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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

- 1 Samuel

by Editor - Joseph S. Exell

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic

By the

Author of the Commentary on Proverbs

New York





THE Books of Samuel form but one work in the Hebrew MSS. The division was first made in the Septuagint translation, where they are reckoned as belonging to the Books of the Kings, and are called “the books of the kingdoms,” “evidently with reference,” says Keil, “to the fact that each of these works contains an account of the history of a double kingdom, viz., the Books of Samuel the history of the kingdoms of Saul and David, and the Books of Kings that of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.” The suitability of such a title is very obvious when we consider that the book contains an account of the establishment of the monarchy in Israel.” Its date and authorship rest entirely upon conjecture, and scholars are divided in their opinions upon both subjects. The Jews believed that the first twenty-four chapters of the first book were written by Samuel himself, and that the remainder was the work of Nathan and Gad. (See 1 Chronicles 29:29). Many modern scholars of the Anglican Church adopt this view. Keil and other commentators, however, regard it as certain that the book was not written until after the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam, and found their opinion principally upon the remark in 1 Samuel 27:6, that “Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day.” There is internal evidence in the contents and style of the book that it was not written long after the division of the kingdom. There is, for instance, no reference to the decay of the kingdoms, and the style and language are free from the Chaldaisms of a later period. The author of the article on the “Books of Samuel,” in Smith’s Biblical Dictionary, says, “The Book of Samuel is one of the best specimens of Hebrew prose in the golden age of Hebrew literature. In prose it holds the same place which Joel and the undisputed prophecies of Isaiah hold in poetical and prophetical language. It is free from the peculiarities of the Book of Judges, and likewise from the slight peculiarities of the Pentateuch. It is a striking contrast to the Book of Chronicles, which undoubtedly belongs to the silver age of Hebrew prose; and it does not contain so many alleged Chaldaisms as the few in the Books of Kings.” Upon this subject of its authorship Keil says, “Judging from the spirit of his writings, the author was a prophet of the kingdom of Judah. It is unanimously admitted, however, that he made use of written documents made by persons who were contemporaries of the events described.” A reference to one such person is made in 2 Samuel 1:18, and it seems highly probable that the other sources drawn upon by the author were the works of Samuel, Gad, and Nathan, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 29:29. “It is very evident,” says Keil, “that the author had sources composed by eye-witness at command, and that these were employed with an intimate knowledge of the facts, and with historical fidelity, inasmuch as the history is distinguished by great perspicuity and vividness of description, by a careful delineation of the characters of the persons engaged, and by great accuracy in the accounts of localities, and of subordinate circumstances connected with the historical events.” The chronology of the events recorded in the book of Samuel in relation to those of the latter part of the book of Judges has also been a matter of some dispute. It may be stated in general that the events recorded embrace a period of about 125 years, and there is strong reason to believe that the judgeships of Eli and Samson were partly contemporaneous, and that Samuel was between twenty and thirty years old when Samson died, the work of the latter being confined entirely to the west and south-west of the kingdom. The silence of the author of the one book concerning the principal persons mentioned by the other is no argument against this view. “Notwithstanding the clear and definite account given in the Book of Judges,” says Hengstenberg, “it has been too often forgotten that it was not the author’s intention to give a complete history of this period, but that he only occupies himself with a certain class of events, with the acts of the Judges in a limited sense, the men whose authority among the people had its foundation in the outward deliverance which the Lord vouchsafed to the nation by their instrumentality. In this sense Eli was by no means a Judge, although in 1 Samuel 4:18 it is said that he “judged Israel.” Eli was High-priest, and merely exercised over the affairs of the nation a more or less extended free influence which had its origin in his priestly dignity. Hence the author of Judges had nothing to do with Eli, and we are not to conclude from the fact that he does not mention him that Eli’s influence was not felt at the time of which he treats. And the author of the books of Samuel had just as little to do with Samson. His attention is fixed on Samuel, and he only mentions Eli because his history is so closely interwoven with that of Samuel. The Book of Samuel takes up the thread of history where the Book of Judges lets it fall, towards the end of the forty years’ oppression by the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:0). The following table is given in Lange’s Commentary (English translation)”:—

Samson’s judgeship,

B.C. 1120–1100.

Eli’s life (98 years)

B.C. 1208–1110.

Eli’s judgeship (40 years)

B.C. 1150–1110.

Samuel’s life,

B.C. 1120 (or 1130)—1060.

Saul’s reign

B.C. 1076–1050.

But the compiler doubts “Whether we have sufficient data at present for settling the question.”
The history contained in the Book of Samuel is the history of a great epoch in the history of the Jewish nation, and consequently of an epoch in the history of the kingdom of God upon the earth. In the language of Dr. Erdman, one of the authors of Dr. Lange’s Commentary—“The theocracy was extricated by Samuel’s labours from the deep decline pictured in the first book, and in the Book of Judges, and under the guidance of God was led by this great reformer into a new path of development. Without, under Samuel and the royal rule introduced by him, political freedom and independence of heathen powers were gradually achieved, and within, the internal theocratic covenant-relation between the people of Israel and their God was renewed and extended on the basis of the restored unity and order of political and national life by the union of the prophetic and royal office.… From the beginning of our books we see the great theocratic significance of the prophetic order in the history of the kingdom of Israel; in the first place, as the organ of the Divine Spirit, and the medium of the Divine guidance and control. Samuel appears here as the true founder of the Old Testament prophetic order as a permanent public power alongside of the priesthood and the kingly office. Wordsworth says, “The Book of Samuel occupies an unique place, and has a special value and interest, as revealing the kingdom of Christ. It is the first book in Holy Scripture which declares the incarnation of Christ as King. It is the first book in Scripture which announced that the kingdom founded in Him, raised up from the seed of David, would be universal and everlasting.” An examination of the book shows that the author’s purpose was not to give a chronological statement of facts. It differs in this respect widely from the Books of Kings. References are made to facts assumed to be known, transactions apparently trival are narrated with great fulness, and events which generally hold a prominent place in historical works—such as great victories—are very briefly passed over. The last four chapters are not immediate historic continuations of the events related in the preceding chapters, and the history of David ceases quite abruptly, and makes it evident that the author’s aim was not that of a mere historian or biographer. We conclude on this subject with some extracts from Keil’s Introduction to his Commentary on this Book: “Through the establishment of the monarchy, the people of Jehovah’s possession became a ‘world power;’ the kingdom of God was elevated into a kingdom of the world, as distinguished from other ungodly kingdoms of the world, which it was eventually to overcome in the power of its God.… But the Israelitish monarchy could never thus acquire the power to secure for the kingdom of God a victory over all its foes, except as the king himself was diligent in his endeavours to be at all times simply the instrument of the God-King, and exercise his authority solely in the name and according to the will of Jehovah; and as the natural selfishness and pride of man easily made this concentration of the supreme earthly power in a single person an occasion for self-aggrandisement, and therefore the Israelitish kings were exposed to the temptation to use the plenary authority entrusted to them, even in opposition to the will of God, the Lord raised up for Himself organs of His own Spirit, in the persons of the prophets, to stand by the side of the kings and make known to them the will and counsel of God.… Whilst the predictions of the anointed of the Lord before and in connection with the call of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:27-36; 1 Samuel 3:11 sqq.), show the deep spiritual connection between the prophetic order and the regal office in Israel, the insertion of them in these books is a proof that from the very outset the author had this new organisation of the Israelitish kingdom of God before his mind, and that it was his intention not simply to hand down biographies of Samuel, Saul, and David, but to relate the history of the Old Testament Kingdom of God, at the time of its elevation out of a deep outward and inward decline into the full authority and power of a kingdom of the Lord, before which all its enemies were to be compelled to bow. Israel was to become a kingship of priests, i.e., a kingdom whose citizens were priests and kings. The Lord had announced this to the sons of Israel before the covenant was concluded at Sinai, as the ultimate object of their adoption as the people of His possession (Exodus 19:5-6). Now, although this promise reached far beyond the times of the Old Covenant, and will only receive its perfect fulfilment in the completion of the kingdom of God under the New Covenant, yet it was to be realised even in the people of Israel so far as the economy of the Old Testament allowed. Israel was not only to become a priestly nation, but a royal nation also; not only to be sanctified as a congregation of the Lord, but also to be exalted into a kingdom of God. The establishment of the earthly monarchy, therefore, was not only an eventful turning point, but also an “epoch-making” advance in the development of Israel towards the goal set before it in its Divine calling. And this advance became the pledge of the ultimate attainment of the goal, through the promise which David received from God (2 Samuel 7:12-16), that the Lord would establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. With this promise God established for His anointed the eternal covenant, to which David reverted at the close of his reign, and upon which he rested his Divine announcement of the just ruler over men, the ruler in the fear of God (2 Samuel 23:1-7). Thus the close of these books points back to their commencement. The prophecy of the pious mother of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:10) found a fulfilment in the kingdom of David, which was at the same time a pledge of the ultimate completion of the kingdom of God under the sceptre of the Son of David, the promised Messiah. This is one, and in fact the most conspicuous, arrangement of the facts connected with the history of salvation, which determined the plan and composition of the work before us. By the side of this there is another, which does not stand out so prominently indeed, but yet must not be overlooked. At the very beginning, the inward decay of the house of God under the high priest Eli, is exhibited; and in the announcement of the judgment upon the house of Eli, a long-continued oppression of the dwelling place [of God] is foretold (1 Samuel 2:32). Then in the further course of the narrative it is shown how David first of all brought the ark of the covenant, about which no one had troubled himself in the time of Saul, out of its concealment, had a tent erected for it upon Mount Zion, and made it once more the central point of the worship of the congregation; and how, after that, when the Lord had given him rest from his enemies, he wished to build a temple to the Lord to be the dwelling-place of His name; and lastly, when God would not permit him to carry out this resolution, but promised that his son should build the house of the Lord, how, towards the close of his reign, he consecrated the site for the future temple by building an altar upon Mount Moriah (2 Samuel 24:25). Even in this series of facts, the end of the work points back to the beginning, so that the arrangement and composition of it according to a definite plan are very apparent. If we take into account the deep-seated connection between the building of the temple as designed by David, and the confirmation of his monarchy on the part of God, as exhibited in 2 Samuel 7:0, we cannot fail to observe that the historical development of the true kingdom, in accordance with the nature and constitution of the Old Testament Kingdom of God, forms the leading thought and purpose of the work to which the name of Samuel has been attached, and that it was by this thought and aim that the writer was influenced throughout in his selection of the historical materials which lay before him in the sources which he employed.” That our Lord and the Apostles recognised the Book of Samuel as forming a part of the canon of Holy Scripture is shown by the following references which are made to it in the New Testament:—

Matthew 12:3-4, etc., to 1 Samuel 21:1-6.

Acts 3:24 to the general history.

Acts 7:46 to 2 Samuel 7:1-2.

Acts 13:20-22 to 1 Samuel 9:15.

Hebrews 1:5 to 2 Samuel 7:14.

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