Books of 1 & 2 Samuel Summary

Main Idea

The people of Israel selfishly chose Saul to rule over them as king (1 Sam. 8-9); but he proves to be a foolish choice in light David, the king chosen by God (1Sam. 16:1-13), who, although he also falls (2 Sam. 11-20), receives an eternal covenant promise (2 Sam. 7:4-16).

Explanation of Main Idea

God raises up Samuel as a prophet and judge of Israel. His miraculous birth (1 Sam. 1) testifies to his significant role in the life of Israel, namely his place in representing God in anointing Saul, and later David as king. After strong warnings to Israel by Samuel about the consequence of having a king “like all the other nations” (1 Sam. 8:20), Saul is finally chosen, the most “impressive young man” among all the Israelites (1 Sam. 9:2). Saul had a good start by decisively defeating one of Israel’s enemy, Nahash the Ammonite and winning favour among the people (1 Sam. 11). Even though he wasn’t God’s choice, Saul has an opportunity to please the Lord and establish a permanent reign in Israel (1 Sam. 13:13). Instead, he was foolish.

Saul disobeys the word of the Lord (1 Sam. 13:13), makes decisions motivated by his fear of people (1 Sam. 15:24), builds a monument to himself (1 Sam. 15:12), and proves to be a bad leader. He is rejected by God (1 Sam. 15:27) and Samuel is grieved. Immediately though, God tells Samuel that He has chosen a new king, from Jesse’s family, a young shepherd named David (1 Sam. 16:1-13).

After being anointed as king, David providentially begins to serve Saul as a musician (1 Sam. 16:14-23) and warrior with incredible success because God was with him (1 Sam 18:1-7). Saul eventually becomes violently jealous, even deranged as he tries to kill David, driving him to live in hiding in the wilderness (1 Sam. 20-23). Finally Saul is killed in battle (1 Sam. 31:1-6), the people make David king (2 Sam. 5:1-5) and Israel enjoys a season of victory and blessing (2 Sam. 8). In one of the most significant passages in the Old Testament, 2 Sam. 7, David declares that he wants to build a “house” (temple) for God, but God tells him that a “house” (dynasty) will be built for him. This, of course refers to the promised Messiah that will be one of his descendants.

Tragically, David makes a grave mistake when he sees Bathsheba bathing, he brings her to his palace and commits adultery with her (2 Sam. 11:4). He murders her husband to cover it up (2 Sam. 11). When confronted, he repents, but the damage is down; the consequence for his sin is severe. His family falls apart, engaging in sexual abuse, murder, deceit and betrayal (2 Sam. 13-21). In his last words, he remembers that “God has established a permanent covenant” and has “ordered and secured every detail” (2 Sam. 23:5) of it. Hope is coming!


The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were written to compare and contrast the rise and fall of King Saul, a man-pleaser, and King David, a God-pleaser. These books demonstrate the futility and foolishness of disobedience to God as well as the humility, faith, and reward that characterizes a life lived to honour God. Because Saul disobeyed the word of the Lord he came to a tragic end when he was severely wounded in battle and ultimately died as he “took his sword and fell on it” (1 Sam. 31:4).

David, on the other hand, exercises great faith when, as a young man, defeats “a champion named Goliath” (1 Sam. 17:4) as he declares, “…I come against you in the name of the LORD of Armies, the God of the ranks of Israel” (1 Sam 17:45). On numerous occasions, he also manifested extraordinary humility, especially in his dealings with Saul, who was attempting to murder him (1 Sam. 24:5-15; 1 Sam. 26:17-20). As noble as he was, however, he was not exempt from sinful disobedience. Like Saul, David had a tragic fall. One terrible mistake caused his life to come crashing down, devastating his future and that of his family. Nonetheless, he was still chosen by God to have his kingdom forever established through a “descendant, who will come from (his own) body” (1 Sam 7:12).

Leading Themes

  1. Obedience to God.
    Samuel, Saul, and David obeyed or disobeyed God to varying degrees. Samuel obeyed God. He served in the Lord’s presence from his early days (1 Sam. 2:18). His life was blessed and he was used by God in powerful ways (1 Sam. 4:1; 1 Sam. 7). David obeyed God in his early days, but disobeyed God later in life. His early days were marked by faith and victory, even through his trials. After the episode with Bathsheba, the blessings blatantly disappear. Saul had a promising start when “the Spirit of God suddenly came powerfully on him” (1 Sam. 11:6), but suffered divine rejection when he rejected the word of the Lord (1 Sam. 15:26).
  2. Pleasing people instead of God.
    Nobody wants to end up like Saul. He went from disobedient, to delusional, to deranged! His character flaw seems to lie primarily in his desire to please people over and above his conviction to obey God. When he inappropriately assumed the role of a priest, he did it because “the troops were deserting (him)” (1 Sam. 13:11). By his own admission his sin was due to the fact that “(he) was afraid of the people” (1 Sam. 15:26). Even when he knew God had rejected him, his main concern was that He would be honoured in front of people (1 Sam. 15:30).
  3. Surrender and let God do it.
    David is truly a remarkable individual. He was anointed king at a young age (1 Sam. 16:1-13), yet he did not force the issue or try to claim the throne for himself through political or violent means. He honoured Saul even after Saul was killed (2 Sam. 1:17-27). There is not one instance in his story where he sought after the throne. He was a humble man. God will exalt a humble man (James 4:10).
  4. The Messiah will come from David’s line.
    The story of Scripture is God reaching out to man, and fulfilling His covenant of bringing a promised Messiah to save fallen humanity. 2 Sam. 7 provides the revelation that this Saviour will come from the line of David. This was fulfilled in the person of Jesus who was David’s descendant (Matt. 1:6). Like David, Jesus was a suffering king who was unrecognized by the people, but rather trusted in God to ascend the throne at the right time. David’s kingdom is noteworthy in the life of Israel, as he is often recognized as the greatest of all their kings.
  5. Inquire of the Lord
    When faced with decisions to make, David is often seen “inquiring of the Lord”. In 1 Sam. 23, David received news about a Philistine attack. He “inquired of the Lord” as to whether he should launch an attack. When God said, his men gave him some pushback, so David “once again…inquired of the Lord” (1 Sam. 23:4). Later, when all the women and children of his team had been kidnapped and his city, Ziklag had been burned, and his men talked about stoning him, “David found strength in the Lord his God” (1 Sam 30:6). As king, he inquired of God to which city he should go (2 Sam. 2:2), whether or not he should attack his enemies (2 Sam. 5:19), and why a famine was in the land (2 Sam 21:1).
  6. Sin has disastrous consequences.
    Both Saul and David reaped terrible consequences for their sin. Saul’s life quickly spun out of control because of his foolishness and pride. David lost a baby (2 Sam. 12:18), a grown son (who was murdered by his brother) (2 Sam. 13:21-38), had his daughter raped (2 Sam. 13:14), suffered betrayal, and even lost his position as king for a season, all because he sinned against the Lord by committing adultery with Bathsheba.

How Does This Relate To Us?

The lives of Samuel, Saul, and David hold invaluable lessons for us all. Samuel was obedient to God as he served the disobedient Israelites. He was bold (1 Sam. 7:3), spoke God’s truth without fear of man (1 Sam. 12), and was faithful to pray (1 Sam. 12:23). Lord, give me a heart like Samuel!

Saul disobeyed the clear word of God and was motivated by a prideful desire to please people. We cannot fail to do what’s right even if it’s difficult, even if it means we will make enemies. Saul teaches us to not mis-interpret God’s word and say “I did obey the Lord!” (1 Sam. 15:20) even though we failed to obey! We cannot define what obedience is based on what we are comfortable with. God’s word must be the standard. We can’t lie to ourselves. Saul made a monument to himself. Whatever we do, we must be cautious of our motivation. We need to desire that all of our life’s work glorifies God.

Oh David! What a great example of both what to do and what not to do! David had a close intimate walk with the Lord, yet he was a successful warrior! He gives us a great example of godly friendship with Jonathan. His heart for God shines! When he didn’t know what to do, he spent time with God. He honoured and respected people. He was a man of integrity. Importantly, he let God promote him at the right time. He never was in a hurry. God will accomplish what He wants to in our life if we have the heart of David — loving God and loving people.

There’s no better example in the bible of the high price of sexual sin. It must be avoided at all costs. It affects our family, like it affected David’s family. It destroys people’s lives. It’s just not worth it!

Study Questions

Textual Questions

  1. What did Samuel consider to be sin in 1 Sam. 12:23?
  2. Why did God reject Saul as king? See 1 Sam. 15:26.
  3. Based on 2 Sam. 11:1, where should David have been? Where was he?
  4. What did David want to do for God in 2 Sam. 7:1-2? How did the prophet react? How did God react?

Life Application Questions

  1. Jonathan seemed to have a strong faith in the Lord based on 1 Sam. 14:1-14. Yet his dad, Saul, seemed to be quite lacking in faith based on 1 Sam. 13:6-12. How has your parents faith (or lack of it) affected you and your faith?
  2. Samuel warns the people of the problems associated with having a king in 1 Sam. 8:10-18, yet they still wanted one. Have you ever wanted something that was not going to be good for you, yet God still gave it to you?
  3. Saul was jealous of David (1 Sam. 18:9). How did Saul deal with his jealousy? Who are you jealous of and what should you do about it?
  4. David was a musician and a poet. Read through his song in 2 Sam. 22. Pick one or two verses that you like and sing it to the Lord!


Copyright © 2018 Pat Sieler


  1. Thank you so much for your summary, I am reading these chapters at the moment and your summary is immensely helpful as I reflect on these stories.
    It’s a great resource for anyone wanting to strengthen their faith through the bible that I’ll continue to use. My only concern is deciding if I read the summary before or after I read the chapters!

  2. Thank you for your teachings on the lives of three men i.e. a prophet(old age and matured) ; a king( men chosen; physically build tall handsome and strong, middle aged and a Shepard ( chosen by God,whorshipper of God and though weak but strong in faith;anointed with everlasting ruling).

    Thank you!

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