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The Blue Letter Bible

Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: Comments for 1 Samuel

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I. SAMUEL: God’s prophet, priest, and judge, Chapters 1-8

Chapter 1 — This First Book of Samuel opens with a cry of a godly woman. While the people cry for a king, Hannah cries for a child. God builds the throne on a woman’s cry. When woman takes her exalted place, God builds her a throne.
Eli, the high priest, thinks Hannah is drunk as she prays before the tabernacle in Shiloh. When he discovers her true anxiety is for a child, he blesses her. Samuel is born to Hannah and she brings him to Eli in fulfillment of her vow.

Chapter 2 — Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving is prophetic, as she mentions the Messiah for the first time (v. 10).
Eli’s sons are evil and not fit for the priests’ office. An unnamed prophet warns Eli that his line will be cut off as high priest and that God will raise up a faithful priest (v. 35). Notice verse 26 — spoken only of Samuel and Jesus.

Chapter 3 — The story of the call of Samuel as a prophet-priest is ordinarily reserved for children. It is not only for the junior, but for the senior. Bring it out of the nursery and into the adult department, for it is not only a beautiful story but marks one of the great transitional periods in Scripture — the change from theocracy to monarchy, from priest to king. God spoke to a king through prophets. Samuel was not a wee child. Josephus says he was 12 years old (1Sa 2:18 gives the wrong impression). Solomon was a grown man when he prayed, “I am but a little child” (1 Kings 3:7). Jeremiah was called to prophetic office when he wrote, “I am a child” (Jeremiah 1:6). There were a total of 4 calls to Samuel: first and second were the call of God to salvation (v. 7); the last 2 calls were to service (v. 10).

Chapter 4 — Israel, without consulting Samuel, goes out to battle against the Philistines — which leads to defeat. Then they bring the ark of the covenant into battle, thinking its presence will bring victory. This reveals the superstitious paganism of the people who thought there was some merit in an object. The merit was in the presence and person of God.

Verse 5 reveals gross idolatry.
Verses 6 through 8 show that the Philistines were both superstitious and ignorant.
Verse 10 tells Israel’s defeat again. The ark is captured.
Verse 18 — The capture of the ark causes Eli to collapse and fall backward, breaking his neck (he was a fat man).

Chapter 5 — The captured ark is placed in the house of Dagon, idol of the Philistines. The idol falls over and breaks. In fear, they send the ark to Gath where it is then transferred to Ekron.

Chapter 6 — Philistines return the ark to Israel, carried on a cart, to the field of Joshua at Bethshemesh. The ark is transferred to Kirjathjearim.

Chapter 7 — After 20 years Israel prepares to receive the ark. Israel turns from Baalim and Ashtaroth to serve the Lord (v. 4).
After Israel’s victory over the Philistines, Samuel sets up a stone at Ebenezer, which means “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”

Verses 15 through 17 give Samuel’s extensive ministry as prophet, priest, and judge.

Chapter 8Hosea 13:11 can be written over the remainder of 1 Samuel:

I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.

Samuel made the mistake of making his own sons judges to succeed him. They were wholly unworthy and incompetent (v. 3). Samuel was a failure as a father.
Israel demanded a king and rejected God and Samuel. Israel was influenced by surrounding nations.

II. SAUL: Satan’s man, Chapters 9-15

Chapter 9 — The people chose Saul. He looked like a king (v. 2). He was out looking for the asses of his father (v. 3), but the asses of Israel were looking for him (v. 20). God granted their request but sent leanness to their souls (v. 17). Is Saul (v. 21) genuinely humble?

Chapter 10 — Samuel anoints Saul king (v. 1). Was Saul (v. 6) converted? This verse is not the final proof. The Spirit of God came upon Balaam also, but he was not converted. Succeeding events in Saul’s life indicate that he was not. Verse 9 does not mean he had a new heart, only another heart. God equipped him for the office of king.
The reception of Saul as king was their rejection of God (v. 19). Saul’s conduct (v. 22) is evidence of a false modesty. Verse 25 gives the message of 1 Samuel.

Chapter 11 — Saul began well, as he gained a victory over the Ammonites at Jabesh-gilead. All Israel accepted Saul as king (v. 15).

Chapter 12 — Samuel transfers all authority to Saul and turns in his report as judge over Israel. Verse 3 is Samuel’s autobiography — he was a remarkable man. Although Saul was Israel’s choice (v. 13), God would still bless if the people would obey (v. 14). The people begin to see and acknowledge their mistake (v. 19). Verse 22 is the revelation of the marvelous grace of God.

Chapter 13 — The real nature of Saul begins to show. His son Jonathan got the victory at Michmash, but Saul blew the trumpet and took credit for it (vs. 3, 4). In presumption Saul intrudes into the priest’s office (vs. 8-10). Samuel rebukes and rejects Saul (vs. 13, 14). The disarmament of Israel is revealed (vs. 19, 22).

Chapter 14 — Again Jonathan gains a victory, but Saul takes credit for it (vs. 14, 15). “Saul took credit for victory…modesty gone now” (Young). Saul’s jealousy is revealed (vs. 37-45). He actually would destroy his son if he stood in the way.

Chapter 15 — Saul’s glaring rebellion is revealed in his disobedience regarding Agag. He wants to cover up his sin before the people (v. 30). Saul is rejected now as king with no hope of recovery (v. 35). Samuel loved Saul for he mourned for him. Was he Samuel’s choice? A great spiritual principle is enunciated by Samuel (vs. 22, 23).
God has given Saul an opportunity to make good after his first failure, but he failed the second time. This is God’s method all the way through Scripture (cf. Jacob, Jonah, Peter, Mark, etc.). God did not need to wait for the result — He already knew. However, the individual needed to know, and we need to know (Psalm 51:4; Romans 3:19; Revelation 15:3). We shall be tested, and we need the help of the Holy Spirit (James 1:12).
Why the extreme surgery in slaying the Amalekites and Agag? Move ahead about 500 years. Haman was an Agagite (Esther 3:1). God was protecting multitudes of the future, as He did at the Flood.

III. DAVID: God’s man, and SAUL: Satan’s man, Chapters 16-31

Chapter 16 — God chooses David as king to succeed Saul and sends Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint him as king. Another great principle is enunciated (v. 7). This is God’s method of choosing men for a particular office and task. Because Saul is forsaken of God (v. 14), David is brought into court to play upon his harp to soothe the evil spirit of Saul.

Chapter 17 — This chapter contains the familiar episode of David slaying Goliath with a slingshot. Why did David take 5 smooth stones to slay Goliath (v. 40)? Did he expect to miss? No, Goliath had 4 sons, and David expected them to come out also. In fact, he did slay them (2 Samuel 21:22); David did not expect to miss (Judges 20:16).

Chapter 18 — David and Jonathan become fast friends, and they make a covenant for life. Saul becomes jealous of David because of the people’s applause (vs. 8, 9) and twice attempts to slay him. David becomes the favorite of the people (v. 16). Saul gives his daughter Michal to David as wife in order to trap David.

Chapter 19 — Saul openly attempts to have David slain; he personally attempts to slay him with a javelin as David plays upon his harp (vs. 9, 10). David escapes and becomes as a hunted animal.

Chapter 20 — Jonathan proves his love for David by protecting him (vs. 16, 17). Jonathan communicates with David the intentions of Saul by means of the shooting of arrows. Saul determines to kill David, and David flees.

Chapter 21 — David flees to Ahimelech the priest and feeds his young men with the showbread from the holy place. Then David flees to Achish, king of Gath, in Philistine country.

Chapter 22 — David begins to gather his mighty men. Those who came to him were in dire need — in distress, in debt, and discontented. David is hunted as a criminal. Saul slays Ahimelech and the other priests for helping David (vs. 16-23).

Chapter 23 — David continues to flee with 600 men (v. 13). Jonathan contacts David and recognizes that David will be the next king (vs. 16, 17). Jonathan is a great man, and his attitude and action remind us of John the Baptist.

Chapter 24 — David spares Saul’s life at En-gedi because he honors his office, not the man (v. 6).

Chapter 25 — Death of Samuel in his retirement. David encounters Nabal and Abigail. David in anger is prevented from the rash act of murdering Nabal and his servants by the presence and diplomacy of Abigail, Nabal’s beautiful wife. Nabal dies after a night of drunkenness, and David takes Abigail as wife. She was a good influence in the life of David (vs. 29, 32-34).

Chapter 26 — David again spares Saul in the wilderness of Ziph. Note the contrast between Saul and David. Obviously, Saul knows that David is God’s choice, but he seeks to slay him (v. 25). David recognizes that Saul is the anointed king, and he spares him. God must deal with Saul (vs. 9-11). Is David being sarcastic with Abner (v. 15)?

Chapter 27 — David in fear retreats to Philistia (v. 1). Achish of Gath gives David and his men the city of Ziklag.

Chapter 28 — Saul’s interview with the witch of Endor poses and provokes many questions. The primary one relates to Samuel. Did she bring Samuel back from the dead? If so, this is the only instance in Scripture. Scripture positively condemns such practices of necromancy (Deuteronomy 18:9-14). The New Testament account of Lazarus and a rich man indicates there can be no return (Luke 16:19-31). Paul was silenced about his experience of being caught up to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Scripture warns of these practices and predicts a future outbreak (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; Revelation 16:13, 14).
Saul was abandoned of God (vs. 6, 15). Because heaven was silent, Saul turned to hell. We maintain that Samuel did not appear. There are 2 possible explanations: (1) It was a fraud, the witch was a ventriloquist (this is the position of G. Campbell Morgan); (2) an overweening desire to communicate with dead loved ones makes people victims of deceit. We believe a false spirit appeared — not Samuel. Even the witch was deceived and frightened (vs. 12-15). The false spirit communicated nothing that was not previously revealed.

Chapter 29 — The Philistines do not trust David to fight against Israel.

Chapter 30 — David fights against the Amalekites because of destruction of Ziklag. Note David’s refuge (v. 6).

Chapter 31 — Saul, mortally wounded in battle, tries to commit suicide. See 2 Samuel, chapter 1, for the answer to the question: “Who killed King Saul?”

Saul failed in ruling God’s property.
The end is self-destruction.
God and His authority are rejected.
Saul spared the Amalekites; Saul was killed by Amalekites.

Overview for 1 & 2 Samuel ← Prior Section
Outline for 1 Samuel Next Section →
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Comments for 2 Samuel Next Book →
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