I have had occasion to teach through the books of Samuel in both a home Bible study setting, as well as from a pulpit. Though most of my study has been from the first book of Samuel, these two books are favorites of mine. God is clearly put on display, and the stories are legendary, especially for flannel graphs in junior church!
Over the next several months, I wanted to reproduce my notes I have accumulated over the times I have taught the book in the same fashion I did with Job and Daniel as blog posts. Hopefully it will be an encouragement for my readers.
Before diving into the text of Samuel, it is important to establish the historical context for when the events recorded in this book took place.
Let me provide a big picture and work my way down to the time of Samuel.
Beginning in Genesis, we have the record of YHWH God calling out Abraham, choosing him to be the individual who will father the people who will become Israel. Abraham begets Isaac, who begets Jacob, who begets the 12 sons who will father the tribes that will be Israel.
In God’s providence, at the close of Genesis, the entire family is moved to Egypt where they live for 430 years (Exodus 12:40-42). God delivers the family that by the time of the Exodus, has become a great nation. This happens around 1446/45 B.C.* After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness because of their unbelief, God brings them into the promise land under the leadership of Joshua.
The land was not entirely subdued; Israel was commissioned to finish the work Joshua had started, yet they failed in accomplishing that task. Thus began a dark time in Israel’s history known as the Judges. The key description of that period, “There was no king in Israel, and every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
The books of Samuel, at least the first part chronicling Samuel’s life, overlap with the last part of Judges.
For instances, Samuel was more than likely a contemporary with Samson. The encounters with the Philistines described in 1 Samuel 7:13-14 may very well be a result of the events recorded in Judges 16:23-30. The Philistines were attacking Israel due to the exploits of Samson, and the destruction of their temple at his hands stirred them to war.
Samuel then was considered the last judge, but he was also the first official prophet of Israel. It was with Samuel, then, that we see the rise in the prophetic office.
A prophet did not just foresee the future. His function was much more than that. A prophet was a divine spokesman – the mouthpiece for the LORD.
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:15-22 provide us a working picture of a prophet.
1. He was to be an Israelite that declared to the people the covenant made with YHWH.
2. He presented “new revelation.”
3. That “new revelation” had to be continuous with the previous revelation, or what was contained in the Mosaic law – Deut. 13:1-5. In other words, he didn’t present “revelation” that contradicted what was revealed before or led the people away from YHWH and into disobedience.
4. A prophet would receive a distinct call.
5. He declared God’s word, or we could say he was God’s spokesman.
6. His office was verified by undeniable signs of divine unction. Usually those signs were a prophetic word that came to pass shortly after it was given to the hearers.
It is important to note that God’s people were responsible for “testing” the new revelation by the standard (canon) of the older revelation. They were to verify the authenticity of the signs.
Who wrote Samuel?
A good portion was by Samuel, but Samuel dies in 25:1. How was the record completed? First Chronicles 29:29 provides us a clue. It speaks about the books (or “words of”) Samuel the seer and Nathan and Gad. The second two were prophetic men who ministered with David. They kept the books of revelation (book of Jasher – 2 Sam. 1:18) and the records of David (1 Chron. 27:24). The remainder of what is 1 and 2 Samuel would have been filled in by those two men.
*I do not wish to get bogged down in the particular arguments for either the early or late date for the Exodus. One of the better sources to establish why I choose the 1446/5 date for the Exodus can be read in a paper by Doug Petrovich, Amenhotep II and the Historicity of the Exodus-Pharaoh. Additionally, more support for this date can be read in Leon Wood’s, A Survey of Israel’s History, and Eugene Merrill’s, Kingdom of Priests: A History of OT Israel. Also, the website, Associates for Biblical Research, has material available on-line that sorts through the arguments.