How to Read 1 Samuel
During the month of May, our church we will be reading through the book of 1 Samuel. Use this study guide to help you read through this great book.
What’s 1 Samuel All About?
The book of 1 Samuel is the first of a two-part work, which was originally one book. And it serves to narrate the transition from the time of the judges to the time of the kings in Israel’s history. But the book is far from simply a historical record. The stories are beautifully crafted to show us realistic portraits of people’s greatest strengths and weaknesses.
The book covers themes of suffering and joy, pride and humility, disobedience and faith. And at the center of these themes are some of the most memorable characters in the Bible. From barren Hannah to the worthless sons of Eli, from proud Saul to humble David—the book gives us some of the best character studies in the Bible. Yet, the book offers more. Beneath each of these stories, the book tells one story of a God who is faithful to his people in the good and the bad. A God who is committed to moving the Story forward until his True King and Kingdom come.
Outline of the Book
1–2 | Samuel’s Birth & Hannah’s Song
2 | The Worthless Sons of Eli
3 | Samuel’s Calling
4–6 | The Philistines and the Ark of God
7–8 | The Last Judge and First King
9–11 | Saul Becomes King of Israel
12 | Samuel’s Last Words to Israel
13–15 | The Rise and Fall of King Saul
16 | David’s Anointing
17 | Defeat of Goliath
18–20 | Saul’s Murderous Jealousy of David
21–26 | David Flees from Saul
27–30 | David In Philistia
31 | The Deaths of Saul & Jonathan
Things to Look For
Look for how the characters in the story are portrayed. The book is written in the genre of hero story. But that doesn’t mean everything they do is heroic. Look for the ways the story highlights their character qualities, their actions, and their impact on others—for the good and the bad.
Look for God’s sovereignty at work in the book. While the book focuses on the characters, behind all of it is a God who is working for the good of his people in spite of their flaws and failures.
Look for the themes of pride and humility. The whole book could be summarized by 1 Peter 5:5—“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Look for ways this theme is developed through the characters. For example, Saul is tall (proud) while David is small (humble).
Look for dramatic reversals, a similar theme that develops through the book. It begins with Hannah’s celebration of God reversing the shame of her barren womb and moves through the book as God brings down the mighty and lifts up the lowly.
Look for echos of Jesus. The book is more than just character studies. It is moving us forward in the story of God’s redemption ultimately to Jesus. Hannah’s story is echoed in Jesus’ birth narrative in Luke 1–2. Samuel’s youthful encounter with God echos Jesus’ temple visit at 12 years old. David’s surprising anointing and rise to power echos Jesus’ emergence from obscurity at the beginning of his ministry. Saul’s persecution of David echos Jesus’ rejection by his people and his own suffering and death.
Tips for Reading
Read a chapter a day in the month of May and you’ll finish all 31 chapters in the month. If you have time, go on to read the rest of the story in 2 Samuel.
Write down what you see. Makes lists of the characters, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Use these lists to help you learn from them.
Use the character studies to evaluate your own life. Examine your flaws and weaknesses. Identify your strengths. And look for ways that you can grow in repentance and godliness through reading these stories.
Ask yourself this question every time you read—how do I see Jesus here? Talk with others about what you think to see if you’re on the right path.