Saul and David, painting by Rembrandt (1650)

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The Books of Samuel

Hannah, Samuel, and Eli

There once was a woman named Hannah who didn’t have any children even though she pled with Yahweh to let her become a mother. After many years, she finally had a son and named him Samuel.

When Samuel was old enough, Hannah took him to the local priest and judge, named Eli, so Samuel could become a priest as well.

Eli had two sons who were also priests, but they kept stealing the sacrifices that people brought to the temple, using them as food for themselves. Eli knew what was happening but did nothing.

One night, Samuel was falling asleep when he heard someone call his name. He ran to Eli and asked what he wanted, but Eli said he hadn’t called Samuel and to go back to bed. It happened again. And then again. When it happened the third time, Eli told Samuel that it must be the voice of Yahweh, and that he should ask Yahweh what he wanted.

So the next time it happened, Samuel said that he was listening and asked Yahweh what he wanted. Yahweh said that he was disappointed in Eli and his sons and that he was going to punish them.

The next morning Eli asked Samuel what Yahweh had said, and Samuel told him. Eli was disappointed, but knew what Samuel said was true.

Soon enough, the people of Israel believed that Samuel was Yahweh’s prophet.

Discuss:

  • Have you ever had a hard time hearing your inner voice (or your guiding power)?
  • What helps you when this happens?

Samuel Chooses Saul to Be King

The Philistines stole the sacred chest — also known as the ark of the covenant — that held the stones that the 10 commandments were written on. But their lives were cursed afterward, so they returned it.

The people of Israel wanted a king, just like the surrounding nations had. Samuel warned them that a king would be greedy and take everything for himself, but they didn’t listen. They wanted a king. 

A wealthy man named Kish had a son named Saul. One day his donkeys ran away, so Kish sent Saul and a servant to go find them.

Saul and the servant searched everywhere they could think of but couldn’t find the donkeys. Just when they were about to head back home, the servant said they should find Samuel and pay him to have a vision about the donkeys. So they went and found Samuel.

When Samuel saw Saul, he knew he’d found the new king of Israel. He told Saul that his donkeys had already been found and that he’d been chosen by Yahweh to be king.

The Israelites followed Saul into war against the Ammonites and the Philistines. In both cases, Saul decided he would keep some animals alive after the war to sacrifice them to Yahweh, but Yahweh didn’t want that and decided that he’d choose someone else to be king.

Samuel Chooses David To Be King

Yahweh told Samuel to visit a man named Jesse, who lived in Bethlehem, and choose one of his sons to be the new king.

When Samuel saw Jesse’s oldest son, he assumed he was the one Yahweh had chosen, but he was wrong. It wasn’t him. So he visited with each son from the oldest to the youngest. It was only once he reached the youngest — David — that he knew he’d found the next king.

Meanwhile, Saul had become depressed. So his servants suggested that he invite David to come and play the harp and cheer him up, which he did.

David and Goliath

One day David was tasked with delivering some food to his older brothers, who were fighting in a war against the Israelites.

Upon arriving with the food, David learned from his brothers that their enemies had a giant on their side named Goliath. Everyone in the camp was terrified of this giant, who demanded that they send a warrior to fight him one-on-one.

David decided he would be the warrior to face Goliath. When he told Saul his plan, Saul agreed and gave David a suit of armor. But David wasn’t used to wearing armor, which was heavy and clunky, so he took it off. Instead, he just gathered five smooth stones to use in a sling and went out to fight Goliath.

Goliath saw David and cursed at him. Then David ran toward Goliath, put one of the stones in his sling, and flung it straight at the giant, smashing him in the forehead. Goliath fell over, dead.

Discuss:

  • What is a challenge that feels insurmountable in your life? Is there another way to approach it — perhaps like how David used a sling to take down a giant?
David, illustrated by Haywood Sumner (1898)
David and Goliath, painting by Edgar Degas (1864)

David and Saul

Saul was so impressed by David that he made him an officer in his army.

During that time, David became close friends with Saul’s oldest son, Jonathan. Jonathan gave David his robe, armor, and sword, and they promised to always be loyal to each other.

The people of Israel also loved David. They loved him so much, in fact, that they sang a song about how Saul had killed a thousand enemies, but David had killed ten thousand.

This made Saul angry — so angry that he threw a spear at David. But David dodged the spear and ran away.

Then Saul hatched up a plan. He told David that if he killed 100 Philistines he could marry his daughter Michal. Saul assumed that David would die in the fight, but David didn’t. Instead, he killed 200 Philistines and survived to marry Michal.

Jonathan pleaded with Saul to stop trying to get David killed, but Saul wouldn’t listen.

One night Saul sent guards to grab David from his bed, but when they arrived Michal told them David was sick. The guards burst in and discovered that Michal had put a statue with goat hair on it in David’s bed, so David could escape.

Jonathan met with David in secret and they made a plan. David would hide in the forest during a festival, and Jonathan would shoot three arrows at a target in the distance. Jonathan would then send a servant to pick up the arrows. If it was safe for David to return, Jonathan would yell that the arrows were near and the servant should pick them up. But if it wasn’t safe for David to return, Jonathan would yell that the arrows were far away. As it turns out, it wasn’t safe for David to return, so Jonathan yelled the secret code — that the arrows were far away.

David went into hiding. He found a priest named Ahimelech, who helped him. But when Saul discovered that Ahimelech had helped David, Saul ordered Ahimelech and his fellow priests to be put to death.

David told Ahimelech’s son that he’d keep him safe. He continued to hide in the hills.

One day, David snuck up behind Saul, so close that he cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. Then David shouted from a distance about how he could have killed Saul but didn’t — that he had a piece of Saul’s clothes as proof. Saul felt sorry for what he’d done and went back home.

David and Abigail

A rich man named Nabal was hosting a feast, and David sent some men to ask him for food.

Nabal told them men that he viewed David as nothing more than a slave who’d run away from Saul and that he wouldn’t share anything. So David made plans to fight Nabal.

When Nabal’s wife Abigail heard this, she gathered together a bunch of food and rode her donkey to meet David. She pleaded with David to spare her family, and David did.

David and Agibail, by Antonio Molinari (18th century)

Saul Talks To Samuel’s Ghost

The prophet Samuel passed away, and people from all over Israel went to his funeral.

Without Samuel around, Saul wasn’t sure what to do. He looked for answers in his dreams or from priests and prophets. But no answers came.

A servant told him that he knew about a woman from Endor who spoke to the dead, so Saul went to her and asked her to show him the ghost of Samuel. She agreed to do it and said that she saw an old man in a robe who said that Yahweh had turned his back on Saul.

Saul felt miserable and hopeless.

Soon enough, Saul and his sons died in a war, and David became the next king.

David and Bathsheba

After David became king, he fought and won many wars.

Then one time in the late afternoon, he sat up on his palace roof and saw a beautiful woman taking a ritual bath and wanted to marry her. He found out that her name was Bathsheba and that she was already married to one of his soldiers named Uriah.

David then commanded Uriah to be placed in a dangerous battle. Shortly after, Uriah died, and Bathsheba was terribly sad. 

Then David married Bathsheba.

Yahweh was furious about what David had done and sent a prophet named Nathan to tell him.

Nathan told David a story about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had plenty of sheep and the poor man who had just one sheep, which he loved more than anything. When a visitor came to the rich man’s house, the rich man stole the poor man’s sheep and cooked it for his visitor.

The story made David angry, and he asked for the name of the rich man so he could be punished.

Nathan said that David was the rich man.

David was shocked — realizing that Nathan knew what he’d done. He felt terrible.

Later, David and Bathsheba had a son named Solomon.

Discuss:

  • The story of David and Bathsheba makes David the main character. It also compares Bathsheba to a sheep. What do you think Bathsheba felt about all of this?
  • This story illustrates how horrible it is to not seek consent—shown through the pain, secrecy, and death in the story. (See our lesson on consent.) 
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