In the Hebrew Bible there were four Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) and only one Book of Samuel. The Septuagint divided the one book of Samuel into two. Together with 1 and 2 Kings they were designated four Books of Kingdoms. The Vulgate changed this title to the four Books of Kings. Actually this is a good designation, since what we now call the two Books of Samuel deal chiefly with Israel under kings Saul and David. Only the first half of 1 Samuel involves the judgeship of Samuel, and he dies in 1 Samuel 25.
The present division of First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings goes back to the early 16th Century, when it was introduced by Daniel Bomberg’s printed Hebrew Bible (Venice, 1516-1517).
The man Samuel, from whom the two books derive their name, was God’s chosen instrument during the time of the establishment of the monarchy in Israel. He lived in the period of transition from the period of the judges into that of the kings. His life and ministry occurred in the latter days of Samson, Elon, and Abdon and continued on into most of the reign of Saul, Israel’s first king.
Samuel lists himself among other judges of Israel (1 Sa 12:11). The book also refers to him as one who traveled about to various places as he “judged Israel” (1 Sa 7:15-16). But Samuel was more than a judge in the ordinary sense. “All Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD” (1 Sa 3:20). He established the schools of the prophets. Moreover, under God’s direction he introduced the monarchy in Israel.
After the fall of the house of Eli, Samuel also functioned as a priest (1 Sa 7:9). Thus we have a man who served the Lord as judge, prophet, and priest. As with Moses all three typical Messianic offices were focused on one man. He also was God’s instrument at the time when Israel’s government changed from theocracy, God’s rule through judges he chose on an ad hoc basis, to a monarchial form of government. Samuel was not so much an originator as he was a reformer. The Lord used Samuel to restore what he had revealed to Moses. In some ways he was to Moses what Martin Luther was to Paul.1The introductory information on this page has been adapted from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Middler Isagogic Notes, which can be found here. Used with permission.
The unity of the books of Samuel (language, style, treatment) indicates one author. He probably lived after the division of the kingdom. In 1 Samuel 27:6, for example, Judah is referred to as a separate kingdom. Other passages indicate a “divided kingdom” concept (cf. 1 Sa 11:8; 17:52; 18:16; 2 Sa 3:10). This division may have been in Israel’s thinking at an earlier time, of course, but some passages seem to refer to it as an accomplished fact.
The view of the Talmud is that Samuel is the author of the first part, and Nathan and Gad of the remainder. It is possible that chronicles of all of these men were used as source material, as well as the Book of Jasher (2 Sa 1:18).
Purpose for Writing
The overall purpose of both books of Samuel is to relate the transition of Israel’s rule from theocracy to monarchy.
There are three main characters in the books, Samuel, Saul, and David, and the events of their lives as recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel take place from about 1090-970 BC.
We find Christ in the line of David. The prophet Nathan relayed a promise to David from God, that one of his descendants would sit on the throne and rule forever (2 Sam 7:12-13; Mt 12:23; 22:41-42; Lk 20:41; Jn 7:42). This promise is fulfilled through both of Jesus’ earthly parents. His mother, Mary, was a descendant of David’s line (Lk 3:23–Mary was the daughter of Eli), as was his earthly (but not biological) father, Joseph (Mt 1:20; Lk 1:27; 2:4). This makes Jesus both biologically and legally the descendant of David. Therefore, the messianic promise of a permanent dynasty is fulfilled in Jesus, the “Son of David” (Mt 9:27; 15:22; 21:9,15; Lk 1:32-33; 18:38-39; Rom 1:3) who would “sit on David’s throne” forever.
- 1 Samuel 3:10
- 1 Samuel 8:4-9
- 1 Samuel 15:22
- 1 Samuel 16:7,11-13
- 1 Samuel 17:34-37,45-47
- 2 Samuel 7:12-13
- 2 Samuel 12:1-13
- 2 Samuel 22:2-3,31-37
The overall outline for both 1 and 2 Samuel could be divided as follows:
I. Samuel: 1 Samuel Chapters 1-12
A. Samuel’s career as judge and prophet (1 Sam 1-7)
B. Samuel prepares Israel for kingship (1 Sam 8-12)
II. Saul: 1 Samuel Chapters 13-31
A. Saul’s career as king (1 Sam 13-15)
B. Saul’s rejection and his struggle with David (1 Sam 16-31)
III. David: 2 Samuel Chapters 1-24
A. David’s rule over Judah (2 Sam 1-4)
B. David’s rule over all Israel (2 Sam 5-24)
1. The success of David’s reign (2 Sam 5-8)
2. David’s sin and troubles for his family (2 Sam 9-20)
Six appendices (2 Sam 21-24)