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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

1 & 2 Samuel - Introduction

In the Hebrew canon the books of Samuel were read as one continuous work, with only a very brief space between the final words of the first and the beginning of the second. Their appearance as one work in Hebrew MSS was known to Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. 6. 25), Jerome (Prologus galeatus), and Origen (quoted by Eusebius). This is the position reflected too in the Masoretic note at the end of 2 Samuel, which gives the sum total of verses as 1,506 and the middle verse as 1 Sam 28:24 . The simple title is ‘Samuel’; if the title refers to content, it is only appropriate to the first half of the first book, for David takes centre stage from then on; it is equally inappropriate if it is an indication of authorship, as suggested by the Talmud (B. Bat. 14b), for it reports Samuel's death at 1 Sam 25:1 .

The division into two books was made by the LXX, which gives them and the books of Kings the title basileiōn (‘kingdoms’), with the books of Samuel designated as I and II and the two books of Kings as III and IV. It may be that the conventional size scrolls used by Greek writers demanded such a division, and a fitting conclusion to the first half was found in the report of the death of Saul in 1 Sam 31 . The Latin accepted this division, but modified ‘Kingdoms’ to ‘Kings’ (Regum). The division was first introduced into the Hebrew text with the publication of Daniel Bomberg's first edition of the Hebrew Bible (Venice 1516–17).

‘Samuel’ belonged with Joshua, Judges, and Kings to the section of the HB known as ‘former prophets’ (něḇî᾽îm rîšônîm), a terminology used by the Bible itself (cf. Zech 1:4; 7:7 ). It is only to a limited extent that this section of the Bible is concerned with prophets, but it was assumed in antiquity that Samuel was the author of Judges and Samuel, and that further material was added by Nathan and Gad (1 Chr 29:29 ). Likewise, the books of Kings were attributed to Jeremiah (B. Bat. 14b–15a). But the tradition of ‘prophetic’ authorship is no longer tenable.

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