Book of 1 Samuel


Authorship, date, and background 1 and 2 Samuel, as also 1 and 2 Kings (and 1 and 2 Chronicles), were originally single books. In the Greek Septuagint the two larger books of Samuel and Kings were divided into four books which were called "Books of the Kingdoms" since they dealt with the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In the Latin Vulgate Bible, Jerome followed the Septuagint translators except that he called the four books the "Books of Kings." Thus, what is called today 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings were known as "The First, Second, Third, and Fourth Books of the Kings."

The date and authorship of the books of Samuel cannot be determined with certainty. From the evidence contained in them, it appears that the writer lived after the events occurred. He made use of extant material such as the Chronicles of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad. A late Jewish tradition which attributed the authorship of these two books to Samuel indicates the degree of respect with which he was held by the Jews. He was certainly important as a prophet, priest, and judge. He started the schools of the prophets. He was the nexus between the period of the Judges and the beginning of the monarchy. And he trained David, who was to become Israel's shepherd-king. Conservative scholars have usually set the date for the composition of the books of Samuel somewhere from the death of Solomon in 930 B.C to 722 B.C., which marked the end of the Northern Kingdom.

Characteristics and content 1 Samuel recounts the history of Israel from the end of the Judges to the death of Saul by special reference to the leading characters - Eli, Samuel, Saul, David, and Jonathan. The book begins with the birth of Samuel, the son of Elkanah who lived in Ramathaim-zophim. Elkanah may well have been a Levite, since they were distributed among the various tribes including the tribe of Ephraim, among whose people he resides. Little Samuel lives with Eli, whose sons are reprobates. Upon the death of Eli, Samuel, now grown up, succeeds him and serves Israel as judge, prophet, and priest.

When Israel insists upon having a king like the surrounding nations, God discloses to Samuel that Saul is his choice. At the same time he foretells what the king will be like. Saul gets off to a good start. He wins military victories. But he becomes heady and disobeys the commands of Samuel. Samuel pronounces judgment upon him for God, who says that he delights more in obedience than in burnt offerings. Young David enters the picture when he slays Goliath, makes friends with Jonathan, and eventually serves King Saul at the royal court. Saul persecutes David, who is forced to flee. He maintains his friendship with Jonathan despite Saul's objections to his son's love for David. God reveals to Samuel that David is his choice to replace Saul in the kingship. David has a number of opportunities to slay Saul but refuses to do so lest he smite the Lord's anointed.

Saul becomes demented. His conduct indicates his state of mind. At last he consults the witch at Endor because the Spirit of God has left him. Meanwhile, David flees to Philistines. Finally Saul dies in a battle against the Philistines as do his sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua. A new day is about to dawn for Israel with David coming into prominence as king.