In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section First and Second Samuel

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Masoretic Hebrew Text
  • Qumran
  • The Greek Texts
  • Textual History
  • English Translations
  • Relations with Chronicles
  • Synchronic/Diachronic Debate
  • 21st-Century Discussion of Method
  • A Tale of Two Kings

Biblical Studies First and Second Samuel
Graeme Auld
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0086


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.

  • Arnold, Bill T. “Samuel, Books of.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Historical Books. Edited by B. T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson, 866–877. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005.

    Helpful overview. Bibliography useful on matters of history but largely uninterested in narrative or wider literary issues.

  • Auld, A. Graeme. “1 and 2 Samuel.” In Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Edited by J. D. G. Gunn and J. W. Rogerson, 213–245. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003.

    Up-to-date and well-received short commentary.

  • Flanagan, James W., and Walter Brueggemann. “Book of 1–2 Samuel.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5. Edited by D. N. Freedman, 957–973. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

    Flanagan deals with “text, composition, and context,” and Brueggemann addresses “narrative and theology.”

  • Gordon, Robert P. 1–2 Samuel. Old Testament Guides. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1984.

    Masterly overview of the scholarship at the time, originally devised as introduction to his 1986 commentary.

  • Jones, Gwilym H. “1 and 2 Samuel.” In The Oxford Bible Commentary. Edited by John Barton and John Muddiman, 196–232. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

    Useful commentary with excellent bibliography at the end.

  • McKenzie, Steven L. Introduction to the Historical Books: Strategies for Reading. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.

    Readable and informed by long expertise on the relevant books.

  • Phillips, Anthony. David: A Story of Passion and Tragedy. London: SPCK, 2008.

    A straightforward and largely traditional reading of 1 Samuel 1–1 Kings 2.

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