Rise of the King
Samuel 1 & 2
Soon our Bible Reading Plan will turn to 1 & 2 Samuel. Here are some things to keep in mind as you read 1 & 2 Samuel:
- 1 & 2 Samuel were originally one book. They pick up the history of Israel from the end of Judges and take it through the death of Israel’s first king, Saul. (1 & 2 Kings continue the history from there up to the Babylonian exile, while 1 & 2 Chronicles recount Israel’s history from a different perspective.)
- The story begins with Samuel, the last of the “judges”—periodic military/political leaders who mobilized the disparate tribes of Israel to meet times of crisis. Samuel becomes a long-term and much-revered national leader. But his sons are not like him. And Samuel cannot turn aside the forces of change, reluctantly becoming Israel's king-maker
- The first king, Saul, starts well, but descends into jealousy and paranoia, breaking God’s commandments and losing the confidence of the people.
- The second king, David, is Israel’s great king, the “man after God’s own heart,” the one with whom all future kings are compared. He certainly achieves great things and unifies the nation. But power corrupts. As king, David’s personal sin becomes national tragedy, as does his inability to discipline his own sons. And his story is endlessly bloody, leading God not to allow David to build the Temple.
- The way 1 & 2 Samuel tell it, God is a character in the story. God is directly involved in politics and history. What do you make of that, compared to the way we tend to tell history today?
- 1 & 2 Samuel explore the nature of spiritual and political leadership. The people want a king because periodic judges have left them weak and vulnerable. But monarchy has problems of its own. What form of government and spiritual leadership is best? 1 & 2 Samuel do not give us “the right answer.” They help us ponder more richly and deeply.