One book in Hebrew; the Septuagint divided it into two. The Talmud (A.D. 500) is the earliest authority that ascribes the book to Samuel (Baba Bathra 14:2). The Hebrew give it his name because its first part treats of his birth, life, and work. His death recorded in 1 Samuel 25 proves he did not write it all. The Talmud's view, adopted by learned Christian fathers, may be true of the first 24 chapters. That Samuel wrote memoirs, which Nathan the prophet and Gad the seer supplemented, appears from 1 Chronicles 29:29; "now the acts ("history": dibrei) of David the king, first and last, behold they are written in the book ("history": dibrei) of Samuel the seer, and in the book ("history") of Nathan the prophet, and in the book ("history") of Gad the seer." Nehemiah is said in 2 Maccabees 2:13 to have "gathered together the acts in the kings and the prophets." The internal notices favor a date of the memoirs used in compiling 1 and 2 Samuel before the due organization of the temple and Mosaic ritual.
For sacrifices are mentioned with tacit approval, or at least without apology, at other places (Mizpeh, Ramah, Bethel, and Araunah's threshing floor) than before the door of the tabernacle or temple, the only place permitted by the law (1 Samuel 7:9-10; 1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 9:13; 1 Samuel 10:3; 1 Samuel 14:35; 2 Samuel 24:18-25). On the contrary the writer of 1 and 2 Kings stigmatizes the high places to Jehovah and blames the kings who sanctioned or connived at them (1 Kings 15:14; 1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 14:4; 2 Kings 15:4; 2 Kings 15:35; 2 Kings 16:4; 2 Kings 21:3). In the disestablishment of the Mosaic ritual consequent on the Philistine capture of the ark, and in the unsettled times that followed, even the godly followed Moses less strictly. Hence he is but twice mentioned in all Samuel, and then only as joined with Aaron in delivering Israel out of Egypt; the law is never mentioned (1 Samuel 12:6; 1 Samuel 12:8).
In Joshua "Moses" occurs 56 times; in Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, after the captivity, when a return to the Mosaic standard, was the watchword of the civil and religious restoration, 31 times; in Kings, ten times; in the unsettled era of Judges, three times. Its early date is also implied by its purity of Hebrew as compared with the so-called Chaldaisms of Kings and the still more alloyed language of Chronicles. The passage (1 Samuel 27:6) "Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day" implies the division between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, but this is probably the comment of the last reviser. If it be the compiler's, then the compilation was made subsequently to the division. Though it does not record David's death it certainly takes it for granted (2 Samuel 5:5). This passage favors the view that the composition was shortly after his death.
That the composer used various existing materials appears from the distinct, but not irreconcilable, accounts of Saul's first acquaintance with David (1 Samuel 16:14-23; 1 Samuel 17:55-58), also of Saul's death (1 Samuel 31:2-6; 1 Samuel 31:8-13; 2 Samuel 1:2-12), also of the origin of the proverb "is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:9-12; 1 Samuel 19:22-24). (See DAVID.) Summaries or endings of different memoirs incorporated by the composer appear in 1 Samuel 7:15-17; 1 Samuel 14:47-52; 2 Samuel 8:15-18. The only book quoted is the Book of Jasher ("the upright", namely, "nation"), 2 Samuel 1:18, the bow song or elegy over Saul and Jonathan; once elsewhere (Joshua 10:13).
The allusion to "the Lord's king and His anointed" (1 Samuel 2:10) does not imply that kings already existed, and that therefore this is not Hannah's genuine utterance (for she lived before any king in Israel), but prophetically points on to the necessary culmination of God's kingdom in the coming Messiah, and in David His typical forefather. Probably an inspired member of the schools of the prophets composed the book, incorporating in abridged form existing memoirs and records; so thought Theodoret, Athanasius, and Gregory. A recorder, remembrancer, or chronicler (mazkir) is first mentioned in David's reign (2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 20:24). The details as to David in Bathsheba's affair, and of Amnon and Tamar, etc., etc., must have been furnished by contemporary memoirs written By persons having intimate access to the royal family. Prophets are prominent in Samuel.
Levites are mentioned only twice (1 Samuel 6; 2 Samuel 15:24), but thirty times in 1 Chronicles alone, containing David's history. The inspired author being of the prophetic schools naturally embodies Nathan's memoir as to his dealing with David in the Bathsheba sin, and in respect to the promise of permanence to his seed and throne (2 Samuel 7; 12), and Gad's dealing with him at the time of the plague (2 Samuel 24; also 1 Samuel 22:5). The phrase "Lord of hosts," 62 times found in Isaiah, occurs twice as often in Samuel as in all the other Old Testament histories put together. An undesigned coincidence confirming both occurs between 1 Chronicles 10:12 (which omits notice of the burning), the men of Jabesh Gilead "buried Saul's and his son's bones," and 1 Samuel 31:12, "they burnt the bodies"; the bones in fragments alone remained after the burning.
Hannah's song must have been preserved by Samuel and incorporated by the compiler. The latter too derived from records David's elegies, 2 Samuel 1:19-27; 2 Samuel 3:33-34; David's psalm, 2 Samuel 22:2-51; and his last words, 2 Samuel 23:1-8. Samuel contains, but Chronicles omit, David's kindness to Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9); the story of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11; 12); Absalom's rebellion (2 Samuel 13); the Gibeonites hanging Saul's seven sons (2 Samuel 21); the war with the Philistines (2 Samuel 21:15-17); David's song (2 Samuel 22), and last words (2 Samuel 23). Dates are seldom given. The period included is somewhat under 155 years, 1171-1015 B.C. The internal evidence of places, times, etc., accords with truthfulness. Christ stamps Samuel as canonical (Matthew 12:1-4; compare Acts 3:24; Hebrews 11:32).
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