The two books of Samuel
were originally one. The division between the two parts was made by
Christian writers after the time of Christ, and was not accepted by
Hebrew scholars until the sixteenth century. The early Christian fathers
inclined also to drop the name of Samuel altogether, and to call these
books, because of their subject, the first two books of Kings, as the
Greek translators had done.
The theme of the first book of Samuel, as now divided from the second,
is the abandonment of the old theocratic government of Israel and the
founding of the kingship. It begins therefore with the story of Samuel,
the last of the priestly "judges" over Israel, tells of his
achievements, of the clamor of the people for a king, of Samuel's
selection of Saul for the high office, and of Saul's brilliant but
tragic career, closing with his death.
Toward the end of the book, Saul's successor David becomes a more
prominent figure than the king. Hence it has been pointed out, that the
original book of Samuel might have been better divided into three.
The first, telling of Samuel's struggle and Saul's success, would extend
through chapter fourteen; the second, dealing with Saul's fall and
David's rise, would stop with II. Samuel, chapter eight; and the third
would tell of David's glory, his sin and his sorrow.
The authorship of the books is unknown. The Hebrews say that Samuel
himself wrote at least the earlier part of the first. A similar
suggestion is found in the Bible in I. Chronicles, 29, 29, a verse which
might be literally translated, "And the acts of David the king, behold,
they are written upon the acts of Samuel the Roeh, and upon the acts of
Nathan the Nabi, and upon the acts of Gad the Chozeh." This does not
necessarily mean that our present book of Samuel is the work of these
three men; though it gave rise to that surmise among the Hebrews.
Probably there were several early works, including a life of Samuel, and
a life of Saul. These were incorporated, about the time of King Josiah,
into a single narrative including Judges, Samuel and Kings. This work
was then divided into its three larger books after the downfall of