1 Samuel Events Preceding the First King
Some of the significant happenings that came before the Israelite era of kings include:
- Read 1 Samuel 4:1-3, 7-12, 17-21 (the Israelite armies carried the ark of the covenant into the battlefield as they fought against the Philistines, in hopes of having the Lord’s help against their enemies; but the Israelites were defeated, the sons of the high priest Eli were killed, and the Philistines stole the ark of the covenant).
- Read 1 Samuel 5:1-12 (the stolen ark of the covenant caused death and terror among the Philistines; keep in mind that the Philistines are God’s children also—what might He be teaching them?).
- Read 1 Samuel 6:1-3, 7-16, 19-21 (the Philistines returned the ark of the covenant to the land of Israel; some of the Israelites disobeyed by looking into the ark and were smitten by the Lord).
- Note that the Israelites and Philistines failed to understand that the presence and help of God are dependent upon faith and worthiness, not upon relics or mementos.
- Read 1 Samuel 7:1-13 (Samuel, the first prophet in Israel since Joshua—over 100 years earlier—called upon the people to repent, to abandon their worship of false gods, and to turn to the Lord with all their hearts; the people repented, defeated the Philistines in battle, and Samuel built a commemorative stone monument and named it “Eben-ezer,” which means “Stone of Help”—which is referred to in the popular hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”).
1 Samuel 8 “They Have Rejected Me”
The sons of the prophet Samuel (who had been appointed as judges over the people of Israel) failed to follow the righteousness of their father (verses 1-3; see also D&C 121:34-35), and thus were not eligible to succeed Samuel as a prophet to the Israelites. Therefore, the elders of Israel asked the aging Samuel to appoint a king to lead them (verses 4-5). Find the following:
- How did Samuel feel about this request? (verse 6).
- What was the Lord’s reply to Samuel’s prayer for guidance? (verses 7-9).
- Find in verses 10-18 the things Samuel said about what it would be like to be led by a king. Read also Mosiah 11:1-15; Mosiah 29:16-18, 21-23; 3 Nephi 6:28-30; Ether 6:22-23.
- After all this, what did the people ultimately choose, and why? (verses 19-20).
- Read Alma 29:4-5 and consider why the Lord gives His children “according to their wills.”
1 Samuel 9-11 “God Gave Him Another Heart”
The Lord inspired Samuel to choose Saul, a humble and righteous man, to be king of the people of Israel (9:15-17). Read the following five instances that demonstrate Saul’s humility and fitness to be king:
- Saul’s reaction to the prophet’s declaration that he was to be the king (9:21). Have you ever felt inadequate before the Lord? He will help! In Saul’s case, the Lord “gave him another heart” (10:9).
- Saul’s reply to his uncle about Saul’s encounter with the prophet Samuel (10:14-16).
- Saul’s behavior when he was announced to the people as their new king (10:20-21).
- Saul’s attitude when some of the people despised him and refused to honor him as king (10:26-27).
- Saul’s answer after he led Israel to victory over the Ammonites and the people wanted to punish those who had rejected Saul as king (11:11-13).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote: “All progress in spiritual things is conditioned upon the prior attainment of humility” (Mormon Doctrine , p. 370).
1 Samuel 13 Saul’s Downfall
Sadly, Saul did not remain humble. Find the mistakes that contributed to his downfall:
- Verses 1-4: What did Saul do that demonstrated a change in his character?
- Verses 5-14: What great misdeed did Saul perform? How did the prophet Samuel respond? Could Saul have repented at this point?
1 Samuel 15 “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice”
Unfortunately, Saul continued in his spiritual confusion and lapses:
- What were the specific instructions that Samuel gave Saul? (verses 1-3).
- What did Saul do that was a violation of the prophet’s instructions? (verses 7-9).
- What did the Lord tell Samuel about Saul? (verses 10-11).
- When confronted by Samuel, what excuses did Saul give? Whom did he blame? (verses 13-15).
- Note Samuel’s reprimand to Saul (verses 16-19) and Saul’s rationalization (verses 20-21).
Samuel’s reactive teachings to Saul reveal great gospel truths for each of us:
- The Lord delights in our sacrifices, but He delights even more in our obedience (verse 22).
- Saul was guilty of rejecting the Lord through rebellion and stubbornness, which are a form of idolatry (verse 23). What did Saul do that can be compared to worshipping a false idol? What things in modern life must we reject in order to avoid idolatry?
- What confession did Saul finally make? (verse 24; see also D&C 3:6-7).
- In what way did Samuel show mercy to Saul? (verses 30-31).
- Note that in verse 35, Samuel “mourned for Saul”; along with verses 30-31, we see an example of the concern and care we must have for those who have mis-stepped.
1 Samuel 16 “The Lord Looketh on the Heart”
It appears that Saul has completely lost the Spirit of God in his life, for the prophet Samuel is reluctant to anoint a new king, saying to the Lord, “How can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me” (verse 2; see also verse 14). But Samuel goes to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem, and the Lord reveals to Samuel His choice for the new king in an unusual manner, after which “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David” (verse 13). Read verses 6-13. What gospel principles or lessons do you see in this experience? Ultimately, what Heavenly Father wants of us is our loving obedience.
Saul is still acting as king (as evidenced in chapter 17) and does not know that Samuel has anointed David to replace him. To calm his troubled spirit, Saul recruits David as his personal musician and servant (verses 14-23; note that in verses 14-16, 23 the Joseph Smith Translation changes the wording to “evil spirit which was not of the Lord”).
1 Samuel 17 David and Goliath
Within the bigger story of the Lord’s chosen Israel battling against the idolatrous Philistines is the classic account of David’s slaying of Goliath. Read and ponder the entire chapter. (Note that there is no way to know the actual height of the Philistine “champion” who sought a one-on-one encounter; for Goliath’s height is given differently in various ancient texts and translations.) We do know that David’s triumph was due to his faith:
- When David became aware of Goliath’s challenge, he showed interest in accepting, but his brother Eliab chastised and ridiculed David (even though Eliab was present when Samuel anointed David to be the king; see 1 Samuel 16:13). But David’s bold reply to Eliab was, “Is there not a cause?”
- Consider the Lord’s restored gospel; what “Goliaths” would you willingly take on in order to protect and promote the Savior’s latter-day Church and cause?
- David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (verse 32).
- David knew he would be fighting for the Lord, declaring that Goliath “hath defied the armies of the living God” (verse 36; see also verse 26).
- David followed this with, “[The Lord] will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (verse 37).
- Goliath belittled David, but David replied “I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (verses 45-46).
- David punctuated his declaration with, “For the battle is the Lord’s” (verse 47).
At least seven times, David expressed his faith in God and bore his witness of the reality and power of the Lord. Not all miracles in our lives are as dramatic as this, but with open eyes we can see breathtaking evidences of the Lord’s work about us.
1 Samuel 18 Saul versus David
Think of someone you can describe as your “best friend.” What is special about your relationship? Read verses 1-3 about the strong friendship between David and Saul’s son Jonathan (see also 20:17). Also, David rose in the esteem and confidence of Saul (verse 5), but it appears that Saul is still not aware that David is to become king in his stead. Things went sour:
- What happened that turned Saul against David? (verses 6-8, 16).
- What did this lead Saul to do? (verses 9-11).
- Why was Saul “afraid” of David? (verses 12-15).
- Note again David’s humility in his reaction to Saul’s offer for David to marry his daughter (verses 17-18, 23).
- What secret plan did Saul have for getting rid of David? (verse 25). But how did David inadvertently thwart Saul’s plan? (verse 27).
- We may not escape all attempts by others to do us harm, but we can live in a way that even our “enemies” recognize that the Lord is with us (see verses 28-29).
1 Samuel Additional Scriptures of Interest
Note also the following scriptures from outside the official Come, Follow Me curriculum:
- 1 Samuel 12:1-15, 24-25—The righteousness of Samuel (compare to King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:12-16).
- 1 Samuel 21:1-9; 22:6-18; 23:9-12, 15-18; 24:1-17—The spiritually barren Saul pursues his son-in-law David, attempting multiple times to kill him (note that Saul has fulfilled Samuel’s warnings about the problems with kings). But David displays remarkable restraint by not retaliating against Saul, even when the opportunity presented itself.
- 1 Samuel 28:3-20—the story of Saul and the witch of En-dor (but note, the witch’s so-called “vision” is not from the Lord).
- 1 Samuel 31:1-7—Saul and his sons (including Jonathan) are killed in battle against the Philistines.