Samuel, The Books of
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The LXX. translators regarded the books of Samuel and
of Kings as forming one continuous history, which they divided into four books,
which they called "Books of the Kingdom." The Vulgate version followed this division,
but styled them "Books of the Kings." These books of Samuel they accordingly called
the "First" and "Second" Books of Kings, and not, as in the modern Protestant
versions, the "First" and "Second" Books of Samuel.
The authors of the books of Samuel were probably Samuel, Gad, and Nathan. Samuel
penned the first twenty-four chapters of the first book. Gad, the companion of
David ( 1 Samuel 22:5 ), continued the history thus commenced; and Nathan completed
it, probably arranging the whole in the form in which we now have it ( 1 Chronicles
The contents of the books. The first book comprises a period of about a hundred
years, and nearly coincides with the life of Samuel. It contains
|(1) the history of Eli (1 Samuel 1 - 4);
(2) the history of Samuel (1 Samuel 5 - 12);
(3) the history of Saul, and of David in exile (1 Samuel 13 - 31).
The second book, comprising a period of perhaps fifty years, contains a history
of the reign of David
|(1) over Judah (2 Samuel 1 - 4), and
(2) over all Israel (2 Samuel 5 - 24), mainly in its political aspects.
The last four chapters of Second Samuel may be regarded as a sort of appendix
recording various events, but not chronologically.
These books do not contain complete histories. Frequent gaps are met with in the
record, because their object is to present a history of the kingdom of God in
its gradual development, and not of the events of the reigns of the successive
rulers. It is noticeable that the section ( 2 Samuel 11:2 - 12 : 29 ) containing
an account of David's sin in the matter of Bathsheba is omitted in the corresponding
passage in 1 Chronicles 20 .
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
are not separated from each other in the Hebrew MSS.,
and, from a critical point of view, must be regarded as one book. The present,
division was first made in the Septuagint translation, and was adopted in the
Vulgate from the Septuagint. The book was called by the Hebrews: "Samuel," probably
because the birth and life of Samuel were the subjects treated of in the beginning
of the work. The books of Samuel commence with the history of Eli and Samuel,
and contain all account of the establishment of the Hebrew monarchy and of the
reigns of Saul and David, with the exception of the last days of the latter monarch
which are related in the beginning of the books of Kings, of which those of Samuel
form the previous portion. [KINGS,
Authorship and date of the book --
As to the authorship. In common with all the historical books of the Old Testament,
except the beginning of Nehemiah, the book of Samuel contains no mention in the
text of the name of its author. It is indisputable that the title "Samuel" does
not imply that the prophet was the author of the book of Samuel as a whole; for
the death of Samuel is recorded in the beginning of the 25th chapter. In our own
time the most prevalent idea in the Anglican Church seems to have been that the
first twenty-four chapters of the book of Samuel were written by the prophet himself,
and the rest of the chapters by the prophets Nathan and Gad. This, however, is
But although the authorship cannot be ascertained with certainty, it appears clear
that, in its present form it must have been composed subsequent to the secession
of the ten tribes, B.C. 975. This results from the passage in ( 1 Samuel 27:6
) wherein it is said of David, "Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day wherefore
Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah to this day:" for neither Saul, David
nor Solomon is in a single instance called king of Judah simply. On the other
hand, it could hardly have been written later than the reformation of Josiah,
since it seems to have been composed at a time when the Pentateuch was not acted
on as the rule of religious observances, which received a special impetus at the
finding of the Book of the Law at the reformation of Josiah. All, therefore, that
can be asserted with any certainty is that the book, as a whole, can scarcely
have been composed later than the reformation of Josiah, and that it could not
have existed in its present form earlier than the reign of Rehoboam. The book
of Samuel is one of the best specimens of Hebrew prose in the golden age of Hebrew
literature. In prose it holds the same place which Joel and the undisputed prophecies
of Isaiah hold in poetical or prophetical language.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
I. PLACE OF THE BOOKS OF SAMUEL IN THE HEBREW CANON
In the Hebrew Canon and enumeration of the sacred books
of the Old Testament, 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:
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)
|(1) Visit of Hannah to Shiloh, and promise of the birth
of a son (1 Samuel 1:1-19); birth and weaning of Samuel, and presentation to Eli
at Shiloh (1 Samuel 1:19-28).
(2) Hannah's song or prayer (1 Samuel 2:1-10); ministry of Samuel to Eli the priest
(1 Samuel 2:11,18-21,26); the evil practices of the sons of Eli and warning to
Eli of the consequences to his house (1 Samuel 2:12-17,22-25,27-36).
(3) Samuel's vision at the sanctuary and his induction to the prophetic office
(1 Samuel 3:1-4:1).
(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 (1 Samuel 4).
(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 (1 Samuel 5:1-7:4).
(6) Assembly of Israel under Samuel at Mizpah, and victory over the Philistines
(1 Samuel 7:5-14); Samuel established as judge over all Israel (1 Samuel 7:15-17).
(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 (1 Samuel 8).
(8) Saul's search for, the lost asses of his father and meeting with Samuel (1
(9) Saul is anointed by Samuel to be ruler over the people of Israel, and receives
the gift of prophecy (1 Samuel 10:1-16); second assembly of the people under Samuel
at Mizpah, and election of Saul to be king (1 Samuel 10:17-27).
(10) Victory of Saul over the Ammonites and deliverance of Jabesh-gilead (1 Samuel
11:1-13); Saul made king in Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14,15).
(11) Samuel's address to the people in Gilgal, defending his own life and action,
and exhorting them to fear and serve the Lord (1 Samuel 12).
(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
(1 Samuel 13).
(13) Jonathan's surprise of the Philistine army, and their sudden panic (1 Samuel
14:1-23); Saul's vow, unwittingly broken by Jonathan, whom the people deliver
from the fatal consequences (1 Samuel 14:24-45); victories of Saul over his enemies
on every side (1 Samuel 14:46-52).
(14) War against Amalek, and Saul's disobedience to the divine command to exterminate
the Amaleldtes (1 Samuel 15).
2. Reign and Death of Saul (1 Samuel 16 - 2 Samuel 1)
|(1) Anointing of David as Saul's successor (1 Samuel 16:1-13);
his summons to the court of Saul to act as minstrel before the king (1 Samuel
(2) David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
(3) The love of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-4); the former's advancement
and fame, the jealousy of Saul, and his attempt to kill David (1 Samuel 18:5-16,29,30);
David's marriage to the daughter of Saul (1 Samuel 18:17-28).
(4) Saul's renewed jealousy of David and second attempt to kill him (1 Samuel
19:1-17); David's escape to Ramah, whither the king followed (1 Samuel 19:18-24).
(5) Jonathan's warning to David of his father's resolve and their parting (1 Samuel
(6) David at Nob (1 Samuel 21:1-9); and with Achish of Gath (1 Samuel 21:10-15).
(7) David's band of outlaws at Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1,2); his provision for the
safety of his father and mother in Moab (1 Samuel 22:3-5); vengeance of Saul on
those who had helped David (1 Samuel 22:6-23).
(8) Repeated attempts of Saul to take David (1 Samuel 23; 24).
(9) Death of Samuel (1 Samuel 25:1); Abigail becomes David's wife, after the death
of her husband Nabal (1 Samuel 25:2-44).
(10) Saul's further pursuit of David (1 Samuel 26).
(11) David's sojourn with Achish of Gath (1 Samuel 27:1-28:2; 1 Samuel 28:3-25).
(12) David's pursuit of the Amalekites who had raided Ziklag, and victory (1 Samuel
(13) Battle between the Philistines and Israel in Mt. Gilboa and death of Saul
(1 Samuel 31).
(14) News of Saul's death brought to David at Ziklag (2 Samuel 1:1-16); David's
lamentation over Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:17-27).
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 (2 Samuel 2:1-4
a); message to the men of Jabesh-gilead (2 Samuel 2:4-7); Ish-bosheth made king
over Northern Israel (2 Samuel 2:8-11); defeat of Abner and death of Asahel (2
(b) Increase of the fame and prosperity of David, and the names of his sons (2
Samuel 3:1-5); Abner's submission to David, and treacherous murder of the former
by Joab (2 Samuel 3:6-39).
(c) Murder of Ish-bosheth and David's vengeance upon his murderers (2 Samuel 4:1-3,5-12);
notice of the escape of Mephibosheth, when Saul and Jonathan were slain at Jezreel
(2 Samuel 4:4).
(d) David accepted as king over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-3).
(2) Reign of David in Jerusalem over United Israel (2 Samuel 5:4-20:26).
|(a) Taking of Jerusalem and victories over the Philistines
(2 Samuel 5:4-25).
(b) Return of the ark to the city of David (2 Samuel 6).
(c) David's purpose to build a temple for the Lord (2 Samuel 7:1-3); the divine
answer by the prophet Nathan, and the king's prayer (2 Samuel 7:4-29).
(d) Victories over the Philistines, Syrians, and other peoples (2 Samuel 8).
(e) David's reception of Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9).
(f) Defeat of the Ammonites and Syrians by the men of Israel under the command
of Joab (2 Samuel 10:1-11:1).
(g) David and Uriah, the latter's death in battle, and David's marriage with Bath-sheba
(2 Samuel 11:2-27).
(h) Nathan's parable and David's conviction of sin (2 Samuel 12:1-15); the king's
grief and intercession for his sick son (2 Samuel 12:15-25); siege and capture
of Rabbah, the Ammonite capital (2 Samuel 12:26-31).
(i) Amnon and Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-22); Absalom's revenge and murder of Amnon
(2 Samuel 13:23-36); flight of Absalom (2 Samuel 13:37-39).
(j) Return of Absalom to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:1-24); his beauty, and reconciliation
with the king (2 Samuel 14:25-33).
(k) Absalom's method of ingratiating himself with the people (2 Samuel 15:1-6);
his revolt and the flight of the king from Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:7-31); meeting
with Hushai (2 Samuel 15:32-37); Absalom in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:37).
(l) David's' meeting with Ziba (2 Samuel 16:1-4), and Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5-14);
counsel of Ahitophel and Hushai (2 Samuel 16:15-17:14); the news carried to David
(2 Samuel 17:15-22); death of Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23).
(m) David at Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24-29).
(n) The revolt subdued, death of Absalom, and reception by David of the tidings
(2 Samuel 18:1-19:8).
(o) Return of the king to Jerusalem, and meetings with Shimei, Mephibosheth, and
Barzillai the Gileadite (2 Samuel 19:8-43).
(p) Revolt of Sheba the Benjamite, and its suppression by Joab with the death
of Amasa (2 Samuel 20:1,2,4-22); the king's treatment of the concubines left at
Jerusalem (2 Samuel 20:3); the names of his officers (2 Samuel 20:23-26).
4. Appendix (2 Samuel 21 - 24)
|(1) Seven male descendants of Saul put to death at the instance
of the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-14); incidents of wars with the Philistines (2
(2) David's song of thanksgiving and praise (2 Samuel 22).
(3) The "last words" of David (2 Samuel 23:1-7); names and exploits of David's
"mighty men" (2 Samuel 23:8-39).
(4) The king's numbering of the people, the resulting plague, and the dedication
of the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24).
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 (1 Samuel 16:14
- 23; 17:31 , 55); and the two accounts of the manner of the king's death can
be imperfectly reconciled only on the hypothesis that the young Amalekite told
a false tale to David in order to magnify his own part in the matter. In these
and other instances little or no attempt seems to be made to harmonize conflicting
accounts, or to reconcile apparent discrepancies. In good faith the writer set
down the records as he found them, making extracts or quotations from his authorities
on the several events as they occurred, and thus building up his own history on
the basis of the freest possible use of the materials and language of those who
had preceded him.
However alien such a method of composition may appear to modern thought and usage
in the West, it is characteristic of all early oriental writing. It would be almost
impossible to find in any eastern literature a work of any length or importance
which was not thus silently indebted to its predecessors, had incorporated their
utterances, and had itself in turn suffered interpolation at the hands of later
editors and transcribers. Accordingly, early Hebrew historical literature also,
while unique in its spirit, conformed in its methods to the practice of the age
and country in which it was composed. It would have been strange if it had been
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 2 Samuel 1 - 7.
The earlier source has contributed 1 Samuel 9 with parts of 1 Samuel 10 ; 11 ;
13 ; 14 ; 16 ; 20 and considerable portions of 1 Samuel 22 ; 23 ; 26 - 27; 29
- 31; 2 Samuel 1 (in part); 2 - 6; 9 - 20. Some details have probably been derived
from other sources, and additions made by the editor or editors. This general
determination of sources rests upon a difference of standpoint and religious conception,
and upon slighter varieties of style which are neither so pronounced nor so readily
distinguished as in the books of the Pentateuch. It is reasonable also to bear
in mind that a close and exact division or line of demarcation in every detail
is not to be expected.
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 Canon of Scripture.
VI. GREEK VERSIONS 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.
pon 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.
A. S. Geden
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