Israel gets a king
Samuel was one of the great judges of Israel.
- When the story begins, Israel is a weak collection of tribes.
- Seventy years later, Israel is a united empire.
Samuel 1 & 2 tells the remarkable story of this transformation.
The story is dominated by three charismatic men:
- the tragic figure of Saul, who is Israel’s first king
- David, Israel’s greatest king
- and Samuel himself.
Saul united the contending tribes into one fighting force, ready to meet the Philistines – no easy task, since the Philistines had better weapons (iron) and the Israelites still used bronze swords, which were no match for iron.
But God was on their side, and they managed to drive the Philistines back into their coastal cities. Despite this, Saul was superceded by the handsome, courageous and extremely shrewd young David. ‘The spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David’ (Samuel 16:13).
The Book of 1 Samuel finishes with the death of Saul, when his sons are killed and he falls on his sword rather than be captured by the enemy.
2 Samuel picks up the story to describe the reign of David. It is a frank report, since it shows his failures as well as his successes.
- David is a born diplomat – 2 Samuel 1-5 shows how he wins over Saul’s followers, using propaganda when he can and war when he must.
- He establishes fortress Jerusalem as his capital, since it lay near the border between the two most powerful tribes.
- He unites Israel religiously, by bringing the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital.
But David is by no means perfect, and his story reflects the mixed feeling the Israelites had about kings.