You will find an introduction and outline to 1 Samuel here.
A prayer to use before reading from the liturgy of John Chrysostom, 4th century:
Incomprehensible Creator, the true Fountain of light and only Author of all knowledge: deign, we beseech Thee, to enlighten our understanding, and to remove from us all darkness of sin and ignorance. Thou, who makest eloquent the tongues of those who lack utterance, direct our tongues, and pour on our lips the grace of thy blessing. Give us a diligent and obedient spirit, quickness of apprehension, capacity of retaining, and the powerful assistance of Thy holy grace; that what we hear or learn we may apply to Thy honor and the eternal salvation of our own souls. Amen
An Outline of First Samuel ( from Birch)
A. 1 Samuel 1:1-7:17 Samuel and the Crisis of Israel
B. 1 Samuel 8:1-15:35 The Kingship of Saul
C. 1 Samuel 16:1-31:13 The Rise of David and the Decline of Saul
16:1-13 The Anointing of David
16:14-23 David Is Introduced to Saul’s Court
17:1-58 David Defeats Goliath
18:1-20:42 David and the Household of Saul:
19:1-24 Saul’s Threat to David’s Life: There are four escapes in this chapter. We find the depths of Saul’s violence and madness and the extent of David’s support. Saul’s own children (Jonathan and Michal) protect David from their father. In verse 6 Saul takes an oath to not kill David and by verse 10 he is trying to kill him. David escapes and flees to Samuel. Three sets of messengers from Saul fail to kill David and in fact they enter a prophetic frenzy. Finally Saul arrives and he to falls naked before Samuel and prophesies. Now the phrase, “Is Saul among the prophets?” (see 10:11-12) is answered “no”.
20:1-42 The Friendship of Jonathan and David: This chapter, while about whether David must permanently leave Saul is also -and perhaps more importantly- about the friendship between Jonathan and David and Jonathan’s difficult task of balancing conflicting loyalties and responsibilities. The first half of the chapter is a long conversation between Jonathan and David. The second half tells the story of how their plan works out. In verses 12-15 Jonathan acknowledges David’s coming kingship, even though in the normal course of events Jonathan ought to be king. Verses 35-42 is the sad story of Jonathan and David’s parting. What does this chapter tell us about friendship and loyalty?
21:1-26:25 David as Fugitive: Until now David, as a character in this story, has been fairly passive. Now he becomes more active.
21:1-9 David and Ahimelech at Nob: David is on the run and the priest ( the most important priest in the land) comes to his aid with food and a weapon. And not just any food or any weapon but holy bread and the sword of Goliath. This incident is the one Jesus refers to in Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5 and Matt 12:1-8.
21:10-15 David Plays the Madman: First Saul’s family, then the priest and now a foreign king’s servants all recognize David as king. It seems that David perhaps had hoped for anonymity in order to hide. When that was not possible, David fakes madness. The story takes a swipe at the Philistines “Am I so short of madmen that have to bring this fellow here to carry on in front of me?” Ironically, of course David is sane on the run and pretending to be mad and Saul actually is mad but on the throne.
22:1-5 The Entourage of David: David’s family come to him as do those in distress, debt and the discontented. David finds a save refuge for his family with the king of Moab. Remember that David’s great grandmother (Ruth) was a Moabite.
22:6-23 Saul Massacres the Priests at Nob: Saul fears that his son in in league with David against him. We as readers know this is not true. Doeg an Edomite tells what he saw in 21:1-9. Saul summons the priest, Ahimelech and all the other priests and accuses them of conspiracy. Ahimelech defends himself but to no avail. Saul orders all the priests killed. Saul’s men refuse and Doeg does the killing. One man escapes to David and David takes responsibility for the death of the priests.
Our chapters to read this week tell a sad story. What do they have to say about power, loyalty, and friendship?
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of 1 Samuel
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Birch, Bruce C., “The First and Second Books of Samuel, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 2 Keck, Leander E., ed. (Nashville”Abingdon Press) 1994.
Cohn, Robert L. “1 Samuel” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
McKenzie, Steven L, “1 Samuel” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Aporcryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Fully Revised 4 th Edition, Michael Cougan, ed. (New York:Oxford University Press) 2010.
Stinespring, William F. and Burke O. Long “1 Samuel” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds.(New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.