31 and 24 chapters
1. Author and Time of Writing
Originally the two books of Samuel formed o n e historical book. It was the translators of the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT at about 200 BC) who separated the book into two parts. Henceforward the first book ended with Saul's death and the second book started with David's reign. From the Septuagint this separation into two books was taken over into the Vulgate (Latin translation of the whole Bible in the 4th century AC) and finally since Daniel Bomberg (1517) also into the printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. In the Septuagint as well as the Vulgate the books of Samuel are considered as part of the books of the Kings. This title is not altogether unsuitable for in the books of Samuel the kingdoms of Saul and David are described and in the books of Kings the reigns of Israel's and Judah's monarchs. And yet the original Hebrew title Samuel is more appropriate for both books describe the life of Samuel the prophet as well as the lives of the two kings who were anointed by him.
Having said all this, nothing has been said so far as to the author of the books. None of the books mentions any author. According to Jewish tradition in the Talmud Samuel was author of chapters 1-24 of the first book (which are the records of his time). Gad and Nathan the prophets are considered to be the authors of chapters 25-31 and the whole of the second book of Samuel. First Chronicles 29:29 gives us a hint thereto: "Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they 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." The mentioning of the fact that Ziklag belongs to the kings of Judah "to this day" (1 Samuel 27:6) is considered by some as an indication that the book has been written after the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam.
The first book of Samuel covers a time of about 90 years starting at Samuel's birth around 1100 BC unto the death of Saul around the year 1010 BC. The second book of Samuel describes the reign of David (around 1010 to 970 BC).
2. Purpose of Writing
The books of Samuel represent the transition from the time of the judges to the time of the kings. Samuel the central figure of the first book is at the same time the last judge and the first prophet (Acts 3:24; 13:20).
As in the books of Judges the apostasy of Israel in its responsibility is first described. Under Eli and his sons (1 Sam. 2:22-25; 4:17-18) and also under the two sons of Samuel (1 Sam. 8:1-2) the office of the judge crumbles into pieces. The decay in the house of Eli is so much graver as the priesthood is concerned also which ought to be the medium between God and the people. The enemies rob even the ark of the covenant, the holiest piece of the tabernacle and the synonym of the throne of Jehovah.
Into this condition of things God sends Samuel the first prophet who stands up for Jehovah with the people of Israel. Also Samuel introduces the kingdom. At first this happens on request of the people (King Saul, the man according to flesh) and then God chooses David (the man according to the heart of God). Read 1 Samuel 13:14.
David makes Jerusalem the political and religious centre of Israel (2 Sam. 5:6-12; 6:1-17). Both the word of Jehovah (2 Sam. 7:4-16) and the words of David (2 Sam. 23:1-7) stress the importance of the God-given kingdom. Also the millennial Lordship of the Messiah is prophetically pointed to.
Samuel's office as a prophet before the introduction of the kingdom is a picture of God's work in the actual day of grace. Saul (the man according to flesh) first reigns as king while David (the anointed king according to the mind of God) is rejected and persecuted (picturing Christ). It is only after the adversary's death that David starts to reign. But his reign is not yet characterized by peace but by combat. Whilst Solomon is a type of the Lord Jesus during His millennial kingdom of peace David typifies Christ as the rejected one that will execute judgment at His appearing.
Prayer plays an important part, particularly in the first book of Samuel.
c) The Ark of God
The ark with the mercy seat was the throne of Jehovah amidst His people, that is the testimony of His presence. The history of this ark in the books of Samuel clearly shows the condition of the people in the eyes of God. In 1 Sam. 3:3 the ark was in Shiloh and Samuel lived there. In chap. 4 the ark is brought from Shiloh into the military camp of Israel to produce victory over the Philistines.
But the Philistines take the ark as a prey; Eli dies at this message and God punishes the Philistines for taking the ark (1 Sam. 5). Then the ark is brought to Kirjath-Jearim where it remains for 20 years (1 Sam. 6:1-7:2). It is only David who finally brings the ark to Zion, to the place which Jehovah had chosen to set His name there (2 Sam. 6, compare Deut. 12:5; Ps. 132) and in which place Solomon was going to build the temple in a later day (1 King 6-8).
4. Overview of Contents
I. 1 Samuel 1-7: Samuel as Judge and Prophet of God
II. 1 Samuel 8-15: Samuel and Saul
III. 1 Samuel 16-31: Saul and David
IV. 2 Samuel 1-10: Rise of David's Kingdom
V. 2 Samuel 11-20: Decline of David's Kingdom
VI. 2 Samuel 21-24: Appendix