I. and II. SAMUEL. The two books bearing Samuel’s name are one in the Hebrew Canon, while in the LXX. they are called the I. and II. Kings. The former of the two is a continuation of the history of the judges, containing the narrative of the office of the last two (Eli and Samuel), who were not warriors, but priests and civil governors. Samuel is the connecting link by which the judgeship passes on to monarchy; but to his personal character, administrative skill, and intellectual ability, is due the reformation of the people from unbridled licentious anarchy to a peaceful acquiescence in a monarchy and a respect for justice.
The latter portion of the book contains the history of the reign of Saul, the first king, selected in accordance with the qualities desired by his subjects. He is the personification of the Israelite character; proud, selfish, reserved, obstinately stiff necked, and profane,–he sought to govern absolutely, instead of as the vicegerent of God. But he never was practically sovereign of more than the central part of the country, and was rather the pastoral chief of amalgamated tribes than the monarch of a kingdom.
Date and Authorship. There is no evidence, either external or internal, bearing on the authorship of these books, neither is their title indicative of more than the subject-matter of their former portion (like that of the Book of Exodus). Comparing it with the Books of Kings, we judge the author to have written during a time when the Mosaic Law was forgotten, as he betrays no displeasure at its infringement, by sacrificing in high places, as is done by the writer of the Kings. Therefore its date would seem to be prior to the finding of the Law by Josiah; while the mention of Ziklag being attached to the kingdom of Judah (1 Sam. xxvii. 6) marks a period subsequent to the secession of the Ten Tribes. The compilation of its annals must therefore be assigned to a period between the accession of Rehoboam and that of Josiah (from B.C. 976 and B.C. 640); and the purity of its language accords with this supposition, though it may not have assumed its present exact form and arrangement until the days of Nehemiah (2 Macc. ii. 13).