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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel

- 1 Samuel

by Daniel Whedon

1 SAMUEL

INTRODUCTION.

IN the Hebrew Manuscripts the two Books of Samuel form one undivided work, and their contents show that they properly belong thus together. The present division was first made by the Septuagint translators; it was afterwards adopted in the Vulgate, and was first introduced into the printed Hebrew Bibles at Venice in 1518. The division, however, was appropriately made at the account of Saul’s death, which event formed a turning point in Israelitish history. The ancient title of the undivided work was “Book of Samuel,” evidently so called because the first section is mainly devoted to the history of that saintly Judge and Prophet. Hence also the present name, Books of Samuel. In the Septuagint and Vulgate they are called the First and Second Books of Kings, because they record the origin and establishment of the Hebrew monarchy.

Date.

The exact time of the composition of these books it is impossible to decide. Their language and style favour the idea of an early date, and, on the whole, present us with one of the purest specimens of Hebrew prose extant. There is an absence of Chaldaisms which specially distinguishes them from later writings of the Old Testament, and a simplicity and directness of narrative which belong to the Golden Age of Hebrew literature. “These books,” says Dr. John Eadie, “bear the impress of a hoary age in their language, allusions, and mode of composition. The insertion of odes and snatches of poetry, to enliven and verify the narrative, is common to them with the Pentateuch. They abound in minute sketches and vivid touches. As if the chapters had been extracted from a diary, some portions are more fully detailed and warmly coloured than others, according as the original observer was himself impressed. Many of the incidents, in their artless and striking delineation, would form a fine study for a painter.” But, though unquestionably ancient, they cannot be referred to a period earlier than the closing years of David’s reign, and the very noticeable circumstance that they contain the last words of the king, but no mention of his death, forcibly suggests that they were completed in substantially their present form while David was yet living, but “old and stricken in years.” 1 Kings 1:1. But the remark in 1 Samuel 27:6 “Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day” seems to show that the author must have written his work after the division of the nation into two kingdoms, and, therefore, at the earliest, as late as the days of Rehoboam. This, however, is not conclusive evidence, for it is not at all unnatural or uncritical to suppose that this remark was added by a later hand. While, therefore, the exact age of these books cannot be determined, we do best to refrain from mere conjectures, and simply refer them to the period extending from David’s last years to a time subsequent to the revolt of the ten tribes, but probably not later than the reign of Abijam, the son of Rehoboam about 957 B.C. We may in substance adopt the noble words of Ewald, that “when the Books of Samuel were written the majestic forms of Samuel and David were not very far removed from the nation’s memory, but only just raised above the misappreciation of their own time. Hence no portion of the Old Testament produces comparatively so satisfactory an effect on the historical inquirer as this does; for here we see the whole reality and truth of a great human scene peep out behind tradition, and discern historical greatness surrounded by all the fetters and limitations of its temporal conditions.”

Author.

If we are correct in assigning the work a date as early as that indicated above, then Jeremiah could not have been the author, as several eminent critics have supposed; nor could it have been the writer of the Books of Kings, as Jahn suggests; for, not to mention differences in style and plan of writing, the author of Kings must certainly have lived at a much later period than the date above given. An old opinion ascribes the authorship of these books to the joint labours of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad. It originated from the statement of 1 Chronicles 29:29, which, translated literally, is, “The words ( דברי ) of David the king, the first and the last; behold, they are written in the words of Samuel the seer, and in the words of Nathan the prophet, and in the words of Gad the seer.” The term דברי , words, here evidently means history. But what were the histories of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad? That they were works composed by these persons is as gratuitous an assumption as it would be to say that the history of David was a work composed by the king himself. The passage in Chronicles may indicate the sources, but it is not sufficient to decide the authorship of the Books of Samuel. Who the author was is a question that cannot now be answered.

Sources.

The work bears many evidences of being a compilation out of pre-existing documents, and some of these sources may be indicated with tolerable certainty. The poetical compositions which are inserted in the history (namely, Hannah’s song, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, and David’s elegies, 2 Samuel 1:19-27; 2 Samuel 3:33-34, and psalms, in chaps. 22 and 23) may all have been taken from the Book of Jasher, from which David’s elegy over Saul and Jonathan is professedly derived. Some of these songs, perhaps, like the chorus of the Hebrew women sung over David’s first triumph, (1 Samuel 18:7,) were as familiar to the lips of Israel as household words, and were written down by our author from memory. The genealogical tables and lists of public officers (namely, of Elkanah, 1 Samuel 1:1; of Saul, 1 Samuel 9:1; of David’s family, 2 Samuel 3:2-5; 2 Samuel 5:14-16; and officers, 1 Samuel 8:16-18, 1 Samuel 20:23-26; 1 Samuel 23:8-29) were, in all probability, taken from public registers and annals kept by the scribe and recorder of the king. These royal scribes (see notes at 2 Samuel 8:16-17) also wrote down the passing events of their times, and we may reasonably believe that their books became the principal authorities from which most of the historical works of the Old Testament written after the establishment of the Monarchy were compiled. Hence, too, most of the descriptive narratives may be regarded as substantially the accounts of eye-witnesses. In 1 Samuel 10:25 it is said that Samuel wrote a book descriptive of the manner of the kingdom, and that fact suggests that he may also have written other books, embodying, like those of the later prophets, important incidents of his own life and times. To such a work our author was, doubtless, largely indebted for the first twelve chapters of 1 Samuel. So also the histories of Nathan and Gad, which are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 29:29, and noticed above, were probably narratives of the times of those prophets written by one of their contemporaries, if not by their own hands. All these documents, and perhaps many more, were at the service of the compiler of the Books of Samuel; and by their aid, as well as by the guidance of the Spirit, he seems to have wrought out his work with the design of furnishing the chosen people with a true account of the leading facts in the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David. In all this the devout believer sees the hand of God; and he believes not only that the sacred writer, whoever he was, wrote as he was moved by the Holy Spirit, but also that, while the earlier documents have been utterly lost, this work has been preserved to the Church by the gracious providence of God, and is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” What an incalculable loss to the Church and the world would it be to be without these Books of Samuel!

Contents.

The work is readily divided into three sections: the first containing the History of Samuel, 1 Samuel 1-12; the second the History of Saul, 1 Samuel 13-31; and the third the History of David, 2 Samuel 1-24. Saul, indeed, is introduced to us before 1 Samuel 13:0, and David before 2 Samuel 1:0; but they appear not as the great subjects of the history until the chapters indicated.

Section First History of Samuel. 1 Samuel 1-12.

SAMUEL’S BIRTH CHAP. 1 Samuel 1:1-20

SAMUEL’S DEDICATION TO THE LORD AT SHILOH 1 Samuel 1:21-28

HANNAH’S SONG 1 Samuel 2:1-10

SAMUEL’S YOUTHFUL MINISTRY THE WICKEDNESS OF ELI’S SONS 1 Samuel 2:11-26

GOD’S DENUNCIATORY MESSAGE TO ELI 1 Samuel 2:27-36

SAMUEL’S CALL 1 Samuel 3:1-21

CAPTURE OF THE ARK, AND DEATH OF ELI’S SONS 1 Samuel 4:1-11

THE BITTER TIDINGS 1 Samuel 4:12-22

THE ARK OF GOD AMONG THE PHILISTINES 1 Samuel 5:1-12

RETURN OF THE ARK TO KIRJATH-JEARIM 1 Samuel 6:1 to 1 Samuel 7:1

THE GREAT DELIVERANCE AND REFORM UNDER SAMUEL 1 Samuel 7:2-17

THE DEMAND FOR A KING 1 Samuel 8:1-22

THE ANOINTING OF SAUL 1 Samuel 9:1 to 1 Samuel 10:16

SAUL’S PUBLIC ELECTION AT MIZPEH 1 Samuel 10:17-27

SAUL’S VICTORY OVER THE AMMONITES 1 Samuel 11:1-11

THE REACTION IN FAVOUR OF SAUL, AND RENEWAL OF THE KINGDOM AT GILGAL 1 Samuel 11:12-15

SAMUEL’S FAREWELL ADDRESS TO ISRAEL 1 Samuel 12:1-25

Section Second History of Saul. 1 Samuel 13-31.

THE PHILISTINES AROUSED 1 Samuel 13:1-5

THE PEOPLE’S DISTRESS AND SAUL’S UNTIMELY SACRIFICE 1 Samuel 13:6-15

POSITION, MOVEMENTS, AND CONDITION OF THE TWO ARMIES 1 Samuel 13:16-23

JONATHAN’S ADVENTURE AND THE ROUT OF THE PHILISTINES 1 Samuel 14:1-23

SAUL’S HASTY ADJURATION 1 Samuel 14:24-46

BRIEF SUMMARY OF SAUL’S WARS AND GENEALOGY 1 Samuel 14:47-52

SAUL’S WAR WITH AMALEK 1 Samuel 15:1-9

SAMUEL’S LAST WORDS TO SAUL 1 Samuel 15:10-35

THE ANOINTING OF DAVID 1 Samuel 16:1-13

DAVID’S INTRODUCTION TO THE COURT OF SAUL 1 Samuel 16:14-23

DAVID’S VICTORY OVER GOLIATH 1 Samuel 17:1-58

FRIENDSHIP OF DAVID AND JONATHAN 1 Samuel 18:1-4

DAVID’S HONOURS AND SAUL’S JEALOUSY 1 Samuel 18:5-9

SAUL’S FIRST ATTEMPTS UPON THE LIFE OF DAVID 1 Samuel 18:10-30

JONATHAN’S INTERCESSION FOR DAVID 1 Samuel 19:1-7

SAUL’S RENEWED ATTEMPTS UPON THE LIFE OF DAVID 1 Samuel 19:8-17

DAVID’S FLIGHT TO RAMAH, AND SAUL’S PURSUIT 1 Samuel 19:18-24

JONATHAN’S LAST INTERCESSION FOR DAVID 1 Samuel 20:1-42

DAVID’S FLIGHT TO NOB 1 Samuel 21:1-9

DAVID AT GATH 1 Samuel 21:10-15

DAVID IN THE CAVE OF ADULLAM 1 Samuel 22:1-2

DAVID IN MIZPEH OF MOAB 1 Samuel 22:3-4

DAVID’S RETURN TO THE LAND OF JUDAH 1 Samuel 22:5

SAUL’S ANGER AND SLAUGHTER OF THE PRIESTS OF NOB 1 Samuel 22:6-19

ABIATHAR’S ESCAPE 1 Samuel 22:20-23

DAVID AT KEILAH 1 Samuel 23:1-13

DAVID IN THE DESERT OF ZIPH AND MAON 1 Samuel 23:14-29

DAVID AND SAUL IN THE WILDERNESS OF EN-GEDI 1 Samuel 24:1-22

NABAL AND ABIGAIL 1 Samuel 25:1-44

THE ZIPHITES’ SECOND ATTEMPT TO BETRAY DAVID 1 Samuel 26:1-5

DAVID SPARES SAUL A SECOND TIME 1 Samuel 26:6-25

DAVID AT GATH THE SECOND TIME 1 Samuel 27:1-4

DAVID IN POSSESSION OF ZIKLAG 1 Samuel 27:5-12

THE PHILISTINES PREPARE TO FIGHT WITH ISRAEL 1 Samuel 28:1-2

SAUL’S DISTRESS AND INTERVIEW WITH THE WITCH OF ENDOR 1 Samuel 28:3-25

DAVID’S REMOVAL FROM THE PHILISTINE ARMY 1 Samuel 29:1-11

DAVID’S RETURN TO ZIKLAG AND REVENGE UPON THE AMALEKITES 1 Samuel 20:1-31

DEATH OF SAUL AND HIS SONS 1 Samuel 31:1-13

Section Third History of David. 2 Samuel 1-24.

DAVID HEARS OF THE DEATH OF SAUL AND JONATHAN 2 Samuel 1:1-16

DAVID’S LAMENTATION OVER SAUL AND JONATHAN 2 Samuel 1:17-27

DAVID KING IN HEBRON, AND ISHBOSHETH KING IN MAHANAIM 2 Samuel 2:1-11

THE BATTLE OF GIBEON 2 Samuel 2:12-32

CONTINUED WAR BETWEEN THE HOUSE OF SAUL AND THAT OF DAVID 2 Samuel 3:1-6

ABNER’S REVOLT 2 Samuel 3:7-21

ASSASSINATION OF ABNER BY JOAB, AND DAVID’S GRIEF 2 Samuel 3:22-39

ASSASSINATION OF ISHBOSHETH 2 Samuel 4:1-12

DAVID MADE KING OVER ALL ISRAEL 2 Samuel 5:1-5

CAPTURE OF ZION 2 Samuel 5:6-10

DAVID’S INTERCOURSE WITH HIRAM HIS TEMPORAL PROSPERITY 2 Samuel 5:11-16

WARS WITH THE PHILISTINES 2 Samuel 5:17-25

REMOVAL OF THE ARK TO ZION 2 Samuel 6:1-19

MICHAL’S REPROOF 2 Samuel 6:20-23

DAVID’S PURPOSE TO BUILD THE TEMPLE, AND NATHAN’S MESSAGE FROM GOD CONCERNING IT 2 Samuel 7:1-17

DAVID’S PRAYER 2 Samuel 7:18-29

SUMMARY OF DAVID’S VICTORIES 2 Samuel 8:1-14

DAVID’S OFFICIALS 2 Samuel 8:15-18

DAVID’S KINDNESS TO MEPHIBOSHETH 2 Samuel 9:1-13

DAVID’S WAR WITH THE AMMONITES AND SYRIANS 2 Samuel 10:1-19

SIEGE OF RABBAH 2 Samuel 11:1

DAVID’S ADULTERY 2 Samuel 11:2-5

DAVID’S ARTIFICES TO CONCEAL HIS SIN AND TO KILL URIAH 2 Samuel 11:6-27

NATHAN’S PARABLE AGAINST DAVID 2 Samuel 12:1-14

DEATH OF THE CHILD OF DAVID AND BATHSHEBA 2 Samuel 12:15-23

BIRTH OF SOLOMON 2 Samuel 12:24-25

CONQUEST OF RABBAH 2 Samuel 12:26-30

AMNON’S INCEST 2 Samuel 13:1-19

ABSALOM’S REVENGE 2 Samuel 13:20-36

ABSALOM’S FLIGHT TO GESHUR 2 Samuel 13:37-39

ABSALOM’S RETURN AND RESTORATION TO FAVOUR 2 Samuel 14:1-33

ABSALOM’S REBELLION 2 Samuel 15:1-12

DAVID’S FLIGHT FROM JERUSALEM 2 Samuel 15:13-30

HUSHAI SENT TO DEFEAT THE COUNSEL OF AHITHOPHEL 2 Samuel 15:31-37

ZIBA’S HYPOCRISY AND SLANDER 2 Samuel 16:1-4

SHIMEI’S CURSING 2 Samuel 16:5-14

ABSALOM ENTERS INTO JERUSALEM AND MEETS WITH HUSHAI 2 Samuel 16:15-19

AHITHOPHEL’S IMPIOUS COUNSEL 2 Samuel 16:20-23

THE COUNSEL OF AHITHOPHEL DEFEATED BY HUSHAI 2 Samuel 17:1-14

HUSHAI’S MESSAGE TO DAVID 2 Samuel 17:15-22

AHITHOPHEL’S SUICIDE 2 Samuel 17:23

ABSALOM’S PURSUIT OF DAVID 2 Samuel 17:24-26

DAVID AT MAHANAIM 2 Samuel 17:27-29

THE BATTLE IN THE WOOD OF EPHRAIM AND DEATH OF ABSALOM 2 Samuel 18:1-33

DAVID REPROVED BY JOAB 2 Samuel 19:1-8

RIVALRY BETWEEN ISRAEL AND JUDAH OVER DAVID’S RETURN 2 Samuel 19:9-14

SHIMEI’S CONFESSION AND PARDON 2 Samuel 19:15-23

THE MEETING WITH MEPHIBOSHETH 2 Samuel 19:24-30

DAVID’S PARTING WITH BARZILLAI 2 Samuel 19:31-39

QUARREL AT GILGAL BETWEEN JUDAH AND ISRAEL OVER THE KING’S RETURN 2 Samuel 19:40-43

SHEBA’S REBELLION 2 Samuel 20:1-22

DAVID’S OFFICIALS 2 Samuel 20:23-26

THE GIBEONITES AVENGED 2 Samuel 21:1-9

RIZPAH’S MATERNAL AFFECTION 2 Samuel 21:10

BURIAL OF THE BONES OF SAUL AND JONATHAN 2 Samuel 21:11-14

HEROIC DEEDS OF DAVID’S MEN IN THE PHILISTINE WARS 2 Samuel 21:15-22

DAVID’S PSALM OF THANKSGIVING 2 Samuel 22:1-51

LAST WORDS OF DAVID 2 Samuel 23:1-7

DAVID’S MIGHTY MEN 2 Samuel 23:8-39

DAVID’S SIN IN NUMBERING THE PEOPLE AND ITS PUNISHMENT 2 Samuel 24:1-25