A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise
and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will

The Promise

Chapter 4

Thy Kingdom Went

Samuel, Saul and David

By Edgar Jones


Chapter 1 introduced the Patriarchs of Israel and the Covenant, with its integral Promise, which God made to them beginning with Abraham. Then Isaac and Jacob successively inherited the Promise by which God granted Israel the Land of Canaan for an inheritance.  Continual blessings on Israel were also assured, but from a very early time we learned that not only was Israel to be blessed, but that the Promise was, through Israel, to extend to all the nations of the earth.

In a later announcement of the Promise to Jacob, God expanded it to include this brief phrase, and kings shall spring from you.  Finally, the aged Jacob transferred this aspect of the promise, not to all twelve sons, but to Judah alone when he spoke to Judah and blessed him and said, in the course of the blessing, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." ( Gen. 49:10)  It was a long story, as we are seeing but we will learn, as we go, that this portion of the Promise points directly to Jesus of Nazareth, who has become King of kings and Lord of lords and, as Jacob told Judah, "to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (the nations)."

Chapter II continued the Promise, leaving Genesis and tracing it through Exodus and the other books of the Pentateuch, where the person of Moses dominates every page.  Like a golden chain, the Promise links and binds together, as a single story, the history of God's faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in spite of the often faithlessness of the People of the Promise.  Also please be reminded that we have highlighted references to the Promise in purple.

Chapter III continued this Old Testament survey with the focus on the divine Promise to Israel of a land, a people and a kingdom as set forth in Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. The Israelites have possessed the land promised to the patriarchs. We will now, in Chapter IV, survey the OT book of I Samuel where we find the transition from the judges to the kings.  As in Chapter III, I Samuel does not emphasize the promise; nevertheless we learn much as we see certain elements of the Promise carefully maintained such that the links of the Golden Chain remain unbroken.  Israel has occupied the Promised Land but problems remain that result in the rejection of the kingdom of God and the initiation of the kingdom of man in Israel.


This chapter will end with the death of King Saul and his sons, clearing the way for the ascension of David to the Throne of Judah about 1000 BC.  Samuel, who anointed David to the kingship, must then have begun his term as a judge over Israel about the mid Eleventh Century BC, for he judged Israel for a long time and died an old man.  These are the approximate years that transpire during the sequence of events described in I Samuel.

Notes on the Documents of I & II Samuel.

I and II Samuel were originally one document, being separated into two for the first time with the publication of the Greek Septuagint in the Third Century BC.  We will, in this chapter, be tracing the Promise only through I Samuel and will reserve II Samuel for Chapter 5.  These are documents recording the consecutive events of the transition from the period of the Judges to the Monarchy, then to near the end of David's rule. 

I Samuel and II Samuel are not unified works from a single hand.  They appear rather to be a patchwork assembly of different documents compiled and edited over a long period.  Its final shaping belongs at the earliest to the Sixth Century BC.1  There is internal evidence of this compilation, and I will point to one item of evidence here.

There is the curious circumstance surrounding King Saul's failure to recognize the young David.  After Samuel had anointed the youthful David to replace Saul as king (Saul not knowing) the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David and departed from Saul.  Then a tormenting evil spirit came upon Saul and one of his servants suggested that the skillful playing of a lyre in Saul's presence would soothe his foul moods.  Someone had heard of David's skill with the lyre, so Saul sent to Jesse, David's father, and requested the services of David as what amounted to the royal musician.  We  read of this:

18] One of the young men answered, "Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the LORD is with him."
[19] Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, "Send me David your son, who is with the sheep."
[20] And Jesse took an ass laden with bread, and a skin of wine and a kid, and sent them by David his son to Saul.
[21] And David came to Saul, and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer.
[22] And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight."
[23] And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.

There followed shortly afterward the renowned event when David slew the Philistine giant, Goliath, thus saving the day for the armies of Saul who had been hard pressed what to do, for no one in his army had come forward to fight Goliath until David went forth and slew him with his sling and a stone, after which he took Goliath's sword from its sheath and beheaded the giant. This saved the day for Saul and his army.  Now, keeping in mind what I have just related concerning the close relationship that must already have existed between Saul and his young royal musician and armor-bearer, we find it difficult to explain the following:

[55] When Saul saw David go forth against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, "Abner, whose son is this youth?" And Abner said, "As your soul lives, O king, I cannot tell."
[56] And the king said, "Inquire whose son the stripling is."
[57] And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.
[58] And Saul said to him, "Whose son are you, young man?" And David answered, "I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite."

Then we read that Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house.  You see how the patchwork is showing up here?

My view of these documents is that they tell of real people and record the sequence of real events in ancient Israel, but they are compilations of stories to which were attached myth and legend as one might expect from an ancient people seeking to glorify their heritage.  It is a record we need if we are to see the Promise as an unbroken chain linking all of Israelite history to the fulfillment in the New Covenant.  I Samuel is particularly significant in tracing the Promise because it is here, for the first time, that we are introduced to the concept of The Lord's Anointed. (Messiah).


This historic person was second only to Moses in influence in Israel during the period prior to the Monarchy.  He uniquely filled every leadership office except that of king, and he was in some sense superior to a king because he was the king maker and king breaker who constituted the link between the king and the Lord, and to whom the kings, Saul and David, were submissive during his life time.  He served as priest, judge, prophet, and military leader.  In the latter capacity he was effective.  At Mizpah he entreated the Lord's assistance in advance of an attack by the Philistines, and the result was a rout of the Philistine army so that the Israelites went out and smote them, after which the Philistines no more entered Israelite territory and the Israelites regained cities that had been taken from them (7:10-14). 

When he was weaned, his mother, Hannah, took him up to Eli the priest in the house of the Lord at Shiloh and gave him to the Lord, leaving him in the care and tutelage of Eli.  It was there that Hannah prayed a remarkable prayer, recorded in I Sam. 2:1-10.  This prayer was the model for Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she delivered her Magnificat to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:46-55).  Mary thus tied Jesus to Samuel, although there were many links in the chain of Promise between them.  The young Samuel is again tied to Jesus because of this description of him, which corresponds exactly with that of Jesus from Luke 2:52:

[26] Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and with men.

There is no mention of the Promise
of a Land to Abraham in either I Samuel or II Samuel.  This suggests that the emphasis is taking a shift from the promise of land to the promise of a kingdom, since the land promise has found fulfillment with the occupation of Canaan.  We are in a transition phase with regard to the Promise.  I remind you that the Promise of a kingdom first found expression in this word to Abraham:

[6] I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.

It next appeared in Jacob's blessing of his sons, as a promise that was to find fulfillment through the offspring of Judah:

[10] The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

We were introduced here for the first time to a Coming One, a person to whom the scepter of the king and the ruler's staff belongs.  This mysterious figure will appear again in subsequent prophecies. 

Now I Samuel takes it up from the most unexpected of sources -- Hannah's Magnificat (prayer), in which Hannah becomes an early prophetess of the Coming One.  Not only does this parallel the Magnificat of Mary, but it comes to this prophecy with its concluding words:
[10] The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.

And there it is, the first record in scripture, and in history, of the Promise specifically pointing to his king,  who is his anointed (messiah).  The Messiah has entered the Promise as such, for the very first time, and it comes not from a prophet but from a prophetess!  Gender discrimination was never from the Lord.  We should keep the figures of this prophecy and mark them well -- the adversaries of the Lord, broken pieces
and the messiah -- as we will meet them again and they will become guides to understanding the Gospel of the Kingdom according to Jesus.

We have seen the anointing of Aaron the Priest (Exod. 29:7).  It is a ceremony according to which one has oil poured over the head and is thus anointed and invested with office and divine approval.  The same ritual will soon be applied to a king, marking  that one as the Lord's choice for the post.

Now the sons of Eli, the Priest, were worthless men.  The Lord therefore sent a messenger to Eli to inform him that his line would not continue in the priesthood, and in the process explained why and who was to replace his line.  The message is a little uncertain, because it points to a faithful priest who will be raised up and whose priesthood is to remain forever, and seems to make a distinction between this priest and the anointed one .  We will learn, however, that both refer to Jesus of Nazareth.

[30] Therefore the LORD the God of Israel declares: `I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me for ever'; but now the LORD declares: `Far be it from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

[34] And this which shall befall your two sons, Hophni and Phin'ehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day.
[35] And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind; and I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed for ever.

So it soon came to pass that the Philistines attacked
Israel, won a great victory and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phin'ehas, were killed -- on the same day.  When Eli learned of it, the old man who had judged Israel forty years fell over, broke his neck, and died.  The Philistines also captured the Ark of God.  It was a dark day for Israel, a nation suddenly deprived of an approved priest and of the precious Ark of God.  So it remained for twenty years during which Samuel matured as a prophet, priest, and judge over Israel.  We have in I Samuel 5 and 6 the story of how the Ark was restored to Israel, the Philistines finding that it brought them nothing but misfortune until they were finally most happy to rid themselves of it. Next comes the battle at Mizpah where, under Samuel's leadership, the Philistines were crushed and Israel found many years of peace in the land.

Samuel became old and sought to retire, making his two sons, Joel and Abijah, judges over Israel in his place.  But here the story repeats a theme we have heard before, for his two sons, like the two sons of Eli the priest before Samuel, were worthless men (8:1-3) and the people soon demanded a change.

Saul and the Kingdom

The elders of Israel came to Samuel and made it known that they would not accept Joel and Abijah as judges over them.  They had decided that a king would serve them better and requested that Samuel appoint for them a king.  Samuel prayed to the Lord about the matter and received this answer to his prayer:

[7] "Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.
[8] According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you.
[9] Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them."

Samuel sought to dissuade them, but the people were determined.  They said:

[19] "No! but we will have a king over us,
[20] that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles."

At last we understand the office and function of the Judges.  The Lord was king, and the judges were his ministers, through whom the Lord as king sought to rule. But now the Lord was no longer to be king; the people had rejected the kingdom of God.

Hence, our title for this chapter, Thy kingdom went!  The Kingdom of God was established on the earth in those days, but the Lord's chosen people were having none of it.  The kingdom of God went, but the Lord's resolve never failed in his intention to restore the kingdom, even through
long centuries of suffering.  That is what Jesus came to do, and that for which he instructed his disciples to pray,

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The document wants us to be impressed with this fact, and repeats the rejection of God as king:

[19] But you have this day rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses; and you have said, `No! but set a king over us.' Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your thousands."

Samuel chose and anointed Saul as king, who them became known as "the Lord's anointed." When all Israel assembled before Samuel and he introduced them to their new king, he rebuked them strongly:

[13] And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the LORD has set a king over you.
[14] If you will fear the LORD and serve him and hearken to his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well;

The prophet then called on the Lord to send thunder and rain, and the people greatly feared and said to Samuel:

[19] "Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king."

But Saul did not last long as king.  We should not be surprised when Samuel soon turns against him and begins to seek a replacement, because Samuel had erred in selecting him.  Yes, the document describes Samuel as always acting at the behest of the Lord, and Saul as the Lord's choice.  This cannot be true, however, for we have already learned that the Lord's Anointed One is to come from the tribe of Judah, whereas Saul is a Benjamite.  To cover for Samuel in this error, the document is forced to tell us that it was the Lord who had repented of the choice of Saul:

[10] The word of the LORD came to Samuel:
[11] "I repent that I have made Saul king; for he has turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments." And Samuel was angry; and he cried to the LORD all night.

Poor guy!  It's the Lord's mistake, and Samuel has to take the fall.

Now here, to support Samuel's integrity as a prophet, we come to one of the most insightful utterances in the Old Testament, and one that strongly influenced later prophets and that Jesus surely appreciated.  Saul had been disobedient to the Lord, in the view of Samuel who said:

[22] "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to hearken than the fat of rams.

As priest, Samuel had administered sacrifices but here the inspired Word placed them second to obedience.  It is a beginning; better obedience with no sacrifices than sacrifices with no obedience!  Later prophets and Jesus took a fully negative view of the sacrifices and the sacrificial system, whereas Samuel only demoted them to second place -- still, it is a start towards a full comprehension of the desires of God.


The Lord next sent Samuel to Jesse the Bethlehemite, of the tribe of Judah to choose a new king.  This time we have the correct choice, which it is David, whom Samuel anointed immediately.  Now we have a curious situation in Israel, according to which there are two anointed ones of the Lord, Saul and David.  The situation is further curious in that David, the one who has now become the Lords Anointed, continues to view Saul as the Lord's Anointed.  Years pass in which Saul's influence decreased and David's increased in Israel, but David steadfastly refused to move against Saul because he was the Lord's Anointed.  Saul, seeing that David was set to replace him, became hostile and eventually forced David to flee to the Philistines, where he became an independent guerrilla warlord with a band of loyal troops.  Twice David had opportunities to kill Saul, but refused to do so because he would not lift his hand against the Lord's Anointed. 

Samuel died, but he yet could not find rest. The Philistines again mounted a major attack on Israel and as Israel mustered troops and prepared for battle, Saul (who no more received guidance from the Lord) found a medium (the witch of Endor) who called Samuel up from the dead (here we have myth making).  But instead of giving Saul good advice, Samuel said this:

[15] Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" Saul answered, "I am in great distress; for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams; therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do."
[16] And Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy?
[17] The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me; for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbor, David.
[18] Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Am'alek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.
[19] Moreover the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me; the LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines."

The Philistines were victorious; Saul's sons were killed in battle and Saul was wounded. When he saw the end had come,
he fell upon his own sword to prevent his capture after his armor bearer refused to slay him.  This cleared the way for David, but much time must yet pass before he could ascend to the throne as the Promised One, the Lord's Anointed (Messiah).


The material in I Samuel should serve to provide insight into what is transpiring in the Old Testament.  Far from being the wholly inspired Word of God, it is the very human story of how God continued to seek to make himself known to man through a primitive and bungling people who, for all their professed devotion to the Lord, showed that they knew Him not at all.  What they did, instead of being His witnesses to humanity, was to impose their own primitive conceptions onto the Lord thus creating Him in their own image.  Thus the Lord makes mistaken choices (Saul, the Benjamite) and then repents of the error.  But the Lord is patient, merciful and long suffering.  He is determined, in one way or another, to reveal Himself and His purposes to the world through this wayward clan. 

One of the reasons for this conclusion comes from the comparison of the revelation of the Father, his true character as a merciful One and his purposes, through the truly Anointed One of the Lord with the anointed ones we have seen in I Samuel.  These include the leaders, Samuel, Saul, and David. They were men of such violence as to put Ben Lauden and Saddam Hussein to shame, whereas Jesus bears witness to the Father who would have his children in this world be absolutely non violent.  Consider these acts of violence:

[7] And Saul defeated the Amal'ekites, from Hav'ilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt.
[8] And he took Agag the king of the Amal'ekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

So much for Saul, and we read in this context that the Lord was displeased because Saul failed to kill Agag!  Now consider Samuel:

[32] Then Samuel said, "Bring here to me Agag the king of the Amal'ekites." And Agag came to him cheerfully. Agag said, "Surely the bitterness of death is past."
[33] And Samuel said, "As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women." And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

And this was the revered prophet, priest, judge, and king maker!
  And as for David:

[16] And when he had taken him down, behold, they were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing, because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah.
[17] And David smote them from twilight until the evening of the next day; and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled.

Men of violence -- Samuel, Saul and David -- all of them!  Yet the Lord chose this people, made them His kingdom under the judges, and continued to work with and through them after they had rejected Him as King so that the kingdom went; the rule of the Lord departed from the earth, but it would one day return, as the Lord remained faithful to his Promise of a land, a people, a king and a kingdom. 

I Samuel reveals how the kingdom of God went, but that is not the end of the story.  In the very same context
we have promised, for the first time, an anointed one -- a messiah.  The Golden Chain of Promise continues to wind it's way through the pages of the Old Testament, link by link.

[10] The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.

1. The Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 675

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