Module 15: The Need for a King - Demanded from God
Module Guide: 1 Samuel - Transition
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
The first book of Samuel covers a period of transition in the history of the nation. It deals with the process from the judges to the kings. The condition of the chosen people under the judges we have seen to have been one of terrible degeneracy. It was during this period that they practically rejected God from being King. The clamour for an earthly king which followed was the natural outcome of this practical rejection.
In this book we have the history of the people from the last of the judges, Samuel, through the troublous times of Saul, in which they learned what government by man really meant, to the beginning of the reign of the king chosen by God, David.
The book naturally falls into three sections around the names of these three men. The periods of their influence overlap, but there is sufficient definiteness in the changes to create the possibility of the following analysis: Samuel (1-7); Saul (8-15); David (16-31).
In the dark and troublous times Jehovah is seen working toward deliverance, by answering the prayer of faith as it operated in the heart of a simple and trusting woman. There was much of human passion manifest in her desire, but the fact that she turned to Jehovah is evidence of her trust in Him; and upon the basis of that evidence He prepared a way for the future guidance of the people. Her boy Samuel was dedicated for life to the service of God.
The story of the life at Shiloh reveals two movements going forward simultaneously in Israel, those namely of degeneration and regeneration. The corruption of the priesthood was appalling. Within the precincts of the Tabernacle Samuel was preserved from pollution, and grew in the fear of the Lord.
At last, while yet a boy, Samuel was distinctly called, and the first message entrusted to him was a terrible one. A further period of training and growth followed before he was ready to assume the work of leadership. During that period the Lord vindicated him by permitting no word he spoke to fall to the ground, that is, to fail of fulfilment.
The crisis of judgment foretold by Samuel came in connection with the Philistine attack upon the people. In the midst of the disaster, hoping to save themselves, the men of Israel carried the ark of God into the fray. It was an entirely superstitious use thereof, and was utterly unavailing. The Philistines captured the ark itself.
The history of their possession of it is a most interesting one, in that it reveals how, when a people of God fail to bear testimony for Him among the nations. He becomes His own Witness. They first lodged it at Ashdod, in the house of the fish god, Dagon, with disastrous results to the idol. With speed and in fear they carried it to Gath, and a plague fell upon the people. They moved it hastily to Ekron, and painful and troublesome tumours broke out upon the people. At each move judgment became more severe, and Philistia found that, if she had been able to conquer and break the power of Israel, it was a different thing when she had to deal with Israel's God. At last they decided to send the ark back, accompanied by offerings which indicated their recognition of the fact that their plagues had been the visitation of God. Joshua of Beth-shemesh received the ark in a way worthy of an Israelite.
A dark period of twenty years is now passed over without detailed record. It would seem that during that time Israel was under Philistine rule without any definite centre of worship. During this period Samuel was advancing from youth to manhood, and approaching the hour of his leadership. This was ushered in by the lamenting of the people after God. Of this he took advantage, calling them to return to Him, and put away all strange gods. They obeyed, and were summoned to Mizpeh. Here, by a direct Divine intervention, the power of Philistia was broken, and her cities restored to Israel. Samuel erected an altar, and called it Ebenezer. This man of clear vision recognized both the government of God and its beneficent method. The Lord had helped them, through ch-astisement, to sorrow for sin, and through such sorrow to freedom from oppression.
In a brief paragraph the story of his actual judgeship is told. At Ramah was his home, and from there he journeyed in circuit once a year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpeh, thus maintaining oversight, and administering the affairs of the people.
The book now merges into its second division, which has to do with Saul. The people clamoured for a king. The occasion of their request was the mal-administration of the sons of Samuel, and their sinful practices. The real principle underlying it was a desire on their part to be, as they said, "like all the nations." They had been chosen to be unlike the nations, a people directly governed by Jehovah. Samuel declared to them what the issue of their wish would be if it were granted.
Saul was in every way a remarkable man. In the pursuit of his filial duty he was led into contact with Samuel. While they were alone, he commu-nicated to him his Divine appointment. How long elapsed between this and his formal presentation to the people we do not know. This took place at Mizpeh. Here Saul manifested the first sign of weakness of character which eventuated in his failure. His hiding behind the stuff is often quoted as evidence of his modesty. Modesty, however, becomes sin when it prevents any man from stepping at once into the place to which God is calling him.
Returning to his house at Gibeah Saul did not take up the responsibilities of the kingship until the Ammonite invasion stirred him, and he gained a complete victory over them. Samuel immediately gathered the people to Gilgal, and Saul was confirmed in the kingship. On that occasion Samuel delivered what was practically his last great address to the nation. A study of that address will show how clearly Samuel understood that these people could only be great as they remained loyal to the throne of God. Two chapters give an account of the wars Saul waged. The Philistines gathered themselves together with the express intention of destroying the power of the chosen people. It was in the midst of the fear which possessed the Israelites that Saul manifested his self-independence by offering sacrifice in the absence, and without the instruction, of Samuel. The king's deterioration in character is manifest, moreover, in the fact that he remained idle in Gibeah with his army, and it was at this time that Jonathan made his great strategic attack upon the Philistines, which resulted in their rout.
Saul was commissioned by Jehovah through Samuel to smite Amalek, and in connection with that campaign occurred the sin which filled his cup to the brim, and caused him to be rejected.
While he was victorious, he was disobedient in that he spared Agag and part of the spoil. The two men are seen in striking contrast at this point. Saul, the man of great opportunity, miserably failing, and passing along the pathway of disobedience to ruin. Samuel, rejected long ago of the people, still mighty in his allegiance to God, burning in anger, denouncing in force, and finally, in a white heat of loyalty, himself hewing Agag in pieces. It was the last interview between the king and the prophet prior to the latter's death. Very touching is the statement, "Samuel mourned for Saul." When he failed, Samuel denounced him without sparing, and then in loneliness mourned over him.
We now come to the third section of the book, in which David is the principal figure. Samuel was rebuked for his prolonged mourning, and was commissioned to arise and anoint the new king. Through the melancholy of Saul, David found his way to the court. Then immediately the two men are seen in the presence of a national danger. Saul, notwithstanding his position and his army, was utterly incompetent. David without human resource, but conscious of the true greatness of his people, and sure of the strength of God, gained his victory over Goliath. One of the most charming love-stories of the Bible is that of the friendship between Jonathan and David. Coincident with the commencement thereof, the hatred of Saul against David deepened, and manifested itself in deeply laid schemes and unworthy methods, in which he attempted to rid himself of his rival. These were trying days for the young man anointed to the kingly office, and it was natural that he should flee to Samuel for protection. Saul fast became an irresponsible madman, while David, through all the painful discipline, was being prepared for the work that lay before him.
At last the land itself seemed too hot to hold him, and he took refuge in flight. The period of his exile was characterized by varied experiences. Once he found refuge at Achish among the Philistines, and there had to feign madness. Coming at last to Adullam, he gathered around him a band of the outcasts of his own people. During this period Samuel died. Twice the life of Saul was in David's hands, and on each occasion he spared it. So terrible was the pressure of these dark days that David himself became pessimistic. "He said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul," and he passed into Gath, thus taking refuge among the Philistines.
Perhaps there is no chapter in Old Testament history more tragic than that of Saul's end. The last manifestation of his degradation was that of his visit to the witch of Endor. The men of Philistia became afraid of David, and he was dismissed from their midst. He returned to Ziklag, and found that it bad been sacked by the Amalekites.
The closing chapter of our book is draped in sackcloth and ashes. It tells the story of the end of the career of one of the most disastrous failures. Saul died upon the field of battle by his own hand. The chief spiritual value of this whole book lies in the solemn lessons it teaches by the life and failure and death of this man. For evermore his story proclaims the fact that great advantages and remarkable opportunities are no guarantees of success, unless the heart be firm and steady in its allegiance to principle and its loyalty to God.
Part A: SAMUEL - 1 Samuel 1:1-7:17
A.1. Preparation - 1Sam. 1:1-4:1a
- Birth and Childhood - 1:1-2:11
- Life at Shiloh - 2:12-2:36
- Call - 3:1-4:1a
A.2. Crisis - 1Sam. 4:1b-7:1
- Eli - 4:1b-4:22
- The Ark - 5:1-7:1
A.3. Judgeship - 1Sam. 7:2-7:17
- Twenty Years
- Samuel, governing on the Circuit
Part B: SAUL - 1 Samuel 8:1-15:35
B.1. Appointment - 1Sam. 8:1-10:27
- The People's Demand - 8:1-8:22
- Samuel's Search - 9:1-9:27
- Anointing and Coronation - 10:1-10:27
B.2. Reign - 1Sam. 11:1-14:52
- Kingdom established - 11:1-12:25
- Wars - 13:1-14:52
B.3. Rejection - 1Sam. 15:1-15:35
- War with Amalek
- "Samuel mourned for Saul"
Part C: DAVID - 1 Samuel 16:1-31:13
C.1. Preparation - 1Sam. 16:1-20:42
- Anointed - 16:1-16:23
- Progress - 17:1-18:5
- Difficulties - 18:6-20:42
C.2. In Exile - 1Sam. 21:1-27:12
- Flight - 21:1-21:15
- Varied Experiences - 22:1-27:12
C.3. Returning - 1Sam. 28:1-31:13
- Saul and the Witch - 28:1-28:25
- David - 29:1-30:31
- Death of Saul - 31:1-31:13
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.