“Give Us a King”
HOST: Michael Whitworth
GUEST: Chris Clevenger, author of “Sons of Dust” and host of the “Biblical Manliness” podcast.
The books of 1 and 2 Samuel have three primary characters: Samuel, Saul, and David. These books were originally one, but were divided in half by the Septuagint (LXX) translators. In the LXX, the books are known as 1 and 2 Kingdoms (1 and 2 Kings are known as 3 and 4 Kingdoms). Much of Samuel (as well as Kings) is repeated in Chronicles, but with one stark difference. Samuel does not dispute Saul’s right to rule Israel. Rather, the text goes to great lengths to show that Saul was God’s chosen one until Saul revolted against God’s sovereignty (e.g. 1 Sam. 13, 15). After the final episode involving the Amalekites, the kingdom was stripped away from Saul’s lineage (1 Sam. 15:28).
Given the fact that Samuel dies in 1 Samuel 25, it is considered highly unlikely that he wrote the entirety of these two books. In addition, 1 Chron. 29:29-30 indicates that Samuel’s work was part of a greater process contributed to by Nathan and Gad. Indeed, Jewish tradition in the Talmud attributed 1 Sam. 1-24 to Samuel, and the remainder to Nathan and Gad.
Date & Audience
As is the case with the other historical books, the author is technically anonymous, as is also the date of writing. However, we know that Samuel, Nathan, and Gad all ministered within fifty years on either side of 1000 BC. Regardless of the specific date of authorship, it can be reasonably assumed that these books were written to edify Israel and educate her of her history with God. The books of Samuel begin in a very dark period of Israel’s history, but light began to dawn with the ministry of Samuel and continued through the reign of David.
Samuel & the NT
Many parallels exist between David and Jesus. Both were seen as kings on the throne of Israel. Both (along with Saul) were considered “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam. 16:3, 6, 12-13; 24:6; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam. 1:14, 16; 3:39; 19:21), a phrase translated from the Hebrew messiah. But there also remain stark differences. David had a heart like God’s, but was not perfect. The shepherd boy who was willing to battle a lion and a bear (1 Sam. 17:34-35) was later willing for the sheep to die for his own sins (2 Sam. 24:14, 17), something that the Good Shepherd would never conceive of doing (John 10:11). He instead died for our sins.
Keys to Reading
- While studying Samuel, one will notice several notes in the margin of one’s Bible giving an alternative reading to the text. The reason is that the Hebrew text is not as well-attested as other books. Problematic passages include 1 Sam. 11:1; 14:41; 2 Sam. 5:21 (cf. 1 Chron. 14:12). These verses in question do not pertain to our salvation, but they have puzzled scholars for quite some time. There is no clear way to resolve the difficulties they present.
- Again, as is the case with the other historical books, the books of Samuel must be read with the message of Deuteronomy close at hand. Deuteronomy anticipated that Israel would one day have a king, but also warned of the terrible things that would come from the monarchy. Deuteronomy also promised that Israel would one day have rest from her enemies, and this certainly came true under the reign of David.
- Conducting character-profile studies of Samuel, Saul, and David gives the Bible student greater insight into the stories of these two books. Samuel is presented as a much greater leader than Eli, though both men were not successful fathers. Likewise, Saul and David seem to have been just as morally-bankrupt as the other, but David is remembered as a man after God’s heart, while the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul (1 Sam. 16:14).
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