Summary of 1 Samuel
Chapter by Chapter:
1 Samuel 29-31: Israel & The Philistines Prepare for War/David Smites the Amalekites/The Philistines Defeat Israel
Samuel, is born to Hannah, a woman who was previously unable to have children. Hannah gives Samuel to Israel’s chief priest, Eli, to be raised as a Nazirite. The priesthood in Israel is in a general state of decline, and Eli’s sons are disobeying God’s laws. God declares that he will choose a new priest for Israel from outside Eli’s family and begins delivering messages to Samuel as a young man. Samuel becomes a recognized prophet throughout Israel, delivering God’s messages to the people.
During battle, the Philistines kill Eli’s sons and capture the Ark of the Covenant—Israel’s religious altar and symbol of God. Upon learning of the attack and robbery, Eli falls over and dies. The Ark is returned to Israel after it causes its Philistine captors to become terribly diseased. As the nation rejoices, Samuel persuades Israel to set aside its worship of local pagan deities, and God helps Israel thwart Philistine oppression for many years.
The Israelites demand that Samuel appoint a king for them so that Israel will be like other nations. Samuel is displeased, but God grants him permission to elect a king. God notes that by asking for a king, the people have not rejected Samuel; they have rejected God. Samuel warns the people that a monarchy brings wickedness.
God tells Samuel who should be king, and the following day, a man named Saul appears before Samuel, inquiring about some lost donkeys. Samuel pours oil over Saul’s head to anoint him as king. Saul, pleases the Israelites as king and leads them in rescuing an Israelite town from invasion. Stepping down as Israel’s leader, Samuel encourages the people that, so long as they are obedient to God’s laws, God will not punish them for requesting a king.
Despite many military victories, Saul soon disobeys God. He tries to rush into battle by performing a ritual war sacrifice without the help of a priest. Later, Samuel sends Saul to fight the Amalekites, instructing Saul to destroy them completely and leave nothing alive. Saul, however, spares the Amalekite ruler and the best portion of their flocks, hoping to present them as sacrifices to God. Samuel rebukes Saul, claiming that obedience to God’s instructions is more important than religious sacrifice. He informs Saul that God will choose another man to be king of Israel. Saul pleads with Samuel, begging for forgiveness. Saul grabs for Samuel’s cloak, but the cloth tears—a symbol, says Samuel, of Saul’s broken kingdom and how it will be eventually torn from him.
God leads Samuel to the town of Bethlehem to choose a new king from Jesse’s family. Each of Jesse’s older sons are impressive, but God instructs Samuel to judge people not by their external appearances but, rather, by their hearts. Samuel anoints Jesse’s youngest son, David, a shepherd, as king, and God gives divine power to David. God withdraws his power from Saul, cursing Saul with psychological distress in the form of an “evil spirit” (1 Samuel 16:14). David begins his rise to courtly status as a harp-player for Saul to calm his evil spirit.
The Philistines again threaten to attack Israel, this time taunting Israel with their new hero, Goliath—a giant more than nine feet tall. Saul and the Israelites tremble in fear, but David, arriving to deliver food to his brothers, offers to fight the giant. Refusing the king’s armor, David publicly invokes God’s help and kills Goliath with a single stone shot from his sling. The Israelites attack the retreating Philistines, and Israel returns home to the sound of women singing praises of David’s victory.
Saul is insanely jealous of David, who becomes an intimate friend of Saul’s son, Jonathan, and leads the Israelite troops to many more victories. After attempting to kill David with a spear, Saul sends David on a suicide mission to kill a hundred Philistine men and bring back their circumcised foreskins. David succeeds, and Saul grudgingly rewards David with his daughter Michal’s hand in marriage. Saul orders his household to kill David, but, with the help of Michal and Jonathan, David flees from Saul. David builds an army of unhappy and impoverished Israelites, and he is joined by a priest who is also fleeing from Saul’s destructive path.
Saul pursues David into the desert where David spares the king’s life twice. While Saul is urinating in a cave, David sneaks up behind him and cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe, scorning the opportunity to kill God’s “annointed” ruler (1 Samuel 24:6). At night, David and his men sneak into the king’s tent and steal Saul’s spear while he is sleeping. On both occasions, David announces his deed to Saul, and Saul expresses remorse both times, begging for David’s mercy.
Saul continues his pursuit, and David takes refuge with the Philistines, who show mercy to the great warrior and adversary of Israel’s king. Preparing to fight the Philistines, Saul is wracked with fear and consults a witch, bidding the spirit medium to conjure up the dead spirit of Samuel. Samuel’s ghost angrily warns Saul that he and his sons will die fighting the Philistines, ensuring the demise of Saul’s kingdom. David and his men head out to fight the Amalekites, and David succeeds in destroying the warring nation. In the meantime, Saul leads Israel into a losing battle with the Philistines, and Saul’s sons, including Jonathan, are killed. Saul commands his armor-bearer to kill him, but the boy refuses, so Saul commits suicide.