Read the Bible in a Year
This week, read: 1 Samuel 1-31
At Least Know This
1 Samuel is the origin story of King David. In 1 Samuel, we see the origins of kingship, and how King Saul ruled the northern tribes. At the end of the book, King Saul dies, and David is poised to take over.
Author and Date
There is no named author of the book of Samuel. It was most likely a number of authors (or groups of authors) that wrote the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is likely that it was written during the time of the Babylonian Exile (587-538 BC), as a reflective history to describe how God led them during their early years in the land.
The book of 1 Samuel describes the time during the years 1050-1000 BC.
The twelve tribes were living independently, but not always peacefully. The time of the judges is over, and now there seems to be a judge named Samuel who seems to be respected by all the tribes. Sometimes we call him a super-judge, because unlike the examples in the book of Judges, Samuel seems to be a judge over multiple tribes.
The people want a king (chapter 8), which is a pretty clear rejection of God as king. But the people wanted to be like all the other nations.
Samuel elects Saul to be king. Saul ruled over the northern tribes, but not the southern tribes. Late in the book, Saul fires Saul. David, at that time is well-liked by the populace (later, he is hated by the people), and so is getting ready to take over the throne.
In chapter 4, the Philistines are winning all the battles against the Israelites. So the Israelites decide to carry the Ark of the Covenant in front of them. It’s become a good luck charm for the Israelites. The Philistines promptly steal the Ark, although it doesn’t go well for them. Later, in the book of Kings, we’ll see that the people think the temple is a good luck charm.
Remember in the book of Judges, it kept saying, “in those days Israel had no king. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” That sounds like a pretty positive view of kingship. We get a different view of kingship in chapter 8. Samuel tells the people what the king will do; in verses 10-18, count how many times it says “He will take…” These verses sound like the reign of Solomon.
In chapter 13, Samuel fires Saul, but he doesn’t leave the kingship. In chapter 16, Samuel anoints David to be king, but it will take a while before he manages to actually take the throne of both the southern and northern tribes.
In chapter 17, we see the famous story of David killing Goliath. Lesser known is in 2 Samuel 21:19, where Goliath is killed by someone else. It may be that the editors of the 1 & 2 Samuel wanted a story to show that David was brave, and so borrowed the story of Goliath to use for David.
David is sometimes praised as a great king, a moral leader. However, the narrative tells a different story. Look for his battles where he wipes out whole communities. Look for how he surrounds himself with a bunch of thugs (chapter 22). Look for David’s oath to Saul that he won’t kill all of Saul’s descendants when he becomes king, although later David kills or imprisons them all. Read about his protection racket (chapter 25). Read how David gets a job with the Philistines (chapter 27). Look for his sending of plunder to the northern tribes (chapter 30), since it’s an election year.
One of the things that you should be seeing is that none of these Old Testament “heroes” are all that great. They are not fine, upstanding individuals who revere and worship God. In fact, God chooses these people to carry out his mission—but he chooses them beforethey do anything good. God chooses people because He is good, not because the people are good. God choose them—all of us—before we have the inclination to love God back. God has always chosen the broken, the unrighteous, and the unlovely to accomplish his will. We don’t have to be superheroes to carry out God’s will. We have to be simply who we are—broken and weak people who sometimes feel like we have nothing to offer. That’s who God uses to carry out his mission. People like us.
If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to post questions (or insights that you have received from the Bible reading), then please click here, and then click on the most recent reading guide. You can also feel free to email the question to me.
Our next face-to-face meeting is on March 14, 2019 at 6:30-7:45. Please let me know by noon on Wednesday, May 13, if you plan to attend.