I Samuel records the life of Samuel, who was Israel’s last judge. It describes Israel’s transition period from a theocracy (led by God) to a monarchy (led by a king). It covers the reign and decline of Saul, the first king, and the choice and preparation of David.
Eli began the race of life with a close relationship with God. In chapters 1-3, he demonstrated a clear understanding of God’s purposes and call as Israel’s high priest. However, his life ended in tragedy as his undisciplined and sacrilegious sons desecrated the temple.
Samuel, who was dedicated to the service of God by his mother, Hannah, became one of Israel’s greatest prophets. However, like Eli’s family, Samuel’s sons turned away from God as they took bribes and perverted justice.
Saul started out as a handsome (9:2) and humble man (9:21; 10:22) who was God’s choice as the first king of Israel (10:24). Later he disobeyed God and became a very jealous old man who was obsessed with killing David. Finally, his life ended in suicide.
David was another great beginner who ministered to Saul (chapter 6) and became a great warrior. He waited patiently for God to deal with Saul after he was anointed to be Israel’s next king. However, when his name is mentioned today, everyone remembers his sin with Bathsheba and how he had her husband killed.
During this period of time, Israel’s neighbors played a significant role in the outworking of God’s providence:
The Philistines controlled southwest Palestine and oppressed Israel for forty years.
The Ammonites settled east of the Jordan River, and partly because of their threat, Israel came to Samuel and asked for a king.
The Edomites controlled the territory south of the Dead Sea and were made up of the descendants of Esau, who were mostly farmers.
The Moabites inhabited territory north of Edom, where David sought safety for his parents when he ran from Saul.
The Canaanites, descendants from Noah’s son Ham, occupied territory inside the Promised Land, and constituted a threat to Israel’s spiritual well-being.
The Amorites migrated from Upper Mesopotamia and mingled with the Canaanites.