Summary of 1 Samuel
First Samuel continues where Judges left off. The book of Ruth comes between them in English Bibles, but not in the Hebrew Bible. Chapters 1-3 present the birth, call, and early ministry of Samuel. Chapters 4-7 relate the “adventures” of the ark of the covenantThe ark of the covenant was a box or chest that God commanded the Israelites to make from wood richly adorned with gold. The ark was built to contain the tablets of the covenant (the Ten Commandments). The ark served as a mobile shrine to… More as it falls into Philistine hands. Chapter 8 is a transitional chapter describing the people’s demand for a king. SamuelThe judge who anointed the first two kings of Israel More and SaulThe first king of Israel More interact in chapters 9-15. First Samuel comes to a close with a long section recounting the power struggles between Saul and DavidSecond king of Israel, David united the northern and southern kingdoms. More in chapters 16-31.
The lives of Samuel, Saul, and David, presented so graphically with all the faults of the human condition, can serve as mirrors of our own humanity. Seeing how God works in and through these people can help us discern the activity of God in our own relationships with the Lord and with others.
WHERE DO I FIND IT?
First Samuel is the ninth book of the Old Testament; it follows RuthThe great-grandmother of David More and precedes 2 Samuel.
WHO WROTE IT?
Ancient tradition identifies Samuel as the author of the first twenty-four chapters of 1 Samuel and asserts that the rest of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel were completed by NathanThe prophet who condemned David for adultery and promised that God would establish a Davidic dynasty More and GadA son of Jacob and one of the 12 tribes. More. Today, many scholars believe that 1 and 2 Samuel are part of the Deuteronomistic HistoryDeuteronomistic history refers to the narrative contained in the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. This narrative, probably written in the age of Israel’s exile (mid-6th century B.C.E.), recounts Israel’s history prior to the exile. More (DtrH) and that various older traditions have been gathered together and edited by a nameless exilic editor or editors.
WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?
The final event recorded in Kings occurred in 561 B.C.E. Since the return from Babylon (538 B.C.E.) is not recorded, one assumes that 1 Samuel reached its final form sometime between these two dates (561 and 538). It was written during the Babylonian exile as part of the Deuteronomistic History, though the older traditions that comprise much of the narrative are considerably earlier than this.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
First Samuel recounts stories of Samuel, Saul, and David as they struggle with themselves, among each other, and with God, as Israel is transformed from a loose confederation of tribes led by the judges such as GideonJudge whose small force won a victory using jars, torches, and trumpets More and DeborahAn Israelite prophetess and influential judge. More to a nation ruled by a king.
HOW DO I READ IT?
First Samuel looks like a history of the new institution of kingship in Israel. While important historical information is presented, some of it is at odds with the presentation found in 1 Chronicles. Both Chronicles and Samuel should be read as theological, rather than historical, presentations of the early years of the monarchy. Samuel is part of a larger narrative (the Deuteronomistic History) designed to demonstrate the reasons for the fallThe fall refers specifically to the disobedience of Adam and Eve when they listened to Satan rather than adhering to God’s command not to eat the fruit from the tree. When people act contrary to God’s will, they are said to fall from from grace… More of the northern kingdomThe Northern Kingdom consisted of ten of the twelve tribes of Israel and lasted for 200 years until it was destroyed by Assyria in 721 B.C.E. In the northern kingdom the kings were evil. Prophets like Elijah and Amos railed against them and their evildoing. More of Israel in 722/721 B.C.E. and Judah’s exile to Babylon in 587/586 B.C.E.