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1st and 2nd Samuel

1st and 2nd Samuel
According to Jewish tradition, Samuel wrote the first 24 chapters of 1 Samuel, and Nathan and Gad wrote the remainder. Some scholars attribute the second part of 1 Samuel to Isaiah, but more likely the book was written shortly after 960 B.C. The translators of the Septuagint divided the original single book of Samuel into two around the 3rd century B.C. Samuel means “The Name of God” or “Heard of God.”

Covering nearly a century form about 1100 to 1011 B.C., 1 Samuel describes Israel’s transition into a monarchy. Archaeologists continually discover new information about this era. While Egypt’s power declined, repeated foreign invasions weakened both Assyria and Babylon. To complicate matters, a food shortage in the west caused the Sea Peoples, an ambiguously named group of people from Western Europe, to migrate east and they clashed with Egypt and the Mesopotamians. While the region’s former super powers were thus distracted, Israel established its dominion over Palestine and surrounding nations relatively easily. By Solomon’s reign, Israel controlled large areas that had formerly belonged to Egypt and the Mesopotamians.

King Saul

SaulAs recounted in Judges, the Israelites failed to follow God’s commands by not driving out the Canaanites completely. God had commanded them to devote cities throughout the nation to the Levites so that each tribe would have access to the Levites’ instruction. They failed to do this as well, and without access to the Levites’ instruction in righteousness, the people soon adopted the superstitious heathen religions of the nations around them.

However, Samuel heard God’s voice and chose to remain true to Him. He built schools in order to train young men in righteousness and so alter the course of the nation. The students studied reading, writing, music, the law, sacred history, and a trade in order to be able to support themselves. Near the end of his life, Samuel reluctantly anointed Israel’s first king, and wrote how-to book, so to speak, for the inexperienced monarch. Since Saul was probably illiterate, he most likely did not use Samuel’s book. Nor did he follow Samuel’s counsel, so God directed Samuel to train another man to take Saul’s place, one who would follow God’s law.

Saul’s life illustrates that God’s promises are conditional; God withdrew His blessing from Saul because of his disobedience. Another theme of 1 Kings is the ongoing conflict between Saul and David. Saul perpetually incited conflict, but over and over again David took the high road and left revenge up to God.

Today, to some degree, we all battle the pride Saul cherished. But when pride leads us into rebellion against God, we lose. Saul made a similar mistake to Cain’s, thinking he could please God doing things his own way. He thought good motives made up for disobedience. In stark contrast to David, Saul rationalized his sin away when confronted with it, therefore God rejected him.

David

DavidThe book of 2 Samuel deals exclusively with David’s reign, covering about 40 years from around 1011 to 971 B.C. While Egypt’s power declined, repeated foreign invasions weakened both Assyria and Babylon. To complicate matters, a food shortage in the west caused the Sea Peoples, an ambiguously named group of people from Western Europe, to migrate east and they clashed with Egypt and the Mesopotamians. While the region’s former super powers were thus distracted, Israel established its dominion over Palestine and surrounding nations relatively easily. By Solomon’s reign, Israel controlled large areas that had formerly belonged to Egypt and the Mesopotamians.

God directed faithful Samuel to train David and anoint him to take Saul’s place. David’s Spirit-filled reign ushered in Israel’s glory days, which his son Solomon brought to their pinnacle. David expanded the kingdom north nearly to the Euphrates and south to the Egyptian border. Two themes appear in 2 Samuel. First is the context of God’s covenant with David, which included the promise that the throne of Israel would belong to David’s descendants forever. When Christ was born into the lineage of David, He fulfilled this promise. He sits on the throne and will rule over the earth forever! The second theme is that though God readily forgives the repentant heart, He does not promise to remove the natural consequences of our choices.

Today, David’s story warns that anyone, no matter how prominent a spiritual leader, no matter how intimate their personal relationship with God, can fall into sin. We are all vulnerable to the devil’s schemes. 2 Samuel’s author demonstrates David’s integrity and humility; though not immune to sin, David quickly confessed and repented when confronted with his wrongdoing. Whenever we do the same God readily forgives.

Artwork for this article courtesy of Sweet Publishing
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