prayed and God answered “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected as their king, but Me.”
The Philistines were a wealthy civilization who settled on the coastal plain. They were a maritime people of sea roving pirates with equipment that gave them great advantage in war. The Philistines were subdued at Mizpah. “Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the Lord for you….On that day they fasted and there they confessed, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’ And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.” The Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines and in a state of panic, the Israelites slaughtered them.
When Eli the Priest was 98 years old, the Philistines invaded Israel, the Ark of the Covenant was stolen and Eli’s sons were killed. “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. He had led Israel forty years.” (1 Sam 4:18)
The people cried out for a king to rule them. Since Samuel’s ear was tuned to the Lord, in obedience Samuel anoints Saul as the first king of Israel. “When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the Lord said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.” (1 Sam 9:17)
Saul was handsome, tall and a noble warrior. He was humble at first, but then his pride flourished into disobedience. Saul failed God by his impatience and his cruelty towards his son Jonathan, his jealousy over David, and his appeal to a witch. (1 Sam 13-28)
Whenever king Saul failed, Samuel would warn him. God rebukes Saul and tells Samuel to anoint a replacement king. (1 Sam 16:1) Samuel travels to visit David, Jesse’s son, the great grandson of Ruth and Boaz.
David was born in Bethlehem, and he was the youngest of eight sons. Samuel anoints David as the future king. The young shepherd was pulled out of the field by God and David began serving king Saul as the harpist who helped soothe the king’s melancholy. After Saul failed to keep God’s commandments, God spoke to Samuel; “I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king” Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him (one of Jesse’s other sons.) 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 Sam 16)
King Saul promoted David to a high command in Israel’s army and his great success roused the insecure jealousy of the king.
Saul made 5 attacks of David’s life. But with God’s anointing, David was given wisdom and protection. The events recorded in the first book of Samuel covers about 115 years. It covers the story of the boy Samuel answering God “Here I am”. (Chap 3) David and Goliath (Chap 17) then the friendship between David and king Saul’s son Jonathan. (Chap 18).
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.” (1 Sam 15:10) The closing chapter of first Samuel draws a picture of how empty a life is without God. King Saul’s desolation was due to his half-hearted obedience to God.
A victim of human pride and jealousy, the people’s choice for king commits suicide on a field of battle rather than be captured. (1 Sam 15) Samuel’s judgeship ran from his home at Ramah to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah. Samuel, a Prophet of the Lord oversaw and administered the affairs in his territory. “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true.” (1 Sam 9:6)
Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Alley Hoyle.
All rights reserved.