Books of Samuel
SAMUEL, BOOKS OF. The books are named after Samuel, the outstanding figure of the early section. Originally there was only one book of Samuel, but the LXX divided it into two. This division was followed by the Latin versions and made its appearance in the Hebrew text in Daniel Bomberg’s first edition (a.d. 1516-1517). In the LXX the and the are called Books of Kingdoms (I-IV); the Vulgate numbers them similarly but names them Books of Kings. The title “Samuel,” which appears in Hebrew manuscripts, is followed in most English translations.
I. Authorship and Date. There is little external or internal evidence about the authorship of Samuel. Jewish tradition ascribes the work to the prophet Samuel: “Samuel wrote the book that bears his name and the
II. Content (Outline after Pfeiffer)
A. Shiloh and Samuel (
B. Samuel and Saul (
C. Saul and David (
D. David as King of Judah (
E. David as King of All Israel (
1. The book begins with Hannah’s distress, her supplication, and the answer in the form of Samuel’s birth. The song of Hannah shows relationships to both the Magnificat (
2. When the people requested a king, Samuel remonstrated with them but was directed by the Lord to grant their request. Saul was brought to Samuel and was secretly anointed as king. This selection was later confirmed by lot at an assembly of all Israel at Mizpah. Saul’s first impressive act, the rescue of
3. God designated the youthful David as Saul’s successor and Samuel secretly anointed him. David became Saul’s court musician and later served king and country well by killing Goliath in single combat. On this occasion Saul inquired concerning David’s family, so that Jesse too could be rewarded (cf.
4. David reigned as king of Judah in Hebron for seven and a half years. Overtures were made to unite all Israel under his leadership.
5. These efforts were crowned with success, and David wisely took Jerusalem and made it his new capital, for since the time it had been in Jebusite hands it had had no definite affiliation with Judah or the northern tribes. David continued to build the kingdom and the Lord announced to him the perpetuity of his dynasty (
III. Purpose. The purpose of all OT history is clearly stated in the NT (
Bibliography: W. G. Blaikie, The Second Book of Samuel, 1887, and The First Book of Samuel, 1893; R. D. Gehrke, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1968; P. K. McCarter, Jr., I Samuel (AB), 1980.——CEDV
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
|| I. PLACE OF THE BOOKS OF SAMUEL IN THE HEBREW CANON
II. CONTENTS OF THE BOOKS AND PERIOD OF TIME COVERED BY THE HISTORY
III. SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS
1. Life of Samuel (1 Samuel 1-15)
2. Reign and Death of Saul (1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 1)
3. Reign of David (2 Samuel 2-20)
(1) David’s Seven and a Half Years’ Reign over Judah in Hebron (2 Samuel 2:1-5:3).
(2) Reign of David in Jerusalem over United Israel (2 Samuel 5:4-20:26).
4. Appendix (2 Samuel 21-24)
IV. SOURCES OF THE HISTORY Two Main and Independent Sources
V. CHARACTER AND DATE OF THE SOURCES
VI. GREEK VERSIONS OF THE BOOKS OF SAMUEL
VII. ETHICAL AND RELIGIOUS TEACHING
I. Place of thein the Hebrew Canon.
In the Hebrew Canon and enumeration of the sacred books of the, the two Books of Samuel were reckoned as one, and formed the third division of the Earlier Prophets (nebhi’im ri’shonim). The one book bore the title "Samuel" (shemu’el), not because Samuel was believed to be the author, but because his life and acts formed the main theme of the book, or at least of its earlier part. Nor was the Book of Samuel separated by any real division in subject-matter or continuity of style from the Book of Kings, which in the original formed a single book, not two as in the English and other modern versions. The history was carried forward without interruption; and the record of the life of David, begun in Samuel, was completed in Kings. This continuity in the narrative of Israelite history was made more prominent in the Septuagint, where the four books were comprised under one title and were known as the four "Books of the Kingdoms" (bibloi basileion). This name was probably due to the translators or scholars of Alexandria. The division into four books, but not the Greek title, was then adopted in the Latin translation, where, however, the influence of Jerome secured the restoration of the Hebrew names, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings (Regum). Jerome’s example was universally followed, and the fourfold division with the Hebrew titles found a place in all subsequent versions of the Old Testament Scriptures. Ultimately, the distinction of Samuel and Kings each into two books was received also into printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. This was done for the first time in the editio princeps of the Rabbinic Bible, printed at Venice in 1516-17 AD.
II. Contents of the Books and Period of Time Covered by the History.
The narrative of the two Books of Samuel covers a period of about a hundred years, from the close of the unsettled era of the Judges to the establishment and consolidation of the kingdom under David. It is therefore a record of the changes, national and constitutional, which accompanied this growth and development of the national life, at the close of which the Israelites found themselves a united people under the rule of a king to whom all owed allegiance, controlled and guided by more or less definitely established institutions and laws. This may be described as the general purpose and main theme of the books, to trace the advance of the people under divine guidance to a state of settled prosperity and union in the promised land, and to give prominence to theocratic rule which was the essential condition of Israel’s life as the people of God under all the changing forms of early government. The narrative therefore centers itself around the lives of the three men, Samuel, Saul and David, who were chiefly instrumental in the establishment of the monarchy, and to whom it was due more than to any others that Israel emerged from the depressed and disunited state in which the tribes had remained during the period of the rule of the Judges, and came into possession of a combined and effective national life. If the formal separation therefore into two books be disregarded, the history of Israel as it is narrated in "Samuel" is most naturally divided into three parts, which are followed by an appendix recording words and incidents which for some reason had not found a place in the general narrative:
A. The life and rule of Samuel (
B. The life, reign and death of Saul (
C. The reign and acts of David to the suppression of the two rebellions of Absalom and Sheba (
D. Appendix; other incidents in the reign of David, the names of his chief warriors and his So or Psalm of Praise (
III. Summary and Analysis.
To present a brief and clear analysis of these Books of Samuel is not altogether easy. For as in the Pentateuch and the earlier historical Books of Joshua and Judges, repetitions and apparently duplicate accounts of the same event are found, which interfere with the chronological development of the narrative. Even the main divisions, as stated above, to a certain extent overlap.
1. Life of Samuel (1 Samuel 1-15):
(3) Samuel’s vision at the sanctuary and his induction to the prophetic office (
(4) Defeat of the Israelites by the Philistines, capture of the ark of God, death of the two sons of Eli and of Eli himself (
(5) Discomfiture of Dagon before the ark of God at Ashdod; return of the ark to Beth-shemesh, with expiatory offerings of golden tumors and golden mice; its twenty years’ sojourn at Kiriath-jearim (
(6) Assembly of Israel under Samuel at Mizpah, and victory over the Philistines (
(7) Samuel’s sons appointed to be judges and the consequent demand of the people for a king; Samuel’s warning concerning the character of the king for whom they asked (
(8) Saul’s search for, the lost asses of his father and meeting with Samuel (
(9) Saul is anointed by Samuel to be ruler over the people of Israel, and receives the gift of prophecy (
(10) Victory of Saul over the Ammonites and deliverance of Jabesh-gilead (
(11) Samuel’s address to the people in Gilgal, defending his own life and action, and exhorting them to fear and serve the Lord (
(12) Saul at Gilgal offers the burnt offering in Samuel’s absence; gathering of the Philistines to battie at Michmash; the Israelites’ lack of weapons of iron (
(13) Jonathan’s surprise of the Philistine army, and their sudden panic (
(14) War against Amalek, and Saul’s disobedience to the divine command to exterminate the Amaleldtes (
2. Reign and Death of Saul (1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 1):
(1) Anointing of David as Saul’s successor (
(2) David and Goliath (
(3) The love of David and Jonathan (
(4) Saul’s renewed jealousy of David and second attempt to kill him (
(5) Jonathan’s warning to David of his father’s resolve and their parting (
(6) David at Nob (
(7) David’s band of outlaws at Adullam (
(8) Repeated attempts of Saul to take David (
(9) Death of Samuel (
(10) Saul’s further pursuit of David (
(11) David’s sojourn with Achish of Gath (
(12) David’s pursuit of the Amalekites who had raided Ziklag, and victory (
(13) Battle between the Philistines and Israel in Mt. Gilboa and death of Saul (
(14) News of Saul’s death brought to David at Ziklag (
3. Reign of David (2 Samuel 2-20):
(1) David’s Seven and a Half Years’ Reign over Judah in Hebron (2 Samuel 2:1-5:3).
(a) Consecration of David as king in Hebron (
(b) Increase of the fame and prosperity of David, and the names of his sons (
(c) Murder of Ish-bosheth and David’s vengeance upon his murderers (
(d) David accepted as king over all Israel (
(2) Reign of David in Jerusalem over United Israel (2 Samuel 5:4-20:26).
(a) Taking of Jerusalem and victories over the Philistines (
(b) Return of the ark to the city of David (
(c) David’s purpose to build a temple for the Lord (
(d) Victories over the Philistines, Syrians, and other peoples (
(e) David’s reception of Mephibosheth (
(f) Defeat of the Ammonites and Syrians by the men of Israel under the command of Joab (
(g) David and Uriah, the latter’s death in battle, and David’s marriage with Bath-sheba (
(h) Nathan’s parable and David’s conviction of sin (
(i) Amnon and Tamar (
(j) Return of Absalom to Jerusalem (
(k) Absalom’s method of ingratiating himself with the people (
(l) David’s’ meeting with Ziba (
(m) David at Mahanaim (
(n) The revolt subdued, death of Absalom, and reception by David of the tidings (
(o) Return of the king to Jerusalem, and meetings with Shimei, Mephibosheth, and Barzillai the Gileadite (
(p) Revolt of Sheba the Benjamite, and its suppression by Joab with the death of Amasa (
4. Appendix (2 Samuel 21-24):
(1) Seven male descendants of Saul put to death at the instance of the Gibeonites (
(2) David’s song of thanksgiving and praise (
(3) The "last words" of David (
(4) The king’s numbering of the people, the resulting plague, and the dedication of the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite (
IV. Sources of the History.
The natural inference from the character and contents of the Books of Samuel, as thus reviewed, is that the writer has made use of authorities, "sources" or "documents," from which he has compiled a narrative of the events which it was his desire to place on record. The same characteristics are noticeable here which are found in parts of the Pentateuch and of the Books of Joshua and Judges, that in some instances duplicate or parallel accounts are given of one and the same event, which seems to be regarded from different points of view and is narrated in a style which is more or less divergent from that of the companion record. Examples of this so-called duplication are more frequent in the earlier parts of the books than in the later. There are presented, for instance, two accounts of Saul’s election as king, and an act of disobedience is twice followed, apparently quite independently, by the sentence of rejection. Independent also and hardly consistent narratives are given of David’s introduction to Saul (
Two Main and Independent Sources:
Apart from the appendix and minor additions, of which Hannah’s song or psalm in 1 Samuel 2 is one, the main portion of the book is derived from two independent sources, which themselves in all probability formed part of a larger whole, a more or less consecutive history or histories of Israel. These sources may, however, have been, as others think, rather of a biographical nature, presenting and enforcing the teaching of the acts and experience of the great leaders and rulers of the nation. The parallelism and duplication of the narrative is perhaps most evident in the history of Saul. The broad lines of distinction between the two may be defined without much difficulty or uncertainty. The greater part of the first eight chapters of 1 Samuel is in all probability derived from the later of these two sources, to which is to be assigned more or less completely 1 Samuel 10-12:15; 17-19; 21-25; 28 and
V. Character and Date of the Sources.
Attempts which have been made to determine the date of these two sources, or to identify them with one or other of the principal authorities from which the historical narratives of the Pentateuch are derived, have not been convincing. In the judgment of some, however, the later of the two sources should be regarded as a continuation of the narrative or document known as E, and the earlier be assigned to J. The style of the latter has much in common with the style of J, and is clear, vigorous and poetical; the religious conceptions also that are embodied and taught are of a simple and early type. The later writing has been supposed to give indications of the influence of the prophetic teaching of the 8th century. The indications, however, are not sufficiently decisive to enable a final judgment to be formed. If it is borne in mind that J and E represent rather schools of teaching and thought than individual writers, the characteristics of the two sources of the Books of Sam would not be out of harmony with the view that from these two schools respectively were derived the materials out of which the history was compiled. The "sources" would then, according to the usual view, belong to the 9th and 8th centuries before the Christian era; and to a period not more than a century or a century and a half later should be assigned the final compilation and completion of the book as it is contained in the Hebrew.
VI.of the Books of Samuel.
For an exact estimate and understanding of the history and text of the Books of Samuel count must further be taken of the Greek version or versions. In the Septuagint there is great divergence from the Hebrew Massoretic text, and it is probable that in the course of transmission the Greek has been exposed to corruption to a very considerable extent. At least two recensions of the Greek text are in existence, represented by the Vatican and Alexandrian manuscripts respectively, of which the latter is nearer to the Hebrew original, and has apparently been conformed to it at a later period with a view to removing discrepancies; and this process has naturally impaired its value as a witness to the primary shape of the Greek text itself. There are therefore three existing types of the text of Samuel; the Massoretic Hebrew and Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus in the Greek. The original form of the Septuagint, if it could be recovered, would represent a text anterior to the Massoretic recension, differing from, but not necessarily superior to, the latter. For the restoration of the Greek text, the Old Latin, where it is available, affords valuable help. It is evident then that in any given instance the agreement of these three types or recensions of the text is the strongest possible witness to the originality and authenticity of a reading; but that the weight attaching to the testimony of A will not in general, on account of the history of its text, be equivalent to that of either of the other two.
VII. Ethical and Religious Teaching.
The religious teaching and thought of the two Books of Samuel it is not difficult to summarize. The books are in form a historical record of events; but they are at the same time and more particularly a history conceived with a definite purpose, and made to subserve a definite moral and religious aim. It is not a narrative of events solely, or the preservation of historical detail, that the writer has in view, but rather to elucidate and enforce from Israel’s experience the significance of the divine and moral government of the nation. The duty of king and people alike is to obey Yahweh, to render strict and willing deference to His commands, and on this path of obedience alone will national independence and prosperity be secured. With the strongest emphasis, and with uncompromising severity, sin even in the highest places is condemned; and an ideal of righteousness is set forth in language and with an earnestness which recalls the exhortations of Deuteronomy. Thus the same is true of the Books of Samuel as is manifest in the preceding books of the canonical Old Testament: they are composed with a didactic aim. The experience of the past is made to afford lessons of warning and encouragement for the present. To the writer or writers--the history of the development and upbuilding of the Israelite kingdom is pregnant with a deeper meaning than lies on the surface, and this meaning he endeavors to make plain to his readers through the record. The issues of the events and the events themselves are under the guidance and control of Yahweh, who always condemns and punishes wrong, but approves and rewards righteousness. Thus the narrative is history utilized to convey moral truth. And its value is to be estimated, not primarily as recording the great deeds of the past, but as conveying ethical teaching; that by means of the history with all its glamor and interest the people may be recalled to a sense of their high duty toward God, and be warned of the inevitable consequences of disobedience to Him.
Upon all points of introduction, criticism and interpretation, the commentaries afford abundant and satisfactory guidance. The principal English commentaries. are by H. P. Smith in ICC, Edinburgh, 1899, and S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel, 2nd edition, Oxford, 1913; A. R. S. Kennedy, "Samuel," New Century Bible, New York, Frowde, 1905; in German by R. Budde, 1902, W. Nowack, 1902, A. Klostermann, 1887. See also the articles "Samuel" in HDB, Encyclopedia Biblica and Jewish Encyclopedia.