By J. B. Tidell, A.M., D. D.
Name. The name is taken from the history of the life of Samuel recorded in the early part of the book. It means "asked of God." The two were formerly one book and called the "First Book of Kings," the two books of Kings being one book and called Second Kings. Samuel and Kings form a continuous story, and give us a record of the rise, glory and fall of the Jewish Monarchy.
Contents. This book begins with the story of Eli. the aged priest, judge and leader of the people. It records the birth and childhood of Samuel, who later becomes priest and prophet of the people. It tells of Saul's elevation to the throne and of his final downfall. Along with this is also given the growing power of David, who is to succeed Saul as king.
The Prophets. Samuel was not only both judge and priest and prophet, but as prophet he performed conspicuous services in several directions. Probably the most notable of all his work was the establishment of schools of prophets, which greatly dignified the work of the prophets. After this time, the prophet and not the priest was the medium of communication between God and his people.
Saul. As king, Saul began well and under favorable circumstances. He gave himself to military exploits and neglected the finer spiritual matters and soon made a complete break with Samuel, who represented the religious-national class-and thereby lost the support of the best elements of the nation. He then became morose and melancholy and insanely jealous in conduct and could not, therefore, understand the higher religious experiences that were necessary as a representative of Jehovah on the throne of Israel.
I. Career of Samuel, Chs. 1-7.
II. Career of Saul to his rejection, Chs. 8-15.
III. Career of Saul after his rejection. Chs. 16-31.
For Study and Discussion. (1) The story of Eli and his sons. (2) The birth and call of Samuel. (3) The anointing of Saul. (4) The anointing of David. (5) The evils of jealousy as seen in Saul. (6) The importance of respect for existing forms of government-see David's attitude toward Saul. (7) How a man's attitude toward God and his servants can make or mar his destiny. (8) Examples of how God uses both good and bad carrying forward his purposes.
In this book, there is given the story of the career of David while king of Israel. He was the strongest king Israel ever had and was characterized as a fine executive, a skillful soldier and of a deeply religious disposition. He was not without his faults, but in spite of them developed a great empire.
I. His Reign Over Judah a Hebren, Chs. 1-4.
II. His reign Over All Israel, Chs. 5-10.
III. His Great Sin and Its Results, Chs. 11-20.
IV. An Appendix, Chs. 21-34.
For Study and Discussion. (1) How David became king. (2) His victories in war. (3) His great sin and some of its consequences. (4) His kindness toward his enemies (see also his attitude toward Saul recorded in First Samuel). (5) The kindness of God as illustrated by the story of David's kindness to Mephibosheth, Ch. 9. (6) David's psalm of praise, Chs. 22-23. (7) The different occasions when David showed a penitent spirit (8) The great pestilence. Ch. 24.