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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

- 1 Samuel

by Arno Clemens Gaebelein



The two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings bear in the Greek Version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) the name First, Second, Third, and Fourth Books of Kingdoms. In the Latin Version, known as the Vulgate, they are called the Books of Kings. In Hebrew manuscripts and the earlier printed editions of the Hebrew text, both the books of Samuel appear as one; the same is true of the book of Kings. It must also be remembered that in the Hebrew Bible, the books of Samuel belong to that section which Jewish authorities have named “The Former Prophets.” The books of Samuel are, therefore, classed by the Jews with the writings of the Prophets.

The Authorship

The books bear the name of Samuel. This, however, does not mean that Samuel is the author of these books. That would be impossible, inasmuch as the greater part of them contains events which transpired after the death of Samuel. The only hint in Scripture about the authorship of these two books is found in 1 Chronicles 29:29 : “Now the acts of David the King, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the Seer, and in the book of Nathan the Prophet, and in the book of Gad the Seer.” Ancient tradition among the Jews assigns to Samuel the authorship of the first twenty-four chapters of the first book of Samuel. These chapters contain what may be termed the life of Samuel up to the time of his death. The twenty-fifth chapter begins with the record of his death. It is reasonable that Samuel wrote these opening chapters of the first book which bears his name. That Samuel did write is fully established by chapter 10:25: “Then Samuel told the people the manner of the Kingdom, and wrote it in a book and laid it up before the LORD.” The same Jewish tradition credits Nathan the Prophet and Gad the Seer with having written the remainder of the two books. The passage in the first book of Chronicles seems to support this view. Evidently Samuel began to write these books, which, for this reason, were called by his name. Modern criticism rejects this view and claims that the books of Samuel could not be the work of men who lived during the reign of Saul and David. We do not give their speculative theories and conflicting opinions, which are of no value whatever in the spiritual study of the text. The best scholars believe that these books belong to a very early period, and that the critical view of a compilation of certain documents and fragments, immediately before the exile, cannot be sustained. “The minute sketches and vivid touches with which these books abound prove that their author speaks what he knows and testifies what he has seen” (John Eadie). Some of the more important objections higher criticism has raised against the early date of the books of Samuel and the alleged discrepancies we shall point out and answer in our annotations.

The Continuation of Israel’s History

These books contain the continuation of the history of the people Israel. The opening chapters cover the period of the Philistine oppression, during which Samson began to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistine (Judges 13:5 ). As stated in our introduction to the book of Judges, Samuel’s first operations fall into the same time when Samson was acting as judge. Samuel assumed the office of judge after the death of Samson. In the beginning of the Philistine oppression these two boys were born, both devoted to the Nazariteship and both to a definite work. There is, however, a difference between the two, as Edersheim puts it: “Samuel was God-granted, Samson God-sent; Samuel was God-dedicated, Samson was God-demanded. The work of Samson ended in self-indulgence, failure and death; that of Samuel opened up into the royalty of David.”

The final statement with which the book of Judges closes is the following: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” This shows that Israel was looking forward towards having a king; the need of a king was recognized, for the government by judges had wrought no deliverance for the people. The ruin into which Israel had fallen, besides being described in the closing chapters of judges, is also seen in the opening chapters of Samuel. The priesthood is corrupted. Eli is old and weak, his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were wicked men. The Philistines smite them again. Then they used the ark of the covenant to overcome the foe; but instead there is more defeat. The ark of God is captured by the Philistines and taken to Ashdod. After the return of the ark Samuel called the people to repentance. “Then the children of Israel put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:4 ). The result was victory over the Philistines. Samuel then judged Israel; he also made his sons judges. Like Eli’s sons, they were ungodly. “They turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment” (1 Samuel 8:3 ). It was at that time that the elders of Israel made their demand. “Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways, now make us a king to judge us like all nations” (1 Samuel 8:5 ). With this the crisis is reached. A king is demanded and the Lord grants their request. They had rejected Him as king over them.

The two institutions which we find now definitely introduced among Israel are the prophetic order and the monarchy. Samuel heads the order of the prophets and is also chosen to crown the first two kings. That the kingly office in the midst of Israel had been anticipated is learned from Deuteronomy 17:14-15 . “When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, who is not thy brother.” Thus the demand was anticipated and provision made for it in the law.

Foreshadowing the True King and His Kingdom

Israel had to have a monarchy established in her midst to foreshadow the true King and His Kingdom. That true King of Israel, the promised One, and His dominion had already been mentioned by Balaam. “A sceptre shall rise out of Israel”--”Out of Jacob shall come He that shall have dominion” (Numbers 24:17-19 ). Hannah in her inspired outburst of praise and her prophetic vision beheld that true king. “He shall give strength unto his King and exalt the horn of his Anointed” (1 Samuel 2:10 ). It is Israel’s true King, the Anointed, the Christ, she beheld.

Saul, the first king, is the people’s choice and ends in complete failure. Then David comes upon the scene; he is God’s choice; the king after His own heart. But he also fails. However, he is a type of Him who is both David’s Lord and David’s son, the root and offspring of David, our Lord Jesus Christ, the true King of Israel. David and Solomon are faint shadows of the true King and His work both in judgment and in the Kingdom of peace. The historical records in the books of Samuel are especially rich in typical and dispensational lessons and teach many spiritual truths. We hope to point out many of them as we follow the text in the annotations.

The Division of First Samuel

Inasmuch as the first book of Samuel contains the record of Samuel’s labors and the anointing of the first two Kings of Israel, Saul and David, Saul’s reign and David’s exile, we divide the book into three sections. In the first section we find the birth, childhood and judgeship of Samuel; in the second, the anointing and coronation of Israel’s first King, Saul, his reign and rejection. In the third section David, his anointing, and exile are before us. We give these sections and subdivisions as we shall follow them in our analysis and annotations.


1. The birth and Childhood of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-28 )

2. Hannah’s Prophetic Song (1 Samuel 2:1-10 )

3. The Failure of Eli and His Sons (1 Samuel 2:12-36 )

4. Samuel’s Call and Prophetic Ministry (1 Samuel 3:1-21 )

5. The Judgment of Eli and his Sons--Ichabod (1 Samuel 4:1-22 )

6. The Ark in the hands of Philistines and Its Return (1 Samuel 5:1-2 )

7. The Return unto Jehovah and the Deliverance (1 Samuel 7:3-14 )

8. Samuel Exercising His Office and His Failure (1 Samuel 7:15-17 ; 1 Samuel 8:1-3 )


1. The King Demanded (1 Samuel 8:4-22 )

2. The Story of Saul and His Anointing (1 Samuel 9:1-27 ; 1 Samuel 10:1-16 )

3. The Open Acclamation of Saul as King (1 Samuel 10:17-27 )

4. The King’s First Victory: the Kingdom Renewed at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:1-15 )

5. Samuel’s Witness and Warning (1 Samuel 12:1-25 )

6. The First Failure of Saul and Its Results (1 Samuel 13:1-23 )

7. Jonathan’s Heroic Deed of Faith (1 Samuel 14:1-52 )

8. War with Amalek: Saul’s Disobedience and Rejection (1 Samuel 15:1-35 )


1. David Anointed King and the Departure of the Spirit from Saul (1 Samuel 16:1-23 )

2. David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-58 )

3. Jonathan and David and Saul’s jealousy (1 Samuel 18:1-30 )

4. Saul’s Renewed Attempt and David’s Escape (1 Samuel 19:1-24 )

5. Jonathan Protects David and Their Separation (1 Samuel 20:1-42 )

6. David’s Varied Experiences (1 Sam. 21-27)

7. Saul and the Witch at Endor (1 Samuel 28:1-25 )

8. David and Achish and Ziklag Destroyed and Avenged (1 Sam. 29-30)

9. The Death of Saul (1 Samuel 31:1-13 )

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