The First Book of Samuel records the transition in Israel from the period of the judges to the monarchy. This change in Israel's national life revolved mainly around three men: Samuel, the last of the great judges; Saul, Israel's first king; and David, whose early adventures before coming to power are interwoven with the accounts of Samuel and Saul.
The theme of this book, like that of other historical writings in the Old Testament, is that faithfulness to God brings success, while disobedience brings disaster. This is stated clearly in the Lord's message to the priest Eli in 2.30: “I will honor those who honor me, and I will treat with contempt those who despise me.”
The book records mixed feelings about the establishment of the monarchy. The Lord himself was regarded as the real king of Israel, but in response to the people's request the Lord chose a king for them. The important fact was that both the king and the people of Israel lived under the sovereignty and judgment of God (2.7-10). Under God's laws the rights of all people, rich and poor alike, were to be maintained.
Outline of Contents
Samuel as judge of Israel (1.1—7.17)
Saul becomes king (8.1—10.27)
The first years of Saul's reign (11.1—15.35)
David and Saul (16.1—30.31)
The death of Saul and his sons (31.1-13)
The two books of Samuel were originally one long book. Although named after Israel's last judge, the prophet Samuel, his story makes up less than a quarter of the combined two books. First Samuel goes on to tell how the people of Israel wanted a king like the nations around them and how Saul from the tribe of Benjamin was chosen to be Israel's first king. But God was not happy with Saul and chose a shepherd named David from the tribe of Judah to be king in Saul's place. At first, David served in King Saul's court, but eventually he had to flee from the jealous king. At the end of First Samuel, King Saul dies in battle.