Under such circumstances there was little communion with God, but the Lord called to Samuel in the night and revealed to him the impending doom of Eli’s house. The Lord blessed Samuel and “let none of his words fall to the ground” (1Sam.3.19), so that all Israel knew that Samuel was a prophet of the Lord. Eli died when he received the news of the death of his sons and the capture of the ark of the covenant in a Philistine victory over Israel. Some time after the return of the ark to Israel, Samuel challenged the people to put away foreign gods and to serve the Lord only (1Sam.7.3). When the Philistines threatened the Israelite gathering at Mizpah, Samuel interceded for Israel and the Lord answered with thunder against the enemy. The Philistines were routed and Samuel set up a memorial stone, which he called Ebenezer (“stone of help,” 1Sam.7.12).

Samuel next appears in conflict with Saul; a national crisis had arisen with a Philistine threat and Saul summoned the people to Gilgal. When Samuel was late in coming to make offerings, Saul presumed to make them himself. Samuel accused Saul of foolishness and disobedience and said that Saul’s kingdom would not continue. Samuel then went to Gibeah and Saul engaged in a victorious battle with the Philistines. After Saul’s success, Samuel commissioned him to annihilate the Amalekites (1Sam.15.1-1Sam.15.35). In this expedition Saul again showed incomplete obedience; Samuel reminded him of the necessity of absolute obedience and told him God had rejected him as king. This was the last official meeting of Samuel and Saul (1Sam.15.35). Samuel returned to Ramah and grieved over Saul.

Samuel’s last message to Saul came when Saul consulted the medium of Endor on the eve of his death on Mount Gilboa. Samuel is mentioned in several other OT books and is recognized as a man of prayer. In Ps.99.6 it is said that he was “among those who called on [God’s] name.” The intercession of Samuel is cited in Jer.15.1. In the NT he is referred to by Peter (Acts.3.24) as one who foretold the events of NT times. Paul mentions him in a sermon at Antioch of Pisidia (Acts.13.20). In Heb.11.32 he is listed among those whose faith pleased God.

From the standpoint of modern research, a number of places named in the OT in connection with Samuel have been identified and some have been excavated. Among those at which archaeological work has been done are Shiloh (Tell Seilun), Mizpah (Tell en-Nasbeh?), Gibeah (Tell el Ful), and Bethel (Beitin). Tradition also associates with Samuel the site called Nebi Samwil (“prophet Samuel”), which has also been suggested as the site of Mizpah.——CEDV

SAMUEL săm’ yŏŏ əl (שְׁמוּאֵל; Σαμουήλ, G4905). This name means “name of God,” or “his name is El” (God). Samuel lived in the transition period. Often he is listed as the last of the judges who was succeeded by Saul, the first king in Israel. In his ministry Samuel served as judge, priest, and prophet. The book of 1 Samuel provides the basic source material for the life of Samuel.

The parents of Samuel were Elkanah and Hannah. By lineage Elkanah was a Levite, a descendant of Kohath but not of the Aaronic line (1 Chron 6:26, 33). Geographically Elkanah was identified as an Ephraimite, since he lived in the mountainous territory of Ephraim in the city of Ramah, more specifically identified as Ramathaim or Ramathaim-zophim.

Samuel’s parents were God-fearing Israelites who annually went to Shiloh to worship at the Tabernacle. Hannah, who was not blessed with children as was Elkanah’s other wife Peninnah, made it a matter of earnest prayer that she might have a son. In due time when God granted her request she named her son Samuel and kept her vow by dedicating him to a life of service. Whereas Samuel as a Levite might have started priestly service at the age of twenty-five, he was, through this act of dedication by Hannah, brought to the Tabernacle as a child. Elkanah and Hannah returned annually to supply Samuel with clothes while he was reared in Shiloh under the supervision of Eli the priest. Hannah’s song of praise is recorded in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

Although Samuel came from a godly home, the Tabernacle environment was not godly. Eli, the high priest in Israel, had failed to teach his sons the fear of God according to his paternal responsibility prescribed in the Book of Deuteronomy. Consequently, his sons Hophni and Phinehas had neither respect for their father nor reverence for God in their responsibilities as priests. Through their violation of the laws of sacrifice and their immoral acts with women, the sons of Eli precipitated God’s judgment upon Eli’s family as announced by a prophet identified as a man of God (1 Sam 2:27-36). In this environment at the central sanctuary in Shiloh, the child Samuel grew to young manhood.

While these conditions prevailed and Eli was aging, the divine call came to Samuel (1 Sam 3:1-18). Fortunately Eli had enough spiritual perception to advise Samuel that God was speaking to him. When Samuel responded in an attitude of obedience, saying, “Speak, for thy servant hears,” he became the recipient of God’s message of judgment upon the house of Eli. Pressed by Eli, the young man Samuel as a spokesman for God shared with Eli the solemn divine verdict that the iniquity of Eli’s priestly family could be purged with neither sacrifice nor offering.

Subsequent to his call, Samuel was established as a prophet in the land of Israel from the southern border of Beer-sheba to the northern extremity of Dan. Although details concerning Samuel himself are briefly given in the record, the general conditions are vividly portrayed.

The low ebb of Israel’s religion is apparent in the crucial battle with the Philistines in the Aphek area, c. thirty-five m. NW of Jerusalem. Losing the battle, the Israelites prevailed upon Hophni and Phinehas to bring the Ark of the covenant, which was considered the holiest object in Israel, to the battlefield. Religion among the Israelites had declined to such a low perspective spiritually that they believed God’s presence was materially associated with the Ark. Believing that God would not let Himself be captured, they anticipated a divine intervention which would bring them victory. The nation of Israel, however, was shockingly defeated and the Ark was captured by the Philistines. The sons of Eli were killed in battle; Eli himself died when news reached him that the Ark was stolen and that in all probability the city of Shiloh was destroyed by the Philistines. Although the Biblical narrative does not mention the destruction of Shiloh, there are references in Jeremiah (7:12, 14; 26:6, 9) and in Psalms (78:60) that imply that it had been destroyed. Shiloh ceases to be mentioned as a religious center after 1 Samuel 4. (Cf. W. F. Albright in BASOR 9, Feb. 1923, 10ff. for archeological information. Cf. also H. Kjaer, JPOS, X, 1930, 87-114.)

Years later, possibly twenty, the Ark was returned and stored in the home of Abinadab in Kirjath-jearim. During these years Samuel must have been very active in his teaching ministry throughout Israel, challenging the people to turn from idolatry (1 Sam 7:1-3). When the Israelites responded favorably, Samuel called a national public assembly at Mizpah in Benjamin where they fasted and prayed. Learning of this gathering, the Philistines organized a military attack on Mizpah. As a prophet-statesman Samuel prayed for Israel and officiated as a priest in offering sacrifice. Through a divinely-sent thunderstorm, the Philistines were confused and subsequently routed. In memory of this miraculous intervention and victory Samuel erected a stone, naming it “Ebenezer,” i.e. “Hitherto the Lord has helped us.” In this way Samuel’s ministry as a prophet led the Israelites into a wholehearted love relationship with God resulting in Israel’s victory over the Philistines and brought temporary peace to the Israelites.

Samuel resided in Ramah where he built an altar to God (1 Sam 7:17). As judge, Samuel held courts annually in Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah (7:15, 16), and prob. in numerous cities throughout the land which are not mentioned in the Biblical record. Samuel had gained the respect of the Israelites as a judge and as a prophet throughout the entire nation. Apparently Joel and Abiah, the sons of Samuel, were known as judges who accepted bribes, twisted justice, and consequently did not reflect the dimensions of a prophetic ministry.

When the Israelites confronted Samuel with the request for a king they gave two reasons for their petition. Negatively, they were disappointed in Samuel’s delegation of authority to his sons, and, positively, they wanted to be like other nations by having a king. Samuel was greatly disturbed by this request, but he was divinely assured that this was God’s permissive will and that he should outline the responsibilities the Israelites would assume under a king (1 Sam 8:1-22). Reluctantly, Samuel consented to their plea for a king.

As prophet in Israel, Samuel was divinely commissioned to anoint Saul as king. Searching for his father’s donkeys, Saul came into the Ephraim highlands in the Zuph district. At his servants’ suggestion, Saul went to Ramah to inquire of the prophet Samuel. The latter detained him until the next day and privately anointed him as king of Israel. He later anointed Saul publicly (9:1-10:27).

Samuel’s commission to anoint Saul as king made it very plain that a king in Israel was “prince over (God’s) people Israel” (9:16) or “prince over his heritage” (10:1). Saul was anointed by a prophet who had been divinely confirmed through miracles and was recognized in his ministry as a spokesman for God. The people over whom the king was to rule were God’s people and God’s possession. The “prince” or king had stewardship responsibility, being accountable to God for the power he exercised as a ruler over the Israelites. As Samuel outlined the ways of the kingdom (10:25), he provided a written copy which was deposited “before the Lord,” and in all likelihood was kept with the other written documents which Moses (Deut 31:9) and Joshua (Josh 24:25, 26) and possibly others had provided previously. The position of a king as indicated by Samuel was in accord with what Moses had prescribed in Deuteronomy 17, that the king as well as his people were to be subject to the written terms of God’s revelation given through Moses.

Samuel publicly reaffirmed his support of Saul after his initial victory over the Ammonites. He assured all Israel of his intercessory prayers and warned them about the dangers of diminishing their attitude of wholehearted devotion to God (1 Sam 11; 12).

Serving in his capacity as priest and prophet, Samuel warned Saul about his failures and reminded him of his responsibilities. Becoming impatient in waiting for Samuel in Gilgal, Saul asserted the priestly responsibility of officiating at the offering of a burnt sacrifice (13:8-15). When Samuel arrived, he reprimanded Saul that as prince over God’s people he had failed, then warned him that his kingship would not last.

When Samuel was divinely instructed to commission Saul to execute God’s judgment upon the Amalekites, Saul failed in this assignment, and the relationship between prophet and king was crucially strained. On this occasion Samuel distinctly enunciated the basic principle that obedience is better than sacrifice (15:22). With the solemn warning that Saul had forfeited the kingdom, the prophet Samuel and King Saul parted. Samuel returned to Ramah to grieve over Saul and his failures as king of Israel.

Subsequently Samuel was divinely commissioned to offer sacrifice in Bethlehem and anoint David as king of Israel (ch. 16). Fleeing from Saul, David was temporarily sheltered in Samuel’s home in Naioth of Ramah (19:18). When Saul attempted to arrest David, the Spirit of God came upon Saul’s police officers as well as upon Saul himself as soon as they met Samuel and the prophets associated with him. When Samuel died, all Israel mourned his death (25:1; 28:3). He was buried at Ramah.

The final message of Samuel came to Saul after Samuel’s death. Facing defeat by the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, Saul in desperation conferred with a woman in Endor who was a spirit-medium. Beyond this woman’s control, Samuel spoke directly to Saul, informing him that death awaited Saul and his sons the next day (28:4-19).

Although Samuel served as judge and priest, he made the most significant impact upon Israel’s religious life as a prophet. Whereas the greatest revelation to Israel as a nation came through Moses, it was Samuel who represented God in the anointing of the first two kings of Israel. After Moses’ death the written revelation provided guidance for Joshua who was confirmed by miracles in divine leadership. During the reign of the judges, Deborah and an unnamed prophet (Judg 4:4; 6:8) are the only ones specifically identified as speaking for God. Samuel responded to God’s call, and through his prophetic ministry not only revived his generation but influenced others to respond to the prophetic ministry. Numerous prophets seem to have arisen during this era. Nathan, Gad, and others during Davidic times may have been influenced by Samuel as he taught throughout the cities of Israel.

In his religious leadership responsibilities, Samuel as well as David appointed gatekeepers for the tent of meeting (1 Chron 9:17-26). Samuel also observed the Passover in such a memorable manner that it was unsurpassed until the time of Josiah (2 Chron 35:18). Gifts for the house of God were also dedicated under Samuel’s leadership. In addition to the book deposited “before the Lord” (1 Sam 10:25), Samuel is also credited with writing a volume identified as “the Chronicles of Samuel the seer” (1 Chron 29:29). The account of Samuel’s life and ministry and the national developments up to the time of his death may reasonably be credited to Samuel as they are given in the book bearing his name.

Samuel is known as a great man of prayer and intercession (1 Sam 15:11; Ps 99:6) through whom God’s blessing came to Israel. He ranks high among the prophets and outstanding leaders through whom God’s favor was evident among His people (Acts 3:24; 13:20; Heb 11:32).


J. P. Free, Archeology and Bible History (1956), 146-153; M. Noth, The History of Israel (1958), 164-178; S. J. Schultz, The Old Testament Speaks (1960), 115-125; H. Snell, Ancient Israel (1963), 49-70.

SAMUEL, 1 and 2. The books of Samuel, the ninth and tenth books of the Eng. Bible, are ranked among the former prophets. They cover a period of more than 100 years from the prayer for Samuel through most of the reign of David.


Like its counterpart in Kings, 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book in the Heb. Bible. The Gr. LXX first made the division into two books by calling them “Books of Kingdoms,” βίβλοι βασιλειω̂ν α and β, G954. In similar fashion Kings became “Kingdoms III and IV,” since the content continued the historical sketch begun in Samuel. Jerome affixed the title “Books of the Kings,” Libri Regum, to these four “new” books. His modification of “Kingdoms” to “Kings” was intended to reproduce the Heb. title for the present 1 and 2 Kings, namely מְלָכִ֖ים, “kings.” Eventually the Lat. Vul. reverted to the name “Samuel” for the first two books.

The Heb. Bible first “succumbed” to the division into 1 and 2 Samuel in a 1448 MS. Daniel Bomberg’s printed ed. of 1516 acknowledged the division of Samuel and Kings into four books, but it preserved the Heb. title for each pair.

Samuel’s name was attached to these books because of his prominence in the first fifteen chs. of the book with regard to the establishment of the monarchy. It was he who, as the last judge, anointed the two kings who hold the spotlight in 1 and 2 Samuel. Talmudic tradition also ascribes the authorship of part of 1 Samuel to the prophet (Baba Bathra 14b).


The unity of 1 and 2 Samuel is evident from the close links which tie the books together. The major divisions in the outline do not include a break at the end of 1 Samuel. Instead, the summary passages in 1 Samuel 14 and 2 Samuel 8 provide the keys to understanding the structure of the books.

Samuel and the reign of Saul

(1 Sam 1-15).

The ministry of Samuel

(chs. 1-7). a. Samuel’s birth and Hannah’s song (1:1-2:10). The book begins by relating God’s gracious answer to the faithful prayers of childless Hannah. Samuel, the son for whom she prayed, was dedicated to the Lord as a child and made a servant to the high priest Eli. Hannah’s song of thanksgiving for the goodness of the sovereign God is recorded in ch. 2.

b. Samuel’s ministry under Eli (2:11-3:21). In contrast to the faithfulness of the boy Samuel, Eli’s sons were godless men who even stole the sacrifices of the people. One night, God revealed to Samuel that Eli’s family would be cut off from the priesthood because of the blasphemy of the sons Eli had failed to discipline.

c. Philistine victory destroys Eli’s family (4:1-22). God’s prediction came true when the Philistines routed the Israelite army, killing Eli’s two sons and capturing the coveted Ark of the covenant. At the news of this catastrophe, the aged Eli fell heavily, mortally injuring himself.

d. The captivity and return of the Ark (5:1-7:17). The Philistines soon discovered that their battle prize, deposited near the idol of Dagon, resulted in the smashing of that idol and in outbreaks of boils and hemorrhoids coupled with a bubonic plague. After circulating the Ark unsuccessfully from city to city, the Philistines sent it back to Israel accompanied by an appropriate guilt-offering. Samuel used the occasion of the Ark’s return to recall all the people to the true worship of God. Another battle with the Philistines ensued, and God overthrew them decisively.

The initial years of Saul’s reign

(chs. 8-14). a. The request for a king (8:1-22). In Samuel’s old age, the people insisted that he appoint for them a king, so that Israel could be like all the other nations. Samuel resisted their demand by showing that a king would draft their children into his service and would tax their goods. Nevertheless, the people persisted and God instructed Samuel to comply with their request.

b. Saul anointed as king (9:1-10:27). God’s choice as king was a tall, handsome Benjaminite named Saul. While searching for stray donkeys, Saul and his servant asked Samuel for help. The prophet responded by anointing Saul, who subsequently experienced the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. Later, the humble, reluctant Saul was presented to the jubilant people.

c. Saul victorious over the Ammonites (11:1-15). Saul passed his first test as king in splendid fashion. He rescued the people of Jabesh from a serious Ammonite threat by winning a solid victory.

d. Samuel’s charge to Israel (12:1-25). In his last address to the people, Samuel reviewed parts of Israel’s history and warned Saul and his subjects that they would be swept away unless they were faithful to the commandments of God.

e. Saul and Jonathan war successfully against the Philistines (13:1-14:52). After an initial successful skirmish, Saul and his son Jonathan had to face the entire Philistine army. Saul, in his anxiety to ask for God’s favor, offered sacrifices himself. Samuel informed him that God would terminate his reign on account of this disobedience. Through Jonathan’s bravery the Israelites triumphed; but Jonathan had unwittingly violated an oath against eating imposed by Saul. The people rescued Jonathan from certain death at the hands of his father.

The rise of David to the throne

(1 Sam 15-2 Sam 8).

David’s struggle with King Saul

(chs. 15-31). a. Saul’s disqualification after Amalekites defeated (15:1-35). Coupled with Saul’s intrusion into the priesthood in ch. 13 was his failure to devote to complete destruction all the goods of the defeated Amalekites, including animals and the king, Agag. Samuel denounced Saul for this and revealed clearly that he was being rejected as king.

b. David anointed and plays for Saul (16:1-23). Saul’s successor was a talented young shepherd from Bethlehem, David. Samuel anointed David, upon whom the Spirit of God then came. Ironically, David was soon invited to Saul’s court as a musician to soothe the king from whom the Lord’s Spirit had recently departed.

c. David’s victory over Goliath (17:1-58). David displayed his great faith in God by defeating in single combat the nine-foot Philistine menace, Goliath. This was the first of several military victories by David which displayed his ability as a leader and endeared him to the people.

d. David’s flight from Saul and friendship with Jonathan (18:1-20:42). The jealousy of the deteriorating king was soon aroused against his successful young rival. David became a target for Saul’s spear and was sent into battle by Saul in the hope that he would be killed. Jonathan, however, made a covenant with David insuring their friendship, and helped him escape from Saul.

e. David’s plight occasions priests’ disaster (21:1-22:23). In his desperation, the fleeing David tricked Ahimelech and the priests at Nob into giving him supplies and arms. A leading servant of Saul overheard the discussion and related it to Saul. The enraged king then commanded the death of all the priests for allegedly conspiring with David against the crown.

f. David’s mercy to the pursuing Saul (23:1-24:23). Relentlessly, Saul now tried to capture David, who was hiding in the Judean wilderness. Once, David could easily have slain his tormentor in a cave, but he refused to strike down the Lord’s anointed. By revealing his mercy to Saul, David secured a temporary repentance from the pursuing king.

g. David and Abigail (25:1-44). This ch. partly explains how a fugitive like David could survive in the desert. The protection which he and his men afforded Nabal’s possessions should have been rewarded with supplies. When Nabal refused to pay, David decided to attack but the wise intercession of Nabal’s wife restrained him. Later after Nabal died Abigail became one of David’s wives.

h. Saul’s repentance and David’s despair (26:1-27:12). Forgetting his earlier promises, Saul resumed his pursuit of David. Once more, David passed up an opportunity to kill the sleeping king, and the king responded by begging David’s forgiveness. But David doubted Saul’s sincerity with good reason and fled to the Philistines, allying himself temporarily with Achish, king of Gath.

i. Saul and the witch of Endor (28:1-25). When the Philistines with David on their side prepared to attack Israel, Saul rightly trembled and sought a message from God. Unable to contact Him through legitimate means, he resorted to divination, inducing a medium to produce the departed Samuel for him. Samuel announced that disaster lay ahead for saul and Israel.

j. David rejected by Philistines and victorious over Amalekites (29:1-30:31). As the armies prepared for battle, the suspicious Philistine commanders voted to dismiss David from their ranks, lest he decide to fight for Israel. Returning to Ziklag, David discovered that the Amalekites had burned the city and carried off the women and children. After inquiring of the Lord, David and his men recovered all the people and goods.

k. Death of Saul and Jonathan (31:1-13). First Samuel ends with the short account of the great Philistine victory. Saul and his sons were killed on Mt. Gilboa, and the Philistines celebrated.

David’s unification of Judah and Israel

(2 Sam 1-8).

a. David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan (1:1-27). Instead of gloating over the fall of his enemy, David lamented the death of these men. He eulogized their courage and strength and particularly mourned for his dear friend Jonathan.

b. David made king of Judah, and Ishbosheth succeeds Saul (2:1-32). The people of Judah were the first to crown their tribesman and good friend (cf. 1 Sam 30:26-30), the heir apparent to Saul’s throne. Meanwhile, general Abner had installed a surviving son of Saul as king over the rest of Israel. Serious fighting soon broke out between the two factions.

c. Abner and Ishbosheth assassinated (2 Sam 3:1-4:12). When Ishbosheth accused Abner of disloyalty, the powerful commander decided to support David and unify Israel under his rule. These plans were thwarted by Joab, who quickly killed his potential rival general to avenge his brother’s death, much to the disgust of David.

d. David made king over all Israel (5:1-25). Finding themselves without leadership, the rest of the tribes now acknowledged David’s right to rule the entire nation. David responded by storming the stronghold of Zion, which was still under Jebusite control. The Philistines then failed in an attempt to defeat David before he could consolidate the forces of a united Israel.

e. David brings the Ark to Jerusalem (6:1-23). Unlike Saul, David was intensely interested in the worship of the Lord, including the Ark of the covenant, which had lain neglected during his predecessor’s reign. Thus it was with great joy that the king led the procession bringing the Ark to the new capital.

f. The Davidic covenant (7:1-29). David’s zeal for God moved him to build a Temple to house the Ark. Although God postponed the fulfillment of David’s wish, He promised that David’s dynasty would possess the throne of Israel eternally.

g. Summary of David’s rule (8:1-18). This chapter outlines the expansion of David’s kingdom under the prospering hand of God. Israel’s major enemies were all defeated as the empire and fame of David were extended.

Problems in the reign of David

(2 Sam 9-20).

David’s kindness to Mephibosheth

(9:1-13). In relating to the descendants of Saul, David displayed covenant kindness toward the crippled son of Jonathan. He restored property to Mephibosheth and provided for his material needs.

Victory over Syrians and Ammonites

(10:1-19). In battles perhaps already referred to in ch. 8, David defeated a coalition of Syrians and Ammonites after the latter had badly insulted David’s messengers.

David’s sin with Bathsheba

(11:1-12:31). The problems of David increased quickly after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. This led to the murder of Uriah and the sharp displeasure of God. Nathan delivered a pointed parable which brought the king to repentance. After the death of Bathsheba’s first child, Solomon was born.

The sins of Amnon and Absalom

(13:1-14:33). When Amnon, David’s son, raped his half-sister Tamar, Absalom retaliated by murdering Amnon two years later. Absalom fled from David not to be recalled to Jerusalem for three years. Relations between the king and Absalom remained strained.

Absalom’s rebellion and death

(15:1-18:33). Absalom’s bitterness toward David erupted into a full-fledged rebellion which forced the king to flee from the capital. By leaving a few faithful followers in Jerusalem David was able to nullify the wise advice Ahithophel gave to Absalom. The forces of David and Absalom finally clashed, with Joab gaining the victory for David. Contrary to the king’s express orders, Joab killed Absalom, deeply grieving David.

David’s recovery of power

(19:1-20:26). Gradually, Judah and Israel united again behind David, conducting him back to Jerusalem. A Benjaminite named Sheba, however, led a short-lived rebellion against the king.


(2 Sam 21-24).

The Gibeonites avenged, and victory over Philistines

(21:1-22). The last four chs. appear to be appended to the book without reference to chronological order. First, the cause for a famine was found in Saul’s killing of certain Gibeonites, whom the Israelites were bound by treaty to protect. Several of Saul’s descendants were hung by the Gibeonites to avenge Saul’s folly. Later David again waged war with the Philistines, and his men killed relatives of Goliath.

David’s hymn of thanksgiving and last words

(22:1-23:7). In a hymn which also appears as Psalm 18 David praises his mighty God for deliverance from all his enemies. Then, in ch. 23, David reviews the everlasting covenant God made with him.

David’s mighty men

(23:8-39). The thirty-seven bravest warriors of David are listed, along with a description of the achievements of the five greatest.

The plague because of David’s census

(24:1-25). When David self-confidently insisted on numbering the nation in spite of God’s prohibition, the Lord struck dead 70,000 men. The plague was finally stopped at the site of the future temple.

Authorship and composition

Critical theories.

Higher critics have offered several diverse explanations as to the origin of 1 and 2 Samuel. All of them accept the composite nature of these books and seek to account for many “obvious” contradictions, duplicate accounts, and other evidences of multiple authorship over a long period of time. Many hold to the view that the Deuteronomic editors, who supposedly wrote or rewrote much of Deuteronomy-Kings somewhere between 621 and 550 b.c., were responsible for the final composition of Samuel. This is asserted in spite of the different character and organization of Judges, compared, for example, with either Joshua or Samuel.

The majority of critics feel that 1 and 2 Samuel were formed by the interweaving of several sources, usually two or three. Eissfeldt links Samuel with sources J, E, and L of the documentary hypothesis. These sources, supposedly extending from Genesis to Samuel or even Kings, form the basis for these books with E almost disappearing in Samuel. Source L (Lay source), an invention of Eissfeldt, reports folk tales in colorful fashion, but has little reference to theological concerns. It does, however, evidence an interest in the Ark of the covenant.

Bentzen expressed doubt as to whether or not J and E really continue in Samuel. Albright explicitly denies the validity of J and E for dividing Samuel. Although useful in the Pentateuch, neither they nor other criteria of form can be employed to identify the sources behind Samuel.

Segal, who rejects the documentary hypothesis, posits a combination of two stories of David, the first being a splendid biography by a contemporary, whereas the second is of later date and legendary in origin. Added to this were independent stories of the Ark, Saul, and Samuel.

The tradition-historical school emphasizes saga-cycles like the Ark narratives which circulated orally until they were written down in a loosely connected form. Some postpone the written phase until after the Exile.

Most critics agree that the material in Samuel includes both legendary “hearsay” and highly accurate historical writing. Hence, its reliability is extremely uneven. Many feel that the fragmented stories about David in 1 Samuel 16 &--; 2 Samuel 8 are a sort of historical novel glorifying David. They have a basis in history, but are embellished with the fanciful additions common to saga.

On the other hand, the material in 2 Samuel 9-20, often linked with 1 Kings 1 and 2 under the title of the “Succession Narrative” or “Court History” of David, is regarded as a superb example of historiography. The author of these chs. was a master at character portrayal and was apparently an astute eyewitness who scarcely ever deviated from the facts. The critics are willing to accept the essential unity of these chs., in contrast with the rest of 1 and 2 Samuel.

Samuel in the realm of political literature.

A rather close connection has been observed between 1 Samuel 15 &--; 2 Samuel 8 and the 13th cent. b.c. Hitt. “Apology of Hattusilis.” It appeared likely that the central section of Samuel belongs to a genre of lit. which could be termed a “dynastic defense” or “apology.”

In recent years the study of different genres, types, or forms of lit. has been summed up under the “form criticism” label. This broad designation includes both positive and negative features from the conservative’s standpoint. Some aspects of form criticism are very helpful for a proper understanding of Biblical lit. (cf. the author’s article on “Implications of Form Criticism for Old Testament Studies” in BS, Dec., 1970).

In the “form” or “genre” of “dynastic defense” a king or his supporters outlines those reasons which make his rule legitimate. This is particularly necessary in the case of kings like Hattusilis and David, who founded dynasties and could have been charged with usurpation. With regard to David, Saul’s tribe of Benjamin might have made this accusation (cf. 2 Sam 20). The Hittites also did not have an absolute monarch, for the nobles exercised some control over the king.

These texts have been compared to the more common annalistic writing, but several features distinguish them from that category. Ordinarily, annals follow a strict year by year chronological arrangement, discussing important events in a monarch’s reign. Developments leading up to the enthronement of a ruler are mentioned very briefly if at all. Mursilis, the most important annalist among the Hitt. kings, devotes only a few lines to the years prior to his accession. In both the central portion of Samuel and in the “Apology of Hattusilis,” however, great stress is placed on events which occurred before the men became kings. There is a climactic arrangement which builds until the heroes are placed on the throne. The circumstances surrounding their success are clearly spelled out.

A further divergence from the annals relates to the summary method used. Sometimes events are treated as blocks of time, and there is no effort to move systematically from year to year. The summaries in 2 Samuel 7 and 8 tie together the activities of several years. In the Bible, a more annalistic style of writing can be found in Kings and Chronicles, where the discussion is restricted to individual reigns and does not deal with events preceding their accession.

There are numerous parallels between the Hitt. and Heb. texts which may indicate that parts of Samuel have been patterned after the Hitt. document. Both “dynastic defenses” describe in detail the disqualification of their predecessors (1 Sam 15). Their own ability to lead and to rule is evident from repeated military success against national enemies. This is why David’s slaying of Goliath and his frequent victories over the Philistines are so clearly reported.

The growing popularity of the men is also important. David was respected by the servants of Saul (1 Sam 18:5, 30), the people in general, and the prince he was replacing, Jonathan. Even Saul, in his calmer moments, acknowledged that David would succeed him (24:20). By virtue of his marriage to Saul’s daughter Michal, David increased his claim to the throne. King Hattusilis also contracted an important marriage in this regard.

A prominent characteristic of both kings was lenience to political foes. Neither allowed his over-zealous followers to assassinate the ruling king, thus contrasting their methods to those of usurpers. Instead, both appealed to deity to plead their case as a “court battle” in heaven (24:15).

After coming to power, the kings displayed great energy in religious matters. They were concerned about the worship of the nation and the blessing of one’s deity (Yahweh, for David; Ishtar, for Hattusilis) upon the king (2 Sam 6; 7). Even 2 Samuel 7, in which the critics have seen copious Deuteronomic revision, contains a covenant relating to David and his successors, a covenant which can be paralleled in certain respects in the “Apology of Hattusilis.”

Finally, both texts contain a summary of their reigns, demonstrating divine blessing upon their rule through expansion and the establishment of peace with surrounding nations (2 Sam 8).

Within the sphere of Near Eastern political lit. there are no texts which exhibit the genre of “apology” as well as these two examples. Since there is wide evidence of the impact of foreign cultures upon Israel at this time, it is possible that this Hitt. document had an important bearing upon Samuel. This would help to explain the purpose and arrangement of this section of Samuel.

As mentioned earlier, the corresponding summary passages (1 Sam 14; 2 Sam 8) furnished the clue to the outline. Although Saul does not die until 1 Samuel 31, the listing of his family, officials, and accomplishments in 14:47-52 makes the transition from Saul to David. From that point on, David’s rise to the throne is primary.

Whybray has recently defended the view that the “Succession Narrative” also has a political purpose. He compares it to the propagandist motives of political novels in Egypt. The purpose of this narrative is to justify Solomon’s claim to the throne by revealing how David’s other sons, such as Amnon and Absalom, were unfit to rule. To support this theory, however, 1 Kings 1 and 2 are needed as the climax to 2 Samuel 9-20. This questionable view treats 2 Samuel 21-24 as a later insertion interrupting a continuous narrative. It would appear rather that the central section of Samuel has a much closer connection with dynastic justification.


The theory of “dynastic defense” directly affects the matter of authorship. Tradition has attributed the writing of part of 1 Samuel to the prophet himself, but there is no indisputable evidence as to authorship. Pfeiffer suggests that Ahimaaz the priest wrote part of it, while Segal offers Jehoshaphat the recorder (mazkîr) as David’s trustworthy biographer.

The perplexing reference in 1 Chronicles 29:29 to the acts of David written in the books of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad offers a tempting solution. For some reason, Chronicles does not refer to 2 Samuel, with which it has many parallel passages, unless it be in this verse. Either the works of these three were independent books used as sources by the writers of both Samuel and Chronicles, or else they refer to 1 and 2 Samuel.

If the three-part outline of Samuel can be substantiated, the correspondence with these men is very close. Samuel could easily have written the first half of the book. The prophet Nathan already has been suggested as the author of 2 Samuel 9ff., because of his close association with David’s court. This would leave the other prophet, Gad, as author of the “apology.” While impossible to prove, Gad’s authorship is a reasonable assumption since he did accompany David during part of this hectic period (1 Sam 22:5), and would have been in a position to know the events described.

Perhaps an author-editor combined the works of these three at a later time, also using the Book of Jashar (2 Sam 1:18) as a source. This would account for the smooth transition from section to section and the overall unity of the books. The parts are clearly interrelated and the language is basically the same.


The answers to the questions raised in the previous section are vitally related to the date of Samuel. If Samuel, Nathan, and Gad are the real authors, the books were written essentially during David’s day or shortly thereafter. Parts of Samuel, particularly from 2 Samuel 9-20, are acknowledged by many critics as being of 10th cent. b.c. origin. The same critics, however, will relegate other portions of the books to various later periods extending to the Exile.

Yet, since the form and content of the “apology” resemble political lit. which is solidly dated earlier than David, one can argue for an early date for these chs. also. The need for a dynastic defense could have arisen not only under David’s rule but during Solomon’s reign as opposition to his policies mounted, or during the early divided kingdom when David’s throne was seriously threatened. In 1 Samuel 27:6 there is reference to Ziklag as belonging “to the kings of Judah to this day.” This would imply that the kingdom already had been divided, unless it is a later addition. Perhaps this v. demonstrated that an author-editor used as sources an independently existing “apology” and “court history” of David, and that Samuel was written sometime during the divided monarchy.

Conservatives have varied in dating the composition of the books anywhere from 970 to 722 b.c. Lack of reference to the fall of Samaria provides a solid terminus ad quem. Based on the eyewitness accounts and on the general antiquity of linguistic features, the earlier date appears far closer to the truth.


The books of Samuel were written to present a connected history of the events surrounding the establishment of the monarchy. They deal with the last judges and introduce the first two kings during this vital transition period. Samuel’s ministry as a prophet is also of importance for understanding the development of the prophetic office as well as the later work of leading prophets.

Originally, the “apology of David” underlying 1 Samuel 15-2 Samuel 8 was prob. aimed at the contemporary Jews who were doubting the legitimacy of David’s dynasty, perhaps during the reign of Solomon. By defending his actions and revealing God’s clear choice of David, the author attempted to convince the nation that the right to rule did indeed belong to David and his offspring.

The moral and spiritual lessons inherent in the experience of Samuel, Saul, David and others are of timeless value. By describing the catastrophe which nearly befell David and the nation, the author warns the people about the effects of personal and national sin. The emphasis upon David is intended to acquaint all believers with this man after God’s own heart, who, in spite of serious sin, was chosen to deliver his people and to head an eternal dynasty culminating in Christ.

The books provide an illuminating historical background to some of the psalms, and important facts about the beloved Jerusalem are also presented.


The traditional Heb. text represented by the Masoretic recension is strangely defective in 1 and 2 Samuel. There are cases where emendations are mandatory because of the poorly preserved text. For example, 1 Samuel 13:1 omits the number before “years” while describing Saul’s age.

The reason why the MT of Samuel has more difficulties than the text of any other book is not clear. Archer suggests that the official text formulated during the intertestamentary period depended upon an ancient Vorlage which may have been worm-eaten, or frayed through overuse. The Masoretes then faithfully reproduced this defective “official” text. Segal feels that Samuel was neglected because of competition from the more popular book of Chronicles. Being read less, the text of Samuel somehow became corrupt.

Fragments of Samuel among the DSS have indicated that the Heb. underlying the LXX was superior to the Masoretic tradition. Cross has studied several passages where the Qumran material closely resembles the LXX, particularly Codex B. This indicates that the Gr. translators handled their Heb. texts with overall faithfulness, and should be trusted more than they have been in the past. In Samuel at least, the LXX is of great value for determining the true reading in many difficult passages.

Albright has reported that Cross’s forthcoming publication of a larger Samuel text from Qumran will follow the LXX closely. He believes, moreover, that the oldest copy of Samuel at Qumran bears readings superior to either the Gr. or Heb. texts.

Special problems


Critics often attempt to prove that Samuel is full of discrepancies and contradictions by referring to the many “doublets” in the text. The descriptions of the same event in two different ways “betrays” the use of different sources or parallel accounts. Examples include the following: twice Saul is made king; twice David is introduced to Saul; twice the Ziphites inform Saul of David’s hiding place. There are supposedly many others also, but in each case there is a satisfactory explanation.

The events surrounding Saul’s two “coronations” are quite different. On the first occasion, Saul was chosen by lot and presented to the people. Some of the “worthless fellows” (1 Sam 10:27) were dubious of his ability to produce, however, and refused to acknowledge him. In ch. 11, Saul vigorously led Israel to victory over the Ammonites, and Samuel brought the people to Gilgal to “renew the kingdom” (1 Sam 11:14). There they “made Saul king” (v. 15) amid great rejoicing and unity. The words “made Saul king” do not occur in ch. 10, and the reference to renewing or confirming the kingdom implies that Saul had been designated previously as king.

David was introduced to King Saul in 1 Samuel 16:21. At that time, Saul welcomed him as a musician and armor-bearer, hired to soothe the disturbed king. After David returned from the slaughter of Goliath, Saul asked him, “Whose son are you?” (17:58). There is no need to infer that Saul had forgotten his first name, but only that of his father. One of the benefits of David’s victory was freedom for his father’s house, as the men of Israel had told him before the battle (17:25, 27). Apparently this included exemption from taxation or other services ordinarily rendered to the king. Hence, knowing the name of David’s father became important.

Under the stress and excitement of facing such a formidable foe as Goliath, Saul could also have been excused for a lapse of memory. David was only a court musician and an armor-bearer, so his name may not have been indelibly impressed upon the erratic king’s mind. Moreover, 1 Samuel 18:2 states that Saul would not allow David to return home, suggesting a difference from his earlier policy (17:15).

The two episodes involving the Ziphites are also superficially similar. In both chs. 23 and 26 they betray David’s location to Saul, but the succeeding events are quite different. Whenever a jealous king pursues his handsome, popular rival in headlong flight, it would be a captivating story and likely to be reported. In extra-Biblical Near Eastern lit. there are abundant examples of the repetition of similar events. Within the Hitt. annals of Mursilis, for instance, there are several references to the ill health and recovery of an old king. Scholars have concluded that these were separate events rather than different descriptions of the same illness. Abraham’s twofold representation of Sarah as his sister (Gen 12 and 20) is of a similar nature.

Who killed Goliath?

Another apparent contradiction which could also be classed as a doublet concerns the two slayers of Goliath. The more popular version credits David for this deed, but 2 Samuel 21:19 says that Elhanan slew Goliath. Most critics believe that Elhanan actually killed the giant, and only later was the hero’s role transferred to the better-known David.

This supposition, however, finds no support in the rest of Scripture. If David did not kill Goliath, it becomes difficult to account for Saul’s intense jealousy and for the song crediting David with slaying ten thousands (1 Sam 18:7). His conquering of the Philistine giant was his greatest triumph and paved the way for his leadership of Israel.

In 1 Samuel 21:9 David was forced to take Goliath’s sword from the priest Ahimelech. David had evidently dedicated the weapon to the Lord after his victory. His action parallels that of King Hattusilis III, the Hitt. whose “Apology” was earlier compared with Samuel. There is a strong possibility that Hattusilis was also involved in a battle of champions. H. Hoffner has recently discussed the evidence based on the “Apology of Hattusilis” (II:31-47). After leading his men to an unexpectedly overwhelming victory perhaps by individual combat, the Hitt. warrior dedicated his weapon to the goddess Ishtar. A battle of champions on Hitt. soil would provide an interesting analogy to the phenomenon already well-known in Gr. and Heb. lit.

The context in 2 Samuel 21 also supports David’s right to the victory. Four of David’s mighty men are said to have killed descendants of the giant (v. 22). It is unlikely that David’s warriors would have accomplished what their king himself could not do. The struggles of Goliath’s relatives were an attempt to avenge the giant’s death. A blood-feud of this type was a natural sequel to David’s victory.

The parallel in 1 Chronicles 20:5 supplies the needed solution, since it refers to Elhanan’s triumph over Lahmi, the brother of Goliath. Apparently the MT of Samuel was defective at this point, changing “Lahmi” into “Bethlehem.” The error involves similarly shaped letters and could easily have crept into the text. Samuel has בֵּ֣ית הַלַּחְמִ֗י ֚אֵת instead of Chronicles’ אֶת־לַחְמִי אֲחִי.

The witch of Endor.

Saul’s experience with the medium or witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28 is a difficult passage to interpret. This woman was one of many wizards or spiritists who operated in Israel in spite of laws banning them. Isaiah condemned those who consulted “mediums and wizards” rather than listen to the word of God (Isa 8:19, 20). In Saul’s case, he was desperate to know the future and sought some message from the departed Samuel, whose advice he had usually taken too lightly while he was alive.

Several explanations have been given regarding this event and the powers of mediums in general. Some feel that Samuel did not appear in any form; it was only a psychological phenomenon in which Saul thought he saw Samuel owing to his confused state of mind and the mysterious effects of darkness. This interpretation is hard to derive from the scriptural account.

Within a more conservative framework, it has been proposed that God allowed Saul to see a form which resembled Samuel, but which was not actually the body or spirit of the prophet himself. The more obvious explanation, however, recognizes that Samuel did actually appear to Saul in visible form and that the deceased prophet communicated with Saul. Samuel looked like “a god” (v. 13), implying an unusual appearance for this spirit in visible form.

While not denying the powers of mediums and spiritists within the demonic sphere, one need not conclude that calling up the dead normally lay within their ability. In this instance, God intervened and sent Samuel to His disobedient king. The woman revealed her surprise at the unusual success of this venture by crying out “with a loud voice” when she saw Samuel (v. 12). This implies that she and her colleagues could not ordinarily bring up the dead.

The episode does demonstrate the conscious existence of departed spirits and supports the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.


Although the main emphasis of Samuel is historical and not theological, there are several chapters which touch directly upon important doctrines.

The will of God.

Scholars have puzzled over the attitude of God toward the establishment of the monarchy. There is sufficient evidence to indicate that God was displeased with the rejection of the theocracy (1 Sam 8:7). Samuel tried to dissuade the people from desiring a king, but the majority were adamant in their demand. Yet, even before Saul was anointed, God promised to bless him and to use him in delivering His people (9:16). Apparently some distinction can be made between the directive and permissive will of God in this case. The wish for a king was sinful, but God allowed this wish to become reality and blessed the kingdom greatly in subsequent years.

Another aspect of the will of God relates to predestination and human responsibility, both of which find support in Samuel. After Saul had been king for some time, he disobeyed the commandment of God by performing sacrifices. Samuel severely reprimanded him for this behavior and announced that Saul had forfeited his right to a lasting dynasty. God “would have established your kingdom over Israel for ever” (1 Sam 13:13). Instead, Saul’s sin led the Lord to transfer the leadership to David.

It is clear that Saul’s sin is pinpointed as the cause for his loss of dynastic rights. Yet, as early as patriarchal times Jacob prophesied that “the scepter shall not depart from Judah” (Gen 49:10). The ruling tribe would be Judah, to which David belonged and not Benjamin, the tribe of Saul. Hence, would not the scriptural fulfillment have necessitated the disqualification of Saul? Interestingly, Samuel did not console Saul by saying, “It was not your fault, it had to happen.” Saul was not excused for his sin but was judged for it. God, of course, foreknew this event making it certain long before, but human responsibility remained very much in the picture.

The doctrine of sin.

Both 1 and 2 Samuel illustrate all too vividly the sinfulness of the human heart and the inevitable results of sin. Godly leaders like Eli, David and even Samuel are singled out for their failures before the Lord. Strangely enough, all three men reared children who rebelled against God. As fathers, they experienced great difficulty in bringing their sons into the deep relationship with God they enjoyed. Eli’s sons robbed the sacrifices, blasphemed God, and committed fornication, all in the role of priests (1 Sam 2:13-17, 22; 3:13). It is no wonder that God destroyed them before the Philistines. Because of the wickedness of Samuel’s sons, the people were further motivated to ask for a king (8:5).

Saul began his rule as a humble, Spirit-controlled man. As his reign progressed, however, he disobeyed the Lord, came under the influence of an evil spirit, and was consumed with murderous jealousy. He was finally reduced to dealing with a spiritist in an effort to contact the dead.

The experience of David provides the greatest instruction, both positively and negatively. This great king, a man after God’s own heart, nevertheless became secretly involved in adultery and murder after exhibiting great faith and devoutness for years. When David acknowledged his sin and was restored spiritually (2 Sam 12:13), the Lord forgave him, thus showing His great mercy. Although David’s confession was deep and sincere, he had to suffer the inevitable consequences of sin, even of forgiven sin. Bathsheba’s first child died, and David’s first son Amnon imitated his father by committing fornication with Tamar. This precipitated Absalom’s avenging murder which led directly to the major rebellion under Absalom. God still blessed the reign of David, however, and He even exalted Solomon, Bathsheba’s second son, to the throne.

The Davidic covenant.

One of the most important OT covenants was made with David (2 Sam 7). This covenant amplifies the provisions of the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis by promising to David an eternal throne and kingdom. The right to rule over Israel will always belong to one of his descendants, a promise anticipating the everlasting reign of Christ. God’s great faithfulness and steadfast love for His servant were clearly seen in His gracious forgiveness of David’s sin. In view of God’s sure word, David rejoiced in the promise given to his household. His “last words” of 2 Samuel 23:1, 5 refer to this “everlasting covenant.”

On the human level, the relationship between David and Jonathan provides an excellent illustration of covenant responsibility. They exhibited intense love and loyalty for each other even though Jonathan had reason to share Saul’s jealousy of David. As a result of their covenant, David kindly cared for Jonathan’s crippled son after he was established as king.


S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and Topography of the Books of Samuel (1913); F. M. Cross, Jr., “A New Qumran Biblical Fragment Related to the Original Hebrew Underlying the LXX,” BASOR, CXXXII (1953), 15-26; “The Oldest Manuscripts from Qumran,” JBL, LXXIV (1955), 165-172; C. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Books of Samuel (1963) (reprint); H. Hertzberg, I and II Samuel (1964); G. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (1964), 270-275; A. Johns, “Did David Use Assyrian-type Annals?” Andrews University Seminary Studies, III (1965), 97-109; M. Segal, “The Composition of the Books of Samuel,” JQR, LV (1965), 318-339; LVI (1965), 32-50, 137-157; A. Weiser, “Die Legitimation der Königs Davids,” VT, XVI (1966), 325-354; W. F. Albright, Archaeology, Historical Analogy, and Early Biblical Tradition (1966), 42-65; H. M. Wolf, “The Apology of Hattusilis Compared with Other Political Self-Justifications of the Ancient Near East,” University Microfilms (1967); R. Whybray, The Succession Narrative (1968); H. A. Hoffner, Jr., “A Hittite Analogue to the David and Goliath Contest of Champions?” CBQ, XXX (1968), 220-225.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The word "Samuel" signifies "name of God," or "his name is El" (God). Other interpretations of the name that have been offered are almost certainly mistaken. The play upon the name in 1Sa 1:20 is not intended of course to be an explanation of its meaning, but is similar to the play upon the name Moses in Ex 2:10 and frequently elsewhere in similar instances. Thus, by the addition of a few letters shemu’el becomes sha’ul me’el, "asked of God," and recalls to the mother of Samuel the circumstances of the divine gift to her of a son. Outside of 1st Samuel the name of the great judge and prophet is found in Jer 15:1; Ps 99:6 and in 1 and 2 Chronicles. The reference in Jeremiah seems intended to convey the same impression that is given by the narrative of 1 Samuel, that in some sense Samuel had come to be regarded as a second Moses, upon whom the mantle of the latter had fallen, and who had been once again the deliverer and guide of the people at a great national crisis.

1. Sources and Character of the History:

The narrative of the events of the life of Samuel appears to be derived from more than one source (see Books of Samuel). The narrator had before him and made use of biographies and traditions, which he combined into a single consecutive history. The completed picture of the prophet’s position and character which is thus presented is on the whole harmonious and consistent, and gives a very high impression of his piety and loyalty to Yahweh, and of the wide influence for good which he exerted. There are divergences apparent in detail and standpoint between the sources or traditions, some of which may probably be due merely to misunderstanding of the true nature of the events recorded, or to the failure of the modern reader rightly to appreciate the exact circumstances and time. The greater part of the narrative of the life of Samuel, however, appears to have a single origin.

2. Life:

In the portion of the general history of Israel contained in 1 Samuel are narrated the circumstances of the future prophet’s birth (chapter 1); of his childhood and of the custom of his parents to make annual visits to the sanctuary at Shiloh (2:11,18-21,26); of his vision, and the universal recognition of him as a prophet enjoying the special favor of Yahweh (3-4:1). The narrative is then interrupted to describe the conflicts with the Philistines, the fate of Eli and his sons, and the capture of the ark of God. It is only after the return of the ark, and apparently at the close of the 20 years during which it was retained at Kiriath-jearim, that Samuel again comes forward publicly, exhorting the people to repentance and promising them deliverance from the Philistines. A summary narrative is then given of the summoning of a national council at Mizpah, at which Samuel "judged the children of Israel," and offered sacrifice to the Lord, and of Yahweh’s response in a great thunderstorm, which led to the defeat and panic-stricken flight of the Philistines. Then follows the narrative of the erection of a commemorative stone or pillar, Eben-ezer, "the stone of help," and the recovery of the Israelite cities which the Philistines had captured (7:5-14). The narrator adds that the Philistines came no more within the border of Israel all the days of Samuel (7:13); perhaps with an intentional reference to the troubles and disasters of which this people was the cause in the time of Saul. A brief general statement is appended of Samuel’s practice as a judge of going on annual circuit through the land, and of his home at Ramah (7:15-17).

No indication is given of the length of time occupied by these events. At their close, however, Samuel was an old man, and his sons who had been appointed judges in his place or to help him in his office proved themselves unworthy (1Sa 8:1-3). The elders of the people therefore came to Samuel demanding the appointment of a king who should be his successor, and should judge in his stead. The request was regarded by the prophet as an act of disloyalty to Yahweh, but his protest was overruled by divine direction, and at Samuel’s bidding the people dispersed (1Sa 8:4-22).

At this point the course of the narrative is again interrupted to describe the family and origin of Saul, his personal appearance, and the search for the lost asses of his father (1Sa 9:1-5); his meeting with Samuel in a city in the land of Zuph, in or on the border of the territory of Benjamin (Zuph is the name of an ancestor of Elkanah, the father of Samuel, in 1Sa 1:1), a meeting of which Samuel had received divine pre-intimation (1Sa 9:15 f) ; the honorable place given to Saul at the feast; his anointing by Samuel as ruler of Israel, together with the announcement of three "signs," which should be to Saul assurances of the reality of his appointment and destiny; the spirit of prophecy which took possession of the future king, whereby is explained a proverbial saying which classed Saul among the prophets; and his silence with regard to what had passed between himself and Samuel on the subject of the kingdom (1Sa 9:6-10:16).

It is usually, and probably rightly, believed that the narrative of these last incidents is derived from a different source from that of the preceding chapters. Slight differences of inconsistency or disagreement lie on the surface. Samuel’s home is not at Ramah, but a nameless city in the land of Zuph, where he is priest of the high place, with a local but, as far as the narrative goes, not a national influence or reputation; and it is anticipated that he will require the customary present at the hands of his visitors (1Sa 9:6-8). He is described, moreover, not as a judge, nor does he discharge judicial functions, but expressly as a "seer," a name said to be an earlier title equivalent to the later "prophet" (1Sa 9:9,11,19). Apart, however, from the apparently different position which Samuel occupies, the tone and style of the narrative is altogether distinct from that of the preceding chapters. It suggests, both in its form and in the religious conceptions which are assumed or implied, an older and less elaborated tradition than that which has found expression in the greater part of the book; and it seems to regard events as it were from a more primitive standpoint than the highly religious and monotheistic view of the later accounts. Its value as a witness to history is not impaired, but perhaps rather enhanced by its separate and independent position. The writer or compiler of 1 Samuel has inserted it as a whole in his completed narrative at the point which he judged most suitable. To the same source should possibly be assigned the announcement of Saul’s rejection in 13:8-15a.

The course of the narrative is resumed at 1Sa 10:17 ff, where, in a second national assembly at Mizpah, Saul is selected by lot and accepted by the people as king (10:17-24); after which the people dispersed, and Saul returned to his home at Gibeah (10:25-27). At a solemn assembly at Gilgal, at which the kingship is again formally conferred upon Saul, Samuel delivered a farewell address to his fellow-countrymen. A thunderstorm terrified the people; they were reassured, however, by Samuel with promises of the protection and favor of Yahweh, if they continued to fear and serve Him (11:14-12:25). Later the rejection of Saul for disobedience and presumption is announced by Samuel (13:8-15a). The commission to destroy Amalek is delivered to Saul by Samuel; and the rejection of the king is again pronounced because of his failure to carry out the command. Agag is then slain by Samuel with his own hand; and, the latter having returned to his home at Ramah, the narrator adds that he remained there in seclusion until the day of his death, "mourning" for Saul, but refusing to meet him again (1 Samuel 15). Finally the death and burial of Samuel at Ramah, together with the lamentation of the people for him, are briefly recorded in 1Sa 25:1, and referred to again in 28:3.

Two incidents of Samuel’s life remain, in which he is brought into relation with the future king David. No indication of date or circumstance is given except that the first incident apparently follows immediately upon the second and final rejection of Saul as recorded in 1 Samuel 15. In 16:1-13 is narrated the commission of Samuel to anoint a successor to Saul, and his fulfillment of the commission by the choice of David the son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite. And, in a later chapter (19:18-24), a second occasion is named on which the compelling spirit of prophecy came upon Saul, and again the proverbial saying, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" is quoted (19:24; compare 10:11,12), and is apparently regarded as taking its origin from this event.

The anointing of David by Samuel is a natural sequel to his anointing of Saul, when the latter has been rejected and his authority and rights as king have ceased. There is nothing to determine absolutely whether the narrative is derived from the same source as the greater part of the preceding history. Slight differences of style and the apparent presuppositions of the writer have led most scholars to the conclusion that it has a distinct and separate origin. If so, the compiler of the Books of Samuel drew upon a third source for his narrative of the life of the seer, a source which there is no reason to regard as other than equally authentic and reliable. With the second incident related in 1Sa 19:18-24, the case is different. It is hardly probable that so striking a proverb was suggested and passed into currency independently on two distinct occasions. It seems evident that here two independent sources or authorities were used, which gave hardly reconcilable accounts of the origin of a well-known saying, in one of which it has been mistakenly attributed to a similar but not identical occurrence in the life of Saul. In the final composition of the book both accounts were then inserted, without notice being taken of the inconsistency which was apparent between them.

Yet later in the history Samuel is represented as appearing to Saul in a vision at Endor on the eve of his death (1Sa 28:11-20). The witch also sees the prophet and is stricken with fear. He is described as in appearance an old man "covered with a robe" (1Sa 28:14). In characteristically grave and measured tones he repeats the sentence of death against the king for his disobedience to Yahweh, and announces its execution on the morrow; Saul’s sons also will die with him (1Sa 28:19), and the whole nation will be involved in the penalty and suffering, as they all had a part in the sin.

The high place which Samuel occupies in the thought of the writers and in the tradition and esteem of the people is manifest throughout the history. The different sources from which the narrative is derived are at one in this, although perhaps not to an equal degree. He is the last and greatest of the judges, the first of the prophets, and inaugurates under divine direction the Israelite kingdom and the Davidic line.

3. Character and Influence of Samuel:

It is not without reason, therefore, that he has been regarded as in dignity and importance occupying the position of a second Moses in relation to the people. In his exhortations and warnings the Deuteronomic discourses of Moses are reflected and repeated. He delivers the nation from the hand of the Philistines, as Moses from Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and opens up for them a new national era of progress and order under the rule of the kings whom they have desired. Thus, like Moses, he closes the old order, and establishes the people with brighter prospects upon more assured foundations of national prosperity and greatness. In nobility of character and utterance also, and in fidelity to Yahweh, Samuel is not unworthy to be placed by the side of the older lawgiver. The record of his life is not marred by any act or word which would appear unworthy of his office or prerogative. And the few references to him in the later literature (Ps 99:6; Jer 15:1; 1Ch 6:28; 9:22; 11:3; 26:28; 29:29; 2Ch 35:18) show how high was the estimation in which his name and memory were held by his fellow-countrymen in subsequent ages.


The literature is given in the article, SAMUEL, BOOKS OF (which see).