What Is the Book of Samuel About?

Time: 3 Minutes

Hey Friend!

Our editorial team wrote this book introduction for you. We hope it helps you find your bearings in the Bible story and inspires you to open this book of the Bible!

Have you ever heard someone say, likely in the world of sports, “This is a David versus Goliath situation!” and wondered where the expression came from? Well, the reference to David and Goliath comes from an iconic story in the book of Samuel.

Most of the book of Samuel, which is two books (1st and 2nd Samuel) in our English Bibles, follows the life of David, the most beloved King of Israel.

The small-statured boy belonged to a family of shepherds, yet God choose him as king over his people. Before becoming king, undersized, and untrained David effortlessly defeats Israel’s most feared enemy—the experienced Philistine giant-warrior Goliath—with his slingshot. It clues us in to a key theme in Samuel—God prioritizes the heart, or faith, over outward appearance and he wins his victories through those who trust in him (1 Samuel 16:7).

At this point, you are probably wondering why the book is called the book of Samuel when Samuel’s name has not been mentioned yet.

The book of Samuel tells the story of how Israel got her kings. Samuel begins the story of how God ruled over his people through earthly representatives—kings! But it was not always this way in Israel.

The book of Samuel tells the story of how Israel got her kings.

God sets apart a young man named Samuel to serve as a priest and as God’s spokesman, who anoints his kings. As a priest and a prophet, Samuel also acted as God’s representative. He did not choose the kings of Israel but declared to Israel whom God had chosen (1 Samuel 10:1). Samuel first anoints a man named Saul.

Samuel anoints Saul as Israel’s first king because God’s people complained to him that they wanted a king to rule over them like their foreign neighbors (1 Samuel 10:1), rather than to continue trusting God himself to lead them as he had done in the past through his Word.

God graciously listens and answers their cry with Saul, an outwardly appealing candidate with strong stature, handsome appearance, and battle skills (1 Samuel 9:2). But Saul fell into God’s disfavor because he did not submit to the ultimate Kingship of the LORD (1 Samuel 15). Samuel removed Saul’s kingship and instead anointed David as king in his place by God’s command.

The book of Samuel continues telling the story of David’s reign. The Bible describes David as “a man after God’s own heart,” and he’s treasured as the best of Israel’s kings (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). But 2 Samuel illustrates how even King David was miserably flawed (2 Samuel 24:10). The book of Samuel reveals the need for a king, but the seeming impossibility of having a truly righteous ruler.

Do you ever bemoan the unrighteousness of earthly leaders? Samuel might be the book for you.

God gives king David a special promise in 2 Samuel—that God will set a righteous king on David’s throne forever. The book of Samuel leaves us hungering for God’s promise to King David to be fulfilled. We know now that Jesus of Nazareth fulfills this prophecy (2 Samuel 7:12-16), for he is a descendant of David (Matthew 1:1; Revelation 22:16).

The truest and most beautiful “David versus Goliath” story happened at the cross and resurrection of Jesus. The Son of David (Jesus) knew God wanted to give victory over sin to his people. Entrusting himself into God’s hands at the cross, Jesus defeats Israel’s (and our!) worst enemy—sin and death. By his resurrection from the dead, he offers the forgiveness of sins, new life, and his loving Lordship to those who trust him.

Why not read Samuel for yourself and see if you can spot the need for and shadows of the true King, Jesus Christ?