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The two Books of Samuel are classified as one book in the Jewish canon and should be considered as such. In the Latin Vulgate they are the first of four Books of Kings. Our title identifies the name of Samuel with these first two historical books. This is not because he is the writer, although we do believe that he is the writer of a good portion of it. It is because his story occurs first, and he figures prominently as the one who poured the anointing oil on both Saul and David. Samuel, then, is considered the writer of 1 Samuel up to the twenty–fifth chapter, which records his death. Apparently, Nathan and Gad completed the writing of these books. We learn this from 1 Samuel 10:25 and 1 Chronicles 29:29.

The Books of Samuel contain many familiar features. We read of the rise of the kingdom of Israel. There is also the story of Hannah and her little boy Samuel. Recorded in these books is the story of David and Goliath and the unusual and touching friendship of David and Jonathan. We have the account of King Saul’s visit to the witch of En–dor, and 2 Samuel 7—one of the great chapters of the Word of God—gives us God’s covenant with David. Finally, we have the record of David’s great sin with Bathsheba and of the rebellion of his son Absalom. 

In the Book of Judges we find that God used little people, many of whom had some serious fault or defect. Their stories are a great encouragement to those of us today who are little people. However, in 1 and 2 Samuel we meet some really outstanding folk: Hannah, Eli, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, and David. We will become acquainted with each of them as we go through these books.

There are three subjects that may be considered themes of the Books of 1 and 2 Samuel. Prayer is the first. First Samuel opens with prayer, and 2 Samuel closes with prayer. And there’s a great deal of prayer in between. A second theme is the rise of the kingdom. We have recorded in these books the change in the government of Israel from a theocracy to a kingdom. Of great significance is God’s covenant with David given to us in 2 Samuel 7. We will comment further on the kingdom in a moment. The third theme is the rise of the office of prophet. When Israel was a theocracy, God moved through the priesthood. However, when the priests failed and a king was anointed, God set the priests aside and raised up the prophets as His messengers. We will find that for the nation of Israel this resulted in deterioration rather than improvement. 

The rise of the kingdom is of particular importance. First and Second Samuel record the origin of this kingdom, which continues as a very important subject throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The first message of the New Testament was the message of John the Baptist: “… Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). The kingdom of which he spoke is the kingdom of the Old Testament, the kingdom that begins in the Books of Samuel. This kingdom we find has a very historical basis, an earthly origin, and geographical borders. This kingdom has a king, and its subjects are real people.

God’s chosen form of government is a kingdom ruled by a king. Yet to change the form of our government today would not solve our problems. It is not the form that is bad—it is the people connected with it. But a kingdom is God’s ideal, and He intends to put His King on the throne of this earth someday. When Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, rules this world it will be very unlike the job men are doing today. There will be no need for a poverty program, an ecological program, or for moral reforms. Rather, there will be righteousness and peace covering this earth like the waters cover the sea. 

In these books the coming millennial Kingdom is foreshadowed in several respects; and in the setting up of the kingdom of Israel we observe three things that our world needs: (1) a king with power who exercises that power in righteousness; (2) a king who will rule in full dependence upon God; and (3) a king who will rule in full obedience to God. The Lord Jesus Christ, the coming King of kings, is the very One the world so desperately needs today.

(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 12: 1 & 2 Samuel. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)

Poems & Quotes

1 Samuel 3–5

Harden Not Your Heart

There is a time, I know not when,
A place, I know not where,
Which marks the destiny of men
To heaven or despair.
There is a line by us not seen
Which crosses every path,
The hidden boundary between
God's patience and His wrath.
To cross that limit is to die,
To die, as if by stealth.
It may not pale the beaming eye,
Nor quench the glowing health.
The conscience may be still at ease,
The spirits light and gay;
That which is pleasing still may please,
And care be thrust away.
But on that forehead God hath set
Indelibly a mark,
By man unseen, for man as yet
Is blind and in the dark.
And still the doomed man's path below
May bloom like Eden bloomed.
He did not, does not, will not know,
Nor feel that he is doomed.
He feels, he sees that all is well,
His every fear is calmed.
He lives, he dies, he wakes in hell,
Not only doomed, but damned.
Oh, where is that mysterious bourn,
By which each path is crossed,
Beyond which God himself hath sworn
That he who goes is lost?
How long may men go on in sin?
How long will God forbear?
Where does hope end, and where begin
The confines of despair?
One answer from those skies is sent,
"Ye who from God depart,
While it is called today, repent,
And harden not your heart."
          –Author unknown

1 Samuel 6:1–8:22

"Romans 8:28 is a soft pillow for a tired heart."
          –Dr. R.A. Torrey

1 Samuel 11:1–12:25 and 1 Samuel 16, 17

"One with God is a majority."
          –Martin Luther

1 Samuel 15

"What I try to do is to hold a mirror to nature, and I do not find knights in shining armor riding up to castles to deliver Lady Guinevere from the tower in the castle. I hold the mirror up to nature."
          –William Thackeray, when asked why he didn't have great heroes or heroines in his novels

"I do not know what the heart of a villain is. I only know the heart of a righteous man."
          –Count de Maistre

"Every man knows that of himself that he dare not tell his closest friend."
          –Johann W. von Goethe

1 Samuel 27, 28

"In spite of the large amount of fraud, fake, deceit, and thought-reading, conscious or unconscious, that the investigator of psychic research has to contend with, there remains a nucleus of genuine matter that cannot be explained with our present knowledge except by accepting the hypothesis that human personalities exist through death, and that certain persons have the power and gift of contacting them. Churches have nothing to fear from genuine psychic phenomena."
          –The Guardian, publication of the Church of England, 1947

The Witch of Endor

The road to Endor is easy to tread
for mother or yearning wife.
There it is sure we shall meet our dead
as they were even in life.
Earth has not dreamed of the blessing in store
for the desolate hearts on the road to Endor.
Whispers shall comfort us out of the dark
hand of God that we know.
Visions and voices look and hark
shall prove that our tale is true.
And to those that have passed to the further shore
may be hailed at a price on the road to Endor.
Oh, the road ot Endor is the oldest road
and the craziest road of all.
Straight it runs to the witches abode
as it did in the days of Saul.
And nothing has changed of the sorrow in store,
for such as go down to the road to Endor.
          –Rudyard Kipling

2 Samuel 21–23

"I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers and it was not there. In the fertile fields and the boundless prairies and it was not there. In her rich mines and her vast world commerce and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness, did I understand the secrets of her genius and power. America is great because she is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
          –Attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville