1 and 2 Samuel

Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics

1 and 2 Samuel

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The final four volumes (Samuel–Kings) in the primary narrative relate how the monarchy emerged in Israel and provide a highly ideological account of the kings of Israel and Judah from the beginnings of monarchy to its collapse at the beginning of the sixth century bce. This section of the story (102 chapters) purports to cover some 400 years of history, telling of the rise of the monarchy with Saul, David, and his son Solomon, and its subsequent decline under Rehoboam (1 Kgs. 12), with the splitting of the twelve tribes into two kingdoms: the southern, Judah, comprising the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with its capital at Jerusalem; and the northern, Israel, with its capital at Samaria, consisting of the remaining ten tribes. The uniformity of the style of Samuel–Kings, the linguistic and ideological features of its presentation, and the fact that it prioritizes prophets over kings illustrates how biblical history was created. As it is told, the story is designed to show how the kings, like the judges before them, failed. They failed because they did not heed the prophets. In other words, this is not so much a story about the kings as it is a story about the prophetic witness throughout the monarchy. Hence 1 Samuel starts with the story of Samuel the prophet, rather than with the story of Saul, the first king of Israel. Saul, David, and Solomon are the three most famous kings of Israel in the Bible and more than half the biblical story of the monarchy of Israel and Judah is taken up with them. Considerably less than half is devoted to all the other kings over about three-quarters of the period. The bias is obvious, but do we need to look for an explanation? Just as all the stories of the origins of the nation and the cultus are pushed back into the dim, distant past of the time of Moses, so all the stories about the origins of prophecy, the monarchy, the state, and the temple are pushed back into the distant past of the time of David and Solomon. If this is an ‘invented tradition’ and the construction of an ‘imagined past’, we must remember that such is a normal part of the construction of all history.33

Chapter.  880 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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