Son of Elkanah and Hannah, Samuel was born in answer to his mother’s prayers (1 Sam. 1). As a child he was placed in the care of Eli, high priest at the tabernacle at Shiloh (1 Sam. 2:11; 3:1). The Lord called Samuel at a young age to become a prophet (1 Sam. 3). After Eli’s death, Samuel became the great prophet and judge of Israel and restored law, order, and regular religious worship in the land (1 Sam. 4:15–18; 7:3–17).
1 Samuel 28:5–20 contains an account of Samuel being brought back from the dead by the witch of Endor at King Saul’s request. This could not have been a vision from God, because a witch or other spiritual medium cannot influence a prophet to appear at his or her request.
In some Bibles, the books of 1 and 2 Samuel are one book. In others they are two books. The books cover a period of about 130 years, from the birth of Samuel until just before the death of King David.
Chapters 1–3 describe that the Lord cursed and punished Eli’s family and called Samuel as high priest and judge. Chapters 4–6 tell how the ark of the covenant fell into the hands of the Philistines. Chapters 7–8 record Samuel’s warnings about having false gods and a wicked king. Chapters 9–15 describe the crowning of Saul and his reign as king. Chapters 16–31 tell the history of David and his gaining of power—Samuel anointed David who had slain Goliath. Saul hated David, but David refused to kill Saul though he had opportunity to do so.
The book contains the details of the reign of David as king of Judah and finally of all Israel. Chapters 1–4 show a long struggle between the followers of David, after he was crowned by Judah, and the followers of Saul. Chapters 5–10 show David becoming powerful throughout many lands. Chapters 11–21 show the decline of David’s spiritual strength because of his sins and the rebellion within his own family. Chapters 22–24 describe David’s attempts to make reconciliation with the Lord.