It is much easier to study a book passage by passage after you have first examined it as a whole. The most important message of a
narrative book like 1 Samuel is often in the whole, not the parts. So, begin your study of 1 Samuel by reading through it according to the following schedule:
first reading - chapter 1-7
second reading - chapters 8-15
third reading - chapters 16-20
fourth reading - chapters 21-31
In this first time through the book, don't stop to untangle all the details or reflect on interesting passages. Simply try to form a first impression of what the book is
about. Write answers to questions 1 through 3 as you complete each section. Ask the Lord to sharpen your attention and show you what is important as you read.
Study Skill - Identifying Major Divisions
When you begin studying a long book like 1 Samuel, it is helpful
to notice major divisions in the narrative. This awareness will help you keep the whole book in focus and appreciate how it develops its message. The major divisions are often indicated by a particularly
significant event, the first appearance of an important individual or group, or the introduction of a new subject or theme. Each part of the book contributes to the meaning of the whole and so should never be
isolated from it, but observing the parts can help you see how they add up to the whole message.
1.For each of the four major parts of 1 Samuel, identify the three or four
most important persons and events.
chapters 1-7 (persons)
chapters 8-15 (persons)
chapters 16-20 (persons)
chapters 21-31 (persons)
2. For each of these major sections, describe the political condition of Israel.
3. Similarly, for each section, summarize the spiritual state of the nation - its leaders and the Israelites as a whole.
4. What relationship do you see between Israel's political fortunes and spiritual state?
5. a . Which group poses the most serious threat to Israel in the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, and which group in its closing chapters?
b. What do you think is the significance of this?
6. What role does God's miraculous intervention play in the narrative?
Study Skill - Themes
The most important purpose of an overview is to make
some initial decisions on what the book is about. Ideas
that recur over and over are a clue to the book's themes.
A contrast between two individuals in another clue. A
third is conflict between two individuals, between two
groups, between an individual and his circumstances, or
within an individual. A fourth clue is how things change
over the course of the book, and why.
You can change your mind about themes later on,
but always form some preliminary opinion by reading
through the book in an overview.
7. What would you say 1 Samuel as a whole is about?
What are its main themes, or the main message the
author means to convey?
Study Skill - Outlines
When you've identified the main divisions of a book, try
giving each a title or summarizing its contents. Let your
titles or summaries reflect the main theme(s) of the book.
As you study 1 Samuel, think about and evaluate these two outlines of the book:
Part 1 (1 Samuel 1-12): In the context of judgment upon the priestly family of Eli, God raises up a leader for His people in the person of Samuel.
Part 2 (1 Samuel 13-31): In the context of judgment upon the royal family of Saul, God raises up a leader for His people in the person of David.
I. Historical setting for the establishment of kingship in Israel (1 Samuel 1-7).
II. The kingship established under the guidance of Samuel the
prophet (1 Samuel 8-12).
III. Saul's kingship fails (1 Samuel 13-15).
IV. Saul's reign deteriorates; David rises to the throne (1 Samuel
16:1-2 Samuel 5:5).
V. David's kingship in its accomplishments and glory (2 Samuel 5:6-9:12).
VI. David's kingship in its weaknesses and
failures (2 Samuel 10-20).
VII. Final reflections on David's reign (2 Samuel 21-24).
overview may have suggested issues you want to explore and questions you want to answer as you study in more depth. If so, jot them down to serve as personal objectives for the rest of your study. What do
you want to understand better by the time you are finished?
Study Skill - Application
Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture ... is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in
righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly
equipped for every good work." Paul also writes, "For
everything that was written in the past was written to teach
us, so that through endurance and the encouragement
of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4),
and "These things happened to them as examples and
were written down as warnings for us"
(1 Corinthians 10:11). Therefore, when you study
1 Samuel, you should keep asking yourself, "What
difference should this passage make in my life? How
should it make me want to think or act? How does it
encourage, warn, correct, or set me an example?"
Application will require time, thought, prayer, and
perhaps even discussion with another person. You may
sometimes find it more productive to concentrate on one
application, giving it careful thought and prayer, than to
list several potential applications without really reflecting
on them or committing yourself to them. At other
times, you may want to list many implications that a
passage has for your life. Then you can choose one of
these to act or meditate upon.
9. Are there any people or experiences in 1 Samuel with which you can identify personally? If so, who
or what are they?
10. In your first reading, did you find any truths that are revelant to your life? If so, was there anything you would like to commit to memory, pray about, or act
on? Write down your plans.
For the group
This "For the group" section and the ones in later lessons are intended to suggest ways of structuring your discussions. Feel free to select what suits
your group. The main goals of this lesson are to get to know the book 1 Samuel and the people with whom you are going to study it. If you have never done a LIFECHANGE study before, you might want to take one
meeting to do the "warm-up" below and discuss the "How to Use This Study" section on pages 5-8, and a second meeting to discuss lesson one. This will also give the group more time to read the Introduction on pages
9-13, read all of 1 Samuel, and answer the questions in lesson one.
Some groups like to begin with prayer and/or singing. Some share requests for prayer at the beginning but leave the actual prayer until after the study. Others prefer just to chat and have refreshments for awhile, then open the study with a brief prayer for the Holy Spirit's guidance, and leave worship and prayer until the end.
Warm-up. The beginning of a new study is a good time to lay a foundation for honest sharing of ideas, to get comfortable with each other, and to encourage a sense of common purpose. One way to
establish common ground is to talk about what each person hopes to get out of your study of 1 Samuel, and out of any prayer, singing, sharing, outreach, or anything else you might do together. You can also share
what you hope to give as well as get. If you have someone write down each member's hopes and expectations, then you can look back at these goals later to see if they are being met. Goal-setting at the
beginning can also help you avoid confusion when one person thinks the main point of the group is to learn the Scripture, while another thinks it is to support each other in daily Christian life, and another thinks
prayer or outreach is the chief business.
How to use this study. Advise group members to read the "How to Use This Study" section on pages 5-8 if they have not already done so. You might go
over important points that you think the group should especially notice. For example, point out the optional questions in the margins. These are available as group discussion questions, ideas for
application, and suggestions for further study. It is unlikely that anyone will have the time or desire to answer all the optional questions and do all the applications. A person might do one "Optional
Application" for any given lesson. You might choose one or two "For Thought and Discussion" questions for your group discussion, or you might spend all your time on the numbered questions. If someone wants
to write answers to the optional questions, suggest that he use a separate notebook. It will also be helpful for discussion notes, prayer requests, answers to prayers, application plans, and so on.
Invite everyone to ask questions about the "How to Use This Study" section.
Overview. Ideally, everyone should have read the whole book of 1 Samuel and the Introduction
before you meet together. However, some may not have done so, and others may not retain much of what they read quickly. So, ask a few questions to draw out the main points of the Introduction, such as:
1. What do you remember of Israel's history up to the point where 1 Samuel picks it up?
2. What is "prophetic history"? How is it helpful for you to know that 1 Samuel is prophetic book?
3. What is a "covenant"? What were the basic terms of the covenant between God and Israel?
You may have to explain 1 Samuel is not
necessarily prophetic in the sense of foretelling the future, but it is prophetic in the sense of interpreting history from a prophet's perspective. That is, the story is told with a focus on God and His covenant
with His people. (Page 107 gives a simple definition of the word covenant.)
Now go on to the questions in lesson one. You might find it helpful to divide a blackboard or a large piece of paper into
four sections for the four sections of the book. In each section, write down the major persons and events, and the political and spiritual states of the nation (questions 1 through 3). With this in front of
you discuss questions 4 through 7. The Introduction suggests some themes of the book, but you may find better ways of expressing them.
Take a few minutes to look at the outlines
on page 19 together. If you have study Bibles or commentaries, compare the outlines the give. What do you find helpful in each outline?
Let everyone share questions he or
she has about the book. Save these to answer as you study in detail, and come back to them at the end to see if you have answered all of them.
Don't spend a lot of time on
application in this lesson. Later lessons will attempt to guide those who are unsure how to apply Scripture to their lives. However, do share any ways you were able to identify with the characters and
incidents in the story, and any ways you found the book relevant to your lives. Questions 9 and 10 should help you get to know each other better and give everyone something to think about during the week.
Wrap up. Briefly tell the group what to expect in lesson two. Whet everyone's appetite, and ask the group to think about any optional questions that you plan to discuss.
groups like to end with singing and/or prayer. This can include songs or prayers that respond to what you've learned in Bible study, or prayers for specific needs of group members. Some people are shy about
sharing personal needs or praying aloud in groups, especially before they know the other people well. If this is true of your group, then a song and/or some silent prayer and a short closing prayer spoken by the
leader might be an appropriate ending.
LifeChange Series - 1 Samuel . Navpress, 1989.