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Books 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.

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)


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