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Bible Studies

1 Samuel

Date: ca. 1,000 BC


Samuel was the last judge before a king was appointed for the nation of Israel. These books mark the transition from the period of the judges to the kingship. The situation was chaotic. Religiously it went downhill and the economic situation was bad. The greatest difficulty was the Philistine army that threatened to destroy the people. In battle Israel was defeated and the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the people of the Philistines.

In the middle of this period, Saul became the first king. A man who made the right decisions and then the wrong ones. He regularly committed acts of violence. Fearing others, especially David, Saul wasted much time fighting the wrong persons. Instead of liberating the land from the enemies, he fought his friends. In the end he went down ingloriously in battle against the Philistines.

David was different. He had military insight and administrative qualities. He was able to structure the people as a nation and established a government apparatus. David's greatest task was to defeat the Philistines, and he did. It was a crushing victory, for they never again posed a threat to Israel.

David wasn't perfect. At one point, during a decisive battle, he let himself be carried away by his sexual urges and seduced a married woman of one of his officers. Out of deep regret for this deed, David wrote a penitential psalm (Psalm 51).

Theological Themes

The main theme in these books is the fact that God is working in the history of the world to carry out His plan. He can impose His will on us, but does not. Through our actions He accomplishes His plan. The miracle to which these events bear witness is: We may believe that everything will be all right, because God has everything in His hand.

Another theme is that God does not allow himself to be manipulated. When the people of Israel threaten to lose the battle, they thought they could still win by taking the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield. God is not forced. When our lives are bad, superficial piety is of no use. Finally, of the emphasis of God's forgiveness. There are many examples of God's patience with those who offend Him. It is wonderful that God does not treat us according to our sins, but grants mercy.

Main features

1 Samuel
1. The Life of Samuel (1:1-8:22),
2. The Life of Saul and His Enmity with David (9:1-20:42),
3. The captivity of David to the death of Saul (21:1-24:13).

2 Samuel
1. David's coming as ruler (1:1-4:12),
2. David as king of Israel and Judah (5:1-14:53),
3. Rebellion in the State itself (15:1-20:26),
3. The later years of David's reign (21:1-24:25).