Why Study I Samuel?


Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
January 2020

We begin a new series on an OT book. The OT is neglected today by most Christians.  Most preachers ignore it and most Christians do not know it very well.

Today, we begin a study of I Samuel.  There are two goals for today.  We are going to be introduced to the Book of I Samuel and the man who wrote it.

I Samuel is one of my favorite books of the Bible.  It contains one of the most famous stores in the Bible about David and Goliath.  Everyone knows that story.  Every child knows it.  It is a great miracle story.

It comes right out of I Samuel.  II Samuel has the famous story of David and Bathsheba.  There are some famous quotes in these books.  This is where we see the phrase, “obedience is better than sacrifice” (I Samuel 15:22).

In our English Bibles, I Samuel and II Samuel are separate books.  In the Hebrew Bible, I & II Samuel are one book.  They are all one story.  It is the book of Samuel.

The Hebrew Bible does not have 39 books.  It has only 24 books in it.  It is the same books we have in our Bibles, but they are listed differently.  Samuel is the first book of the Bible made up of two books.

These are books that look like they could have been written today.  Some of the topics that we see in these books include the following: infertility, adoption, unhappy home lives, dysfunctional families, sexual assault, rape, marital unfaithfulness (lust and adultery).

It includes the topic of permissive parents, completely rotten children, deceitful politicians, corrupt religious leaders, political instability, political revolution, warfare, national tragedies, good friends and people who stab you in the back.

They are historical books.  I Samuel is NOT a book of doctrine, like Romans.  It is NOT a book of prophecy, like Revelation.  It is NOT a book of worship, like Psalms.  It is a book of HISTORY.

There are thirty-one chapters in the book, and they are all history.  Why is it important for us today?  We did not come to church to hear a history lesson.  Let’s look at several reasons why this book is important for us today.

Reasons for Studying the Book

1) The Books of Samuel are inspired books

I & II Samuel is not dry secular history, like we have in school.  It is not history for history’s sake.  It is biblical history.  It is inspired history. This history teaches us some things.  It has spirituals lessons and applications for us today.

You cannot really understand the OT without these two books of the Bible.  Imagine for a minute if we did not have the books of I & II Samuel in our Bible?

How can you explain the history of a nation without talking about the history of its greatest king or rulers?  Jesus calls himself the son of David.  That does not make much sense if you do not know who David was.

2) The Books of Samuel point us to Jesus

There are some messianic prophecies in this book.  God gives David the promise of a coming Messiah.  In fact, I Samuel is the first book in the Bible that has the word “messiah” or anointed one (mashiach) in it.

These books point us to Jesus, who is is a descendant of David. He is the son of David.  He is the root and offspring of David and He is a king.  He is a Davidic King who will one day sit on the throne of David.

3) The Books of Samuel are books about leadership

This book is all about leaders.  It is a book about three men.  There are three main characters in the book: Samuel, Saul and David.  They were all leaders.  Today is a day we need good leaders.  We need them in the home.  We need them in the church, and we need them in society.

What are the three leaders in this book?  The first leader is SAMUEL.  I Samuel begins with Samuel’s birth.  Samuel was not a king, but he was a judge.  We do not normally think of him as a judge.  We think of Samuel as a prophet, but he was also a judge.  He was Judge Samuel.

Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. (I Samuel 7:15-16 ESV)

The book begins at the time of the judges.  After Joshua died was the period of the judges.  It was a period that last three to four hundred years.

The Book of Ruth also took place during the period of the Judges (Ruth 1:1).  Samuel lived around the same time that Samson lived.  He was the last of the judges.  He would have been the fourteenth judge.[1]

The second leader was SAUL.  He was Israel’s first king.  He became king because the people got tired of Samuel.  They did not want a judge.  They wanted a king. We don’t want an old judge like Samuel.  We want a new king. They said, “Give us a king.”

Samuel warned him that this was not a good idea.  They were going to settle for second best, like many Christians do today but they wanted it, so God said, “Give them a king.”

You have to be careful what you pray for.  God may actually give us what we want. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul. (Psalm 106:15 KJV).  He gave them their request but also sent a plague. That is why we need to pray for God’s will, NOT for our will.

Samuel anointed Saul reluctantly.  Samuel was a king-maker.  He anointed the king who would replace him.  The people loved him.  He looked like a king.  He was tall and stately. He looked great on the outside.

He looked presidential.  Many marry a person based on externals. He or she looks great on the outside but, as Swindoll says, “marrying an ugly person is not necessarily the answer either.”  You have to be in the will of God.

Saul is a tragic figure.  He starts out great but he has a fall.  He disqualifies himself from the job and God rejected him.  He went crazy and becomes totally demonized.

He visits a witch at the end of the book (I Samuel 28), and commits suicide.  His sons are killed in battle and Saul’s head is cut off and put in a pagan temple.  It is a terrible end to the first king of Israel.

The third leader was DAVID.  He was Israel’s second king.  He spent most of his time in I Samuel on the run.  Saul was trying to kill him.  David was anointed king in I Samuel but he does not become king until II Samuel.

David is the main character of II Samuel.  I Samuel covers over a hundred years.  II Samuel covers a period of only forty years.   It covers the reign of King David.  The life of David goes from I Samuel (when he is a boy or young man) to I Kings (when he dies).

Leadership Principles

What are some leadership principles from the books of I & II Samuel?

1) There are good and bad leaders

I Samuel is a realistic book.  I Samuel mentions two judges and two kings.  One of the judges was good (Samuel) and one was bad (Eli).  One of the kings was good (David) and one was bad (Saul).

David was a man after God’s own heart.  Saul was a man after the people’s heart. He was the people’s king.  Some leaders were obedient to God and some were disobedient.  Which type of leader are you?  If you are not a leader, which type of Christian are you?

2) No leaders are perfect

Pastors are not perfect.  Elders are not perfect.  I Samuel shows that even good leaders (David, Israel’s greatest king) can fall.  In fact, Samuel was not perfect either.  He was a great prophet but failed as a father.  That is why our hope should never be in human government.

Government is important but many think that if you just get the right party in power or the right man in the White House, all of our problems will be solved.  Psalm 146:3 says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save” (NIV).  Our trust should be in God, not in Washington or in the Republican or Democratic party.

3) Good leaders must have integrity

That is missing from many leaders today, leaders in the world and in the church but it was not missing from Samuel.

Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right. 4 “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.”  (I Samuel 12:2-4 NIV)

Interesting Facts about Samuel

What do we know about Samuel?  What was special about him?  Let’s look at eight things about him from I Samuel.

1) His birth was a complete miracle

He was a miracle baby.  He was not supposed to be born.  His mom was completely infertile.  He was only born in answer to prayer.

2) His mom consecrated him to God

He was totally dedicated to God before he was even born and before he was even conceived.  She promised to make him a Nazarite and give him back to God. There are only three lifelong Nazarites mentioned in the Bible and two of them were judges (Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist)

3) He was given up for adoption

His mom gave him up for adoption.  It is really the first adoption in the Bible.  Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses, but Moses’ mother did not put him up for adoption voluntarily.  She only did it because she had to.  It was not voluntary.

4) He was a child prophet

We have heard of child preachers today, but Samuel was a child prophet.  He was a young boy when he experienced a prophetic call.  God called him when he was young.  He spoke to him audibly.  I Samuel 3:1 says “In those days the word of the LORD was rare; there were not many visions” (NIV). God wasn’t speaking to people but He spoke to Samuel and he spoke to him when he was young.

Prophets received a message directly from God and delivered it to people.  Some of these messages were negative.  His first message that he received was that Eli and his sons would be destroyed.  It was an unpleasant message to deliver. Eli’s two sons are going to die on the same day.  Everyone recognized that Samuel was a prophet.

And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. (I Samuel 3:20 NIV)

5) He founded a school

Apparently, Samuel was not just a prophet, he was a teacher.  He founded a school.  He was the first one to start a bible school, but it was a little different than a seminary  (cf. 1 Samuel 19:18–24).  It was more of a school of prophetic ministry.  It was a school for prophets, not a school for pastors or missionaries.

6) He wrote a book

Samuel explained to the people the rights and duties of kingship. He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the Lord (I Samuel 10:25 NIV)

Here is the shocker.  Samuel did NOT write all of the book of I Samuel.  He couldn’t have.  He dies in the twenty-fifth chapter.  He did not write any of II Samuel.  Who wrote the rest of the book?  Jewish tradition says that it was written by two prophets named Gad and Nathan.

That is what the Babylonian Talmud says (Baba Bathra 14b, 15a).  That is probably correct.  I Chronicles 29:29 says, “As for the events of King David’s reign, from beginning to end, they are written in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer” (NIV)

7) He was a prayer warrior

Samuel was a great man of prayer.  He was born as a result of prayer.  His birth was an answer to prayer.  He was also a prayer warrior.  All throughout the book of I Samuel, we see him praying.  He prayed all night.  Samuel was big on prayer.  He knew it was important.

“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. (I Samuel 15:11 NIV).  He said that it was a sin NOT to pray.  As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. (I Samuel 12:23 NIV).

8) He was a type of Christ

Samuel is a type of Christ.  He is a picture of Jesus in many ways.  There are a lot of differences between the two.  Samuel was married and had kids.  Samuel did not cast out demons.

He did not die a violent death by crucifixion  but there are many similarities between Samuel and Jesus.  You might be amazed at how many similarities there are.  Here are ten parallels between Jesus and Samuel.

Samuel & Jesus

1. Both were born supernaturally

There are some differences between their births.  Jesus was born of a virgin.  His mom was not even looking to have kids and an angel appeared to her before Jesus was born.

Hannah did not see any angels, but they did have one thing in common.  Both Jesus and Samuel had supernatural births.  Both were born to women who could not have children.  Both births were completely miraculous.

2. Both were firstborn sons

Jesus was the firstborn son of Mary (Luke 2:7).  Samuel was the firstborn son of Hannah. Both parents went on to have more children, but Jesus and Samuel were firstborn sons.  They were the oldest kids in the family.

3. Both had godly mothers

Hannah and Mary were very similar.  Once they were born, they responded in prayer and in praise to God.  You can read Hannah’s prayer in I Samuel 2:1-10.  You can read Mary’s praise to God in Luke 1:46-55.  Mary’s song is called in Latin “The Magnificat.”  It is one of the words found in Luke 1:46 in the Latin Vulgate (et ait Maria magnificat anima mea Dominum).

4. Both had adopted fathers

Eli was not Samuel’s biological father.  Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father.  He was virgin born.

5. Both grew physically, spiritually and socially

I Samuel 2:26 says, “And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people” (NIV).  Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (NIV).  The language in those verses is almost identical.  God was with Samuel when he was young and God as with Jesus.

6. Both were left at the Temple

Samuel’s mom dropped him off at the Tabernacle to be raised by the High Priest.  Jesus was left alone at the temple and was in the company of the religious leaders of his day.

7. Both have a story about them at the age of twelve

Samuel ministered under Eli the priest in the tabernacle.  Jesus was left alone in the Temple when he was twelve years old (Luke 2:52).  Jesus asked questions of the priests and bible scholars in the Temple.

God spoke audibly to Samuel when he was young.   How old was he when this happened?  Jewish tradition says that he was twelve.  That is what Josephus says (Antiquities of the Jews, 5.10.4).  The one story about Jesus and Samuel when they were young both happened when they twelve years old.

8. Both had three important roles

Jesus was a prophet, priest and king.  Samuel was a prophet, a priest and a judge.  Samuel was a judge and Jesus will be a judge.  He will be the one to judge the world (Acts 17:31). Samuel was a priest.  He offers sacrifices.  He builds altars.  Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews 7:17).

Jesus was a prophet and so was Samuel.  In fact, Samuel predicted things after his death.  He preached from the grave.  A medium conjured up Samuel from the grave and he gave a prophecy of Saul. He is the only ghost in the Bible.

9. Both were rejected by their nation

The Israelites said to Samuel, “We do not want you.  We want a king.”  The Jews said to Jesus, “We do not want you to be our king.  We have no king but Caesar.” One was a Nazarene and one was a Nazarite.

10. Both lived in a time of apostasy

They lived in a time of total apostasy.  The religious leaders in Samuel’s day were extremely wicked, especially when you see what Eli’s sons did at the tabernacle.  The religious leaders in Jesus day (the Scribes and Pharisees) were also wicked and corrupt.

[1] There were twelve judges in the Book of Judges (six major and six minor) but there are two more judges not mentioned in the Book of Judges (Eli, Samuel). Eli was thirteen and Samuel would have been the fourteenth one.

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