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.