SAMUEL, BOOKS OF
Two books of the Hebrew Scriptures that apparently were not divided in the original Hebrew canon. Indicative of this is a note in the Masora showing that words in First Samuel, chapter 28 (one of the concluding chapters of First Samuel), were in the middle of the book.
Writers and Time Covered. Ancient Jewish tradition credits Samuel with the writership of the first part of the book, and Nathan and Gad with the remaining portion. That these three prophets did write is confirmed at 1 Chronicles 29:29. The book itself reports: “Samuel spoke to the people about the rightful due of the kingship and wrote it in a book and deposited it before Jehovah.” (1Sa 10:25) However, on the basis of 1 Samuel 27:6, where there is reference to “the kings of Judah,” numerous scholars place the final compiling of the books of Samuel sometime after the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel came into existence. If the expression “the kings of Judah” denotes only Judean kings of the two-tribe kingdom, this would show that the writings of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad must have been put into final form by someone else. On the other hand, if “the kings of Judah” simply means kings from the tribe of Judah, these words could have been recorded by Nathan, since he lived under the rulership of two Judean kings, David and Solomon.—1Ki 1:32-34; 2Ch 9:29.
The fact that Hannah and an unnamed “man of God” used the expressions “king” and “anointed one” years before a king actually ruled over Israel does not support the argument of some that these passages date from a period later than indicated in the book. (1Sa 2:10, 35) The idea of a future king was by no means foreign to the Hebrews. God’s promise concerning Sarah, the ancestress of the Israelites, was that “kings of peoples” would come from her. (Ge 17:16) Also, Jacob’s deathbed prophecy (Ge 49:10), the prophetic words of Balaam (Nu 24:17), and the Mosaic Law (De 17:14-18) pointed to the time when the Israelites would have a king.
The historical narrative contained in the two books of Samuel commences with the time of High Priest Eli and concludes with events from David’s reign. It therefore covers a period of approximately 140 years (c. 1180-c. 1040 B.C.E.). As David’s death is not mentioned in the record, the account (possibly with the exception of editorial additions) was probably completed about 1040 B.C.E.
Authenticity. The authenticity of the account contained in the books of Samuel is well established. Christ Jesus himself, when refuting an objection raised by the Pharisees, cited the incident recorded at 1 Samuel 21:3-6 about David’s receiving showbread from Ahimelech the priest. (Mt 12:1-4) In the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, the apostle Paul quoted from 1 Samuel 13:14 as he briefly reviewed events from Israel’s history. (Ac 13:20-22) This apostle, in his letter to the Romans, used words from David’s psalm, which passage is found at both 2 Samuel 22:50 and Psalm 18:49, to prove that Christ’s ministry to the Jews verified God’s promises and gave a basis for non-Jews to “glorify God for his mercy.” (Ro 15:8, 9) Jehovah’s words to David at 2 Samuel 7:14 are quoted and applied to Christ Jesus at Hebrews 1:5.
Outstanding, too, is the candor of the record. It exposes the wrongs of the priestly house of Eli (1Sa 2:12-17, 22-25), the corruption of Samuel’s sons (1Sa 8:1-3), and the sins and family difficulties of King David (2Sa 11:2-15; 13:1-22; 15:13, 14; 24:10).
Another evidence of the authenticity of the account is the fulfillment of prophecies. These relate to Israel’s request for a king (De 17:14; 1Sa 8:5), Jehovah’s rejection of Eli’s house (1Sa 2:31; 3:12-14; 1Ki 2:27), and the continuance of the kingship in David’s line (2Sa 7:16; Jer 33:17; Eze 21:25-27; Mt 1:1; Lu 1:32, 33).
The record is in complete harmony with the rest of the Scriptures. This is especially noticeable when examining the psalms, many of which are illuminated by what is contained in the books of Samuel. King Saul’s sending messengers to watch David’s house in order to kill him provides the background for Psalm 59. (1Sa 19:11) David’s experiences at Gath, where he disguised his sanity to escape death, are alluded to in Psalms 34 and 56. (1Sa 21:10-15; evidently the name Abimelech appearing in the superscription of Psalm 34 is to be viewed as a title for King Achish.) Psalm 142 may reflect David’s thoughts while hiding from Saul in the cave of Adullam (1Sa 22:1) or in the cave in the Wilderness of En-gedi. (1Sa 24:1, 3) This is perhaps also the case with Psalm 57. However, a comparison of Psalm 57:6 with 1 Samuel 24:2-4 seems to favor the cave in the Wilderness of En-gedi, for there Saul, as it were, fell into the pit he had excavated for David. Psalm 52 pertains to Doeg’s informing Saul about David’s dealings with Ahimelech. (1Sa 22:9, 10) The action of the Ziphites in revealing David’s whereabouts to King Saul furnished the basis for Psalm 54. (1Sa 23:19) Psalm 2 seems to allude to the attempts made by the Philistines to unseat David as king after his capture of the stronghold of Zion. (2Sa 5:17-25) Trouble with the Edomites during the war with Hadadezer is the setting for Psalm 60. (2Sa 8:3, 13, 14) Psalm 51 is a prayer of David, beseeching forgiveness for his sin with Bath-sheba. (2Sa 11:2-15; 12:1-14) David’s flight from Absalom provides the basis for Psalm 3. (2Sa 15:12-17, 30) Possibly Psalm 7 finds its historical setting in Shimei’s cursing David. (2Sa 16:5-8) Psalm 30 may allude to events in connection with David’s erection of an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah. (2Sa 24:15-25) Psalm 18 parallels 2 Samuel 22 and pertains to Jehovah’s delivering David from Saul and other enemies.
Sections Missing in the Greek “Septuagint.” First Samuel 17:12-31, 55–18:6a does not appear in the Greek Septuagint as contained in Vatican Manuscript No. 1209. Numerous scholars have, therefore, concluded that the omissions are later additions to the Hebrew text. Arguing against this view, C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch comment: “The notion, that the sections in question are interpolations that have crept into the text, cannot be sustained on the mere authority of the Septuagint version; since the arbitrary manner in which the translators of this version made omissions or additions at pleasure is obvious to any one.”—Commentary on the Old Testament, 1973, Vol. II, 1 Samuel, p. 177, ftn.
If it could be definitely established that actual discrepancies exist between the omitted sections and the rest of the book, the authenticity of 1 Samuel 17:12-31, 55–18:6a would reasonably be in question. A comparison of 1 Samuel 16:18-23 and 1 Samuel 17:55-58 reveals what appears to be a contradiction, for in the latter passage Saul is depicted as asking about the identity of his own court musician and armor-bearer, David. However, it should be noted that David’s earlier being described as “a valiant, mighty man and a man of war” could have been based on his courageous acts in single-handedly killing a lion and a bear to rescue his father’s sheep. (1Sa 16:18; 17:34-36) Also, the Scriptures do not state that David actually served in battle as Saul’s armor-bearer before he killed Goliath. Saul’s request to Jesse was: “Let David, please, keep attending upon me, for he has found favor in my eyes.” (1Sa 16:22) This request does not preclude the possibility that Saul later permitted David to return to Bethlehem so that, when war broke out with the Philistines, David was then shepherding his father’s flock.
Regarding Saul’s question, “Whose son is the boy, Abner?” the aforementioned commentary observes (p. 178, ftn.): “Even if Abner had not troubled himself about the lineage of Saul’s harpist, Saul himself could not well have forgotten that David was a son of the Bethlehemite Jesse. But there was much more implied in Saul’s question. It was not the name of David’s father alone that he wanted to discover, but what kind of man the father of a youth who possessed the courage to accomplish so marvellous a heroic deed really was; and the question was put not merely in order that he might grant him an exemption of his house from taxes as the reward promised for the conquest of Goliath (ver. 25), but also in all probability that he might attach such a man to his court, since he inferred from the courage and bravery of the son the existence of similar qualities in the father. It is true that David merely replied, ‘The son of thy servant Jesse of Bethlehem;’ but it is very evident from the expression in ch. xviii. 1, ‘when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul,’ that Saul conversed with him still further about his family affairs, since the very words imply a lengthened conversation.” (For other instances where “who” involves more than mere knowledge of a person’s name, see Ex 5:2; 1Sa 25:10.)
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HIGHLIGHTS OF FIRST SAMUEL
Record of the beginning of kingship in Israel, emphasizing obedience to Jehovah
Written by Samuel, Nathan, and Gad; First Samuel covers the time from the birth of Samuel to the death of Israel’s first king, Saul
Jehovah raises up Samuel as prophet in Israel (1:1–7:17)
Samuel is born as an answer to his mother Hannah’s prayer; after he is weaned, he is presented for sanctuary service in fulfillment of Hannah’s vow
Jehovah speaks to Samuel, pronouncing judgment against Eli’s house because his sons Hophni and Phinehas act wickedly and Eli does not rebuke them
As Samuel grows up he is recognized as Jehovah’s prophet
Jehovah’s word against Eli begins to be fulfilled: Philistines capture the Ark and slay Eli’s sons; Eli dies on hearing the news
Years later, Samuel urges the Israelites to abandon idolatry and serve Jehovah alone; Jehovah gives them victory over the Philistines
Saul becomes Israel’s first king (8:1–15:35)
The Israelite elders approach aged Samuel, requesting a human king; Jehovah tells him to listen to their voice
Jehovah directs Samuel to anoint Saul, a Benjaminite, as king
Samuel presents Saul to an assembly of Israelites at Mizpah; not everyone accepts him
Saul defeats the Ammonites; his kingship is reconfirmed at Gilgal; Samuel admonishes the people to remain obedient to Jehovah
Faced with Philistine aggression, Saul fails to obey Jehovah and wait for Samuel’s arrival, offering sacrifices himself; Samuel tells him that because of this his kingdom will not last
Saul defeats the Amalekites, but he disobediently preserves alive King Agag and the best of the animals; Samuel tells Saul he is rejected by Jehovah as king and that obedience is more important than sacrifice
David comes to prominence, and this angers Saul (16:1–20:42)
Samuel anoints David, and Jehovah’s spirit leaves Saul; David becomes a harpist for Saul to soothe him when disturbed
David kills the Philistine champion Goliath, and a deep friendship develops between David and Saul’s son Jonathan
Placed over Saul’s warriors, David gains repeated victories and is celebrated in song more than Saul; Saul becomes jealous
Twice Saul’s attempts to kill David fail, as does his scheme to have David die at the hands of the Philistines while procuring the bride-price for Saul’s daughter Michal
Despite his promise to Jonathan, Saul for a third time tries to kill David, and David flees to Samuel at Ramah
Jonathan unsuccessfully tries to intercede for David with his father; he warns David, and he and David make a covenant
David’s life as a fugitive (21:1–27:12)
At Nob, High Priest Ahimelech gives David food and Goliath’s sword; David then flees to Gath, where he escapes harm by acting insane
He takes refuge in the cave of Adullam and then in the forest of Hereth; Saul has Ahimelech and everyone in Nob killed; Ahimelech’s son Abiathar survives and comes to David
David saves Keilah from Philistines, but afterward he leaves the city to avoid being surrendered to Saul
The men of Ziph reveal David’s whereabouts; he narrowly escapes capture
David has the opportunity to kill Saul but spares his life
Abigail’s wise intervention prevents David from shedding blood in the heat of anger
David spares Saul’s life a second time and takes refuge in Philistine territory
The end of Saul’s reign (28:1–31:13)
Saul assembles an army against Philistine invaders
Jehovah will not answer Saul’s inquiries because of his disobedience, so Saul consults a spirit medium at En-dor
In battle with Philistines, Saul is severely wounded and commits suicide; his sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua are slain
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HIGHLIGHTS OF SECOND SAMUEL
Record of David’s kingship—the blessings he experienced, as well as the discipline he received when he sinned
Originally part of one scroll with First Samuel; the portion in Second Samuel was completed by Gad and Nathan by the end of David’s life in about 1040 B.C.E.
David becomes king and rules from Hebron (1:1–4:12)
David mourns the death of Saul and Jonathan; he takes up residence at Hebron and is anointed king by the men of Judah
Abner makes Saul’s son Ish-bosheth king over the rest of Israel; fighting breaks out between the rival kingdoms
Abner defects to David but is killed by Joab
Ish-bosheth is murdered; David orders the execution of the assassins
David rules as king over all the tribes of Israel (5:1–10:19)
David is anointed as king over all Israel; he captures the stronghold of Zion and makes Jerusalem his capital city
The Philistines invade twice but are defeated each time
David attempts to bring the Ark to Jerusalem; the attempt is abandoned when Uzzah dies trying to steady it from falling
His second attempt succeeds when the Ark is transported in the proper way
David expresses to Nathan his desire to build a temple for Jehovah; Jehovah concludes a covenant with him for a kingdom
David sins with Bath-sheba; calamity comes on him out of his own house (11:1–20:26)
The Israelites go to war against Ammon; David commits adultery with Bath-sheba, whose husband Uriah is serving in the army; when efforts to conceal his sin fail, David arranges for Uriah to die in battle and marries the widowed Bath-sheba
With skillful use of an illustration, Nathan reproves David for his sin and announces Jehovah’s judgment: Calamity will come out of his own house, his own wives will be violated, the son from Bath-sheba will die
The child dies; Bath-sheba, pregnant again, gives birth to Solomon
David’s son Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar; David’s son Absalom, Tamar’s full brother, avenges her by having Amnon killed; then he flees to Geshur
Absalom, having gained David’s full pardon, starts scheming against his father; finally he has himself proclaimed king at Hebron
David and his supporters flee Jerusalem to escape from Absalom and his partisans; in Jerusalem, Absalom has relations with ten of David’s concubines; Absalom’s forces pursue David and suffer defeat; Absalom himself is killed contrary to David’s specific orders
David is restored as king; the Benjaminite Sheba revolts, and David gives command of the army to Amasa to put down the rebellion; Joab kills Amasa and takes charge; Sheba is killed
Closing events of David’s reign (21:1–24:25)
David hands over seven sons of Saul to Gibeonites for execution so that the bloodguilt of Saul’s house toward them can be avenged
David composes songs of praise to Jehovah, acknowledging him as the source of inspiration
David sins in ordering a census, resulting in death for about 70,000 from pestilence
David buys the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite as the site of an altar for Jehovah