Introduction to the Bible: Section 9 – Samuel / The story of Israel
Back in section 5 of this Introduction to the Bible we read in Exodus about God using Moses to save the Israelites from the slavery under the Egyptian Pharaoh. We also read about how Moses died before reaching the land that God had promised the people. Joshua would take over from Moses as we read in Deuteronomy 34:9 “Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
Moses was considered the first judge of Israel who was followed by Joshua and then 15 more judges starting with Othniel around 1400 B.C and ending with Eli and Samuel around 1000 B.C. This is where we pick up the story of the leadership of tribes of Israel.
In this section we are reading the two books of Samuel and the main story is about the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. It is interesting that there are no birth stories of these kings however Samuel’s birth story is told. Samuel is the baby that Hannah prayed for after she had been barren for many years. This is frequent story line which often speaks of enduring faith and trust in the barren woman. Read Hannah’s story in 1st Samuel chapter 1.
Samuel is brought to the temple when he was very young. Hannah promises that she will dedicate her child to God and she offers up a prayer, “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God.” 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Read chapter 2. This prayer has some interesting parallels to the prayer that Mary sings when she hears that she is carrying the baby Jesus (Luke 1:46-55). In both stories God is giving a miracle child to women who had never given birth before and the child will change the course of history.
“Joshua passing the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant”by Benjamin West.The Ark of the Covenant was a chest, built in accordance with the instructions given to Moses on Mount Sinai, containing the Tablets of Stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed.
Samuel grows, but while he is still a boy he hears God speak directly to him. Read 1 Samuel chapter 3. This direct connection with God was rare in those days and here God uses a young boy to deliver a strong message to Eli, the ruling judge whose family had been misbehaving.
The following chapters 6 & 7 describe how the ark of God was captured by the Philistines in battle. But God wreaked havoc on several Philistine cities and they returned the ark,
“Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, that it may not kill us and our people.” 1 Samuel 5:11.
The Israelites had thought that the mere presence of the ark would bring success in battle, but rather following God’s commandments is what God requires and that brings victory. Also this story shows God’s dominance over Israel’s arch enemy, the Philistines, and it shows a power over their god Dagon.
Samuel calls Israel to repentance. However the people start to demand to have a king rule over them, like the other nations to ensure security and victory in pending battles. Samuel is displeased by this sinful request but God tells Samuel to go ahead and do as the people ask. God directs Samuel to warn the people of how a human king will behave – taking their best stuff and their best men. Read chapter 8.
The people’s request is more a rejection of God as king rather than rejection of Samuel as their leader:
“But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, ‘No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’” 1 Samuel 8:19-20
The story of the next 40 years is detailed in the books 1st and 2nd Samuel. Here is a summary of the key events:
- God sends Saul to Samuel who anoints him privately. Read 1 Samuel 9:15 – 10:16
- Samuel calls the people together and Saul is chosen by lot and is publicly proclaimed king. Read 1 Samuel 10:17–27
- Saul fails as king failing to follow God’s commands. Read 1 Samuel 15:10-11
- Samuel grieves over Saul, then God sends Samuel to find a new king. Samuel anoints David. God’s spirit moves from Saul to David but he does not take power, rather serves Saul. Read 1 Samuel 15:24 – 16:23
- The rise of David is contained in the following chapters (16:14—27:12) telling of his success in battle, including his defeat of the Philistine giant, Goliath. The story also tells of his increasing difficulties with Saul, yet David protects Jonathan (Saul’s son) and twice spares Saul’s life even while Saul is chasing and trying to kill David. The aging Samuel dies, “Now Samuel died; and all Israel assembled and mourned for him. They buried him at his home in Ramah.” 1 Samuel 25:1
- Saul and Jonathan are both killed in battle by the Philistines. Read 1st Samuel 31 through 2nd Samuel 1. David laments their death:
Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions. 2 Samuel 1: 23
- David’s success continues and he is anointed king of Judah and then king of all Israel. He makes Jerusalem the capital of this combined kingdom and continues with military success defeating the Philistines and then brings the ark to Jerusalem. This is when Jerusalem becomes central to the Jewish faith moving away from the tent and tabernacle that Moses and people had carried in the dessert. 2 Samuel chapters 1- 6.
- Read 2 Samuel 7. David is given rest from his enemies and he tells the prophet Nathan that he plans to build a temple for God to replace the tent and tabernacle. God speaks through Nathan to stop David temple plans, but then God makes a covenant with David:
“the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.” 2 Samuel 7:11-13
- David continues to win battles and is faithful to his covenant with Jonathan. 2 Samuel 8-9.
- David sins by committing adultery with Bathsheba and plotting the death of her husband Uriah to cover up that David had made her pregnant. David marries Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan challenges David with God’s judgement. David laments and repents. The baby from this sinful union dies and David laments the child. They have a second child and Solomon is born to David and Bathsheba. Read 2 Samuel chapters 11-12.
- Times seem to get more difficult and trying for David. There is a sexual assault within David’s family and his son Absalom kills the other son who committed the violent sin against their sister. Absalom usurps the throne and the two face each other in battle and Absalom is killed. David is called back to Jerusalem to resume the role of king. 2 Samuel 13 – 24
- The story continues in the books 1st & 2nd David tells Bathsheba that Solomon will succeed him and David gives him instruction. David dies and Solomon takes the throne.
In the books 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles you can find out more about the continuation of the kings who ruled a) the united kingdom, then later b) the divided kingdoms; the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. A helpful chart of the kings with years in power, judgements of good/evil, and scriptural reference can be found at: https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2014/08/chart-of-israels-and-judahs-kings-and-prophets/
The story of the kings ends with the two kingdoms being defeated and taken captive:
- Northern Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrian Empire in 722 BC
- Southern Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonian Empire in 586 BC along with the destruction of the temple
This is a lot to read and keep straight, but it is helpful for Christians to remember that the Jesus was born in to King David’s family line (Matthew 1:1, and Luke 3:23-38) and that Jesus is the continuation of the promise God made with David. The other message to look for is that God acts through his human servants even after they fail and sin.
Next time we will look at the book of Isaiah who was one of major prophets in the Old Testament.
Blessings with your study and reading
Reference: Introduction from the NIV Study Bible 1 & 2 Samuel