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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

- 1 Samuel

by B.H. Carroll



The general theme of this section is "The Hebrew Monarchy." The textbook is Crockett’s Harmony of Samuel; Kings and Chronicles. The collateral textbook is Wood’s Hebrew Monarchy. The best and most convenient commentary on Samuel is Kirkpatrick’s, in the "Cambridge Bible." Other good textbooks on Samuel and his times are: Edersheim’s "History of Israel," Vol. IV; Dean’s Samuel and Saul; Hengstenberg’s Kingdom of God in the Old Testament, Vol. II; Hengstenberg’s Christology of the Old Testament, Vol. 1; Stanley’s Jewish Church; Geikie’s Hours with the Bible; Geikie’s Bible Characters – Eli, Samuel, Saul; Sampey’s Syllabus; Josephus. A good special commentary on Chronicles is Murphy’s.

1 Chronicles 8-10 parallels 1 Samuel, and the important distinctions between Samuel and Kings on the one part, and Chronicles on the other part, are:

1. In the time of composition and in the authors, Samuel and Kings were written by authors contemporary with the events, but Chronicles was all compiled by Ezra after the downfall of the monarchy.

2. The purpose was different. Samuel and Kings aim to give a continuous history by contemporaneous authors, of all Israel from the establishment of the kingdom, first showing the transition from Judges to Kings, then the division of the kingdom, then the history of the kingdoms to the downfall of each, a period of five hundred years, all continuous history by contemporaneous authors. But the purpose of Chronicles is unique. Ignoring the Northern Kingdom, it is designed to show merely the genealogy and history of the Davidic line alone, in which the national union is preserved, and, commencing with Adam, it shows the persistence of national life after the downfall of the monarchy. Its viewpoint is the restoration after the captivity by Babylon. And while, indeed, the compiler uses the material of contemporaneous historians, or material of historians contemporaneous with the events as they came to pass, yet it is used as a retrospect.

3. Chronicles is a new and different beginning of Jewish history, rooting in Genesis, and becomes the introduction of all exile and post exile Old Testament books) and for the uninspired books of the inter-Biblical period, and hence is a preparation for the coming Messiah in the Davidic line.

4. Hence the first seven chapters of Chronicles parallel Old Testament books prior to Samuel, and its last paragraph goes beyond Kings in showing the connection with post-exile history.

5. While it is proper to use Chronicles in the Harmony with Samuel and Kings, one who studies Chronicles in the Harmony only, can never get its true conception.

As to the title, "Samuel," to the two books which bear that name, the following explanation is apropos:

1. In the Jewish enumeration the two books are one. A note at the end of 2 Samuel in the Hebrew Bible still treats the two books as one, and Eusebius, the great church historian, quotes Origen to the effect that the Jews of his day counted the books one. Josephus so counts them.

2. The meaning of the title is twofold: (a) Up to the death of Samuel it means the author of the book, and (b) as applied to the whole book it means the principal hero of the story up to the time of David.

1. Considering the history and the sources of the material, we learn from 1 Chronicles 29:29 that the history of the reign of David is ascribed to three prophets, Samuel, Nathan, and Gad; and from other passages in Chronicles we learn that other prophets took up the story. So far as the scope of 1 and 2 Samuel extends we may well say that the writers were Samuel, Nathan, and Gad, i.e., Samuel up to 1 Samuel 25, then Nathan and Gad.

2. 1 Chronicles 27:24 tells us of the state records of David’s reign, and from these records may have been obtained such matter as appears in 2 Samuel 8:16-18; 2 Samuel 20:23-26; 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

3. In 1 Samuel 10:25 we learn that the charter of the kingdom is expressly said to have been written by Samuel.

4. It is very probable that the national poetic literature furnished Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10); David’s lament for Abner (2 Samuel 3:33-34); David’s Thanksgiving (2 Samuel 22, which is also the same as Psalm 18); the last words of David (2 Samuel 23:1-7). David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:18-27) is expressly said to be taken from the book of Jasher.

Certain passages in the book itself bear on the date of the compilation in its present form:

1. There is an explanation in 1 Samuel 9:9 of old terms which would be necessary, for the terms were not in use when the book was compiled.

2. There is a reference to obsolete customs in 2 Samuel 13:18.

3. The phrase "unto this day" is repeated seven times: 1 Samuel 5:5; 1 Samuel 6:18; 1 Samuel 27:6; 1 Samuel 30:25; 2 Samuel 4:3; 2 Samuel 6:8; 2 Samuel 18:18.

4. 2 Samuel 5:5 refers to the whole reign of David.

5. In the Septuagint, but not in the Hebrew, there are references extending to Rehoboam, Solomon’s son.

6. In 1 Samuel 27:6 mention of the kings of Judah seems to imply that the divisions of the kingdom in Rehoboam’s day had taken place. The conclusion as to the date of the present form is that is was compiled soon after the division of the kingdom. The canonicity of Samuel has never been questioned. It is remarkably accurate, and in every way reliable. Each part is the language of the contemporaneous historian who was an eye witness of the scenes, though there are some parts difficult to harmonize, which will be noticed particularly as they come up.

The materials for the text are the Hebrew Manuscript, and the versions, to wit: The Septuagint; the Chaldean, or Aramaic; and the Vulgate. Our manuscripts of the Septuagint are mainly the Alexandrian Manuscript of the fifth century A.D., and the Vatican Manuscript of the fourth century. The Alexandrian Manuscript conforms most nearly to the Hebrew text, there being an important variation in the Vatican Manuscript from the Hebrew text that will be subsequently noted. The Chaldean, or Aramaic version, commonly known as the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, is more a commentary or paraphrase than a translation, and that, too, of the later Jews. In the third note to the Appendix of 2 Samuel in the "Cambridge Bible" we find in this Targum quite a remarkable addition to Hannah’s Song, ascribing to her a prophecy that touches the destruction of the Philistines; the descendants of Samuel, who form a part of the Davidic choir, and concerns Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, Greece, Haman, and Rome. For this prophecy, there is no inspired foundation.

Dr. Sampey, of the Louisville Seminary, says that the text of this section needs editing more than any other part of the Bible, and there are some peculiarities of the text which we will now take up:

1. Certain passages exist in duplicate, all of them in 2 Samuel except 1 Samuel 31, which is the same as 1 Chronicles 10:1-12.

2. There are others remarkably similar; for example, compare the account in chapters 1 Samuel 23:19-24:22 with 1 Samuel 26.

3. The Septuagint in the Vatican Manuscript differs from the Alexandrian Manuscript and also from the Hebrew, in omitting a considerable part of 1 Samuel 17 and 18. The omission removes certain difficulties but creates others.

4. The narrative of the Witch of Endor raising the ghost or shade of Samuel (1 Samuel 28) has provoked controversies in every age, and special attention will be given to that when we get to it.

5. In 1 Samuel 1:3 will be found an entirely new name for God. It is not found in any antecedent Old Testament book nor in many subsequent Old Testament books. The name is the Lord of Sabaoth, which means the Lord of Hosts. All of these peculiarities will be noted more particularly as we come to them.

The following is Dr. Kirkpatrick’s analysis of 1 Samuel:

I. The close of the period of the Judges, 1 Samuel 1-7.

1. The early life of Samuel, extending from 1 Samuel 1:1-4:1a.

2. The judgment of Eli and the loss of the Ark, 1 Samuel 4:1-7:1.

3. The judicial life of Samuel, 1 Samuel 7:2-17.

II. The foundation of the monarchy, 1 Samuel 8-31.

1. The appointment of the first king, 1 Samuel 8-10.

2. Saul’s reign unto his rejection, 1 Samuel 11-15.

3. Decline of Saul and rise of David, 1 Samuel 16-31.


1. What is the general theme of this section?

2. What is the textbook?

3. What is the collateral textbook?

4. What is the best and most convenient commentary on Samuel?

5. What are other good textbooks on Samuel and his times?

6. What is the special commentary on Chronicles commended?

7. What part of 1 Chronicles parallels 1 Samuel?

8. What are the important distinctions between Samuel and Kings on the one part, and Chronicles on the other part?

9. What of the title, "Samuel," to the two books which bear that name?

10. Who wrote the history, and what are the sources of the material?

11. What passages in the book itself bear on the date of the compilation in its present form?

12. What is the conclusion as to the date of the present form?

13. What of the canonicity of Samuel?

14. What of the accuracy and reliability of the history?

15. What can you say of the text of the book of Samuel?

16. What does Dr. Sampey say of the text?

17. What peculiarities of the text are noted?

18. Whose analysis is commented, and what are its main divisions and subdivisions?

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