New American Bible

1 Samuel


Originally but one book, the scroll of Samuel was early divided into two. The Greek translators called these the first and second Books of Kingdoms, a title St. Jerome later modified to "Kings." The Hebrew title, "Samuel" alludes to the leading figure in the first book, who was responsible for the enthronement of David. It is David’s history that the second book recounts.

This sacred work thus comprises the history of about a century, describing the close of the age of the Judges and the beginnings of monarchy in Israel under Saul and David. It is not a complete and continuous history, nor a systematic account of the period, but rather a series of episodes centered around the persons of Samuel, Saul and David, the principal figures leading up to the establishment of the royal dynasty of David.

The final editor is unknown, nor are we certain of the time at which the various strands of the narrative were put together, though one may think of the period, perhaps late in the seventh century B.C., when the other volumes of the "Former Prophets" from Joshua through Kings, were built into a more or less continuous historical corpus. The Samuel-Saul-David narratives clearly depend on several written sources: a Samuel cycle, two sets of stories about Saul and David, and a family history of David. This last (2 Sam 9-20; 1 Kings 1-2), one of the most vivid historical narratives surviving from ancient times, probably originated early in the reign of Solomon.

One of the most significant theological contributions of the Old Testament is found in 2 Sam 7 the oracle of Nathan. David is here promised an eternal dynasty, and this becomes the basis for the development of royal messianism throughout the Bible. With this promise to David one should compare 2 Chron 17; Psalm 89:19-37; 132:11-13; Acts 2:30; Hebrews 1:5.

The contents of this work may be divided as follows:

I. History of the Last Judges, Eli and Samuel (1 Sam 1:1 - 1 Sam 7:17)
II. Establishment of the Monarchy in Israel (1 Sam 8:1 - 1 Sam 12:25)
III. Saul and David (1 Sam 13:1 - 2 Sam 2:7)
IV. The Reign of David (2 Sam 2:8 - 2 Sam 20:26)
V. Appendixes (2 Sam 21:1 - 2 Sam 24:25)