1 Samuel 1–11

Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2003), 119–21


In 1 Samuel 1–11 is an account of Eli’s death and the subsequent transfer of the judgeship from Eli, the first of Israel’s judges who was also a priest, to Samuel, the boy-prophet who would be Israel’s last judge. Samuel, like Samson before him, was a child of promise, born by divine providence to a previously barren mother. Samuel and Samson were also both Nazarites. Samuel, however, by faith, was able to subdue the Philistines, something the physically strong but spiritually unfaithful Samson was not able to do. These chapters also tell about Israel’s desire to do away with judges and have an earthly king, in effect, rejecting their true King, the God of heaven, Jesus Christ.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • Miracles can come to those who ask in faith (see 1 Samuel 1:1–17; see also Mormon 9:15–20).

  • Parents are responsible to teach their children to love the Lord and refrain from evil (see 1 Samuel 2:27–34; 3:13; see also D&C 68:25–32).

  • The Lord calls us in many ways, and learning to recognize His voice is important to our spiritual growth in this life (see 1 Samuel 3:1–10).

  • We can only fully receive the powers of heaven in our behalf when we are righteous (see 1 Samuel 4–7; see also D&C 121:34–44).

  • When we reject inspired counsel from the prophet or other Church leaders, we are really rejecting God (see 1 Samuel 8:7; see also D&C 1:37–38).

  • Callings from the Lord are revealed to those in authority. Those in authority then call, present for a sustaining vote, set apart, and train those the Lord has chosen (see 1 Samuel 9–10).

Suggestions for Teaching

video icon Old Testament Video presentation 18, “For This Child I Prayed” (12:16), can be used in teaching 1 Samuel 1–11 (see Old Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

1 Samuel 1–3. Parents are responsible to teach their children to love the Lord and refrain from evil. (35–45 minutes)

Ask students what they believe is the world’s greatest need. Let them discuss their ideas for a minute or two, then read the following statement by President David O. McKay:

“If I were asked to name the world’s greatest need, I should say unhesitatingly wise mothers; and … exemplary fathers” (David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay [1967], 2).

Ask students why they think that would be true.

Have students look over 1 Samuel 1–2 and make notes of qualities and actions that show Hannah was a wise and exemplary mother (see 1 Samuel 1:10–11, 15–18, 20, 24–28; 2:1–10). Have them share what they wrote. You may also want to use the commentaries for 1 Samuel 1–2 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (pp. 267–69). Ask:

  • What did Hannah want more than anything else?

  • Why do you think she desperately wanted children?

  • What is the importance of having children in Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness?

  • After we are blessed with children, what is our responsibility as parents? (see D&C 68:25–31).

Have students read 1 Samuel 2:12–17, 22 and ask:

  • What sins did Eli’s sons commit as priests in the tabernacle?

  • Read 1 Samuel 2:22–25 and 3:12–13. What did Eli do about his sons’ actions?

  • Read what the Lord said to Eli in 1 Samuel 2:27–36 and 3:12–14. What did Eli do wrong?

  • How did Eli “honor his sons above the Lord”?

  • What do we learn from the severity of the Lord’s punishment of Eli? (see 1 Samuel 4:10–18).

  • How is Eli’s punishment symbolic of what may happen in eternity if we are not diligent in our family duties?

Help students understand that children have their agency and sometimes go astray even when their parents have done their best. This was the case with Samuel, who also had disobedient sons, but the Lord did not condemn him because of it (see 1 Samuel 8:1–3).

Ask students what they think are the major challenges facing young people today who want to be “wise mothers” and “exemplary fathers.” Ask: Does the world support and promote the same beliefs about men, women, and families as the Lord does?

If possible, provide the students with a copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” (see p. 230). Invite students to find sentences and paragraphs that describe what “wise mothers” and “exemplary fathers” should do. Discuss what students can do now to prepare themselves to become the kind of parents described in the proclamation on the family.

1 Samuel 3:1–10. Learning to recognize the voice of the Lord is important for our spiritual welfare in this life. (20–25 minutes)

Make an audio recording of six or eight different sounds, some that would be familiar to the students and others that would not. (Or make preparations to produce the sounds in class and have the students close their eyes.) After each sound, let the students guess what it was. Afterward ask them why they recognized some sounds and not others. Have them read 1 Samuel 3:1–10 and ask:

  • What sound did Samuel hear that he did not recognize at first?

  • What do you think it means that the “word of the Lord was precious in those days”? (v. 1; see also the commentary for 1 Samuel 3:1 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 269).

The Lord, by His own voice, called Samuel to be a prophet. God communicates to His people through His prophets, but He also may communicate personally with each of His children. Ask students to list other ways the Lord communicates with us, such as through the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, parents, and local Church leaders. As a class or in groups, have students study the following scriptures and list what we can do to more easily recognize the Lord’s voice:

Consider sharing a personal experience that helped you learn to recognize the voice of the Lord.

1 Samuel 4–7. Faith and righteousness are necessary before miracles can be done in our behalf. (25–30 minutes)

Show several items that symbolize good or bad luck to your students, such as a rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover, or horseshoe. Ask how much power those items have to perform miracles. Have students review Joshua 3:9–17 and tell what object the Israelites possessed that was associated with miracles.

Have students read 1 Samuel 4:1–11 and explain why the ark of the covenant did not save the Israelites from the Philistines. Ask them what the difference is between the ark and a good luck charm. (See also the commentary for 1 Samuel 4–7 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, pp. 269–70). Have them read Mormon 9:15–21 and identify the true source of miracles and what we must do to have miracles in our lives.

Show students the picture of the Philistine god Dagon from Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel (p. 270). Have them read 1 Samuel 5:1–4 and tell what miracle happened in the temple of Dagon. Read 1 Samuel 5:6–12 with them and discuss the destruction that came upon the Philistines for taking the ark of the covenant. Read 1 Samuel 6:1–12 and look for what the Philistines did with the ark (see also the commentaries for 1 Samuel 5:2–3 and 5:6–12; 6:1–9 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 270).

Have students read 1 Samuel 7:3–13 and look for what Samuel told the Israelites to do to gain power over their enemies (see also the commentary for 1 Samuel 7:13 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 270). Ask them how those methods compared with what Israel tried to do to defeat the Philistines in 1 Samuel 4–6. Invite students to suggest ways they can apply Samuel’s counsel to their own struggles.

weekly icon 1 Samuel 8:1–5. We should live according to the way the Lord has commanded, not the world’s way. (45–50 minutes)

List on the board or show pictures of some styles that were popular when you were younger, such as a type or style of clothing, a hairstyle, a slang expression, or a way of dancing. After your students have looked at and perhaps laughed about those old-fashioned styles, have them identify some of the styles that are popular with young people today. Ask:

  • How will your children probably view these fashions in twenty years?

  • If styles are so temporary, why do some people try so hard to follow them?

Have students read 1 Samuel 8:1–5 and identify the pattern the ancient Israelites wanted to follow and why. Have them read verses 6–8 and tell what the Lord said Israel was really doing when they wanted a king in order to be just like all the other nations (see also the commentary for 1 Samuel 8:3–7 in Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel, p. 271). Have them complete activity A for 1 Samuel 8 in their student study guides (p. 93), then discuss what they wrote. Ask:

  • What does Samuel’s prophecy teach us about the dangers of having an unrighteous king?

  • Why do you think the Israelites did not heed Samuel’s warning?

  • Why do some people today prefer to follow the ways of the world instead of the ways of the Lord? (see Helaman 12:4–6; D&C 10:20–22; 123:12).

  • Why does the Lord allow people to choose what He knows will bring unhappiness? (see “Agency,” p. 14).

Help students understand that not everything that is popular is wrong or evil but that some things are. Have students list on the board some of the fashions and practices the world accepts and even encourages that we know are against the Lord’s commandments. Ask how we are like the ancient Israelites when we follow worldly standards we know are wrong.

Share the following statement by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“Samuel called the people together and explained to them that the people of the Lord should be different, with higher standards. ‘We want to be like other peoples,’ they demanded. ‘We do not want to be different.’ …

“Not so different are we today! We want the glamor and frothiness of the world, not always realizing the penalties of our folly. … Others … indulge in their social drinking—‘we must also have a king like unto other nations!’

“Styles are created by the vulgar and money-mad and run from one extreme to the other to out-date present wardrobes and create business for merchants. We cannot be different. We would rather die than be ‘not up to date.’ If the dress is knee length we must go [a] little above the knee. If shorts are short we must have the shortest. … [I]f bathing suits are skimpy, we must have the skimpiest. ‘We must have a king like unto other nations!’

“The Lord says he will have a peculiar people but we do not wish to be peculiar. … If intimate fondling is the pattern of the crowd, we will fondle. ‘We must have a king like unto other nations!’ …

“Others have hollywood marriages with finery and glitter and ostentatious pomposity. We also must have candles, gowns, best men and ladies in waiting, often dangerously near immodestly dressed. ‘We must have a king like unto other nations!’

“The world has a queen in every industry, business, factory, school and social group. She must dress immodestly, display her figure and appear in public places to further the financial interests of business, entertainment and social groups. … Ours, also, must have a beautiful face, a little talent, and a well-formed body for public exhibition. We can do little else for ‘we must have a queen like unto other nations!’ …

“When, oh when, will our Latter-day Saints stand firm on their own feet, establish their own standards, follow proper patterns and live their own glorious lives in accordance with Gospel inspired patterns. … Certainly good times and happy lives and clean fun are not dependent upon the glamorous, the pompous, the extremes” (“Like All the Nations,” Church News 15 Oct. 1960, 14).

To help your students apply what they have learned, ask them to imagine they have a close friend or family member who is struggling with following the temptations of the world. Have them search the Topical Guide for scriptures they could use to help teach that person that he or she will be much happier following the Lord and not the world (for example, Alma 40:11–14; 41).

1 Samuel 9–10. The Lord calls individuals to serve in callings by inspiration to those in authority. (25–30 minutes)

President Thomas S. Monson, a member of the First Presidency, said:

“Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 52: or Ensign, May 1988, 43).

Invite a student to quote the fifth Article of Faith, and ask students to explain what it means. Share an experience when you received a call to serve in the Church. Describe your feelings about the call and how the Lord helped you. Explain how you knew the call came from the Lord.

Tell students that Saul’s calling to be Israel’s first earthly king teaches us some important principles about how people are called to serve in the kingdom of God. Read 1 Samuel 10:1, 6–12, 17–27 with your students to learn answers to the following questions:

  • Even though Samuel extended the call and anointed Saul, who did Samuel say was actually responsible for Saul’s calling and anointing? (see 1 Samuel 10:1; see also 1 Samuel 9:15–17; Articles of Faith 1:5).

  • What did the Lord do for Saul to help make him equal to his calling as king? (see 1 Samuel 10:6–7, 9). Many Church leaders testify that when they were sustained and set apart for a calling, a profound feeling about the Lord’s work came to them, along with a deeper love for the people they were called to serve. They also find that the Lord inspires them to make the right decisions.

  • What did Samuel promise to do to help? (see v. 8). Those who preside have a responsibility to train those who serve under them.

  • What did Saul do when some accepted him and some did not? (see vv. 9–11, 26–27).

  • Why did Samuel call the people together to present Saul as the king? (see vv. 17–24). This is called the law of common consent (see D&C 26:1–2). It is a sacred opportunity to acknowledge before God that the person has been called to the work and that the congregation covenants to support and follow this individual in righteousness.

For each principle discussed, share additional insights or personal experiences that will help them see the hand of the Lord in the way the Church is governed. You might consider inviting a priesthood leader, such as a bishop or branch president, to talk to the class about callings.