Although 1 Samuel is a history book, its purpose is not to teach history. 1 Corinthians 10:11 explains why such books are in the Bible. God uses the events in these books to teach and to warn his people today. The Bible’s history books contain essential lessons for all of God’s people, today. So we must not neglect their message.
The Book of 1 Samuel begins near the end of the period that the Book of Judges describes. For several hundred years, Israel had been a weak nation, without a king or even a government. Although God had established a relationship with that nation, its people were not often loyal to God. Whenever an enemy dealt with the people in Israel cruelly, they appealed to God for help. So God appointed someone to act as Israel’s leader (or ‘judge’). That person gathered Israel’s men into an army to defeat the enemy. During each judge’s life, the people continued to serve God, but afterwards, they started to serve false gods again.
The Books of 1 and 2 Samuel describe how God saved Israel from this unsatisfactory situation. He made Israel into a strong nation with a capable government and a king, David, who truly loved God. God defeated Israel’s enemies and he brought peace to the country. He also taught Israel’s people how they could serve him in a better and more loyal manner.
We might imagine that it is only possible to achieve such great things by means of powerful and impressive leaders. Nations usually choose proud people with strong opinions to be their rulers (Mark 10:42). That was the kind of king that the people in Israel wanted (8:20). But that is not how God works.
David, the king whom God chose for Israel, was a sincere and humble man. (A ‘humble’ person is willing to learn the lessons that God teaches and to obey his instructions.) That was the character of the man whom God used to defeat Israel’s enemies. David loved God; and God made wonderful promises to David about the future of David’s family (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
God began to do these wonderful things with two events that seemed very weak. At about the same time, two babies were born. In the Book of Ruth, we read about how Ruth became a mother. She was a poor widow and a foreigner. However, Israel’s royal family came from her family.
At the start of the Book of 1 Samuel, we read how Hannah became a mother. She had been unable to have a child; but God gave her a son, Samuel. Samuel was the prophet (holy man) who appointed David to be Israel’s king.
Christian readers will notice how similar these events were to the birth of Christ. At that time, Israel was again in a weak situation. Foreign kings and foreign armies controlled the nation. But God worked in a similar way. He used two women, Elizabeth and Mary, whom people did not expect to have babies. Elizabeth’s son was John, who prepared the nation for Jesus. Mary’s son, of course, was Jesus, whom Christians believe to be Israel’s king, from the family of David. That is what his title, Christ, means: the king of Israel. See Luke 1:5 to 2:7, and Matthew 1:1.
Next part: Elkanah and his family (1 Samuel 1:3-8)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.