The double name of these Books, the first and second book of Samuel , as they are called in the printed Hebrew Bible, and the first and second book of kings, as they are called in the Vulgate, well marks the two principal features which characterize them. They contain the record of the life and ministry of Samuel, the great prophet and judge of Israel, and they also contain the record of the rise of the kingdom of Israel. If again the Books of Samuel are taken as forming one history with the Books of Kings (the present line of division between 2 Samuel and 1 Kings being an arbitrary one), then the division into four Books of Kings is a natural one. But if these books are looked upon rather as an isolated history, then the name of Samuel is properly affixed to them, not only because he stands out as the great figure of that age, but because his administration of the affairs of Israel was the connecting link, the transitional passage, from the rule of the judges to the reign of the kings, distinct from each, but binding the two together.
The important place to be filled by Samuel in the ensuing history is seen at once in the opening chapters of the book which bears his name. Further, the fact that Samuel’s birth of her that had been barren is represented in Hannah’s song as typical of the triumphs of the Church and of the Kingdom of Christ, is another indication of the very distinguished place assigned to Samuel in the economy of the Old Testament, borne out by the mention of him in such passages as Psa 99:6; Jer 15:1; Act 3:24. Though however, Samuel’s personal greatness is thus apparent, it is no less clearly marked that his place is one not of absolute but of relative importance. When we view the history as a whole, the eye does not rest upon Samuel, and stop there, but is led on to the throne and person of David as typical of the Kingdom and Person of Christ. An incidental mark of this subordination may be seen in the fact that the Books of Samuel are really a continuation of the Book of Ruth; a Book which derived its significance from its containing a history of David’s ancestors and genealogy. Clearly, therefore, in the mind of the sacred historian, the personal history of Samuel was only a link to connect DAVID with the Patriarchs, just as the subsequent history connects David himself with our Lord JESUS CHRIST.
But a still more remarkable and conclusive proof of the same subordination may be found in the circumstance, that it is only the closing years of Saul’s reign of which any account whatever is given in this Book. For after having related a few facts connected with the beginning of Saul’s reign, the historian passes over some 20 or 30 years Act 13:21 to relate an occurrence in the last quarter of Saul’s reign, God’s rejection of Saul from the kingdom, and His choice of “a man after His own heart” to be king in Saul’s room 1Sa 13:13-14.
The contents of the Books of Samuel consist mainly of three portions,
(1) the history of Samuel’s life and judgeship from 1 Sam. 1–12: inclusive;
(2) the history of Saul’s reign from 1 Sam. 13:1–15:35;
(3) the history of David from 1Sa 16:1 to the end of the second Book; this latter portion not being completed until 1Ki 2:11.
The sources from which the narrative is derived, were probably:
(1) the Book of Jasher 2Sa 1:18;
(2) David’s Psalms 2 Sam. 22; 23;
(3) the Chronicles of king David 1Ch 27:24;
(4) the Book of Samuel the Seer;
(5) the Book of Nathan the Prophet;
(6) the Book of Gad the Seer 1Ch 29:29; 2Ch 9:29;
(7) the national collection of genealogies.
Those sections which give full details of the sayings and doings of Samuel, are conjectured to be extracted from “the Book of Samuel the seer” (e. g. i - xii). Those sections which contain narratives in which Nathan bears a part 2 Sam. 7; 11; 12; 1 Kings 1; 2 may be referred to the “Book of Nathan the seer.” Such passages as 2 Sam. 21; 2Sa 22:5; 24; etc., are pretty certainly from the Book of Gad the Seer. We seem to see extracts from the Chronicles of the kingdom in such passages as 1Sa 13:1; 1Sa 11:1-11, 1Sa 11:15; 1Sa 14:47-52; 2Sa 2:8-11; 2Sa 3:1-5; 2Sa 5:4-16; 8; 2Sa 20:23-26; 2Sa 21:15-22; 23:8-39; while the song of Hannah 1Sa 2:1-10, the elegy on the death of Abner 2Sa 3:33-34, and the two Psalms 2 Sam. 22; 2Sa 23:1-7, may as well as the elegy on Saul and Jonathan, be taken from the Book of Jasher.
It is difficult to decide when the final arrangement of the Books of Samuel, in their present shape, was made. The series of historical books from Judges to the end of 2 Kings is formed on one plan, so that each book is a part of a connected whole. This would point to the time of Jeremiah the prophet, as that when the whole historical series from judges to kings inclusive was woven into one work. In his use of the work of contemporary writers, the final compiler left out large portions of the materials before him.
The chief quotations and resemblances from the Books of Samuel in the New Testament are found in the writings of Luke and Paul. The title THE CHRIST (“the anointed”), given to the Lord Jesus Mat 1:16; Mat 2:4; Mat 16:16; Luk 2:26; Joh 1:20, Joh 1:41; Joh 20:31; Act 2:30, is first found in 1Sa 2:10; and the other designation of the Saviour as the SON OF DAVID Mat 9:27; Mat 15:22; Mat 21:9, Mat 21:15; Mat 22:42, is derived from 2Sa 7:12-16. In these books are passages which occur in duplicate elsewhere, chiefly in the Books of Chronicles and Psalms; and a careful comparison of these duplicate passages throws great light upon the manner in which the sacred historians used existing materials, incorporating them word for word, or slightly altering them for the sake of explanation, as seemed most expedient to them. It illustrates also the errors and fluctuations of scribes in transcribing manuscripts, especially in regard to proper names.
For these duplicate passages, and also on the chief quotations from other books in the Old Testament, consult the marginal references. The style of the Books of Samuel is clear, simple, and forcible, and the Hebrew remarkably pure and free from Chaldaisms. The chief difficulties are the geographical statements of 1 Sam. 9; 10; the very difficult poem in 2Sa 23:1-7; and the account of the mighty men which follows it, 2 Sam. 23:8-39. There are also some manifest corruptions of the text; but contradictions or disagreements of any kind in the statements of the Books of Samuel, as compared with each other, or with the Books of Chronicles, do not exist.
The time included in the history of these books cannot be exactly defined, from the lack of any systematic chronology in them. But it may be estimated roughly at about 130 years, made up of the following subdivisions, the precise length of the first of which is a matter of conjecture: