Books Of Samuel

From Bible Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

The Books of Samuel (Hebrew: Sefer Sh'muel ספר שמואל), are part of the Tanakh (part of Judaism's Hebrew Bible) and also of the Old Testament (of Christianity). The work was originally written in Hebrew, and the Book(s) of Samuel originally formed a single text, as they are often considered today in Hebrew bibles.

Together with what is now referred to as the Book(s) of Kings, the translators who created the Greek Septuagint divided the text into four books, which they named the Books of the Kingdoms. In the Latin Vulgate version, these then became the Books of the Kings, thus 1 and 2 Samuel were referred to as 1 and 2 Kings, with 3 and 4 Kings being what are called 1 and 2 Kings by the King James Bible and its successors.



Traditionally, the authors of the books of Samuel have been held to be Samuel, Gad, and Nathan. Samuel is believed to have penned the first twenty-four chapters of the first book. Gad, the companion of David (1 Samuel 22:5), is believed to have continued the history thus commenced; and Nathan is believed to have completed it, probably arranging the whole in the form in which we now have it (1 Chronicles 29:29).

The contents of the books

The two books can be essentially broken down into five parts:

  • The period of YHWH's rejection of Eli, Samuel's birth, and subsequent judgement (1 Samuel 1:1-7:17)
  • The period of the life of Saul prior to meeting David (1 Samuel 8:1-15:35)
  • The period of Saul's interaction with David (1 Samuel 16:1-2 Samuel 1:27)
  • The period of David's reign and the rebellions he suffers (2 Samuel 2:1-20:22)
  • An appendix of material concerning David in no particular order, and out of sequence with the rest of the text (2 Samuel 2:21:1-25)

A conclusion of sorts appears at 1 Kings 1-2, concerning Solomon enacting a final revenge on those who did what David perceived as wrongdoing, and having a similar narrative style. While the subject matter in the Book(s) of Samuel is also covered by the narrative in Chronicles, it is noticeable that the section (2 Samuel 11:2-12:29) containing an account of the matter of Bathsheba is omitted in the corresponding passage in 1 Chronicles 20.

The period of Samuel's birth and judgement involves
  • Story of Eli (portions of 1 Samuel 1:1-4:22) - Eli's sons are the priests at Shiloh, but they abuse their position. A man of God comes to Eli and tells him that owing to this behaviour, YHWH has revoked his promise of perpetual priesthood for his family, and Eli's sons will die on the same day. Samuel confirms that there is no way for them to avoid the fate. His sons duly die on the same day during a battle, and the Holy Ark is captured by the philistines. Upon hearing the latter, Eli drops dead from shock.
  • Story of Hannah (remainder of 1 Samuel 1:1-1:28) - Hannah is childless, but then makes a vow promising that if she has a son, he will be dedicated to God and be a Nazarite. Eli blesses her and a child is soon born. The child is identified as Samuel, though many modern academics think this is a later edit to the story and it was originally the birth narrative of Saul.
  • Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10) - Hannah pronounces a poem concerning YHWH's magnificence that has strong similarities to the later Magnificat
  • The Philistine captivity of the Ark (1 Samuel 4:1-7:1) - The philistines attack Ebenezer and capture the ark, taking it to their temple to Dagon. Eli's daughter-in law, Pinchas's wife, goes into labour. After hearing the Eli died, the agony of labour overwhelms her and she dies, yet gives birth to a child named Ichabod (without glory). The next morning, the Dagon statue is found prostrate before it, so they adjust it, but the morning after it is found broken into pieces. The town surrounding it falls victim to a plague, so the Philistines resign themselves to get rid of the ark, first sending it on to Gath, and then to Ekron, both of which fall victim to the plague. On the advice of fortune tellers, the Philistines put the ark, and additional offerings, on a cow driven cart, and send it off, driverless, it getting to Beth-Shemesh. The locals celebrate, and ask the people of Kiriath-Jearim to collect the ark, which they do, taking it to the house of Abinadab.
  • The battle of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 7:3-14). The Philistines attack the Israelites who have gathered at Mizpah. Samuel appeals to YHWH, and so the Philistines are decisively beaten. Samuel sets up a stone at Ebenezer in memory. The Israelites then attack Ekron and Gath, freeing the people, and make peace with the Amorites.
The period of Saul's life before he meets David involves
  • The appointment of Saul (1 Samuel 8:1-11:15) - In Samuel's old age, he appoints his sons as Judges, but they don't follow his example, so the people clamour for a king. God begrudgingly accedes and Samuel gives the people a list of regulations about the king. Meanwhile, Saul, who is handsome, is searching for the donkeys of his family and when his search takes him to Zuph, he seeks out the wise man who lives there, on the advice of his servant and some girls. Samuel comes toward Saul as he enters the town, and realises that Saul is the man that God has chosen to be king, so he is hospitable to him. The next day, Samuel anoints him, and gives three prophecies of events on Saul's journey home. The third prophecy, that Samuel will meet a band of prophets preceded by musical instruments, comes true, leading to the phrase Is Saul among the Prophets (cf. 1 Samuel 19:24). After calling the people together at Mizpah, Samuel whittles them down by lot to Saul, and announces that he is king. Saul tries to hide but is much taller than everyone else. Some people criticise the decision.
  • The story of Nahash (1 Samuel 11:1-11) - Nahash, an Ammonite, lays siege to Jabesh-Gilead, so its people request a treaty, but Nahash is harsh and requires that each person must have their right eye gouged out. The people consequently stall for time, while sending messengers out to get help. After hearing of this, Saul orders the people of Israel to join him in an attack on Nahash, and threatens them with violence if they do not. Saul consequently gathers an army and attacks that of Nahash, obliterating it. The people take this as evidence of Saul's ability to lead, and so consequently they are told by Samuel to appoint him king, which they do.
  • Saul's rejection (1 Samuel 12:1-13:15, and 15:1-35) - Samuel gives a speech reminding the Israelites not to fall into heathenism like their previous generations have done. The Hebrews/Jonathan (depending on the text - Masoretic has Jonathan, Septuagint has Hebrews) overcome the Philistines in Gibeah. Saul sounds the trumpet to tell all Israel that he (Saul) has overcome the Philistines there. The Philistines assemble for battle, frightening the Israelites, but, in accordance with Samuel's instructions, Saul waits seven days for Samuel to arrive, before giving up his wait and making a sacrifice. Samuel turns up and castigates Saul for not waiting, telling him that as a result his kingdom will not last. Saul, successful and brave, defeats Amalek. Samuel orders Saul to exterminate Amalek, but although Saul subsequently slaughters the Amalekites, he doesn't slaughter the animals, and captures the king, Agag, alive. Saul also erects a trophy at Carmel in his own honour. Samuel berates him for not carrying out the mass extermination completely, so Saul repents and begs Samuel to go with him. Samuel refuses, and leaves, but Saul grabs at him, tearing part of Samuel's mantle, for which Samuel says that part of Saul's kingdom will be torn off and given to another. Samuel kills Agag himself, by hacking him into pieces (wa-yeshassef).
  • The Battle of Michmash (1 Samuel 13:16-14:46) - While Saul and his son occupy Geba, the philistines raid the nearby land. Previously, the Philistines had ensured that there were no smiths in the land, causing the people of Israel to be devoid of weaponry, excepting Saul and Jonathan. Jonathan secretly heads to the Philistine outpost at Michmash with his armour bearer, first crossing a ravine, and manage between them to slaughter large numbers of Philistines who panic and scatter. Saul notices and eventually sends his army to help. The Hebrews were previously on the Philistine side (some translations add the words some of, making this refer only to a sub group of Hebrews), but decide to join the forces of Israel. In a moment of foolishness, Saul curses anyone that eats anything before the evening, but Jonathan doesn't notice and consumes some honey he finds. This rapidly leads to others following suit, and ignoring Saul's curse. Saul builds an altar, insisting that it be used to sacrifice before the food is eaten, and condemns the whomever God decides is at fault, for violating his curse, to death. Saul uses Urim and Thummim to find out that God has pointed the finger at Jonathan, so reluctantly condemns him, but the army say they will revolt if Saul kills him, so he doesn't.
The period of Saul's interaction with David involves
  • David's rise from obscurity (1 Samuel 16:1-17:58) - Samuel is told to go to Bethlehem by YHWH, to find a replacement for Saul. Each of the sons of Jesse are rejected in turn, except David, the youngest, whom Samuel is told to anoint. A demon is sent by YHWH to torment Saul, so Saul's servants try to find a harpist to sooth his temper. David is known for his skill in the art and so is brought to court. The Philistines rally against Israel, and the, imposing, Goliath of Gath steps out and suggests that rather than fight a battle, the Israelites should just send a champion to fight him. David, who is bringing provisions to his brothers in Israel's army, speaks against Goliath to his brothers, and Saul overhears him. David persuades a reluctant Saul to let him challenge Goliath. David kills Goliath with a single stone from a sling, and so the Philistines flee.
  • Details of David in Saul's court (1 Samuel 18:1-20:42) - Jonathan takes a shine to David, and since David succeeds in everything Saul tasks him with, women praise David as greater than Saul. To get rid of this perceived threat, Saul promises David the hand of his daughter, Merab, in marriage if he becomes Saul's champion, but Merab is married off to someone else before David accepts. Saul notices that Michal, his other daughter, is in love with David, so, in order to send him on to his death, offers her to him in exchange for 200 foreskins of the Philistines, but David successfully kills 200 Philistines, so weds Michal. Saul talks to Jonathan about his plans to kill David, but owing to Jonathan's relationship with David, Jonathan disuades Saul and informs David. While David is in Saul's court, Saul throws a spear at David, but misses. Saul then sends guards to David's house, but Michal makes David escape, and places a statue in the bed and pretends to the guards that it is him. On discovering David's location, Saul sends out successive guards, but they all meet a group of prophets and join them instead, as does Saul when he eventually decides to go himself, hence the phrase Is Saul among the prophets? (c.f. 1 Samuel 10). David then meets Jonathan and asks him to secretly find out Saul's intentions, but Saul tells Jonathan that he knows that Jonathan is David's companion, and that he intends to kill David. Jonathan is so hurt that he stops eating, and then later goes off to tell David.
  • The story of Ahimelech (1 Samuel 21:2-9, and 22:6-23) David flees to Ahimelech, priest of Nob, who only has holy bread. As David abstains from the company of women on such journeys, Ahimelech allows David to take the bread, and Goliath's sword which Ahimelech had been keeping. David then flees. Saul's chief henchman, Doeg, witnessed Ahimelech assisting David, so Saul has Doeg kill him, and all the people in Nob, though Ahimelech's son, Abiathar, escapes to tell David.
  • Saul's pursuit of David (1 Samuel 22:1-5, and 23:1-28) David has fled to the cave of Adullam, where he amasses a band of outlaws. David decides to leave his parents in the care of the king of Moab, where the prophet, Gad, tells him to flee, so David moves to the forest of Hereth. The people of Keilah are attacked by the Philistines so David rescues them, but Saul hears of it and sets out against him, so David flees. Jonathan briefly visits David at Horesh, and returns home. The people of Ziph tell Saul where David is, so Saul chases David into a gorge, but is forced to break off pursuit when the Philistines invade elsewhere and he must fight them. The gorge becomes known as Sela-hammahlekoth (gorge of divisions)
  • David's reconciliation with Saul (1 Samuel 24:1-25:1a, and 26:1-27). David hides in the caves near Engedi, and Saul hears of this and pursues him. Saul enters the cave where David hides, and David sneaks up on him and cuts off the end of his mantle (coincidentally, Saul has also done this to Samuel, above). As Saul has been anointed, David regrets this, and forbids his men from harming Saul, and then steps out of the cave to show himself. David convinces Saul that he isn't a threat, and the two reconcile. The two depart from one another, and Samuel dies. Men from Ziph tell Saul that David is hiding at Hachilah, so goes to search for him. David, and Abishai, sneak into Saul's camp and steal Saul's spear. They then go a long way away and shout back what they have just done, and persuade Saul that David isn't a threat, the two consequently being reconciled.
  • The story of Abigail (1 Samuel 25:1b-43) - David tries to get hospitality from a man at Maon, named Nabal, who owns property in Carmel, but Nabal is miserly and refuses. Angered, David prepares to attack Nabal and kill those surrounding him. Nabal's clever and pretty wife, Abigail, sends David provisions, causing David to relent. She tells Nabal, once he has sobered up, and Nabal is soon after struck dead by YHWH. David thus proposes marriage to Abigail, who accepts. David also marries Ahinoam of Jezreel, though meanwhile Michal, his original wife, is transferred by Saul to another man, Palti.
  • The story of Achish (1 Samuel 21:10-16, 27:1-28:2, and 29:1-11) - David decides that it is better to be on the safe side, and so choses to reside amongst the Philistines, staying with the king of Gath, Achish. Previously David had briefly fled to Achish having left Ahimelech, where he feigned insanity to avoid attracting attention, but this time he lets Achish realise that he is an enemy of Saul. However, David continues to make raids against the surrounding population, slaughtering everyone he meets so that none will tell Achish what he has done. When he brings back spoils, he tells the king of Gath that he has raided against some foreign group or the Israelites or Judah. Achish trusts him implicitly, and so requests that David join him in an attack on Jezreel. The Philistines encamp against the Israelites, but are curious why the Hebrews (some translations have "some of the Hebrews") are amongst the Philistines. Uneasy about David's presence they tell Achish to send him away, and so Achish reluctantly does so.
  • The Witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:3-25) - Samuel dies (c.f. 1 Samuel 25), and Saul sees the Philistines encamping at Shunem, and is disheartened. Saul tries to consult God for advice but receives no reply, and as he has banned necromancy and prophecy, in accordance with the mitzvah, he is forced to disguise himself and go to the Witch of Endor. He asks her to bring up Samuel from the dead, which she does, and Samuel admonishes Saul for acting this way, and tells him that owing to Saul's past failure to commit complete genocide regarding Amalek, Saul is already condemned. Saul becomes deeply shaken, and refuses to eat, but is eventually persuaded.
  • The story of Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:1-31) - Ziklag is burnt to the ground by the Amalekites, though they take the people, including David's wives, captive. David and his men therefore set off in pursuit, though some give up on the way. The men meet a slave of the Amalekites who has escaped and who leads them to the Amalekite raiders. David slaughters all but 400 of the raiders, and recovers his property and wives, as well as extra spoil which he divides amongst his followers, except those that gave up, and sends a portion of the spoil to Judah, city by city.
  • The death of Saul and Jonathan (1 Samuel 31:1-2 Samuel 1:27) - the Philistines attack the Israelites at Gilboa, and kill Jonathan and inflict a mortal wound on Saul. Saul asks his armour bearer to finish him off, who does so and then kills himself. The Philistines cut the bodies into pieces, displaying them on the wall of Bethshan, though the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead later rescue the bodies, cremating them and burying the bones under a tamarisk tree. An Amalekite comes to David and tells him that Saul and Jonathan are dead, and that Saul was mortally wounded and asked him to finish him, so he did so. David is incenced and orders the Amalekite to be killed, delivering a eulogy about Jonathan and Saul, which is recorded in the Book Of Jasher.
The period of David's reign involves
  • The story of Ishbaal (2 Samuel 2:1-3:1, 3:6-4:3, and 4:5-5:5) David is anointed king in Hebron, but only over Judah. Saul's son, Ishbaal, is taken by Abner to Mahanaim and appointed king of Israel. The two sides meet at Gibeon and stage some form of activity between 12 men on each side, thrusting swords into their opponents, hence the place became known as Helkath-Hazzurim (field of sides). After a fierce battle, David's side wins. Asahel, brother of Joab, David's commander, sets out after Abner, but Abner twice tells him to stop, but since he doesn't listen, Abner thrusts his javelin into Asahel, who dies. Joab continues the chase as far as Ammah, where Abner warns him to stop to avoid more bad blood, so Joab stops the pursuit. However, there was a war between the two groups that lasted for ages with David's side gradually winning. Abner is intimate with Rizpah, one of Saul's concubines, angering Ishbaal. Abner decides to change sides, and brings Michal back to David, sending Paltiel, her other husband, back home weeping. Abner persuades the elders of Israel to change to David's side as well. When Abner arrives in David's court, Joab secretly follows him, and stabs him in revenge for killing his brother. David however curses Joab for this, and sings a eulogy to Abner. Ishbaal is killed in his sleep by his own leaders, the sons of Rimmon, who cut off his head and take it to David, but David has them killed for killing a king. David is anointed King of Israel in Hebron.
  • A list of the sons of David (2 Samuel 3:2-5 and 5:13-16) - During Ishbaal's rebellion, David has some children. Later, David takes more concubines and has further children.
  • The conquest of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6-12, and 2 Samuel 5:17-7:29) - David sets out for Jerusalem, and manages to take the stronghold of Zion. Since he was told by the Jebusites that the blind and the lame would turn him away, he makes the blind and the lame his personal enemy. David instructs his people to attack the Jebusites via the water shaft. Hiram, king of Tyre, sends master craftsmen to David to build him a palace, and David also builds up the area surrounding it. The Philistines attack, overrunning the valley of Rephaim, but he defeats them at a place that becomes known as Baal-Perazim (lord of scatterings). The second attack by the Philistines is defeated when David approaches via the rear, and they are routed. David then requests the Ark be moved to Jerusalem, but when it reaches Nacon it is unsteady, and Uzzah puts his hand on it to steady it, but is struck dead for this by God. David becomes more cautious and leaves the ark with Obed-Edom for three months, though noting Obed-Edom's subsequent good fortune, brings the Ark to Zion. David joins the subsequent celebrations, but is castigated for doing so by Michal, who accuses him of exposing himself, and hence Michal is made permanently infertile by God. David asks Nathan whether the Ark should be housed in grander settings, but Nathan tells him that where it is fine for the moment and prophecies that one of David's sons will be the one to build a new home for it.
  • The story of David's vassal states (2 Samuel 8:1-15) - David attacks the Philistines, taking their methegammah (literally bridle of the cubit though many translations render this as chief cities). David also defeats Moab and executes a proportion (either 1/3 or 2/3) of their entire population, making Moab a vassal. David then defeats Hadadezer, and though the Aramaeans come to Hadadezer's aid, David slaughters them, making the Aramaeans vassals. King Toi of Hamath, Hadadezer's enemy, congratulates David and adds to his spoils of precious metals. On his return (from an unspecified location), David becomes famous for slaughtering 18,000 Edomites, whereupon Edom becomes a vassal state.
  • A list of officers in David's court (2 Samuel 8:16-18, and 2 Samuel 20:23-26) - A list of officers in David's court is given on two occasions. The list includes the head of the army, chancellor (Jehoshaphat), master of the slaves, and commander of foreign troops, as well as the two priests - Zadok and Abiathar, David's personal priest - Ira the Jairite, and the name of a scribe - Shavsha.
  • The story of the mercenaries of the Ammonites (2 Samuel 10:1-19) - The king of the Ammonites dies, and is succeeded by Hanun, so, reflecting the prior king's kindness to David, David sends messengers to Hanun to give his condolences. However, they are interpreted by Hanun as spies, so he has the base of their beards cut off, and the base of their garments below their buttocks, giving them a babylonian appearance. When they return, David tells them to wait in Jericho until their beards grow. The Ammonites then prepare for war, and hire a mercenary army from Aram, Tob, and Maacah, but it doesn't reach the Ammonites before David's army are too close. Joab splits David's army into two groups, one to attack the Aramaeans, and one to attack the Ammonites. The Aramaeans flee before David's army, and so the Ammonites, now without help, withdraw. Hadadezer hires Aramaeans that live beyond the Euphrates, and they attack the Israelites at Helam. Shobach, Hadadezer's general, is defeated and killed, and so Hadadezer's vassal states decide to become David's vassals instead.
  • The story of Bathsheba (11:1-12:31) David sends his army to besiege Rabbah. From his rooftop, he spots a pretty woman, and later finds out that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, Joab's armour bearer. David has relations with her, and she becomes pregnant, so he orders Uriah to be placed in the heaviest part of the fighting, and for the army to draw back from him. Uriah is consequently killed by an archer, and David marries Bathsheba. Nathan, a prophet, tells David a parable, asking him for an analysis. When Nathan reveals that the parable describes his actions over Uriah, David realises that by his analysis he has condemned himself. Nathan tells him that the house of David will be cursed with always falling victim to the sword. More directly, Bathsheba's child dies as punishment. David has relations with her again, and she has a son that she names Solomon, but Nathan names Jedidiah. Joab finally captures Rabbah and the bejewelled crown of Milcom is taken and given to David for his own head.
  • The rape of Tamar (13:1-14:33). David's son, Amnon, becomes lovesick for his half-sister, Tamar. His cousin advises him to feign illness and have Tamar be his sick nurse, which he does. Pursuading Tamar to feed him at his bedside, Amnon rapes her. Tamar complains to her brother, Absalom, but as Amnon is his eldest son, David won't do anything. Absalom holds a party and invites all the princes, and Amnon is sent there on David's behalf. When Amnon becomes drunk, he is killed by Absalom's servants, under the order of Absalom. The princes flee back to David, and Absalom flees to the king of Geshur. Over time, David becomes reconciled to Amnon, and so Joab hatches a plan. Joab gets a woman to visit David and feign sorrow about a situation that mirrors that of David, tricking him into acknowledging that Absalom should be brought back and not harmed. When Absalom is brought back, David orders him to remain in his own home, but Absalom keeps asking Joab to see David. Joab doesn't respond so Absalom sets Joab's field on fire, and when Joab turns up, persuades him to let him see David, who becomes reconciled to Absalom.
  • The rebellion of Absalom (15:1-37, 16:5-19:24, and 19:32-41) - Absalom builds up a gradual following, eventually having enough supporters that he plans a coup against David. An informant tells David, who tells his supporters to flee Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. At the Mount of Olives, David tells his foreign mercenaries to go back to Jerusalem as they owe no allegiance, but they insist on going with David. David also sends back Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, and his friend, Hushai, to act as an informant. A man, Shimei, throws stones at David and curses him, so Abishai asks David to kill Shimei, but David won't let him, claiming that YHWH has made Shimei do this. On the advice of Ahithophel, Absalom has relations with David's concubines, on his roof, so that the whole nation can see his contempt for David. After receiving counsel from both Ahithophel and Hushai, Absalom chooses Hushai's plan to send all Israel to attack David over Ahithophel's, so Ahithophel commits suicide in shame. Hushai sends word to David of the plan via spies hidden in a cistern at En-Rogel. Absalom sends his army across the Jordan, and David prepares his own troops, asking that Absalom be treated gently. A huge battle erupts between the armies in the forests near Mahanaim, but while riding on his mule, Absalom gets caught in a tree by his hair, and is stuck hanging there. Although the first people from David's side to discover Absalom like this refuse to harm him, owing to David's request, Joab has no such qualms and kills Absalom. David becomes extremely upset, but pulls himself together and returns victorious to Jerusalem, accompanied by Judah.
  • The story of Meribbaal (2 Samuel 4:4, 2 Samuel 9:1-13, 2 Samuel 16:1-4, and 2 Samuel 19:25-31) - Jonathan had a son named Meribbaal, who was 5 when Jonathan and Saul were killed. When she heard the news of this, Meribaal's nurse took him and fled, but he fell and became crippled. In memory of Jonathan, David shows Meribbaal kindness, gives him Saul's lands, and lets him dine at David's table. He also tells Ziba, a servant of Saul, that Ziba, and his family, must now serve Meribbaal. During Absalom's revolt, Meribbaal remained in Jerusalem, Ziba telling David that this was because Meribbaal hoped that the people of Israel would restore him to his father's throne. Meribbaal doesn't wash his feet, or his clothes, or even trim his moustache, until David returns to the throne in Jerusalem. On meeting David, Meribbaal tells him that Ziba was lying about his motive for remaining, and reminds David that Meribbaal is lame. David doesn't care, and orders Meribbaal to split his property with Ziba.
  • The Rebellion of Sheba (2 Samuel 19:42-20:22) - The people of Israel feel slighted that those of Judah were preferred by David to accompany him back to the throne, so a war of words breaks out between them. A man named Sheba sounds a horn rallying the people of Israel to him. David asks Amasa to summon the people of Judah to him, and go after Sheba. At the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa meets Joab and them, and while asking how he is, Joab stabs Amasa to death, and drag the body to the side of the road. Joab leads the ammassed army of Judah against Sheba who has ammassed his own army of Israel at Abel-Beth-Maachah. Joab lays siege to the town, but a wise woman tells Joab of an ancient expression and that Joab is effectively trying to destroy YHWH's inheritance. Joab tells her they are only after Sheba, so she gets the townspeople to cut off Sheba's head and throw it over the wall to Joab. Joab then returns to Jerusalem and the rebellion ends.
The appendix contains a fairly unorganised miscellany of information
  • Gibeon avenged' (2 Samuel 21:1-14) - A famine arises which David blames on Saul having put many of the Gibeonites to death. David asks the Gibeonites what he should do as atonement, and they ask to dismember seven men from among Saul's descendants on YHWH's mountain. David gives seven of Sauls descendants to them, and they are dismembered. Rizpah, the mother of two of them, uses a sackcloth to protect the remains from scavengers, and so David collects the bones of Saul, Jonathon, and those of the seven, and buries them at the tomb of Kish. The famine consequently ends.
  • The Rephaim (2 Samuel 21:15-22) There are four battles against the Philistines, in each one a Rephaim being killed. Goliath is one of these, and is killed by Elhanan.
  • The Song of David (2 Samuel 22) - a psalm, which also constitutes Psalm 18, with minor variations, and involves an obscure reference to leaping over a wall, and another to God riding a Cherub.
  • The Last words of David (2 Samuel 23:1-7) - an enigmatic poem purporting to be David's last words, but lacking context, ending abruptly, and occurring some way before David's death.
  • The Exploits of the Three and the Thirty (2 Samuel 23:8-24a) - Several warriors of David are listed, with a gloss covering some of their deeds. A significance is attached to the Thirty and the Three, all the warriors being in at least one of these groups, with the Three being the more significant. The last part of the text is presumed lost, since after naming Asahel it abruptly breaks off.
  • The The Thirty (2 Samuel 23:24b-39) - a list of the Thirty. Despite the name of the group, 37 people are listed, and it is made explicit that there are 37. As 23:23-24 is ...David put him in command of his bodyguard. Asahel, brother of Joab. Among the thirty....., the middle of verse 23:24 (between the words Joab and Among) is generally presumed to have been lost.
  • The Census of David (2 Samuel 24:1-25). God makes David angry with the people, so David orders a census (this story is also told in 1 Chronicles 21:1ff, where instead it is Satan who orders the same census). The census makes God angry, because then God and David would know how many people there were, so Gad, the prophet, tells David that God is going to punish him, but will give him the choice of 3 punishments. David chooses the pestilence option, and so an angel duly goes out and starts killing people. When the angel approaches Jerusalem, God repents, and halts it, so David buys the land where the angel halted from its owner, Araunah, and builds an altar upon it.

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 29:29).

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-[[2 Samuel 12:29) containing an account of David's sin in the matter of Bathsheba is omitted in the corresponding passage in 1 Chronicles 20:1-8.

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 (נביאים ראשׁנים, nebhī'īm rī'shōnīm). The one book bore the title “Samuel” (שׁמוּאל, shemū'ēl), 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” (βίβλοι βασιλειῶν, bíbloi basileiṓn). This name was probably due to the translators or scholars of Alexandria. The division into four books, but not the Greek title, was then adopted in the Latin translation, where, however, the influence of Jerome secured the restoration of the Hebrew names, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings (Regum). Jerome's example was universally followed, and the fourfold division with the Hebrew titles found a place in all subsequent versions of the Old Testament Scriptures. Ultimately, the distinction of Samuel and Kings each into two books was received also into printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. This was done for the first time in the editio princeps of the Rabbinic Bible, printed at Venice in 1516-17 AD.

II. Contents of the Books and Period of Time Covered by the History.

The narrative of the two Books of Samuel covers a period of about a hundred years, from the close of the unsettled era of the Judges to the establishment and consolidation of the kingdom under David. It is therefore a record of the changes, national and constitutional, which accompanied this growth and development of the national life, at the close of which the Israelites found themselves a united people under the rule of a king to whom all owed allegiance, controlled and guided by more or less definitely established institutions and laws. This may be described as the general purpose and main theme of the books, to trace the advance of the people under divine guidance to a state of settled prosperity and union in the promised land, and to give prominence to theocratic rule which was the essential condition of Israel's life as the people of God under all the changing forms of early government. The narrative therefore centers itself around the lives of the three men, Samuel, Saul and David, who were chiefly instrumental in the establishment of the monarchy, and to whom it was due more than to any others that Israel emerged from the depressed and disunited state in which the tribes had remained during the period of the rule of the Judges, and came into possession of a combined and effective national life. If the formal separation therefore into two books be disregarded, the history of Israel as it is narrated in “Samuel” is most naturally divided into three parts, which are followed by an appendix recording words and incidents which for some reason had not found a place in the general narrative:

A. The life and rule of Samuel (1 Samuel 1 through 15) (death 1 Samuel 25:1).

B. The life, reign and death of Saul (1 Samuel 16 through 2 Samuel 1).

C. The reign and acts of David to the suppression of the two rebellions of Absalom and Sheba (2 Samuel 2 through 20).

D. Appendix; other incidents in the reign of David, the names of his chief warriors and his Song or Psalm of Praise (2 Samuel 21-24).

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 Through 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, 1 Samuel 2:18-21, 1 Samuel 2:26); the evil practices of the sons of Eli and warning to Eli of the consequences to his house (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 1 Samuel 2:22-25, 1 Samuel 2:27-36).

(3) Samuel's vision at the sanctuary and his induction to the prophetic office (1 Sam 3:1 through 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 through 1 Samuel 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 Samuel 9).

(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, 1 Samuel 11:15).

(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 Amalekites (1 Samuel 15).

2. Reign and Death of Saul (1 Samuel 16 Through 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 16:14-23).

(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, 1 Samuel 18:29, 1 Samuel 18:30); 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 20).

(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, 1 Samuel 22:2); 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 through 1 Samuel 28:2, 29); Saul and the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:3-25).

(12) David's pursuit of the Amalekites who had raided Ziklag, and victory (1 Samuel 30).

(13) Battle between the Philistines and Israel in Mount Gilboa and death of Saul (1 Samuel 31:1-13).

(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 Through 20):

(1) David's Seven and a Half Years' Reign over Judah in Hebron (2 Samuel 2:1 through 2 Samuel 5:3).

(a) Consecration of David as king in Hebron (2 Samuel 2:1-4); 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 Samuel 2:12-32).

(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, 2 Samuel 4:5-12); 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 through 2 Samuel 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 9:1-13).

(f) Defeat of the Ammonites and Syrians by the men of Israel under the command of Joab (2 Samuel 10:1 through 2 Samuel 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 Ahithophel and Hushai (2 Samuel 16:15 through 17:14]]); the news carried to David (2 Samuel 17:15-22); death of Ahithophel (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 through 2 Samuel 19:8a).

(o) Return of the king to Jerusalem, and meetings with Shimei, Mephibosheth, and Barzillai the Gileadite (2 Samuel 19:8b-43).

(p) Revolt of Sheba the Benjamite, and its suppression by Joab with the death of Amasa (2 Samuel 20:1, 2 Samuel 20:2, 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 Through 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 Samuel 21:15-22).

(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; 1 Samuel 17:31 ff, 55 ff); 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 otherwise.

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 through 12:15; 17 through 19; 21 through 25; 28 and 2 Samuel 1 through 7. The earlier source has contributed 1 Samuel 9 with parts of 1 Samuel 10; 1 Samuel 11:1-15; 13; 14; 16; 20 and considerable portions of 1 Samuel 22; 23; 26 through 27; 29 through 31; 2 Samuel 1 (in part); 2 through 6; 9 through 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 YHWH, 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 YHWH, who always condemns and punishes wrong, but approves and rewards righteousness. Thus the narrative is history utilized to convey moral truth. And its value is to be estimated, not primarily as recording the great deeds of the past, but as conveying ethical teaching; that by means of the history with all its glamor and interest the people may be recalled to a sense of their high duty toward God, and be warned of the inevitable consequences of disobedience to Him.


Upon all points of introduction, criticism and interpretation, the commentaries afford abundant and satisfactory guidance. The principal English commentaries. are by H. P. Smith in ICC, Edinburgh, 1899, and S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel, 2nd edition, Oxford, 1913; A. R. S. Kennedy, “Samuel,” New Century Bible, New York, Frowde, 1905; in German by R. Budde, 1902, W. Nowack, 1902, A. Klostermann, 1887. See also the articles “Samuel” in HDB, Encyclopedia Biblica and Jewish Encyclopedia.

Personal tools
Translate:   Arabic    Chinese    Dutch    French    German     Greek     Hebrew     Italian     Japanese     Korean     Portuguese     Russian     Spanish