Introduction to 1 Samuel
and Study of 1 Samuel 1-3
March 21st

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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1 Samuel (Overview)

The first book of Samuel (1 Samuel) provides a bridge between the era of judges and the time of kings. This is the fourth of the books of History in the Old Testament. The historical events in this book are assumed to have taken place around 1,000 B.C, halfway between the time of Abraham and the time of Jesus.

The four central characters are Hannah, Samuel, Saul, and David. In his introduction to this book, Eugene Peterson notes that we see God's story in the interconnected lives of these four people. Samuel is presumed to be the author and is a primary figure in the book, but is not necessarily the focal point. As you read the text over the next few days, you might conclude that David was the central character, because the book builds to a climax where David is prepared to assume the role of the second king of Israel. But, of course, the true central character is the Creator. The book begins with a prayer from Hannah to the LORD and the ends with a prayer from David. In between those prayers we will read about the role of these people in the transition of Israel from a collection of tribes to a unified nation - a form of government that brings advantages and disadvantages.

The book known as 1 Samuel has four major sections that chronicle the rise of each of the main people in the book:

    1 Samuel 1-3 (Here I am LORD!) - March 21st

    1 Samuel 4-7 (Raiders of the Sacred Ark) - March 22nd

    1 Samuel 8-12 (Give us a King) - March 23rd
    1 Samuel 13-15 (Trouble in the King's Dominion) - March 24th

    1 Samuel 16-17 (David and Goliath) - March 25th
    1 Samuel 18-20 (David and Michal) - March 26th
    1 Samuel 21-24 (The Fugitive) - March 27th
    1 Samuel 25-27 (The Fugitive - Part II) - March 28th
    1 Samuel 28-29 (In the Enemy's Camp) - March 29th
    1 Samuel 30-31 (Saul Falls on His Own Sword) - March 30th

1 Samuel is followed by 2 Samuel, which continues the story of David.

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Abegg, Martin Jr., Flint Peter, and Ulrich, Eugene; The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, HarperCollins Publishers, NY, NY, 1999
  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984
  • Bruggemann, Walter First and Second Samuel, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1990
  • Fee, Gordon D., Stuart Douglas, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002
  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Hannah said to him, “Excuse me, sir. Do you remember me? I am the woman you saw standing here, praying to the LORD. I asked him for this child, and he gave me what I asked for. So I am dedicating him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he will belong to the LORD.”

Then they worshipped the LORD there.

- 1 Samuel 26-28 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

In chapter 1, the author introduces us to Hannah, a member of the tribe of Ephraim who is frustrated and disappointed regarding the outcome of her life so far. She was in a role similar to some of the woman we have read about in previous books. Like the mother of Samson, Hannah had been barren and prayed for a child. Like Sarah, the wife of Abraham, Hannah felt insignificant compared to her husband’s other wife, who had been bearing children.

Hannah and her husband travelled to Shiloh, where the tabernacle was located at that time, to give their offerings and sacrifices during the annual feasts. The tabernacle was in Gilgal during the early part of Joshua’s invasion of Canaan, then it was moved to Shiloh, which was in the land of Ephraim, north of Jerusalem and west of the Jordan river (Joshua 18:1-2). On one occasion, Hannah poured out her soul to the LORD, and like the mother of Samson, promised that if the LORD gave her a child that she would dedicate it to him. The head priest, Eli, noticed her and asked God to grant her prayer.

The LORD granted her prayer with the birth of Samuel. Therefore, when the boy was about three she brought him to Eli to serve in the tabernacle. At the beginning of chapter 2, Hannah celebrated the event by composing and singing a song that praised the everlasting power of the LORD. It begins with the following verses:

    And Hannah prayed:
    “My heart exults in the LORD,
    my horn is exalted by my God.
    I have swallowed up my enemies;
    I rejoice in your victory.

    There is no Holy One like the LORD;
    there is no Rock like our God.

    Speak boastfully no longer,
    Do not let arrogance issue from your mouths.
    For an all-knowing God is the LORD,
    a God who weighs actions.

    - 1 Samuel 2:1-3

The remainder of the chapter describes the evil deeds of the sons of Eli. They served as priests and were supposed to help with the sacrifices, but instead they were helping themselves to choice pieces of meat and sleeping with the women who also served at the temple. Eli heard about these actions, but did nothing to stop them. As a result, a “man of God” prophesized that the sons will die on the same day and another priest will rise up.

In chapter 3, the LORD called Samuel while he was sleeping in the tabernacle. He did not recognize the LORD’s voice at first. In fact, he did not recognize the LORD on the second and third call.

    Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

    The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

    Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

    - 1 Samuel 3:8-10 (NIV)

The LORD told Samuel how he planned to punish Eli. The LORD returned again and again sharing the word with Samuel, so everyone recognized him as a prophet.

Reflection and Application

Even though Hannah had been frustrated she continued to trust in the LORD. When her prayers were answered she followed through on her promise by dedicating Samuel to the LORD. This was a good example of acknowledging God’s dominion by giving back to him what she had received from him. Her attitude should serve as inspiration for our relationship with God.

Hannah’s song is a precursor of the type of poetry that we will see in the book of Psalms later this year. We will also read about a similar song composed by Mary after her relative Elizabeth exclaimed a blessing for her baby (Luke 1:46-55).

God may use unexpected channels to communicate with us. As a priest-in-training, Samuel did not expect for the LORD to call him directly. He might have been less surprised if he heard that God had called Eli, the head priest. But God isn’t restricted by protocol or a chain of command. He might call any one of us at any time. Don’t rule it out.

How should we respond when he do hear his call? When he calls, we could respond as Samuel did, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” or we could just say “Here I am, LORD.”

"Here I Am LORD," Music & Lyrics by Dan Schutte (1947-Current), performer unknown

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is one of your earliest memories?
    2. In what ways have you sensed God communicating to you?
    3. What message would you like to hear from him?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we acknowledge that there are many ways in which you communicate with us and that you often chose the lowly, not the exalted. We thank you for giving us your word through the scribes and prophets of the Bible and ask that you help us to quiet our hearts and minds so that we can hear you and respond, “Here I am,”

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Parents praying to have children

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 1 Samuel 4-7 (Raiders of the Sacred Ark)

    Comments and Questions
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