First Book of Samuel – 1 Samuel

1 Samuel or The First Book of Samuel

First Book of Samuel

photo by Holly Hayes

1 Samuel or the First Book of Samuel is one of the two texts that make up the Samuel books included in the Former Prophets section of the Nevi’im. The first book of Samuel forms a portion of Deuteronomistic history that is included in the Jewish Bible Tanakh. Although the first book of Samuel exclusively describes the life and times of Samuel, the book itself does not suggest any author and there is no reason to link Samuel with the authorship of the book. However, certain facts presented kin the first book of Samuel might have actually been supplied to the author by Samuel himself.

At the beginning of the first book of Samuel, we find Hannah praying for a son and promises to present him to Lord. She is blessed by Eli the priest. After Samuel is born, he is loaned by Hannah to the Lord. Hannah then sings praise hymns for the Lord and her son Samuel serves as a minister to the Lord. Eli showers his blessings to Elkanah and Hannah who together have several sons and daughters. However, as Eli’s sons choose to live in wickedness by rejecting Lord, Lord rejects house of Eli.

Samuel, who by now has established himself as a prophet in Israel, is approached by the Lord who says to him that no amount of sacrifices or offerings can purge the house of Eli from their sinful behaviors. The Philistines defeat the Israelites and take control of the Ark of God. The sons of Eli are slain and Eli himself dies due to accident. Even his daughter-in-law is not spared from God’s wrath, who dies at childbirth.

When Philistines keep the Ark in house of Dagon, they die horrible deaths. One by one, Philistines in the city of Ashdod, Gath and Ekron succumb to their sorrowful fates. The Philistines then returns the Ark back with an offering. In Beth-shemesh, Israeli people who look towards the Ark directly are slain.

Samuel exhorts people of Israel to serve the Lord by forsaking Ashtaroth and Baalim. Israelites seek the Lord by fasting. The Philistines are defeated but the people of Israel are judged by Samuel. Samuel’s sons commit sin by taking bribes and perverting judgment. At this point of the first book of Samuel, Israelites yearn for a king who will rule over them. Samuel mentions the disadvantages of a kingly rule. However, the Lord decides to listen to the Israelites by giving them a king.

A Benjamite by the name of Saul was notable for being a good person. The Lord says to Samuel to fetch Saul as he is to be the king of Israel. Saul is then chosen as a king at Mizpeh. At this stage, the Ammonites form camps against Israeli people living in Jabesh-gilead. Saul defeats the Ammonites and becomes a king once again in Gilgal. Samuel justifies his own dealings in Israel and criticizes the Israelites for their lack of gratitude. He further asks them to follow the commandments as failing to do that will lead the Lord to destroy them as well as their king.