Composition of the Books of Samuel


Approximate date: 970-800s B.C.E. (Right, some conservative-moderate); before 586 B.C.E. (some conservative-moderate, some Left); mid-to-late 500s B.C.E. (some Left)

Time period: rise of Israel’s monarchy via the establishment of Kings Saul and David

Author: Samuel (Right); Israel’s court historians and further editors (conservative-moderate); Israel’s court historians or an unknown exile from the Southern Kingdom (Left)

Location of author: Land of Israel (Right, some conservative-moderate); Jerusalem, Babylon, and/or Land of Israel (some conservative-moderate, Left)

Target audience and their location: people of Israel during the Davidic and/or Solomonic monarchy (Right, conservative-moderate); Jewish religious leaders during the reign of King Josiah and/or Jewish exiles living in Babylon or returning from Babylon (Left)

Theological Summary: The Books of 1&2 Samuel are named for the Prophet Shmuel whom God used to establish Israel’s monarchy. It is largely an account of three individuals: Samuel as Israel’s last judge, Saul as Israel’s first king, and David as Israel’s greatest king. The Prophet Samuel anointed both Saul and David, and his role in this period of Israel’s history is similar to that of Moses several centuries earlier (Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1). The Books of 1&2 Samuel tell us a great deal about the human condition as lived out in the lives of political figures. 1&2 Samuel depict a type of kingship unique to the Ancient Near East, where kings were often absolute rulers. With the examples of Saul and David, we see that a delicate balance existed between Israel’s monarchs and the religious authorities, making the king accountable to God.

Samuel was originally a single book, but became divided in two by the Third-Second Centuries B.C.E. by the translators of the Greek Septuagint. This likely occurred because the Greek translation of the Hebrew required two scrolls instead of one. The division of Samuel into two books started appearing in standardized Hebrew texts in the Fifteenth-Sixteenth Centuries C.E., possibly to accommodate Christians in Europe. The division between 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel occurs naturally as King Saul dies and the reign of King David begins.

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reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.

Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.

A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.

290 pages