1 Samuel - LifeChange Series

Lesson One

       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.
            chapters 1-7                                                        
            chapters 8-15                                                      
            chapters 16-20                                                     
            chapters 21-31                                                     

      3. Similarly, for each section, summarize the spiritual state of the nation - its leaders and the Israelites as a whole.
            chapters 1-7                                                        
            chapters 8-15                                                      
            chapters 16-20                                                     
            chapters 21-31                                                     

      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:

Outline A
      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.

Outline B
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).

      8.  Your 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.

Worship. 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.

Worship.  Many 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.












For Further Study:
The book of Judges gives crucial background to the events of 1 Samuel.  Read Judges 1:1-3:6 (which describes the overall pattern of events during the period of the judges), 6:1-6 (which explains the severity of the foreign oppression Israel suffered), and 19:1-20:48 (which recounts the nation's internal difficulties).





For Thought and Discussion:  What is the mood of 1 Samuel?  Is it generally upbeat, pessimistic, or mixed?  Why do you see it like this?






For Thought and Discussion:  Are there any elements in the book that you have difficulty understanding or accepting?  What are they, and why?


For Thought and Discussion:  How is they type of history you find in 1 Samuel different from modern historical books?