Samuel was originally just one book (containing both 1 Samuel and
- Specific to 1 Samuel
- Chapter by Chapter Breakdown
- Important People
- More People Mentioned in 1 Samuel
- Eglah vs. Michal
- Interesting Facts
- Name Origins: Saul & Samuel
- References and Footnotes
Like most books of the Bible, Samuel is anonymously written; there are a few possible authors. Many of the events occur after Samuel's death, which suggests he could not have recorded everything. One theory is that Samuel is a collaborative effort from Samuel and his successors. Using 1 Chronicles 29:29, it is inferred that Nathan and Gad were the other two authors. Other candidates include unknown prophets studying under Samuel or Abiathar, a priest who spent time in exile with David.
Since we aren't sure who wrote the book, it's also difficult to pinpoint when the book was written. Within the book, no reference is made to Israel's captivity, which leads us to assume it was written before 722 BC when Israel went into captivity. The use of the phrases "Israel" and "Judah" seems to indicate that the book was written after the division of the monarchy, but it is also possible that these terms may have been used before the split that occurred in 931 BC.
The book of Samuel focuses on God's sovereignty, the consequences of sin and covenants. God is the King of Israel, but due to Israel's desire (and need, possibly) for a physical leader, He appoints a king. Through this king and subsequent kings, we see the consequences of their sins. With this, we also see the gifts of forgiveness and repentance, along with lasting consequences. Lastly, we witness the covenant established between God and David.
As mentioned earlier, Samuel establishes the transition of Israel's theocracy, which was God's original government plan, to a monarchy. Israel's desire to be like the nations around them jump-started this change, which is an indicator that it was a step in the wrong direction spiritually. Overall, God desires to be our king; placing someone else between God and us as a ruler gives us the need to choose whom we will follow at times. A modern example is when the Supreme Court of America declared same-sex marriage to be legal. Now Christians in occupations that support marriage have to chose whether they will risk fines, job-loss, and lawsuits to follow God, or follow the U.S. and displease God. God told Israel that they were to be a peculiar people set apart from the world when He made the covenant with them; Jesus reminds us of that again in the New Testament. The book of Samuel is an example of why.
Specific to 1 Samuel
The split of Samuel occurs right at the death of Saul, thus the focus of 1 Samuel is the end of Judges, the transition of Israel into having a king, and the kingship of Saul.
Chapter by Chapter Breakdown
More People Mentioned in 1 Samuel
(I will likely add studies for these people over time)
Eglah vs. Michal
Another issue that comes up when discussing the book of Samuel, is that of Michal. Michal was Saul's daughter and the first wife of Samuel. She doesn't have any children (2 Samuel 6:23), but she raised her sisters children (2 Samuel 21:8). Some believe that Eglah and Michal are actually the same person. This tradition came about to excuse David's excessive number of wives, but there is nothing in the Bible that suggests they were in fact the same person. People who believe they are have also concocted a story to explain Eglah's child, since Michal was said to have never given birth. It is an interesting thought, but it has no merit in the Bible text.
In Hebrew, Samuel’s name is closer to Shem-oo-ale (שְׁמוּאֵל). This actually means “his name is El.” The book may be named after the last judge in honor of the man who transitioned Israel into a kingship, but it’s also an interesting declaration. El means god in Hebrew, however it usually references the pagan god Ba’al. When speaking of the Most High, Biblical authors prefer Elohim (or YHWH). However, all given names that reference God follow this pattern of using the singular “El” instead of the plural “Elohim”—Israel, Daniel, Ezekiel, etc. A similar shorting of the name of God is seen in names derived from YHWH—Yirmeyah (Jeremiah), Chizquiyah (Hezekiah), etc.
Name Origins: Saul & Samuel
Some claim a contradiction with Saul and Samuel based upon the meaning of their names. Saul means "asked for or prayed for," while Samuel means "name of God" or "God has heard." The complaint is that when Hannah names Samuel in 1 Samuel 20, she does so because "Because I have asked him of the Lord." This reasoning fits the meaning of the name Saul more-so than that of Samuel. Those who make this claim, argue that the narrative of Samuel's birth is actually Saul's but was changed to give credence to David and Samuel and downplay Saul's credibility.
What doesn't make sense, however, is why not change Hannah's words too? It would be so easy to change the narrative to suggest Hannah said she named Samuel because "God has heard" her request. If they were editing the text, why not just change the whole thing? I'd wager Hannah's exact words were less memorable than who she gave birth to, and thus an even easier forgery opportunity than swapping characters all together. I think it is more reasonable to assume that the narrative always referred to Samuel, but we have misinterpreted Hannah's reason for naming her son.
In the case of Saul, the people asked and prayed for a king. God wasn't really fond of the idea, but He let it happen anyway. In the case of Samuel, however, when Hannah asked for a son, God heard her plea and chose to grant her request out of love. Hannah is naming her son because "God heard" that which she asked. She is declaring the "name of God" because with God, she would not have given birth. Samuel's name is given as praise to God. Most commentators do not give credence to this complaint because the names are so similar in meaning.
References and Footnotes
- MacDonald, William. Believer's Bible Commentary. pg. 295-297. 1995
- Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 467-470. 2014
- “Strong’s H8050. שְׁמוּאֵל”. Blue Letter Bible; visited October 2022
- "Saul". Wikipedia; visited January 2017
- Mike Campbell. "Saul". Behind the Name; visited January 2017
- Mike Campbell. "Samuel". Behind the Name; visited January 2017
- Matthew Henry. "1 Samuel 1 Commentary", via BibleStudyTools.com; visited January 2017
- "1 Samuel 1:20 Commentary", via Bible Hub; visited January 2017
- Tamar Kadari. "Michal, Daughter of Saul: Midrash". Jewish Women's Archive. March 20, 2009