The Rise of the Kings
Week 21 - Read 1 Samuel 1-15
Key Concepts: The key concept in 1 Samuel is that God is active and involved in Israel’s transition from a loose confederation of tribes to a nation-state with centralized power residing in a king.
Stories: This includes Hannah’s desire for a child, Samuel’s birth and consecration (1:1-2:11), the decadence of the sons of Eli (2:12-26), the condemnation of Eli’s house by God, (2:27-36), Samuel’s first encounter with God (3), the tragic war with the Philistines including the loss of the ark and the death of Eli (4), the ark causes trouble (5), the ark is returned (6:1-7:2), Samuel reigns as judge over Israel (7), the demand for a king (8), the call of Saul (9-10), Saul demonstrates his leadership abilities (11), Samuel offers his final words (12), the war with the Philistines is renewed (13:1-7), Saul sins (13:7-15), the war continues (13:15-14), and a second story about why God will reject Saul (15).
Brief Summary: First Samuel contains one of the great socio-political transitions in the history of the people of Israel. We have watched as the Hebrews went from a family to a tribe (Abraham – Jacob), as they became slaves (following Joseph into Egypt), as they became freed people who wandered in the wilderness (following Moses), as they became a people who conquered the land (following Joshua) and as they struggled to be faithful to God as a loose confederation of tribes (following the judges). We now witness the socio-political-religious struggle over the concept of and implementation of kingship.
This transition to a monarchy is accompanied by the contest for land and power with the Philistines who were a sea-faring people living on the coastal plains. The Philistines would continue to be Israel’s greatest threat until the rise of the Assyrian Empire several hundred years later. The Philistines competed with Israel for both territory and religious orientation, meaning the gods of the Philistines were always a temptation for Israel.
As you read these stories, there are several themes I encourage you to watch for. The first is that of the woman who is childless until God grants her a special child. This is the story of Hannah which echoes that of Sarah and will pre-figure that of Elizabeth in the New Testament.
The second is that of the fall of the judges. As was noted in the end of Judges, the people of Israel and the judges who led them continued a rapid ethical implosion. This comes to a head in the stories of the sons of Eli and Samuel. In a sense the entire system of judges must come to an end because their leadership has become a detriment to the faithfulness of the people.
The third is the continuing presence of God. God is not absent from the scene as God seemed to be in Ruth. We return once again to an active, engaged and communicating God. This is a God who is so powerful that even the Ark of the Covenant is capable of bringing pain and suffering on the enemies of Israel.
The fourth is the struggle over whether the monarchy was a good thing or a not so good thing. Scholars have discerned two strands of tradition; one of which supports the monarchy and the other which does not. You will witness this struggle beginning in chapter eight where we read that God and Samuel saw the demand for a king as a rejection not merely of Samuel and his sons, but of God’s own kingship. In addition the desire for a king is a desire to be like “the other nations.” Thus we witness not only rebellion (as in the wilderness) but a desire to be like others and not a unique God centered people.
1. How do these stories continue the idea that the promise of blessing the world is still at risk?
2. How would you explain the fact that faithful fathers (Eli and Samuel) could produce unfaithful sons?
3. How do you see the transition to the monarchy; as a good or not so good move?
Week 22 - Read 1 Samuel 16 - 31
Key Concepts: The key concept in the second half of 1 Samuel is that God will reject Saul and replace him with David, son of Jesse.
Stories: These include the selection and anointing of David (16), David’s arrival at Saul’s court (16), David battles and kills Goliath (17), Saul begins to be jealous of David (18), David succeeds as a warrior, Saul plots to kills David, David flees (19),Saul has an ecstatic experience (19), a second version of the break between Saul and David (20), David flees to Nob and Gath (21), David becomes an outlaw and Saul has the priest of Nob slaughtered (22), David saves a town and spares Saul’s life (23-24), Samuel dies (25), David takes a new wife, Abigail (25), David spares Saul’s life again (26), David flees to the Philistines for protection (27), Saul consults a medium and gets a surprise (28), the Philistines become suspicious of David (29), David strikes out on his own to gain plunder (30) and Saul and Jonathan die at the Battle of Gilboa (31).
Brief Summary: In this part of I Samuel we begin to watch Saul become, in my opinion, one of the Bible’s great tragic figures. As you have read earlier, Saul does not seek the kingship but is called to it by God and Samuel. At heart he was probably more suited to farming, yet he was the chosen one and successfully defended Israel against the Philistines. The reasons given in week twenty-two’s readings for Saul’s rejection by God are either he sacrificed when he ought not to have sacrificed (though David did this without any repercussions) and/or he did not utterly destroy King Agag and all of his flocks. Regardless of the reason God sends evil spirits into Saul. This causes Saul’s behavior to become more and more erratic, even though he continues to risk life and limb against Israel’s enemies. The final straw for Saul comes when he attempts to contact the deceased Samuel by means of a medium (which is a violation of the Torah). Ultimately he and Jonathan will die in battle trying to protect God’s people, even though God had rejected him.
We find the death of Samuel in this section. What is interesting is that there is very little attention given to Samuel’s death even though he had played a pivotal role in the rise of the kingship in Israel. What his death accomplishes however is that it ends another chapter in the development of Israel. He is the last of the judges and therefore there is no going back. The kings will rise.
We meet David. Once again, as in the case of Saul, David is not out campaigning for the kingship. Samuel is instructed by God to go to the household of Jesse in Benjamin and there God would point out the true king. David is selected. There are two stories of how he comes to Saul’s attentions. The first occurs when Saul is afflicted by an evil spirit and David is sent to soothe him with music. The second occurs when David takes on Goliath. The rest of the David stories show him to be a very shrewd operator. He is smart enough to use technology against Goliath (stones are always better than a sword), to run from Saul when his life is in danger, to not kill Saul and set himself up as a contender to the throne, to gather around him a band of misfits (who become his mighty men), to align himself with the Philistines when Saul is closing in, to not destroy any Israelite settlements when working for the Philistines and finally to send part of his spoils from killing the Amalakites to the elders of Judah in order to curry their favor. We discover David to be a charismatic and wily leader.
1. What is your take on Saul? How would you characterize him?
2. What is your take on Samuel? How would you characterize him?
3. What are your first impressions of David? Do you think he will make a good king? Why or why not?
Week 23 - Read Psalms 7, 17, 18, 27, 31, 34, 35, 52, 54, 56, 63
Two Year Bible Trek Psalms 7, 17, 18, 27, 31, 34, 35, 52, 54, 56, 63
Key Concepts: The key concepts here are that the Psalms are a complex mix of genres which were composed over an extended period of time. In this and the next lesson we will be focusing on Psalms which are cries for help…
Stories: Many of these Psalms appear to have either been composed during or attributed to the time when David found himself in difficult circumstances.
Psalm Theme: The writers speak from a place of right relationship with God, are beset by enemies, are hurting, cry out for God’s help, seek deliverance, see God as a protector and a place of refuge, and are willing to give thanks even in the face of tough times.
Psalm 7 – This is a Psalm of deliverance in which the writer is willing to be punished if he has committed a wrong. The belief however is that because the writer has not injured another, God will deliver.
Psalm 17 – This Psalm follows in the same vein, seeking deliverance because the author has lived according to the precepts of God. However, deliverance will come because of God’s steadfast love, not because of the perfection of the writer.
Psalm 18 – We encounter the term Sheol. Sheol is the place of the dead (both good and evil). All people die and go “down” to the pit where there is darkness. This will later be translated as Hades. In this Psalm we also encounter the anger of God focused on those who have done.
Psalm 27 – The opening lines of this Psalm are well known. “The Lord is the light of my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” Even in the face of persecution the Psalmist is willing to trust in God.
Psalm 31 – The writer is seeking deliverance not only for himself but for God’s name. In other words God will be honored by the deliverance because people will see God’s steadfast love.
Psalm 34 – The writer encourages people to praise God for the deliverance that God will provide and encourages people to listen, in order to receive advice on how to live a Godly life.
Psalm 35 – The writer offers up an image of God as warrior. God is called upon to take the fight to the enemies of the righteous. In addition there is a request that those who are evil be caught up in their own traps…which is a theme that runs through this section.
Psalm 52 – This Psalm is addressed to the powerful in life who attempt to pervert justice and oppress the poor. It is a warning that God will act and soon the powerful will be brought low. The writer on the other hand will be fruitful. Again this will be done because of the steadfast love of the Lord.
Psalm 54 – The writer desires deliverance, trusts that God will deliver and then pledges that he will make a thankful offering to God for the deliverance which is on its way.
Psalm 56 – In the face of persecution the writer still believes that God is on his side because he has been delivered in the past. There is no fear of “mortal” because God is on the side of the writer who trusts in God’s power.
Psalm 63 – The writer is in the midst of deep despair and yet is willing to praise God. Even the act of praying is a rich feast for the soul. There is trust that God will act.
1. How do you relate to these psalms?
2. When in your life have you ever wanted to cry out to the Lord in this way?
3. Do you think that this is an appropriate way to come before God? Why or why not?
Week 24 - Read Psalms 120, 121, 123, 124, 125, 128, 129, 130, 140, 141, 142
Class Discussion for Week 24 - Read Psalms 120, 121, 123, 124, 125, 128, 129, 130, 140, 141, 142
Key Concepts: The key concepts here are that the Psalms are a complex mix of genres which were composed over an extended period of time. This lesson, along with the previous lesson focuses on Psalms which are cries for help…Stories: Many of these Psalms appear to have either been composed during or attributed to the time when David found himself in difficult circumstances.
Psalm Themes: The writers speak from a place of a right relationship with God, are beset by enemies, are hurting, cry out for God’s help, seek deliverance, see God as a protector and a place of refuge, and are willing to give thanks even in the face of tough times.
Psalm 120 – Once again we begin with a Psalm seeking deliverance. The writer is surrounded by those who speak lies rather than the truth. This Psalm is unique in that the writer is seeking peace even while being surrounded by those who desire war.
Psalm 121 – This is one of the most famous and well known Psalms. “I lift up my eyes unto the hills- from where will my help come. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” It is a Psalm of affirmation that God can be counted upon for protection and deliverance.
Psalm 123 – The writer reflects on the relationship between human beings and God…we are servants, God is the master. God then is asked to deliver his servants from the proud and powerful who show contempt for the ordinary person.
Psalm 125 – The writer has confidence that those who trust in the Lord will not be moved, but will abide forever. This belief rests in the righteousness of God who will care for the righteous and good people. This is all set in the context of the Land…the place where God’s people dwell.Soon
Psalm 128 – This is a Wisdom Psalm which reflects the belief that those who do good will be blessed and those who do evil will be cursed. There is a direct correlation between actions and results. It also has some marvelous imagery of blessedness.
Psalm 129 – This appears to be a corporate Psalm dealing with the persecution of Israel. The prayer of the writer is that those who oppose the people of God will wither and fade.
Psalm 130 – We encounter two famous phrases, “If you O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you…” and “my soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.” This is a marvelous Psalm about God’s forgiving love.
Psalm 140 – Once again we have a Psalm seeking deliverance for the needy and the poor. It begins with a powerful description of how evil works to oppress. It ends with an affirmation that God cares for those who cannot defend themselves.
Psalm 141 – This is a Psalm in which the writer seeks God’s help in maintaining a righteous life and avoiding a wicked life. Finally there is a hope that the wicked will be caught in their own traps.
Psalm 142 – The writer pours out his troubles to God in the face of what appears to be complete abandonment by everyone else. There is trust that God will deal bountifully with one who has been brought low.
1. How have you experienced God’s protecting work in your own life?
2. What are your thoughts on God as judge and warrior?
3. How do you give thanks to God for God’s protecting work in your life?