Book of Samuel

General Information

The two books of Samuel, which follow Judges in the Hebrew Bible and Ruth in the English, tell the stories of Samuel, Saul, and David. The events from the cataclysmic breakup of Israel's premonarchic league through the foundation of Saul's monarchy and the beginnings of David's political emergence to the death of Saul are narrated in 1 Samuel. David's unification of Israel and Judah, his imperial expansion, and the subsequent struggle to decide who would succeed David are described in 2 Samuel.

The books are named after Samuel, the last major representative of the old league, who figured prominently in the transition to monarchy. He plays no role in 2 Samuel, however, which may explain why the Septuagint and Vulgate versions designate 1 - 2 Samuel as 1 - 2 Kings.

Both volumes are part of the Deuteronomistic History (compiled in the time of Josiah, c. 640 - 609 BC), but they largely consist of preexisting literary sources, such as the pre Davidic narrative about the Ark (1 Sam. 2, 4 - 6) and the Solomonic Throne Succession Narrative (2 Sam. 9 - 20), that the final editor used relatively unchanged.

BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects
J J M Roberts

P R Ackroyd, The First Book of Samuel (1971); F M Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (1973); H W Hertzberg, 1 and 2 Samuel (1964); P K McCarter, 1 Samuel (1980); R N Whybray, The Succession Narrative (1968).

Books of Samuel

Brief Outline

  1. Samuel as Judge (1Sam 1-7)
  2. Saul as King (1Sam 8-2Sam 1)
  3. David as King (2Sam 2-24)


Advanced Information

Samuel, heard of God. The peculiar circumstances connected with his birth are recorded in 1 Sam. 1:20. Hannah, one of the two wives of Elkanah, who came up to Shiloh to worship before the Lord, earnestly prayed to God that she might become the mother of a son. Her prayer was graciously granted; and after the child was weaned she brought him to Shiloh nd consecrated him to the Lord as a perpetual Nazarite (1:23-2:11). Here his bodily wants and training were attended to by the women who served in the tabernacle, while Eli cared for his religious culture. Thus, probably, twelve years of his life passed away. "The child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men" (2:26; comp. Luke 2:52). It was a time of great and growing degeneracy in Israel (Judg. 21:19-21; 1 Sam. 2: 12-17, 22).

The Philistines, who of late had greatly increased in number and in power, were practically masters of the country, and kept the people in subjection (1 Sam. 10:5; 13:3). At this time new communications from God began to be made to the pious child. A mysterious voice came to him in the night season, calling him by name, and, instructed by Eli, he answered, "Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth." The message that came from the Lord was one of woe and ruin to Eli and his profligate sons. Samuel told it all to Eli, whose only answer to the terrible denunciations (1 Sam. 3:11-18) was, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good", the passive submission of a weak character, not, in his case, the expression of the highest trust and faith.

The Lord revealed himself now in divers manners to Samuel, and his fame and his influence increased throughout the land as of one divinely called to the prophetical office. A new period in the history of the kingdom of God now commenced. The Philistine yoke was heavy, and the people, groaning under the wide-spread oppression, suddenly rose in revolt, and "went out against the Philistines to battle." A fierce and disastrous battle was fought at Aphek, near to Ebenezer (1 Sam. 4:1, 2). The Israelites were defeated, leaving 4,000 dead "in the field." The chiefs of the people thought to repair this great disaster by carrying with them the ark of the covenant as the symbol of Jehovah's presence. They accordingly, without consulting Samuel, fetched it out of Shiloh to the camp near Aphek.

At the sight of the ark among them the people "shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again." A second battle was fought, and again the Philistines defeated the Israelites, stormed their camp, slew 30,000 men, and took the sacred ark. The tidings of this fatal battle was speedily conveyed to Shiloh; and so soon as the aged Eli heard that the ark of God was taken, he fell backward from his seat at the entrance of the sanctuary, and his neck brake, and he died. The tabernacle with its furniture was probably, by the advice of Samuel, now about twenty years of age, removed from Shiloh to some place of safety, and finally to Nob, where it remained many years (21:1). The Philistines followed up their advantage, and marched upon Shiloh, which they plundered and destroyed (comp. Jer. 7:12; Ps. 78:59).

This was a great epoch in the history of Israel. For twenty years after this fatal battle at Aphek the whole land lay under the oppression of the Philistines. During all these dreary years Samuel was a spiritual power in the land. From Ramah, his native place, where he resided, his influence went forth on every side among the people. With unwearied zeal he went up and down from place to place, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting the people, endeavouring to awaken in them a sense of their sinfulness, and to lead them to repentance. His labours were so far successful that "all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord." Samuel summoned the people to Mizpeh, one of the loftiest hills in Central Palestine, where they fasted and prayed, and prepared themselves there, under his direction, for a great war against the Philistines, who now marched their whole force toward Mizpeh, in order to crush the Israelites once for all.

At the intercession of Samuel God interposed in behalf of Israel. Samuel himself was their leader, the only occasion in which he acted as a leader in war. The Philistines were utterly routed. They fled in terror before the army of Israel, and a great slaughter ensued. This battle, fought probably about B.C. 1095, put an end to the forty years of Philistine oppression. In memory of this great deliverance, and in token of gratitude for the help vouchsafed, Samuel set up a great stone in the battlefield, and called it "Ebenezer," saying, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (1 Sam. 7:1-12). This was the spot where, twenty years before, the Israelites had suffered a great defeat, when the ark of God was taken. This victory over the Philistines was followed by a long period of peace for Israel (1 Sam. 7:13, 14), during which Samuel exercised the functions of judge, going "from year to year in circuit" from his home in Ramah to Bethel, thence to Gilgal (not that in the Jordan valley, but that which lay to the west of Ebal and Gerizim), and returning by Mizpeh to Ramah.

He established regular services at Shiloh, where he built an altar; and at Ramah he gathered a company of young men around him and established a school of the prophets. The schools of the prophets, thus originated, and afterwards established also at Gibeah, Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho, exercised an important influence on the national character and history of the people in maintaining pure religion in the midst of growing corruption. They continued to the end of the Jewish commonwealth. Many years now passed, during which Samuel exercised the functions of his judicial office, being the friend and counsellor of the people in all matters of private and public interest. He was a great statesman as well as a reformer, and all regarded him with veneration as the "seer," the prophet of the Lord.

At the close of this period, when he was now an old man, the elders of Israel came to him at Ramah (1 Sam. 8:4, 5, 19-22); and feeling how great was the danger to which the nation was exposed from the misconduct of Samuel's sons, whom he had invested with judicial functions as his assistants, and had placed at Beersheba on the Philistine border, and also from a threatened invasion of the Ammonites, they demanded that a king should be set over them. This request was very displeasing to Samuel. He remonstrated with them, and warned them of the consequences of such a step. At length, however, referring the matter to God, he acceded to their desires, and anointed Saul (q.v.) to be their king (11:15). Before retiring from public life he convened an assembly of the people at Gilgal (ch. 12), and there solemnly addressed them with reference to his own relation to them as judge and prophet.

The remainder of his life he spent in retirement at Ramah, only occasionally and in special circumstances appearing again in public (1 Sam. 13, 15) with communications from God to king Saul. While mourning over the many evils which now fell upon the nation, he is suddenly summoned (ch.16) to go to Bethlehem and anoint David, the son of Jesse, as king over Israel instead of Saul. After this little is known of him till the time of his death, which took place at Ramah when he was probably about eighty years of age. "And all Israel gathered themselves together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah" (25:1), not in the house itself, but in the court or garden of his house. (Comp. 2 Kings 21:18; 2 Chr. 33:20; 1 Kings 2:34; John 19:41.) Samuel's devotion to God, and the special favour with which God regarded him, are referred to in Jer. 15:1 and Ps. 99:6.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

Books of Samuel

Advanced Information

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 Sam. 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 Chr. 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 (1-4); (2) the history of Samuel (5-12); (3) the history of Saul, and of David in exile (13-31).

The second book, comprising a period of perhaps fifty years, contains a history of the reign of David (1) over Judah (1-4), and (2) over all Israel (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 Sam. 11:2-12: 29) containing an account of David's sin in the matter of Bathsheba is omitted in the corresponding passage in 1 Chr. 20.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)

First and Second Books of Kings

Catholic Information


For the First and Second Books of Kings in the Authorized Version see KINGS, THIRD AND FOURTH BOOKS OF.

In the Vulgate both titles are given (Liber Primus Samuelis, quem nos Primum Regum dicimus, etc.); in the Hebrew editions and the Protestant versions the second alone is recognized, the Third and Fourth Books of Kings being styled First and Second Books of Kings. To avoid confusion, the designation "First and Second Books of Samuel" is adopted by Catholic writers when referring to the Hebrew text, otherwise "First and Second Books of Kings" is commonly used. The testimony of Origen, St. Jerome, etc., confirmed by the Massoretic summary appended to the second book, as well as by the Hebrew manuscripts, shows that the two books originally formed but one, entitled "Samuel". This title was chosen not only because Samuel is the principal figure in the first part, but probably also because, by having been instrumental in the establishment of the kingdom and in the selection of Saul and David as kings, he may be said to have been a determining factor in the history of the whole period comprised by the book. The division into two books was first introduced into the Septuagint, to conform to the shorter and more convenient size of scrolls in vogue among the Greeks. The Book of Kings was divided at the same time, and the four books, being considered as a consecutive history of the Kingdoms of Israel and Juda, were named "Books of the Kingdoms" (Basileiôn biblía). St. Jerome retained the division into four books, which from the Septuagint had passed into the Itala, or old Latin translation, but changed the name "Books of the Kingdoms" (Libri Regnorum) into "Books of the Kings" (Libri Regum). The Hebrew text of the Books of Samuel and of the Books of Kings was first divided in Bomberg's edition of the rabbinical Bible (Venice, 1516-17), the individual books being distinguished as I B. of Samuel and II B. of Samuel, I B. of Kings and II B. of Kings. This nomenclature was adopted in the subsequent editions of the Hebrew Bible and in the Protestant translations, and thus became current among non-Catholics.


I-II Books of Kings comprise the history of Israel from the birth of Samuel to the close of David's public life, and cover a period of about a hundred years. The first book contains the history of Samuel and of the reign of Saul; the second, the history of the reign of David, the death of Saul marking the division between the two books. The contents may be divided into five main sections: (1) I, i-vii, history of Samuel; (2) viii-xiv or, better, xv, history of Saul's government; (3) xvi-xxxi, Saul and David; (4) II, i-xx, history of the reign of David; (5) xxi-xxiv, appendix containing miscellaneous matter. The division between (3) and (4) is sufficiently indicated by the death of Saul and by David's accession to power; the other sections are marked off by the summaries, vii, 15-17; xiv, 47-58; xx, 23-26; xv, however, which is an introduction to what follows, according to the subject-matter belongs to (2).

(1) History of Samuel

Samuel's birth and consecration to the Lord, I, i-ii, 11. Misdeeds of the sons of Heli and prediction of the downfall of his house, ii, 12-36. Samuel's call to the prophetic office; his first vision, in which the impending punishment of the house of Heli is revealed to him, iii. The army of Israel is defeated by the Philistines, Ophni and Phinees are slain and the ark taken; death of Heli, iv. The ark among the Philistines; it is brought back to Bethsames and then taken to Cariathiarim, v- vii, 1. Samuel as judge; he is instrumental in bringing the people back to the Lord and in inflicting a crushing defeat on the Philistines, vii, 2-17.

(2) History of Saul's Government

The people demand a king; Samuel reluctantly yields to their request, viii. Saul, while seeking his father's asses, is privately annointed king by Samuel, ix-x, 16. Samuel convokes the people at Maspha (Mizpah) to elect a king; the lot falls on Saul, but he is not acknowledged by all, x, 17-27. Saul defeats the Ammonite king, Naas, and opposition to him ceases, xi. Samuel's farewell address to the people, xii. War against the Philistines; Saul's disobedience for which Samuel announces his rejection, xiii. Jonathan's exploit at Machmas; he is condemned to death for an involuntary breach of his father's orders, but is pardoned at the people's prayer, xiv, 1-46. Summary of Saul's wars; his family and chief commander, xiv, 47- 52. War against Amalec; second disobedience and final rejection of Saul, xv.

(3) Saul and David

David at Court

David, the youngest son of Isai (Jesse), is anointed king at Bethlehem by Samuel, xvi, 1-33. He is called to court to play before Saul and is made his armour-bearer, xvi, 14-23. David and Goliath, xvii. Jonathan's friendship for David and Saul's jealousy; the latter, after attempting to pierce David with his lance, urges him on with treacherous intent to a daring feat against the Philistines by promising him his daughter Michol in marriage, xviii. Jonathan softens his father for a time, but, David having again distinguished himself in a war against the Philistines, the enmity is renewed, and Saul a second time attempts to kill him, xix, 1-10. Michol helps David to escape; he repairs to Samuel at Ramatha, but, seeing after Jonathan's fruitless effort at mediation that all hope of reconciliation is gone, he flees to Achis, King of Geth, stopping on the way at Nobe, where Achimelech gives him the loaves of proposition and the sword of Goliath. Being recognized at Geth he saves himself by feigning madness, xix, 11-xxi.

David as an Outlaw

He takes refuge in the cave of Odollam (QR88-->Adullam), and becomes the leader of a band of outlaws; he places his parents under the protection of the King of Moab. Saul kills Achimelech and the priests of Nobe, xxii. David delivers Ceila from the Philistines, but to avoid capture by Saul he retires to the desert of Ziph, where he is visited by Jonathan. He is providentially delivered when surrounded by Saul's men, xxiii. He spares Saul's life in a cave of the desert of Engaddi, xxiv. Death of Samuel. Episode of Nabal and Abigail; the latter becomes David's wife after her husband's death, xxv. During a new pursuit, David enters Saul's camp at night and carries off his lance and cup, xxvi. He becomes a vassal of Achis, from whom he receives Siceleg (Ziklag); while pretending to raid the territory of Juda, he wars against the tribes of the south, xxvii. New war with the Philistines; Saul's interview with the witch of Endor, xxviii. David accompanies the army of Achis, but his fidelity being doubted by the Philistine chiefs he is sent back. On his return he finds that Siceleg has been sacked by the Amalecites during his absence, and Abigail carried off with other prisoners; he pursues the marauders and recovers the prisoners and the booty, xxix-xxx. Battle of Gelboe; death of Saul and Jonathan, xxxi.

(4) History of the Reign of David

David at Hebron

He hears of the death of Saul and Jonathan; his lament over them, II, i. He is anointed King of Juda at Hebron, ii, 1-7. War between David and Isboseth, or Esbaal (Ishbaal), the son of Saul, who is recognized by the other tribes, ii, 8-32. Abner, the commander of Isboseth's forces, having quarrelled with his master, submits to David and is treacherously slain by Joab, iii. Isboseth is assassinated; David punishes the murderers and is acknowledged by all the tribes, iv-v, 5.

David at Jerusalem

Jerusalem is taken from the Jebusites and becomes the capital, v, 6-16. War with the Philistines, v, 17-25. The ark is solemnly carried from Cariathiarim to Sion, vi. David thinks of building a temple; his intention, though not accepted, is rewarded with the promise that his throne will last forever, vii. Summary of the various wars waged by David, and list of his officers, viii. His kindness to Miphiboseth, or Meribbaal, the son of Jonathan, ix. War with Ammon and Syria, x.

David's Family History

His adultery with Bethsabee, the wife of Urias, xi. His repentance when the greatness of his crime is brought home to him by Nathan, xii, 1-23. Birth of Solomon; David is present at the taking of Rabbath, xii, 24-31. Amnon ravishes Thamar, the sister of Absalom; the latter has him assassinated and flies to Gessur; through the intervention of Joab he is recalled and reconciled with his father, xiii-xiv. Rebellion of Absalom; David flies from Jerusalem; Siba, Miphiboseth's servant, brings him provisions and accuses his master of disloyalty; Semei curses David; Absalom goes in to his father's concubines, xv-xvi. Achitophel counsels immediate pursuit, but Absalom follows the advice of Chusai, David's adherent, to delay, and thus gives the fugitive king time to cross the Jordan, xvii. Battle of Mahanaim; Absalom is defeated and slain by Joab against the king's order, xviii. David's intense grief, from which he is aroused by Joab's remonstrance. At the passage of the Jordan he pardons Semei, receives Miphiboseth back into his good graces, and invites to court Berzellai, who had supplied provisions to the army, xix, 1-39. Jealousies between Israel and Juda lead to the revolt of Seba; Amasa is commissioned to raise a levy, but, as the troops are collected too slowly, Joab and Abisai are sent with the bodyguard in pursuit of the rebels; Joab treacherously slays Amasa. Summary of officers, xix, 40-xx.

(5) Appendix

The two sons of Respha, Saul's concubine, and the five sons of Merob, Saul's daughter, are put to death by the Gabaonites, xxi, 1-14. Various exploits against the Philistines, xxi, 15-22. David's psalm of thanksgiving (Ps. xvii), xxii. His "last words", xxiii, 1-7. Enumeration of David's valiant men, xxiii, 8-39. The numbering of the people and the pestilence following it, xxiv.


I-II Books of Kings never formed one work with III-IV, as was believed by the older commentators and is still maintained by some modern writers, although the consecutive numbering of the books in the Septuagint and the account of David's last days and death at the beginning of III Kings seem to lend colour to such a supposition. The difference of plan and method pursued in the two pairs of books shows that they originally formed two distinct works. The author of III-IV gives a more or less brief sketch of each reign, and then refers his readers for further information to the source whence he has drawn his data; while the author of I-II furnishes such full and minute details, even when they are of little importance, that his work looks more like a series of biographies than a history, and, with the exception of II, i, 18, where he refers to the "Book of the Just", he never mentions his sources. Moreover, the writer of III-IV supplies abundant chronological data. Besides giving the length of each reign, he usually notes the age of the king at his accession and, after the division, the year of the reign of the contemporary ruler of the other kingdom; he also frequently dates particular events. In the first two books, on the contrary, chronological data are so scant that it is impossible to determine the length of the period covered by them. The position taken by the author of III-IV, with regard to the facts he relates, is also quite different from that of the author of the other two. The former praises or blames the acts of the various rulers, especially with respect to forbidding or allowing sacrifices outside the sanctuary, while the latter rarely expresses a judgment and repeatedly records sacrifices contrary to the prescriptions of the Pentateuch without a word of censure or comment. Lastly, there is a marked difference in style between the two sets of books; the last two show decided Aramaic influence, whereas the first two belong to the best period of Hebrew literature. At the most, it might be said that the first two chapters of the third book originally were part of the Book of Samuel, and were later detached by the author of the Book of Kings to serve as an introduction to the history of Solomon; but even this is doubtful. These chapters are not required by the object which the author of the Book of Samuel had in view, and the work is a complete whole without them. Besides, the summary, II, xx, 23-26, sufficiently marks the conclusion of the history of David. In any case these two chapters are so closely connected with the following that they must have belonged to the Book of Kings from its very beginning.

The general subject of I-II Kings is the foundation and development of the Kingdom of Israel, the history of Samuel being merely a preliminary section intended to explain the circumstances which brought about the establishment of the royal form of government. On closer examination of the contents, however, it is seen that the author is guided by a leading idea in the choice of his matter, and that his main object is not to give a history of the first two kings of Israel, but to relate the providential foundation of a permanent royal dynasty in the family of David. This strikingly appears in the account of Saul's reign, which may be summarized in the words: elected, found wanting, and rejected in favour of David. The detailed history of the struggle between David and Saul and his house is plainly intended to show how David, the chosen of the Lord, was providentially preserved amid many imminent dangers and how he ultimately triumphed, while Saul perished with his house. The early events of David's rule over united Israel are told in few words, even such an important fact as the capture of Jerusalem being little insisted on, but his zeal for God's worship and its reward in the solemn promise that his throne would last forever (II, vii, 11-16) are related in full detail. The remaining chapters tell how, in pursuance of this promise, God helps him to extend and consolidate his kingdom, and does not abandon him even after his great crime, though he punishes him in his tenderest feelings. The conclusion shows him in peaceful possession of the throne after two dangerous rebellions. The whole story is thus built around a central idea and reaches its climax in the Messianic promise, II, vii, 11 sqq. Besides this main object a secondary one may be observed, which is to convey to king and people the lesson that to obtain God's protection they must observe His commands.


The Talmud attributes to Samuel the whole work bearing his name; this strange opinion was later adopted by St. Gregory the Great, who naïvely persuaded himself that Samuel wrote the events which occurred after his death by prophetic revelation. Rabbinical tradition and most of the older Christian writers ascribe to this prophet the part referring to his time (I, i-xxiv), the rest to the Prophets Gad and Nathan. This view is evidently based on I Par., xxix, 29, "Now the acts of king David first and last are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer." But the wording of the text indicates that there is question of three distinct works. Besides, the unity of plan and the close connection between the different parts exclude composite authorship; we must at least admit a redactor who combined the three narratives. This redactor, according to Hummelauer, is the prophet Nathan; the work, however, can hardly be placed so early. Others attribute it to Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechias, or Esdras. None of these opinions rests on any solid ground, and we can only say that the author is unknown. The same diversity of opinion exists as to the date of composition. Hummelauer assigns it to the last days of David. Vigouroux, Cornely, Lesêtre, and Thenius place it under Roboam; Kaulen, under Abiam the son of Roboam; Haevernick, not long after David, Ewald, some thirty years after Solomon; Clair, between the death of David and the destruction of the Kingdom of Juda. According to recent critics it belongs to the seventh century, but received retouches as late as the fifth or even the fourth century. No sufficient data are at hand to fix a precise date. We can, however, assign cedrtain limits of time within which the work must have been composed. The explanation concerning the dress of the king's daughters in David's time (II, xiii, 18) supposes that a considerable period had elapsed in the interval, and points to a date later than Solomon, during whose reign a change in the style of dress was most likely introduced by his foreign wives. How much later is indicated by the remark: "For which reason Siceleg belongeth to the kings of Juda unto this day." (I, xxvii, 6). The expression kings of Juda implies that at the time of writing the Kingdom of Israel had been divided, and that at least two or three kings had reigned over Juda alone. The earliest date cannot, therefore, be placed berfore the reign of Abiam. The latest date, on the other hand, must be assigned to a time prior to Josias's reform (621 B.C.). As has been remarked, the author repeatedly records without censure or comment violations of the Pentateuchal law regarding sacrifices. Now it is not likely that he would have acted thus if he had written after these practices had been abolished and their unlawfulness impressed on the people, since at this time his readers would have taken scandal at the violation of the Law by such a person as Samuel, and at the toleration of unlawful rites by a king like David. The force of this reason will be seen if we consider how the author of II-IV Kings, who wrote after Josias's reform, censures every departure from the Law in this respect or, as in 1 Kings 3:2, explains it. The purity of language speaks for an early rather than a late date within the above limits. The appendix, however, may possibly be due to a somewhat later hand. Moreover, additions by a subsequent inspired revisor may be admitted without difficulty.


It is now universally recognized that the author of I-II Kings made use of written documents in composing his work. One such document, "The Book of the Just", is mentioned in connection with David's lament over Saul and Jonathan (II, i, 18). The canticle of Anna (I, ii, 1-10), David's hymn of thanksgiving (II, 22:2-51; cf. Psalm 17), and his "last words" were very probably also drawn from a written source. But besides these minor sources, the writer must have had at hand, at least for the history of David, a document containing much of the historical matter which he narrates. This we infer from the passages common to I-II Kings and the First Book of Paralipomenon (Chronicles), which are shown in the following list:–

I K., xxxi II K., iii, 2-5 v, 1-10 v, 11-25 vi, 1-11 vi, 12-23

viiI Par., x, 1-12 iii, 1-4 xi, 1-9 xiv, 1-16 xiii, 1-14 xv, 25-29 xvi, 1-3, 43 xviiI K., viii x,1-xi, 1 xii, 26-31 xxi, 18-22 xxiii, 8-39 xxiv

I Par., xviii xix, 1-xx. 1 xx, 1-3 xx, 4-8 xi, 10-46 xxi

Although these passages often agree word for word, the differences are such that the author of Paralipomenon, the later writer, cannot be said to have copied from I-II Kings, and we must conclude that both authors made use of the same document. This seems to have been an official record of important public events and of matters pertaining to the administration, such as was probably kept by the court "recorder" (2 Samuel 8:16; 20:24), and is very likely the same as the "Chronicles of King David" (1 Chronicles 27:24). To this document we may add three others mentioned in I Par. (xxix, 29) as sources of information for the history of David, namely, the "Book of Samuel", the "Book of Gad", and the "Book of Nathan". These were works of the three Prophets, as we gather from II Par., ix, 29; xii, 15; xx, 34, etc.; and our author would hardly neglect writings recommended by such names. Samuel very probably furnished the matter for his own history and for part of Saul's; Gad, David's companion in exile, the details of that part of David's life, as well as of his early days as king; and Nathan, information concerning the latter part, or even the whole, of his reign. Thus between them they would have fairly covered the period treated of, if, indeed, their narratives did not partially overlap. Besides these four documents other sources may occasionally have been used. A comparison of the passages of I-II Kings and I Par. given in the list above shows further that both writers frequently transferred their source to their own pages with but few changes; for, since one did not copy from the other, the agreement between them cannot be explained except on the supposition that they more or less reproduce the same document. We have therefore reason to believe that our author followed the same course in other cases, but to what extent we have no means of determining.


According to recent critics, I-II Kings is nothing but a compilation of different narratives so unskillfully combined that they may be separated with comparative ease. In spite of this comparative ease in distinguishing the different elements, the critics are not agreed as to the number of sources, nor as to the particular souce to which certain passages are to be ascribed. At present the Wellhausen-Budde theory is accepted, at least in its main outlines, by nearly the whole critical school. According to this theory, II, ix-xx, forms one document, which is practically contemporary with the events described; the rest (excluding the appendix) is chiefly made up of two writings, an older one, J, of the ninth century, and a later one, E, of the end of the eighth or the beginning of the seventh century. They are designated J and E, because they are either due to the authors of the Jahwist and Elohist documents of the Hexateuch, or to writers belonging to the same schools. Both J and E underwent modifications by a revisor, J² and E² respectively, and after being welded together by a redactor, RJE, were edited by a writer of the Deuteronomic school, RD. After this redaction some further additions were made, among them the appendix. The different elements are thus divided by Budde:–

J.–I, ix, 1-x, 7, 9-16; xi, 1-11, 15; xiii, 1-7a, 15b-18; xiv, 1-46, 52; xvi, 14-23; xviii, 5-6, 11, 20-30; xx, 1-10, 18-39, 42b; xxii, 1-4, 6-18, 20-23; xxiii, 1-14a; xxvi; xxvii; xxix-xxxi. II, i, 1-4, 11-12, 17-27; ii, 1-9, 10b, 12-32; iii; iv; v, 1-3, 6-10, 17-25; vi; ix-xi; xii, 1-9, 13-30, xiii-xx, 22. J².–I, x, 8; xiii, 7b- 15a, 19-22.

E.–I, iv, 1b-vii, 1; xv, 2-34; xvii, 1-11, 14-58; xviii, 1-4, 13-29; xix, 1, 4-6, 8-17; xxi, 1- 9; xxi, 19; xxii, 19-xxiv, 19; xxv; xxviii. II, i, 6-10, 13-16; vii. E².–I, i, 1-28; ii, 11- 22a, 23-26; iii, 1-iv, 1a; vii, 2-viii, 22; x, 17-24; xii.

RJE.–I, x, 25-27; xi, 12-14; xv, 1; xviii, 21b; xix, 2-3, 7; xx, 11-17, 40-42a; xxii, 10b; xxiii, 14b-18; xxiv, 16, 20-22a. II, i, 5. RD.–1, iv, 18 (last clause); vii, 2; xiii, 1; xiv, 47-51; xxviii, 3. II, ii, 10a, 11; v, 4-5; viii; xii, 10-12.

Additions of a later editor.–I, iv, 15, 22; vi, 11b, 15, 17-29; xi, 8b; xv, 4; xxiv, 14; xxx, 5. II, iii, 30; v, 6b, 7b, 8b; xv, 24; xx, 25- 26.

Latest additions.–I, ii, 1-10, 22b; xvi, 1-13; xvii, 12-13; xix, 18-24; xx, 10-15; xxii, 5. II, xiv, 26; xxi-xxiv.

This minute division, by which even short clauses are to a nicety apportioned to their proper sources, is based on the following grounds. (1) There are duplicate narratives giving a different or even a contradictory presentation of the same event. There are two accounts of Saul's election (I, viii, 1-xi), of his rejection (xiii, 1-14 and xv), of his death (I, xxxi, 1 sqq., and II, i, 4 sqq.), of his attempt to pierce David (I, xxiii, 10-11, and xix, 9-10d). There are also two accounts of David's introduction to Saul (I, xvi, 14 sqq. and xvii, 55-58), of his flight from court (xix, 10 sqq., and xxi, 10), of his taking refuge with Achis (xxi, 10 sqq., and xxvii, 1 sqq.), of his sparing Saul's life (xxiv, and xxvi). Lastly, there are two accounts of the origin of the proverb: "Is Saul too among the prophets?" (x, 12; xix, 24). Some of these double narratives are not only different, but contradictory. In one account of Saul's election the people demand a king, because they are dissatisfied with the sons of Samuel; the prophet manifests great displeasure and tries to turn them from their purpose; he yields, however, and Saul is chosen by lot. In the other, Samuel shows no aversion to the kingdom; he privately anoints Saul at God's command that he may deliver Israel from the Philistines; Saul is proclaimed king only after, and in reward of his victory over the Ammonite king, Naas. According to one version of Saul's death, he killed himself by falling on his sword; according to the other, he was slain at his own request by an Amalecite. Again, in xvi, David, then arrived at full manhood and experienced in warfare, is called to court to play before Saul and is made his armour-bearer, and yet in the very next chapter he appears as a shepherd lad unused to arms and unknown both to Saul and to Abner. Moreover, there are statements at variance with one another. In I, vii, 33, it is stated that "the Philistines . . . did not come any more into the borders of Israel . . . all the days of Samuel"; while in ix, 16, Saul is elected king to deliver Israel from them, and in xiii a Philistine invasion is described. In I, vii, 15, Samuel is said to have judged Israel all the days of his life, though in his old age he delegated his powers to his sons (viii, 1), and after the election of Saul solemnly laid down his office (xii). Finally, in I, xv, 35, Samuel is said never to have seen Saul again, and yet in xix, 24, Saul appears before him. All this shows that two narratives, often differing in their presentation of the facts, have been combined, the differences in some cases being left unharmonized. (2) Certain passages present religious conceptions belonging to a later age, and must therefore be ascribed to a later writer, who viewed the events of past times in the light of the religious ideas of his own. A difference of literary style can also be detected in the different parts of the work. If all this were true, the theory of the critics would have to be admitted. In that case much of I-II Kings would have but little historical value. The argument from the religious conceptions assumes the truth of Wellhausen's theory on the evolution of the religion of Israel; while that from literary style is reduced to a list of words and expressions most of which must have been part of the current speech, and for this reason could not have been the exclusive property of any writer. The whole theory, therefore, rests on the argument from double narratives and contradictions. As this seems very plausible, and presents some real difficulties, it demands an examination.


Some of the narratives said to be doublets, while having a general resemblance, differ in every detail. This is the case with the two accounts of Saul's disobedience and rejection, with the two narratives of David's sparing Saul's life, and of his seeking refuge with Achis. Such narratives cannot be identified, unless the improbability of the events occurring as related be shown. But is it improbable that Saul should on two different occasions have disregarded Samuel's directions and that the latter should repeat with greater emphasis the announcement of his rejection? Or that in the game of hide-and-seek among the mountains David should have twice succeeded in getting near the person of Saul and should on both occasions have refrained from harming him? Or that under changed conditions he should have entered into negotiations with Achis and become his vassal? Even where the circumstances are the same, we cannot at once pronounce the narratives to be only different accounts of the same occurrence. It is not at all strange that Saul in his insane moods should twice have attempted to spear David, or that the loyal Ziphites should twice have betrayed to Saul David's whereabouts. The two accounts of Saul among the prophets at first sight seem to be real doublets, not so much because the two narratives are alike, for they differ considerably, as because both incidents seem to be given as the origin of the proverb: "Is Saul too among the prophets?" The first, however, is alone said to have given rise to the proverb. The expression used in the other case–"Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?"–does not necessarily imply that the proverb did not exist before, but may be understood to say that it then became popular. The translation of the Vulgate, "Unde et exivit proverbium", is misleading. There is no double mention of David's flight from court. When in xxi, 10, he is said to have fled from the face of Saul, nothing more is affirmed than that he fled to avoid being taken by Saul, the meaning of the expression "to flee from the face of" being to flee for fear of some one. The double narrative of Saul's election is obtained by tearing asunder parts which complement and explain one another. Many a true story thus handled will yield the same results. The story as it stands is natural and well connected. The people, disgusted at the conduct of the sons of Samuel, and feeling that a strong central government would be an advantage for the defence of the country, request a king. Samuel receives the request with displeasure, but yields at God's command and appoints the time and place for the election. In the meanwhile he anoints Saul, who is later designated by lot and acclaimed king. All, however, did not recognize him. Influential persons belonging to the larger tribes were very likely piqued that an unknown man of the smallest tribe should have been chosen. Under the circumstances Saul wisely delayed assuming royal power till a favourable opportunity presented itself, which came a month later, when Naas besieged Jabes. It is objected, indeed, that, since the Jabesites did not send a message to Saul in their pressing danger, chap. xi, 4 sq., must have belonged to an account in which Saul had not yet been proclaimed king, whence a double narrative is clearly indicated. But even if the Jabesites had sent no message, the fact would have no significance, since Saul had not received universal recognition; nothing, however, warrants us to read such a meaning into the text. At all events, Saul on hearing the news immediately exercised royal power by threatening with severe punishment anyone who would not follow him. Difficulties, it is true, exist as to some particulars, but difficulties are found also in the theory of a double account. The two accounts of Saul's death are really contradictory; but only one is the historian's; the other is the story told by the Amalecite who brought to David the news of Saul's death, and nothing indicates that the writer intends to relate it as true. We need have little hesitation in pronouncing it a fabrication of the Amalecite. Lying to promote one's interests is not unusual, and the hope of winning David's favour was a sufficient inducement for the man to invent his story.

With regard to the apparent contradiction between xvi, 14-23, and xvii, it should be remarked that the Vatican (B) and a few other manuscripts of the Septuagint omit xvii, 12-31 and xvii, 55-xviii, 5. This form of the text is held to be the more original, not only by some conservative writers, but by such critics as Cornill, Stade, W. R. Smith, and H. P. Smith. But though this text, if it were certain, would lessen the difficulty, it would not entirely remove it, as David still appears as a boy unused to arms. The apparent contradiction disappears if we take xvi, 14-23, to be out of its chronological place, a common enough occurrence in the historical books both of the Old and of the New Testament. The reason of the inversion seems to be in the desire of the author to bring out the contrast between David, upon whom the spirit of the Lord came from the day of his anointing, and Saul, who was thenceforth deserted by the spirit of the Lord, and troubled by an evil spirit. Or it may be due to the fact that with xvii the author begins to follow a new source. This supposition would explain the repetition of some details concerning David's family, if xvii, 17-21, is original. According to the real sequence of events, David after his victory over Goliath returned home, and later, having been recommended by one who was aware of his musical skill, he was called to court and permanently attached to the person of Saul. This explanation might seem inadmissible, because it is said (xviii, 2) that "Saul took him that day, and would not let him return to his father's house." But as "on that day" is often used in a loose way, it need not be taken to refer to the day on which David slew Goliath, and room will thus be left for the incident related in xvi, 14-23. It is not true, therefore, that it is impossible to reconcile the two accounts, as is asserted. The so-called contradictory statements may also be satisfactorily explained. As vii is a summary of Samuel's administration, the words "the Philistines . . . did not come any more into the borders of Israel" must be taken to refer only to Samuel's term of office, and not to his whole lifetime; they do not, therefore, stand in contradiction with xiii, where an incursion during the reign of Saul is described. Besides, it is not said that there were no further wars with the Philistines; the following clause: "And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines, all the days of Samuel", rather supposes the contrary. There were wars, indeed, but the Philistines were always defeated and never succeeded in gaining a foothold in the country. Still they remained dangerous neighbours, who might attack Israel at any moment. Hence it could well be said of Saul, "He shall save my people out of the hands of the Philistines" (ix, 16), which expression does not necessarily connote that they were under the power of the Philistines. Ch. xiii, 19-21, which seems to indicate that the Philistines were occupying the country at the time of Saul's election, is generally acknowledged to be misplaced. Further, when Samuel delegated his powers to his sons, he still retained his office, and when he did resign it, after the election of Saul, he continued to advise and reprove both king and people (cf. I, xii, 23); he can therefore be truly said to have judged Israel all the days of his life. The last contradiction, which Budde declares to be inexplicable, rests on a mere quibble about the verb "to see". The context shows clearly enought that when the writer states that "Samuel saw Saul no more till the day of his death" (xv, 35), he means to say that Samuel had no further dealings with Saul, and not that he never beheld him again with his eyes. Really, is it likely that a redactor who, we are told, often harmonizes his sources, and who plainly intends to present a coherent story, and not merely a collection of old documents, would allow glaring contradictions to stand? There is no sufficient reason, then, why we should not grant a historical character to the section I, i-II, viii, as well as to the rest of the work. Those internal marks–namely, lifelike touches, minuteness of detail, bright and flowing style–which move the critics to consider the latter part as of early origin and of undoubted historical value, are equally found in the first.


The Hebrew text has come down to us in a rather unsatisfactory condition, by reason of the numerous errors due to transcribers. The numbers especially have suffered, probably because in the oldest manuscripts they were not written out in full. In I, vi, 19, seventy men become "seventy men, and fifty thousand of the common people." In I, xiii, 5, the Philistines are given the impossible number of thirty thousand chariots. Saul is only a year old when he begins to reign, and reigns but two years (I, xiii, 1). Absalom is made to wait forty years to accomplish the vow he made while in Gessur (II, xv, 7). In I, viii, 16, oxen are metamorphosed into "goodliest young men", while in II, x, 18, forty thousand footmen are changed into horsemen. Michol, who in II, vi, 23, is said to have had no children, in II, xxi, 8, is credited with the five sons of her sister Merob (cf. I, xviii, 19; xxv, 44; II, iii, 15). In II, xxi, 19, Goliath is again slain by Elchanan, and, strange to say, though I Par., xx, 5, tells us that the man killed by Elchanan was the brother of the giant, some critics here also see a contradiction. Badan in I, xii, 11, should be changed to Abdon or Barak, and Samuel, in the same verse, to Samson, etc. Many of these mistakes can readily be corrected by a comparison with Paralipomenon, the Septuagint, and other ancient versions. Others antedate all translations, and are therefore found in the versions as well as in the Massoretic (Hebrew) text. In spite of the work of correction done by modern commentators and textual critics, a perfectly satisfactory critical text is still a desideratum. The Septuagint differs considerably from the Massoretic text in many instances; in others the case is not so clear. The Vulgate was translated from a Hebrew text closely resembling the Massoretic; but the original text has been interpolated by additions and duplicate translations, which have crept in from the Itala. Additions occur: I, iv, 1; v, 6, 9: viii, 18; x, 1; xi, 1; xiii, 15; siv, 22, 41; xv, 3, 12; xvii, 36; xxi, 11; xxx, 15; II, i, 26; v, 23; x, 19; xiii, 21, 27; xiv, 30; duplicate translations, I, ix, 15; xv, 32; xx, 15; xxiii, 13, 14; II, i, 18; iv, 5; vi, 12; xv, 18, 20.

Publication information Written by F. Bechtel. Transcribed by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


Catholic: GIGOT, Special Introd. (New York, 1901), 251-65; CORNELY, Introductio, (Paris, 1897), i, 240-76; HUMMELBAUER, Comm. in Libros Samuelis (Paris, 1886); FILLION in VIG., Dict. de la Bible, s. v. Rois (les quatre livres des); VIGOROUX, Manuel Bibl., 10th ed., II (Paris, 1899), 80 sqq.; CLAIR, Livres des Rois (Paris, 1884); DHORME, Les Livres de Samuel (Paris, 1910); KAULEN, Einleitung (3rd ed., Freiburg im Br., 1890), 223-30; SCHÄFERS, I Sam., i-xv literarkritisch untersucht in Bibl. Zeitschr., V (1907), 1, 126, 235, 359; VI, 117; PETERS, Beiträge zur Text-und Literaturkritik der B252;cher Samuels (Vienna, 1904); WIESMANN, Die Einführung des Königtums in Israel in Zeitsch. für Kathol. Theologie, XXXIV (1910), 118-153; IDEM, Bemerkungen zum I Buche Samuels, ibid., XXXII (1908), 187, 597; XXXIII, 129, 385, 796.

Non-Catholic: STENNING in HAST., Dict of the Bible, s. v. Samuel, I and II; DRIVER, Literat. of the O. T., 8th ed. (Edinburgh, 1909), 172-85; IDEM, Notes on Heb. Text of the B. of Samuel (Oxford, 1890); H. P. SMITH, Comm. on the B. of Samuel (New York, 1899); WELLHAUSEN, Composition des Hexateuchs und der Histor. Bücher des A. T. (Berlin, 1899); IDEM, Text der Bücher Samuels (Göttingen, 1871); BUDDE, Die Bücher Richter und Samuel (Giessen, 1890); IDEM, The Books of Samuel in HAUPT, Sacred Books of the O. T. (Baltimore, 1894); IDEM, Die Bücher Samuel in MARTI, Kurzer Hand Comm. zum A. T., (1902); CORNILL in Zeitschr. für kirchl. Wissensch. und kirchl. Leben (1885), 113 sqq.; IDEM in Königsberg. Studien (1887); 25 sqq.; IDEM in Zeitsch. für A. T. Wissensch., (1890), 96 sqq.; THENIUS, Die Bücher Samuels, ed. LÖHR (Leipzig, 1898); KLOSTERMANN, Die Bücher Samuels und der Könige (Munich, 1887).

Books of Samuel

Jewish Perspective Information


-Biblical Data:

Name and Contents.

First Book of Samuel:

Saul Assumes the Kingship.

Saul's Jealousy of David.

Closing Days of Saul's Reign.

Second Book of Samuel:

David in Hebron.

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem.

David and Uriah.

David and Absalom.

Complex Documentary Sources.

-Critical View:

Oldest Literary Strata.

Story of the Ark.

Supposed Time of Redaction.

-Biblical Data:

Two books in the second great division of the canon, the "Nebi'im," or Prophets, and, more specifically, in the former of its subdivisions, the "Nebi'im Rishonim," or Earlier, Prophets, following upon Joshua and Judges; the third and fourth of the historical writings according to the arrangement of the Masoretic text. Originally the two books of Samuel formed a single book, as did the two books of Kings. In the Septuagint Samuel and Kings were treated as one continuous and complete history of Israel and Judah, and the work was divided into four books under the title Βίβλια Βασιλειῶν ("Books of Kingdoms"). This division was accepted in the Vulgate by Jerome, who changed the name to "Books of Kings." Thence it passed into the editions of the Hebrew Bible published by Daniel Bomberg of Venice in the sixteenth century; and it has since reappeared in every Hebrew printed edition though the individual books retained the captions they had in the Hebrew manuscripts, viz., "I Samuel" and "II Samuel" for the first two of the four Kings, and "I Kings" and "II Kings" for the last two. But the Masorah continued to be placed after II Samuel for both I and II.

Name and Contents.

The name "Samuel," by which the book, now divided into two, is designated in Hebrew, was construed to imply that Samuel was the author (see below). More likely, the title was chosen because Samuel is the most important of all the personages mentioned in the record, he having a prominent, even dominant, part in most of the events related in book I. The two books comprise, according to the Masoretic note at the end, thirty-four "sedarim" (the mnemonic word is given as ); in the printed editions the first book has thirty-one chapters and the second twenty-four, making fifty-five chapters in all. They give the history of Israel from the concluding days of the period of the Judges-Samuel being considered the last of them-through the reigns of the first two kings, Saul and David, and continue the story not up to the latter's death, but merely to his incipient old age, the account of his declining years forming the prelude to the history of Solomon in I Kings.

First Book of Samuel:

This book consists of three main sections, to which the following headings may respectively be prefixed: (1) Eli and Samuel, ch. i.-vii.; (2) Samuel and Saul, viii.-xv.; and (3) Saul and David, xvi.-xxxi. In detail the contents are as follows:

(1) Eli and Samuel: Samuel's Younger Days and the Story of Eli: Birth of Samuel and his dedication to Yhwh (i.); Hannah's song (ii. 1-10); Samuel's service in the sanctuary (ii. 11-iv. 1). The Story of the Ark: Loss of the Ark and its dire consequences (iv.); the Ark retained by the Philistines (v.); return of the Ark (vi. 1-18); the Ark at Beth-shemesh and Kirjath-jearim (vi. 19-vii. 1). Samuel as Judge: The people's sorrow (vii. 2-6); defeat of the Philistines (vii. 7-12); Samuel judges Israel (vii. 12-17).

(2) Samuel and Saul: Israel Clamors for a King: The desire of the people (viii. 1-5); Samuel consults Yhwh (viii. 6-9); Samuel admonishes the people (viii. 10-18); their persistence (viii. 19-22). Saul Anointed as King: Details of Saul's pedigree and character (ix. 1-2); his adventure with his father's asses and his visit to the seer (ix. 3-14); meeting of Samuel and Saul (ix. 15-21); meal set before Saul (ix. 22-24); Saul anointed by Samuel (ix. 25-x. 8); Saul's home-coming (x. 9-16). Saul's Election to the Kingship: The election by lot (x. 17-25a); dismissal of the people (x. 25a-27a). Saul Assumes the Kingship.

The Peril of Jabesh-gilead; Saul's Valor and Its Reward-the Crown: Siege of Jabesh-gilead; outrageous conditions of peace (xi. 1-3); messengers for relief at Gibeah; Saul, stirred by the spirit, calls Israel to arms (xi. 4-8); Saul relieves the city (xi. 9-11); his kingship acknowledged and confirmed (xi. 12-15). Samuel Relinquishes His Judgeship: Samuel's challenge to prove malfeasance in office against himself (xii. 1-6); his pleading with the people in a retrospect of Israel's history (xii. 7-15); he calls down thunder and rain upon the people, who are thereby compelled to request his intercession for them as sinners; he exhorts them to fear Yhwh (xii. 16-25).

War Against the Philistines: Saul begins his reign(xiii. 1); war breaks out; the people in distress hide for their lives (xiii. 2-7a); Saul's failure; his rejection at Gilgal (xiii. 7b-15); Philistines in possession of the mountains of Ephraim (xiii. 16-18, 23); the people of Israel are unarmed, the Philistines having forbidden work at the smithies (xiii. 19-22); Jonathan's great feat of arms (xiv. 1-15); battle with the Philistines (xiv. 16-24); Saul's curse on the man that should eat, and Jonathan's violation of the prohibition (xiv. 25-30); Saul prevents the people from eating blood (xiv. 31-35); discovery of Jonathan's transgression; his rescue by the people (xiv. 36-45); brief exposition of Saul's wars; names of his sons and daughters; and other details (xiv. 46-52). War Against the Amalekites; Saul's Rejection: Command to Saul to destroy Amalek (xv. 1-3); the war; Saul disobeys by sparing Agag and the flocks (xv. 4-9); Samuel's censure and menace for this disobedience (xv. 10-23); Saul, repentant, pleads for mercy (xv. 24-31); death of Agag (xv. 32-33); Samuel's complete separation from Saul (xv. 34-35).

(3) Saul and David: David's Family and Qualifications: Selection and consecration of David, the son of Jesse, after the rejection of his brothers (xvi. 1-13); David, as a cunning player on the harp, is brought to Saul to drive away the evil spirit from the king (xvi. 14-23); David's valor; his victory over Goliath (xvii. 1-54); David becomes Jonathan's friend and a general of Saul (xvii. 55-xviii. 5).

Saul's Jealousy of David.

David Distrusted by Saul; His Flight: Saul's jealousy; the women's song, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands"; the king hurls his spear at David; the latter is relieved of the duty of attending on Saul; David is loved by all Israel and Judah; Saul attempts to lure David to his death at the hands of the Philistines by the promise of his elder daughter, Merab, in marriage; David weds Michal, the king's younger daughter, in spite of the dangerous conditions Saul imposes for the marriage (xviii. 6-30); Jonathan's intercession leads to a reconciliation between Saul and David; futile attempt by Saul to assassinate David; the latter, aided by a ruse of Michal, flees (xix. 1-17); David with Saul at Ramah; Saul repeatedly attempts to seize him, but is foiled (xix. 18-24); David and Jonathan (xx.); David at Nob with Ahimelech the priest; he eats the Showbread, feigns madness before Achish (King of Gath), takes refuge in the cave of Adullam, and goes to Mizpah of Moab; he returns to Judah upon the advice of the prophet Gad; Saul's revenge against Ahimelech, who is killed under his orders by Doeg (xxi.-xxii.).

David a Freebooter in Philistia: David and the city of Keilah; Saul threatening to besiege him there, David consults Abiathar's ephod and at the oracle's advice departs (xxiii. 1-13); David's adventures while pursued by Saul in the wilderness of Ziph and in the strongholds of En-gedi (xxiii. 14-xxiv. 23); Samuel's death (xxv. 1a); David in the wilderness of Paran; his dealings with Nabal and Abigail (xxv.); his night visit to Saul's camp (xxvi.); his escape into the land of the Philistines, where he finds protection at the hand of Achish at Gath, receiving later Ziklag as a gift; he dwells in the land a year and four months, raiding his neighbors, while duping the king into the belief of his loyalty to him and in his active hostility to the people of Judah (xxvii.).

Closing Days of Saul's Reign.

Saul's End: War breaks out between Achish and Philistia, and Saul of Israel (xxviii. 1-2); Saul and the witch of En-dor (xxviii. 3-25); Achish, upon the complaint of his chieftains, who distrust David, dismisses him to Ziklag (xxix.); David's expedition against the Amalekites, who, during his absence, had raided Ziklag and set it on fire, taking large booty and carrying off among the women David's wives. Consulting the ephod, David pursues the marauders. Meeting on the way an Egyptian slave abandoned by the Amalekites, David is led by him to where the enemies are feasting. He fights them till sundown, slaying or capturing all save 400, and recovering his own; David's ordinance concerning the division of the spoils; his gifts to the elders of Judah (xxx.); the last battle of Saul; death of his sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Melchi-shua; Saul, after the refusal of his armor-bearer to kill him, dies by falling upon his own sword; his body and those of his sons are stripped; Saul's head is cut off, to be sent as a trophy into the cities of Philistia; his body is fastened to the wall of Beth-shan, whence it is recovered by the men of Jabesh-gilead, who burn it, together with the remains of his sons, at Jabesh, and later bury the bones under a tamarisk-tree (xxxi.).

Second Book of Samuel:

This book likewise readily lends itself to a division into three main parts: (1) David as king (i.-viii.); (2) David and his crown princes (ix.-xx.); and (3) complementary appendixes consisting of various historical glosses (xxi.-xxiv.). The details are as follows:

(1) David as King: David Learns of Saul's Death: Arrival of the messenger (i. 1-5); he reports that he had slain Saul at the latter's own request (i. 6-10); David mourns for Saul and Jonathan (i. 11-12); he directs that the messenger, "the son of a stranger, an Amalekite," be surreptitiously killed (i. 13-16). The Lament ("Ḳinah") of David for Saul and Jonathan: Superscription, with note that the lamentation is written in the Book of Jashar (i. 17-18); the lamentation (i. 19-27).

David in Hebron.

David Reigns in Hebron; War Against Abner, Ishbosheth's (Esh-baal's) Captain: Upon Yhwh's advice, David goes up to Hebron with his two wives, his men, and their households; he is anointed king by the men of Judah (ii. 1-4); he sends a message of approval to the men of Jabesh-gilead for having buried Saul (ii. 5-7); Abner is loyal to Saul's son Ish-bosheth or Esh-baal (ii. 8-11); Abner meets Joab, David's captain, by the pool of Gibeon, where twelve young men on each side engage in a trial by combat, all twenty-four falling; Abner is defeated in the battle which ensues (ii. 12-19); Abner is pursued, but slays Asahel, his pursuer, after vainly imploring him to desist (ii. 20-23); Joab, after parleying with Abner, blows the trumpet as a signal for the pursuit to cease (ii. 24-32).

The Extermination of Saul's House: War between the house of Saul and that of David (iii. 1, 6a); enumeration of David's sons (iii. 2-5); relations betweenAbner and Ish-bosheth disturbed by suspicions on the latter's part (iii. 7-11); Abner makes treasonable overtures to David, inducing him to demand his wife Michal from Ish-bosheth, who takes her away from her second husband, Paltiel, and sends her to David (iii. 12-16); Abner urges the elders of Israel to go over to David; he himself pays a visit to him and promises to deliver over to him all Israel (iii. 17-21); Abner is treacherously slain by Joab (iii. 22-30); David mourns for Abner; he refuses to eat until sunset, which pleases the people (iii. 31-39); Ish-bosheth is assassinated; and his head is taken to David, who, however, causes the assassins to be killed (iv. 1-3, 5-12; verse 4 is a gloss giving an account of the escape of Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son, when five years old, and of his fall from the arms of a nurse, which resulted in his lameness).

David and Jerusalem: David is made king over all Israel (v. 1-3); his age and length of reign (v. 4, 5); he takes Jerusalem from the Jebusites; comment on David's growing power (v. 6-10); Hiram of Tyre sends materials and workmen and builds David a house (v. 11-12); David increases his harem; names of his sons born in Jerusalem (v. 13-16); war with the Philistines leading to their defeat (v. 17-25).

The Ark Brought to Jerusalem.

Removal of the Ark: The Ark is brought on a new cart out of the house of Abinadab, David and the Israelites playing before it on all sorts of instruments; its arrival at the thrashing-floor of Nachon; Uzzah, to save the Ark from falling when the oxen stumbled, puts forth his hand, for which act he is smitten dead (vi. 1-8); David, afraid to remove the Ark to Jerusalem, carries it aside to the house of Obed-edom, the Gittite, where it remains for three months (vi. 9-12); hearing that Obed-edom has prospered in consequence, David brings the Ark to Jerusalem, offering sacrifices along the way; David dances before the Ark, which causes Michal to despise him; the Ark is set in the midst of a tent, David offering "'olot" and "shelamim" before Yhwh, and the people receiving a share of the sacrificial meal; Michal's censure of David; her reproof and punishment (vi. 13-23).

Plans to Build Temple: Nathan and David; the prophet recalls that no permanent sanctuary has existed during Israel's history, and bids David desist from his plan to build one (vii. 1-12); the prophet promises that David shall have a successor, who will be permitted to carry out his (David's) plans (vii. 13-17); David's prayer of thanks for his own elevation and for the divine promise that his dynasty shall continue to rule (vii. 18-29).

Data Concerning David's Reign: David's wars (viii. 1-6); the spoils of gold and silver vessels dedicated to Yhwh (viii. 7-12); other military records (viii. 13-14); David as a just ruler; details of the administration and the names of his chief officers (viii. 15-18).

(2) David and His Crown Princes: The Story of David and Jonathan's Son: Ziba, a servant, upon David's inquiry, reveals the existence and place of sojourn of Mephibosheth (ix. 1-5); David sends for him, receives him graciously, assigns him Ziba for a body-servant, restores to him all of Saul's lands, and accords him a place as a daily guest at the royal table (ix. 6-10a); Ziba, his fifteen sons, and twenty retainers serve Mephibosheth and his son Micha (ix. 10b-13).

David and Uriah.

The Expeditions Against Ammon and Syria: The first campaign; the provocation: Ammon's king having died, David sends a deputation to present his condolence to Hanun, the son and successor; his envoys are grossly insulted, and are sent back with one-half of their beards shaved off, and their clothes cut off in the middle, so that they have to wait at Jericho until they obtain fresh garments and their beards are grown (x. 1-5); the first battle: Ammon hires Syrian mercenaries, against whom David sends Joab and an army of mighty men; with fine strategy Joab and his brother Abishai defeat the enemy (x. 6-14); the second battle: Hadarezer leads the Syrians, against whom David in person takes the field, marching to Helam, where he defeats them (x. 15-19); war against Ammon is renewed, but David remains at Jerusalem; he sins with Bath-sheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, who is with the army (xi. 1-5); to hide his sin David commands Uriah to return home, but is foiled in his designs (xi. 6-13); Uriah delivers to Joab a letter from David containing an order to place Uriah in the forefront of the battle so that he may be killed; this is done, and Uriah falls (xi. 14-17); Joab sends a report to David (xi. 18-25); David takes Bath-sheba into his house, where she gives birth to the first son born unto him while king; Yhwh is displeased (xi. 26, 27); Nathan's parable: "Thou art the man"; Nathan rebukes the king; David confesses (xii. 1-15); the child sickens; David fasts; death of the child; David, to the surprise of his servants, now eats; his explanation (xii. 16-23); Solomon born of Bathsheba; Nathan gives him the name "Jedidiah" (xii. 24-25); Joab calls upon David to join the army lest all the glory of the victory fall to his (Joab's) name; David captures Rabbah, taking the king's crown for himself, and treating the prisoners most cruelly; end of the war (xii. 26-31).

Amnon and Absalom: Amnon, in love with Tamar, the sister of his half-brother Absalom, upon the counsel of his cousin Jonadab feigns sickness and secures his father's consent for Tamar to nurse him; he outrages her, and sends her off with insults (xiii. 1-19); Absalom, seeing her grief, consoles her, takes her to his house and awaits an opportunity to take revenge (xiii. 20-22); two years later Absalom invites the king and his sons to a sheep-shearing feast in Baal-hazor, in which Amnon, after the king's refusal to attend, takes part; at the bidding of Absalom, Amnon is killed at the table (xiii. 23-29a); the king's sons fleeing, David hears that all have been killed; Jonadab reassures him, revealing to him Absalom's plot; Absalom takes refuge with Talmai, King of Geshur, remaining in exile three years (xiii. 29b-38); the king yearns for Absalom; Joab's ruse in sending for a wise woman from Tekoah, who feigns to be a widow and to having had an experience with her two sons similar to that of the king; extracting a promise from David that the avenger of blood shall destroy no more, she invokes the promise in Absalom's case; she confesses to be in leaguewith Joab (xiii. 39-xiv. 20); Absalom is granted complete immunity; Joab is sent to bring him home; Absalom is bidden to stay in his own house without seeing the king (xiv. 21-24); Absalom's beauty; his sons and daughter (xiv. 25-27); Absalom, after living two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king, in order to force an interview with Joab sets fire to the latter's field; Joab meets Absalom, and at his bidding intercedes in his behalf with David; David pardons Absalom (xiv. 28-33).

David and Absalom.

Absalom's Rebellion: Outbreak of the rebellion at Hebron (xv. 1-12); David has to leave Jerusalem; incidents of the flight; Ittai; Zadok and the Ark; Ahithophel and Hushai; Ziba reveals Mephibosheth's plot against David, and is rewarded; Shimei curses David, who, however, will not have him punished (xv. 13-xvi. 14); Absalom at Jerusalem; Hushai joins him; Ahithophel advises Absalom to seize the harem (in token of his being the ruling sovereign), and asks to be allowed to pursue David; Hushai counsels that Absalom should go out in person at the head of all Israel; Hushai's advice is followed; Hushai sends to Zadok and Abiathar asking them to warn David; Jonathan and Ahimaaz, the messengers, are seen by a lad who betrays them, but they are hidden in a well by a woman, and Absalom can not find them; they warn David, who passes over the Jordan; Ahithophel commits suicide (xvi. 15-xvii. 23); David at Mahanaim; Absalom crosses the Jordan with Amasa as his general; Shobi, Machir, and Barzillai provide beds and food (xvii. 24-29).

The Battle and Absalom's Death: David not allowed to go into battle; he gives orders to deal gently with Absalom; the battle in the forest of Ephraim; Absalom is defeated; he is caught by his hair in the boughs of an oak while his mule passes from under him; Joab, learning of this, takes three darts and thrusts them into Absalom's heart; this ends the pursuit (xviii. 1-16); glosses concerning Absalom's monument and grave (xviii. 17-18); Joab sends the Cushite to the king; Ahimaaz, after having been refused by Joab, is allowed to follow the Cushite, whom he outruns; Ahimaaz informs the king of the victory; David inquires after Absalom, and receives from Ahimaaz an evasive answer; the Cushite arriving, David learns of his son's fate; David's lamentation (xviii. 19-33); the people mourn, the soldiers entering the city as though they had been defeated; Joab forces David to show himself to the people (xix. 1-9); David returns at the solicitation of the people and the priests; Shimei supplicates for pardon; Mephibosheth, whose appearance shows grief, pleads that his servant deceived him; Ziba and he are told to divide the land; Barzillai invited to live at court; he declines, pleading old age, and begging that Chimham may take his place; jealousy between Judah and Israel (xix. 10-44).

Sheba's Uprising and Amasa's Violent Death: Sheba instigates a rebellion on the part of Israel (xx. 1-2); David's return to Jerusalem; treatment of his concubines (xx. 3); Amasa, bidden to call the Judeans together, exceeds the prescribed limit of three days; Abishai given command to pursue Sheba; at the great stone in Gibeon, Amasa meets them; Joab in full equipment salutes him, and thrusts a sword into his bowels, killing him; kindness of a young man to the dying Amasa (xx. 4-13); Sheba besieged in Abel; the wise woman's parley with Joab to save the city; Joab asks that Sheba be delivered up, and the woman promises that his head shall be thrown to Joab over the wall; she induces the people to kill Sheba, and his head is cast out to Joab; the siege is raised (xx. 14-22); repetition of viii. 16-18 (xx. 23-26).

(3) Complementary Appendixes: Famine and the extermination of Saul's house (xxi. 1-14); the four giants and their capture (xxi. 15-22); David's song of triumph (xxii.); his last words (xxiii. 1-7); his thirty-three "mighty men" (xxiii. 8-39); census (xxiv. 1-9), plague (xxiv. 10-17), and erection of the altar (xxiv. 18-25). Complex Documentary Sources.

-Critical View:

Rabbinical tradition assigns to Samuel the prophet the authorship of ch. i.-xxiv. (his own biography up to his death), while, on the strength of I Chron. xxix. 29, it credits Gad and Nathan with having written the remainder of the book (I and II forming one book in the Jewish canon; B. B. 14b, 15a; see Biblical Data, above). In so far as tradition recognizes that the books of Samuel are not by one author, it accords with the conclusions of the critical schools. It is, however, needless to add that modern scholars reject the theory of the joint authorship of Samuel, Gad, and Nathan. As preserved in the canon, the books of Samuel are clearly not the work of men contemporary with the events chronicled. Behind these documents lie various and conflicting traditions which, in keeping with the method of early Hebrew historiography, the compiler has to a certain extent incorporated in his work without making any attempt to harmonize discrepancies. Thus, in recording how Saul was chosen king, the first book in ch. ix., x. 1-16, xi. 1-11, 15, xiii., and xiv. 1-46 proceeds on the theory that Yhwh had appointed a king over the people in order to liberate them from the yoke of the Philistines, commanding the seer to anoint young Saul, who had come to him while seeking his father's asses (ix. 15 et seq.). In the war against the Ammonites, Saul proves himself a hero and is chosen king by the people (xi.), after which he leads them against the Philistines (xiii. et seq.). It is for this war that he enlists young David's services (xiv. 52). An altogether different sequence of events and ideas is unfolded in vii. 2 et seq., viii., x. 17-24a, xii., and xv. Samuel the judge is remembered as having finally and conclusively driven off the Philistines. Ungrateful Israel, in order to be like the other peoples, compels Samuel in his old age to yield to their clamor for a king; and Yhwh, though greatly incensed, at last gives His consent (viii., x. 17 et seq.). With due solemnity Samuel relinquishes the office which he has administered so faithfully, but reserves for himself the post of censor and counselor, and interceder with Yhwh (xii.). At the first test Saul is discovered to be disobedient and is rejected by Yhwh (xv.).

In the story of David a similar duplication and divergence are easily established. In xvi. 14-23 David is called to Saul's court to dispel the king's evilmoods by playing on the harp. He is a young but tried warrior, and is at once appointed armor-bearer to the monarch. In ch. xvii. David is a lad who, up to the time when the story opens, tended his father's flock. He is not inured to war and kills Goliath with a stone from his shepherd's sling. This feat of valor attracts to him the attention of Saul, who has him trained subsequently for a warrior's career. Analysis with reference to both the content and the religious conception thereby disclosed, and also to stylistic and linguistic peculiarities, makes it apparent that the books of Samuel in their present form are a compilation from various written and oral sources, their last editor being post-Deuteronomic.

Oldest Literary Strata.

Undoubtedly, the oldest literary documents are David's elegies (on the death of Saul and Jonathan, II Sam. i. 18 et seq.; on Abner, a fragment, II Sam. iii. 33-34). Next in age are those portions which are assigned to the "Jerusalem" cycle of stories. This cycle takes its name from the fact that the scene of the happenings it purports to describe is always Jerusalem. It gives a history of David and his house, and is probably the work of a Judean writing shortly after Solomon (II Sam. v. 3-16, vi. 9-20). To the ninth century, and to a Judean, or perhaps a Benjamite, author, are credited the fragments of Saul's (I Sam. ix. 1-x. 16, xi., xiii., xiv.) and David's histories (I Sam. xvi. 14-23; xviii. 6-11, 20, 27; xx. 1-3, 11, 18-39; xxiii.-xxv.; xxvii.-xxxi.; II Sam. i.-iv.; v. 1, 2, 17-25; xxi. 15-22; xxiii. 8-39).

Story of the Ark.

The story of the Ark (I Sam. iv. 1-vii. 1) displays a character of its own; it interrupts the story of Samuel begun in the preceding chapters; the punishment of Eli and his sons, which, according to ch. iii., might be expected to be the central event, is treated as a mere incident, the whole of Israel being involved in the catastrophe. Moreover, the fate of the Ark does not emphasize the misfortune of Israel nearly as much as it does the triumph of Elohim, and the episode seems to have been written to bring the latter idea into bold relief. In this account the Ark is regarded as a tribal or national palladium, not as a mere case for the tablets of the Decalogue. This part exhibits the coloring of a situation in which a resident of the Northern Kingdom, before the cruder conceptions of the Deity had given way to higher ones, would most likely be interested. For this reason it has been held to be a fragment from a history of sanctuaries of northern origin.

The remaining portions of the book reflect the views of prophetism. The histories of Saul and Samuel are rewritten from a very rigid, prophetic point of view (I Sam. i.-iii.; viii.; x. 17-24; xv. [perhaps]; xvii. 1-xviii. 5 [for the most part], 12-19, 28-30; xix. [most]; xxi. 2-10; xxii.; xxvi.; II Sam. i. 6-10, 13-16). Ch. xv. seems to be planned to connect the older Saul story with this newer prophetic reconstruction. It presupposes the details of the former (xv. 1, 17 [Saul's anointment] refers to x. 1; the phraseology of xv. 19 recalls xiv. 32), but the prophetic reconstruction of this chapter appears not to have been known when the old Saul story was incorporated. Otherwise there would have been no occasion for the elaborate justification of Samuel's right to counsel and command Saul. Still, the point of view is similar to that of the prophetic reconstruction. Samuel is the king's superior. He is not the seer, but the prophet, of the type of Amos and Hosea. The story emphasizes the teaching that obedience is more precious than sacrifice (comp. Jer. vii. 21-26).

Supposed Time of Redaction.

These various components were probably gathered into one compilation shortly before the Exile. The redactor (Rd) traces of whose hand are found mainly in I Sam. ii. 27-36, vii. 2b-16, xii., and II Sam. vii., is held to have been under Deuteronomic influences, and thus to have been antecedent to the redactor whose views reflect those of the Priestly Code and through whose hands all of the historical books passed, though in Samuel there are few indications of his revisions, among them the glosses in I Sam. ii. 22b and the introduction of the Levites in I Sam. vi. 15 and II Sam. xv. 24. Additions in loose connection are noticeable that can not be classified; for instance, I Sam. xix. 18-24 and xx. They break the sequence of the narrative and introduce several contradictions. Ch. xix. 18-24 is an attempt to explain a proverbial idiom ("Saul among the prophets"), and, as such, is a double to I Sam. x. 11. According to ch. xv. 35, Samuel never saw Saul again, but here Saul appears before him. Ch. xx., an account David's flight, is similar to xix. 1-7. Among such additions, gleaned from popular traditions or merely literary embellishments, are reckoned I Sam. xxi. 11-16 and II Sam. ii. 13-16, viii., xxi.-xxiv. The song of Hannah (I Sam. ii. 1 et seq.), the psalm in II Sam. xxii., and David's "last words" (II Sam. xxiii. 1 et seq.) are very late. These additions may have been made at various periods, but they antedate the final redaction as a part of the second larger division of the canon.

Historically, the prophetic reconstruction is entitled to the least confidence. So strongly is the "Tendenz" impressed upon the narratives of this group that some recent critics have come to the conclusion that they do not represent an originally independent source, but are due to the literary activity of the Deuteronomic redactor. Being more naively primitive, the Saul and David histories reflect actual occurrences, colored, however, by the desire to exalt the national heroes. The Jerusalem cycle intends to glorify David's dynasty as the legitimate royal family of all Israel.

The Masoretic text is highly corrupt; that underlying the Septuagint version is more nearly correct. The literalism of the Greek has enabled scholars in many instances to reconstruct a text much nearer the original than is the extant Hebrew. Unfortunately, the Greek text of the Septuagint itself requires careful editing. In many passages the Septuagint shows interpolations based on the Masorah, so that it presents duplicate versions, while in others the original independent Greek has been replaced by the translated Hebrew of the Masoretic text. The various Septuagint codices are not of equal value for purposes of textual criticism. The "Codex Vaticanus B" is the most important for the books ofSamuel while the Alexandrinus, itself shows too many emendations of the Greek after the extant Hebrew to be of much aid.

Emil G. Hirsch

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.


Textual criticism: Friedrich Böttcher, Neue Exegetisch-Kritische Aehrenlese zum A. T. 1863, vol. i.; Julius Wellhausen, Der Text der Bücher Samuelis, 1871; S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Book of Samuel, 1890; R. Kittel, Textkritische Erläuterungen (appendix to E. Kautzsch, Die Heilige Schrift des Alten Testaments, 1896); Karl Budde, in S. B. O. T.; A. Mes, Die Bibel des Josephus, 1895; H. Oort, Texti Hebraici Emendationes, 1900. Commentaries: Otto Thenius, Die Bücher Samuels, 1898; August Klostermann, Die Bücher Samuelis und der Könige, 1887; H. P. Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Samuel, 1899; Karl Budde, Die Bücher Richter und Samuel, 1890; idem, Die Bücher Samuel (in K. H. C.); Bleek, Einleitung, 1878; Guthe, Kurzes Bibelwörterbuch, 1903.E. G. H.

Samuel the Prophet

Orthodox Perspective Information

Commemorated August 20

Samuel, a Prophet of God from childhood, was the last judge of the Israelite people, and anointed the first two Kings of Israel. He was born in the twelfth century before Christ, in the city of Armathaim Sipha, from the tribe of Levi, the son of Elkanah and Hannah (Anna). He was the fruit of prayer, for his mother, being barren, conceived him only after she had supplicated the Lord with many tears; wherefore she called him Samuel, that is, "heard by God". As soon as Hannah had weaned him, she brought him to the city of Silom (Shiloh), where the Ark was kept, and she consecrated him, though yet a babe, to the service of God, giving thanks to Him with the hymn found in the Third Ode of the Psalter: "My heart hath been established in the Lord..." Samuel remained in Silom under the protection of Eli the priest. He served in the Tabernacle of God, and through his most venerable way of life became well-pleasing to God and man (I Kings 2: 26). While yet a child, sleeping in the tabernacle near the Ark of God, he heard the voice of God calling his name, and foretelling the downfall of Eli; for although Eli's two sons, Ophni and Phineas, were most lawless, and despisers of God, Eli did not correct them. Even after Samuel had told Eli of the divine warning, Eli did not properly chastise his sons, and afterwards, through various misfortunes, his whole house was blotted out in one day.

After these things came to pass, Samuel was chosen to be the protector of the people, and he judged them with holiness and righteousness. He became for them an example of all goodness, and their compassionate intercessor before God, "Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; yea, I will serve the Lord, and show you the good and the right way" (ibid. 12:23). When he asked them (having God as witness), if he ever wronged anyone, or took anyone's possessions, or any gift, even so much as a sandal, they answered with one voice, "You have not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, nor afflicted us, neither have you taken anything from anyone's hand" (ibid. 12:4). When Samuel was old, the people asked him for a king, but he was displeased with this, knowing that God Himself was their King. However, when they persisted, the Lord commanded him to anoint them a king, saying, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me from reigning over them" (ibid. 8:7); so Samuel anointed Saul. However,Saul transgressed the command of God repeatedly, so Samuel anointed David. Yet, since Samuel was a man of God, full of tender mercy, when the Lord told him that He had rejected Saul, Samuel wept for him the whole night long (ibid. 15:11); and later, since he continued to grieve, the Lord said to him, "How long will you mourn for Saul?" (ibid. 16:1). Having lived blamelessly some 98 years, and become an example to all of a God-pleasing life, he reposed in the eleventh century before Christ. Many ascribe to him the authorship of the Books of judges, and of Ruth, and of the first 24 chapters of the First Book of Kings (I Samuel).

Dismissal Hymn (Second Tone)

As we celebrate the memory of Your Prophet Samuel, O Lord, through him we beseech You to save our souls.

Kontakion (Plagal of the Fourth Tone)

Your hallowed mother dedicated you to the Lord even before she had conceived you; and when you were born you served Him from your infancy like an Angel. And, O Prophet of the Most High, for your fervent faith, you were granted to foretell things that should come to pass. Hence, we cry to you: Rejoice, O venerable Samuel.


Jewish Perspective Information


-Biblical Data:

The Call of Samuel.

Samuel as Judge.

Samuel and Saul.

Samuel and David.

-In Rabbinical Literature:

Sources of Biography.

-Critical View:

Probably Shaped Under Influence of Deuteronomy.

-Biblical Data:

Samuel was the son of Elkanah and Hannah, of Ramathaim-zophim, in the hill-country of Ephraim (I Sam. i. 1). He was born while Eli was judge. Devoted to Yhwh in fulfilment of a vow made by his mother, who had long been childless, he was taken to Shiloh by Hannah as soon as he was weaned, to serve Yhwh during his lifetime (i. 11, 22-23, 28).

The Call of Samuel.

The sons of Eli being sons of Belial, wicked and avaricious, Samuel ministered before Yhwh in their stead, being even as a lad girded with a linen ephod (ii. 12 et seq., 22 et seq.). His mother, on her yearly visits, brought him a robe. As he grew up Samuel won ever-increasing favor with Yhwh and with men (ii. 26). How he was called by Yhwh is related as follows: Eli, old and dim of vision, had lain down to sleep, as had Samuel, in the Temple of Yhwh, wherein was the Ark. Then Yhwh called "Samuel!" Answering, "Here am I," Samuel, thinking Eli had summoned him, ran to him explaining that he had come in obedience to his call. Eli, however, sent him back to his couch. Three times in succession Samuel heard the summons and reported to Eli, by whom he was sent back to sleep. This repetition finally aroused Eli's comprehension; he knew that Yhwh was calling the lad. Therefore he advised him to lie down again, and, if called once more, to say, "Speak, for Thy servant heareth." Samuel did as he had been bidden. Yhwh then revealed to him His purpose to exterminate the house of Eli.

Samuel hesitated to inform Eli concerning the vision, but next morning, at Eli's solicitation, Samuel related what he had heard (iii. 1-18). Yhwh was with Samuel, and let none of His words "fall to the ground." All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba recognized him as appointed to be a prophet of Yhwh; and Samuel continued to receive at Shiloh revelations which he imparted to all Israel (iii. 19-21).

Samuel as Judge.

During the war with the Philistines the Ark was taken by the enemy. After its mere presence among the Philistines had brought suffering upon them, it was returned and taken to Kirjath-jearim. While it was there Samuel spoke to the children of Israel, calling upon them to return to Yhwh and put away strange gods, that they might be delivered out of the hands of the Philistines (vii. 2 et seq.). The test came at Mizpah, where, at Samuel's call, all Israel had gathered, under the promise that he would pray to Yhwh for them, and where they fasted, confessed, and were judged by him (vii. 5-6). Before the Philistines attacked, Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering, calling unto Yhwh for help; and as the Philistines drew up in battle array Yhwh "thundered with a great thunder" upon them, "and they were smitten beforeIsrael." As a memorial of the victory Samuel set up a stone between Mizpah and Shen, calling it "Ebenezer" (= "hitherto hath the Lord helped us"). This crushing defeat kept the Philistines in check all the days of Samuel (vii. 7-14).

In his capacity as judge Samuel went each year in circuit to Beth-el, and Gilgal, and Mizpah, but he dwelt at Ramah, where he built an altar (vii. 15 et seq.). When he had grown old, and was ready to surrender his duties to his sons, neither Joel, the first-born, nor Abijah, the second, proved worthy; they "turned aside after lucre, and took bribes" (viii. 1-3). This induced the elders to go to Ramah and request Samuel to give them a king, as all the other nations had kings. Samuel was much vexed, but upon praying to Yhwh and receiving the divine direction to yield, he acquiesced, after delivering a powerful address describing the despotism they were calling upon themselves and their descendants; this address, however, did not turn the people from their purpose (viii. 3 et seq.). In this crisis Samuel met Saul, who had come to consult him, the seer, concerning some lost asses. Yhwh had already apprised him of Saul's coming, and had ordered him to anoint his visitor king. When Saul inquired of him the way to the seer's house, Samuel revealed his identity to the Benjamite, and bade him go with him to the sacrificial meal at the "high place," to which about thirty persons had been invited. He showed great honor to Saul, who was surprised and unable to reconcile these marks of deference with his own humble origin and station. The next morning Samuel anointed him, giving him "signs" which, having come to pass, would show that God was with him, and directing him to proceed to Gilgal and await his (Samuel's) appearance there (ix., x. 1-9).

Samuel and Saul.

In preparation for the installation of Saul, Samuel called the people together at Mizpah, where the private anointment of Saul was confirmed by his selection by lot (x. 17-24). Samuel is reported also to have taken active part in the coronation of Saul at Gilgal (xi. 12-15). He profited by the opportunity to rehearse before the people his own life and secure their acknowledgment of his probity. After a solemn admonition to the people to be loyal to Yhwh, Samuel, as a sign that the demand for a king was fundamentally wicked, called forth thunder and rain, which so impressed the people that they implored him to intercede with Yhwh for them, "that we die not." Samuel turned the occasion into a solemn lesson as to what the penalties for disobedience would be (xii.).

At Gilgal a break with Saul came because, in the absence of Samuel, the king had offered the burnt offering. Samuel announced then and there that Saul's dynasty was not to be permitted to continue on the throne (xiii. 8-14). Nevertheless, Samuel sent Saul to accomplish the extermination of Amalek (xv.). Again Saul proved refractory, sparing Agag, the Amalekite king, and the flocks, and everything that was valuable. Thereupon the word of Yhwh came unto Samuel, announcing Saul's deposition from the throne. Meeting Saul, Samuel declared his rejection and with his own hand slew Agag (xv.). This led to the final separation of Samuel and Saul (xv. 34-35). Mourning for Saul, Samuel was bidden by Yhwh to go to Jesse, the Beth-lehemite, one of whose sons was chosen to be king instead of Saul (xvi. 4). Fearing lest Saul might detect the intention, Samuel resorted to strategy, pretending to have gone to Beth-lehem in order to sacrifice. At the sacrificial feast, after having passed in review the sons of Jesse, and having found that none of those present was chosen by Yhwh, Samuel commanded that the youngest, David, who was away watching the sheep, should be sent for. As soon as David appeared Yhwh commanded Samuel to anoint him, after which Samuel returned to Ramah (xvi. 5-13).

Samuel and David.

Nothing further is told of Samuel until David's flight to him at Ramah, when he accompanied his fugitive friend to Naioth. There, through Samuel's intervention, Saul's messengers, as did later Saul himself, turned prophets "before Samuel" (xix. 18 et seq.). The end of Samuel is told in a very brief note: "And Samuel died, and all Israel gathered themselves together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah" (xxv. 1, Hebr.). But after his death, Saul, through the witch of En-dor, called Samuel from his grave, only to hear from him a prediction of his impending doom (xxviii. 3 et seq.).

In I Chron. xxvi. 28 Samuel the seer is mentioned as having dedicated gifts to the Sanctuary. He is again represented in I Chron. xi. 3 as having, in Yhwh's name, announced the elevation of David to the throne. He is furthermore credited with having ordained the "porters in the gates" (I Chron. ix. 22).

In the Biblical account Samuel appears as both the last of the Judges and the first of the Prophets, as the founder of the kingdom and as the legitimate offerer of sacrifices at the altars (I Sam. vii. 9 et seq., ix. 22 et seq., x. 8, xi. 15, xvi. 1 et seq.). In fact, Chronicles (I Chron. vi. 28) makes him out to be of Levitical descent. According to I Sam. ix. 9, the prophets preceding Samuel were called seers, while it would appear that he was the first to be known as "nabi," or "prophet." He was the man of God (ix. 7-8), and was believed by the people to be able to reveal the whereabouts of lost animals. In his days there were "schools of prophets," or, more properly," bands of prophets." From the fact that these bands are mentioned in connection with Gibeah (I Sam. x. 5, 10), Jericho (II Kings ii. 5), Ramah (I Sam. xix. 18 et seq.), Beth-el (II Kings ii. 3), and Gilgal (II Kings iv. 38)-places focal in the career of Samuel-the conclusion seems well assured that it was Samuel who called them into being. In the Acts of the Apostles (xiii. 20) Samuel occurs as the last of the Judges and the first true prophet in Israel (Acts iii. 24, xiii. 20; Heb. xi. 32), while a gloss in Chronicles (II Chron. xxxv. 18) connects his time with one of the most memorable celebrations of Passover. The Old Testament furnishes no chronological data concerning his life. If Josephus ("Ant." vi. 13, § 5) is to be believed, Samuel had officiated twelve years as judge before Saul's coronation. The year 1095 B.C. is commonly accepted as that of Saul's accession to the throne. E. G. H.

-In Rabbinical Literature:

Samuel was a Levite (Lev. R. xxii. 6) of the family of Korah (Num. R. xviii. 17), and was also a Nazarite (Naz. 66a). As a child he was extremely delicate (Ḥag. 6a), but highly developed intellectually. Thus, when he was weaned and brought by his mother to Shiloh, he noticed that the priests were most careful that the sacrificial victims should be slain by one of their number. Samuel, however, declared to the priests that even a layman might offer sacrifice, whereupon he was taken before Eli, who asked him the grounds of his statement. Samuel answered: "It is not written that the priest shall slay the victim, but only that he shall bring the blood" (Lev. i. 5; comp. Zeb. 32a). Eli acknowledged the validity of his argument, but declared that Samuel merited the penalty of death for giving legal decisions in the presence of a master; and it was only the entreaty of Samuel's mother which saved the child (Ber. 31b). When God revealed Himself to Samuel for the first time and called his name, he cautiously answered only "Speak" (I Sam. iii. 10) and not, as Eli commanded him, "Speak, O God" (Shab. 113b).

Samuel was very rich. On his annual journeys as judge to various cities (comp. I Sam. vii. 16-17) he was accompanied by his entire household, and would accept hospitality from no one (Ber. 10b; Ned. 38a). While Moses commanded the people to come to him that he might declare the Law to them (comp. Ex. xviii. 14-16), Samuel visited all the cities of the land to spare the people weary journeys to him; and while Samuel was considered equal to Moses and to Aaron (Ber. 31b; Ta'an. 5b), he was favored above Moses in one respect; for the latter was obliged to go to the Tabernacle to receive a revelation from God, whereas God Himself came to Samuel to reveal His will to him (Ex. R. xvi. 4). For ten years Samuel judged Israel; but in the tenth the people asked for a king. Samuel anointed Saul; and when the latter was rejected by God, Samuel grieved bitterly and aged prematurely (Ta'an. 5b). Cruel though he was in hewing Agag to pieces, yet this was a righteous punishment for the Amalekite, who had been equally barbarous to the children of Israel (Lam. R. iii. 43).

Samuel wrote the books of Judges and Ruth, as well as those bearing his own name, although the latter were completed by the seer Gad (B. B. 14b-15a). He died at the age of fifty-two (M. Ḳ. 28a). When he was raised from the dead by the witch of Endor at the request of Saul (comp. I Sam. xxviii. 7-19), he was terrified, for he believed that he was summoned to appear before the divine judgmentseat; he therefore took Moses with him to bear witness that he had observed all the precepts of the Torah (Ḥag. 4b).W. B. J. Z. L.

Sources of Biography.

-Critical View:

The outline of the life of Samuel given in the First Book of Samuel is a compilation from different documents and sources of varying degrees of credibility and age, exhibiting many and not always concordant points of view (see Samuel, Books of-Critical View). The name "Shemu'el" is interpreted "asked of Yhwh," and, as Ḳimḥi suggests, represents a contraction of , an opinion which Ewald is inclined to accept ("Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Sprache," p. 275, 3). But it is not tenable. The story of Samuel's birth, indeed, is worked out on the theory of this construction of the name (i. 1 et seq., 17, 20, 27, 28; ii. 20). But even with this etymology the value of the elements would be "priest of El" (Jastrow, in "Jour. Bib. Lit." xix. 92 et seq.). Ch. iii. supports the theory that the name implies "heard by El" or "hearer of El." The fact that "alef" and "'ayin" are confounded in this interpretation does not constitute an objection; for assonance and not etymology is the decisive factor in the Biblical name-legends, and of this class are both the first and the second chapter. The first of the two elements represents the Hebrew term "shem" (= "name"); but in this connection it as often means "son." "Shemu'el," or "Samuel," thus signifies "son of God" (see Jastrow, l.c.).

The older strata in the story are more trust worthy historically than are the younger. In I Sam. ix. 1-x. 16 Samuel is a seer and priest at one of the high places; he is scarcely known beyond the immediate neighborhood of Ramah. Saul does not seem to have heard of him; it is his "boy" that tells him all about the seer (ix.). But in his capacity as seer and priest, Samuel undoubtedly was the judge, that is, the oracle, who decided the "ordeals" for his tribe and district. In order to apply to him the title of "judge" in the sense it bore in connection with the heroes of former days-the sense of "liberator of the people"-the story of the gathering at Mizpah is introduced (vii. 2 et seq.). Indeed, the temptation is strong to suspect that originally the name (Saul) was found as the hero of the victory, for which later that of (Samuel) was substituted. At all events, the story proceeds on the assumption that Samuel had given earnest thought to his people's plight, and therefore was prepared to hail the sturdy Benjamite as the leader in the struggle with the Philistines (ix. 15, 17, 20 et seq.; x. 1 et seq.). His hero was to be the champion of Yhwh and of Yhwh's people, the anointed prince ("nagid"), whose call would rouse the scattered tribes from their lethargy and whose leadership would unite the discordant elements into a powerful unit for offense and defense. Favoring Saul even before the people had recognized in him their predestined leader, Samuel soon had cause to regret the choice. Common to both accounts of the rupture (xiii. 8 et seq. and xv. 10 et seq.) is the disobedience Saul manifested in arrogating to himself Samuel's functions as priest and offerer; the story concerning Agag's exemption from the ban (see Schwally, "Der Heilige Krieg im Alten Israel," p. 30) seems to be the more likely of the two, but in both instances the data show clear traces of having been recast into prophetic-priestly molds.

Probably Shaped Under Influence of Deuteronomy.

In fact, the majority of the reports concerning Samuel reflect the post-Deuteronomic, prophetic conception, and therefore, on the theory that before the erection of the central and permanent sanctuary the "altars" and "high places" were legitimate, no offense is manifested at his having, though not a priest, sacrificed at these places, though precisely for this reason the Book of Chronicles lays stress upon his Levitical descent. In ch. iii. 20 Samuel appears as the prophet of Yhwh, known as such from Dan to Beer-sheba. In ch. xix. 18 et seq. Samuel is at the head of prophet bands (differing from ix. 1 et seq., where these roving bands of "shouters" ["nebi'im"] appear to be independent of him). Again, ch. vii., viii., and ix. represent him as the theocratic chief of the nation. Ch. vii. 7 et seq. must be held to be pure fiction, unless it is one of the many variants of Saul's victory over the Philistines (comp. xiii. 1 et seq.). Nor is there concordance in the conceptions of the rise and nature of the monarchy and the part Samuel played in its founding. In ix.-x. 16 Yhwh legitimatizes the nomination of the king, but in ch. viii. the view of Deut. xvii. 14 et seq. predominates. This chapter could not have been written before Hos. x. 9, and the reign of Solomon and some of his successors. The fact is, the monarchy developed without the intervention of Samuel. Such deeds as those performed at Jabesh caused the people to offer Saul the crown at Gilgal (xi. 1 et seq.), an act which Samuel, who at first may have welcomed the young leader as chief only, expecting him to remain under his tutelage, was compelled to ratify.

The story of David's elevation (xvi. 1-13) presents itself as an offset to that of Saul's (I Sam. x. 17 et seq.), the historical kernel in it being the fact that Samuel, disappointed in Saul, transferred his favor to the rival tribe of Judah, and intrigued to bring about the raising of a counter-king in the young freebooter David. Ch. xv. is a prophetic apotheosis of Samuel, which rings with the accents familiar in the appeals of Amos, and which makes Samuel a worthy forerunner of Elijah. The Levitical genealogy of I Chron. vi. is not historical.

Emil G. Hirsch, Wilhelm Bacher, Jacob Zallel Lauterbach

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.

Bibliography: Guthe, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, pp. 68 et seq., Freiburg, 1899; idem, Bibelwörterbuch, Tübingen and Leipsic, 1903; H. P. Smith, Old Testament History, p. 106, New York, 1903.E. G. H.

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