Many adults become so familiar with certain Bible stories that they could forget children may not have the same level of knowledge. In fact, children may have many questions like “Who was King David,” or “Who was Samuel in the Bible?”
A good way to overcome this comprehension gap is with lots of information and related interactive activities such as art projects, books and pretend play about the Bible hero Samuel.
Credit: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing under CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:First_Book_of_Samuel_Chapter_16-4_%28Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media%29.jpgCredit: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing under CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:First_Book_of_Samuel_Chapter_16-4_%28Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media%29.jpg
Fun Facts About Samuel in the Bible
Use some or all of these facts about Samuel's life to make his story easier for children to understand. Alternatively, turn this list into a series of questions to use in Bible bowls or as trivia questions.
- Samuel’s parents were Hannah and Elkanah.
- Elkanah was a Levite. Levites served God by working in the temple.
- Other famous Levites like Elkanah and Samuel are:
- John the Baptist.
- Hannah prayed for a baby and promised to dedicate the child to God.
- In Bible times, names had meanings and often described a person’s character, skills or other attributes. For instance, Pharaoh’s daughter chose the name Moses for the baby she found floating in a basket on the Nile because Moses means, “drawn from the water.” Samuel means, “Heard of God” or "Asked of God."
- His parents took Samuel to the temple to enter God's service when he was just a toddler.
- Samuel's parents came to visit him at the temple regularly.
- In Bible times, people went to tabernacles (moveable tents) to worship instead of church buildings.
- The priests (Levites) led the worship services and helped the people make sacrifices and offerings to God. Their jobs were like those of church deacons and elders.
- The head priest was similar to our present day pastors.
- Eli was the head priest when Samuel went to live at the tabernacle; he was Samuel’s teacher.
- Samuel became the high priest when Eli died.
- God chose Samuel as his prophet: Samuel heard someone call his name four times while he was sleeping.
- Samuel did not recognize God’s voice, but Eli realized who was calling out to Samuel.
- Samuel was about three years old when he went to live at the tabernacle and learn to be a priest.
- Samuel had at least four important jobs:
- High priest
- In biblical times, the judges were similar to minor governmental officials such as governors; Samuel was the last of the judges.
- He was the first of the major prophets.
- As a warrior, he led the Israelites in a successful battle against the Philistines.
In our world today, there are people called king-makers. These influential people can help other people get into positions of power such as Congress or the office of President. Samuel could be considered a biblical king-maker because God chose him to find and anoint the first two kings of Israel.
Extension Activities for the Story of Samuel
You may think of other questions or facts about Samuel children would want to know. If you are teaching early elementary students, extend this lesson by asking the children what questions they have. This uncovers any areas where students may need more explanations to help them understand. Assess comprehension for other students with pop quizzes or essay questions.
Early Childhood Education Tips
Keep in mind that at the early childhood education level, students understand concrete rather than abstract ideas, so keep it simple and use illustrations they can relate to. For example, “Samuel was a little child just like you when he went to live at the temple and help Eli.”
Tips for Older Students
If you are working with older students who read and write independently, a good class project is reading the scriptures to uncover more facts about Samuel because most students love the idea of being detectives. Bible Detectives 1 Samuel by Marianne Ross is a fun Bible study that uses interactive methods like puzzles to keep students engaged while they hunt down clues, and using it saves the time of creating a lesson plan and related materials.
Arts & Crafts
Another hands-on way to extend lessons like this one is to encourage the children to make a drawing or poster about their favorite thing about Samuel or the part of his story that they liked best.
Pretend Plays and Dramas
Almost all children enjoy acting out Bible stories, and the story of Samuel is dramatized quickly with a few simple props.
DIY Bible Costumes and Props
- Adult size knit shirts (plain colors or with vertical stripes) make authentic looking tunics.
- Use belts or scarves to cinch in the waist and shorten the garments so the children will not trip.
- Wrap large pieces of rectangular shaped fabric or scarves around the head to create head coverings.
- Let the children take their off their shoes and socks. (Many people went barefoot in Bible days.)
- Oversized plastic candy canes left over from Christmas decorations make excellent staffs.
- Use blankets, cots or large towels to make beds for Samuel and Eli.
- Ask parents and caregivers to donate these items or pick them up at the local thrift stores.
Tips for Dramatizing Samuel's Story
- Write the names of the children on slips of paper. Pick out slips to choose the students to play Samuel, Eli and God. (This eliminates most classroom battles about fairness.)
- For younger students, the teacher can be the narrator and tell the story. Older students can tell the story in their own words.
- If the class is small enough, rotate through the drama several times to give everyone a chance to play a part. For larger classes, consider letting the other students sing a song or play rhythm instruments at the end of the mini-play.
Make and Takes
Use a digital camera to take pictures of the pretend play. Print the pictures out and bring them back to class the next week. Offer the children an assortment of art supplies such as large pieces of construction paper, markers, crayons, and glue. Encourage them to use the pictures and art supplies to make posters, and then use the posters to decorate the classroom.
The Boy Prophet - Samuel
Book List for Lesson Extension
Reading books about Samuel is another great way to help children retain new information longer, and as a bonus, it helps them realize that people that they read about in the Bible were real people, not fictional characters.
Some good books to try are:
- Samuel: The Boy Who Listened by Mackenzie Carine
- The Books of 1 & 2 Samuel (Illustrated Bible)
- The Almighty Bible – 1 Samuel
- God Speaks to Samuel by Penny Frank
- Samuel and the Wake Up Call by Jane L. Fryar
Find these books at the local public library or buy them from booksellers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
By using some or all of the methods offered here to answer the question “Who was Samuel in the Bible, children get better understanding of this important Old Testament prophet.
Donna Cosmato is a former school administrator and educator as well as a lay children's minister. For more free Sunday School lessons and teaching resources, visit her website Christian Education Plus.