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Biblical Studies 1 and 2 Samuel
by
Graeme Auld

Introduction

The books 1 and 2 Samuel tell the story of King David, founder of the line that would rule in Jerusalem for over four hundred years and the most closely drawn character in the narrative of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament. The artistry of the telling, the range of the associated themes, the importance of many of the related characters, and the intricacy of the textual history combine to make 1 and 2 Samuel among the most enjoyed and closely discussed biblical books.

General Overviews

Convenient resources for the beginner are articles in Bible dictionaries, short commentaries in one-volume Bible commentaries, and designated introductions. Gordon 1984 is an established handbook. Flanagan and Brueggemann 1992 is in a very widely cited dictionary. Jones 2001 and Auld 2003 were prepared for millennium state-of-the-art volumes; Phillips 2008 also offers a well-informed reading of Samuel. Both Arnold 2005 and McKenzie 2010 set 1 and 2 Samuel in their immediate biblical context of the “historical” (or narrative) books.

Bibliographies

Many of the volumes noted in this section provide extended bibliographical annotation, though some are limited by the preferences of their authors or editors. More dispassionate coverage is found in the appropriate sections of the principal bibliographical tools for biblical studies in general. Of these the annual Elenchus of Biblica is the most compendious, but it is published some three years after the end of the year whose output it reviews. Though not yet available online, it does have a close relationship with the website of Innsbruck University. The annual Society for Old Testament Study Book List is published in June–July, with reviews of the books published (largely) in the previous calendar year. Since 1998 it has also been available as one of the fascicles of the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. The principal focus of Old Testament Abstracts (three times per year) is recent journal literature, but book abstracts are increasingly featured. Each fascicle of the long-established Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (normally four times per year) contains a Zeitschriftenschau and a Bücherschau. The Society for Old Testament Study Book List, Old Testament Abstracts, and Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft all can be accessed online. The Review of Biblical Literature (published by the Society of Biblical Literature and Watt) publishes substantial online reviews of books (sometimes two or three of the same book), a selection of which is also made available in printed form.

Masoretic Hebrew Text

The ancient Hebrew text of Samuel is attested in at least two main forms. First, the Aleppo Codex 2007 and the Leningrad Codex (Freedman 1997) are high-quality photographic reproductions of the two oldest and almost completely preserved manuscripts (both dated close to 1000 CE). It is this “masoretic” (or traditional) form of the ancient text (but not always its exact wording) that is also attested in the Aramaic paraphrase (Targum), in the Syriac translation of the Bible (Peshitta), and in Jerome’s Latin translation (now the Vulgate). Biblia Hebraica Leningradensia (Dotan 2001) provides a printed transcript of the Leningrad codex, and the text of this manuscript is also reproduced in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Elliger and Rudolph 1983). Second, sufficiently extensive fragments of one manuscript of Samuel were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (catalogued as 4Q51 or 4QSama), proving that a distinctively different form of the Hebrew text had also existed some one thousand years before the Aleppo and Leningrad codices. See also The Greek Texts and Qumran.

Qumran

The fragments of Samuel found among the Dead Sea Scrolls derive from four distinct manuscripts. Qumran Cave 1 (Barthélemy and Milik 1955) includes one of these and Qumran Cave 4 (Cross, et al. 2005) the other three (4Q51 or 4QSama, 4Q52 or 4QSamb, and 4Q53 or 4QSamc). All of them agree much more closely with the Old Greek and with 1 Chronicles than with the masoretic text. Quite the most extensive is 4QSama, and it has been particularly closely studied. It also includes a few distinctive pluses that may have been lost from the later standard texts (see also English Translations). Tov 1999 represents the broad consensus that they are simply evidence of the pluriformity of the text of Samuel when the manuscripts were written. Rofé 2010 reckons with a category of nonstandard or parabiblical texts and includes 4QSama among them.

  • Barthélemy, D., and J. T. Milik, eds. Qumran Cave 1. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert 1. Oxford: Clarendon, 1955.

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    Four small fragments (pp. 64–65) from a single manuscript of Samuel showing links with 1 Chronicles or Samuel (LXX) against Samuel (MT [traditional text]).

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  • Cross, Frank M., Donald W. Parry, Richard J. Saley, and Eugene Ulrich, eds. Qumran Cave 4. Vol. 12, 1–2 Samuel. Oxford: Clarendon, 2005.

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    This official edition of the fragments of three Samuel scrolls from Cave 4 should normally be preferred over the many preliminary reports and assessments used in most studies of Samuel prepared before 2005.

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  • Rofé, Alexander. “Midrashic Traits in 4Q51 (So-called 4QSama).” In Archaeology of the Books of Samuel: The Entangling of the Textual and Literary History. Edited by Philippe Hugo and Adrian Schenker, 75–88. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 132. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004179578.i-304Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Advances his argument against the consensus: 4Q51 offers something other than a variant version of the book of Samuel and includes elements of early Midrash.

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  • Tov, Emanuel. “The Contribution of the Qumran Scrolls to the Understanding of the Septuagint.” In The Greek and Hebrew Bible: Collected Essays on the Septuagint. Edited by Emanuel Tov, 285–300. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 72. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999.

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    An important essay in an invaluable collection (see also The Greek Texts).

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The Greek Texts

The Old Greek (OG) translation of 1 and 2 Samuel is known as 1 and 2 Kingdoms (or Reigns); 1 and 2 Kings (MT [traditional text]) corresponds to 3 and 4 Kingdoms. 1 and 2 Kingdoms differs from 1 and 2 Samuel (MT) in many regards, great and small. Where extant, the Hebrew 4Q51/4QSama, like the synoptic portions of 1 Chronicles 11–21, agrees much more often with OG Samuel than with MT Samuel. The fact that two Hebrew texts (Chronicles and the best-preserved of the Dead Sea manuscripts of Samuel) share more of the distinctive features of Old Greek 1 and 2 Kingdoms than of 1 and 2 Samuel (MT), taken together with the apparent literalism of that Greek translation, constitutes a very strong argument that the OG was translated from a form of Samuel quite different from 1 and 2 Samuel (MT). The oldest Latin translation of the Old Testament (conventionally abbreviated OL or VL) is a further important witness to this alternative version of Samuel. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana 1999 is a magnificent photographic edition of arguably the most important Greek Bible manuscript, dating from the 4th century CE and widely referred to as LXXB or, where the context is clear, simply as B. The Old Testament in Greek (Brooke, et al. 1927) provides a printed transcript of LXXB, with variant readings in most other manuscripts noted and evaluated below. El texto antioqueno de la Biblia griega (Fernández Marcos and Busto Saiz 1989) offers a reconstruction of the oldest form of the Antiochean or Lucianic Greek text (LXXL) on the basis of five closely related manuscripts, while Glosas marginales de Vetus Latina en las Biblias vulgatas españolas: 1–2 Samuel (Morano Rodríguez 1989), from the same research group, gives partial access to the so-called Old Latin or Vetus Latina. Grillet and Lestienne 1997 is based on the text of 1 Kingdoms in the widely used Septuaginta (Rahlfs 1935). Codex Vaticanus (LXXB) (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana 1999) from the 4th century CE, available in a printed photographic edition, is reckoned the best witness to the Old Greek in 1 Kingdoms 1–2 Kingdoms 9 or 10. From 2 Kingdoms 10:1 (or 11:2), the Antiochene or Lucianic text (LXXL) is reckoned a better witness.

  • Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. Bibliorum sacrorum Graecorum Codex Vaticanus B. Rome: Istituto poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, 1999.

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    Our best witness to most of the Old Greek translation of Samuel (1 Sam. 1–2 Sam. 9 or 10).

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  • Brooke, Alan E., Norman McLean, and Henry St. John Thackeray, eds. The Old Testament in Greek. Vol. 2, Pt. 1, I and II Samuel. London: Cambridge University Press, 1927.

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    Still indispensable for textual criticism, especially of 1 Samuel 1–2 Samuel 9 or 10.

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  • Fernández Marcos, Natalio, and José Ramón Busto Saiz, eds. El texto antioqueno de la Biblia griega. Vol. 1, 1–2 Samuel. Madrid: Instituto de Filología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1989.

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    Particularly important for 2 Samuel 10:1 (or 11:2)–1 Kings 2:11, where LXXB had been revised toward MT.

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  • Grillet, Bernard, and Michel Lestienne, eds. and trans. La Bible d’Alexandrie. Vol. 9.1, Premier livre des Règnes. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1997.

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    Translates into French the Greek text of 1 Samuel in Rahlfs 1935, with a commentary written against the background of the Hellenistic world in which 1 Kingdoms was translated and of the late classical world of its early commentators.

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  • Morano Rodríguez, Ciriaca, ed. Glosas marginales de Vetus Latina en las Biblias vulgatas españolas: 1–2 Samuel. Madrid: Instituto de Filología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1989.

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    The Old Latin was translated from Greek and not (like Jerome’s Latin version) from Hebrew. No longer available in its entirety, it has to be reconstructed from marginal notes in manuscripts of Jerome’s version that gradually replaced it as the vulgata.

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  • Rahlfs, Alfred, ed. Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum graece iuxta LXX interpretes. Stuttgart: Württembergische Bibelanstalt, 1935.

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    The most widely used compact edition of the Greek Bible, generally used in scholarship where, as in the case of Samuel/Kingdoms, a modern critical edition is not yet available. Though an eclectic edition, it is heavily indebted to LXXB. Reprinted, Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006.

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Textual History

Traditionally, the goal of the “text critic” or “textual historian” has been to reconstruct the author’s original text or at least the oldest recoverable version of that text. The complexity of the earliest evidence for the books of Samuel (as of Jeremiah) has led to a reorientation. While discrimination is still possible between individual readings that are more or less reliable, the overall goal is to track the development of parallel versions and their occasional mutual influence. Cross 1964 presents a much-cited argument that parallel local texts of books like Samuel developed in the final centuries BCE. Barthélemy, et al. 1986 focuses on one of the largest and most fascinating issues in the textual criticism of the Bible. Trebolle 1989, Tov 1999, and Hugo and Schenker 2010 also deal authoritatively with the interplay between textual and literary history.

  • Barthélemy, Dominique, David W. Gooding, Johan Lust, and Emanuel Tov. The Story of David and Goliath: Textual and Literary Criticism; Papers of a Joint Research Venture. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 73. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1986.

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    LXXB (Codex Vaticanus) differs more substantially from MT (traditional text) in 1 Samuel 17–18 than in any other portion of HB/OT. This magisterial discussion of the textual-historical and literary-historical issues between four acknowledged experts continues to shape critical discussion.

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  • Cross, Frank M., Jr. “The History of the Biblical Text in the Light of Discoveries in the Judaean Desert.” Harvard Theological Review 57 (1964): 281–299.

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    Presents his very influential argument that parallel local texts of books like Samuel developed in the final centuries BCE.

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  • Hugo, Philippe, and Adrian Schenker, eds. Archaeology of the Books of Samuel: The Entangling of the Textual and Literary History. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 132. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004179578.i-304Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Essays by a dozen scholars (including Julio Trebolle Barrera and Emanuel Tov) offer a snapshot of the variety of text-critical studies of Samuel at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The opening review by Hugo (pp. 1–19) concludes with a very useful bibliography.

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  • Tov, Emanuel. The Greek and Hebrew Bible: Collected Essays on the Septuagint. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 72. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999.

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    A few of the thirty-eight articles relate specifically to Samuel, but many more are relevant to study of Samuel in MT, LXX, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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  • Trebolle Barrera, Julio. Centena in libros Samuelis et Regum: Variantes textuales y composición literaria en los libros de Samuel y Reyes. Madrid: Instituto de Filología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1989.

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    Trebolle harnesses his mastery of the text-critical evidence (including the Old Latin) in support of proposals about the development of one hundred portions of Samuel (and Kings). Thirty-five of the passages reviewed come from 1 Samuel and thirteen from 2 Samuel.

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English Translations

The range of Bible renderings available (many of them online) may be quite bewildering. Some are more appropriate for public reading, others for independent study. Some suit more conservative theologies, and others are more liberal. Claims of literalness in prefaces may be intended to reassure rather than describe. The Bible Translator and the Zeitschrift für Althebraistik are excellent resources. Serious students of any book in the Hebrew Bible without good competence in Hebrew are well advised to consult several translations of each passage to help them judge where there is greater and where lesser agreement over the sense, and these should include the Holy Bible: New International Version 1978, the Tanakh (Jewish Publication Society 1985), and the Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version 1989. Alter 1999 (cited under Early 21st Century) and Fox 1999 together make a strong case for more literal translation. Translations intended for public use have tended to stay as close as possible to the traditional text (MT), but the New Revised Standard Version is more eclectic. Controversially, at the end of 1 Samuel 10 it includes three sentences attested only in 4Q51 (see Qumran) and by Flavius Josephus, a 1st–century CE Jewish historian. A New English Translation of the Septuagint (Wright 2007) follows the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version stylistically.

The Former Prophets

Most (non-Jewish) Bibles place Samuel among all the narrative (or historical) books of the Old Testament, as already in the 4th-century CE Codex Vaticanus (LXXB). But most academic studies of Samuel since the beginning of the 19th century have privileged the alternative canonical ordering in the Jewish scriptures (Tanakh), viewing Samuel in the more immediate context of the four “Former Prophets”: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings (but not Ruth). Scholars have long noticed links between vocabulary and themes in the Former Prophets and in Deuteronomy and had argued that the narratives were edited by scribes influenced by Deuteronomy. Martin Noth’s thesis of a Deuteronomistic history (DtrH), first published in German in 1943, dominated Hebrew Bible scholarship for the next half century. Critical questions raised in the 1990s have become more insistent in the 21st century.

Noth and a Deuteronomistic History

Modern discussion has been heavily influenced by Noth 1981. In 1943 Martin Noth argued that around 560 BCE (during Judah’s Babylonian exile) a single Deuteronomist, though working from substantial sources, authored the whole history from Deuteronomy 1 to 2 Kings 25 to explain the divine judgment “towards which the Israelite people were precipitated in the course of their history.” Many aspects of Noth’s work have been heavily modified and even departed from, yet Deuteronomistic history (DtrH) remains almost universal scholarly currency. In Samuel much of the debate has centered on 1 Samuel 12 and 2 Samuel 7. Cross 1973 follows up McCarthy 1965 and includes under the rubric of the “Judaean Royal Theology” a substantial and much-cited discussion of 2 Samuel 7 (pp. 242–261). Nelson 1981 develops Cross 1973. Campbell and O’Brien 2000 argues forcefully against characterizing 1 Samuel 12 as “Deuteronomistic.” Nentel 2000 proposes substantially later dating.

  • Campbell, Antony F., and Mark A. O’Brien. Unfolding the Deuteronomistic History: Origins, Upgrades, Present Text. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000.

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    Lays out the complete New Revised Standard Version translation of Deuteronomy–2 Kings, using different fonts and sidelines to distinguish what the authors hold to be the main sources and principal editorial stages. Includes an introduction and explanatory footnotes.

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  • Cross, Frank M. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Legend: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973.

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    Its unity had been “imposed on his sources by the mind and point of view of the Deuteronomistic historian” (p. 252). It should be added to Martin Noth’s list of Deuteronomistic speeches and offers the first main statement of one of the two principal themes of the first edition of DtrH, the promise of an eternal throne to the dynasty of David (pp. 274–285).

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  • McCarter, P. Kyle. “The Books of Samuel.” In The History of Israel’s Traditions: The Heritage of Martin Noth. Edited by Steven L. McKenzie and M. Patrick Graham, 260–280. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 182. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

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    In the papers from a 1993 conference celebrating fifty years since the publication of Noth’s epoch-making study, the author of the respected Anchor Bible Commentaries on Samuel (McCarter 1980 and McCarter 1984, cited under Later 20th-Century Milestones) contributed the paper on Samuel.

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  • McCarthy, Dennis J. “II Samuel 7 and the Structure of the Deuteronomistic History.” Journal of Biblical Literature 84 (1965): 131–138.

    DOI: 10.2307/3264134Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues in critique of Martin Noth that the chapter “operates with terms and concepts familiar to the deuteronomic world” and is the central element of its immediate context.

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  • Nelson, Richard D. The Double Redaction of the Deuteronomistic History. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 18. Sheffield, UK: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 1981.

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    Endorses Martin Noth’s presentation of 1 Samuel 12 as comment on a major turning point in the history and discusses 2 Samuel 7 among the unconditional dynastic promises (pp. 105–108).

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  • Nentel, Jochen. Trägerschaft und Intentionen des deuteronomistischen Geschichtswerks. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 297. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2000.

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    Includes a substantial discussion of 1 Samuel 12 incorporating a thorough review of scholarship. This chapter, a substantial unity, is a late postexilic composition in which Samuel speaks like the Joshua of Joshua 1, 23, 24 and the Solomon of 1 Kings 8.

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  • Noth, Martin. The Deuteronomistic History. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplements 15. Sheffield, UK: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 1981.

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    In this seminal study Noth argues that Samuel’s speech in 1 Samuel 12 was written by the Deuteronomist himself to effect the transition between the periods of the judges and the monarchy. Most of 1–2 Samuel was pre-Deuteronomistic, including most of 2 Samuel 7, but 2 Samuel 21–24 was added in stages later, after the division of the whole DtrH into books. Translated from pages 1–110 of Überlieferungsgeschichtliche Studien, vol. 1, 3d ed. (Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 1967).

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21st-Century Reactions

Although much of the terminology remains, new questions are asked and fresh proposals made. There seems increasing preparedness to bracket Samuel more closely with Kings (as in the Greek Bible) than with Joshua and Judges. Person 2002 offers a thorough and perceptive review of a wide range of studies and previous proposals about how the emerging Deuteronomistic history (DtrH) was read in and after the time of Zerubabbel. Veijola 2002 offers a backward look in the 21st century. Kratz 2005 presents the more straightforward Deuteronomistic redaction of 1–2 Kings before noting that 1 Samuel 1 marks the real beginning of the royal story. Römer 2005 offers a magisterial account of the state of play and then a compromise solution. Noll 2007 offers a very fresh rethinking of the relationship of Deuteronomy and Former Prophets.

  • Kratz, Reinhard G. The Composition of the Narrative Books of the Old Testament. Translated by John S. Bowden. London: T and T Clark, 2005.

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    “The earlier Saul tradition in 1 Sam. 1–14 and the collection of Jerusalem court stories in 2 Sam. 11–1 Kgs 2 originally had nothing to do with each other. Everything in between . . . serves as a connecting link . . . to make a common beginning out of the beginnings of the two kingdoms” (p. 177). German original, Die Komposition der erzählenden Bücher des Alten Testaments (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2000).

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  • Noll, Kurt L. “Deuteronomistic History or Deuteronomic Debate? A Thought Experiment.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 31 (2007): 311–345.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309089207076357Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Each of the narrative books represents an independent debate about themes in Deuteronomy. Samuel is a mirror image of the book of Job: does David serve Yahweh for naught?

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  • Person, Raymond F., Jr. The Deuteronomic School: History, Social Setting, and Literature. Studies in Biblical Literature 2. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002.

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    Zerubabbel, a descendant of the Davidic house, was made postexilic governor of Judah (c. 520–510 BCE). 2 Samuel 7:1–17 and 23:1–7 are discussed among passages relevant to his time and 1 Samuel 16–18 to the following period.

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  • Römer, Thomas C. The So-called Deuteronomistic History: A Sociological, Historical, and Literary Introduction. London: T and T Clark, 2005.

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    Separate origins in the 7th century BCE for the beginnings of Samuel-Kings and of Deuteronomy-Joshua-Judges. After this beginning of Deuteronomistic literary production in the Assyrian period, DtrH was constituted in the neo-Babylonian period (6th century) and edited during the Persian period (5th century). Clear traces of threefold redaction in 1 Samuel 8–12, as in Deuteronomy 12 and 2 Kings 22–23.

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  • Veijola, Timo. “Deuteronomismusforschung zwischen Tradition und Innovation, 4: Samuelbücher.” Theologische Rundschau 67 (2002): 403–424.

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    Very useful bibliographical review by a long-term specialist.

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Relations with Chronicles

A different way of bringing the question of the origins of the books of Samuel into focus starts from a “synoptic” or comparative approach to the traditions about David in Samuel and 1 Chronicles 11–21. Newsome 1986 both provides a ready overview of the synoptic (shared) David stories and offers a useful reminder of other narratives found once in the Former Prophets and once elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. Against the long-standing consensus that the author of Chronicles radically rewrote Samuel and Kings, Auld 1994 proposes, to a clamor of disbelief (e.g., McKenzie 1999, Talshir 2000), that the synoptic narratives are the primary material in Samuel-Kings and Chronicles. A. Graeme Auld has developed and defended the position in a series of essays (Auld 2004). Interesting though critical support has come from Noll 2007 (cited under 21st-Century Reactions), Rezetko 2007, and Person 2010.

  • Auld, A. Graeme. Kings Without Privilege: David and Moses in the Story of the Bible’s Kings. Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1994.

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    Proposes that evaluative portions of the synoptic narrative, such as 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Kings 8, were sources of “Deuteronomistic” thought rather than examples of it and briefly questions the consensus that the development of biblical Hebrew can be invoked to defend the (wholesale) priority of Samuel-Kings over Chronicles.

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  • Auld, A. Graeme. Samuel at the Threshold: Selected Works of Graeme Auld. Society for Old Testament Study Monographs. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

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    More than half of the twenty-four essays develop the Auld 1994 monograph, respond to critiques, and set the argument in a wider context.

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  • McKenzie, Steven L. “The Chronicler as Redactor.” In The Chronicler as Author: Studies in Text and Texture. Edited by M. Patrick Graham and Steven L. McKenzie, 70–90. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplements 263. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.

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    The central section (pp. 80–87) discusses “what Chr. redacted: Auld’s theory of a shared source.”

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  • Newsome, James D., ed. A Synoptic Harmony of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles: With Related Passages from Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezra. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986.

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    Allows the nonreader of Hebrew to gain a fairly accurate impression of the interrelationships between the synoptic accounts of Israel’s monarchy.

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  • Person, Raymond F., Jr. The Deuteronomic History and the Book of Chronicles: Scribal Works in an Oral World. Ancient Israel and Its Literature 6. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010.

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    Thorough and sympathetic review of studies by A. Graeme Auld, Julio Trebolle Barrera, Ben Wright, and Robert Rezetko arguing that Samuel-Kings and Chronicles are contemporary expansions of a much shorter common source. Advances the argument in his 2002 monograph (Person 2002, cited under 21st-Century Reactions) that their similar but different handling of shared material is typical of writing in a fundamentally oral culture.

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  • Rezetko, Robert. Source and Revision in the Narratives of David’s Transfer of the Ark: Text, Language, and Story in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13, 15–16. Library of Hebrew Bible Old Testament Studies 470. London: T and T Clark, 2007.

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    Thorough review of the growth of the story of David and the ark in the several versions of Samuel and Chronicles with interesting literary, historical, and religious implications and including important remarks about the dating of biblical Hebrew (see also History).

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  • Talshir, Zipora. “The Reign of Solomon in the Making: Pseudo-Connections between 3 Kingdoms and Chronicles.” Vetus Testamentum 50 (2000): 232–249.

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    Though it concerns the Solomon, not the David traditions, this is a pugnacious response to “Auld’s simplistic approach to the history of Kings versus Chronicles.”

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Synchronic Reading

The revolt against the dominance of historical approaches to narrative texts in the Bible had a variety of causes. On the basis of significant fresh probing in the 1970s (as noted in the introduction to Fokkelman 1981), the 1980s saw major steps toward competent readings of the books of Samuel as they stand: evaluation of appropriate methods; what was involved in close reading; what were relevant analogies. The Soviet literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin influenced several biblical critics. Jan P. Fokkelman has contributed the most extended and sustained close reading of the books of Samuel (strictly 1 Sam. 1–1 Kings 2), elaborated over some two thousand pages. Tragedy, especially Greek, has been found a useful comparator for parts of Judges and Samuel as well as Job. And new challenges to old texts and old readings of texts have also been posed from women’s studies and postcolonial studies.

The Bakhtin Inheritance

Mikhail Bakhtin (b. 1895–d. 1975) wrote on Nikolay Gogol and Fyodor Dostoyevsky amid the tensions of the Soviet Union, but his exploration of “dialogism” in the latter’s novels and its wider relevance for literary criticism was not discovered by students until the 1960s (Green 2000, p. 22). The Polzin 1980 study of Deuteronomy-Joshua-Judges draws heavily on Bakhtin and other Russian formalist writers, such as Boris Uspensky. Robert Polzin’s portrayal of the interplay of different “voices” in the text is substantially developed in Polzin 1989 and Polzin 1993, his studies of 1 and 2 Samuel. The Green 2000 introduction to the growing influence of Bakhtin on biblical scholarship anticipates Green 2003a and Green 2003b, Barbara Green’s two books on 1 Samuel. Moments from the David story sampled in Bodner 2005 offer opportunities to explore Bakhtin, among other critics.

  • Bodner, Keith. David Observed: A King in the Eyes of His Court. Hebrew Bible Monographs 5. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2005.

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    Each chapter developed from classroom use, this monograph is also suitable for students at an early stage.

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  • Green, Barbara. Mikhail Bakhtin and Biblical Scholarship: An Introduction. Semeia Studies 38. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000.

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    Includes a biographical sketch and reviews of four other biblical scholars influenced by Bakhtin. Robert Polzin (on 2 Sam.) is “the mentor of others aiming to work with Bakhtin” (p. 184). Three worked examples from the middle of 1 Samuel anticipate Green 2003a and Green 2003b.

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  • Green, Barbara. How Are the Mighty Fallen? A Dialogical Study of King Saul in 1 Samuel. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 365. London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003a.

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    Each section of 1 Samuel is reviewed under a different category of Bakhtin’s thought: genre (1 Sam. 1–3), “chronotope” (4–7), authoring (8–12), answerability (13–15), discourse (16–19), surplus of seeing (20–23), loophole or slipknot (24–26), architectonics (1 Sam. 27–2 Sam. 1).

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  • Green, Barbara. King Saul’s Asking. Interfaces. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2003b.

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    Written for a wide readership, this short volume is particularly suitable for introductory use.

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  • Polzin, Robert. Moses and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomic History. Vol. 1, Deuteronomy-Joshua-Judges. New York: Seabury, 1980.

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    An important beginning but a difficult book, partly because of the size and the range of the biblical material reviewed, partly because of the novelty of the dialogical method.

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  • Polzin, Robert. Samuel and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomic History. Vol. 2, 1 Samuel. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989.

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    The story of Samuel, Saul, and David appears more congenial, and Polzin develops his own voice strongly, not least in well-aimed barbs directed at more traditional diachronic colleagues (pp. 1–17).

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  • Polzin, Robert. David and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomic History. Vol. 3, 2 Samuel. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1993.

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    Dialogue with contemporary scholarship is kept to a minimum. “Nevertheless, the philosophy of language and the love of literature that are associated with Mikhail Bakhtin and his school continue to provide the major contemporary inspiration for my retelling of an ancient classic” (p. ix).

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Fokkelman

The first of Jan P. Fokkelman’s volumes on Samuel appeared in 1981. Developing methods he had used in the study of Genesis (Fokkelman 1975), Fokkelman 1981 explores patterns large and small, microstructures and macrostructures. Despite the fact that the exhaustive detail is attractively matched by infectious enthusiasm, his project is so large that its results are often ignored or deliberately bypassed. Fokkelman is as interested in the interconnections between and the structural significance of the major poems in Samuel as in the poetics of the prose. Although he defends a number of emendations, he is more confident than many scholars in the integrity of the masoretic text. Extracts from this huge project (Fokkelman 1981, Fokkelman 1986, Fokkelman 1990, Fokkelman 1993) are available in smaller essays in monographs (Fokkelman 1999, Fokkelman 2001) as well as summarizing overviews (Fokkelman 2010).

  • Fokkelman, Jan P. Narrative Art in Genesis: Specimens of Stylistic and Structural Analysis. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1975.

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    The start of a long, difficult, but rewarding trail.

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  • Fokkelman, Jan P. Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: A Full Interpretation Based on Structural and Stylistic Analysis. Vol. I, King David (II Sam. 9–20 and I Kings 1–2). Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1981.

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    The (widely accepted) unity of this material makes it an attractive launchpad for his huge project. The introduction sketches the task of the good reader and comments on four scholars in the 1970s (Ridout, Shimon Bar-Efrat, Conroy, and David M. Gunn) who had anticipated his concern for synchronic reading.

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  • Fokkelman, Jan P. Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: A Full Interpretation Based on Structural and Stylistic Analysis. Vol. 2, The Crossing Fates (I Sam. 13–2 Sam. 1). Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1986.

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    The second stage in Fokkelman’s long journey takes us through the longest portion of text. Introductory comments on text, theory, and interpretation, “greater understanding of the mechanisms and the complexity of that constitution of meaning” (p. 7).

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  • Fokkelman, Jan P. Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: A Full Interpretation Based on Structural and Stylistic Analysis. Vol. 3, Throne and City (II Sam. 2–8 and 21–24). Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1990.

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    Deals with the two gaps left by the choice of texts for Volumes 1 and 2 (Fokkelman 1981, Fokkelman 1986). In place of the thematic essays that introduce them, Fokkelman starts here by showing (pp. 1–10) in a “finger exercise in stylistics” what a single verse (1 Sam. 15:33) can do.

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  • Fokkelman, Jan P. Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: A Full Interpretation Based on Structural and Stylistic Analysis. Vol. 4, Vow and Desire (I Sam. 1–12). Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1993.

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    Ends at the beginning, dealing finally and magisterially with the opening chapters of Samuel, this time without further preliminaries.

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  • Fokkelman, Jan P. Reading Biblical Narrative: An Introductory Guide. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1999.

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    Several passages from Samuel reappear in a very readable introduction for students with no Hebrew. Translated by Ineke Smit from the Dutch, Vertelkunst in de Bijbel (1995).

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  • Fokkelman, Jan P. Reading Biblical Poetry: An Introductory Guide. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001.

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    An analysis of David’s lament in 2 Samuel 1 provides the first major worked example (pp. 5–12). Translated from Dutch by Ineke Smit.

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  • Fokkelman, Jan P. “The Samuel Composition as a Book of Life and Death: Structural, Generic, and Numerical Forms of Perfection.” In For and against David: Story and History in the Books of Samuel. Edited by A. G. Auld and E. Eynikel, 15–46. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovanensium 232. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2010.

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    A very useful pocket-size résumé of some principal approaches and results from the four-volume magnum opus. Most attention is paid to the end of 1 Samuel; however, the necessity of 1 Kings 1–2 as climax and the integral nature of the framing poems are also defended against recent critics.

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Tragedy

Gunn 1980 recovered an important emphasis when it proposed reading Saul along with classic tragic figures, such as Oedipus and Macbeth, and Exum 1992, a study of biblical tragedy, represents a flowering of such an approach. Nicholson 2002 adds more recent conversation partners. Adam 2010 uses thematic links between classical Greek tragedy and 1 Samuel to argue for the development of the books of Samuel into the Hellenistic period. The strong literary reading of Borgman 2008 concentrates at its end not on links with Greek tragedies but rather on links between Samuel and the Homeric epics.

  • Adam, Klaus-Peter. “Saul as a Tragic Hero: Greek Drama and Its Influence on Hebrew Scripture in 1 Samuel 14, 24–46 (10, 8; 13, 7–13a; 10, 17–27).” In For and Against David: Story and History in the Books of Samuel. Edited by A.G. Auld and E. Eynikel, 123–183. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovanensium 232. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2010.

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    Biblical authors had learned Greek tragic themes from the performance of anthologies as Hellenistic culture spread in Palestine. Adam reminds us that “the 19th century German historian Leopold von Ranke had called Saul ‘the first tragic personage in the history of the world.’”

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  • Borgman, Paul. David, Saul, and God: Rediscovering an Ancient Story. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331608.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    To the judgment of Alter 1999 (cited under Early 21st Century) that David is the greatest and most convincing account of a human in ancient literature Borgman adds the claim that the books of Samuel provide a rationale for God’s choosing David over Saul.

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  • Exum, J. Cheryl. Tragedy and Biblical Narrative: Arrows of the Almighty. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511520358Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This much-respected interaction with a wide range of discussion partners on “the tragic dimension” in the books of Judges and Samuel (and Kings) refuses to adopt a predetermined definition of “tragedy.”

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  • Gunn, David M. The Fate of King Saul: An Interpretation of a Biblical Story. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 14. Sheffield, UK: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 1980.

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    Presents Saul’s story as a tragedy of fate rather than of flaw and usefully warns against commentators who have refused to face the divine manipulation of the king.

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  • Nicholson, Sarah. Three Faces of Saul: An Intertextual Approach to Biblical Tragedy. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 339. London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.

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    Defends J. Cheryl Exum and others against the charge that “tragedy” (and “comedy”) are borrowed from a Greek world alien to the Bible. Her chosen intertexts are Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge and Alphonse Lamartine’s Saül: Tragédie.

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Feminist and Postcolonial Readings

Rescuing biblical narratives from readings skewed by Western and male and heterosexual presuppositions requires particular skills in a world where so much biblical interpretation remains the prerogative of Western males. Retelling biblical fictions to rescue their characters from their own authors may be more akin to religious midrash than to academic interpretation. There are examples of both among the titles in this section, and telling the difference is part of being an attentive reader. Bal 1987 is part of a collection as powerful as the volume title suggests. Clines and Eskenazi 1991 is a well-focused handbook. In part, Exum 1993 continues the contribution of Exum 1992 (cited under Tragedy). Brenner 1994 and Brenner 2000 include contributions by other authors listed in this section, and there is further overlap in Klein 2003. Chankin-Gould, et al. 2008 uses careful linguistic argument to question long-standing (mostly male) assumptions. Kim 2008 develops the reconsideration of the Deuteronomistic history started in Uriah Y. Kim’s Decolonizing Josiah (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2005).

  • Bal, Mieke. “The Emergence of the Lethal Woman; or, The Use of Hermeneutic Models.” In Lethal Love: Feminist Literary Readings of Biblical Love Stories. By Mieke Bal, 10–36. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1987.

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    “The real issue of the discussion [of David, Uriah, and Bathsheba] was not the text but the critics. The practice of criticism as used for the imposition, under the cover of academic authority, of gender-specific interests is what my analysis was meant to bring to the fore” (p. 36).

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  • Brenner, Athalya, ed. A Feminist Companion to Samuel and Kings. The Feminist Companion to the Bible 5. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

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    Nine of the essays (out of sixteen) relate to Samuel and discuss (1) the anonymity and liminality of women, (2) the role of Hannah, and (3) women and monarchs.

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  • Brenner, Athalya, ed. Samuel and Kings. The Feminist Companion to the Bible, Second Series 7. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.

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    The four essays relating to Samuel discuss the triangular sexual relationship of Saul, David, and Jonathan; Michal; Bathsheba; and Tamar’s “coat of many colours.”

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  • Chankin-Gould, J. D’ror, Derek Hutchinson, David Hilton Jackson, Tyler D. Mayfield, Leah Rediger Schulte, Tammi J. Schneider, and E. Winkelman. “The Sanctified ‘Adulteress’ and Her Circumstantial Clause: Bathsheba’s Bath and Self-Consecration in 2 Samuel 11.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 32 (2008): 339–352.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309089208090805Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Careful reconsideration of key terms in 2 Samuel 11:2–4: Bathsheba’s washing is not menstrual cleansing.

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  • Clines, David J. A., and Tamara C. Eskenazi, eds. Telling Queen Michal’s Story: An Experiment in Comparative Interpretation. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 119. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.

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    Almost thirty quite varied studies, extracts, observations on Michal, most previously published, in a valuable contribution to discriminating between “gap filling” (good) and “speculation” (bad).

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  • Exum, J. Cheryl. Fragmented Women: Feminist (Sub)versions of Biblical Narratives. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 163. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993.

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    Prominent among the women rescued from male authors and commentators are Michal and Bathsheba in the books of Samuel.

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  • Kim, Uriah Y. Identity and Loyalty in the David Story: A Postcolonial Reading. Hebrew Bible Monographs 22. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2008.

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    Argues that Korean jeong renders Hebrew ḥesed more accurately than “loyalty.” “David was a coalitionist and a pluralist who valued ḥesed over identity” (p. 29).

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  • Klein, Lilian R. From Deborah to Esther: Sexual Politics in the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003.

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    An introduction is followed by seven very readable essays. Those on Bathsheba and Michal are reprinted from Brenner 2000, and the books of Samuel are represented also by an essay on Hannah.

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Synchronic/Diachronic Debate

The books of Samuel appear to offer different evaluations of David (and of other characters) and even competing views of the new institution of kingship itself. Critical discussion since the earlier modern period has operated with historical or diachronic methods and questions in assessing this debate. From which (sorts of) sources was Samuel composed, when was it composed, and what freedom did the author[s] have to reshape what they took over? All of these questions persist, but they have not found generally accepted answers. Newer generations of “literary” readers have argued that tensions and repetitions need not imply competing source materials. Some theological readers have insisted on focusing on the whole completed text because it has been accepted as canonical. Some feminist and postcolonial readers have found useful resources immediately to hand in the books as they stand and have been impatient of largely Western and largely male historical criticism. Each of these reactions tends to a synchronic view of Samuel as a whole, as it stands. The collections of essays in De Moor 1995, Dietrich 2004, and Naumann and Hunziker-Rodewald 2009 as well as the survey in Dietrich and Naumann 1995 document increasing acceptance that historical and literary reading methods need not be in opposition. Frolov 2004 grounds the discussion in close study of 1 Samuel 1–8. Readers of all varieties have to decide in what sense the book of Samuel is a work in its own right and how far it is simply part of a larger whole. The close relationship of 1 Kings 1–2 with 2 Samuel 9–20 mirrors the ancient division between 2 and 3 Kingdoms after the death of David, at 1 Kings 2:12 (MT [traditional text]) in Lucianic Greek manuscripts, rather than before the note of his physical decline (1 Kings 1:1–4). For Jobling 1998, what we call “1 Samuel” is simply parts of two collections: Judges 2:11–1 Samuel 12 and 1 Samuel 13–2 Samuel 7.

  • De Moor, Johannes C. Synchronic or Diachronic? A Debate on Method in Old Testament Studies. Oudtestamentische Studiën 34. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1995.

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    Very little relates specifically to Samuel, but the volume is important for its discussion of the general topic.

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  • Dietrich, Walter, ed. David und Saul im Widerstreit—Diachronie und Synchronie im Wettstreit: Beiträge zur Auslegung des ersten Samuelbuches. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 206. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2004.

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    The title of this collection of varied essays on the interpretation of 1 Samuel hints that the rivalry between diachronic and synchronic methods is a reprise of the competition between David and Saul.

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  • Dietrich, Walter, and Thomas Naumann. Die Samuelbücher. Erträge der Forschung 287. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1995.

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    A thorough review of scholarship on Samuel preparatory to Dietrich’s contribution to the large-scale Biblischer Kommentar. Very useful bibliographies.

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  • Frolov, Serge. The Turn of the Cycle: 1 Samuel 1–8 in Synchronic and Diachronic Perspective. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 342. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2004.

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    An important though difficult examination of key issues of method together with a fresh reading of the opening chapters results in portraying 1 Samuel 8 as the end of the first section of 1 Samuel, not the beginning of the second (8–12).

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  • Jobling, David. 1 Samuel. Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1998.

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    Powerfully refuses “any methodological orthodoxy”: “Our situation as readers is just as fragmented and unstable as the text of 1 Samuel” (p. 25).

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  • Naumann, Thomas, and Regine Hunziker-Rodewald, eds. Diasynchron: Beiträge zur Exegese, Theologie und Rezeption der Hebräischen Bibel; Festschrift für Walter Dietrich zum 65. Geburtstag. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2009.

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    The conjoined title of this celebratory volume for the editor of Dietrich 2004 appears to take a more irenic attitude to these twinned disciplines.

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21st-Century Discussion of Method

Each chosen method appears to foreclose almost as many useful options as it opens up. The studies collected in this section take stock of the variety exhibited in the more recent trends. Literary concerns are to the fore in Brueggemann 2002, Isser 2003, and Andersson 2009; literary-historical approaches can be found in Harvey 2001 and Van Seters 2009. A range of methods is practiced in Auld and Eynikel 2010.

  • Andersson, Greger. Untamable Texts: Literary Studies and Narrative Theory in the Books of Samuel. Library of Hebrew Bible Old Testament Studies 514. New York and London: T and T Clark, 2009.

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    Develops an important thesis on the book of Judges in this penetrating three-way discussion “between different literary studies of the Bible, narrative theory, and the biblical texts” (p. 5). His dialogue partners are varied and all among the most important in the field.

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  • Auld, A. Graeme, and Erik Eynikel, eds. For and Against David: Story and History in the Books of Samuel. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 232. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2010.

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    Twenty essays review issues relating to each of the larger blocks of text in the books of Samuel as well as a range of illustrative problems, all probing the more general questions noted in the title: the overall attitude to David and the character of the narrative.

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  • Brueggemann, Walter. David’s Truth in Israel’s Imagination and Memory. 2d ed. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002.

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    First published in 1985, this thoroughly updated edition draws on Brueggemann’s commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel (1990) as well as his Theology of the Old Testament (1997). The new preface sets his fresh thinking in the context of several major recent studies.

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  • Harvey, John E. “Tendenz and Textual Criticism in 1 Samuel 1–10.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 96 (2001): 71–81.

    DOI: 10.1177/030908920102600204Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interesting essay on the necessary relationship of textual and literary history. “Rather than being scribal errors, many textual problems . . . are thus the product of Dtr’s citation of, or allusion to, corresponding Tetrateuchal accounts.”

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  • Isser, Stanley. The Sword of Goliath: David in Heroic Literature. Studies in Biblical Literature 6. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.

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    This fresh study of much of the material in Samuel engages with a wide variety of scholarship and seeks to move the debate away from historical concerns toward popular heroic literature. It includes a useful bibliography of more recent studies.

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  • Van Seters, John. The Biblical Saga of King David. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009.

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    Develops his In Search of History (1983) and argues that there are simply two literary layers in the story of David: the older is represented by the relevant portions of the Deuteronomist history (DtrH) and the later and much longer layer by the many connected supplements that transformed this into the familiar David saga.

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Commentaries

At any time there are dozens of commentaries on the books of Samuel in print. Many, however, are designed for devotional use or the education of a wider public. They have to attempt greater comprehensiveness, but they also mirror the diverse strands of scholarship in their time, both living off and precipitating more detailed monographs and articles. Each of these three subsections lists a small group of more substantial works: Classic Early Modern samples the giants of the late-19th-century English-, French-, and German-speaking worlds; Later 20th-Century Milestones presents the commentaries from which today’s scholars learned their craft; and Early 21st Century introduces recent titles by recent authors.

Classic Early Modern

Each of the works here both draws on and contributes to historical research on Samuel, and since all (but especially Wellhausen 1871 and Driver 1890) exhibit close attention to perennial text-critical and linguistic issues, they retain their significance for the more advanced student. Budde 1902 follows up the author’s respected earlier studies on Samuel (Die Bücher Richter und Samuel, Giessen: J. Ricker, 1890; The Books of Samuel Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1894). Dhorme 1910 has been influential beyond the Catholic and French-speaking world. Many consensus historico-critical judgments are already in place.

  • Budde, Karl. Die Bücher Samuel erklärt. Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament 8. Leipzig: Mohr Siebeck, 1902.

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    The role of a Deuteronomistic editor is much less in Samuel than in Judges or Kings, because the inherited source units are larger (p. x). When Christianity came into the world, there was not yet a masoretic text (p. xxiv).

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  • Dhorme, Paul. Les livres de Samuel. Études Bibliques. Paris: Gabalda, 1910.

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    The fundamental textual, literary, historical study of Samuel in French.

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  • Driver, Samuel R. Notes on the Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel. Oxford: Clarendon, 1890.

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    A giant of early English-speaking biblical scholarship offers warm support to Julius Wellhausen’s study (“I trust that I may not appear to have used his work too freely” [p. iv]) and makes many of his judgments available to English readers.

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  • Wellhausen, Julius. Der Text der Bücher Samuelis untersucht. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1871.

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    This early work by one of the greatest biblical scholars proposed several retroversions of the Greek text into Hebrew that remained controversial until their originality was demonstrated in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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Later 20th-Century Milestones

Already Hertzberg 1964 was influenced by the 1953 study by Frank M. Cross demonstrating the many agreements between the Qumran fragments and the text of Samuel preserved in Greek. McCarter 1980 and McCarter 1984 marked a first high point in the evaluation of the Qumran finds, and this lead was followed up in Klein 1983 and Anderson 1989. Stoebe 1973 and Stoebe 1994 offer particularly careful readings of Samuel, and Caquot and de Robert 1994 is a refreshing mix of the well-informed and the quirky.

  • Anderson, Arnold A. 2 Samuel. Word Biblical Commentary 11. Waco, TX: Word, 1989.

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    Like its sister volume, a well-researched evangelical commentary, appreciative of McCarter 1980. Its central interest is the so-called succession narrative, to which Anderson assigns much of 2 Samuel 1:1–5:10, then 21:1–14, before the main portion in 2 Samuel 9–20 (and 1 Kings 1–2).

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  • Caquot, André, and Philippe de Robert. Les livres de Samuel. Commentaire de l’Ancien Testament 6. Geneva, Switzerland: Labor et Fides, 1994.

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    Large and important study in the tradition of Dhorme 1910 (cited under Classic Early Modern) yet advocating the idiosyncratic hypothesis that the version of Samuel later edited by Deuteronomists after Jerusalem’s collapse had itself been revised by a Zadokite critic of the priests of Shiloh.

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  • Hertzberg, Hans Wilhelm. 1 and 2 Samuel. Old Testament Library. London: SCM, 1964.

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    First published in German in 1956, Hertzberg’s commentary has been highly respected. Samuel ends with David still, or again, at the prime of life—the man “with whom” the Lord is. Translated by John S. Bowden from Die Samuelbücher (Das Alte Testament Deutsch 10, 2d ed., 1960).

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  • Klein, Ralph W. 1 Samuel. Word Biblical Commentary 10. Waco, TX: Word, 1983.

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    Well argued, good on textual criticism, with useful interaction with McCarter 1980 and appreciative of recent literary critics but follows a historical approach.

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  • McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. I Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible 8. New York: Doubleday, 1980.

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    McCarter had access to Frank M. Cross’s preliminary studies of the Qumran Cave 4 fragments and shared the traditional aim of the textual critic that an original text could in principle be restored. His account of the origins of Samuel was also heavily indebted to Cross’s account of the Deuteronomistic history.

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  • McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. II Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible 9. New York: Doubleday, 1984.

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    The second volume of McCarter’s two-volume commentary. Like the first, this Anchor Bible volume is a monument of its time, is properly still widely cited, and is coming under increasing criticism.

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  • Stoebe, Hans J. Erste Buch Samuelis. Kommentar zum Alten Testament 8, 1. Gütersloh, Germany: Gerd Mohn, 1973.

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    Excellent introduction (including a history of scholarship on Samuel and a bibliography) on Stoebe’s own careful reading of the text.

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  • Stoebe, Hans J. Zweite Buch Samuelis. Kommentar zum Alten Testament 8, 2. Gütersloh, Germany: Gerd Mohn, 1994.

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    Continues Stoebe 1973 after a long gap. Rejects arguments for the unity of 1 Kings 1–2 with 2 Samuel 9–20; 2 Samuel 21–24 is in no sense an interruption.

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Early 21st Century

Seven substantial authors usefully illustrate a range of approaches, most of them representing established commentary series. Alter 1999 (spirited into the 21st century), Bar-Efrat 2007, Bar-Efrat 2009, and Bodner 2008 all offer synchronic readings of Samuel. Campbell 2003, Campbell 2005, and Dietrich 2003– offer more diachronic readings with attention to the Deuteronomist history (DtrH) inheritance. Tsumura 2007 represents a conservative evangelical approach: a largely synchronic reading but assuming an early date. Auld 2011 combines synchronic and diachronic approaches.

  • Alter, Robert. The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel. New York: Norton, 1999.

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    A “rather literal” translation with comments directed to issues “only marginally touched on in the standard scholarly commentaries” (xxxii–xxxiii). Warm acknowledgment of Shimon Bar-Efrat, Moshe Garsiel, Robert Polzin, and Jan P. Fokkelman.

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  • Auld, A. Graeme. I & II Samuel : A Commentary. KY: Westminster John Knox, 2011.

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    Layout combined with fairly literal translation eases non-specialist access to the most ancient Hebrew and Greek texts of Samuel. Introduction presents a fresh account of the evolution of the David-story in four main stages, from the narrative shared with 1 Chronicles to the addition of the framing poems. And commentary recognizes pervasive influence of Nathan´s dynastic oracle and David´s disastrous census.

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  • Bar-Efrat, Shimon. Das erste Buch Samuel: Ein narratologisch-philologischer Kommentar. Translated by Johannes Klein. Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament 176. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2007.

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    Bar-Efrat’s commentary was originally (1996) published in modern Hebrew in the series Bible for the People. Readers are guided through the narrative phrase by phrase, often helped by the great medieval Jewish commentators.

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  • Bar-Efrat, Shimon. Das zweite Buch Samuel: Ein narratologisch-philologischer Kommentar. Translated by Johannes Klein. Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament 181. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2009.

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    The Hebrew original of this second volume to Bar-Efrat 2007 was also published in 1996.

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  • Bodner, Keith. 1 Samuel: A Narrative Commentary. Hebrew Bible Monographs 19. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2008.

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    A fluent literary reading based chapter by chapter on the Revised Standard Version and the New Revised Standard Version of “part of the national autopsy performed in light of its monarchic collapse” (p. 6).

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  • Campbell, Antony F. 1 Samuel. The Forms of the Old Testament Literature 7. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003.

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    Vividly written, manifestly less interested in form criticism than earlier volumes in the series, and drawing on a controversial “unfolding of the Deuteronomistic History” in Campbell and O’Brien 2000 (cited under Noth and a Deuteronomistic History).

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  • Campbell, Antony F. 2 Samuel. The Forms of the Old Testament Literature 8. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.

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    The second of two sister volumes.

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  • Dietrich, Walter. 1 Samuel. Biblischer Kommentar 8, 1. Neukirchen, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag, 2003–.

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    By the end of 2011 the first volume of this large-scale commentary had appeared, covering 1 Samuel 1-12, and the first two fascicles of the second, covering 1 Samuel 13-15.

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  • Tsumura, David T. The First Book of Samuel. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

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    Modern linguistics and broad expertise in ancient Semitic languages harnessed in support of a broadly conservative reading of Samuel as a text crafted in Israel’s early monarchy.

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History

How far Saul and David were real historical figures and how far the books of Samuel intended to present a historical record are different topics, both of them quite contentious. For further information on the early kings, please consult the Oxford Bibliographies Online article *“History of Israel.”*[obo-9780195393361-0054]* Brettler 1995 is a well-regarded monograph and Grabbe 1995 a useful handbook with carefully prepared bibliographies. The dating of the books of Samuel is quite as hotly debated, with Garbini 2003 and Provan, et al. 2003 at opposite ends of the spectrum. Dietrich 2007 remains optimistic that something may be reliably told of the 10th century CE. The fresh title given to Liverani 2005 makes even clearer than the Italian (Beyond the Bible) the two histories Mario Liverani seeks to tell, and the historical intention of the biblical record has received very useful discussion in Gilmour 2011, a University of Sydney dissertation. A long-standing consensus (based partly on comparison between Samuel-Kings and Chronicles) about the history of different forms of biblical Hebrew is found wanting in Young, et al. 2008.

Succession Narrative

Historical critics have debated the identification and precise delineation of major “sources” in Samuel, of which the three most prominent are the “ark narrative,” “David’s rise to power,” and the “succession narrative.” The third (normally held to include 2 Sam. 9, 11–20, and 1 Kings 1–2) has attracted most attention since Leonhard Rost’s influential German monograph of 1926 (Rost 1982). Subsequent discussion illustrates changing fashions in literary-historical debate on the books of Samuel. Important contributions are offered in von Rad 1966 and Whybray 1968, both of which follow Rost in dating the material to the time of Solomon. Gunn 1978 disputes their approach. Van Seters 1983 reverses the dating argument, and Van Seters 2009 (see also 21st-Century Discussion of Method”) extends the argument to include “David’s rise to power.”

  • Gunn, David M. The Story of King David: Genre and Interpretation. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 6. Sheffield, UK: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 1978.

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    Gunn argues for “traditional story” rather than “novel” as the appropriate genre for the David story as a whole. He doubts that Solomon, unmentioned throughout 2 Samuel 13–20, should be described a focus of the story: “the vision is artistic, the author, above all, a fine teller of tales.”

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  • Rost, Leonhard. The Succession to the Throne of David. Historic Texts and Interpreters in Biblical Scholarship 4. Sheffield, UK: Almond, 1982.

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    The continuous narrative that makes up much of 2 Samuel is also called the “court history of David.” Although Julius Wellhausen identified it as early and praised it for its historical reliability, it is Rost’s 1926 study that is seen as the start of recent study. Identifying 1 Kings 1–2 as the goal of the narrative provided Rost with his title.

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  • Van Seters, John. In Search of History: Historiography in the Ancient World and the Origins of Biblical History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983.

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    Van Seters proposes (pp. 277–291) that the “court history” or “succession narrative” was not a source that had been available to the Deuteronomistic historian but was a later supplement: far from being early monarchic, it was probably postmonarchic.

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  • Van Seters, John. The Biblical Saga of King David. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009.

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    A quarter-century after Van Seters 1983, Van Seters went on to describe the whole David “saga” in 1 Samuel 16–1 Kings 2 as a broadly unified expansion of the very much shorter account of David by Deuteronomistic history (DtrH).

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  • von Rad, Gerhard. “The Beginnings of Historical Writing in Ancient Israel.” In The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays. By Gerhard von Rad, 166–204. Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1966.

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    This widely cited study is often regarded as one of von Rad’s most important (its German original was published in 1944). It deals first with “sagas of heroes” before turning (pp. 176–204) to the “history of the succession to the throne of David”—“an artistic and theological achievement, whose maturity and sureness of touch cannot be sufficiently praised” (p. 202).

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  • Whybray, R. Norman. The Succession Narrative: A Study of II Sam. 9–20 and I Kings 1–2. Studies in Biblical Theology, Second Series 9. London: SCM, 1968.

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    Stressing the role of Wisdom in the narrative as well as links with the political novel in Egypt, Whybray argues that the work was “written to rally support for the regime by legitimizing Solomon’s position.”

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A Tale of Two Kings

The first words of the introduction to this article call 1–2 Samuel the story of David (for further information on the David story, please consult the Oxford Bibliographies Online article “David”). His predecessor, King Saul, functions in the books of Samuel at least as a narrative foil for King David. Long 1989 reminds us that, at several junctures, readers have to ask themselves the historical and theological question why, when the two kings have so many similarities, the one royal house fails and the other succeeds (or at least continues). As confidence lessens in Samuel as source material for a history of Saul, interest increases in using these narratives to detect tensions in the Persian province of Yehud between areas north of Jerusalem (Benjamin, Saul’s tribe) and south (David’s Judah), where Edelman 2001 locates a mainspring of the tensions in Samuel.

  • Edelman, Diana. “Did Saulide-Davidic Rivalry Resurface in Early Persian Yehud?” In The Land That I Will Show You: Essays on the History and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East in Honor of J. Maxwell Miller. Edited by J. Andrew Dearman and M. Patrick Graham, 69–91. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 343. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

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    Reads the rivalry against the background of tension between those north of Jerusalem (in Benjamin), who were not uprooted by the Babylonians, and the exiles returning with a confident mandate to ruined Jerusalem and Judah in the south.

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  • Long, V. Philips. The Reign and Rejection of King Saul: A Case for Literary and Theological Coherence. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 118. Atlanta: Scholars, 1989.

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    Concentrates on 1 Samuel 9–15 and concludes with a brief critique of Gunn 1980 (cited under Tragedy).

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LAST MODIFIED: 12/15/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393361-0086

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