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Holman Bible Dictionary
Samuel, Books of
The Bible does not say who wrote these books. Many Bible students think Samuel along with Nathan and Gad had major input, pointing to 1 Chronicles 29:29 as evidence. See 1 Samuel 1-3 ), the Ark (1 Samuel 4:1-7:1 ), the Rise of Kingship (1 Samuel 9:1-11:15 ), Battles of Saul (1 Samuel 13-15 ), the History of David's Rise to Power (1Samuel 16:14–2 Samuel 5:25 ), and the Succession to the Throne of David (2 Samuel 9-20; 1 Kings 1-2 ).
The Books of Samuel arose as a reflection upon the nature of human kingship in light of Israel's tradition that Yahweh was their king. See 1 Samuel 8:1 ) and the hope for kingship (2 Samuel 7:1 ) form the narrative tension for the Books. The final chapter (2 Samuel 24:1 ) does not solve the tension. It points further ahead to the building of the Temple, where God's presence and Israel's worship can be at the center of life leading the king to be God's humble, forgiven servant.
The Books of Samuel thus point to several theological themes that can guide God's people through the generations.
Leadership is the guiding theme. Can God's people continue with a loosely knit organization as in the days of the judges, or must they have “a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5 )? Samuel does not explicitly answer the question. God does not wholeheartedly accept kingship as the only alternative. Kingship means the people have rejected God (1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 10:19 ). Still, kingship can flourish if the people and the king follow God (1 Samuel 12:14-15 , 1 Samuel 12:20-25 ). Saul showed God's threats could be soon realized (1 Samuel 13:13-14 ). A new family from a new tribe would rule. This did not mean eternal war among tribes and families. A covenant could bind the two families together (1 Samuel 20:1; 1 Samuel 23:16-18 ). Anger on one side does not require anger from the other as David's reactions to Saul continually show, summarized in 1 Samuel 24:17 : “Thou art more righteous than I: for thou has rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil.” David neither planned the demise of Saul and his family nor rewarded those who did (2 Samuel 4:9-12 ). David established his kingdom and sought to establish a house for God (2 Samuel 7:2 ). The king, however, gave in to God's plan to establish David's house and let his son build the house for God (2 Samuel 7:13 ). The king's response shows the nature of true leadership. He expresses praise for God not pride in personal achievement (2 Samuel 7:18-29 ).
Working through His promise to David, God then worked to establish His own kingdom among His people. He could work through an imperfect king who committed the outlandish sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1 ) because the king was willing to confess his sin (2 Samuel 12:13 ). The rule of God's king does not promise perfect peace. Even David's own household revolted against him. Human pride and ego did not determine history. God's promise to David could not be overthrown.
Other themes are subordinate to that of leadership for Israel. The call for covenant commitment and obedience, the forgiveness and mercy of God, the sovereignty of God in human history, the significance of prayer and praise, the faithfulness of God to fulfill prophecy, the need for faithfulness to human leaders, the holy presence of God among His people, the nature of human friendship, and the importance of family relationships all echo forth from these books.
I. God Gives His People an Example of Dedicated Leadership (1 Samuel 1:1-7:17 ).
A. A dedicated leader is the answer to parental prayers (1 Samuel 1:1-28 ).
B. A dedicated leader comes from grateful, sacrificial parents who worship the incomparable God (1 Samuel 2:1-10 ).
C. A dedicated leader is a priest who faithfully serves God rather than seeking selfish interests (1 Samuel 2:11-36 ).
D. A dedicated leader is a prophet who is called by the Word of God and who faithfully delivers the Word of God (1 Samuel 3:1-4:15 ).
E. Superstitious use of religious relics is not a substitute for dedicated leadership (1 Samuel 4:16-22 ).
F. Only a dedicated priest, not foreign gods nor disobedient persons, can stand before God (1 Samuel 5:1-7:2 ).
G. A dedicated political leader is a man of prayer (1 Samuel 7:3-17 ).
II. Human Kingship Represents a Compromise with God by a People Who Have Rejected the Kingship of God (1 Samuel 8:1-15:35 ).
A. Hereditary kingship is a rejection of God which hurts His people and separates them from God (1 Samuel 8:1-22; compare Judges 8:22-9:57 ).
B. A dedicated king is a humble person from a humble family who knows he owes his position to God's choice (1 Samuel 9:1-10:27 ).
C. The dedicated king is a Spirit-filled deliverer (1 Samuel 11:1-15 ).
D. The dedicated leader is morally pure and uses the history of God's people to call them to obedience (1 Samuel 12:1-25 ).
E. Kingship depends on obedience to God, not human wisdom (1 Samuel 13:1-23 ).
F. A dedicated leader is used by God to unify and deliver His people (1 Samuel 14:1-23 ).
G. God delivers His dedicated leader from inadvertent sins (1 Samuel 14:24-46 ).
H. The king is responsible to defeat the enemies of the people of God (1 Samuel 14:47-52 ).
I. A disobedient king is rejected by God (1 Samuel 15:1-35 ).
III. God Raises Up New Leadership for His People (1 Samuel 16:1-31:13 ).
A. God gives His Spirit to the chosen person meeting His leadership qualifications (1 Samuel 16:1-13 ).
B. God provides unexpected opportunities of service for His chosen king (1 Samuel 16:14-23 ).
C. God uses the skills and faith of His leader to defeat those who would defy God (1 Samuel 17:1-58 ).
D. God provides His presence and the loyalty of friends to protect His chosen one from the jealous plots of an evil leader (1 Samuel 18:1-20:42 ).
E. God's priests affirm the special position of God's chosen leader (1 Samuel 21:1-9 ).
F. God protects His benevolent and faithful leader from the vengeance of evil enemies (1 Samuel 21:10-22:23 ).
G. God heeds the prayer of His chosen and delivers him from treacherous enemies (1 Samuel 23:1-29 ).
H. God honors the righteousness of His chosen leader (1 Samuel 24:1-22 ).
I. God avenges His chosen against the insults of foolish enemies (1 Samuel 25:1-39 ).
J. God provides family for His chosen (1 Samuel 25:39-44 ).
K. God rewards the righteousness and faithfulness of His chosen leader (1 Samuel 26:1-25 ).
L. The chosen leader cunningly begins building his kingdom even under adverse circumstances (1 Samuel 27:1-12 ).
M. God fulfills His prophecy and destroys disobedient leaders (1 Samuel 28:1-25 ).
N. God protects His chosen leader from compromising situations (1 Samuel 29:1-11 ).
O. God restores the property taken from His chosen leader (1 Samuel 30:1-20 ).
P. God's chosen leader shares His goods with the needy and with colleagues (1 Samuel 30:21-31 ).
Q. God destroys disobedient leaders (1 Samuel 31:1-7 ).
R. God honors people who express loyalty to their chosen leaders (1 Samuel 31:8-13 ).
I. To Achieve His Purposes, God Honors Obedience Not Treachery (2 Samuel 1:1-6:23 ).
A. Those who dishonor God's chosen leaders are punished (2 Samuel 1:1-16 ).
B. God's leader honors the memory of his predecessors (2 Samuel 1:17-27 ).
C. God leads people to honor His obedient leader (2 Samuel 2:1-4 ).
D. God honors loyal, obedient people (2 Samuel 2:4-7 ).
E. God blesses efforts for peace (2 Samuel 2:8-28 ).
F. God strengthens His obedient leader (2 Samuel 2:29-3:19 ).
G. God's leader refuses to honor treachery and revenge (2 Samuel 3:20-4:12 ).
H. God fulfills His promises to His patient servant (2 Samuel 5:1-16 ).
I. God provides victory for His people (2 Samuel 5:17-25 ).
J. God's people must honor His holy presence (2 Samuel 6:1-23 ).
II. God Establishes His Purposes Through His Faithful Yet Fallible Servant (2 Samuel 7:1-12:31 ).
A. God promises to bless the house of David forever (2 Samuel 7:1-17 ).
B. God's servant praises the incomparable God (2 Samuel 7:18-29 ).
C. God gives victory to His faithful servant (2 Samuel 8:1-18 ).
D. God's servant shows kindness in memory of his departed friends (2 Samuel 9:1-13 ).
E. Enemy coalitions cannot prevent God from taking vengeance (2 Samuel 10:1-19 ).
F. Disobedience from God's leader displeases the Lord and brings judgment but also mercy (2 Samuel 11:1-12:14 ).
G. God brings honor to His penitent servant (2 Samuel 12:14-31 ).
III. Lack of Attention to Family Relations Leads to National Problems for God's Leader (2 Samuel 13:1-20:26 ).
A. The inattention of a godly father can lead to family feuds, shame, and vengeance (2 Samuel 13:1-39 ).
B. Reconciliation, not anger and judgments, should mark the family life of God's servants (2 Samuel 14:1-33 ).
C. Unhealed family wounds lead to revolt (2 Samuel 15:1-37 ).
D. Leaders need advisors whom God can use to accomplish His purposes (2 Samuel 16:1-17:29 ).
E. The time of sorrow is too late to set family relationships right (2 Samuel 18:1-33 ).
F. God's victorious servant deals kindly with those who helped and those who opposed him (2 Samuel 19:1-40 ).
G. Victory cannot remove rivalries among God's people (2 Samuel 19:41-20:26 ).
IV. God's People Learn from the Experience and Example of God's Leader (2 Samuel 21:1-24:25 ).
A. God blesses the leader who is faithful to the tradition of His people (2 Samuel 21:1-22 ).
B. God's leader praises God for His deliverance (2 Samuel 22:1-51; compare Psalm 18:1 ).
C. God's leader teaches what he has learned—his experiences with God (2 Samuel 23:1-7 ).
D. God's leader depends on brave, faithful associates (2 Samuel 23:8-39 ).
E. The leader's foolish decisions bring punishment even on a repentant leader (2 Samuel 24:1-17 ).
F. Proper worship brings God's mercy for His people (2 Samuel 24:18-25 ).
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Samuel, Books of'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/s/samuel-books-of.html. 1991.