In the Old Testament, the Lord was instructing the children of Israel in dreams and visions to His prophets and priests. There were several periods during which the children of Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord by worshipping idols. During those periods the word of the Lord became rare and there were not many visions. The Lord also delivered them to the hands of their enemies until they repented and returned to Him. He then gave them prophets and judges to lead them to His way and to rescue them from their oppressors.
Samuel, who was dedicated to the service of the Lord before his birth, became a prophet. He anointed the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. During his lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. Every year, Samuel used to go on a circuit judging for Israel between Ramah, Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh. He lead Israel against the Philistines in Mizpeh.
The birth of Samuel
During the time of Eli the priest and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas were priests of the Lord in Shiloh, a man called Elkanah from Ramathaim had two wives Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah who had children used to provoke Hannah who was barren, and this went on year after year.
Every year, Elkanah used to go to Shiloh and offer his sacrifices to the Lord in the Tabernacle. There Hannah wept to the Lord in the Tabernacle with bitter soul and prayed that He would remove her shame and give her a child. She vowed saying "O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head." (I Samuel 1:11)
Eli the priest saw Hannah mumble, for she was praying silently, and rebuked her thinking she was drunk. When he realized she was praying out of anguish and grief he blessed her saying "Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thy petition that thou hast asked of him." (I Samuel 1:17)
A year later, Hannah gave birth to a son and called him "Samuel" (which means "heard of God") for she has asked him of the Lord. When Samuel was two years old, she presented him in the Tabernacle in Shiloh to serve the Lord all his life.
Meanwhile Eli's two sons who were priests were wicked, and the Lord rejected them because they did not listen to their father's rebuke. A man of God came and told Eli the priest, their father that He will bring their wickedness on all his house and that they will all die in the prime of life. God also told him that his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be killed together in the same day as a sign for the Lord's anger against them.
The Lord calls Samuel
Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli the priest as a child girded with a linen ephod. His mother Hannah made him a little coat and brought it to him along with their yearly sacrifices. Now Eli the priest blessed Elkanah and his wife to have more children. Hannah later on had three more sons and two daughters, while Samuel grew before the Lord.
One night when Eli the priest grew old and his sight became weak, Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle, where the ark of God was, God called Samuel, so he ran to Eli the priest and answered "Here am I; for thou calledst me". Eli then denied and asked him to go back to sleep. But then again the sound came calling Samuel, and he did the same, and Eli sent him back again. The third time, Eli understood that it was the Lord calling Samuel and sent him saying: "Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he calls thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." (I Samuel 3:9)
Then the Lord came again and called Samuel. When Samuel did as Eli instructed him, the Lord told Samuel about the things He will do to Eli's house for the evil doings of his sons and for he has failed to restrain them.
Samuel then grew and the Lord was with him and all of Israel knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord. The Lord appeared again in Shiloh and revealed Himself to Samuel.
Samuel and the Philistines at Mizpeh
The Israelites then went to fight the Philistines at Ebenezer and were defeated and four thousands of them were killed. After their defeat, they brought the ark of God from Shiloh to the camp, and came also the two sons of Eli the priest. But the Philistines defeated Israel again, captured the ark of God and killed thirty thousands of the Israelites among which were Hophni and Phinehas. When Eli the priest heard the bad news he fell off his chair and his neck was broken and died.
The ark of God remained in the hands of the Philistines for seven months during which their idols fell broken into pieces on their own, they were struck with tumors outbreaks and many died. The hand of the Lord was heavy on the Philistines, and they returned the ark to the Israelites for death has filled their cities. When the ark returned to the Israelites, they kept it Kiriath Jearim for twenty years, during which all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
Samuel then told the Israelites to rid themselves of all their wickedness and their foreign gods for God to deliver them form the hand of the Philistines. When they did and committed themselves to the Lord, Samuel gathered them at Mizpeh where they fasted and confessed "We have sinned against the Lord" (I Samuel 7:6) The Philistines seeing this came out to attack the Israelites, but Samuel made a whole burnt offering of a lamb and called on the Lord on behalf of Israel and God answered him. Meanwhile, God thundered against the Philistines and they were thrown in panic and they were smitten before Israel. That day Samuel built an altar to the Lord and called it "Ebenezer" (which means "stone of help"). The Lord subdued the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
Israel asks for a king
Samuel judged for Israel all his life in Ramah where he also built an altar. He also went on a circuit every year to judge for all Israel, but he always went back to his house in Ramah. When he grew old he made his sons judges over Israel, but they did not walk in his way but perverted judgement. Then, all the elders of Israel gathered to Samuel at Ramah asking him to appoint a king to rule over them as all the other nations had. This displeased Samuel for they have rejected God as their king, but the Lord allowed it asking Samuel to warn them about how the king will rule over them, how they will suffer form him and the Lord would not answer them. The Israelites insisted on having a king and refused to listen to Samuel.
Some time later, the Lord revealed to Samuel that a Benjamite man would come to him, and that to anoint king over Israel. The following day, Saul son of Kish lost his way while looking for his father's donkeys, and he went to ask guidance from Samuel. The Lord pointed him to Samuel who praised him and invited him to dine with him. Before Saul left, Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him and told him that the Lord has chosen him as king. As Saul left Samuel, God changed his heart, and he prophesied. Later that day, Samuel called the Israelites to Mizpeh to choose a king and the Lord chose Saul and he was made king.
Samuel's farewell speech
The Ammonites then besieged the city of Jabesh and were going to gouge out the right eye of every one of the Israelites. Saul then, moved by the Spirit of God and His power, and lead the people of Israel to slaughtered the Ammonites. He was confirmed king over Israel at Gilgal. That same day, Samuel addressed the Israelites and told them again how evil was it from them to ask for a king instead of God. He asked for a sign from God for them to believe; he called upon the Lord and asked Him to send thunder and rain during that wheat harvest season. The Israelites stood in awe of the Lord and Samuel, and wept and asked for God's forgiveness. Samuel assured them that as long as they feared the Lord and followed His commandments He will save them.
Samuel anoints David
The Philistines rose again to fight the Israelites and scared them. Saul was waiting for Samuel to come to the camp but when he tarried, Saul offered the burnt offering. Soon after, Samuel came and rebuked Saul for his foolish act. God spoke on Samuel's tongue that Saul's kingdom would not endure and that God has chosen a man after God's own heart to be a king.
Later on, the Lord sent Samuel to ask Saul to go and punish the Amalekites and not to spare any of them or their animals. Saul fought them all the way to the east of Egypt and captured Agag their king and their best cattle but destroyed all the rest. Again God sent Samuel to rebuke Saul, who wanted to offer these animals to God. But God was not pleased by these offerings more than by obeying His words; and since God rejected Saul. Samuel killed Agag and went back to Ramah and grieved for Saul. The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and an evil spirit tormented him.
The Lord then said to Samuel: "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons." (I Samuel 16:1) When Samuel did not choose any of Jesse's seven sons who were presented, they sent for the youngest, David, who was tending his father's sheep. He was the one with whom God was pleased and Samuel anointed him, and the Spirit of the Lord came on David in power.
When Saul heard of David, he brought him to play the harp when the evil spirit from God comes upon him. But when David killed Goliath by the name of the Lord Almighty, Saul kept a jealous eye on David for his success and because the Lord was with David. He also tried to kill him twice while playing the harp for him. David fled, he went to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. Then he and Samuel went to Naioth and stayed there. Sometime later, David sought refuge in the land of the Philistines.
Saul and the witch of Endor
When Samuel died, all Israel mourned for him and buried him in Ramah. Then the Philistines gathered to fight against Israel and scared Saul and terror filled his heart. He sought help from the Lord but God did not answer him. He sought a woman spiritist (because he had expelled them from the land). He found one in Endor, disguised himself and asked her to bring up Samuel.
When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed out of fear; she also realized that the man who sought her was Saul himself. When Saul asked Samuel for help and guidance, Samuel answered: "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up? ... Why do you consult me, now that the LORD has turned away from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors--to David. Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines." (I Samuel 28:15-19)
God knows the hearts and his promises never fail. God puts down the mighty ones from their seats and exalt the humble. God talks to His loved ones and reveals His acts to them. God's Spirit helps His servants and supports them. God is pleased by obeying His commandments more than by oblations and sacrifices.