The books of Samuel are quite interesting and provide insights in relation to the people of Israel settling into the land of Canaan. This was after the incidents in the book of Judges and the end of Judges portraying the moral decline of the nation of Israel. The books of Samuel present more moral decline, and can be likened to the beginning of the dark days of the nation of Israel. 1 Samuel 3:1-3 can signify that the word of God was rare and the light had not yet completely gone out. There was a great plan for Samuel, who was the last judge of Israel.
In the books of Samuel, we see the first two kings of Israel. The first one is Saul, a man after the flesh (the natural, unconverted person). The second king is David, the man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14). In light of this, we also see Adam, the first living being, compared with the Lord Jesus Christ, the second, or last Adam, the God who gives life. There is a principle in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, especially with verse 46 stating, “But that which is spiritual was not first, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.” There is first the natural, speaking of Saul in 1 Samuel, and then the spiritual, which speaks of David in 2 Samuel. Therefore, the natural is in contrast to the spiritual, which is why 1 Samuel comes first.
There is no formal authorship of the books of Samuel, but we can be sure that God is the Divine author and used whoever He wanted to guide, to write the books of Samuel. The two kings, Saul and David, reigned 40 years each in Israel, then in 1 Kings, Solomon reigned for 40 years before Israel was divided. We will see this in the outline of the books of Kings. The books of Samuel also present a transition from the judges to kings of Israel, and this is significant, because in 1 Samuel 8 the children of Israel cried asking for a king like all the other nations. They wanted to be like the nations and not acknowledge God to rule over them!
There are a number of types and shadows in the books of Samuel. The fact that Samuel held office as a prophet before the introduction of a kingdom is a type of God’s work in the day of grace. There are prophets today who speak God’s thoughts to His people before the Lord comes again. They do not foretell the future, because this has already been established in relation to Israel. David is a type of Christ in both rejection and glory. In 1 Samuel 25 we see a beautiful type of Christ and the Church, with David and Abigail. She came to David and identified with him in his rejection. He was the rightful king, already anointed, but there was someone else reigning, and she bore testimony that David will reign. The ark of God is a type of Christ also, but this is a large subject in itself.
I will now attempt to provide an outline, or overview of the divisions of the books of Samuel, starting with 1 Samuel.
- Samuel the prophet and judge; the transition from judges to kings – chapter 1-8:3
- The nation demands a king, and Saul is featured in his reign and he is finally rejected for disobeying God’s command in chapter 15 – chapter 8:4-15
- David, the king after God’s heart; his anointing, rejection and suffering is prominent before he becomes king and reigns – chapter 16-31
The second book of Samuel presents David as the major character and he is given the pre-eminent place, in the fact that he became king and reigned over Israel. The book brings out David’s victories, failures and his sin that God actually forgave (2 Samuel 12:13) and we read about David’s prayer in Psalm 51, but there was God’s discipline and governmental dealings with David as a result. This book shows how God dealt with David and how David’s own son Absalom turned against him and wished to kill him. Many say that God dealt harshly with David in all of these things in 2 Samuel, but this was because David was king, and leader of Israel, he had to be a good example to the nation. There is also a principle that whatever a man sows, that he will also reap, whether it is good or bad (Galatians 6:7).
The second book of Samuel can be divided into three sections:
- The rise of David’s kingdom over all Israel and the events of his reign – chapter 1-10.
- David’s sin, God’s discipline and restoration, and the decline of David’s kingdom – chapter 11-20.
- Appendix to the history of David, including his last words, and a record of his mighty men – chapter 21-24. When there is an appendix, this usually presents some moral features, characteristics and lessons of events that occurred in the life of certain people (in this instance, David), and it is worth reading carefully.
May the Lord help us to learn from His word and learn what He intends to tell us as we read the books of Samuel. These are not just historical stories and events, there is much more than just history. When we read about moral decline in Israel as a nation, does this not mean anything to us in our day and age? Let us seek the Lord and ask what He wants from us.
I have used the aid of Arend Remmers and Arno Gaebelein’s overviews and comments in putting this outline together. These comments are available on a website called http://www.biblecentre.org and is full of rich spiritual resources.