1 Samuel
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

General Editor:-J. J. S. PEROWNE, D.D.,

Bishop of Worcester.





by the






[All Rights reserved.]

Moses and Aaron among His priests,

And Samuel among them that call upon His Name:

They called upon the Lord and He answered them.



The General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold himself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New Testament more especially questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. His aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. He has contented himself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.

Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its owe individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.

Deanery, Peterborough.


  I.  Introduction

Chapter I. The Book of Samuel

Chapter II. Analysis of the First Book of Samuel

Chapter III. Chronology of the Book

Chapter IV. The Place of the Books of Samuel in the History of the Kingdom of God

Chapter V. The Life and Work of Samuel

Chapter VI. The Prophetic Order

Chapter VII. Saul

Chapter VIII. David

  II.  Notes

  III.  Additional Notes I–VIII.

  IV.  Index

Map of the Holy Land to illustrate the Books of Samuel

*** The Text adopted in this Edition is that of Dr Scrivener’s Cambridge Paragraph Bible. A few variations from the ordinary Text, chiefly in the spelling of certain words, and in the use of italics, will be noticed. For the principles adopted by Dr Scrivener as regards the printing of the Text see his Introduction to the Paragraph Bible, published by the Cambridge University Press.

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfils Himself in many ways.

The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise Thee.



the book of samuel

1. Titles and Division of the Books. The two Books of Samuel, like the two Books of Kings, originally formed an undivided whole[1]. The Septuagint translators, regarding the Book of Samuel and the Book of Kings as a complete History of the Kingdom from its foundation to its fall, divided the work into four books, which they styled Books of the Kingdoms (βίβλοι βασιλειῶν). Jerome followed this division in the Vulgate, altering the name to Books of the Kings (Libri Regum), which is retained as an alternative title in the English Bible. This division was first introduced into printed Hebrew Bibles by the Venice printer Bomberg in 1518.

[1] The Masoretic note of the number of verses, &c., appended at the close of the Second Book in the Hebrew Bible, still treats the two books as one. Origen (quoted by Euseb. H. E. VI. 25. 3) mentions that the Jews of his day regarded Samuel as one book.

2. Meaning of the Title. The title Samuel does not denote authorship, but like the titles Joshua, Ruth, and Esther, commemorates the prominent actor in the events recorded in the book. Its adoption shews a true insight into the connexion of the history it contains. It stands as a monument of the greatness of the Prophet who was Jehovah’s instrument for establishing the Kingdom of Israel, and guiding the chosen people through a crisis in its history second in importance only to the Exodus. The book begins with the account of his birth: and his direct influence extends to the close of it, in the reign of the king whom he anointed as Jehovah’s choice.

3. Who was the author of the Book of Samuel? To this question no answer can be given. A late Jewish tradition ascribes the authorship to Samuel himself. This obviously could only apply to the first twenty-four chapters of the First Book, and as the work forms a connected whole, it is improbable that these in their present form proceeded from his pen. It is generally agreed that the Book is a compilation from different sources, but who was the compiler there is no evidence to shew.

4. What then were these sources? Ingenious attempts have been made to analyse the component parts of the book. But apart from these conjectural theories we have several indications of the sources from which the compiler drew his materials.

(a) The chief sources were probably contemporary prophetical histories. The compiler of the Book of Chronicles expressly names as the original authority for the history of David’s reign “the chronicle (lit. words) of Samuel the seer (rôeh) and the chronicle of Nathan the prophet, and the chronicle of Gad the seer (chôzeh)[2].” It has been maintained that Samuel, Nathan and Gad were the subjects, not the authors of the works referred to. Even if this was so, it is evident that they contained much valuable material for the history of David’s reign. But the corresponding reference to the original authorities for the history of Solomon’s reign in 2 Chronicles 9:29 (among which the chronicle of Nathan the prophet is again mentioned), and the constant references to similar prophetic writings as authorities for the reigns of later kings[3], make it almost certain that the three prophets mentioned were themselves the historians of the period.

[2] 1 Chronicles 29:29. For the distinction between rôeh and chôzeh see note on 1 Samuel 9:9.

[3] To the writings of Shemaiah and Iddo for the reign of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:15): to the commentary (midrash) of Iddo for that of Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:22). Isaiah is expressly said to have written the history of Uzziah’s reign (2 Chronicles 26:22). See also 2 Chronicles 20:34; 2 Chronicles 32:32; 2 Chronicles 33:18-19.

It has been also maintained that the works referred to by the compiler of Chronicles actually were the present Book of Samuel. But it is evident that the document which he was using contained much more than these books, while at the same time certain sections of Samuel and Chronicles agree almost verbally. The most natural conclusion is that both compilers drew from the same authority, which the Chronicler expressly names. From this each felt at liberty to select such facts as bore upon the special object of his work.

If then the Book of Samuel was compiled largely from the chronicles of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad, supplemented by other records preserved in the Schools of the Prophets, it follows that it rests upon the best possible authority. Samuel is the historian of his own life-time, which included the greater part of Saul’s reign: Nathan and Gad together give the history of David’s reign. The events of David’s life must have been familiarly known in the Schools of the Prophets at Ramah. It is expressly mentioned that when he fled from Saul he “came and told Samuel all that Saul had done to him, and he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth[4],” the college of prophets which Samuel had established at Ramah. To this intercourse may be referred the full and vivid account of David’s friendship with Jonathan, preserved perhaps almost in the very words in which he related his story to the prophets.

[4] 1 Samuel 19:18.

An incidental notice suggests that Gad was the medium of communication between the college at Ramah and David during his outlaw life[5]; both Gad[6] and Nathan[7] appear to have occupied official positions in David’s court; and both appear as his monitors in important crises of his life[8].

[5] 1 Samuel 22:5.

[6] 2 Samuel 24:11; 2 Chronicles 29:25.

[7] 2 Samuel 7:2 ff; 2 Samuel 12:25; 1 Kings 1:8 ff.

[8] 2 Samuel 12:1 ff; 2 Samuel 24:11 ff.

(b) The chronicles of king David (1 Chronicles 27:24), which appear from this allusion to have been of the nature of statistical state-records, may also have been consulted. From them may have been derived the formal summaries of wars such as are given in 2 Samuel 8:1-15, and lists of officials such as those in 2 Samuel 8:16-18; 2 Samuel 20:23-26; 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

(c) Express mention is made in 1 Samuel 10:25 of the fact that Samuel committed to writing the charter of the kingdom, and “laid it up before the Lord,” possibly as an addition to the book of the Law.

(d) The national poetic literature was laid under contribution. From this were taken Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10); David’s lament for Abner (2 Samuel 3:33-34); David’s thanksgiving (2 Samuel 22 = Psalms 18); the last words of David (2 Samuel 23:1-7). Whether these were preserved in writing or by oral tradition is uncertain: of David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan it is expressly said that it was written in the “national anthology” known as the Book of Jashar (2 Samuel 1:18).

(e) Oral tradition may perhaps have supplied some particulars, though this must be a matter of conjecture.

5. At what date was the compilation made?

(a) The language points to an early date. It is pure Hebrew, free from Aramaisms and late forms. Constructions which are common in the later books, e.g. Kings, are comparatively rare.

(b) Some time however had elapsed since the events narrated in the book had occurred. The explanation of archaic terms (1 Samuel 9:9) and reference to obsolete customs (2 Samuel 13:18), as well as the use of the formula “unto this day” (1 Samuel 5:5; 1 Samuel 6:18; 1 Samuel 27:6; 1 Samuel 30:25; 2 Samuel 4:3; 2 Samuel 6:8; 2 Samuel 18:18) indicate this. Moreover “no grand survey of a period and selection of its events, such as is demanded from the historian, is generally possible until the period itself has retired in some degree into the background[9].”

[9] Ewald, Hist. of Israel, I. 139.

(c) It must certainly have been after the death of David, since the whole length of his reign is mentioned (2 Samuel 5:5); and if the Septuagint text is correct, there are two allusions to events in the reign of Rehoboam. In 2 Samuel 8:7 that version reads, “And Shishak king of Egypt took them when he came up against Jerusalem in the days of Rehoboam the son of Solomon:” and in 2 Samuel 14:27, “And she [Tamar] became the wife of Rehoboam the son of Solomon and bare him Abia.”

(d) But even if these additions are not accepted as part of the original text, other indications point to a date not earlier than the reign of Rehoboam. The mention of “the kings of Judah” in 1 Samuel 27:6 presupposes the separation of the kingdoms. The distinction between Judah and Israel in several passages[10] has been supposed to point to the same conclusion; but this cannot be pressed as evidence. The division which existed in the early part of David’s reign was quite sufficient to account for it.

[10] 1 Samuel 11:8; 1 Samuel 17:52; 1 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 2:9-10; 2 Samuel 3:10; 2 Samuel 5:1-5; 2 Samuel 19:41-43; 2 Samuel 20:2.

(e) On the other hand there is nothing in the book which points to a later date than this: and the conclusion may fairly be arrived at that the Book of Samuel was compiled substantially in its present form soon after the Division of the Kingdoms.

6. The Canonicity of the book has never been questioned. Its acceptance in the Christian Church rests upon the fact that it formed an integral part of those Jewish Scriptures, which were received by our Lord and His Apostles as “given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Our Lord appealed to one of the narratives contained in it as teaching the great principle that the ceremonial law must give way to the law of mercy[11]: the Magnificat shews evident familiarity with the Song of Hannah: St Peter, St Stephen, and St Paul refer to the history contained in it[12].

[11] Matthew 12:3-4; Mark 2:25-26; Luke 6:3-4. Note the phrase, “Have ye not read,” a regular formula of reference to the Scriptures.

[12] Acts 3:24; Acts 7:46; Acts 13:20-22.

7. The historical accuracy of the book is remarkably borne out by the internal evidence. It is not to be denied that difficulties and discrepancies exist, which it is hard, perhaps impossible to explain or reconcile. But the forcible simplicity and grace of the narrative; the vividness with which the actors in the various events stand out before us; the minuteness of detail with regard to time and circumstance; the accurate descriptions of places[13]; all agree to confirm the conclusion arrived at in § 4, that the greater part of the work is derived from the testimony of eyewitnesses and contemporaries, and in many cases handed down to us in their actual words. The apparent inconsistencies are in fact an evidence that the compiler faithfully embodied the authorities he consulted, instead of harmonizing them into what might have seemed a more consistent whole.

[13] Remarkably confirmed by the recent surveys of Palestine. See e.g. the notes on 1 Samuel 14:4; 1 Samuel 17:3.

8. The text of the book presents some interesting problems. Our materials for determining the text are:

(a) The Hebrew MSS. most of which are not older than the tenth and eleventh centuries a.d. They all present substantially the same text. Two points must be mentioned in order to explain some of the notes. (1) Hebrew was originally written without vowels, except such long vowels as are represented by consonants. The present elaborate vowel system, stereotyping a traditional pronunciation and reading of the Old Testament, was not reduced to writing till about the seventh or eighth century a.d. (2) In some passages the traditional method of reading (Qrî) did not agree with the consonants of the written text (Kthîbh). In such cases the scribes did not alter the text, but appended a note giving the consonants to be read with the vowels shewn in the text.

(b) The Versions. Of these the oldest and most valuable is the Greek Version commonly called the Septuagint (Sept or LXX), or Version of the Seventy Elders, because it was long believed to have been made by seventy or seventy-two elders despatched from Jerusalem to Alexandria at the request of Ptolemy Philadelphus. But the document on which the story with its embellishments rests is now known to be a forgery, and all that can be asserted about the origin of the Septuagint is that it was made (1) at Alexandria, (2) at different times and by different hands, (3) during the third and second centuries b.c., (4) before written vowel-points had been added to the text. The reference in Sir 46:19 to the Sept. version of 1 Samuel 12:3 (see note there) proves that this part of the version was in existence before 150 b.c.

The two most important MSS. of the LXX containing the book of Samuel are the Alexandrine MS. (denoted by the letter A) written in the fifth century, and now preserved in the British Museum; and the Vatican MS. (denoted by the letter B) assigned to the fourth century, and preserved in the Vatican Library at Rome. The text of the former in the Book of Samuel has been corrected for the most part to agree with the existing Hebrew text: that of the latter differs considerably from it, and although disfigured by mistakes, glosses, marginal notes inserted in the text by ignorant scribes, and similar defects, appears to preserve evidence for an original text older and in some places more correct than the existing Hebrew recension[14].

[14] The most important instance in which the Septuagint differs from the Hebrew text is discussed in Note VI. p. 241.

That the Hebrew text of Samuel is by no means free from errors is clear from internal considerations and from a comparison of the passages which exist in duplicate elsewhere. These, with the exception of 1 Samuel 31 (= 1 Chronicles 10:1-12) belong to the Second Book, and need not be enumerated here. The principal readings in which the Septuagint differs from the Hebrew are mentioned in the notes, partly with a view to the criticism of the text, partly to exhibit the form of the text which was current In a great part of the Christian Church for many centuries after its first foundation.

This Version, with all its defects, must be of the greatest interest: (1) as preserving evidence for the text far more ancient than the oldest Hebrew MSS.: (2) as the means by which the Greek language was wedded to Hebrew thought, and the way prepared for the New Testament: (3) because it is the source of the great majority of the quotations made from the O. T. by the writers of the N. T.: (4) because it was the version in which the O. T. was studied by the fathers of the Eastern Church, and indirectly by those of the Western, until Jerome’s new translation (the Vulgate) superseded the Old Latin versions made from the Septuagint.

Next to the Septuagint must be mentioned the Chaldee or Aramaic Version known as the Targum[15] of Jonathan Ben Uzziel. This was probably not reduced to writing before the middle of the fourth century a. d., though based on much earlier oral translations. It is for the most part an accurate version; but in some passages it becomes a loose paraphrase, interspersed with comment, illustration, and fragments of Jewish tradition. A translation of the Targum of Hannah’s Song is given in Note III. p. 236 as an example of this style of paraphrase.

[15] Targum signifies interpretation or translation.

Second in importance only to the LXX. is the Vulgate (Versio vulgata) or Latin Version made by St Jerome (Hieronymus) directly from the Hebrew. This great work was commenced by him about the year a. d. 389 when he was already sixty years of age, and took fourteen years to complete. The Books of Samuel and Kings were the part first issued. It is a valuable evidence for the state of the Hebrew text in the fourth century, and proves that that text has suffered comparatively little change since. Many of the variations found in the editions of the Vulgate are really interpolations from the Old Latin Version, which as mentioned above was made from the LXX. Jerome’s work “remained for eight centuries the bulwark of Western Christianity; and as a monument of ancient linguistic power the translation of the O. T. stands unrivalled and unique.”


Analysis Of The First Book Of Samuel


The Close of the Theocracy: 1–7

  Division I.  The early life of Samuel: 1–4:1a.

  Section 1.  Samuel’s birth and infancy.

  (1)  Samuel’s parents 1 Samuel 1:1-8.

  (2)  Hannah’s prayer and its answer 1 Samuel 1:9-20.

  (3)  Samuel’s dedication 1 Samuel 1:21-28.

  (4)  Hannah’s Song of Thanksgiving 1 Samuel 2:1-11.

  Section 2.  Samuel at Shiloh.

  (1)  The faithless priests 1 Samuel 2:12-17.

  (2)  Samuel’s ministry in the Tabernacle 1 Samuel 2:18-21.

  (3)  Eli’s fruitless expostulations with his sons 1 Samuel 2:22-26.

  (4)  The doom of Eli’s house and the calling of a faithful priest foretold by the man of God 1 Samuel 2:27-36.

  (5)  The call of Samuel 1 Samuel 3:1-10.

  (6)  The message to Eli 1 Samuel 3:11-18.

  (7)  Samuel established as a prophet 1 Samuel 3:19 to 1 Samuel 4:1 a.

Note (a) the contrast throughout between Samuel and the sons of Eli; (b) Samuel’s steady growth; (c) Eli’s weak though amiable character; (d) the decay of religion.

  Division II.  The period of national disaster: 1 Samuel 4:1 b – 1 Samuel 7:1.

  Section 1.  Judgment on the nation and the house of Eli.

  (1)  Defeat of the army and loss of the ark 1 Samuel 4:1 b – 1 Samuel 4:11.

  (2)  The doom of Eli’s house.

(a)  Death of Eli’s sons 1 Samuel 4:11.

(b)  Death of Eli. 1 Samuel 4:12-18.

(c)  Death of Eli’s daughter-in-law 1 Samuel 4:19-22.

  Section 2.  The Ark of God.

  (1)  Chastisement of the Philistines 1 Samuel 5:1-12.

  (2)  Their resolution to restore the Ark 1 Samuel 6:1-9.

  (3)  Return of the Ark 1 Samuel 6:10-18.

  (4)  The penalty of irreverence 1 Samuel 6:19-20.

  (5)  Settlement of the Ark at Kirjath Jearim 1 Samuel 6:21 to 1 Samuel 7:1.

Note (a) the punishments of sin; (b) Jehovah’s defence of His Ark; (c) religious apathy of the people; (d) no mention of Samuel in this period.

  Division III.  The official life of Samuel as Judge: 1 Samuel 7:2-17.

  (1)  National repentance and reformation 1 Samuel 7:2-6  (2)  Rout of the Philistines at Ebenezer 1 Samuel 7:7-12.

  (3)  Summary account of Samuel’s judicial activity 1 Samuel 7:13-17.

Note (a) the brevity of this account, because the narrative is hastening on to Samuel’s chief work; (b) restoration of religious, political, social life implied, though not fully recorded; (c) Samuel the last of the Judges.


The Foundation of the Monarchy: 8–31

  Division I.  The appointment of the first King: 8–10

  Section 1.  The demand for a king.

  (1)  Misgovernment of Samuel’s sons, and consequent request of the people 1 Samuel 8:1-5.

  (2)  Jehovah’s answer 1 Samuel 8:6-9.

  (3)  Description of an Oriental Despot 1 Samuel 8:10-18.

  (4)  Persistence of the people in their request 1 Samuel 8:19-22  Section 2.  The private choice of Saul by Samuel.

  (1)  Saul’s genealogy 1 Samuel 9:1-2.

  (2)  His search for the asses 1 Samuel 9:3-10.

  (3)  He inquires for Samuel 1 Samuel 9:11-14.

  (4)  He is entertained by Samuel 1 Samuel 9:15-24.

  (5)  He is anointed by Samuel, and promised three signs in confirmation of his call 1 Samuel 9:25 to 1 Samuel 10:8.

  (6)  Fulfilment of the signs 1 Samuel 10:9-16.

  Section 3.  The election of Saul by lot at Mizpeh.

  (1)  The assembly at Mizpeh 1 Samuel 10:17-19.

  (2)  Saul chosen by lot 1 Samuel 10:20-23.

  (3)  Installation of Saul as king 1 Samuel 10:24-27.

Note (a) Samuel’s self-abnegation; (b) the wilfulness of the people; (c) the king after the people’s heart.

  Division II.  Saul’s reign till his rejection: 11–15

  Section 1.  The establishment of Saul’s kingdom.

  (1)  Defeat of the Ammonites under the leadership of Saul 1 Samuel 11:1-11.

  (2)  Confirmation of Saul as king at Gilgal 1 Samuel 11:12-15.

  (3)  Samuel’s farewell conference with the people in which he

(a)  asserts his official integrity 1 Samuel 12:1-5.

(b)  rebukes the people for their faithlessness 1 Samuel 12:6-12.

(c)  offers warning and encouragement for the future 1 Samuel 12:13-25.

  Section 2.  The war of independence.

  (1)  The revolt from the Philistines 1 Samuel 13:1-7.

  (2)  Saul’s disobedience and its penalty 1 Samuel 13:8-14.

  (3)  The Philistine invasion 1 Samuel 13:15-18.

  (4)  The disarmament of the Israelites 1 Samuel 13:19-23.

  (5)  Jonathan’s exploit at Michmash 1 Samuel 14:1-15.

  (6)  Rout of the Philistines 1 Samuel 14:16-23.

  (7)  Saul’s rash oath and its consequences 1 Samuel 14:24-46.

  Section 3.  Summary account of Saul’s reign.

  (1)  His wars 1 Samuel 14:47-48.

  (2)  His family 1 Samuel 14:49-52.

  Section 4.  The rejection of Saul.

  (1)  The commission to destroy Amalek 1 Samuel 15:1-9.

  (2)  The penalty of disobedience 1 Samuel 15:10-23.

  (3)  The kingdom rent from Saul 1 Samuel 15:24-31.

  (4)  The execution of Agag 1 Samuel 15:32-33  (5)  Samuel’s parting from Saul 1 Samuel 15:34-35.

Note (a) the gradual development of Saul’s wilfulness; (b) Saul’s superstitious formalism; (c) the miserable condition of the nation; (d) Samuel’s continued prophetic labours.

  Division III.  The decline of Saul and the rise of David: 16–31

  Section 1.  David chosen as Saul’s successor.

  (1)  Samuel’s mission to Bethlehem 1 Samuel 16:1-5.

  (2)  The family of Jesse 1 Samuel 16:6-11.

  (3)  David anointed by Samuel 1 Samuel 16:12-13.

  Section 2.  David’s introduction to the court.

  (1)  Saul troubled by an evil spirit 1 Samuel 16:14-18.

  (2)  David summoned to soothe him with music 1 Samuel 16:19-23.

  Section 3.  David’s advancement.

  (1)  The Philistine invasion 1 Samuel 17:1-3.

  (2)  The challenge of Goliath 1 Samuel 17:4-11.  [16]

[16] On the sections in brackets see Note VI. p. 241.

[(3)  David’s errand to the camp 1 Samuel 17:12-31.]

  (4)  David volunteers to fight the giant 1 Samuel 17:32-37.

  (5)  The victory of Faith 1 Samuel 17:38-51.

  (6)  The flight of the Philistines 1 Samuel 17:52-54.

  [(7)  Saul’s inquiry about David 1 Samuel 17:55-58.]

  [(8)  Jonathan’s friendship for David 1 Samuel 18:1-5.]

  (9)  The celebration of the victory 1 Samuel 18:6-9.

  Section 4.  Saul’s growing jealousy of David.

  [(1)  Saul’s attempt on David’s life 1 Samuel 18:10-11.]

  (2)  David’s promotion and popularity 1 Samuel 18:12-16.

  [(3)  Saul offers his daughter Merab to David 1 Samuel 18:17-19.]

  (4)  Saul’s treacherous design against David’s life. David’s marriage with Michal 1 Samuel 18:20-30.

  (5)  Saul’s purpose to kill David 1 Samuel 19:1-3.

  (6)  Jonathan’s intercession 1 Samuel 19:4-7.

  (7)  Saul’s attempt on David’s life 1 Samuel 19:8-11.

  (8)  David’s escape by the aid of Michal 1 Samuel 19:12-17.

  (9)  David’s flight to Ramah. Saul’s pursuit 1 Samuel 19:18-24.

  (10)  David’s consultation with Jonathan 1 Samuel 20:1-10.

  (11)  Renewal of the covenant between David and Jonathan 1 Samuel 20:11-23.

  (12)  Saul’s intention tested by Jonathan 1 Samuel 20:24-34.

  (13)  The parting between Jonathan and David 1 Samuel 20:35-42.

  Section 5.  David’s outlaw life.

  (1)  David’s flight

(a)  to Nob 1 Samuel 21:1-9.

(b)  to Gath 1 Samuel 21:10-15.

  (2)  David with his followers

(a)  in the cave of Adullam 1 Samuel 22:1-2.

(b)  in Moab 1 Samuel 22:3-4(c)  in the land of Judah 1 Samuel 22:5  (3)  Saul’s vengeance on the priests of Nob 1 Samuel 22:6-19.

Abiathar’s flight to David 1 Samuel 22:20-23.

  (4)  David’s rescue of Keilah 1 Samuel 23:1-6.

Intended treachery of the Keilites 1 Samuel 23:7-15.

  (5)  David’s last meeting with Jonathan 1 Samuel 23:16-18.

  (6)  David in the wilderness of Ziph

(a)  betrayed by the Ziphites 1 Samuel 23:19-24.

(b)  providentially escapes from Saul 1 Samuel 23:25-28.

  (7)  David at Engedi 1 Samuel 23:29.

(a)  He spares Saul’s life in the cave 1 Samuel 24:1-8.

(b)  He protests his innocence 1 Samuel 24:9-15.

(c)  Saul’s momentary remorse 1 Samuel 24:16-22.

  (8)  Samuel’s death and burial 1 Samuel 25:1.

  (9)  Nabal and Abigail.

(a)  Nabal’s churlish folly 1 Samuel 25:2-13.

(b)  Abigail’s timely prudence 1 Samuel 25:14-35.

(c)  The death of Nabal 1 Samuel 25:36-38.

(d)  Abigail’s marriage to David 1 Samuel 25:39-44.

  (10)  Saul’s fresh pursuit of David.

(a)  Treachery of the Ziphites 1 Samuel 26:1-4.

(b)  Saul’s life again spared by David 1 Samuel 26:5-12.

(c)  David’s final expostulation with Saul 1 Samuel 26:13-25.

  (11)  David as a Philistine vassal.

(a)  His flight to Achish 1 Samuel 27:1-4.

(b)  His residence at Ziklag 1 Samuel 27:5-7.

(c)  His raids on the neighbouring tribes. 1 Samuel 27:8-12.

Note (a) David’s providential escapes; (b) his growing power and influence; (c) his generosity towards Saul; (d) Saul’s continuous hardening.

  Section 6.  The last scenes of Saul’s life.

  (1)  The Philistine muster 1 Samuel 28:1-2.

  (2)  Saul resorts to the witch of Endor 1 Samuel 28:3-25.

  (3)  David’s dismissal from the Philistine army 1 Samuel 29:1-11.

  (4)  David finds Ziklag plundered 1 Samuel 30:1-6.

(a)  The pursuit 1 Samuel 30:7-15.

(b)  The rescue 1 Samuel 30:16-20.

(c)  The distribution of the spoil 1 Samuel 30:21-31.

  (5)  The battle of Gilboa.

(a)  Death of Saul and his sons 1 Samuel 31:1-6.

(b)  Exposure of their bodies 1 Samuel 31:7-10.

(c)  Their rescue and burial by the men of Jabesh 1 Samuel 31:11-13.

Note (a) Saul’s final desertion by Jehovah; (b) David’s providential escape from a perilous dilemma.


The Chronology Of The Book Of Samuel

1. The period covered by the First Book of Samuel is little less than a century. It nearly coincides with the life of Samuel, whose death did not long precede that of Saul. There is no systematic chronology, and the arrangement of the dates depends in great measure upon conjecture.

2. The earlier part of the period coincides with part of the Book of Judges. The 20 years of Samson’s judgeship (Jdg 15:20) may have been simultaneous with the last 20 years of Eli’s life, and in all probability the Philistine oppression of 40 years mentioned in Jdg 13:1 was that which was brought to an end by the battle of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 7:12-13).

3. Samuel’s judgeship must have lasted some time, and a further period must be allowed for the development of his sons’ misgovernment. His life lasted till nearly the end of Saul’s reign. David’s flight to Naioth (1 Samuel 19:18 ff.) cannot have been many years before the battle of Gilboa.

4. If the 40 years named by St Paul[17] in Acts 13:21 is to be taken as a trustworthy Jewish tradition of the length of Saul’s reign (or that of his dynasty, Saul 32½ + Ishbosheth 7½), a considerable period at the beginning of Saul’s reign must be passed over in silence. Even if a shorter reign is assumed, this is probably the case.

[17] Josephus, Ant. VI. 14. 9, makes the same statement, adding however that he reigned 18 years during the lifetime of Samuel, and 22 years after his death, which does not agree with the facts of the history.

(a) David was 30 years old at his accession (2 Samuel 5:4). He cannot have been much less than 20 when he fought with Goliath, so that about 10 years is all that can be assigned to the period of Saul’s reign after David’s introduction. We may conjecture that 4 years were spent in Saul’s service, and 4 years in outlaw life. He was 16 months in Philistia (1 Samuel 27:7), and perhaps a short time elapsed between Saul’s death and his coronation at Hebron.

(b) Saul appears to have been a young man at the time of his election. But in the Philistine war of chaps. 13, 14, his son Jonathan is already a trusted warrior (1 Samuel 13:2), 20 years old at least. The impression produced by the narrative is that he was not much older than David, and this is corroborated by the fact that his son Mephibosheth was only 5 years old at the time of his death (2 Samuel 4:4).

The natural inference is that a period of at least 10 or 15 years is passed over in silence between ch. 9 and ch. 13.

This interval allows time for the development of Saul’s character. It would be strange indeed that he should at once flatly disobey the prophet to whom he owed his elevation (1 Samuel 13:8 ff.): but if some time had elapsed since his election, the act becomes much more intelligible.

5. Those who place the events of 1 Samuel 13, 14, at the beginning of Saul’s reign, must assume that he was at least 40 years old at his accession, and that his reign did not last more than 20 years at the most.

6. The following table is suggested as a conjectural arrangement of the dates, reckoning back from 1055 as the date of David’s accession.



Birth of Samuel



Call of Samuel at the age of 12



Death of Eli

  (?) 1127


Philistine oppression (1 Samuel 7:1)



Samuel’s judgeship (? 18 years)



Rule of Samuel’s sons (? 10 years)



Saul’s election



David’s anointing



Samuel’s death, at the age of 90

  (?) 1059


Saul’s death and David’s accession



Only 24 years are here assigned to Saul’s reign. If the longer period of 32 or 40 years is taken, it must be done by curtailing the judgeship of Samuel and his sons, or by placing Samuel’s birth earlier and lengthening his life. His death cannot be placed earlier, for the reasons pointed out in § 3.


The Place Of The Books Of Samuel In The History Of The Kingdom Of God

1. The Old Testament differs from ordinary histories (1) in its subject, because it is the history of the special training and discipline of God’s chosen people: (2) in its method, because it is “a history of facts as God sees them referred to their true centre in Him, explained by His dealings with men, and His workings within them[18]:” or, in other words, its writers were inspired by God the Holy Ghost to discern the true significance of events, and to relate such parts of the national history as should truly set forth the gradual evolution of God’s purpose towards His people[19].

[18] Barry’s Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 45.

[19] According to the Jewish arrangement the books of the Old Testament are divided into three classes: The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings: a division which is already recognised in the words of the prologue to Ecclesiasticus (about b.c. 132), “the law, and the prophets, and the rest of the books;” and in Luke 24:44. It should be remembered that the so-called “historical books” of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings belong to the second group, and are entitled “The Former Prophets.” True history is prophecy.

2. The Old Testament is the history of a dispensation which was partial, progressive, preparatory. It can only be rightly understood in view of the great fact to which it looked forward. It must be studied as the record of the Divine Preparation for the Incarnation of the Son of God, which is the central event of the world’s history, the hope of all humanity, the final revelation of God to the world[20]. “It does not simply contain prophecies of Christ: it is from first to last a prophecy of Him.”

[20] There is a most suggestive sketch of the Preparation for Christianity in chap. I. of Prof. Westcott’s Gospel of the Resurrection.

3. This preparation included three main elements which must be carefully traced in each successive epoch of Jewish history: (i) the discipline and training of the chosen nation of Israel that it might be “the home[21]” to which in “the fulness of the times” God might send His Son[22]; and the instrument by which the knowledge of God might be communicated to the world at large[23]: (ii) the gradual development under the various types of Priest, Prophet, and King, of the expectation of a Deliverer who should unite in himself all these offices, and be at once a Mediator, a Teacher, a Monarch: (iii) God’s progressive revelation of Himself, “in many parts and in many fashions[24],” that men might at length be enabled to recognise “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ[25].”

[21] John 1:11, εἰς τὰ ἴδια.

[22] Galatians 4:4.

[23] John 4:22.

[24] Hebrews 1:1, πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως.

[25] 2 Corinthians 4:6.

We must examine how the period which we have to study in this book contributed to the preparation in each of these respects.

4. (i) The book of Samuel is the record of a most critical epoch in the training of the nation of Israel. To understand its significance a brief survey of their whole history is necessary.

Three great periods must be distinguished in the history of Israel; the Theocracy, the Monarchy, the Hierarchy; corresponding in some degree to the three divisions of the Old Testament, the Law, the Prophets, the Writings.

(a) The Theocracy. The history of the Jewish nation begins with Abraham, the friend of God, the father of the faithful, “the ancestor of all nations which have held a monotheistic belief practically.” With him and with his family was made the first covenant of promise. In Egypt the family became a nation. The stern discipline of toil and suffering in the presence of their common enemy bound them together. The great signs and wonders of the Exodus declared their high destiny. At Sinai the covenant made with their forefathers was renewed, confirmed, and amplified to the nation. The Law was given as a schoolmaster for the childhood of the new-born nation, “a kind of external conscience” to train it to obedience. The Israelites entered Canaan, and the first part of the promise to Abraham was fulfilled.

But for a long time the nation seemed to make no progress. The period which intervened between the Entry into Canaan and the Life of Samuel was a time of anarchy and apostasy. The Book of Judges is a record of two centuries of national disintegration and religious declension. It was necessary, humanly speaking, in order that they might learn their weakness. They were unable as yet to bear the pure Theocracy, the direct government of God without the intervention of an earthly ruler. Some visible bond must be found to unite into a solid mass the scattered tribes which could not as yet be firmly bound together into one by the invisible tie of a common allegiance to Jehovah. Material and political means must prepare the way for the spiritual and religious end. Otherwise the nation must cease to exist, ground to pieces between the enemies which surrounded it on all sides. In order to make solid advance, retrogression was inevitable.

At this critical juncture God raised up Samuel, “a prophet second only to Moses,” to guide the nation through this crisis in its existence, and effect the transition to the second stage of its education.

(b) The Monarchy. The sovereignty of a visible monarch was a declension from the ideal of the Theocracy. Yet a king might have been given by God in His own time as a necessary factor in the training of the nation. But the demand for a king, as made by the Israelites at this period, was the direct outcome of faithlessness. It was a defection from God. Nevertheless the request was granted. God first gave them a king according to their own ideal, that bitter experience might teach them lessons they would not otherwise learn: and then a king “after His own heart,” a true representative of the Kingdom of God. In his hands such a monarchy as we may conceive might have been asked for without sin, fulfilled important purposes by consolidating the scattered tribes into a body strong enough to maintain its independence, thus saving the nation from destruction, and preserving it to fulfil its great destiny of blessing to the world.

(c) The Hierarchy at length took the place of the Monarchy and resumed the ideal of Theocracy. When the Kingdom fell, and the discipline of the Captivity had done its work, “the unity of a Church succeeded to the unity of a nation.” The voice of prophecy ceased. In the absence of new revelations, the people pondered on the past, till at length “the time was fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God came.”

5. (ii) In what respects did the period we have to study contribute to the formation and development of the Messianic expectation? The Law with its elaborate ritual of sacrifice had pointed forward to One who should be at once Priest and Victim, and make atonement for the sin of man. Now the Kingdom turned the national thoughts to the hope of a King who should reign in righteousness, and “have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth[26].” The kingdom of David and Solomon was a type of the kingdom of that Son of David to whom in the fulness of time was given in a spiritual reality the throne of His father David[27]. It is in the book of Samuel that the title of Messiah, the Lord’s Anointed, the Christ, is first applied to the king[28], whose visible majesty kindled prophetic hopes of a glorious future.

[26] Psalm 72:7-8. Psalms 2, 45, 72, 110. should be studied as illustrating the growth of the Messianic Hope in connexion with tie kingdom.

[27] Luke 1:32-33.

[28] 1 Samuel 2:10, where the Septuagint has χριστός. The same word both in Heb. and Greek is applied to the high-priest in Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16; Leviticus 6:22.

6. (iii) It remains to inquire how God’s revelation of Himself was carried forward in this period. (a) One result of the establishment of the kingdom was the building of the Temple. As the king was a visible representative of the Divine government, so a centralised sanctuary testified to the unity of Him whom Israel worshipped, and both combined to present spiritual ideas in a fixed and definite shape. Monotheism was not, as has sometimes been wrongly said, an instinct of the Semitic races. The repeated idolatries of the Jewish nation prove the contrary. Only through long discipline and with constant relapses was the lesson learnt. The period of the Monarchy taught this truth in a visible and material manner, and when once learnt it was afterwards spiritualised by the destruction of the visible Monarchy and the discipline of the Captivity.

(b) Closely connected with the establishment of the Monarchy was the institution of the Prophetic Order. This was Samuel’s second great legacy to his nation. By the agency of the prophets the Will of Jehovah was made known to men; new revelations of His character and His claims were communicated; the spiritual meaning of the Law was interpreted[29].

[29] See further in chap. 6

(c) In this period was deepened the consciousness of the individual’s personal relation to God. The intimate communing with Him in prayer and praise, which is characteristic of the Psalms of David, marks a new advance in the relation of man to God. Now was laid the foundation of that Psalter in which for all succeeding time men have found the expression and the echo of their deepest thoughts and highest aspirations.

7. To sum up briefly, the Monarchy preserved the existence of the nation, foreshadowed the kingdom of the Messiah, witnessed to the reality of the Divine government. At the same time Prophecy and Psalmody interpreted the past, spiritualised the present, stimulated hope for the future.


The Life And Work Of Samuel

1. The Book of Judges closes with the significant remark, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Jdg 21:25). The Book of Samuel opens with the birth of the Prophet who was raised up by the Providence of God to usher in a new regime which should reduce this chaos to order. Eli appears on the scene only so far as he is connected with the early life of Samuel.

2. Samuel’s childhood saw the period of Jewish history which Josephus calls the Theocracy, closed with the overthrow of the Sanctuary at Shiloh[30]. The characteristics of the age of the Judges, with which that period ended, have been noticed above (ch. iv. § 4). It had been clearly demonstrated that the people were as yet unfit for so lofty a form of government. If the national life was to continue, a change must be effected. Samuel was the divinely appointed instrument of that change.

[30] As the fall of the Monarchy coincided with the destruction of the First Temple, and the final dispersion of the nation with that of the Second Temple. See Stanley’s Lectures, I. 328.

3. (i) The Preparation. The son given in answer to Hannah’s prayers was dedicated to Jehovah before his birth. The training for his life-work began from his infancy. As soon as he could leave his mother, he was placed in Eli’s charge at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. The holy childhood of the boy who “grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord and also with men” was a strange contrast and a sharp rebuke to the scenes of shame which desecrated the sanctuary. At the age of twelve (according to tradition) he received his first revelation from Jehovah, the stern message of doom against his foster-father’s guilty house. The blow fell. The disastrous battle of Aphek brought Israel once more under the Philistine yoke. The Ark was captured, and though sent back after a brief interval, remained unnoticed in a private house. The twenty years which followed are a blank in the history of the nation. The people appear to have abandoned themselves to despair, and sought a vain refuge in the worship of Baalim and Ashtaroth. During those twenty years God was training Samuel to be the Deliverer of His people. “All Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.”

4. (ii) The Reformation. At length he broke the lethargy of despair, and summoned the nation to repent and return unto the Lord with all their hearts. He assembled them at Mizpah, and in one of those acts of intercession for which his name was famous[31], he besought the Lord to pardon them. The Philistines, suspecting rebellion, marched against them. God once more fought for Israel, and the Stone of Help between Mizpah and Shen attested to posterity that the Lord’s Presence was once more among His people.

[31] Psalm 99:6. See note on ch. 1 Samuel 7:5.

Now commenced Samuel’s Judgeship. He established law, and order, and regular religious worship[32] in the land. No breath of slander could impeach the integrity of his administration. He has been called the Jewish Aristides.

[32] Cp. 1 Chronicles 9:22.

5. (iii) The Foundation of the Kingdom. But his sons brought disgrace upon their father’s age. Alleging their misconduct as the ostensible motive, the people came to Samuel and demanded a king. He felt that it was an act of ingratitude to himself: still more keenly did he feel that it was an act of unfaithfulness to Jehovah. In this strait he prayed for counsel. The answer came, “Make them a king.” Why that sinful request was granted has been discussed above (ch. iv. § 4 b). Here we are concerned with Samuel’s conduct. It was a proof of his true greatness. Sharp as was the conflict of feeling when the request was made, as soon as he learned what the will of God was, he cheerfully obeyed it. Without murmuring or questioning he acquiesced in being the instrument of his own deposition. He accepted the truth that

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfils Himself in many ways,”

and prepared to guide the nation through this crisis of its history. So quietly was the change effected, that we scarcely realise the importance of the movement which developed the tribal confederacy of Israel into a regularly constituted monarchy.

6. (iv) Samuel as prophet-counsellor. Though Samuel had resigned his office of judge, he did not cease to exercise his function of prophet. He still stood by Saul to convey to him the messages of God, to counsel, to admonish, to rebuke. It must have been a bitter disappointment to watch that heroic heart with the seeds of so much that was noble and brave and hopeful, marred by growing self-will and impatience of restraint, from the first failure at Gilgal to the crowning act of disobedience in the matter of Amalek. He ceased not to intercede for Saul; he mourned for Saul: till at length he was sent to anoint a worthier successor to the king who had been tried and found wanting.

7. The establishment of the kingdom was but half the legacy which Samuel left to Israel. The age of the monarchy was to be the age of the prophets. From the time of Samuel onwards[33] till the voice of prophecy ceased with Malachi there was a regular succession of prophets, maintained by the institutions commonly known as the Schools of the Prophets. The character of these bodies, and the influence of the Prophets upon the nation, are discussed in Chapter vi.

[33] “All the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after” (Acts 3:24).

8. Samuel, although only a Levite and not a Priest, performed priestly functions. He constantly offered sacrifice, and that in various places, though the Law prescribed that sacrifice should be offered by the priests and in one place only. This double anomaly is to be explained (a) by the exceptional character of Samuel’s commission, and (b) by the exceptional circumstances of the age. (a) The sins of Eli’s sons had so degraded the priesthood, that Samuel received an extraordinary commission to supersede the priesthood for a time. From the battle of Aphek till the middle of Saul’s reign[34] we do not so much as hear of a priest. The prerogative of Aaron’s family was in abeyance, and the high-priest’s place was practically taken by Samuel[35]. (b) The existence of numerous places for religious worship was a result of the abandonment of Shiloh. The old centre ceased to exist with the fall of the old order of things (cp. § 2); the choice of a new one would have been premature before the new kingdom was firmly established.

[34] From 1 Samuel 4 to 1 Samuel 14:3.

[35] See note on 1 Samuel 2:35.

9. Samuel passed to his rest in a good old age, followed by the universal reverence of the nation. “All the Israelites,” says the narrative with peculiar emphasis, “were gathered together and lamented him[36].” “All had known him—the tall figure, mantle-clad, the long white locks, the reverend countenance—they should see them no more; no more hear that voice of wise counsel and of brave rebuke. Another mighty one had passed away; one who, like Moses and Joshua, had inaugurated a new dispensation; he too was gone—the great prophet, the gifted seer, the upright judge, the inspired hero, he had passed away: the very heart of the nation sighed out its loving, weeping requiem[37].”

[36] 1 Samuel 25:1.

[37] Wilberforce’s Heroes of Hebrew History, p. 227.

10. So passed away one of the preeminent “Heroes of Hebrew History.” The last representative of the old Judges, the first of the regular succession of Prophets, the inaugurator of the new monarchy, he occupied the most trying of all positions, to stand between the Old and the New, and to mediate successfully between them. He lived from one age into another, and threw his full sympathy—most difficult of achievements—into the wants of both periods. “Because in him the various parts of his life hung together without any abrupt transition; because in him ‘the child was father of the man,’ and his days had been ‘bound each to each by natural piety.’ therefore he was specially ordained to bind together the broken links of two diverging epochs[38].”

[38] Stanley’s Lectures I. 350.

His sublime figure stands out in the pages of Holy Writ as a signal example of Faith, of Patience, of Integrity, of Self-sacrifice, through a long and trying career, fulfilling the promise of those early days in Shiloh when “he grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men.”


The Prophetic Order[39]

[39] See Stanley’s Lectures vol. I., Lect. XIX

1. Samuel was the Founder of the Prophetic Order. Individuals in previous ages had been endowed with prophetic gifts, but with Samuel commenced the regular succession of prophets[40] which lasted all through the period of the Monarchy, and did not cease until after the Captivity. The degeneracy into which the Priesthood had fallen during the period of the Judges demanded the establishment of a new order for the religious training of the nation.

[40] Acts 3:24.

2. For this purpose Samuel founded the institutions known as The Schools of the Prophets. The “company of prophets” at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:10), and the scene at Raman described in 1 Samuel 19:18 ff., imply a regular organization. These societies are only definitely mentioned again in connexion with the history of Elijah and Elisha[41], but doubtless continued to exist in the interval. By means of these the Order was maintained. Students were educated, and common religious exercises nurtured and developed spiritual gifts (1 Samuel 19:20). But it was not all members of the Order who possessed special prophetic gifts; nor was it among them only that the gifts of inspiration were to be found (Amos 7:14).

[41] They existed at Bethel (2 Kings 2:3), Jericho (2 Kings 2:5), Gilgal (2 Kings 4:38). Cp. 2 Kings 6:1-2.

3. The value of the Prophetic Order to the Jewish nation was immense. The prophets were the privy-councillors of kings, the historians of the nation, the instructors of the people. It was their function to be preachers of righteousness to rich and poor alike: to condemn idolatry in the court, oppression among the nobles, injustice among the judges, formality among the priests. They were the interpreters of the Law, who drew out by degrees the spiritual significance which underlay ritual observance, and laboured to prevent sacrifice and sabbath and festival from becoming dead and unmeaning forms. Strong in the unshaken consciousness that they were expressing the divine will, they spoke and acted with a fearless courage which no threats could daunt or silence.

Thus they proved a counterpoise to the Despotism of Monarchy and the Formalism of Priesthood. In a remarkable passage in his Essay on Representative Government, Mr J. S. Mill attributes to their influence the progress which distinguished the Jews from other Oriental nations. “The Jews,” he writes, “had an absolute monarchy and a hierarchy. These did for them what was done for other Oriental races by their institutions—subdued them to industry and order, and gave them a national life. But neither their kings nor their priests ever obtained, as in those other countries, the exclusive moulding of their character. Their religion gave existence to an inestimably precious institution, the Order of Prophets. Under the protection, generally though not always effectual, of their sacred character, the Prophets were a power in the nation, often more than a match for kings and priests, and kept up in that little corner of the earth the antagonism of influences which is the only real security for continued progress[42].”

[42] Mill’s Representative Government, pp. 41, 42.



1. “Amongst all the noble creations of Greek poetry there is no single figure more vividly portrayed than is that of Saul the son of Kish, as he stands before us in the inspired records of Israel.

Every line of his character is as fresh as if he lived yesterday; there is the grand hero-like beauty of his early manhood, the lofty stature, the strong arm, the unflinching nerves, the quick eagle-eye of the successful general, the generosity to unworthy opponents, which makes success so graceful and imperial command so easy to endure[43].”

[43] Wilberforce’s Heroes of Hebrew History, p. 229.

2. With picturesque detail the narrative describes the circumstances—apparently accidental, really providential—which led him into the presence of the great prophet who was commissioned to anoint him to be captain over God’s people (1 Samuel 9:3). The predicted signs which met him on his homeward path indicated that common cares were now to cease (1 Samuel 10:2), offered an earnest of the homage that awaited him (1 Samuel 10:3-4), and gave him assurance of divine inspiration to fit him for his new calling (1 Samuel 10:5-6; 1 Samuel 9-13).

A formal election by lot ratified the prophet’s choice. For a brief space the new king returned to his old occupations; but soon the savage threat of Nahash goaded him to action, and the rescue of Jabesh confirmed his title to the kingdom. In a second assembly at Gilgal his reign was inaugurated afresh with solemn ceremony (1 Samuel 11:15).

3. It seems most probable that we have no record of the first part of Saul’s reign, and that it was not until ten or fifteen years had elapsed, that the war of independence against the Philistines began. In it there appear all too plainly the signs of that rashness and self-will which proved his ruin, (a) At the outset in defiance of Samuel’s express command he failed to wait for his arrival at Gilgal to sanction the commencement of the war. Wherein lay the sin of this conduct? It was a forgetfulness from whom he held and for whom he wielded all his power. It was a transgression of the fundamental principle of the new monarchy, that the king was to be subject to the will of God as communicated by the Prophet. It was the act of a superstition which inverted the true order, and reckoned sacrifice better than obedience, (b) Later on his rash vow on the battle-field nearly cost Jonathan his life, hindered the effectual pursuit of the Philistines, and tempted the people into sin.

4. The warlike character of his whole reign is proved by the brief summary given in 1 Samuel 14:47. But only those wars are related at length which bear directly on the history of his own downfall and the rise of David.

The warning of Gilgal was unheeded, and when the crowning trial of his life came in the commission to smite Amalek, he failed miserably. The sentence which discrowned him was pronounced, and from that day forward the clouds began to thicken round his path. “The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” (1 Samuel 16:14).

5. At this juncture David was brought to court to soothe Saul’s madness by his minstrelsy. The presence of one in whom as the years went on he could not fail to recognise the “man after God’s own heart” who was to succeed to his throne, aggravated the disease. At one moment the demon of passion would gain the mastery, and a murderous hatred for the son of Jesse possess his mind; at another his generous and loving nature reasserted itself, and he saw in David a loyal servant and an affectionate son-in-law. But the madness grew worse. In his ungovernable fury he slew the priests of God, and massacred the Gibeonites, to whom the faith of Israel had been plighted. David was driven from his home to range as an outlaw in the mountains, and finally compelled to take refuge in the court of a heathen prince.

6. At length the end came. Deserted by God, Saul became the prey of dark superstition, and sought counsel from one of those necromancers whom in his early zeal he had striven to extirpate. “All human history has failed to record a despair deeper or more tragic than his, who having forsaken God, and being of God forsaken, is now seeking to move hell since heaven is inexorable to him; and infinitely guilty as he is, there is something unutterably pathetic in that yearning of the disanointed king now in his utter desolation to change words once more with the friend and counsellor of his youth; and if he must hear his doom, to hear it from no other lips but his[44].” The last scene on Gilboa, when

[44] Abp. Trench’s Shipwrecks of Faith, p. 47.

“In the lost battle borne down by the flying,

Where mingles war’s rattle with the groans of the dying,”

the once brave hero’s heart fails him, as he leans upon his spear, and he seeks death by his own hand, is a sad conclusion to a life which opened with such brilliant promise.

7. Saul’s history is a stem warning of the fatal consequences of uncontrolled self-will, of the inevitable descent of an unrepentant heart from bad to worse, of the hopeless hardening which results from neglect to use grace given.

“There is no history,” writes Archbishop Trench, “which as we read it brings home to us a stronger sense of this life as a life of probation: no history which makes us so vividly to realise the fact that God takes men and puts them in certain conditions to try them: to see how they will bear themselves under these conditions; how far they will profit by the opportunities for good, and resist the solicitations to evil which these will inevitably offer them[45].”

[45] Shipwrecks of Faith, p. 39.

Yet in thinking of him we may surely follow the example set by David in his touching elegy, and dwell on the brighter aspects of his life, and forbear to pass a harsh judgment on one whom the victim of his malice could regard to the last with such warm affection[46].

[46] See Maurice’s Prophets and Kings, p. 32 ff.



1. The life and character of David are presented to us with a completeness which has no parallel in the Old Testament. Not only have we a full biography of his outward life, written in all probability by the companions who shared his perils and his exaltation[47], but the secrets of his inner life with its hopes and fears, its struggles and triumphs, are revealed to us in the outpourings of his heart preserved in the book of Psalms[48].

[47] See ch. 1 § 4a.

[48] The Psalms connected with this period by their titles are: 59, “When Saul sent and they watched the house to kill him” (1 Samuel 19:11-18): 54, when the Ziphites betrayed him to Saul (1 Samuel 23:19 ff., or 1 Samuel 26:1 ff.): 56 and 34, on the occasion of his first flight to Gath (1 Samuel 21): 57 and 142, “in the cave,” either of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1), or Engedi (1 Samuel 24:3): 52, on Doeg (1 Samuel 22:9): 63, in the wilderness of Judah (1 Samuel 22:5). Of these, 59 and 34 are doubtful; 63 more probably belongs to his light from Absalom.

  We should probably add 7 (see on 1 Samuel 24:9) as written sometime during Ms outlaw life: 6 (?): 11, perhaps at Engedi: possibly 35 (cp. 1 Samuel 24:9 ff.).

  Psalms 8, 19, 23, 29 reflect his early life, though perhaps not written till later.

In the First Book of Samuel we are concerned only with that period of his life which was the divine education for his future office. In this three stages are clearly marked.

2. (i) Home life at Bethlehem, The solitary hours spent by the shepherd lad on the hills of Bethlehem left a deep impress on his character. Even in that simple duty he was conscious of a divine call. He kept his flock as a charge from God. In conscious dependence upon God he knew no fear in the path of duty. “The solitariness of the life braced up his spirit and its dangers formed within him the habit of ready action based on simple trust in his God.” This was the secret of the courage which emboldened him to face Goliath[49].

[49] 1 Samuel 17:32-37. See Wilberforce’s Heroes, p. 239 ff. Maurice’s Prophets, p. 40 ff.

Here he lived “with God and nature communing:” here

“The earth

And common face of nature spake to him

Rememberable things.”

That spirit of the religious interpretation of Nature which breathes in Psalms 8, 19, 29, was kindled as he gazed into the depths of the star-lit sky while he guarded his flock, or watched the splendours of an eastern sunrise, or heard the crashing thunder which is “the voice of Jehovah” reverberate among the rocks. The imagery of danger drawn from wild beasts reflects this period (Psalm 7:2; Psalm 17:12, &c.). Here he acquired the skill in music which led to the transference to Saul’s court with which the second period of his life begins. But before that change, the Anointing oil of the Prophet had already marked him out for his future dignity. The special gift of the Spirit of God had already begun to train him for that special task.

3. (ii) Life at court. The simplicity of shepherd life was now exchanged for the temptations of the court: the quiet experiences of youth for “the terrible discipline of flattery.” The minstrel shepherd became the conqueror of the giant, the hero of Israelite song. A rapid promotion raised him successively to be a royal armourbearer, a successful captain, the king’s son-in-law. Steadily he rose in favour with the people, but the growth of Saul’s jealousy kept pace with the advance of popular good-will, till at length persecution drove him from the court, and the third period of his discipline commenced.

4. (iii) Life as an outlaw. At first he took refuge with Samuel in the prophetic school at Ramah. But a final test proved that reconciliation with Saul was impossible, and he fled by way of Nob to the court of Achish. Here his stay was brief and perilous: he soon escaped, and gathered a band of men about him in the cave of Adullam. For a time he seems to have crossed over into Moab, but returning to the land of Judah by God’s direction, he wandered up and down, hunted from time to time by Saul. There is no continuous history of his life at this period; only a series of scenes which illustrate his providential escapes from the hand of his pursuer, his pious regard for the anointed king, the divine control which restrained him from hasty revenge.

Driven at length to flee the country, he established a miniature kingdom at Ziklag, where he practised himself and his men in the arts of war and peace. Once more God’s care was manifested in extricating him from the perplexing dilemma into which his own conduct had brought him. This period of his life and the First Book of Samuel close simultaneously with the death of Saul and his sons on Mount Gilboa. All that concerns his reign belongs to the Second Book[50].

[50] The consideration of David as a type of Christ belongs to that period.

5. This long and varied discipline was designed to fit David for the duties of the throne. His residence at Gibeah, surrounded by envious courtiers, developed his prudence: Saul’s persecution tested his generosity and self-control: the perils of his wanderings strengthened his sense of dependence upon God.

His position as an outlaw chief trained him in knowledge and government of men: familiarity with the victims of Saul’s misgovernment taught the future ruler to know the heart of his subjects, their sorrows, their wrongs, their crimes: even the residence in Moab and Philistia contributed to nurture larger sympathies which might fit him for his wider mission as king of Israel.

6. David is a striking contrast to Saul. With all his native generosity and courage, Saul had a hard and narrow heart. He was incapable of wide sympathy or deep contrition. David’s heart was thoroughly human. The endless variety of his Psalms reaches through all the range of the emotions, has some affinity for every type of character. David fell into sin, but sincere penitence ever restored him to communion with God: Saul’s regret for his sin was prompted by a fear lest he should be degraded in the eyes of his people[51].

[51] Contrast 1 Samuel 15:30 with 2 Samuel 12:13 and Psalms 51.

Saul’s religion was a slavish formalism, leading to a superstitious fear. He never loved God. David “thoroughly believed in God as a living and righteous Being.” “In all his works he praised the Holy One most high with words of glory; with his whole heart he sung songs and loved Him that made him[52].”

[52] Sir 47:8.

7. A sketch of this period of David’s life would be incomplete indeed without mention of his friendship with Jonathan. The darkest days of trial were brightened by “the sunshine of that pure, disinterested love which has embalmed for all time the name of Jonathan.” This deep love was based on a common faith. Jonathan like David found his strength in God. Their covenant was a “covenant of Jehovah[53].” Jonathan rejoiced in the prospect of David’s advancement without a shadow of jealousy, because he saw it was God’s will. No suspicion of selfishness tainted that noble friendship. The tenderness of the son in some measure effaced the hard treatment of the father: and when they fell together on the fatal field of Mount Gilboa, David could enshrine their memories together in the most touching requiem of the whole Bible. Yet perhaps Jonathan was “fortunate In a timely death[54],” and it was well that his anticipation of being “next to David” in his kingdom was not realised.

[53] 1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 14:12; 1 Samuel 20:8.

[54] As Tacitus said of Agricola, “felix non vitae tantum claritate sed etiam opportunitate mortis,” Tac. Agric. c. 45.

“Ah! had he lived before thy throne to stand,

Thy spirit keen and high,

Surely it had snapped in twain love’s slender band,

So dear in memory;

Paul, of his comrade left, the warning gives,

He lives with us who dies, he is but lost who lives[55].”

[55] J. H. Newman in the Lyra Apostolica.

The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth;

And He shall give strength unto His King,

And exalt the horn of His Anointed.



The Lord of Hosts[56]

[56] There is an interesting essay on this title in Prof. Plumptre’s Biblical Studies.

(1) The title Jehovah Tsebâôth translated “Lord of hosts” meets us for the first time in the O. T. in 1 Samuel 1:3. In the various forms “Lord of hosts,” “Lord God of hosts,” “God of hosts,” It is found in the books of Samuel (and the parallel passages in 1 Chr.), Kings, the first three books of Psalms, very frequently in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Minor Prophets, but never in the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Job, Proverbs, Ezekiel, Daniel.

(2) In the LXX. it is sometimes rendered “Lord of hosts” (Κύριος δυνάμεων), sometimes “Lord Almighty” (Κύριος παντοκράτωρ), sometimes left untranslated (Κύριος Σαβαώθ); and with this latter form “Lord of Sabaoth” we are familiar from Romans 9:29; James 5:4; and the Te Deum. The Vulgate renders it Dominus exercituum, “Lord of armies,” or Dominuss (Deus) virtutum, “Lord of powers.”

(3) What then is the significance of the title? The word translated hosts denotes (1) earthly hosts or armies, as in Exodus 7:4; Psalm 44:9; (2) heavenly hosts: either (a) celestial bodies, sun moon and stars, as in Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19; Isaiah 40:26 : or (b) celestial beings, angels, as in Joshua 5:14; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 148:2. From the first of these meanings the title has been explained to mean “Lord of the armies of Israel,” and regarded “as an expression of the warlike spirit of the age:” in connexion with the second, the title “Lord of the heavenly hosts” has been thought to have originated in a protest against the idolatrous worship of “the host of heaven” already beginning to spread among the people.

(4) Whatever its origin, it should be noted that the title first appears simultaneously with the foundation of the Monarchy. It is used by David in Psalm 24:10, as the loftiest title of Jehovah. May we not then take “hosts” in its widest sense, including both earthly and heavenly hosts, and see in the title a proclamation of the universal sovereignty of Jehovah, needed within the nation, lest that invisible sovereignty should be forgotten in the visible majesty of the king; and outside the nation, lest Jehovah should be supposed to be merely a national deity? If we understand the title in this larger sense, it includes the idea that the sovereign power was specially exercised on behalf of the covenant people, and that “the Lord of hosts” was “the God of the armies of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45).

(5) For us its significance is well explained by the words of the Te Deum, “Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy Glory.” Cp. Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:6-11.


On the Name Jehovah

From very early times the sacred name Jehovah was never pronounced by the Jews, owing to a mistaken interpretation of Leviticus 24:16, which was supposed to prohibit its utterance. In reading the Scriptures they substituted for it Adônâî, which means “Lord,” except when Adônâî is joined with Jehovah, in which case Elôhîm (= “God”) was substituted.

This practice was followed by the LXX. and Vulgate, and in general by the English Version, which however, whenever Lord and God represent the Sacred Name, indicates the fact by the use of capital letters.

The true pronunciation is almost certainly lost. Jehovah is a combination of the consonants of the Name with the vowels of Adônâî which are now written with it in the Hebrew text[57]. Modern grammarians argue that it ought to be read Yahveh or Yahaveh; but Jehovah seems firmly rooted in the English language, and the really important point is not the exact pronunciation, but to bear in mind that it is a Proper Name, not merely an appellative title like Lord. It probably means “The Eternal,” or “The Self-existent,” the “I am,” and denotes God as the Covenant-God of His people Israel. See Exodus 3:14.

[57] See Introd. p. 14.


The Targum on 1 Samuel 2:1-10And Hannah prayed in the spirit of prophecy and said: Behold Samuel my son shall be a prophet over Israel: in his days shall they be delivered from the hand of the Philistines, and by his hands shall be done unto them signs and mighty acts: therefore is my heart strong in the portion which Jehovah hath given me. And likewise Heman the son of Joel, the son of my son Samuel, shall arise with his fourteen sons to chant with psalteries and harps along with their brethren the Levites, to praise in the house of the sanctuary[58]: therefore is my horn exalted in the gift which the Lord hath bestowed on me: and also concerning the miraculous vengeance which shall befall the Philistines, who shall bring the ark of Jehovah in a new cart, and a trespass-offering with it: therefore shall the congregation of Israel say, I will open my mouth to speak great things against mine enemies, because I rejoice in Thy deliverance.

[58] See 1 Chronicles 25:4-6.

Concerning Sanchêrib [Sennacherib] king of Asshur she prophesied and said, He shall arise with all his host against Jerusalem, and a great sign [miracle] shall be done upon him: the corpses of his armies shall fall there. Therefore shall all the peoples nations and tongues give thanks and say, There is none holy but Jehovah, for there is none beside Thee: and Thy people shall say, There is none strong save our God.

Concerning Nebuchadnezzar king of Babel she prophesied and said, Ye Chaldeans and all peoples who shall bear rule over Israel, ye shall not multiply many great words; blasphemies shall not come forth out of your mouth; for God knoweth all things, and over all His works is His judgment spread; and unto you will He recompense vengeance for your guilt.

Concerning the kingdom of Javan [Greece] she prophesied and said, The bows of the mighty men of Javan shall be broken, and the house of the Hasmoneans[59] who have been weak shall have signs and mighty deeds done for them.

[59] i.e. The Maccabees. See Dict. of the Bible, Art. Maccabees.

Concerning the sons of Haman she prophesied and said, Those who have been full of bread, and boasting in their riches, and abounding in wealth, have become poor, and have turned to hire themselves out for bread and victual. Mordecai and Esther who were obscure and poor are made rich and have forgotten their poverty, they have become free: so Jerusalem, who hath been as a barren woman, shall be filled with the people of her captivity: and as for guilty Rome[60] which was full and abounding in peoples, her armies shall come to an end, she shall be made desolate and utterly destroyed.

[60] So De Lagarde’s ed. Walton’s Polyglot has Aram, a mistake for Edom, the name which the later Jews constantly used for their deadly enemy Rome.

All these are the mighty acts of Jehovah who Himself reigneth over the world, killing and calling to life, bringing down to Sheol, and also causing to come up into the life of the world.

[61] [But Korah the son of Izhar the son of Kohath, from whom my son Samuel is descended, was brought down to Sheol because he arose and strove against Moses and Aaron. The righteous shall go forth out of the house of their destruction, and shall give thanks, because there is no God save Him.]

[61] So De Lagarde’s ed. Walton does not contain the passage in brackets.

Jehovah maketh poor and maketh rich, He bringeth low and lifteth up. He raiseth the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the obscure from the dunghill, to make them sit with the righteous, the great ones of the world: and the throne of glory He maketh them inherit, for before Jehovah are the deeds of the sons of men revealed. Below hath he prepared Gehenna for the wicked, who transgress His word: and for the righteous who do His will hath He founded the world. The bodies of His righteous servants will He preserve from Gehenna, and the wicked shall be judged in darkness in Gehenna, to shew that there is no man in whom is the strength of innocence for the day of judgment.

Jehovah shall break in pieces His enemies, who arise to do evil to His people. Out of heaven shall he smite them with a loud voice. He shall execute vengeance upon Gog[62] and the army of the plundering peoples who come with him from the ends of the earth, and shall give strength unto His King, and magnify the kingdom of His Messiah.

[62] Walton reads Magog. See Ezekiel 38:2, &c.; Revelation 20:8. In the Targums and Talmud Gog and Magog denote the final combination of the enemies of the kingdom of God, which is to be destroyed by the Messiah.


The Philistines

The bitterest and most successful enemies of Israel play such an important part in the history of this period as to require special notice.

(1) Their origin. The Philistines, as their name, which signifies ‘Immigrants’ and is translated by the LXX. ἀλλόφυλοι = aliens, imports, were not aboriginal inhabitants of Canaan. They came from Caphtor (Amos 9:7), and expelled or conquered the Avim who lived in villages in the Shephêlah. (Deuteronomy 2:33; Joshua 13:3). Caphtor has generally been identified with Crete, but there seems good reason for regarding it as a district of Egypt, and Genesis 10:13-14 places the Philistine among Mizraite or Egyptian races. If so, however, the migration must lave taken place before the distinctive national characteristics of the Egyptians had been developed.

(2) Their country. They occupied the southern portion of the Shephêlah or Low Country, the maritime plain stretching along the western coast of Canaan, and divided into two parallel tracts of sandy plain and cultivated corn-land. Their territory extended from Ekron on the north to the River of Egypt (the Wady-el-Arish) on the south. It was famous for its fertility. “The cities are all remarkable for the extreme beauty and profusion of the gardens which surround them—the scarlet blossoms of the pomegranates, the enormous oranges which gild the green foliage of their famous groves.… But the most striking and characteristic feature of Philistia is its immense plain of cornfields, stretching from the edge of the sandy tract right up to the very wall of the hills of Judah, which look down its whole length from north to south. These rich fields must have been the great source at once of the power and value of Philistia … It was, in fact, “a little Egypt” (cp. 2 Kings 8:2-3). These are the fields of “standing corn” with “vineyards and olives” amongst them, into which the Danite hero sent down the three hundred jackals from the neighbouring hills” (Jdg 15:4). Sinai and Palestine, pp. 257, 258. But they were not merely an agricultural people. Their geographical position gave them a commercial importance. Their land was the highway for traffic between Phoenicia and Syria on the north, and Egypt and Arabia on the south, and though we find no distinct mention in the Bible of their trade by sea, it is probable that such existed.

(3) Their government. At this period the five great strongholds of Gaza, Gath, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron were united in a formidable confederacy. Each was governed by its seren or lord and had an independent jurisdiction, but common interests bound them together for purposes of offence and defence. The “circles (E. V. borders) of the Philistines” (Joshua 13:2; Joel 3:4) were probably the districts attached to these towns.

(4) Their history. Already in the time of Abraham the Philistines appear as a pastoral tribe occupying the land, in occasional rivalry but generally on friendly terms with Abraham (Genesis 21:32; Genesis 26:1; Genesis 26:14; Genesis 26:20).

By the time of the Exodus they were sufficiently powerful to deter the Israelites from taking the shortest route to the Promised Land (Exodus 13:17).

In the division of Canaan, their territory was assigned to the tribe of Judah, which seems temporarily to have occupied Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron (Jdg 1:18), but never really subjugated the people (Joshua 13:2-3; Jdg 3:3).

About the middle of the period of the Judges their power appears to have increased considerably, which has given rise to the conjecture that they were strengthened by a fresh immigration from their original home. This supposition is unnecessary; the agricultural and commercial advantages of their country, the suitability of its level plain for military manœuvres (1 Samuel 13:5), the necessity of a special effort to resist the encroachments of their new neighbours, are quite sufficient to account for this development.

They now became a constant source of annoyance to the Israelites, establishing strong posts and making predatory raids, so that there was no security for life or property. Cp. Jdg 5:6; 1 Samuel 23:1. The first hint of their active hostility is in connexion with Shamgar (Jdg 3:31): and somewhat later they reduced the Israelites to the condition of tributary vassals (1 Samuel 4:9). Samson’s heroic exploits relieve the disgrace of a forty years’ submission: but after his death, and the capture of the Ark, the nation seems to have resigned itself to despair till Samuel rallied their scattered energies, and routed the Philistines at Ebenezer. But their power was not broken; Saul was constantly at war with them, and met his death fighting against them on the fatal field of Gilboa. David captured Gath (1 Chronicles 18:1), and Solomon included Philistia in his empire (1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings 4:24 Azzah = Gaza). But the Division of the Kingdom was the signal for the revival of their power, and they continued enemies of both kingdoms to the end. It was not till after the time of the Maccabees that their national existence finally came to an end, and Philistia was at length annexed to the Roman province of Syria.

Two notices in profane history may be mentioned to illustrate the strength and importance of the Philistine cities. Ashdod held out against Psammitichus king of Egypt for twenty-nine years, about 630 b.c. (i.e. in the reign of Josiah), “the longest siege,” says Herodotus, “of any that we know” (Herod. II. 157). Three hundred years later Gaza dared to challenge the triumphant progress of Alexander the Great, and baffled all the efforts of his engineers to take it for at least two months. See Grote’s Hist. of Greece, ch. XCIII.

(5) By a strange irony of fate the name of the territory of the detested Philistines has become our familiar title for the whole of the Holy Land. Palestine is a Greek form of Pelesheth, the Hebrew for Philistia, and the name of the district with which Greek traders became familiar through Philistine commerce gradually came to be applied to the whole country of Canaan. In the E. V. “Palestine” is only used as synonymous with Philistia, and though its modern and extended meaning appears already in Shakespeare, the limited meaning survived till the time of Milton, who speaks of Dagon as “that twice battered god of Palestine.” (Hymn on the Nativity, 199.)


On the exterminating wars of the Israelites

The “moral difficulty” of the exterminating wars of the Israelites is admirably treated by Professor Mozley in his lectures on the Old Testament entitled Ruling Ideas in Early Ages. (See especially Lectures IV and X). Such wars, involving the innocent along with the guilty in a common destruction, are incompatible not only with the Law of Love but with the Idea of Justice taught by the Gospel How, it is asked, could they ever have been commanded by God? “It is replied that God is the Author of life and death, and that He has the right at any time to deprive any number of His creatures of life, whether by the natural instrumentality of pestilence or famine, or by the express employment of man as His instrument of destruction[63]. This as an abstract defence is unquestionably true, nor can it be denied that as soon as a Divine command to exterminate a whole people becomes known to another people, they have not only the right, but are under the strictest obligation to execute such a command[64].” To some minds such a command seems strange and perplexing, but it must be remembered that there are times when a signal demonstration of Divine Justice is needed for mankind in the interests of morality; that there are times when stern judgment is the truest mercy; and that the penalty of premature physical death is by no means the most terrible fate which can overtake men even in this world.

[63] This is Butler’s defence in his Analogy, Part II. ch. 3.

[64] Ruling Ideas, p. 84.

But the difficulty still remains, how a nation could be convinced that it was to he the executioner of God’s judgments, and how it could execute them in so terrible a way without injury to its moral consciousness.

The solution is to be found in the defective Oriental idea of Justice. The destruction of a nation for the sin of its ancestors, or of a family for the offence of its head, was a common Oriental practice. It was not repugnant to the current sense of right; rather it satisfied a certain passionate excess of justice, which craved for vengeance and desired to vent itself on the criminal’s surroundings as well as himself. This indiscriminating kind of vengeance was due to the defective sense of human individuality, the want of a true perception of the rights and responsibilities of each man as an independent being. This feeling was no doubt shared by the Israelites. But with them such acts were expressly prohibited as a part of ordinary judicial procedure (Deuteronomy 24:16), and in this respect they were on a higher level than other Oriental nations. But when God saw fit by the mouth of a prophet who was recognised as His accredited messenger to enjoin the execution of such a sentence, there was no moral resistance to it. It could be accepted without hesitation as coming from God, and executed without any violation of their sense of justice.

Such commands were an “accommodation” to the moral and religious state of the nation to which they were given. Revelation is progressive, and God’s dealings with the chosen people, while designed to raise and educate them, were necessarily conditioned by their moral state at any given period. It need hardly be said that such commands are inconceivable under the Gospel dispensation. The fanatics of the seventeenth century, who sought to justify regicide by the example of Samuel and Agag, “knew not what spirit they were of.”


On the text of chapters 17 and 18

1. The Septuagint Version in its oldest form as preserved in the Vatican MS. (B) differs considerably from the present Hebrew text in chapters 17 and 18. It does not contain the following passages: 1 Samuel 17:12-31; 1 Samuel 17:41; 1 Samuel 17:48 (partly), 50, 55–58; 1 Samuel 18:1-5, and the greater part of 6, 9–11, 17–19, 29 b, 30. There are besides a few minor variations.

Some of these passages are wanting in a few other MSS. beside B: in the Alexandrine (A) and most other MSS. they have been inserted: but it is clear that at least 1 Samuel 17:12-31 was not in the archetype from which A was copied, and the style of the version proves conclusively that it is no part of the original Septuagint, but derived from some other source, perhaps the version of Theodotion, which was executed in the second century a.d.

The result of these omissions is a straightforward and consistent narrative free from the difficulties of the Hebrew text. David, in virtue of his appointment as armour-bearer (1 Samuel 16:21) has accompanied Saul into the valley of Elah: he challenges and slays Goliath, and on his return at the close of the campaign is welcomed by the songs of the women of Israel: by his further military successes he wins the affections of the people and the love of Michal. Three stages in the development of Saul’s enmity are clearly marked: (a) 1 Samuel 18:12, “he was afraid of him;” (b) 1 Samuel 18:15, “he stood in awe of him,” and endeavoured indirectly to get rid of him; (c) 1 Samuel 18:29, 1 Samuel 19:1, “he was yet more afraid of David,” and gave orders for his murder.

2. The Hebrew text, on the other hand, presents serious internal difficulties, and appears to combine two inconsistent accounts of David’s introduction to the court of Saul. Ch. 1 Samuel 16:19 ff. relates how David was summoned to court for his musical skill, won Saul’s affection, and became his armour-bearer: whereas in ch. 17 we find him absent from the army in time of war, and only accidentally brought to the camp by an errand to his brothers: regarded as a mere shepherd-boy unaccustomed to the use of weapons: unknown apparently to the king and to Abner.

Minor objections are (a) that the notice of Jesse in ch. 1 Samuel 17:12 ff. appears superfluous after that in ch. 16, and the Hebrew shews evident signs of having been pieced together at this point: (b) that the anticipation in 1 Samuel 18:5 of facts which are recorded in their natural order in vv. 13, 14 is strange: (c) that Saul’s threat to murder David on the very day after their return appears premature, and is inconsistent with his subsequent promotion of him: (d) that the marriage of Merab to Adriel is involved in some doubt, for in 2 Samuel 21:8 the Heb. reads “the five sons of Michal … whom she bare to Adriel.”

3. The following explanations of the chief difficulties have been offered. (1) That David’s residence at the court related in 1 Samuel 16:22 was not permanent; he was only summoned when Saul’s madness required his services; and the notice “he became his armour-bearer” refers to what happened eventually after the slaughter of Goliath; the writer, according to a common practice of Hebrew historians, anticipating the course of events. (2) That Saul’s ignorance may be accounted for by supposing that he had only seen David in his fits of madness, and possibly not for some time, and so failed to recognise him; while Abner would not be likely to trouble himself to inquire about the family of a minstrel-boy in occasional attendance on the king. (3) According to another hypothesis, Saul’s inquiry in 18:55 ff. concerns not David but his father, and does not shew any want of recognition of David, but was prompted by the wish to ascertain “whether his coming of any warrior lineage might justify some hope of a prosperous issue of the unequal conflict;” or by a desire to know the parentage of his future son-in-law. (4) Another theory assumes that the events of ch. 16 were really subsequent to those of ch. 17; and in support of this view stress is laid upon the expression “man of war” applied to David in 1 Samuel 16:18. But this explanation is incompatible with 1 Samuel 18:2, which definitely states that David’s residence at court after the slaughter of Goliath was continuous.

4. The most probable conclusion appears to be that the Septuagint preserves the text of these chapters in the form in which it was originally published, and that at some subsequent date the additions now found in the Hebrew text were made from a different source, either documentary or traditional. It is unlikely that the Septuagint translators would have been guilty of a deliberate mutilation of the text; and still more unlikely that a number of intentional omissions would have resulted in a simple and connected narrative, if the Hebrew text was originally a homogeneous whole, derived from the same source or written by one hand.

5. The historical value of these additions must remain a moot question. Perhaps the two narratives might be satisfactorily harmonized if we had all the facts before us: as it is, the difficulties must be candidly acknowledged.

It may seem to some readers rash to doubt the integrity of the Hebrew text. But it must be borne in mind that the Septuagint is by far the most ancient evidence we possess for the text of the O.T., the oldest known Hebrew MS. not being earlier than the 10th (or possibly 9th) century a.d., and that though the additions to the Hebrew text were doubtless made before the Christian era, the Greek Scriptures used by the Evangelists and Apostles in all probability did not contain the passages of which the genuineness is suspected.


On the Narratives of Chapters 1 Samuel 23:19 to 1 Samuel 24:22 and 1 Samuel 26

The striking resemblance of the narrative of ch. 26 in many points to that of ch. 1 Samuel 23:19 to 1 Samuel 24:22 has led some commentators to suppose that it is only a more detailed account of the same event. The main points of agreement between the narratives are (a) the conduct of the Ziphites; (b) Saul’s pursuit of David; (c) David’s generous refusal to take Saul’s life. Besides these there are several minor coincidences both of circumstance and language.

But on the other hand (a) there is no great improbability in supposing that David twice occupied a convenient position in the hill of Hachilah, and was twice betrayed by the Ziphites. (b) Saul, it is said, must have been “a moral monster” deliberately to repeat his pursuit of David under the same circumstances. To this it may be answered that all the history proves Saul to have been fickle and untrustworthy. (c) David may well have spared Saul’s life on two different occasions. (d) It is only natural that in the accounts of two similar events there should be several close coincidences.

Further, if the narratives are closely examined. It will be found that the differences outweigh the resemblances, and the difficulty of reconciling the narratives, if they refer to the same occurrence, is far greater than that of supposing that somewhat similar events happened twice, during a pursuit which lasted several years, and was confined to a small district. The following points should be noticed.

(a) The section 1 Samuel 23:19 to 1 Samuel 24:22 contains a narrative of what took place upon two distinct occasions, separated by Saul’s being called away to repel a Philistine raid (1 Samuel 23:27); here there is no Indication of such an interval between Saul’s arrival at Hachilah and David’s visit to his camp.

(b) The scene of the interview is different in each case. Here it is the camp at Hachilah: there a cave at En-gedi.

(c) The circumstances differ. Here David deliberately enters Saul’s camp and takes his spear, &c.: there he accidentally gets Saul into his power in the cave in which he was concealed, and deprives him of the lappet of his robe.

(d) The persons concerned here are mentioned by name: there only “the men” in general are spoken of.

(e) The point of the conversation is different: here Saul only uses general language; there he acknowledges that David will be king and exacts an oath from him: here David indignantly demands to know why he is persecuted; there he lays stress on his having spared the king’s life as a proof of his innocence.

(f) The general circumstances of this narrative correspond to a later period of David’s life, when David was bolder, and Saul more hardened; and it would appear from 1 Samuel 27:1 that this pursuit was the final act of persecution which drove David to quit the country and take refuge at Gath.


On the narrative of Chapter 1 Samuel 28:7 ff.

Does the scene in the witch of Endor’s house describe a real apparition, or an imposture? In the former case, was it (1) Samuel himself who appeared and spoke, or (2) a demon counterfeiting the form of Samuel? In the latter case, (3) was the woman self-deceived, or (4) did she deliberately impose upon Saul?

(1) That the spirit of Samuel himself appeared was the view of the ancient Jewish church. This is attested (a) by the Sept. addition in 1 Chronicles 10:13; “Saul asked counsel of her that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of her; and Samuel made answer to him: (b) by the book of Ecclesiasticus (Sir 46:20); “After his death [Samuel] prophesied, and shewed the king his end, and lifted up his voice from the earth in prophecy:” (c) by Josephus; and the generality of Jewish commentators.

The same opinion was maintained by early Christian writers, e.g. Justin Martyr, Origen, Augustine, and others.

Unquestionably it is the plain and natural meaning of the narrative. The expressions in v. 15, “Samuel said to Saul;” v. 16, “Then said Samuel;” v. 20, “the words of Samuel;” leave no doubt of this. The objection however is made that it is impossible to believe that God would have allowed the witch to call up the spirit of Samuel. This objection has some weight. But it does not appear that his appearance is to be regarded as the result of the witch’s incantations. “None was more amazed at the success of her necromancies than the sorceress herself.” It was not the witch who compelled Samuel to appear but God who sent the spirit of His servant to confound her, and to punish the king and pronounce final sentence on him for his sins. The apparition was a fulfilment of God’s words by the prophet Ezekiel (1 Samuel 14:4; 1 Samuel 14:7); “Every one of the house of Israel … which separateth himself from Me, and setteth up his idols in his heart … and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me; I the Lord will answer him by myself.”

(2) The view that the appearance of Samuel was a diabolical delusion appears first in Tertullian, who says: “The pythonic spirit was permitted to assume the form of Samuel, for it is inconceivable that the soul of any saint, much less of a prophet, was drawn forth by a demon” (De anima c. 57). Jerome followed him; and the theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, led by Luther and Calvin, held the same opinion, arguing that it was impossible that God should have allowed His prophet to be the victim of diabolical sorceries. This view starts from a priori reasoning as to what is possible and what is not, instead of taking the plain sense of the narrative: and the difficulty on which it is based has been answered above.

(3) A modern hypothesis supposes that the witch wrought herself into a state of ecstasy in which she deceived herself into imagining that she saw Samuel, and heard him speak. But though this may have been the usual character of her sorceries, it would appear that on the present occasion the apparition was of a character for which she was not prepared; and though it is not certain that Saul saw the figure of Samuel, the dialogue is carried on between them directly, without the witch’s intervention.

(4) Another theory regards the affair as a deliberate imposture practised upon Saul by the witch, who pretended to see Samuel when she really saw nothing, and contrived to make Saul believe that her own voice or that of a confederate was the voice of Samuel. This view finds no support in the narrative, which implies throughout that the sentence of doom pronounced upon Saul was a true prophecy; and it destroys the dread significance of the whole transaction.


The Site of Kirjath-jearim

The usual identification of Kirjath-jearim with Kuryet-el-enab has lately been called in question by Lieut. Conder, who proposes to place it at ’Erma, four miles E. of Ain Shems (Beth-Shemesh), on the edge of the Wady-es-Surar or Valley of Sorek. The name ’Erma corresponds to the form Arim, which took the place of the original Jearim in later times (Ezra 2:25); the dense brushwood still clothing the hills agrees with the meaning of the name “City of Forests;” and the position suits the data much better than the Kuryet-el-enab site. See Pal. Expl. Fund Quart. Paper for Oct. 1881, p. 261.

In the neighbourhood of ’Erma “the survey party fixed the situation of Deir Aban, ‘the Convent of the Stone,’ which St Jerome identifies with the site of Ebenezer, ‘the Stone of Help.’ … The situation of the site seems to render the traditional view not improbably correct, for the village stands at the mouth of the great valley down which undoubtedly the Philistine hosts were driven.” P. E. F. Quart. Paper for Jan. 1883, p. 43.


On Chapter 1 Samuel 15:9The word mishnîm which stands in our present Hebrew text does not mean fatlings, but, as it is rendered in the margin, of the second sort, or, of the second birth. Animals of the second birth are said to have been more highly prized, but this sense is doubtful: the context clearly excludes the meaning second-rate: and it is best to emend the Hebrew text by the insertion of a single letter, so as to get a word meaning fatlings. The E. V. follows some of the ancient versions (Targum, Syriac, Arabic) in this rendering.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

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