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First Samuel is a national autobiography of the Hebrew people. David Jobling reads 1 Samuel as a story that is complete in itself, although it is part of a much larger narrative. He examines it as a historical document in a double sense: firstly, as a document originating from ancient Israel, and, secondly, as a telling of the past. Organizing the text through the three interlocking themes of class, race, and gender, Jobling asks how this historical—and canonical—story relates to a modern world in which these themes continue to be of crucial importance.

While drawing on the resources of biblical “narratology,” Jobling deviates from mainstream methodology. He adopts a “critical narratology” informed by such cultural practices as feminism and psychoanalysis. He follows a structuralist tradition which finds meaning more in the text’s large-scale mythic patterns than in close reading of particular passages, and seeks methods specific to 1 Samuel rather than ones applicable to biblical narrative in general.