Books of Samuel

Books of Samuel

The Books of Samuel (Hebrew: "Sefer Sh'muel" ספר שמואל) are part of the Tanakh (part of Judaism's Hebrew Bible) and also of the Christian Old Testament. The work was originally written in Hebrew, and the "Book(s) of Samuel" originally formed a single text, as they are often considered today in Hebrew bibles.

Together with what is now referred to as the "Book(s) of Kings", the translators who created the Greek Septuagint divided the text into four books, which they named the "Books of the Kingdoms". In the Latin Vulgate version, these then became the "Books of the Kings", thus "1 and 2 Samuel" were referred to as "1 and 2 Kings", with "3 and 4 Kings" being what are called "1 and 2 Kings" by the King James Bible and its successors.


The two books can be essentially broken down into seven parts, which can be subdivided:
I. Historical Setting for the Establishment of Kingship (1 Samuel 1-7):A. Samuel's birth, youth and calling; judgment on Eli's house (1 Samuel 1-3):B. The defeat of Israel by the Philistines; the capture and recovery of the ark (1 Samuel 4-7)II. The Establishment of Kingship Under Samuel (1 Samuel 8-12):A. Israel asks for a king and God accepts (1 Samuel 8):B. Samuel anoints Saul privately as king (1 Samuel 9 - 10:16):C. Samuel makes God's choice of king known to the people at Mizpah (1 Samuel 10:17-27):D. Saul's choice confirmed by victory over the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:1-13):E. Saul's reign inaugurated and the covenant renewed at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14 - 12)III. Saul's Kingship A Failure (1 Samuel 13-15)
IV. David's Rise to the Throne and the End of Saul's Reign (1 Samuel 16 - 2 Samuel 5:5):A. David is anointed, enters Saul's service and flees (1 Samuel 16-26):B. David seeks refuge with the Philistines; Saul is killed (1 Samuel 27-31):C. David becomes king over Judah (2 Samuel 1-4):D. David becomes king over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5)V. The Accomplishments and Glory of David's Kingship (2 Samuel 5:6 - 9):A. Conquest of Jerusalem and defeat of the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:6-25):B. The ark is brought to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6):C. God's promise to David (2 Samuel 7):D. David's victories and justice (2 Samuel 8):E. David's kindness to the last of Saul's relatives (2 Samuel 9)VI. The Weaknesses and Failures of David's Kingship (2 Samuel 10-20):A. David commits adultery and murder (2 Samuel 10-12):B. David loses his sons Amnon and Absalom (2 Samuel 13-20)VII. Appendix - final reflections on David's reign (2 Samuel 21-24)

A conclusion of sorts appears at 1 Kings 1–2, concerning Solomon enacting a final revenge on those who did what David perceived as wrongdoing, and having a similar narrative style. While the subject matter in the Book(s) of Samuel is also covered by the narrative in Chronicles, it is noticeable that the section (2 Sam. 11:2–12:29) containing an account of the matter of Bathsheba is omitted in the corresponding passage in 1 Chr. 20.



Hannah is introduced as childless, but she makes a vow to YHWH stating that if she has a son, he will be dedicated to Yahweh as a permanent Nazirite. Eli blesses her, and a child named Samuel is soon born.

At the same time, Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are priests at Shiloh who abuse their position. A "man of God" comes to Eli and tells him that due his tolerance of their behavior, YHWH has revoked his promise of perpetual priesthood for Eli's family, and that Eli's sons will later die on the same day. Samuel confirms that there is no way for them to avoid this fate. A while later, following a battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, it is reported to Eli that his sons are dead and that the Philistines have captured the Ark of the Covenant. Upon hearing the latter, Eli falls backward off his seat, breaks his neck and dies. Phinehas's wife, hearing that Eli had died and that the Ark of the Covenant was captured, is overcome with birth pains. Giving birth to a son, she names him Ichabod ("without glory"), and dies shortly thereafter.

The Philistines take the Ark of the Covenant to their temple of the god Dagon. The next morning, the Dagon statue is found prostrate before the Ark, so they adjust the statue; but the morning after, it is found broken into pieces. The town surrounding the Ark falls victim to a plague, so the Philistines resign themselves to get rid of the Ark, first sending it on to Gath, then to Ekron, both of which fall victim to the same plague. At the advice of fortune tellers, the Philistines put the Ark and additional offerings on a cow-pulled cart, sending it off without a driver. The cart reaches Beth-shemesh, and the locals celebrate, but then mourn because some of their men are struck dead by YHWH for looking into the Ark of the Covenant. So they ask the people of Kiriath-jearim to collect the ark, which they do, and it is taken into the house of Abinadab.

Later, the Philistines attack the Israelites gathered at Mizpah. Samuel appeals to Yahweh, and so the Philistines are decisively beaten. As a result, Samuel sets up a memorial stone between Mizpah and Shen, naming it Ebenezer. Israel reclaims the territory spanning Ekron to Gath, and makes peace with the Amorites.


In Samuel's old age, he appoints his sons as judges, but they do not follow his example, so the people clamour for a king. God begrudgingly accedes, and Samuel gives the people a list of regulations about the king. Meanwhile, Saul, the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, a handsome man a head taller than anyone else, is searching for the donkeys of his family. His search takes him to Zuph; he seeks out the wise man who lives there, on the advice of his servant and some girls. Samuel comes toward Saul as he enters the town and realises that Saul is the man that Yahweh has chosen to be king, so he is hospitable to him. The next day, Samuel anoints him and gives three prophecies of events on Saul's journey home. They all come true, including the third, that Saul will prophesy amongst a band of prophets preceded by musical instruments, leading to the proverb "Is Saul also among the Prophets?" (cf. 1 Samuel 10:12). After calling the people together at Mizpah, Samuel whittles them down by lot to Saul and announces that he is king. Saul tries to hide but is discovered. Some people criticise the decision.

Nahash, an Ammonite, lays siege to Jabesh-Gilead, so its people request a treaty, but Nahash is arrogant and requires that each person must have their right eye gouged out. The people request that Nahash let them send out messengers in search of a savior, and Nahash agrees, unaware that Israel has a king and believing that the tribes are still separated. After hearing of the siege, Saul orders the people of Israel to join him in an attack on Nahash and threatens them by sending out a piece of a cow to each of the 12 tribes, stating that if they do not comply, he will do the same to their cattle. Saul consequently gathers an army and attacks Nahash, obliterating his army. The people take this as evidence of Saul's ability to lead, and so they are told by Samuel to appoint him king, which they do.

Samuel gives a speech reminding the Israelites not to fall into heathenism like their previous generations have done. The Hebrews/Jonathan (depending on the text—Masoretic has "Jonathan", Septuagint has "Hebrews") overcome the Philistines in Gibeah. Saul sounds the trumpet to tell all Israel that he (Saul) has overcome the Philistines there. The Philistines assemble for battle, frightening the Israelites, but in accordance with Samuel's instructions, Saul waits seven days for Samuel to arrive, before giving up his wait and making a sacrifice. Samuel castigates Saul for not waiting, telling him that as a result his kingdom will not last. Saul, successful and brave, defeats Amalek. Samuel orders Saul to exterminate Amalek, but although Saul subsequently slaughters the Amalekites, he does not slaughter the animals, and he captures King Agag alive. Saul also erects a "trophy" at Carmel in his own honour. Samuel berates him for not carrying out the mass extermination completely, so Saul repents and begs Samuel to go with him. Samuel refuses and leaves, but Saul grabs at him, tearing part of Samuel's mantle, for which Samuel says that part of Saul's kingdom will be torn off and given to another. Samuel kills Agag himself, by hacking him into pieces ("wa-yeshassef").

While Saul and his son occupy Geba, the Philistines raid the nearby land. Previously, the Philistines had ensured that there were no smiths in the land, causing the people of Israel to be devoid of weaponry, except for Saul and Jonathan. Jonathan secretly heads to the Philistine outpost at Michmash with his armour bearer, first crossing a ravine, and they slaughter large numbers of Philistines who panic and scatter. Saul notices and eventually sends his army to help. The Hebrews were previously on the Philistine side (some translations add the words "some of", making this refer only to a sub group of Hebrews) but decide to join the forces of Israel. In a moment of foolishness, Saul curses anyone that eats anything before the evening, but Jonathan does not notice and consumes some honey he finds. This rapidly leads to others following suit and ignoring Saul's curse. Saul builds an altar, insisting that it be used to sacrifice before the food is eaten, and he condemns to death whoever is at fault for violating his curse. Saul uses Urim and Thummim to find out it was Jonathan, so reluctantly condemns him, but the army threatens to revolt if Saul kills him, so he does not.

Ascent of David

Samuel is told to go to Bethlehem by Yahweh, to find a replacement for Saul. Each of the sons of Jesse are rejected in turn, except David, the youngest, who Samuel is told to anoint. A demon is sent by Yahweh to torment Saul, so Saul's servants try to find a harpist to soothe his temper. David is known for his skill in the art and so is brought to court. The Philistines rally against Israel, and Goliath of Gath steps out and suggests that rather than fight a battle, the Israelites should just send a champion to fight him. David, who is bringing provisions to his brothers in Israel's army, speaks against Goliath to his brothers, and Saul overhears him. David persuades a reluctant Saul to let him challenge Goliath. David takes down Goliath with a single stone from a sling and kills him by decapitation with Goliath's own sword, and so the Philistines flee.

aul seeks to kill David

Jonathan befriends David, and since David succeeds in everything Saul tasks him with, women praise David as greater than Saul. To get rid of this perceived threat, Saul promises David the hand of his daughter, Merab, in marriage if he becomes Saul's champion, but Merob is married off to someone else before David accepts. Saul notices that Michal, his other daughter, is in love with David, so in order to send him on to his death offers her to him in exchange for 100 foreskins of the Philistines, but David successfully kills 200 Philistines, so weds Michal. Saul talks to Jonathan about his plans to kill David, but owing to Jonathan's relationship with David, Jonathan dissuades Saul and informs David. While David is in Saul's court, Saul throws a spear at David but misses. Saul then sends guards to David's house, but Michal makes David escape and places a statue in the bed and pretends to the guards that it is him. On discovering David's location, Saul sends out successive guards, but they all meet a group of prophets and join them instead, as does Saul when he eventually decides to go himself, hence the phrase "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (c.f. 1 Samuel 19:24). David then meets Jonathan and asks him to secretly find out Saul's intentions, but Saul tells Jonathan that he knows that Jonathan is David's "companion", and that he intends to kill David. Jonathan is so hurt that he stops eating and then later goes off to tell David.

David flees to Ahimelech, priest of Nob, who only has holy bread. Since David abstains from the company of women on such journeys, Ahimelech allows David to take the bread and Goliath's sword which Ahimelech had been keeping. David then flees. Saul's chief henchman, Doeg, witnessed Ahimelech assisting David, so Saul has Doeg kill him and all the people in Nob. However, Ahimelech's son Abiathar escapes to tell David.

David in hiding

David flees to the cave of Adullam, where he amasses a band of outlaws. David decides to leave his parents in the care of the king of Moab, where the prophet Gad tells him to flee, so David moves to the forest of Hereth. The people of Keilah are attacked by the Philistines so David rescues them, but Saul hears of it and sets out against him, so David flees. Jonathan briefly visits David at Horesh and returns home. The people of Ziph tell Saul where David is, so Saul chases David into a gorge but is forced to break pursuit when the Philistines invade elsewhere and he must fight them. The gorge becomes known as Sela-hammahlekoth ("gorge of divisions")

David hides in the caves near Engedi, and Saul hears of this and pursues him. Saul enters a cave to relieve himself, coincidentally the cave in which David is hiding, and David sneaks up on him and cuts off the end of his mantle (Saul had also done this to Samuel). Because Saul has been anointed, David regrets this and forbids his men from harming Saul, and then he steps out of the cave to show himself. David convinces Saul that he is not a threat, and the two reconcile. The two depart from one another, and Samuel dies. Men from Ziph tell Saul that David is hiding at Hachilah, so Saul goes to search for him. David and Abishai sneak into Saul's camp and steal Saul's spear. They then go a long way away and shout back what they have just done and persuade Saul that David is not a threat; the two consequently are reconciled.

David tries to get hospitality from a man at Ma'on, named Nabal, who owns property in Carmel, but Nabal is miserly and refuses. Angered, David prepares to attack Nabal and kill those surrounding him. Nabal's clever and pretty wife, Abigail, sends David provisions, causing David to relent. She tells Nabal once he has sobered up, and Nabal is soon after struck dead by Yahweh. David thus proposes marriage to Abigail, who accepts. David also marries Ahinoam of Jezreel, though meanwhile Michal, his original wife, is transferred by Saul to another man, Palti.

David decides that it is better to be on the safe side and so chooses to reside amongst the Philistines, staying with the King Achish of Gath. Previously David had briefly fled to Achish having left Ahimelech, where he feigned insanity to avoid attracting attention, but this time he lets Achish realise that he is an enemy of Saul. However, David continues to make raids against the surrounding population, slaughtering everyone he meets so that none will tell Achish what he has done. When he brings back spoils, he tells the king of Gath that he has raided against some foreign group or the Israelites or Judah. Achish trusts him implicitly and so requests that David join him in an attack on Jezreel. The Philistines encamp against the Israelites but are curious why the Hebrews (some translations have "some of the Hebrews") are amongst the Philistines. Uneasy about David's presence, they tell Achish to send him away, and so Achish reluctantly does so.

Saul sees the Philistines encamping at Shunem and is disheartened. Saul tries to consult God for advice but receives no reply, and since he has banned necromancy and prophecy in accordance with the mitzvah, he is forced to disguise himself and go to the Witch of Endor. He asks her to bring up Samuel from the dead, which she does, and Samuel admonishes Saul for acting this way and tells him that owing to Saul's past failure to commit complete genocide regarding Amalek, Saul is already condemned. Saul becomes deeply shaken and refuses to eat, but he is eventually persuaded.


Ziklag is burnt to the ground by the Amalekites, they take the people captive, including David's wives. David and his men therefore set off in pursuit, though some give up on the way. The men meet an escaped Amalekite slave, and he leads them to the Amalekite raiders. David slaughters all but 400 of the raiders and recovers his property and wives, as well as extra spoil which he divides amongst his followers, except those that gave up. He sends a portion of the spoil to Judah.

Death of Saul and Jonathan

The Philistines attack the Israelites at Gilboa and kill Jonathan and inflict a mortal wound on Saul. Saul asks his armour bearer to finish him off. His armour bearer refuses so Saul falls on his own sword. The armour bearer then kills himself. The Philistines cut the bodies into pieces, displaying them on the wall of Bethshan, though the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead later rescue the bodies, cremating them and burying the bones under a tamarisk tree. An Amalekite comes to David and tells him that Saul and Jonathan are dead, and that Saul was mortally wounded and asked him to finish him, so he did. David is incensed and orders the Amalekite to be killed, delivering a eulogy about Jonathan and Saul, which is recorded in the Book of Jasher.

Court of David

David is anointed king in Hebron but only over Judah. Saul's son, Ishbaal, is taken by Abner to Mahanaim and appointed king of Israel. The two sides meet at Gibeon and stage some form of activity between 12 men on each side, thrusting swords into their opponents, hence the place became known as Helkath-hazzurim ("field of sides"). After a fierce battle, David's side wins. Asahel, brother of Joab, David's commander, sets out after Abner, but Abner twice tells him to stop. Since he does not listen, Abner thrusts his javelin into Asahel, who dies. Joab continues the chase as far as Ammah where Abner warns him to stop to avoid more bad blood, so Joab stops the pursuit. However, there was a war between the two groups that lasted for ages with David's side gradually winning. Abner is accused of being intimate with Rizpah, one of Saul's concubines, by Ishbaal. Abner decides to change sides because of this accusation and brings Michal back to David, sending Paltiel, her other husband, back home weeping. Abner persuades the elders of Israel to change to David's side as well. When Abner arrives in David's court, Joab secretly follows him and stabs Abner in revenge for killing his brother. David curses Joab for this and sings a eulogy to Abner. Ishbaal is killed in his sleep by his own leaders, the sons of Rimmon, who cut off his head and take it to David, but David has them killed for killing a king. David is anointed King of Israel in Hebron.

Conquest of Jerusalem

David sets out for Jerusalem and manages to take the stronghold of Zion. Since he was told by the Jebusites that the blind and the lame would turn him away, he makes the blind and the lame his personal enemy. David instructs his people to attack the Jebusites via the water shaft. Hiram, king of Tyre, sends master craftsmen to David to build him a palace, and David also builds up the area surrounding it. The Philistines attack, overrunning the valley of Rephaim, but he defeats them at a place that becomes known as Baal-perazim ("lord of scatterings"). The second attack by the Philistines is defeated when David approaches via the rear, and they are routed. David then requests the Ark be moved to Jerusalem, but when it reaches Nodan it is unsteady, and Uzzah puts his hand on it to steady it but is struck dead for this by Yahweh. David becomes more cautious and leaves the ark with Obed-Edom for three months, though noting Obed-edom's subsequent good fortune, he brings the Ark to Zion. David joins the subsequent celebrations but is castigated for doing so by Michal, who accuses him of exposing himself, and hence Michal is made permanently infertile by Yahweh. David asks Nathan whether the Ark should be housed in grander settings, but Nathan tells him that it is fine for the moment and prophecies that one of David's sons will be the one to build a new home for it.

David attacks the Philistines, taking their "methegammah" (literally "bridle of the cubit" though many translations render this as "chief cities"). David also defeats Moab and executes a proportion (either ⅓ or ⅔) of their entire population, making Moab a vassal. David then defeats Hadadezer, and though the Aramaeans come to Hadadezer's aid, David slaughters them, making the Aramaeans vassals. King Toi of Hamath, Hadadezer's enemy, congratulates David and adds to his spoils of precious metals. On his return (from an unspecified location), David becomes famous for slaughtering 18,000 Edomites, whereupon Edom becomes a vassal state.

A list of officers in David's court is given on two occasions. The list includes the head of the army, chancellor (Jehoshaphat), master of the slaves, and commander of foreign troops, as well as the two priests, Zadok and Abiathar.

The king of the Ammonites dies and is succeeded by Hanun. Reflecting the prior king's kindness to David, David sends messengers to Hanun to give his condolences. However, they are interpreted by Hanun as spies, so he has the base of their beards cut off and the base of their garments below their buttocks, giving them a Babylonian appearance. When they return, David tells them to wait in Jericho until their beards grow. The Ammonites then prepare for war and hire a mercenary army from Aram, Tob, and Maacah, but it does not reach the Ammonites before David's army are too close. Joab splits David's army into two groups, one to attack the Aramaeans, and one to attack the Ammonites. The Aramaeans flee before David's army, and so the Ammonites withdraw. Hadadezer hires Aramaeans that live beyond the Euphrates, and they attack the Israelites at Helam. Shobach, Hadadezer's general, is defeated and killed, and so Hadadezer's vassal states decide to become David's vassals instead.


David sends his army to besiege Rabbah. From his rooftop, he spots a pretty woman and later finds out that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, Joab's armour bearer. David has "relations" with her, and she becomes pregnant, so he orders Uriah to be placed in the heaviest part of the fighting and for the army to draw back from him. Uriah is consequently killed by an archer, and David marries Bathsheba. Nathan tells David a parable, asking him for an analysis. When Nathan reveals that the parable describes his actions over Uriah, David realises that by his analysis he has condemned himself. Nathan tells him that the house of David will be cursed with always falling victim to the sword. More directly, Bathsheba's child dies as punishment. David has "relations" with her again, and she has a son that she names "Solomon", but Nathan names him Jedediah. Joab finally captures Rabbah, and the bejewelled crown of Milcom is taken and given to David for his own head.

Children of David

David's son, Amnon, becomes lovesick for his half-sister, Tamar. His cousin advises him to feign illness and have Tamar be his sick nurse, which he does. Persuading Tamar to feed him at his bedside, Amnon rapes her. Tamar complains to her brother, Absalom, but since Amnon is his eldest son, David will not do anything. Absalom holds a party and invites all the princes, and Amnon is sent there on David's behalf. When Amnon becomes drunk, he is killed by Absalom's servants, under the order of Absalom. The princes flee back to David, and Absalom flees to the king of Geshur. Over time, David becomes reconciled to Absalom. Joab, however, gets a woman to visit David and feign sorrow about a situation that mirrors that of David, tricking him into acknowledging that Absalom should be brought back and not harmed. When Absalom is brought back, David orders him to remain in his own home, but Absalom keeps asking Joab to see David. Joab does not respond so Absalom sets Joab's field on fire, and Absalom persuades Joab to let him see David, who becomes reconciled to Absalom.

Absalom builds up a gradual following, eventually having enough supporters that he plans a coup against David. An informant tells David, who tells his supporters to flee Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. At the Mount of Olives, David tells his foreign mercenaries to go back to Jerusalem since they owe no allegiance, but they insist on going with David. David also sends back Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, and his friend, Hushai, to act as an informant. A man, Shimei, throws stones at David and curses him, so Abishai asks David to kill Shimei, but David will not let him, claiming that Yahweh has made Shimei do this. On the advice of Ahithophel, Absalom has "relations" with David's concubines on his roof, so that the whole nation can see his contempt for David. After receiving counsel from both Ahithophel and Hushai, Absalom chooses Hushai's plan to send all Israel to attack David over Ahithophel's, so Ahithophel commits suicide in shame. Hushai sends word to David of the plan via spies hidden in a cistern at En-rogel. Absalom sends his army across the Jordan, and David prepares his own troops, asking that Absalom be treated gently. A huge battle erupts between the armies in the forests near Mahanaim, but while riding on his mule, Absalom gets caught in a tree by his hair and is stuck hanging there. Although the first people from David's side to discover Absalom like this refuse to harm him, owing to David's request, Joab has no such qualms and kills Absalom. David becomes extremely upset but pulls himself together and returns victorious to Jerusalem, accompanied by Judah.

Jonathan had a son named Meribbaal, who was 5 when Jonathan and Saul were killed. When she heard the news of this, Meribaal's nurse took him and fled, but he fell and became crippled. In memory of Jonathan, David shows Meribbaal kindness, gives him Saul's lands, and lets him dine at David's table. He also tells Ziba, a servant of Saul, that Ziba and his family must serve Meribbaal. During Absalom's revolt, Meribbaal remained in Jerusalem; Ziba told David that this was because Meribbaal hoped that the people of Israel would restore him to his father's throne. Meribbaal does not wash his feet or his clothes or trim his moustache until David returns to the throne in Jerusalem. On meeting David, Meribbaal tells him that Ziba was lying about his motive for remaining and reminds David that Meribbaal is lame. David does not care and orders Meribbaal to split his property with Ziba.

The people of Israel feel slighted that those of Judah were preferred by David to accompany him back to the throne, so a war of words breaks out between them. A man named Sheba sounds a horn rallying the people of Israel to him. David asks Amasa to summon the people of Judah to him and go after Sheba. At "the great stone" in Gibeon, Amasa meets Joab and "them", and while asking how he is, Joab stabs Amasa to death and drags the body to the side of the road. Joab leads the amassed army of Judah against Sheba who has amassed his own army of Israel at Abel Beth-maachah. Joab lays siege to the town, but a "wise woman" tells Joab of an ancient expression and that Joab is effectively trying to destroy "Yahweh's inheritance". Joab tells her they are only after Sheba, so she gets the townspeople to cut off Sheba's head and throw it over the wall to Joab. Joab then returns to Jerusalem, and the rebellion ends.


The last section of the books contains miscellaneous material, although it employs a literary pattern, a-b-c-c-b-a. The first and last units deal with David dealing with God's wrath; the second and fifth are accounts of David's warriors, and there are two songs of David at the centre.

A famine arises which David blames on Saul for having put many of the Gibeonites to death. David asks the Gibeonites what he should do as atonement, and they ask to dismember seven men from among Saul's descendants on Yahweh's mountain. David gives seven of Sauls descendants to them, and they are dismembered. Rizpah, the mother of two of them, uses a sackcloth to protect the remains from scavengers, and so David collects the bones of Saul, Jonathon, and those of the seven, and buries them at the tomb of Kish. The famine consequently ends.

There are four battles against the Philistines, in each one a Rephaim being killed. Goliath (specified as the "brother of Goliath" in 1 Chronicles 20:5) is one of these and is killed by Elhanan.

Several warriors of David are listed, with a gloss covering some of their deeds. A significance is attached to "the Thirty" and "the Three", all the warriors being in at least one of these groups, with "the Three" being the more significant. Despite the name of the group, 37 people are listed, and it is made explicit that there are 37.

Yahweh becomes angry with the people, and Satan tempts David to order a census (this story is also told in 1 Chronicles 21:1ff,). The census makes Yahweh angry (as it was motivated either by pride in the size of his empire and reliance for his security on the number of men he could muster) so Gad the prophet tells David that Yahweh has given David three options of punishment . David chooses the pestilence option, and so an angel duly goes out and starts killing people. When the angel approaches Jerusalem, Yahweh commands the angel to stop. David buys the land where the angel halted from its owner, Araunah, and builds an altar upon it.


Traditionally, the authors of the books of Samuel have been held to be Samuel, Gad, and Nathan. Samuel is believed to have penned the first twenty-four chapters of the first book. Gad, the companion of David (1 Sam. 22:5), is believed to have continued the history thus commenced; and Nathan is believed to have completed it, probably arranging the whole in the form in which we now have it (1 Chronicles 29:29).

This theory is not supported by some modern scholarswho?, who consider that the text is clearly not the work of men contemporary with the events chronicled. Even the Book of Chronicles explicitly refers to multiple source texts for the information, naming several. Roughly in the order they are believed to have been created historically, the sources that modern scholarship considers to have been interlaced to construct 1 & 2 Samuel areFact|date=July 2008:
*"Jerusalem source": a fairly brief source discussing David conquering Jerusalem from the Jebusites.
*"Republican source": a source with an anti-monarchial bias. This source first describes Samuel as decisively ridding the people of the Philistines, and begrudgingly appointing an individual chosen by God to be king, namely Saul. David is described as someone renowned for his skill at playing the harp, and consequently summoned to Saul's court to calm his moods. Saul's son Jonathan becomes friends with David, which many commentators view as romantic, and later acts as his protector against Saul's more violent intentions. At a later point, having been deserted by God on the eve of battle, Saul consults a medium at Endor, only to be condemned for doing so by Samuel's ghost, and told he and his sons will be killed. David is heartbroken on discovering the death of Jonathan, tearing his clothes apart.
*"Court History of David": a continuous source covering the history of David's kingship, and believed to be the source going by this name in the Book of Chronicles. This source continuously describes Israel and Judah as two separate kingdoms, with David originally being king of Judah only. David conquers Israel, but Israel rebels under Absalom, identified as David's son, and David is forced into exile. Israel's forces attack David while he is in exile, but he wins, and Judah accompanies him back to Jerusalem. Israel engages in another rebellion under Sheba, but David lays siege to a city housing the leader, and wins.
*"Sanctuaries source": a short source which interrupts the narrative in order to recount an episode concerning the capture of the Ark by the Philistines, and their subsequent voluntary return of it. The source demonstrates a bias toward the viewpoint of the kingdom of Israel.
*"Monarchial source": a source with a pro-monarchial bias and covering many of the same details as the "republican source". This source begins with the divinely appointed birth of Samuel (some scholars think this originally referred to Saul, see below). It then describes Saul as leading a war against the Ammonites, being chosen by the people to be king, and leading them against the Philistines. David is described as a shepherd boy arriving at the battlefield to aid his brothers, and is overheard by Saul, leading to David challenging Goliath and defeating the Philistines. David's warrior credentials lead to women falling in love with him, including Michal, Saul's daughter, who later acts to protect David against Saul. David eventually gains two new wives as a result of threatening to raid a village, and Michal is redistributed to another husband. At a later point, David finds himself seeking sanctuary amongst the Philistine army and facing the Israelites as an enemy. David is incensed that anyone should have killed Saul, even as an act of mercy, since Saul was anointed by Samuel, and has the individual responsible killed.
*"Redactions": additions by the redactor to harmonise the sources together; many of the uncertain passages may be part of this editing.
*"Various": several short sources, none of which have much connection to each other, and are fairly independent of the rest of the text. Many are poems or pure lists.

The relationship between these sources is uncertain, though it is generally agreed that many of the various shorter sources were embedded into the larger ones before these were in turn redacted togetherFact|date=July 2008. Though some scholars disagree, many academicswho? have proposed that several of the sources are continuations of others, such as the Jerusalem source, and royal source being in some way continuous with one another, and the prophetic source and sanctuaries source being likewise continuous with each other. Some, most recently Richard Elliott Friedman, have proposed that the sources were originally parts of the same texts as the Elohist, Jahwist, and possibly Priestly, sources of the Torah, with the "court history of David" being considered part of the Yahwist text. What is considered likely is that the Deuteronomist is the one which redacted together these sources into the Books of Samuel.

Within these, there are sometimes what appear to be very minor redactions. For example, 1 Samuel 1:20 explains that Samuel is so called because his mother had "asked" Yahweh for him; however "Samuel" means "name of God", while "Saul" means "asked"; this has suggested to many biblical critics that the narrative originally concerned Saul at this point, a later editor substituting Samuel's name. There are also several points in the Masoretic Text that appear more obviously corrupted in comparison to the Septuagint version.

Tribes and peoples

Although most traditional interpretations of Jewish history view the "Israelites" as the ancestors of both the Kingdom of Israel and that of Judah, which arose only after David's rule, and "Hebrews" as an alternative name for them, the text makes a strong distinction between "Hebrews", "Judahites", and "Israelites". Israelites consistently refers to Saul's forces. It also is used to refer to the supporters of the rebellions against David's reign, in contrast to his supportes. Judahites consistently refers to David's supporters during the rebellions against his rule, in contrast to the rebels. Hebrews is consistently used to designate a group distinct from both Israelites and Judahites, and who sometimes take the side of the Philistines against Israel and Judah. It is weakly associated with Jonathan initially, and then more strongly with David's band of outlaws. None of the three terms are described as representing groups which were part of one another, suggesting that Israel, Judah, and the Hebrews had always been three distinct groups.

Gilead and Jezreel are listed as tribes of Israel, rather than being treated strictly as locationsFact|date=July 2008. In accordance with evidence of this kind elsewhere, all attributed by scholars to the earliest sources, such as in the Song of Deborah, scholarswho? have concluded that the tribal system known as the tribes of Israel evolved over a period of timeFact|date=July 2008:

Gilead, Jezreel and Joseph were originally three tribes in the confederation. Jezreel later split into Zebulun and Issachar. Gilead later split into Machir, Gad, and Reuben. Machir later merged with part of Joseph to form Manasseh, while the other part split off to become Ephraim.Fact|date=September 2008

External links

;Masoretic Text
* [ שמואל א "Shmuel Aleph" - Samuel A] (Hebrew - English at
* [ שמואל ב "Shmuel Bet" - Samuel B] (Hebrew - English at;Jewish translations
* [ 1 Samuel at Mechon-Mamre] (Jewish Publication Society translation)
* [ 2 Samuel at Mechon-Mamre] (Jewish Publication Society translation)
* [ Shmuel I - Samuel I (Judaica Press)] translation with Rashi's commentary at
* [ Shmuel II - Samuel II (Judaica Press)] translation with Rashi's commentary at ;Christian translations
* [ "Online Bible" at]
* [ "1 Samuel" at BibleFu] (King James Version)
* [ "2 Samuel" at The Great Books] (King James Version);Related articles
* [ Introduction to the book of 1 Samuel] from the NIV Study Bible
* [ Introduction to the book of 2 Samuel] from the NIV Study Bible
* [ "Books of Samuel" article] (Jewish Encyclopedia)

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