5.20 1 Samuel -- Review of 1 Samuel
We have covered the transition from judges to the monarchy, and also from tribal Israel to national Israel. The demand of the Israelites to be ruled by a king, "such as all the other nations have", was realized. As we have seen, God opposed their wishes, yet granted their desire! The rest of the book is a character study of Saul at his worst, and by contrast, David at his best. Saul's main fault was that he was not a lover or a seeker of God. He was concerned with his own name, his reputation and his own dynasty. He followed the path of Pharaoh, in that instead of refusing to repent for his wrong actions, he "hardened his heart" and pursued his own will. Eventually, the Spirit of God, who originally chose him and gave him the authority and ability to rule, left him, and an evil spirit took His place. This spirit catered to all Saul's baser instincts and paranoid thoughts. From then on, Saul's course was unfailingly downhill, akin to one of the darker Shakespearean royal tragedies.
David, on the other hand, came out of obscurity, was appointed by God to rule, performed an heroic act of deliverance in killing Goliath, and then was exiled to the wilderness. He had to flee for his life from a man whom he served faithfully and unreservedly. He found refuge in caves, the desert, and among Israel's enemies. This period of his life was his proving ground. He learned to lead men, deal with foreign leaders, and depend on the Spirit of God in good times and bad (eg. the burning of Ziklag). David was a multifaceted man -- shepherd, warrior, singer-poet -- with a fixed moral compass.
As to relations with foreigners, Saul battled the Philistines throughout his reign. Likewise, David had no hesitancy about killing the enemies of God -- Philistines and Amalekites -- yet he was amazingly versatile in his earthly allegiances. He lodged his parents with Moab, and himself took service under the Philistines. This did not serve to make him more "tolerant": the lines of separation between foreigner and Israelite remained firmly drawn. In 2 Samuel, we shall look more closely at his treatment of non-Israelites during his rule as king.
Lastly, we must note once again the persistent undercurrent of prophetic activity that went on parallel to the political history. The Spirit of God "interrupts normal programming" from time to time. There seems to have been two ways of determining the will of God: 1. to ask a specific question of a priest who would determine God's answer from the Urim and Thummim. 2. to seek out a seer like Samuel, or others of the prophetic "band." This was a caution to rulers that God remained sovereign of the nation, and that His Spirit was present as a guide, or as a judge. We will see an expansion in the role of the prophets in the later monarchy: as the quality of the kings declined, the prophetic role became more vital.