Category: Books of the Old Testament (Q through Z)

Zephaniah 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Zephaniah as the Prophet Zephaniah. The name Zephaniah means “defended by God.”
Date of Writing: The Book of Zephaniah was likely written between 735 and 725 B.C.
Purpose of Writing: Zephaniah’s message of judgment and encouragement contains three major doctrines: 1) God is sovereign over all nations. 2) The wicked will be punished and the righteous will be vindicated on the day of judgment. 3) God blesses those who repent and trust in Him.
Key Verses: Zephaniah 1:18, “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.”
Zephaniah 2:3, “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.”
Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Brief Summary: Zephaniah pronounces the Lord’s judgment on the whole earth, on Judah, on the surrounding nations, on Jerusalem and on all nations. This is followed by proclamations of the Lord’s blessing on all nations and especially on the faithful remnant of His people in Judah.
Zephaniah had the courage to speak bluntly because he knew he was proclaiming the Word of the Lord. His book begins with “The word of the Lord” and ends with “says the Lord.” He knew that neither the many gods the people worshiped nor even the might of the Assyrian army could save them. God is gracious and compassionate, but when all His warnings are ignored, judgment is to be expected. God’s day of judgment is frequently mentioned in the Scriptures. The prophets called it the “Day of the Lord.” They referred to various events such as the fall of Jerusalem as manifestations of God’s Day, each of which pointed toward the ultimate Day of the Lord.
Foreshadowings: The final blessings on Zion pronounced in 3:14-20 are largely unfulfilled, leading us to conclude that these are messianic prophecies that await the Second Coming of Christ to be completed. The Lord has taken away our punishment only through Christ who came to die for the sins of His people (Zephaniah 3:15; John 3:16). But Israel has not yet recognized her true Savior. This is yet to happen (Romans 11:25-27).
The promise of peace and safety for Israel, a time when their King is in their midst, will be fulfilled when Christ returns to judge the world and redeem it for Himself. Just as He ascended to heaven after His resurrection, so will He return and set up a new Jerusalem on earth (Revelation 21). At that time, all God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled.
Practical Application: With a few adjustments in names and situations, this prophet of 8th century B.C. could stand in our pulpits today and deliver the same message of judgment of the wicked and hope for the faithful. Zephaniah reminds us that God is offended by the moral and religious sins of His people. God’s people will not escape punishment when they sin willfully. Punishment may be painful, but its purpose may be redemptive rather than punitive. The inevitability of the punishment of wickedness gives comfort in a time when it seems that evil is unbridled and victorious. We have the freedom to disobey God but not the freedom to escape the consequences of that disobedience. Those who are faithful to God may be relatively few, but He does not forget them.

2 Samuel 11:1-17

A while back we learned that Esau sold his future for a bowl of stew. His blindness to what was truly valuable caused him to lose his inheritance. There are other people who can teach us additional lessons about protecting our future.
David was chosen by God to lead the nation, and for many years, he pursued the Lord’s plan. However, his desire for Bathsheba led him to commit adultery and arrange for her husband to die. Because he chose to gratify his own wishes instead of following God’s ways, he fell into sin. When confronted by the prophet Nathan, David sincerely repented (2 Sam. 12:7, 13), but he and his family were deeply affected by his mistake.
Samson was another one who knew what the Lord required but disobeyed—like David, he gave up blessings for temporal pleasure. Losing sight of God’s purpose for him, Samson chose instead to please his untrustworthy companion, Delilah (Judg. 16:15-17). As a result, he spend his last years in disgrace.
A final example is Judas Iscariot, who wanted Jesus to establish the kingdom of God immediately. Because he valued earthly matters above spiritual ones, he rejected Jesus’ teachings and tried to manipulate events to his own liking. He was convinced he knew what was right.
To avoid the kind of mistakes these men made, we need to be committed to setting aside our own desires in favor of God’s will. In other words, we must value the eternal over the temporal and be satisfied with what the Lord has planned.

 The “daughter of Zion” is  mentioned several times in the Old Testament, usually in prophecy and once in  poetry. “Zion” meant Jerusalem and, later, Israel as the people of God.  “Daughter of Zion,” then, does not refer to a specific person. It’s a metaphor  for Israel and the loving, caring, patient relationship God has with His chosen  people.

As a representation of the people of Israel, the daughter of  Zion is described in several different situations:

2 Kings 19:21: A people  confident in the deliverance of their God. When Assyria threatened Jerusalem,  King Hezekiah went to the Lord. In response, God sent Isaiah to reassure  Hezekiah that Jerusalem would not fall to Assyria, and God considered the  threatening insult to “the virgin daughter of Zion” as a personal affront to  Himself.

Isaiah 1:8: A  hut, abandoned after judgment came to an evil family. Here, Isaiah compares the  rebellion of Judah to a sick body in a devastated land. The daughter of Zion is  left as a lone remnant—a shelter hidden in the vineyard or a hut in a cucumber  field that barely escaped destruction.

Jeremiah  4:31: A woman in labor, helpless before attackers. The steadfastness of  Hezekiah was rare in Judah—most kings encouraged rebellion against God instead  of loyalty to God. Jeremiah warns that if the nation does not turn away from  evil, God will punish them severely. And the people will be helpless against  it—as helpless as a woman in labor.

Isaiah  62:11: A people awaiting salvation. After the punishment of exile, God  promises restoration to Israel. He will rejoice over His chosen people again.  And in verse 11, he promises the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes;  behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”

Micah 4:13: A bull that threshes his enemies. In verse  10, God warns that the daughter of Zion will suffer as much as a woman in labor.  But in verse 13, He promises vengeance. The weak, powerless woman will become a  bull with horns of iron and hoofs of bronze that will crush its  enemies.

Zechariah  9:9: A land awaiting its king. This prophecy promises Israel’s enemies will  be destroyed, but also speaks about a more permanent solution to the problem of  sin. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Should in triumph, O daughter of  Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and endowed with  salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a  donkey.” Despite the consistent rebellion of the daughter of Zion against her  Father, He promises to restore her and present her with a Deliverer-King in the  form of Jesus.

“Daughter” infers that God is a loving father. He  cherishes and loves His people, even while they reject Him. By using the  metaphor “daughter of Zion,” God showed how He felt for the rebellious  Israelites: frustrated, angry, but always with an eye to the future when the  relationship would be restored, and He could once again return to them and  welcome them into His arms (Zechariah  2:10).

Author: Zechariah  1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Zechariah as the Prophet  Zechariah.

Date of Writing: The Book of Zechariah was  likely written in two primary segments, between 520 and 470  B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Zechariah emphasized that God  has used His prophets to teach, warn and correct His people. Unfortunately,  they refused to listen. Their sin brought God’s punishment. The book  also bears evidence that even prophecy could be corrupted. History shows  that in this period prophecy fell into disfavor among the Jews, leading to the  period between the Testaments when no lasting prophetic voice spoke to God’s  people.

Key Verses: Zechariah  1:3, “Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says:  ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the  LORD Almighty.”

Zechariah  7:13, “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not  listen,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

Zechariah  9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding  on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Zechariah 13:9, “This  third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them  like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They  are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'”

Brief  Summary: The Book of Zechariah teaches that salvation may be obtained  by all. The last chapter depicts peoples from all over the world coming to  worship God, who desires that all people follow Him. This is not the  doctrine of universalism, i.e., that all people would be saved because it is  God’s nature to save. Rather, the book teaches that God desires that all  people worship Him and accepts those who do, regardless of their national or  political expressions, as in the freeing of Judah and Jerusalem from their  political enemies. Finally, Zechariah preached that God is sovereign over  this world, any appearance to the contrary notwithstanding. His visions of  the future indicate that God sees all that will happen. The depictions of  God’s intervention in the world teach that ultimately He will bring human events  to the end He chooses. He does not eliminate the individual’s freedom to  follow God or rebel, but holds people responsible for the choices they  make. In the last chapter, even the forces of nature respond to God’s  control.

Foreshadowings: Prophecies about Jesus Christ  and the messianic era abound in Zechariah. From the promise that Messiah would  come and dwell in our midst (Zechariah  2:10-12; Matthew  1:23) to the symbolism of the Branch and the Stone (Zechariah 3:8-9, 6:12-13; Isaiah 11:1Luke  20:17-18) to the promise of His Second Coming where they who pierced Him  will look upon Him and mourn (Zechariah  12:10; John  19:33-37), Christ is the theme of the Book of Zechariah. Jesus is the Savior  of Israel, a fountain whose blood covers the sins of all who come to Him for  salvation (Zechariah  13:1; 1 John  1:7).

Practical Application: God expects sincere  worship and moral living of us today. Zechariah’s example of breaking through  national prejudice reminds us to reach out into all areas of our society. We  must extend God’s invitation of salvation to people of all national origins,  languages, races and cultures. That salvation is only available through the shed  blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, who died in our place to atone for sin. But  if we reject that sacrifice, there is no other sacrifice through which we can be  reconciled to God. There is no other name under heaven by which men are saved  (Acts 4:12). There is no time  to lose; today is the day of salvation (2  Corinthians 6:2).

Zechariah  14:4 predicts, “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east  of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west,  forming a great valley, with half of the Mount shall move north and half moving  south.” “That day” is a reference to the Day of  the Lord, and the One who stands on the mountain is the Lord Himself. So,  yes, this passage predicts the second coming of Christ.

The opening of  Zechariah 14 speaks of a future day when Jerusalem will be plundered by its  enemies. Verse 2 prophesies that all nations will gather against Jerusalem and  capture and ransack the city. Half of the citizens of Jerusalem will flee the  devastation, but the other half will remain. This will be one half of the one  third of the Jewish population still alive in Jerusalem after the Tribulation  (13:8). Then, Zechariah says, the Lord Himself will go forth and engage these  opponents in battle (14:3). Verse 4 speaks of the Messiah standing on the Mount  of Olives, a hill near Jerusalem on the east. The mountain will split, creating  an enormous valley. Since none of this has taken place yet, the prophecy points  to a future time.

A parallel passage tells of the Battle  of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21). Revelation 16:18-21 predicts horrible events at the end  of the Tribulation when the seventh bowl is poured out:

“Then there came  flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No  earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous  was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the  nations collapsed. . . . Every island fled away and the mountains could not be  found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon  men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague  was so terrible.”

The earthquake in Revelation could very well speak of  the event described in Zechariah when the Mount of Olives splits in two. Jesus  the Messiah will cause an earthquake at His second coming that will serve as  part of the destruction of God’s enemies. The outcome of this battle is never in  doubt: Christ will be the victor, Israel’s enemies will be destroyed, and the  beast (Antichrist) and false prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:11-21).

 Yes, in fact there are many Old Testament prophecies about Jesus Christ.  Some interpreters place the number of Messianic prophecies in the hundreds. The  following are those that are considered the clearest and most important.

Regarding Jesus’ birth—Isaiah 7:14:  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child  and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is  given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are  small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be  ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Concerning Jesus’ ministry and death—Zechariah  9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding  on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Psalm  22:16-18: “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me,  they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare  and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my  clothing.”

Likely the clearest prophecy about Jesus is the entire 53rd  chapter of Isaiah. Isaiah  53:3-7 is especially unmistakable: “He was despised and rejected by men, a  man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their  faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our  infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God,  smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was  crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,  and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of  us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us  all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led  like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so  he did not open his mouth.”

The “seventy sevens” prophecy in Daniel  chapter 9 predicted the precise date that Jesus, the Messiah, would be “cut  off.” Isaiah 50:6 accurately describes the beating that Jesus endured. Zechariah 12:10 predicts  the “piercing” of the Messiah, which occurred after Jesus died on the cross.  Many more examples could be provided, but these will suffice. The Old Testament  most definitely prophesies the coming of Jesus as the Messiah.

Author: Solomon wrote Song of Solomon, according to the first  verse. This song is one of 1,005 that Solomon wrote (1 Kings 4:32). The title  “Song of Songs” is a superlative, meaning this is the best  one.

Date of Writing: Solomon most likely wrote this  song during the early part of his reign. This would place the date of  composition around 965 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Song  of Solomon is a lyric poem written to extol the virtues of love between a  husband and his wife. The poem clearly presents marriage as God’s design. A man  and woman are to live together within the context of marriage, loving each other  spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

This book combats two  extremes: asceticism (the denial of all pleasure) and hedonism (the pursuit of  only pleasure). The marriage profiled in Song of Solomon is a model of care,  commitment, and delight.

Key Verses: Song of Solomon 2:73:58:4 – “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

Song of Solomon 5:1 – “Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers.”

Song of Solomon  8:6-7  – “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for  love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like  blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot  wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would  be utterly scorned.”

Brief Summary: The poetry takes  the form of a dialogue between a husband (the king) and his wife (the  Shulamite). We can divide the book into three sections:  the courtship (1:1 –  3:5); the wedding (3:6 – 5:1); and the maturing marriage (5:2 – 8:14).

The song begins before the wedding, as the bride-to-be longs to be with her  betrothed, and she looks forward to his intimate caresses. However, she advises  letting love develop naturally, in its own time. The king praises the  Shulamite’s beauty, overcoming her feelings of insecurity about her appearance.  The Shulamite has a dream in which she loses Solomon and searches throughout the  city for him. With the help of the city guards, she finds her beloved and clings  to him, taking him to a safe place. Upon waking, she repeats her injunction not  to force love.

On the wedding night, the husband again praises the  beauty of his wife, and in highly symbolic language, the wife invites her spouse  to partake of all she has to offer. They make love, and God blesses their  union.

As the marriage matures, the husband and wife go through a  difficult time, symbolized in another dream. In this second dream, the Shulamite  rebuffs her husband, and he leaves. Overcome with guilt, she searches the city  for him; but this time, instead of helping her, the guards beat her—symbolic of  her pained conscience. Things end happily as the lovers reunite and are  reconciled.

As the song ends, both the husband and wife are confident  and secure in their love, they sing of the lasting nature of true love, and they  yearn to be in each other’s presence.

Foreshadowings: Some Bible interpreters see in Song of Solomon an exact symbolic representation  of Christ and His church. Christ is seen as the king, while the church is  represented by the Shulamite. While we believe the book should be understood  literally as a depiction of marriage, there are some elements that foreshadow  the Church and her relationship with her king, the Lord Jesus. Song of Solomon 2:4 describes the experience of every believer who is sought and bought by the Lord  Jesus. We are in a place of great spiritual wealth and are covered by His love.  Verse 16 of chapter 2 says, “My beloved is mine, and I am his. He feeds his  flock among the lilies” (NKJV). Here is a picture of not only the security of  the believer in Christ (John  10:28-29), but of the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep—believers—and lays  down His life for us (John 10:11).  Because of Him, we are no longer stained by sin, having had our “spots” removed  by His blood (Song of  Solomon 4:7; Ephesians  5:27).

Practical Application: Our world is confused  about marriage. The prevalence of divorce and modern attempts to redefine  marriage stand in glaring contrast to Solomon’s Song. Marriage, says the  biblical poet, is to be celebrated, enjoyed, and revered. This book provides  some practical guidelines for strengthening our marriages:

1) Give your  spouse the attention he or she needs. Take the time to truly know your  spouse.
2) Encouragement and praise, not criticism, are vital to a  successful relationship.
3) Enjoy each other. Plan some getaways. Be  creative, even playful, with each other. Delight in God’s gift of married  love.
4) Do whatever is necessary to reassure your commitment to your  spouse. Renew your vows; work through problems and do not consider divorce as a  solution. God intends for you both to live in a deeply peaceful, secure  love.

 Answer: The Hebrew word  sharon means “a plain or a level place.” The Plain of Sharon is the  coastal plain between the mountains of central Palestine and the Mediterranean  Sea, north of Joppa to Mt. Carmel. The area is mentioned in Acts 9:35 in conjunction with the town of Lydda, which is  about eleven miles SE of Joppa and is called “Lod” in the Old Testament (1  Chronicles 8:12). Modern Israelis have reverted back to the Old Testament  name. This town is located in the midst of the Plain of Sharon. This area was  proverbially fertile and known for its flowers. The “rose of Sharon” is found in  the Song of  Solomon 2:1. Therefore, we can surmise that the rose of Sharon flower is  named for the district of Sharon.

Webster’s says that the “rose of  Sharon” is a hardy plant of the mallow family with the name “Hibiscus Syriacus”  and has white, red, pink, or purplish flowers. However, the Rose of Sharon  mentioned in the Song of Solomon is a crocus-like flower and the source of  saffron. The Hebrew word habaselet as used in Song of Solomon 2:1 is translated twice as “rose,” once here in the Song of Solomon and once in Isaiah 35:1. The translators  may indeed have used the word rose to refer to the meaning of the Hebrew  word, which is a flower similar to what we now know as a crocus or a bulb flower  like a tulip. The NIV uses a footnote that says, “Possibly a member of the  crocus family.” Therefore, the “rose of Sharon” is not really what we would  classify today as a “rose,” but it could be a plant similar to the hibiscus or  it could be a crocus or tulip.

Some Bible expositors see the rose of  Sharon as Christ and the lily as the church, His bride. Some of the early church  fathers were fond of this analogy as well. There are some parallels that may be  drawn between Christ and the rose of Sharon, but most of them fall apart when we  realize the rose is not a rose at all, but a crocus or tulip. In addition, the  church is never portrayed as a lily in the Bible. In fact, the word “lily”  doesn’t even appear in the New Testament. Some say that because the rose of  Sharon grows in dry, unfavorable conditions, it symbolizes Jesus coming from the  root of Jesse and David (Isaiah 11:1Revelation  22:16), but labeling the house of Jesse and David as “dry” has no basis in  Scripture, either. Of course, Jesus is as lovely and fragrant as a rose, but  that is insufficient to definitively identify Song of  Solomon 2:1 as symbolic of Christ.

Book of Ruth

Author: The Book of Ruth does not specifically name its  author. The tradition is that the Book of Ruth was written by the Prophet  Samuel.

Date of Writing: The exact date the Book of  Ruth was written is uncertain. However, the prevalent view is a date between  1011 and 931 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Ruth  was written to the Israelites. It teaches that genuine love at times may require  uncompromising sacrifice. Regardless of our lot in life, we can live according  to the precepts of God. Genuine love and kindness will be rewarded. God  abundantly blesses those who seek to live obedient lives. Obedient living does  not allow for “accidents” in God’s plan. God extends mercy to the  merciful.

Key Verses: Ruth 1:16,  “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where  you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people  and your God my God.'”

Ruth 3:9, “‘Who  are you?’ he asked. ‘I am your servant Ruth,’ she said. ‘Spread the corner of  your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.'”

Ruth 4:17, “The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a  son.’ And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of  David.”

Brief Summary: The setting for the Book of Ruth  begins in the heathen country of Moab, a region northeast of the Dead Sea, but  then moves to Bethlehem. This true account takes place during the dismal days of  failure and rebellion of the Israelites, called the period of the Judges. A  famine forces Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, from their Israelite home to the  country of Moab. Elimelech dies and Naomi is left with her 2 sons, who soon  marry 2 Moabite girls, Orpah and Ruth. Later both of the sons die, and Naomi is  left alone with Orpah and Ruth in a strange land. Orpah returns to her parents,  but Ruth determines to stay with Naomi as they journey to Bethlehem. This story  of love and devotion tells of Ruth’s eventual marriage to a wealthy man named  Boaz, by whom she bears a son, Obed, who becomes the grandfather of David and  the ancestor of Jesus. Obedience brings Ruth into the privileged lineage of  Christ.

Foreshadowings: A major theme of the Book of  Ruth is that of the kinsman-redeemer. Boaz, a relative of Ruth on her husband’s  side, acted upon his duty as outlined in the Mosaic Law to redeem an  impoverished relative from his or her circumstances (Lev. 25:47-49). This  scenario is repeated by Christ, who redeems us, the spiritually impoverished,  from the slavery of sin. Our heavenly Father sent His own Son to the cross so  that we might become children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ. By  being our Redeemer, He makes us His kinsmen.

Practical  Application: The sovereignty of our great God is clearly seen in the  story of Ruth. He guided her every step of the way to become His child and  fulfill His plan for her to become  an ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). In the same way, we have assurance that God  has a plan for each of us. Just as Naomi and Ruth trusted Him to provide for  them, so should we.

We see in Ruth an example of the virtuous woman of  Proverbs 31. In addition to being devoted to her family (Ruth 1:15-18; Proverbs 31:10-12) and  faithfully dependent upon God (Ruth 2:12; Proverbs 31:30), we see  in Ruth a woman of godly speech. Her words are loving, kind and respectful, both  to Naomi and to Boaz. The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 “opens her mouth with  wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness” (v. 26). We could search far  and wide to find a woman today as worthy of being our role model as Ruth.

Author: The author is anonymous. We know that Samuel wrote a  book (1 Samuel  10:25), and it is very possible that he wrote part of this book as well.  Other possible contributors to 1 Samuel are the prophets/historians Nathan and  Gad (1  Chronicles 29:29).

Date of Writing: Originally, the  books of 1 and 2 Samuel were one book. The translators of the Septuagint  separated them, and we have retained that separation ever since. The events of 1  Samuel span approximately 100 years, from c. 1100 B.C. to c. 1000 B.C. The  events of 2 Samuel cover another 40 years. The date of writing, then, would be  sometime after 960 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: First Samuel  records the history of Israel in the land of Canaan as they move from the rule  of judges to being a unified nation under kings. Samuel emerges as the last  judge, and he anoints the first two kings, Saul and David.

Key  Verses: “But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this  displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to  all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but  they have rejected me as their king’” (1 Samuel  8:6-7).

“’You acted foolishly,’ Samuel said. ‘You have not kept the  command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your  kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD  has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people,  because you have not kept the LORD’s command’” (1 Samuel  13:13-14).

“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the LORD delight in burnt  offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is  better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion  is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because  you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king’” (1 Samuel  15:22-23).

Brief Summary: The book of 1 Samuel can  be neatly divided into two sections: the life of Samuel (chapters 1-12) and the  life of Saul (chapters 13-31).

The book starts with the miraculous birth  of Samuel in answer to his mother’s earnest prayer. As a child, Samuel lived and  served in the temple. God singled him out as a prophet (3:19-21), and the  child’s first prophecy was one of judgment on the corrupt priests.

The  Israelites go to war with their perennial enemies, the Philistines. The  Philistines capture the ark of the covenant and are in temporary possession of  it, but when the Lord sends judgment, the Philistines return the ark. Samuel  calls Israel to repentance (7:3-6) and then to victory over the  Philistines.

The people of Israel, wanting to be like other nations,  desire a king. Samuel is displeased by their demands, but the Lord tells him  that it is not Samuel’s leadership they are rejecting, but His own. After  warning the people of what having a king would mean, Samuel anoints a Benjamite  named Saul, who is crowned in Mizpah (10:17-25).

Saul enjoys initial  success, defeating the Ammonites in battle (chapter 11). But then he makes a  series of missteps:  he presumptuously offers a sacrifice (chapter 13), he makes  a foolish vow at the expense of his son Jonathan (chapter 14), and he disobeys  the Lord’s direct command (chapter 15). As a result of Saul’s rebellion, God  chooses another to take Saul’s place. Meanwhile, God removes His blessing from  Saul, and an evil spirit begins goading Saul toward madness (16:14).

Samuel travels to Bethlehem to anoint a youth named David as the next king  (chapter 16). Later, David has his famous confrontation with Goliath the  Philistine and becomes a national hero (chapter 17). David serves in Saul’s  court, marries Saul’s daughter, and is befriended by Saul’s son. Saul himself  grows jealous of David’s success and popularity, and he attempts to kill David.  David flees, and so begins an extraordinary period of adventure, intrigue, and  romance. With supernatural aid, David narrowly but consistently eludes the  bloodthirsty Saul (chapters 19-26). Through it all, David maintains his  integrity and his friendship with Jonathan.

Near the end of the book,  Samuel has died, and Saul is a lost man. On the eve of a battle with Philistia,  Saul seeks for answers. Having rejected God, he finds no help from heaven, and  he seeks counsel from a medium instead. During the seance, Samuel’s spirit rises  from the dead to give one last prophecy: Saul would die in battle the next day.  The prophecy is fulfilled; Saul’s three sons, including Jonathan, fall in  battle, and Saul commits suicide.

Foreshadowings: The  prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel  2:1-10 makes several prophetic references to Christ. She extols God as her  Rock (v. 2), and we know from the gospel accounts that Jesus is the Rock upon  whom we should build our spiritual houses. Paul refers to Jesus as the “rock of  offense” to the Jews (Romans  9:33). Christ is called the “spiritual Rock” who provided spiritual drink to  the Israelites in the wilderness just as He provides “living water” to our souls  (1  Corinthians 10:4; John 4:10).  Hannah’s prayer also makes reference to the Lord who will judge the ends of the  earth (v. 2:10), while Matthew  25:31-32 refers to Jesus as the Son of Man who will come in glory to judge  everyone.

Practical Application: The tragic story of  Saul is a study in wasted opportunity. Here was a man who had it all—honor,  authority, riches, good looks, and more. Yet he died in despair, terrified of  his enemies and knowing he had failed his nation, his family, and his  God.

Saul made the mistake of thinking he could please God through  disobedience. Like many today, he believed that a sensible motive will  compensate for bad behavior. Perhaps his power went to his head, and he began to  think he was above the rules. Somehow he developed a low opinion of God’s  commands and a high opinion of himself. Even when confronted with his  wrongdoing, he attempted to vindicate himself, and that’s when God rejected him  (15:16-28).

Saul’s problem is one we all face—a problem of the heart.  Obedience to God’s will is necessary for success, and if we in pride rebel  against Him, we set ourselves up for loss.

David, on the other hand, did  not seem like much at first. Even Samuel was tempted to overlook him (16:6-7).  But God sees the heart and saw in David a man after His own heart (13:14). The  humility and integrity of David, coupled with his boldness for the Lord and his  commitment to prayer, set a good example for all of us.