Story of the Old Testament - Lesson 8

By Glen Pemberton

Title: A Time of Transition - Samuel & Saul

Text: Judges 17 - I Samuel 15

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. To help the student grasp the basic story line of the Old Testament as it develops in Judges 17 - I Samuel 15.
  2. To teach the student the proper role and attitude of a godly leader.
  3. To convince the student that God can be trusted with any crises in his or her life.


  1. A Bible for each student.
  2. A chalk board or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #8 (“A Time of Transition”)


The verdict is clear by the end of the book of Judges: Israel must have a king! Two key figures, Samuel and Saul, lead Israel through the transition from the “judges” to the “kings” in I Samuel 1-15. Although their roles differ, both of these men face a common issue: What is the proper role of a leader of God’s people? Ultimately, these men are challenged to recognize their role as a conduit of the Lord’s leadership (who is the true king and leader of Israel) rather than trusting in their own abilities.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class:

Introduction: (about 5 minutes)

  1. Welcome visitors. Make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests & leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences: (about 25 minutes)

  1. Review and set the stage for today’s study.
    1. Last week in our study of the Heroes of Israel (Judges 1- 16), we observed that the people had several problems in their newly acquired land:
      1. Pattern of desertion
      2. Lack of unity among the tribes
      3. Lack of enduring human leadership (God would raise up a deliverer or leader, but only for a short time. After the leader’s death, Israel would once again be without strong human leadership.)
    2. At the end of the book of Judges the verdict is clear. Israel is morally bankrupt due to a lack of leadership, more specifically, the lack of a king! (Read 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25)
    3. The centralization of government (lacking in Judges) and the selection of a king are pivotal moments for the nation of Israel and for the continuation of the promises made to Abraham. Review the promises and their status:
      1. I will give you the land (Q. Status? Essentially done; they are in the land although they have failed to conquer all that was promised)
      2. I will bless the world through you (Q. Status? Happening sporadically as people learn about the God of Israel).
      3. I will make of you a great nation. (Q. Status? They are a numerous people, but technically not a nation. They have no centralized government or king. Surrounding nations pose a constant threat of destroying Israel.)
    4. Special Note to the Teacher: Deuteronomy 17:14-20 is another important text for the establishment of the monarchy. Here, God recognizes beforehand the need for a king and sets special rules for the kingship.
    5. The movement from the era of judges (or heroes) to that of a solidified monarchy was gradual and difficult. Our lesson today will focus on two key transitional figures during this era.
      1. For both of these men, the key to successful leadership is the recognition that they are not, in fact, the leader of God’s people.
      2. Rather, God is the true leader and real king of Israel. Any successful leader must recognize that he or she is only a servant through whom God works.
  2. Samuel’s work
    1. You might recall from Bible Classes as a child that Samuel grew up as a servant in the Tabernacle (place of worship) under the guidance of the priest Eli (I Sam 1- 3).
    2. As an adult Samuel performs many different tasks.
      1. He is one of the Heroes or Judges of Israel (7:6, 15- 17).
        1. He is a court “judge” (7:15-17), a military leader (7:5-12), and “zealot” (15:32-33).
        2. In this respect, he carries on the tradition of leadership found in the book of Judges.
      2. He is a Prophet to whom the Lord speaks (I Sam 3) and who consults the Lord on behalf of the people (9:6-10,15)
      3. He is a Priest who offers sacrifices (9:11-14).
    3. Samuel seems to recognize that his role as a leader is one of service on behalf of God.
      1. He repeatedly calls the people to turn to the Lord (7:3-4; 12:13-15)
      2. He repeatedly prays to the Lord (7:8-10; 12:19,23)
      3. Samuel recognizes that the power does not belong to him, but to the Lord! (Read 7:12)
      4. Samuel, therefore, is obedient to the Lord ? even when he does not especially like the command. For example, Samuel is not too happy when God tells him to anoint a king for the people. This takes us to I Samuel 8.
  3. I Samuel 8 tells of a critical moment in Israel’s history in about 1050 BCE (Read).
    1. This text presents three different views on the kingship:
      1. Q. What do the people think or want? A. We Need a King! Q. Why? A. Several reasons in the text:
        1. Samuel is old (8:5)
        2. Samuel’s sons are wicked (8:5)
        3. We want a king to govern us like the nations (8:5,19-20)
        4. We want a military leader (8:20)
        5. Ultimately: We can’t trust God (rejection of God: 8:7)
      2. Q. What does Samuel think? A. No!
        1. No king under any circumstance! (8:6)
        2. Samuel even seems to be somewhat uncooperative with the process. God tells him to anoint a king (8:22a), but Samuel dismisses the people (8:22b).
      3. Q. What does God think about their request for a king? A. They may have a king, but
        1. You (Samuel) must warn them about the “ways of the king” (8:9)
        2. You must remember that I am the true King of Israel. Any earthly king is only my representative or prince (8:7; 9:16)
        3. Special Note to the Teacher: These directives are in harmony with the legislation regarding the king found in Deut 17:14ff. God is not against a monarchy, but is against the way this has come about ? failing to trust him to provide.
    2. Q. So how does the request for a king turn out? A. Eventually, the Lord selects a man named Saul and tells Samuel to anoint him as king (I Sam 9:27-10:1 [read if time permits]).
  4. Saul, the first king of Israel.
    1. Although he is anointed by Samuel to be king, Saul faces a number of difficulties in assuming the throne.
      1. Kingship in Israel is a new thing!
      2. Not everyone is happy with the selection of Saul (10:27), he must prove himself a worthy candidate.
      3. Above all, Saul faces the struggle of recognizing his proper role as the earthly “prince” acting for the true King.
    2. At first, Saul seems to recognize his proper role and rely upon the Lord for strength and guidance. One example:
      1. Read the story of Jabesh Gilead (I Sam 11:1-11). Q. What happened? A. (Summarize the story.)
        1. Q. What is Saul’s reaction? Look at me? Look how great I am? A. No. Read 11:12-13. Saul recognizes that it is the Lord who has brought victory and that he has only been the conduit of the Lord’s work.
        2. This victory also confirms Saul’s position as king (11:14-15)
    3. Unfortunately, the reign of Saul is marked by a declining reliance upon the Lord and a growing reliance upon himself. He forgot his proper role as the leader of God’s people.
      1. I Samuel 13-15 recounts three stories in which Saul fails to trust the Lord and takes matters into his own hands.
      2. Look briefly at the first and third of these stories. Note to the Teacher: If time does not permit study of both stories, I recommend focusing on the third.
        1. In chapter 13, Jonathan (Saul’s son) “picks a battle” with the Philistines (13:2-4). The Philistines muster for war and Israel is in big trouble (13:5-7).
          1. In the crisis, Saul takes action (read 13:8-9). Q. What does Saul do? Why? A. He offers the sacrifice himself for many reasons (see 13:11-12).
          2. Immediately, Samuel arrives and confronts Saul (read 13:10-12). Samuel’s first question to Saul was “What have you done?” (13:11) Saul replies with a series of excuses for his actions, but Samuel responds with the key analysis (read 13:13-15)
            1. The key problem is that Saul does not trust the Lord to take care of him and the people. Thus, he does not obey the Lord’s instruction.
            2. He is forgetting his role!
            3. Consequently, Samuel announces that Saul and his family will not retain the throne. God has already sought out a man “after his own heart” to take his job.
        2. In chapter 15, the Lord commands Saul to attack and destroy the Amalekites (15:1-3; see Exod 17:8-16 for the background to this command).
          1. Saul obediently leads the army into battle (15:4-9), but he fails to completely destroy the best of the stuff (read 15:7-9).
          2. The Lord sends Samuel to confront Saul. Read 15:17-23. Q. What is Saul’s reason for sparing the best of the stuff? A. To sacrifice it to the Lord. Q. How does Samuel respond? A. Obedience is more important than sacrifice!
          3. Again, Saul is forgetting his proper role. Instead of relying upon the true King of Israel and obeying him, Saul is taking matters into his own hands.
    4. Although Saul started strong, in the end he failed to be the leader God needed for his people. Next week we will study the life of the man chosen to take Saul’s place ? the man “after the heart of God” ? David.


(about 5 minutes; discuss one or more of the following topics)

  1. What are the most important qualities for godly leadership? How do Samuel and Saul demonstrate or fail to demonstrate these qualities? Who is a leader that you know that exemplifies godly leadership? Explain your choice.
  2. Samuel and Saul both faced situations that forced them to decide whether they could really trust the Lord to help them or not. What situations are you facing in your life that demand a similar decision? Do you find it difficult to really trust the Lord? Why? What do we learn from today’s study that can encourage us to trust the Lord?
  3. How do the stories of Samuel and Saul fit within the Story of the Old Testament? Why was it important for Israel to establish a monarchy? Assignment: Read I Samuel 17-22 and II Samuel 1-5 Wrap-up: Prayer that
  4. Thanks God for his reliability as the only true king.
  5. Asks God to help us totally trust him with the problems in our lives rather than trusting ourselves.
  6. Asks God to help our leaders (spiritual and political) to place their trust in him.

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