Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


13. First Samuel: God Grants a King

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Outline the content of 1 Samuel
  • List the three major themes of 1 Samuel
  • Trace the events surrounding the ark of the covenant as found in 1 Samuel 4–7
  • Explain the reasons Israel wanted a king
  • Summarize Samuel’s final speech to Israel
  • Identify three errors Saul made that revealed his true character
  • Compare and contrast David with Saul
  • Discuss the key events in the struggle David had with Saul

Chapter Summary

  1. The Philistines captured the ark of the covenant and took it to Ashdod, but they suffered plagues until they returned it to the Israelites.
  2. God granted Israel’s request for a king, but this was not his highest will for them at the time.
  3. In his final speech as judge, Samuel offered restitution to any he had wronged, told the people they had sinned by asking for a king, and urged the Israelites to follow God with all their hearts.
  4. Saul was not ultimately successful as king because he disobeyed God’s commands.
  5. Saul demonstrated his true heart by usurping the priestly role at Gilgal, by making a rash oath and trying to apply it, and by not following God’s instruction about the Amalekites.
  6. In anointing David as king, God looked at his heart rather than merely at his physical characteristics.
  7. David became well known by serving as Saul’s court musician and as a successful military leader.
  8. David’s defeat of Goliath illustrated important spiritual principles for contemporary leaders: we should be most concerned about God’s honor, not ours; we should act on faith because of God’s faithfulness in the past; and in difficult situations, we should remember that God is in control.
  9. Saul became jealous of David and created many problems for David, but David continually tried to prove his loyalty to the king.
  10. David joined the Philistines for a time and used this alliance to destroy foreign nomadic tribes who were harassing Judah.
  11. Saul asked the woman at Endor to call up Samuel’s spirit, and Samuel appeared and pronounced that Saul would die in battle with the Philistines the next day.
  12. The Philistines took the bodies of Saul and his three sons and fastened them to the gate at Beth-shan.

Study Questions

  1. Describe the historical setting in Israel as the book of 1 Samuel begins. How were the people organized and who was in charge? What threats did they face?
  2. What are the major themes of 1 Samuel?
  3. How did Samuel’s life change Israel’s history?
  4. Describe the reasons behind the beginning of Israel’s monarchy. Why did the people want a king, and why was Saul chosen? Overall, do you think Saul was a good choice? Why or why not?
  5. Describe David’s rise to prominence. Why did Saul suspect him? Do you think Saul was right to be suspicious of David?