Samuel 1 & 2 Overview

1/2 Samuel, referred to by some denominations as 1/2 Kings, was originally one book entitled Samuel which emphasises his central role in the text as founder of the Kingdom and the agent of the selection and coronation of Kings Saul and David. The book was split in the Septuagint to accord with the size of scroll preferred by the Greeks. Kings was split at the same time and the four books were known as the Books of the Kingdoms (Basileion Biblia) which passed into the Itala under the editing of St. Jerome as The Books of the Kings. The Rabbinical Bible (Bomberg, Venice 1516-17) adopted this division and thus it passed into Protestant Bibles.

Some commentators maintain that the four Books were written by the same author but an analysis of content and style makes this highly unlikely. The author is unknown and attribution to some combination of Samuel himself and the prophets Nathan and Gad is largely discredited. It was written after the death of Solomon and before the Josian Reform. The author had access to written documentary sources, almost certainly official written records of the administration. Current critical theory (Wellhausen-Budde) says that Samuel 2 9-20 is one almost contemporaneous document, the rest being made up from two sources, one from the Ninth Century (J - Jahwist)) and one from the end of the Eighth Century (E - Elohist), after which there was a redaction.

The two Books cover a period of some 100 years between the conception of Solomon and the end of David's public life, with the division at the death of Saul; the contents may be divided as follows:

1 Samuel

2 Samuel

1/2 Samuel appears to be a simple historical account of the foundation of monarchy in Israel but underlying this is the theme of God's direct intervention in government; when Saul was found wanting the Lord ordered Samuel to find David. The capture of Jerusalem, for example, is told in a line but David's faithfulness to The Lord is catalogued.


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