The Books of I&II Samuel
The Book of Samuel begins with the longing of a barren woman, who became one of history’s models of prayer. In response to Hannah’s entreaty from the heart, God made here the mother of Samuel, the greatest of all the judges, and a prophet who was of the stature of Moses and Aaron.
Samuel became the nation’s leader during one of its most dismal periods to date, and he raised it back to its earlier eminence. From his home in Ramah, he travelled the length and breadth of the land: teaching, adjudicating over and inspiring the people.
During his tenure, the people insisted that they needed a king, and Samuel reluctantly inaugurated the era of Jewish monarchy, anointing both Saul and David. Although Saul towered head and shoulders over his peers, he failed as a leader. His tragedy cost him the throne, and he was succeeded by David, who became the epitome of human royal greatness.
Most of this book is the story of David: a man of faith, an unselfish leader, a great warrior and loyal friend; a man who was compassionate in victory, humble in defeat, and a model of repentance. Even a superficial reading of the episode of Bathsheba shows David’s humility and powerful conscience before the God he loved and wanted to faithfully serve. When the prophet Nathan criticised him harshly, David did not try to defend himself, even though he was technically in the right. His remorse was so great that it became the textbook for repentance.
David consolidated the twelve often competing tribes into a single nation. He defeated external enemies and left his successor Solomon with a united, secure and prosperous kingdom. To all generations he bequeathed legacies of pure faith, the seed of Jesus the Messiah, and the Book of Psalms.
The Book of Samuel marks an historic transition in Jewish history in more ways than one, because the change from Judges to Kings also led to a change in the role of the prophets. Since the judges had been chosen by God because of their righteousness, there was no danger that they would defy him or falsify his message. The monarchy, however, was hereditary and, as seen in the sad history of the Books of Kings and Chronicles, many of the kings sinned grievously and ultimately brought the nation down. The kings could not be the moral leaders of the nation as the judges had been. That role had to be assumed by prophets. Thus, after the Book of Samuel, it is the prophets who assume a new kind of authority and prominence, as the succeeding books with show.
The Introduction covers both books.
The Setting of 2 Samuel circa 1000 BC
The Book of 2 Samuel recounts David’s reign over Israel and his battles to establish Israel as the dominant power in Syria and Palestine. David expanded Israel’s borders from Saul’s fledgling territory until, by the end of his reign, he controlled all of Israel, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Syria, and Zobah. Other kingdoms, such as Tyre and Hamath, established treaties with him.
There is some supplementary material for both books which may prove useful in the study of Samuel