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An Argument of the Book of First Samuel

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YHWH'S deliverance of his people from the oppression of evil2 will not be realized through those like Eli and Saul who trust in natural strength but through those like Hannah, Samuel, Jonathan, and David who in their weakness trust in him3

I. The Principle of Raising the Lowly--Hannah:4 YHWH's deliverance of Hannah, in her bareness and ridicule, is realized as she prays, in her weakness, to YHWH for a son leading to a proclamation of YHWH's ways for the nation and its king 1:1--2:11

A. Theological Principle Illustrated--A Woman's Prayer is Answered: The narrative unfolds in seed form with the private case of deliverance from the oppression of evil in the life of Hannah 1

B. Theological Principle Stated--The Song of Hannah: The principle of YHWH's deliverance is proclaimed and applied to the nation and her future king by Hannah 2:1-11

1. The Lord's way with Hannah: 2:1-2

2. The Lord's Way in General with the Proud and Strong: 2:3-7

3. The Lord's Way with Rulers--Especially His King: 2:8-10

4. Narrative Summary: 2:11

II. The Principle Applied to the Nation and Its Judges:5 YHWH's deliverance of the nation from the oppression of the Philistines is not realized through profane natural strength of the leaders of the military but through Spiritual dependence upon YHWH by Samuel and the nation 2:12--7:17

A. Samuel Over Eli: YHWH humbles the natural strength of Israel by raising Samuel over the house of Eli and by defeating Israel in battle with the Philistines 2:12--4:1a

1. Samuel Encounters Corruption at Shiloh 2:11-36

2. The Lord Calls Samuel: 3:1--4:1a

B. Judgment from the Lord: YHWH demonstrates that all who are profane will suffer judgment whether Philistia or Israel 4:1b--7:2

1. Defeat and Loss of the Ark: 4:1b-22

a. The Battle of Ebenezer 4:1b-11

b. The Death of Eli 4:12-22

2. The Philistines and the Ark: 5:1-12

3. The Return of the Ark: 6:1--7:2

C. Deliverance from the Lord through Samuel the Judge: YHWH delivers Israel from the Philistines when the Nation, led by Samuel, proclaims their dependence upon Him 7:3-17

III. The Principle is Applied to Israel and Her Kings--Saul and David:6 YHWH's delverance of Israel from the evil nations around them will not be realized through Saul who depends upon his own natural ability but through David, who in his weakness trusts in YHWH (8:1--31:13

A. The Rise of Saul: In response to the nations cry, YHWH exalts Saul as king 8:1--11:15

1. The Demand for a King: 8:1-22

2. Saul's Secret Anointing: 9:1--10:16

3. Saul Elected and Proclaimed King--the Royal Lottery: 10:17-27

4. The Confirmation (Proving) of Saul: 11:1-15

B. The Transition from Saul to David: Because of Saul's confidence in his natural ability, YHWH's deliverance of Israel will be realized through David who in weakness trusts in YHWH 12:1--31:13

1. Samuel's Farewell: Samuel proclaims the principle by which Saul and David may be evaluated:7 12:1-25

2. Saul and Jonathan:8 As Saul is compared with Jonathan, his dependence upon natural strength over YHWH is magnified explaining in principle why YHWH is taking the kingdom away from Saul 13:1--15:35



Loses battle and men at Michmash (13:2, 5-7, 15-18)

Defeats the Philistines at Gilboa (13:3)

Disobeys God at Gilgal due to the odds (13:8-3)

Trusts YHWH for the battle against the odds at Michmash (14:6)

Waits with the people at Gibeah (13:8-13)

Leads into the defeat of the Philistines at Michmash (1, 4ff)

Uses religious things as a tool in battle, but does not rely on God (14:13)

Relies on God going from the religious artifacts in the battle (14:1, 4)

Relies on common sense to enter into battle and casts God aside (14:19)

Casts common sense aside and relies on God for the timing of the battle (14:6, 9-12)

There is no reference to God's heart (14)

Has a heart for God (14:7)

Does not care for the well being of the people or even his son over success (14:24-44)

Cares for the people and God's battle (14:29-31)

He uses God (14:31-35)

God uses Jonathan (14:45)

He pronounces death (14:44)

He is willing to die (14:43)

a. Jonathan Attacks the Philistine Garrison: 13:1--14:23

1) A Notice about Saul's Kingship: 13:1

2) A Broken Appointment: 13:2-15

3) The Battle of Michmash Pass 13:16-23

4) Jonathan's Second Initiative at Michmash Pass 14:1-23

b. The Cursing of Jonathan--Saul's Rash Oath: 14:24-46

c. Further Notices about Saul's Kingship--Survey of a Reign: 14:47-52

d. Samuel's Final Confrontation with and Rejection of Saul: 15:1-35

3. David and Saul:9 As David is compared with Saul is dependence upon YHWH over natural strength is magnified explaining in principle why YHWH is taking the kingdom from Saul (the strong) and giving it to David (the weak) 16:1--31:13

a. The Exaltation of David: David, through young and insignificant (as was Saul) is exalted to king of Israel (over Saul) in title and function as he trusts in YHWH 16:1--17:54

1) David's Secret Anointing: 16:1-13

2) David's Arrival at Court--Saul Needs a Musician: 16:14-23

3) David's Defeat of Goliath:10 17:1--17:54

b. The Deliverance of David: YHWH delivers David, who trusts in Him, from the self-sufficient plotting of Saul 17:55--24:22

1) Saul's Jealousy and Fear of David: 17:55--18:30

2) Jonathan and Michal Save David's Life: 19:1-17

3) David Takes Refuge with Samuel: 19:18-24

4) David and Jonathan Make a Pact: 20:1-42

5) Ahimelech the priest at Nob helps David 21:1-9

6) David the Fugitive: 21:10--22:5

a) David in Danger at Gath: 21:10-15

b) David at Addulam and in Moab 22:1-5

7) The Price of Protecting David--The Slaughter of the Priests of Nob: 22:6-23

8) Saul Hunts David: 23:1-29

9) David Spares Saul: 24:1--23

c. The Distinction of David over Saul: YHWH strengthens the hand of David who hears Him without Samuel while breaking the strength of Saul who slips to even greater evil without Samuel 25:1--31:13



* Samuel is dead (25:1

* Samuel is dead (28:3)

* Hears YHWH through Abigail (25:14-24)

* Does not hear YHWH (28:6)

* Obeys YHWH by sparing the life of Nabal and Saul

* Disobeys YHWH by going to a medium (28:7-25)

* Appears to be one with Achish the Philistine enemy of YHWH (28:1-2)

* Has a fellowship meal with a medium (28:21-25)

* Is delivered form the Philistines and lives (29)

Fights against the Philistines and dies (31)

Fights God's enemies and wins under YHWH (30)

Fights God's enemies and loses under YHWH (31)

1) Notice of Samuel's Death: 25:1a

2) David, Nabal, and Abigail: 25:1b-44

3) David Spares Saul's Life Again: 26:1-25

4) David with Achish, king of Gath: 27:1--28:2

5) Notice of Samuel's death: 28:3a

6) Saul Consults a Medium--A Seance at En-dor: 28:3b-25

7) David's Providential Rejection from the Philistine Army: 29:1-11

8) David and the Amalekites--Ziklag Avenged: 30:1-31

9) The Death of Saul in Battle: 31:1-13

1 This outline is adapted through my own study from the analyses of Joyce G. Baldwin, 1 & 2 Samuel: An Introduction & Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 45-46; P. Kyle McCarter Jr. 1 Samuel, The Anchor Bible, xi-xiii; and Elliott E. Johnson 1 Samuel: Synopsis and Selected Analysis, Unpublished class notes in 327 Seminar in Old Testament Historical Literature, Dallas Theological Seminary, Spring 1989.

2 Central to the entire narrative is the subject of YHWH's deliverance of his people from the power of evil. While at first this deliverance was primarily on an individual level with Hannah, it quickly moved into the national realm under the judgeship of Eli and Samuel and then the kingship of Saul and David. It was first needed from the oppression of Peninnah, but then broadened to include the oppression of Israel from her surrounding enemies. Sometimes God delivered. Sometimes it seemed as if He did not. Therefore, the question arises, How can YHWH's deliverance be realized?

3 This complement is complex in that it has a negative and positive aspect. Negatively, the assertion is that YHWH will not use those who depend upon their own strength to deliver His people. This accounts for the decline of Peninnah (implied), Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the Philistines and Saul.

Positively, however, the affirmation is that YHWH will realize deliverance through the weak who will trust in Him. This accounts for the rise of Hannah, Samuel, Israel over the Philistines, (7), Saul's leadership over the Ammonites (11), Jonathan's leadership over Saul and the Philistines (13--14) and David's ability to escape the pursuit of Saul as well as defeat the enemies of Israel (17--20). There is not a strict cause and effect relationship between trust and exaltation as ins seen in the initial promotions of Saul and David as well as the death of Jonathan. On the contrary, YHWH is acting out of grace and promise by not destroying the nation for their sins against HIm. He is graciously exalting both Saul and David and then choosing to use their obedience as the context by which He will fulfill His promises. Nevertheless, He is fully justified in judging their evil rebellion and will do so when self-confidence continually supersede a confidence in YHWH.

YHWH will only bring about effective defeat of the evil one through those who are trusting in His in the battle. If they are not, the evil one will be permitted to defeat them.

4 The overall design can be seen in the argument of 1 Samuel where the principle the YHWH exalts the weak who trust in Him over the strong who trust in themselves is first illustrated and specifically stated through Hannah (1:1---2:11). Then this principle is applied to the Nation in their conflict with the Philistines under the judges of Eli and Samuel (2:12--7:17. Finally, this principle is applied to the nation in view of her first kings, Saul and David.

The principle illustrated and stated in 1:1--2:12. Through the personal life of Hana YHWH brings about deliverance from her disgrace and scorn at the hands of Peninnah as she seeks His help (1:1-28). The literary device of comparison is the primary tool of the author to demonstrate his point. Hannah is childless and helpless. Peninnah is with children and provokes Hannah. YHWH exalts Hannah over Peninnah by giving her a son as well as Elkanah's love.

Also within this beginning pericope is an introduction of all of the initial main characters who have any connection to the nation at large--the Lord of Hosts, YHWH, the God of Israel, Eli, Hophni, Phinehas, and Samuel.

The Personal illustration is then principalized in the song of Hannah where she speaks not only of the Lord's way with her (2:1-2) but also with the proud and strong in general (2:3-7) and with ruleres--especially His king, the anointed (2:8-10).

5 Samuel is compared to Eli and his sons in 2:12--3) as well as Israel (4) in order to demonstrate that YHWH will work with the nation as He has with Hannah. The evil of Eli and his sons is constantly placed beside the service of Samuel (2:11, 18, 21; 3:1, 4-21). This, therefore, explains to the reader why the reversal of leadership takes place.

Likewise, Samuel is positioned against the Nation (4:1) to explain why it is that they will go down in battle against the Philistines (4) and even suffer a similar fate as the Philistines when they mishandle the ark (5--6)

It is only in chapter 7 when the nation aligns itself with Samuel, and therefore YHWH, that they are enabled to be exalted over the physically superior Philistines.

Again it is the comparison of the physically superior (Eli and the Philistines) with the spiritually superior (Samuel and the repentant nation) that reveals the working of God.

6 There are two literary clues to the development of this material: (1) the repetition of statements: * Samuel's chastisement of the nation for refusing YHWH as their king (8; 12), * an introduction of Saul that is identical with the introduction of Elkannah (1:1-2; 9:1-2), * an announcement of the death of Samuel (25:1; 28:3), and (2) the continued use of the comparison between Saul and Jonathan and then Saul and David.

The material first unfolds through the repetition of statement. As a transition from YHWH's dealing with the nation as a theocracy to a monarchy, Samuel proclaims the sinful choice of the nation confirming their rebellion against the Lord. Yet he obeys God's word by allowing them their king.

This then leads into the call of Saul which is emphasized by the same introduction which is given to Elkannah (1:1-2; 9:1-2):

(1) Now there was a man ...

(2) whose name was ...

(3) the son of ...

(4) a ...

It seems that the purpose of this literary repetition is to connect Saul wit the principle that was presented in the life of Elkannah's wife, Hannah. That which was true with her and Peninnah is also going to hold weight in the life of Saul. The exact significance is yet unclear at this point in the narrative, but the writer is trying to say as Saul enters the scene, Remember Hannah.

In 9--1 there is a long presentation of Saul as the new king of Israel: (1) privately [9:1--10:13], (2) publicly [10:14-27], and then (3) as the leader of Israel in battle [11]. One of the clear, narrative statements throughout this progression is that Saul is being raised from a lowly position to one of honor (cf. 9:21ff. with 10:16, 22 and then 11 where he leads Israel into battle). However there is more that the narrator is providing in this presentation. If Saul's private presentation is compared with Hana (as was done above) there is a clear spiritual deficit presented in Saul. Also, the narrator will use a similar pattern of exalting David from on one to king in 16:1--17:54 to not only confirm to his readers that David is YHWH's choice as king, but to draw his readers into a comparison with Saul. Like Saul, David is insignificant being the youngest son of Jesse, and confirmed as Israel's leaders in battle as he defeats Goliath with YHWH's strength.

7 Chapter 12 repeats the imprecation of Samuel upon the nation for rejection YHWH as their king. However, there is a development of the message by proclaiming the standard by which YHWH will work with the nation and her king (12:19-25). This repetition seems to be a structural key (along with the summary of Saul's rule in 13:1) for the readers to distinguish the presentation of Saul in 9--11 from the actual rule of Saul in 13--15. The addition to the repetition provides the key to evaluating the rule of Saul and even David who comes to focus as Saul's replacement in chapters 16--17:54. As has been already mentioned, David's presentation as king is designed to draw the reader to Saul. Therefore as Saul is to be evaluated by the standard presented in 12:9-25, so is David.

8 As the rule of Saul officially begins with the summary of 13:1, there is an immediate comparison with Jonathan that the writer uses throughout the remaining chapters of Saul's reign (13--15) to magnify Saul's flaw of dependence upon his own strength rather than YHWH. This comparison is extensive (see the above table).

It becomes clear to the reader through this comparison that Saul is not measuring up to YHWH's standard in 12:19-25; therefore, his fall is not a surprise in chapter 15 and the reader now knows how Saul was to be identified with Hannah. He is her Peninnah; he is the nation's Eli; he is the strong who will be humbled because he trusts in his own strength.

Sam Dragga argues effectively that Saul's failure is previewed in 12:8-3 as his downward cycle is compared with the major judges. Saul is not as obedient as Gideon, has half the integrity of Jephthah, and is less effective in his sin against the Philistines than Samson. This may have been another clue for the reader of Saul's character beyond a comparison with Hannah (In the Shadow of the Judges: The Failure of Saul, JSOT 38 (1978): 39-46).

9 This last major component of First Samuel is marked off by the presentation of David as king (16:1--17:54). This repetition, as with the remainder of the book, is designed to compare David with Saul so that the reader will have a sense of why David is chosen to replace Saul. As David's dependence upon YHWH is magnified against Saul's dependence upon natural strength, there is an explanation, in principle (12:19-25), as to why the kingdom is being taken from Saul and handed to David.

Jonathan is also included in this narrative, however, he is not to magnify anyone's character so much as to mediate the kingdom as he functions in an identification/replacement pattern (cf. David Jobling, The Sense of Biblical Narrative: Three Structural Analyses in the Old Testament, 4-25). Just as Jonathan comes forth in chapters 13--14 as the natural heir to the throne by fighting Saul's battles and as Saul even identifies himself with the victory of his son (13:3; 14:1-15), so it is that every reference to Jonathan in chapters 18--23 serves to emphasize his role identification with David implying that David ultimately replaces Jonathan as Saul's rightful successor (Ibid., 11). This is developed as follows:

1. Jonathan is the heir of Saul (13--14)

2. Jonathan identifies with David (18:3)

3. Jonathan gives up his portion to David (18:4)

4. Saul confirms the replacement (18:2, 5)

5. Jonathan passes on the kingship since Saul is unable to do so (19--23)

The major literary device in this unit is that of comparison (as in 13--15). However, within the unit there is a repetition of the announcement that Samuel is dead to heighten the comparison (25:1; 28:3). Therefore, there is a twofold, overall development: (1) YHWH's deliverance of a dependent David from the natural plotting of Saul (17:55--24), and (2) YHWH's strengthening of the hand of David, who hears without Samuel, while breaking the strength of Saul who slips to even greater evil without Samuel (25--31). It is these latter comparisons which are rather enlightening (see the chart below):

One other narrative clue that reoccurs throughout the David-Saul comparisons is the proverb, Saul has slain thousands and David has slain ten thousands. When examined in its contexts, this saying is always meant as a compliment to David and yet it is used against him by Saul (18:7), by the servants of Achish (21:11) and by the commanders of the Philistines (29:5). While it is certain that the proverb previews YHWH's use of David, it is also significant to note that by Saul using it against David, he is placing himself in the camp of the Philistines (who are the only other ones to use it), and therefore, as an enemy of YHWH himself.

10 See also 2 Samuel 21:19; 1 Chronicles 20:5.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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