Crises & Kings: The Book of Samuel I & II

Crises & Kings explores the Book of Samuel, which recounts a tumultuous period in Biblical history. The Israelites have settled in their new land but tribal rivalries weaken them against the ascendant Philistines. Saul, the first king, brings hope but his reign is marred by missteps, leading to his downfall.

David, arguably the most famous character in Jewish tradition, succeeds Saul and strategically lays the foundations for an empire. His exploits, including some spectacular moral failures, are unrivaled. The dramatic narrative of Sefer Shmuel introduces us to themes still relevant today: divine destiny vs. human initiative, faith vs. misplaced religious devotion, and good leadership vs. corrosive and self-serving rule.

This series is a production of Pardes North America in partnership with The Koren Podcast Network and is lovingly sponsored by the Neustein family in memory of Rabbi Dr. Joseph Neustein, on the occasion of his 4th yahrzeit.

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Bonus Content – Behind-the-Scenes with
Rabbi Alex Israel

In this bonus episode, Rabbi Alex Israel, in conversation with Rabbi Michael Hattin, goes behind the scenes of Crises and Kings. Alex and Michael discuss highlights and challenges in the making of Samuel I and reveal an exclusive sneak peek at the end.


Episode 1
Introduction – The Backdrop of the Book of Judges

In order to appreciate the opening chapters of the book of Samuel, we must first consider the backdrop of the book of Judges. Understanding this context will help us appreciate the challenges that the people of Israel face, as Sefer Shmuel begins.



Episode 2
Chana’s Triumph

Our book begins by introducing us to the fraught family dynamics of Elkana and his two wives, Penina and Chana. Chana, childless and desperate, teach us about hope and devotion. Her tearful vow at Shilo becomes the template in our tradition for sincerity. God will answer her prayers.


Episode 3
The Crimes of the Priests
Chana’s piety stands in direct contrast to the officiating priests at Shilo, Chofni and Pinchas the sons of Eli. These two abuse their power and exalted position, desecrating God’s service and victimizing the people of Israel. In consequence, doom is pronounced upon the house of Eli by God.



Episode 4
Shmuel’s Coming of Age

Eli the high priest is young Shmuel’s mentor and guide. But now the word of God comes to Shmuel directly, sidelining old and blind Eli in the process. This moment, which marks the end of Eli’s tenure as the religious leader of Israel, is painful as well as poignant for both of them.


Episode 5
The Israelite Defeated
Initially defeated in battle by the Philistines, the Israelites bring the ark of the covenant to the fray. But its mere presence will not grant them victory. The Philistines prevail, the ark is taken captive and Shilo is destroyed.


Episode 6
The Philistines Chastened
The pagan Philistines believe that by capturing the ark, they have prevailed against the God of Israel. But He soon makes it clear that while His ways are subtle, His power is unmatched.


Episode 7
The Ideal Judge

The old corrupt order has been swept away. Shmuel now emerges as a true judge in Israel, highlighting what real religious/political leadership can accomplish.


Episode 8
The Clamor for a King

With Shmuel’s career-ending, the elders and the people demand that he appoint a king. But Shmuel is reluctant. A close reading of Deuteronomy 16 – 17 reveals why.


Episode 9
The King’s Law

Monarchy as an institution has great potential but also carries great risks. In this podcast, we begin to consider both.


Episode 10
In Search of Donkeys

The appointment of Israel’s first king implausibly begins with Saul’s fruitless search for lost donkeys. It ends with Saul instead discovering kingship.


Episode 11
The Ideal Judge


Saul is offered three curious signs to indicate that he has been chosen. But they are not random.


Episode 12
In Those Days there was a King in Israel


Although Saul is officially king, he will not win the people’s confidence until he can act like one. The defeat of the Ammonites will be his moment.


Episode 13
Retrospect for Shmuel

Shmuel, old and tired, officially hands over power to the king. But will the king be able to live up to the example of Shmuel’s lifetime of selfless leadership and integrity?


Episode 14
Shaul’s Tragic Lapse

Saul now faces his first serious crisis as King. How will he respond?


Episode 15
Yonatan’s Steadfastness

Even as Saul stumbles as king, his son Yonatan emerges as a natural and inspired leader.


Episode 16
Shaul’s Undoing

God gives Saul a second chance and commands him to destroy Amalek. But Saul has other ideas.


Episode 17
The Unlikely Election of David

Saul’s rejection as king leads unexpectedly to David’s emergence from obscurity.


Episode 18
David and Goliath

In one of the most famous moments in the Hebrew Bible, David puts his trust in God and defeats the Philistine giant Goliath.


Episode 19
David in Flight from Shaul

David’s triumph is short-lived as he is forced to flee Shaul’s jealous wrath. Rejection as the king leads unexpectedly to David’s emergence from obscurity.


Episode 20
Jonathan and David

Jonathan emerges as David’s defender and true friend. In an ultimate act of altruism, he will put David’s future ahead of his own.


Episode 21
Achimelech and the Priests of Nov

David’s flight takes him to Nov and to Philistine territory. Saul’s rage will know no bounds. (Samuel I 21:1 – 22:16)


Episode 22
Shaul in Pursuit

 After Nov’s overthrow, Saul continues to pursue David. David manages to stay one step ahead, until their meeting at the cave in Ein Gedi… (Samuel I 22:17 – 24:22)

Episode 23
Avigayil’s Intervention

David is saved from spilling blood through the heroic intervention of a wise woman – Avigayil. (Samuel I 25:1 – 44)

Episode 24
David and Shaul’s Final Encounter

In an encounter very reminiscent of chapter 24, David and Shaul meet for a final time. Now, though, David will make it clear that Shaul has been manipulated by unscrupulous men. (Samuel I 26:1 – 27:12)


Episode 25
Shaul and the Witch of En Dor

As the Philistines mass for battle, Shaul becomes desperate. God will not respond to his entreaties, so instead, he reaches out to the spirit of dead Shmuel. (Samuel I 28:1 – 25)

Episode 26
David’s Triumph

Sent home by the Philistines, David and his men discover that Ziklag has been sacked by the Amalekites. How will David regroup? (Samuel I 29:1 – 30:38)

Episode 27
Shaul’s Bitter End

In this final battle Shaul dies, but as the noble king of Israel. (Samuel I 31:1-13)


Samuel II

Episode 28
David Receives the Tragic News

Through an unlikely source, word reaches David that Shaul is dead and David laments. (Samuel II 1:1-27)


Episode 29
The Struggle Over Succession

Shaul is dead but David will not become king over all of Israel immediately. (Samuel II 2:1-3:1)


Episode 30
The Fall of the House of Shaul

The last difficult obstacles to David becoming king are unexpectedly removed, even as David takes no active role. (Samuel II 3:2-4:12)


Episode 31
Jerusalem, David’s City

In his first act as king over all of Israel, David conquers Jerusalem and makes it his capital. (Samuel II 5:1-25)


Episode 32
The Ark of the Covenant is Brought to Jerusalem

Having established Jerusalem as his new capital, David relocates the ark to it.
(Samuel II 6:1-23)LISTEN NOW!

Episode 33
David’s Desire to Built a Temple

With his kingdom becoming secure, David expresses his wish to finally build the Temple. God, however, has other plans.
(Samuel II 7:1-29)LISTEN NOW!

Episode 34
David’s Victories

David secures the realm by defeating all of the surrounding kingdoms that threaten it. He also keeps his pledge.
(Samuel II 8:1-10:9)LISTEN NOW!

Episode 35
David and Batsheva Part 1: The Crime

David’s glorious ascent is abruptly derailed by a crime that redefines him and his kingdom.
(Samuel II 11:1-15)LISTEN NOW!

Episode 36
David and Batsheva Part 2: The Punishment

Natan the prophet pronounces God’s harsh judgment against David.
(Samuel II 11:16-12:23)LISTEN NOW!

Episode 37
The Rape of Tamar

The consequences of David’s crime now begin to play themselves out, with great destructive effect.
(Samuel II 12:24 – 13:39)LISTEN NOW!

Episode 38
Avshalom Rehabilitated

Through the agency of Yoav and the parable of the wise woman of Tekoa, David is convinced to allow Avshalom to return to Jerusalem. But a resolution is a far way off.
(Samuel II 14:1-33)LISTEN NOW!

Episode 39
David’s Exile from Jerusalem

Avshalom rebels against his father David and the kingdom threatens to unravel.
(Samuel II 15:1-37)LISTEN NOW!

Episode 40
Avshalom Ascendant

Avshalom triumphantly enters Jerusalem. There will be no turning back.



Episode 41
Avshalom’s Defeat

David’s fortunes turn, as Avshalom’s men are defeated in battle.



Episode 42
The Aftermath

The news of Avshalom’s death reaches David. Shattered by the report, he begins to make his way back to Jerusalem.




Episode 43

Sheva ben Bichri’s Rebellion

David returns to Jerusalem but a new rebellion now breaks out.




Episode 44

David’s Legacy: Pledges Kept and Giants Defeated

The final four chapters of the book provide us with a retrospect of David and his reign.




Episode 45

The Song of Triumph

An epic poem of triumph reminds us of David’s trust in God.




Episode 46

David’s Mighty Men

David’s final words are followed by a list of his mighty warriors.



Episode 47

The Census

The book concludes with David’s ill-considered census, the ensuing plague and the building of an altar to God.



Episode 48

The Conclusion

Michael shares his concluding thoughts.