The First Book of Samuel concerns the establishment of the Israelite monarchy. It opens with Samuel the Prophet, the last Judge, who was raised under the tutelage of Eli, the High Priest.
When Samuel grew old, his sons’ corrupt behavior caused the elders to request that he “make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” (8:12) Samuel was not pleased with their request because the Israelites should have recognized that God was their King and that their desire to be like other nations was improper.
God, however, led Samuel to Saul, who was anointed as the first King of Israel. Saul’s extraordinary military prowess won the loyalty of the people.
Saul’s “downfall” began at the end of the war with Amalek. Although he was under strict orders to fulfill the Torah commandment to wipe out Amalek, he allowed the Amalekite king, Agag, to live. For his failure to follow God's command, Saul was informed by Samuel that his kingship would end and not become a dynasty.
The other major theme of I Samuel is Saul’s relationship with David, who was secretly anointed by Samuel to be Saul’s successor (chapter 16). David first came to Saul’s court to serve as a harpist in order to ease the king’s troubled spirits. When the Philistine giant, Goliath, challenged the Israelites to one-on-one combat, David achieved fame by killing Goliath with a sling shot.
Saul suffered from a paranoid hatred of David, whom he tried to kill. David was extremely close to Saul’s family--his best friend was the king’s son, Jonathan, and his first wife was Saul’s daughter, Michal.
The First Book of Samuel ends with the death of Saul and Jonathan during battle with the Philistines.
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