First Samuel shows Israel’s transition from a group of tribes to a centralized monarchy. The book begins with the birth of the last judge, Samuel, who also is a prophet (1 Sam 3:20; 7:15–17; compare Judg 2:16–23). During Samuel’s leadership, the Israelites clamor for a king. Samuel cautions against this. Yahweh—noting that it means Israel’s decision to reject him as their rightful king—grants the request (1 Sam 8). Samuel then anoints Saul as king (1 Sam 9–10). After Saul goes against Yahweh’s ways, Yahweh rejects Saul and chooses David, who is then a youth (1 Sam 15–16). The remainder of the book depicts the difficulties between Saul and David. First Samuel illustrates the tension between God’s ideal will and people’s choices.
—Faithlife Study Bible, Lexham Press
Best Commentaries on 1 Samuel
Robert D. Bergen, New American Commentary (NAC), B&H, 1996, 485 pp.
The New Testament begins by declaring Jesus Christ to be "the Son of David," whose story is found in 1 & 2 Samuel. In the biblical story of redemption, these books serve as key stepping stones to the climactic high ground of the Gospels. The theological center is the Davidic Covenant, and its redemptive significance cannot be overemphasized. But Dr. Bergen also presents a fresh theological perspective on 1 & 2 Samuel as supporting the teachings of the Torah. He presents these books as history, theology, and classic literature at the same time. The student who follows this skillful exegetical guide will discover many new and exciting truths from God's Word.
- Level: Intermediate
- Type: Expository
Joyce G. Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (TOTC), InterVarsity Press, 1988, 240 pp.
The stories of Samuel, Saul, and David are among the most memorable in the Old Testament. Yet the lives of these individuals are bound up in the larger story of God's purpose for his people. Looking beyond the well-known surface of these stories, Joyce Baldwin explores the meaning of the biblical history of Israel's vital transition from a confederation of tribes to nationhood under a king. This commentary provides an excellent introduction to the critical issues of authorship, date, composition, and structure of Samuel, as well as an able discussion of its theological themes.
- Level: Basic
- Type: Devotional
David Toshio Tsumura, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), Eerdmans, 2007, 720 pp.
David and Goliath, the call of Samuel, the witch of Endor, David and Bathsheba—such biblical stories are well known. But the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, where they are recorded, are among the most difficult books in the Bible. The Hebrew text is widely considered corrupt and sometimes even unintelligible. The social and religious customs are strange and seem to diverge from the tradition of Moses. In this first part of an ambitious two-volume commentary on the books of Samuel, David Toshio Tsumura sheds considerable light on the background of 1 Samuel, looking carefully at the Philistine and Canaanite cultures as he untangles the difficult Hebrew text.
- Level: Intermediate
- Type: Expository
Dale Ralph Davis, Focus on the Bible, Christian Focus, 2000, 336 pp.
Davis brings cultural and historical color to the task of interpretation and adds a pastor's heart for personal application. You will find a point of contact with the lives of Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, and David as Davis answers the question: What does God seek when he looks on the heart? Davis presents a simple exposition of the literary and theological character of the text in a bright and fascinating way.
- Level: Intermediate
- Type: Expository
Ralph W. Klein, Word Biblical Commentary (WBC), Thomas Nelson, 1983, 338 pp.
Explore the textual basis, historical context, literary structure, and theological significance of some of the Bible’s most famous narratives with this commentary on 1 Samuel. It reviews and evaluates modern critical perspectives on the book and considers the legacy of modern historical-critical studies. Organized for easy reference, Word Biblical commentaries make an ideal Bible study companion whether you are studying a single passage or a complete biblical book.
- Level: Advanced
- Type: Technical
Best Books on 1 Samuel
This volume contains a sustained close reading of 1 Samuel 8 to 2 Samuel 1 from a perspective of the intended ancient audience. A conscious effort is made to read and understand the text through the eyes of an ancient Israelite, to the extent that the worldview and idioms of late-seventh-century BCE Judah can be reconstructed. This study reveals a coherent, carefully developed narrative of Saul’s career as the first king of Israel.Learn more
Declaration and Covenant is a fascinating examination of covenant formulae from the Old Testament and the ancient Near East. This study shows how covenant partners sometimes created their connection by an oral declaration, like the formula: “I am yours, you are mine.” This oral declaration could affect the original covenantal union, or it could reaffirm the existing bond or reestablish a broken pact. The author develops the argument through an introductory discussion that establishes the specific Old Testament concept of covenant and shows that berît is not the only way to designate biblical covenants. Then he analyzes in detail the nature and function of oral declaration formulae in Joshua 9:8; 1 Samuel 27:12; 2 Kings 10:5–6; and 2 Kings 16:7 in the light of the fullest possible range of ancient Near Eastern examples, including the “Royal Formula” (PN is king) and legal formulae, e.g., of adoption, enslavement, service, and marriage. These non-biblical materials establish five types of formulae found in general use: a generic formula, “We are all one,” and four specific formulae that define the nature of the bond: “vassal-lord,” “father-son,” “brother,” and “friend/ally.”Learn more
The Old Testament tells the story of a particular nation, ancient Israel, from its origins to its collapse in the face of foreign invaders. But what sort of story is this? How does it fit in with the findings of archaeological explorations of ancient Syro-Palestine? Joshua to Kings picks up the aspects of Israel’s story as told in the books from Joshua to 2 Kings, that of an actual historical society and that of a literary presentation of a nation, told from a religious perspective. By exploring the contents of these biblical texts the student is led into the use of basic tools for biblical study, such as historical criticism, narrative criticism and ideological criticism, in order to engage in a structured manner with the task of reading and interpreting biblical texts in a twentieth-century world.Learn more
The author argues that the narrative of 1 Samuel may be read as a riddle propounding the complex story of Israel/Judah's experience with kings as an instruction for those pondering leadership choices in the sixth century. The work is an extended reflection on what went wrong with kings and why new leadership must be attempted. The extended riddle of Saul works to show how the life of the king is fundamentally destructive, not because any is malicious but because of many factors of weakness and inadequacy that will be familiar to readers.Learn more
Samuel. Saul. David. Goliath. Jonathan. When we think of 1 & 2 Samuel, these names and the stories that make them memorable generally come to mind. But these narratives are more than mere history. Peter Leithart offers here a typological reading of 1 & 2 Samuel as a unified book. By giving careful attention to the book's literary structures and its patterns of types and antitypes, Leithart unveils the symbolic world of Samuel's cumulative and cohesive story. His reading enhances our understanding of New Testament Christology and gives us a framework for applying the Old Testament to our own lives.Learn more
Best Courses on 1 Samuel
Mobile Ed: BI205 Old Testament Exegesis: Understanding and Applying the Old Testament (15 hour course)
Embark on a journey of Old Testament Hebrew exegesis with Jason DeRouchie. The books of the Old Testament were the only Scriptures Jesus had. It was books like Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Psalms that shaped Jesus’ upbringing and that guided his life in ministry as the Jewish Messiah. It was these Scriptures that Jesus identified as God’s Word and that he considered to be authoritative; it was these Scriptures he believed called people to know and believe in God and guarded them against doctrinal error and hell. This course will give you the tools you need to access meaning in the Old Testament, then apply it to your life. It will help you to grow in reading God’s living Word for depth and not just distance.Learn more
Join David W. Baker on a whirlwind tour to explore the Old Testament from many different angles and how it relates to ancient Near Eastern literature. From creation accounts and stories of destruction to Wisdom Literature, discover different biblical literary genres that have parallels in ancient Near Eastern literature. Explore extrabiblical historical texts that mention key events and figures from the Old Testament. Understand how Israel fits into and is impacted by its ancient Near Eastern environment but also how it is separate and unique, mainly on a theological level but also by its distinct worldview.Learn more
In an age of international travel and migration, we’re familiar with people who look, sound, eat, and believe differently than we do. To become friends, it’s helpful to understand where they come from and how they do things differently, or the same, as we do. In the same way it is necessary to understand someone who comes from a different place than we do, how much more necessary is it to understand someone who is from not only a different geographical place but also a different time than we are? The Old Testament starts at the beginning of the world. This course will undertake the task of crossing the bridges of geography, climate, time, and a landscape unknown to us: ancient Israel. Throughout the course, David W. Baker will address aspects of life from our own culture and time, as well as family structure and societal systems from ancient Israelite life. As you learn more about the social world of the Old Testament, you will be struck not only by our differences but also our common humanity and that we share the same dreams, hopes, and fears as they did.Learn more
In this course, ancient-language expert Dr. Michael Heiser gives a thorough background of the Hebrew Bible’s writing, composition, canonicity, and transmission through the ages. This course also surveys text criticism—what are Hebrew scholars today doing with these ancient manuscripts? How does their work affect English translations of the Bible? By understanding criticism, your personal Bible study will be richer, even with little knowledge of the Hebrew language.Learn more