From judges to monarchy
God’s purpose for Israel
was to have His people be different from all other
nations. However, they wanted to be like their
neighbors. The last of the judges was also a prophet
and he warned them of the dangers of their desires.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 makes clear God’s command
regarding a king over Israel when she settled in the
Promised Land. As we discover in 1 Samuel they chose
a king of their own making rather than God’s choice.
Israel could reject Yahweh from being their King,
but they could not dethrone Him. Saul was a king
after the people’s own heart, but David was the king
after God’s own heart.
originally was called "Books of the Kingdoms, and
the two books of Samuel were one in the Hebrew text.
The translators of the Greek Old Testament,
Septuagint, divided the book and gave the titles
First and Second Kingdoms with our two books of
Kings as Third and Fourth Kingdoms. Since 1516 First
and Second Samuel and First and Second Kings have
been used as their titles. 1 Samuel describes the
transition to monarchy, while 2 Samuel focuses on
the establishment of the Davidic covenant with God.
The original readers of Samuel had one complete
volume. Second Samuel is the continuation of the
first volume in our English Bible.
of both books is unknown although Jewish tradition
suggests Samuel in chapters in which his history is
recorded, with Nathan and Gad completing the book (1
Sam. 10:25; 1 Chron. 29:29). It is possible an
unnamed prophet compiled the books of Samuel from
the writings of Samuel, Gad, Nathan and other
sources. It is likely these two books bear his name
because of Samuel’s dominate role in transition from
the judges to a monarchy. The same person who wrote
1 Samuel also wrote 2 Samuel as well.
covers about 120 years from 1090 to 970 B.C. The
focus is on the last of the judges to the
establishment of the kingdom. First Chronicles runs
parallel in time. First Samuel opens with the birth
of Samuel and 2 Samuel closes with the last days of
David. The time covers three important characters in
the transition to a monarchy: Saul (1050-1010 B.C.),
David (1010-970 B.C.), Solomon (970-931 B.C.) and
the division of the kingdom about 931 B.C. Second
Samuel begins with David at the peak of his career
and focuses on the events in David’s forty year
reign as the king who united Judah and Israel.
Clyde Francisco describes
the culture in Samuel as filled with "religious
short comings. . . enemies were tortured, polygamy
was common in the upper class." The centralized
government "exerted a strong unifying influence on
religious thought and practices. The poor had a
right to justice, adultery was recognized as a great
crime, and more emphasis was placed on the rights of
the individuals" (p. 56).
Israel’s biggest enemy
was the Philistines whom David subdued. They lived
along the Mediterranean coast and their strength lay
in their possession of iron weapons. We get the name
"Palestine" from these inhabitants of the land who
migrated from Greece and Crete. The Philistines
captured the Ark of the Covenant which symbolized
God’s presence with His people. The Israelites
foolishly thought the ark would protect them if they
took it with them into battle. The false gods Israel
contended with ere Canaanite gods.
is to record the establishment of the kingdom and
the Davidic covenant by Yahweh. The people chose
Saul, a Benjaminite, but God chose the dynasty of
David from the tribe of Judah. It documents the
transition from a group of tribes into a monarchy.
God’s idea was for Israel to be a theocracy in which
King David is the type of a Greater David, the
First Samuel begins where
the judges left off, "In those days Israel had no
king; everyone did as he saw fit" (Jud. 21:25).
Samuel gives us the transition from the last judge
to the people’s choice of a king and later God’s
choice (8:5; 15:23). Second Samuel gives us the
highlights of the reign of King David and the
relationship of Israel to her sovereign God. It
stresses the spiritual relationship of "a man after
God’s own heart" with its ensuing blessings and
resulting failures and punishment when God is not
his desire. 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12 are the
critical turning point in the life of David and his
of the books is the covenant with David. Yahweh is
faithful to His promises and will help His people to
accomplish His eternal purposes. God is sovereign in
the affairs of His nation. Everything moves toward
and is centered on the Davidic covenant. Human sin
and bad judgment jeopardized the Davidic covenant,
but God overrules it to accomplish His purposes.
The theme is developed
around three characters Samuel, Saul and David.
Samuel is the last of the judges of Israel (7:6,
15-17). Saul was the first king and the people’s
choice; David is God’s choice. His reign as king is
described in Second Samuel. How ironic that His
people wanted a king, but not the King!
The author gives us an
interpretation of Israel’s history from the
prophetic point of view. He interprets the relation
of these three key men in the establishment of the
kingdom. It is shown that Samuel prepared the
foundations of the kingdom; Saul tried to establish
it but failed; and David succeeded in establishing
it. The God of Israel continues to be the true king
of Israel. The earthly king is Yahweh’s
representative on earth and responsible to Him. The
success or failure of the earthly king depended upon
his relationship with Yahweh.
J. W. Watts said, "The
theme of 1 and 2 Samuel is the establishment of the
kingdom and the theme of 1 and 2 Kings is the taking
away of the kingdom."
The principle of
obedience to Yahweh beings blessings and
disobedience brings judgment is illustrated in the
life of David in 2 Samuel. However, God will pursue
His eternal purpose and overrule man’s disobedience.
Even though David commits adultery and murder for
Bathsheba, she is the wife who gives birth to
Solomon the successor to the kingdom. The intrigue
and murder in David’s family is overruled so that
God’s chosen reigns on the throne after David’s
Samuel, meaning, "El is
His name," or "name of God," is the chosen man God
used to usher in a new period in the history of
Israel. He was Israel’s kingmaker and was the
greatest Old Testament character since Moses. He was
a Levite, a Nazarite, prophet and judge at a
critical time in Biblical history. God used him to
shape the future of the kingdom. Israel clamored for
a king under Samuel’s rule as a judge.
"The truly successful
pattern of government for Israel was a delicate
balance—not a theocracy or monarchy but theocracy
through monarchy. God must always be the true ruler
if Israel was to be His people" (La Sor, Hubbard,
Bush, Old Testament Survey, p. 235). Even
when Israel had a human king, he was to be only the
representative of the divine King. The people did
not understand this when they chose Saul a
Benjaminite. If Yahweh were not King, any human king
would not meet the demands for a righteous king. The
king was to be viewed as the earthly head of God’s
Saul is described as
daring, brash, lack of spiritual sensibilities,
sincere but artificial, dangerously unpredictable
with an explosive disposition, rash and flagrantly
disobedient to God. He deliberately disobeyed Yahweh
by saving Agag, the king of the Amalekites and their
best sheep and oxen. An evil spirit came upon Saul
(1 Sam. 16:14-23), and when David became the
military hero Saul turned bitter with envy
(17:1-28:2). His tragic end was inquiring spiritual
help from the witch at Endor (28:3-25).
R. B. Jones says, "The
king whom the people selected in preference to the
Lord proved to be unworthy and weak. But the
children of Israel refused to learn their lesson. In
deed, it seems hard for the nation to learn that
only the Lord can be a worthy King" (p. 122).
David is the king the
LORD God placed on the throne. He was anointed when
he was about fifteen years old and was king in
waiting for another fifteen years (1 Sam.
16:1-30:31). For almost 400 years the kings in
Jerusalem would be sons of David.
David as "a man after
God’s own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22) was a
successful and prosperous king until his sin of
adultery and murder. After his sin with Bathsheba
his life and kingdom were chastised. Rulers of the
ancient world generally exercised absolute power so
it is a wonder that the prophet Nathan was not
killed (2 Sam. 12:1-14). God’s mercy was David’s
only hope (Ps. 32; 51). No attempt is made by the
author to excuse his glaring sins. The Old Testament
is remarkably honest in dealing with its heroic
The great importance of
David is seen in God’s covenant with him. "God’s
promise of a Redeemer becomes still more specific in
the covenant He made with David that his seed would
sit upon his throne forever. The Seed of the Woman
is to be the Seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from
the tribe of Judah and of the line of David. David
was a type of the Greater King, the Messiah to come.
The Kingdom of Israel was a type of the Messianic
Kingdom to come" (Jones, p. 126). The apostle Peter
declared the fulfillment of this great prophecy (1
Sam. 7:12-16; 1 Chron. 17:11-14) in his sermon at
Pentecost (Acts. 2:30-36; cf. Rom. 1:3; Rev. 22:16).
As Jesus came into Jerusalem the people shouted,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!" (Matt. 21:9, 15).
David is referred to 58 times in the New Testament.
God promised David that
the throne of his kingdom would be established
forever which was fulfilled in the eternal reign of
David's Greater Son, Jesus Christ. Cf. 2 Sam. 7:16;
1 Kings 2:4; 1 Chron. 22:8-10; 2 Chron. 7:17-18; Ps.
89:3-4, 27-29, 34-37; 132:11; Amos 9:11-12; Isa.
9:6-7; 11:1, 10; Micah 5:2, 4; Jer. 22:29; 23:5-6;
33:20-21; Zech. 3:8, 9; 6:12, 13; 9:10; 12:8; 13:1;
Lk. 1:30-33; Matt. 1:1-18.
The foundation for the
messianic theology is seen in the hope that one day
a Davidic king would meet the conditions and bring
the restoration of the full Davidic covenant (Jer.
33:14-22). The covenant would be renewed through the
ideal Davidic king, Jesus Christ who is the
fulfillment of the Davidic covenant with a truly
IMPORTANCE OF THE
KINGDOM: J. W. Watts explains: "the
kingdom in Israel meant the kingdom of God; the
success of the human king depended upon obedience to
God; failure to obey led to rejection of Saul as
king." It is also to be noted the "submission to the
will of Yahweh, even after his great sin, led to
establishment of the line of David forever."
Samuel’s focus is clear: Yahweh your God is your
King (1 Sam. 12:12). The king was appointed by
Yahweh and if he served Yahweh it would be well for
him, but if not Yahweh would be against him
(12:13-15). We see the principle clearly in the
lives of Saul and David. It is of note that the
expression "the servant of Yahweh" is never used of
Saul, or by Saul. However, this is the emphasis in
the case of King David. The "anointed of Yahweh" is
a divine ordination to an office symbolized with
anointing oil. The "servant of Yahweh" was appointed
by Yahweh and was successful because he learned
obedience (2 Sam. 3:18; 7:5, 8, 19-29).
Samuel is a powerful
message that nothing is out of God’s jurisdiction.
No event, no location, no person is beyond His
control. G. Campbell Morgan said, "The ultimate
victory of God is independent of the attitudes of
individuals and people towards Him."
The people cried, "Make
us a king to judge us like all the nations." And God
said, "They have rejected me, that I should not be
King over them."
Title: Introduction to 1
& 2 Samuel
Series: Introduction to