Study Guide

1 Samuel Summary

1 Samuel Summary

One King to Rule them All?

The story of Samuel begins with, funnily enough, the birth of Samuel. After being raised by the priest Eli in temple, Samuel becomes God's number one prophet. Up until this point in biblical history, the Israelites have not had a king. Tired of not being able to complain about what a lousy job their king is doing, Samuel (after some anointing by God) sets out to enlist a king for Israel. Sounds simple enough.

He chooses a man named Saul, and it turns out he chose… poorly. After Saul mucks up with the Philistines a few times and fails to unite the tribes of Israel together, God sends Samuel to find a new king—a better king. It's a good thing Samuel didn't have much else going on.

Let's Try This Again, Shall We?

After more searching, Saul settles on a young boy, David, the son of Jesse. After some scheming, David travels to the palace. Saul becomes infatuated with David (in a non-creepy way) and David becomes Saul's armor bearer. This would be akin to a squire in a medieval court. David's main skill in court is to soothe Saul's head demons (headaches) with his lyre and his mad musical skills. Personally, we prefer a kazoo, but what can we say, we're Shmoop.

Now, all over the un-united kingdoms of Israel (you had one job, Saul), the ravaging armies of the Philistines are causing chaos. After some skirmishes, the Philistine champion (and supposed giant) Goliath makes an offer: a one on one death match to determine the winner over the war. Every Israelite says "no thank you" and politely declines his generous offer.

Now We're Getting to the Good Part

David, fed up with people's cowardice, steps forward to fight Goliath. Having faith in God in spades, our David doesn't fear death—or the giant for that matter. Goliath, being, well, dumb, removes his helmet and charges at David. The boy king sends a rock flying into Goliath's skull, instantly killing the monstrosity of a man. All of Israel rejoices as David removes Goliath's head from his body—for good measure, you know.

After defeating Goliath, David becomes insanely popular which sends Saul into fits of jealousy and rage. Saul attempts to murder David several times over the years as David amasses more and more power and support of the Israelites. Eventually, David flees and becomes a double agent for the Philistine army. At the end of the book, Saul and his sons are killed in battle against the Philistines and David is ready to become king.

Then it's time for the sequel.

  • Chapter 1

    I (Haven't) Got You Babe

    • Once upon a time there was a man named Elkanah who had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. While Peninnah could have children, Hannah could not. This made Hannah very sad (1-6).
    • One day, while praying in the temple, Hannah makes a vow to God that if he grants her a son, she'll give him up in service to the Lord. This son will be a Nazerine, which means he won't eat anything unclean (no five second rule for him) and won't cut his hair. We at Shmoop feel this is the opposite of unclean, but alas, what do we know? (7-17).
    • After praying, Hannah and her husband "know each other" (that's Bible lingo for doing the dirty). Hannah miraculously conceives and gives birth to a son and names him Samuel (18-20).
    • A few years go by and Hannah brings Samuel to the temple. Hannah tells Eli (the priest) that she has lent Samuel to the lord and leaves the young child with Eli.
    • Samuel, being a child, somehow seems okay with this, probably because he can't think coherent thoughts yet (21-28).
  • Chapter 2

    A Curse Upon Your House

    • Hannah, much like hobbits and dwarves, likes to sing. She proclaims a song to the Lord, some parts praise, other parts criticism of other people. This is pretty much in line with how we rock in the car.
    • Hannah likes to proclaim things in generalities, so it's hard to pin down exactly whom she's talking about, but we can be dang sure one thing is gloating about having a child (1-10).
    • Eli the priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Hophni and Phinehas are what the Bible calls scoundrels, i.e. greedy idiots.
    • These dastardly sons of anarchy enjoy taking more than their share of the sacrifices and sleeping around with women (11-17). Typical kids—always wanting more and more from mom and dad.
    • As a thank you every year, Hannah knits Eli a new Christmas sweater. Oops, we mean she makes him a fancy new robe.
    • Eli blesses Hannah for bringing Samuel to the Lord and because of Hannah's sacrifice, she is honored with three sons and two daughters. They're lucky and don't have to live at the temple (18-21) like their bro.
    • When Eli goes to confront his sons about their corruptness, God blocks up the two sons' ears (presumably with wax) because God wants them to die. A little harsh if you ask us, but hey, who are we to argue?
    • Even though Eli attempts to tame his sons, the Israelites still bring bad reports back to him about their behavior. In contrast, everyone seems to really like Samuel (22-26).
    • Soon after, a man of God comes to visit Eli and pronounces a judgment upon Eli's house. He claims that no one in Eli's family will live to see old age and that both his sons will die in the same day.
    • Spoiler alert: this happens in Chapter 4 (27-35).
  • Chapter 3

    G-G-God?

    • One night, while Samuel gently slumbers, he hears a voice calling his name. Rising from his bed, Samuel goes to see Eli asking if he was called.
    • Eli, doing no such thing, sends him back to bed.
    • Later that night, Samuel hears his name again and returns to Eli.
    • Again, Eli sends him packing off to bed.
    • As Samuel dozes again, he hears his name being called.
    • Eli, now invested, tells Samuel to answer back because it's God calling his name (1-9).
    • God relays the misery that will plague Eli's house.
    • In the morning, Samuel hesitates to tell Eli the news because seriously, who wants to be the messenger of "your whole family is going to die!"?
    • After some prompting, Samuel spills the beans, but Eli simply says God's will is not for anyone to change. Eli has nerves of steel (before steel was invented).
    • After this, Samuel is decreed a true prophet of God (10-21), and the story really gets going.
  • Chapter 4

    Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall

    • The Israelites lose a battle against the Philistine army. The Philistines are a sea people and a superior fighting force. The Israelites rarely stand a chance against them (1-2).
    • The Israelites decide to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the camp with them so they might win the battle the next day. Everyone gets so excited when the Ark makes its way into camp, the echoes of joy reach all the way to the Philistine camp and they become afraid.
    • The next day, the Philistines fight even harder and they steal the Ark for themselves. So much for that plan, Israelites. Oh, and Hophni and Phinehas die just as prophesied (3-11).
    • A messenger comes to deliver the news of Israel's defeat. Eli, sitting in his place of power on the outer wall, receives the news of the defeat, the loss of the Ark, and the death of his sons.
    • He promptly falls backwards from his seat, breaks his neck, and dies. Little known fact: Humpty Dumpty is based on Eli. Little known fact: that was a lie (14-18).
    • Phinehas' pregnant wife, upon hearing of his demise, goes into labor and gives birth to a son. She is so sad, she names the child Ichabod, which means the glory has departed from Israel. Sorry kid, you're stuck with it (19-22).
  • Chapter 5

    Alright, Who Cut Off His Hands?

    • After defeating the Israelites, the Philistines take the Ark of the Covenant. They place the Ark in the temple of their god, Dagon. This Philistine god is widely believed to be a fish god. This makes the most sense considering the Philistines were mainly sea-faring people (1-5).
    • Because the Philistines took the Ark, God plagues them with a terrible disease (tumors) that causes bleeding in some uncomfortable places. The leaders of the Philistines gather together and decide to send the Ark back to the Israelites (6-12).
  • Chapter 6

    Cows are Not for Eating

    • The Ark remains in Philistine territory for seven months, because why not take your time getting rid of something that's causing disease and death?
    • The Philistines seek out the advice of diviners, priests that specialized in dealings with the gods. The diviners tell the Philistines they must offer a sacrifice when returning the Ark to make up for their bad mojo.
    • If they follow the instructions, God's hand will not continue to punish them. Although, they didn't say anything about God's foot.
    • The Philistines were told to give five gold tumors and five mice to God as a guilt offering. The tumors were part of their suffering, but the mice lend some evidence to support that the Philistines were suffering from a disease carried by mice. Bubonic plague anyone? In case you were wondering, the five tumors represent the five cities controlled by the Philistines (1-5).
    • The Philistines send the Ark back to the Israelites on cows because why not? The Israelites sacrifice the cows to God and he was well pleased. However, he wasn't so pleased that the descendants of Jeconiah did not rejoice when the Ark returned.
    • God, in infinite wisdom, kills 70 of them. The people ask the Israelite town of Kiriath-jearim to come and take it (6-21).
  • Chapter 7

    With a Voice Like Thunder

    • The Ark stays in Kiriath-jearim for 20 years until David moves it to Jerusalem (1-2). This is a slight spoiler since David won't move the Ark until 2 Samuel.
    • Samuel scolds Israel for worshipping the Canaanite god Baal (a storm god) and goddess Astarte (the sex goddess). Samuel is quite opposed to the Israelites worshipping these gods since they know they're only allowed to worship the God of the Hebrews. Samuel judges these people hard (because he's the last judge) but nothing ever comes of his judgment (3-6).
    • The Philistines plan to attack the Israelites at Mizpah and everyone becomes afraid. They plead to Samuel for help, so he offers a lamb to God.
    • The Lord shouts with a voice like thunder and the Philistines became confused. The Israelites take advantage of their befuddlement and slay the Philistines.
    • Samuel sets up a stone, calling it Ebenezer ("stone of help") as a memorial. The Israelites take back all the towns that the Philistines captured (7-14).
    • Samuel spends the rest of his time roaming the territories of Israel, judging people for their transgressions against God (15-17), which is not a bad gig if you ask Shmoop.
  • Chapter 8

    Give Us a King, Please

    • The people of Israel demand a king. Up until this point in their time in Canaan, they've all lived in separate territories, but have never been united. Imagine living in America where each state is its own governing body, but there's no president.
    • Samuel is disappointed by the people's choice and thinks it's a reflection on him as a judge. God tells Samuel that Israel is really thinking about replacing God with a king rather than Samuel. Which makes Samuel feel better about himself, but not about the situation. We guess you can't win them all (1-9).
    • Samuel attempts to tell the Israelites that a king will only turn them into slaves instead of making them united. The people think this is stupid and ignore Samuel. They want a king to govern them and fight their battles, and God tells Samuel to give the people what they want and to find a king (10-22).
  • Chapter 9

    The Seer and the Donkeys

    • Shmoopers: meet Saul.
    • Saul is a man from the tribe of Benjamin who likes looking for his lost donkeys. No, really, he does.
    • When we first meet Saul, he and a young boy are out searching for the missing beasts.
    • Distressed, the boy tells Saul of a seer that could help them. This seer just so happens to be Samuel. As Saul and the boy are traveling to meet the seer, they meet some women who informs them the seer will be at the town's evening sacrifice. How serendipitous for everyone.
    • As a side note, the Bible describes Saul as head and shoulders taller than everyone else. This is curious for the Bible because, normally, we don't get much in the way of physical descriptions. But here's a hint: this will come into play later (1-13).
    • God has already told Samuel about Saul, so when Samuel arrives at the evening sacrifice, he is ready to make his move. Sometimes we imagine God as the man who whispers names into the President's ear at parties (14-17).
    • Samuel and Saul meet, and after some odd discussion, Samuel offers Saul and the boy a place to spend the night. The next morning, Samuel informs Saul that he would like to speak to him privately.
    • This chapter ends on a cliffhanger. What will Samuel say? Tune in next week, same biblical time, same biblical book (18-27).
  • Chapter 10

    Frenzy, Frenzy, Frenzy

    • Without warning, Samuel pours olive oil over Saul's head and kisses him on the forehead. Um, awkward?
    • Now, Saul is king whether he likes it or not—that's just how Samuel rolls.
    • Saul is told that God has anointed him, but Saul (wisely) is skeptical, so Samuel tells him there will be a series of signs if he needs proof:
    • (1) Saul will meet two men who will tell him that his father's donkeys are safe.
    • (2) He will meet three men carrying various items.
    • (3) Saul will come near a place where Philistine troops are stationed. He'll meet prophets who are playing various instruments, and they'll be in a prophetic frenzy. Saul will also be in the prophetic frenzy when the Spirit of the Lord touches him because when that happens, one should dance like no one's watching.
    • A prophetic frenzy is a fancy way to say acting strangely. Samuel tells Saul he will go to Gilgal and wait seven days until Samuel comes with some sacrifices. All the things that Samuel prophesied came to pass because Samuel would be a pretty bad prophet if they didn't. Saul went through his own prophetic frenzy then returned home (1-13).
    • Saul's uncle questions him about his journeys, so he conveniently leaves out the part where he became king of Israel. From here, we expect Saul and Samuel to meet up at Gibeah, but the text takes a twist (14-16).
    • Samuel calls all the people of Israel together and he casts lots to see who'll become king. After whittling down options by casting the lots, Saul is eventually chosen. Most scholars believe that there are two separate traditions for Saul's election as king of Israel. Here, we see the Bible trying to combine the two together to please everyone. How thoughtful of those ancient writers (17-24).
    • Samuel gives Saul the skinny on all the responsibilities as king and then everyone goes home.
    • Not long into Saul's reign, he's faced with his first challenge: Nahash, king of the Amorites, decrees that he would gouge out the eye of each man and prevent them from overthrowing his rule.
    • However, seven thousand men have escaped to a city called Jabesh-gilead. Goodness gracious us, what will Saul do? (25-27)
  • Chapter 11

    Oxen + Fear = Gets Stuff Done

    • Nahash, the Ammonite king, besieges Jabesh-gilead. When the people of Jabesh-gilead attempt to make a treaty with Nahash, he has a condition for the treaty. He must be able to gouge out everyone's right eye. Yes, because that makes sense (1-3).
    • When Saul hears this news, he's so outraged he slices up his oxen and sends pieces to every tribe in Israel. The message: come fight with me or all your oxen will be cut up, too. Point to Saul (4-7).
    • Saul, unsurprisingly, assembles a huge army. After some when and where dealings, the Israelites swiftly defeat the Ammorites in battle. Saul has now proven himself in battle, something the tribes of Israel needed to see from their new king (8-15).
  • Chapter 12

    Ranting Storms

    • Samuel is now old and asks Israel if he has ever done any wrong against them.
    • They respond saying he's always done the right thing, which is very nice of them to say. It's possible Samuel is trying to have Israel question why they requested a king if they weren't unhappy with Samuel (1-6).
    • Samuel, in true old man style, recounts the Israelite history to those gathered. Starting with Jacob and working upwards until the most recent events with the eye gouging, Samuel tells everyone that if they and the king serve God well, Israel will be blessed.
    • Basically, Samuel doesn't want Israel to make the same mistakes as their ancestors. Like that lesson is ever learned, we say sarcastically (7-15).
    • Samuel tops all of this off by saying that God is displeased they asked for a king and will send storms to punish them.
    • God indeed does this and the people become afraid, asking Samuel to pray for them.
    • Samuel tells them not to fear and that if they continue to worship and love God, all will be well. If they don't, terrible things will happen to their king. If you ask us, Saul really got the fuzzy end of this lollipop (16-25).
  • Chapter 13

    A Harsh Punishment

    • Chances are you've noticed that there are some missing words here and there in your text. That's due to the Bible being, you know, ancient, sometimes things get lost in time.
    • This is one of those times. Long story short, the age Saul started to reign, but for exactly how long he did reign is lost to us. Oh well, let's move on (1).
    • Saul and his son Jonathan are out fighting the Philistines. Jonathan defeats a group of them and tensions rise.
    • The Philistines gather a large force for battle, but the tribes of Israel are afraid and most people hide. Saul gets nervous and summons Samuel to the battlefield to make an offering to God.
    • Not arriving when he should Saul makes his own offering (a big no no). Naturally, Samuel arrives just after the sacrifice because that's how the world works (2-10). Murphy's law and whatnot.
    • Saul tries to explain the situation to Samuel, but he only responds by saying that God will now take the kingdom away from Saul. This seems pretty harsh, but you know what, Saul kind of stinks at his job anyway (11-14).
    • Samuel takes off, leaving Saul with only 600 men. It looks like the Philistines will quickly demolish the Israelites.
    • Because there are no blacksmiths during this time, Saul and Jonathan are forced to have the Philistines sharpen their weapons for a large fee before the fight (15-23).
  • Chapter 14

    Honey... It'll Kill You

    • Jonathan and a young man from the army decide to go check out the Philistines. By check out, we mean scope the danger, not hit on them. We thought we should clarify.
    • Jonathan wants to attack them, mostly because they're uncircumcised. Believe us, it's a big deal to the Israelites (1-7).
    • So he concocts a plan to see what God wants them to do. Basically, if the Philistines start trash talking, Jonathan will know God wants them to fight. Guess what? The Philistines start trash talking. Let the fighting begin (8-12).
    • Despite being vastly outnumbered, Jonathan and the youth with him win the battle. All the Philistines become afraid, especially after an earthquake hits (13-15).
    • Saul realizes that Jonathan is missing, and after some running around, the Israelites want to battle the Philistines.
    • The Israelites eat bloody meat because Saul's an idiot and God refuses to talk to him. We know that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but that's what the Bible says.
    • Saul thinks God is silent because someone has sinned. It's determined Jonathan is the sinner because he ate honey (the nerve of some people). Saul wants to kill him because he's a great dad, but the Israelites talk him out of it.
    • The Philistines and the Israelites separate to fight another day (16-52).
  • Chapter 15

    Dude That Was My Favorite Robe

    • Saul gathered troops for battle against the Amalekites, whom they handily defeat.
    • Being a nice guy (sort of), Saul allows Agag, the king of the Amalekites, to live. He also keeps the animals alive because look how cute they are (1-9).
    • Because Saul disobeyed God, God tells Samuel that he regretted making Saul king. Angry about the situation, Samuel cries out to God about it all night (10-11).
    • As Samuel goes out to meet Saul, we see that he is setting up a monument. Saul seems to believe that he has carried out the command of the Lord. Samuel criticizes Saul for not killing the Amalekite king and destroying the animals.
    • Samuel and God believe that Saul has become too proud. When he was chosen to be king, he hid because he did not think that he was very important. Now he believes that he can break God's law and get away with it. Since Samuel cannot convince him that he has done wrong, he tells Saul that God has rejected him from being king. The sadness is about to get very real for Saul (12-26).
    • As Samuel turns to leave, Saul tears off a bit of his robe. Quick-thinking Samuel turns it into a symbolic lesson. He lets Saul know that the Lord has ripped the kingdom away from him and given it to someone else. And the worst part is, Saul doesn't even apologize for ripping Samuel's clothes (27-29). The jerk.
    • Saul asks Samuel to turn back and honor him before the people and elders of Israel. Samuel worships with him, perhaps to keep the kingship intact until a new king can be chosen (30-31).
    • Samuel asks for Agag, the Amalekite king, to be brought to him. Agag pleads with Samuel to let him live. Like a boss, Samuel kills him and splits his body in pieces (32-33). Samuel returns to Ramah and does not see Saul until the day of his death (32-35).
  • Chapter 16

    Surprise Anointing Again

    • Samuel is super bummed that God rejected Saul. So God tells him to buck up and go to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse.
    • Rejuvenated, Samuel gets over his own insecurities and heads out.
    • Upon arriving in Bethlehem, the elders want to know if Samuel comes with good news or bad news? Fortunately, Samuel comes with good news (if your name isn't Saul). He meets Jesse and together they make a sacrifice (1-5).
    • Samuel tells Jesse he's going to anoint one of his sons king because Saul is failing terribly… so terribly. Jesse summons all his sons and Samuel rejects them all.
    • Then he asks Jesse if he has more sons, which—thankfully—he does. Jesse summons his youngest son, David, who's busy shepherding the flock. Samuel immediately anoints him king (surprising anointings are Samuel's thing) and they head off back to Saul (6-13). Well, that was easy.
    • Meanwhile, the spirit (or blessing) of God has left Saul and he begins to be tormented by demons. It's very possible that Saul really suffered from a mental illness, but the Bible is rather unclear on the matter. Either way, David sets up shop in the palace playing his lyre to soothe Saul's demons.
    • Because David is doing such a bang up job as Saul's person musician/headache medicine, Saul makes David his armor-bearer, which is rather like a squire.
    • Little does Saul know that David was anointed to be king. Believe Shmoop, this is only the beginning of the treachery and secrets between these two (14-23).
  • Chapter 17

    David the Giant Killer

    • The Philistines and the Israelites prepare for more battle.
    • Before the fight, the Philistine champion, Goliath, steps forward.
    • According to the story, Goliath is, well, a giant. The Hebrew translation says Goliath was 9ft 6in whereas the Greek text says he was 6ft 9in. Either way, Goliath was a tall man in his day.
    • Goliath proposes a battle of champions—one will represent the Philistines and one the Israelites. The loser's side will become servants to the winners. This challenge was pretty typical because it saved manpower and the big boys got to prove themselves (1-11).
    • Goliath repeated this challenge for 40 days (Bible speak for long time). Everyone was too afraid (and rightly so) to take his challenge.
    • David hears of the challenge and after some debate with his brothers and Saul, accepts the giant's offer. When Saul questions David's skill, David quickly shoots him down, letting him know he's killed a lion and a bear while shepherding.
    • This shuts Saul up and David is quickly strapped in Saul's armor.
    • Except David decides he doesn't need armor and goes out to face the giant armed with a staff and a sling (12-39). This can't be good.
    • When David goes out to meet Goliath, the giant thinks it's a joke. They exchange some trash talk, with Goliath saying, "I'll feed your corpse to the birds and beasts!" That cuts deep back then, you'll have to take our word on it.
    • David responds with a "oh yeah? Well I'm going to chop off your head!" kind of thing, which enrages Goliath so much, he removes his helmet, drops his shield and charges at David.
    • The boy shepherd, who has been hiding his sling the whole time, whips a smooth stone straight into Goliath's temple.
    • The giant falls face down on the ground dead. David runs over to the body, takes Goliath's sword and chops off his head, lifting it for the Philistine army to see. They become so terrified their champion was taken down that they run away (40-54).
    • David returns to Saul, but the king does not recognize David. He asks his aide, Abner, who David is. Though we don't have any solid answers for this, biblical scholars believe that there were many stories associated with David's rise to power and biblical authors attempted to mesh the stories together. Sometimes it's successful, sometimes it's not. We think that Saul is just a little nutso (55-58).
  • Chapter 18

    You Want One Hundred What?

    • David becomes BFFs with Saul's son, Jonathan, as Saul becomes more and more jealous of David's popularity.
    • Eventually, Saul becomes anxious and paranoid that David will take the throne from him. We're not saying Saul is right, but Saul is right (1-9).
    • One day, as David is playing his lyre for Saul, the king snaps and throws two spears at David.
    • Thankfully, the young shepherd boy who would be king is as agile as a ninja and avoids the spears. He flees for his life and Saul becomes afraid because now he knows the spirit of God is with David.
    • As what we assume is a part-apology, part-evil plan, Saul makes David commander of the Israelite army (10-16).
    • Saul remembers that David was promised one of his daughters' hands in marriage because he slew Goliath. Originally, David was to get Merab, but Saul tells David he's not good enough to be a royal son-in-law. This cuts David deep (17-19).
    • Saul discovers his daughter Michal (yes, daughter, we checked) loves David.
    • So Saul tells David that if he brings the king one hundred foreskins, David can marry Michal. Some dowry.
    • However weird this is, David does as the king asked, much to his chagrin. Now Saul can't harm David through his daughter.
    • Now to the real question... what does one do with one hundred foreskins? (20-30)
  • Chapter 19

    Naked Frenzies

    • Jonathan learns of Saul's plot to kill David, so like a good BFF, he warns the future king of Saul's evil plan. Jonathan then convinces his father not to kill David for the time being. Because Saul is full of crazy, no one is sure how long this will last (1-7).
    • Meanwhile, David's busy winning more battles against the Philistines, growing even more popular than he was before.
    • In the middle of all of this, David still has time to play his lyre for Saul, even in the face of death. This time, just like the last time, Saul tries to kill David with his spears. No, that is not a euphemism. David again escapes with his life (8-10).
    • Saul sends hit men to David's house because Saul is incapable of killing David himself.
    • While David escapes out the window, his wife Michal attempts to stall the guards.
    • After she's discovered, Saul wonders why his own daughter isn't taking his side. A good question, but one we can answer... because you're crazy, Saul.
    • When questioned, Michal tells her father that David threatened to kill her. Whose side is she really on, anyway (11-26)?
    • David goes to Ramah to hide out with Samuel.
    • Though Saul sends hit men after David again, every group runs into prophets that cause them to go into a frenzy. Saul finally goes to investigate himself and he also is sent into a prophetic frenzy.
    • He frenzies so much, he ends up stripping naked and laying in the street all night. We're starting to feel sorry for Saul, but not really (27-30).
  • Chapter 20

    Best Dad Award

    • Our poor David does not understand why Saul wants to kill him so stinkin' much.
    • Jonathan tells David he will do everything in his power to save David's life. What are besties for, after all (1-4)?
    • David learns he's supposed to dine at Saul's table for dinner, but doesn't know if it's safe or not. So Jonathan devises a plan explaining how he will let David know of Saul's intentions:
    • (1) David is to hide behind a stone.
    • (2) Jonathan will come out and shoot three arrows.
    • (3) He will send a boy to retrieve them. If he says the arrows are on one side, then David is safe. If he tells the boy that the arrows are beyond him, then David has reason to fear Saul (5-23).
    • Noticing that David's not around, Saul decides to question Jonathan about his whereabouts. Jonathan straight up lies to his dad.
    • Infuriated (because he knows Jonathan is lying), Saul hurdles a spear at his own son. And the best dad of the year award goes to Saul.
    • No worries, though: Jonathan scurries away unharmed and puts his plan into action. Once David knows from the arrows that Saul means to kill David, he says his goodbyes to Jonathan and flees (24-42).
  • Chapter 21

    Earning some XP

    • David comes to see the priest Ahimelech to get food. He tells the priest that he's on a secret mission for the king. Rule number one about secret missions: don't say you're on a secret mission.
    • After eating some holy bread, David asks for weapons for himself and the men with him (because why not escape in secret with an entourage?).
    • Ahimelech says the only weapon available is the sword of Goliath, which David happily claims for himself. David has leveled up and has earn 300XP (1-9).
    • Desperate, David goes to see the Philistine king Achish. He becomes afraid of Achish and thinks that coming to Israel's enemies for help was not such a good idea.
    • To get out of his predicament, David pretends to be crazy by scratching marks on the door of the gate and letting spit run down his beard.
    • Achish thinks David is insane and sends him away (10-15).
  • Chapter 22

    One-Man Killing Spree

    • One of David's brothers leaves home to meet up with David while he takes his parents to Moab for security.
    • David is playing it super safe here. Who knows if Saul will go after his family? He could be that crazy. Or evil. Most likely crazy.
    • A prophet named Gad tells David he needs to find a new hiding place because Saul is getting increasingly more paranoid (1-5).
    • Saul blames his men for not knowing that Jonathan was helping David. Obviously it's their job to know about Jonathan's life, not Saul's (6-8).
    • Saul learns that David went to Ahimelech and his sons for help, so Saul sends for them.
    • When they come, Saul questions Ahimelech because he wants to know why the priest helped David. Ahimelech explains he had no reason to suspect David because he's the king's son-in-law.
    • Saul doesn't like this answer and orders the priest and his sons put to death. Saul's mercenary herdsman dude, Doeg, does the evil for him. Doeg takes it 100 steps further and slaughters all the women, children and livestock in the town (9-19).
    • Ahimelech's son Abiathar escapes and joins David. David says that he knew that bad would come from Doeg seeing him with Ahimelech, so he takes responsibility for all of the deaths of Abiathar's family (20-23).
  • Chapter 23

    David a.k.a. Robin Hood

    • The Philistines are robbing grain at Keilah, so David and his men go attack them.
    • Even though Saul is after them, David still knows he needs to protect the people for God.
    • After David defeats the Philistines, Saul learns of David's whereabouts (1-8).
    • David learns that Saul is coming for him and he starts freaking out.
    • God informs David that the people will turn him over to Saul this time, which is a hard lesson for David because even though he was acting on the people's behalf, they were willing to stab him in the back (9-13).
    • Even though Saul is unable to find David, Jonathan finds him no problem. BFFs can be like that. Jonathan encourages David to keep fighting the good fight because one day he will be king of Israel as God intends (14-18).
    • Saul learns that David is staying in the wilderness of Ziph with his merry men a la Robin Hood. Saul starts chasing through Ziph and a variety of other areas.
    • Unfortunately for Saul, David is quick as lightning and always avoids danger. At one point, Saul and his men are on one side of a mountain and David and his men are on the other side. Tough luck, Saul.
    • Saul gets word the Philistines are raiding the land. For once, Saul makes a good decision and goes to defend the Israelites against the Philistines (15-29).
  • Chapter 24

    Snip the Tip

    • Saul keeps chasing after David, but he eventually has to stop and go to the bathroom because even crazy kings have to pee.
    • He goes into a cave to relieve himself and unfortunately for Saul, David and his men just happen to be in the innermost part of the cave.
    • David's men believe that God is giving David an opportunity to kill Saul, but instead of killing him, he just cuts off a corner of his cloak. Which, hey reminds us of 1 Samuel 15:27-28. In those verses, Saul tore off a piece of Samuel's robe to which Samuel told him that the kingdom would be torn away from him and given to someone else.
    • David has a chance to take the kingdom on this day, but he chooses to let Saul live and leave the cave (1-7).
    • David follows Saul outside and shows him the part of the cloak he cut off. He tells Saul he could have taken his life, but spared him instead.
    • Basically, David is trying to tell Saul that he isn't a threat to the anointed king.
    • Saul goes off on his own, relieved not to be dead. Do you think that Saul will have a change of heart and stop hunting David? Yeah, we don't think so either. And we're usually right (8-22).
  • Chapter 25

    David is a Ladies' Man

    • Get out the tissues, Shmoopers. Samuel dies and the people mourn for him.
    • Actually, it's been so long since we've seen or heard from Samuel, we almost forgot he existed. But don't worry, he'll be back. Really, he will be (1).
    • While Samuel's body is getting cold, David is over in Carmel trying a protection racket. He approaches a farmer named Nabal and offers him protection for money, mafia style.
    • Nabal, not having seen The Godfather, refuses the offer that shouldn't have been refused. Unfortunately for Nabal, he does this by insulting David (2-20).
    • Infuriated, David and his men are ready to strap on their swords and teach Nabal a lesson.
    • Fortunately, Nabal's wife Abigail shows up with food to plead her husband's case. She explains that he is an idiot, but that David will regret his decision to kill him when he becomes king.
    • David accepts the peace offering because we all know, the way to a man's heart is with food (21-35).
    • Nabal is oblivious to everything that has transpired. When Abigail explains the whole situation to him in the morning, the Lord strikes him dead. Suspicious if you ask us (36-38).
    • When David hears that Nabal is dead, he wants to marry Abigail.
    • The lovely lady agrees to the proposal even though her husband's body wasn't even cold yet. But we don't blame her, she's already wasted too much of her life on a fool (39-42).
    • David also marries a woman named Ahinoam, which gives him a total of three wives.
    • However, Saul gave Michal to another man. We wouldn't want to be that other guy because David is going to get his first wife back (43-44).
  • Chapter 26

    Spared Your Life... Again

    • David sends out spies from Ziph to see what Saul is up to.
    • His men volunteer to stab Saul with a spear while he sleeps, but David refuses, believing that God will end Saul's life when the time is right.
    • Instead, David sneaks up to the camp to talk to Saul (1-16).
    • David wakes Saul up like a creep and they chat. David again tells Saul that he had the opportunity to kill him and didn't.
    • He hopes that these actions will cause Saul to stop crusading against him. Saul blesses David for not killing him and hopes he has a successful life. This, again, is only temporary as Saul is still the king of crazy (17-25).
  • Chapter 27

    Benedict David

    • David is tired of being on the run so he goes and does the least obvious thing: make an alliance with the Philistine king, Achish.
    • This is where things get interesting. Instead of playing Robin Hood, David decides to play the part of a traitor, all so he can get the throne from Saul. It's all very clever. Kudos to David's brain (1-7).
    • Achish, for good reason, doesn't trust David.
    • After letting him set up shop in Ziklag, Achish tells David he must prove his loyalty to the Philistines. David does this by raiding the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites.
    • He killed everyone, but he brought animals and clothing to Achish.
    • When Achish asked him where he had been raiding, he lied to him by telling him that he had raided Israel and its allies. David continued to tell Achish this lie.
    • Achish believed that he could trust David because he thought that the Israelites would hate him for attacking them. Of course, no one could catch David in this lie because David killed everybody. We told you that David is an outlaw who looks like he's running his own ancient mafia (8-12).
  • Chapter 28

    He's Back, Baby

    • King Achish is so impressed by David he makes him bodyguard for life. Hooray for David (1-2).
    • Meanwhile, Saul is starting to get desperate. Now that David is with the Philistines (or so everyone thinks), he's even more powerful than before.
    • The Bible tells us that previously in his time as king, Saul had the wizards and witches put to death because they were against God. Sorry, no ancient Hogwarts for you. Unfortunately for Saul, he's so desperate, he's now turning to magic to aid him, despite his past beliefs (3).
    • One of Saul's men reveals that there is a medium living in Endor. No, not the one with the Ewoks. Saul disguises himself and sets out immediately to talk with her (4-10).
    • Once Saul arrives, the medium knows that she is speaking with the king. Either she's really good at her job or Saul is a terrible master of disguise. We're thinking a little from column A and a little from column B.
    • The medium has Saul look into a cauldron. An lo'! From out of the cauldron comes the ghost of Samuel. We told you he'd be back (11-14).
    • Samuel is Mr. Grumpy Robe for being awoken from the dead. In his grumpy state, Samuel tells Saul that God has given the kingdom over to David.
    • He also tells Saul that he and his sons will die in battle the next day. Ghost Samuel leaves Saul crying on the ground in the fetal position. But don't worry, the nice medium makes Saul food to comfort him. Gives new meaning to the term "comfort food" (15-25).
  • Chapter 29

    You're Out

    • The Philistines and David prepare for battle against the Israelites.
    • However, some of Achish's men don't believe David is on their side.
    • To appease his men, Achish tells David that he and his men aren't allowed to fight in the battle against the Israelites. Turns out Achish is a pretty okay guy (1-11).
  • Chapter 30

    Camels are Fast

    • While he and his men were gone, the Amalekites come and burn Ziklag. They take the women and children captive. Even David's wives are taken.
    • The men are very sad. They cry until they cannot weep anymore. The men are in such great distress that they talk about stoning David (1-6).
    • David asks God if he should pursue the Amalekites, and God tells him to go. David starts out with 600 men. 200 of the men are too exhausted to cross the river. The rest of the men continue the mission without them (7-10).
    • They meet an Egyptian along the way, and give him food and drink.
    • When his strength returns, he tells them his story. He was the servant of one of the Amalekite raiders. When he became sick, his master left him. If David's men will spare his life, he will show them the location of the raiders (11-15).
    • David finds the Amalekites having a big party. He attacks them and kills a bunch of them.
    • Somehow, though, 400 of them manage to escape on some very speedy camels.
    • David recovers everything—all of the wives and children. Nothing is missing. David even captures new flocks and herds (16-20).
    • David and his men return to the 200 men who were too exhausted to continue.
    • Some of David's men don't want to give them any of the stuff they had won in battle. They only want to return their wives and children to them.
    • David rules that the men who stayed with the group's belongings would get the same share as those who went into battle. Eventually, David's decision becomes a rule in Israel.
    • Explaining the origin of this rule was probably one of the reasons that the narrator added this story to his discussion of the life of David (21-25).
    • David also sends part of his spoil to his friends. It's good to have friends—especially if you want to be king (26-31).
  • Chapter 31

    So Long Saul

    • The Philistines battle the Israelites on Mount Gilboa. All of Saul's sons are killed, including Jonathan (1-2).
    • While Saul is fighting, he's injured badly by Philistine archers.
    • Afraid that the Philistines will find him and abuse his body, Saul begs his armor boy to run him through with his sword. At this time, this was considered an honorable death. Not so much anymore.
    • The boy is too afraid to take Saul's life, so Saul stabs himself with his own blade and falls down dead. When Saul's armor-bearer sees this, he collapses on his own sword and dies (3-6).
    • The Philistines find Saul's body on Mt. Gilboa. They cut off his head and strip him of his armor. They spread the good news to their temples, and then put Saul's armor in the temple of the goddess Astarte. They fasten his body to the wall of Beth-shan (8-10).
    • Some Israelites travel all night long to recover the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. They bury their bodies under a tree and refuse to eat anything for seven days.
    • In spite of all of the triumphs of Israel in I Samuel, the book ends on the sad note of Saul's death (11-13).