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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

The First Book of Samuel - Introduction

In the ancient Greek Bible, the books of Samuel and Kings formed a single work (in four books) entitled “Concerning the Kingdoms,” an arrangement and title appropriate for several reasons. First, Samuel appears only in parts of 1 Samuel; David is much more the hero of the total narrative. Second, the division in the Hebrew Bible between 2 Samuel and 1 Kings, ascribable only to the length, unduly separates the account of David's reign in 2 Samuel from the important narrative of the succession of his throne in 1 Kings 1.1–2.12 . Third, the materials of Samuel and Kings are organized around the topic of kingship: how it came to be established in Israel (1 Sam. chs. 1–14 ); how the Davidic dynasty received divine sanction (1 Sam. ch. 15–2 Sam. ch. 7 ); and how the destiny of Israel in the land was shaped by the conduct of the subsequent kings, especially in relation to the Jerusalem temple (1 Kgs. 1.1–2 Kgs. 25.30 ).

The establishment of David's dynasty (2 Sam. ch. 7 ) and the consecration of the Solomonic temple (1 Kgs. 8.1–9.9 ) are the two subjects that give a unique content to the entire so-called “Deuteronomic history.” This history begins in Deuteronomy, there as if stating a theme, and continues, in fidelity to the theme, through Joshua, Judges, and Samuel-Kings. A special viewpoint, appearing in Deuteronomy, expresses concern more with prophetic exhortation and judgment than with precision respecting laws (the latter marks the Priestly Code). The Deuteronomists stress fidelity to God, contending that to worship other gods, such as the Canaanite Baal, is to forsake the God of Israel. At many junctures in Samuel-Kings, both named and anonymous prophets arise to pass judgment on the people, and especially on the rulers, in the light of the covenant obligations. In the Book of Deuteronomy, the view recurs that only one sanctuary was to be valid in the future; the Deuteronomic historians credit Solomon with building the valid sanctuary, and hence the welfare of Solomon's temple is treated as of paramount importance after Solomon's time. Furthermore, since Israel is God's people by covenant, recurring attention is given to the covenant and, because of it, to Israel as God's unique people.

A variety of older sources were incorporated into the Deuteronomic history, sometimes untouched but sometimes retouched or rewritten by the Deuteronomic historians. Such older sources are particularly clear in Samuel: the Ark narrative in 1 Samuel chs. 4–6 and 2 Samuel ch. 6 ; the two conflicting strands concerning the origin of kingship in 1 Samuel chs. 8–14 ; the collection of stories about David's rise to kingship in 1 Samuel ch. 16–2 Samuel ch. 5 ; and the magnificent history of the succession to David's throne in 2 Samuel chs. 9–20; 1 Kings chs. 1–2 . In addition to such longer sources, individual narratives (e.g. 1 Sam. 2.1–10 ) and early Deuteronomic speeches (e.g. 1 Sam. 12.6–15 ) were included. The events of 1 Samuel cover approximately the period 1050–1010 B.C.E. See also Introduction to 1 Kings.

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