This book represents the personal history of Samuel, last of the Judges. It records the moral failure of the priesthood under Eli, and of the Judges in Samuel's attempt to make the office hereditary ( 1 Samuel 8:1 ). In his prophetic office Samuel was faithful, and in him begins the line of writing prophets. Henceforth the prophet, not the priest, is conspicuous in Israel. In this book the theocracy, as exercised through judges, ends ( 1 Samuel 8:7 ), and the line of kings begins with Saul.
The book is in four parts:
- The story of Samuel to the death of Eli, 1:1-4:22.
- From the taking of the ark to the demand for a king, 5:1-8:22.
- The reign of Saul to the call of David, 9:1-15:35.
- From the call of David to the death of Saul, 16:1-31:13.
The events recorded in First Samuel cover a period of 115 years (Ussher).