Author and Date
Freedman says Genesis–2 Kings have common emphasis, and must predate the return from exile or they would describe it; 1 Chronicles–Nehemiah have a very different emphasis, and must be more recent since they describe the return from exile. Anderson[2 p.xv] and Koppers agree that Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings show a unity of language, style and content, and are attributed to a hypothetical "Deuteronomistic Historian" or "circle".
Anderson[2 p.xxi–xxii] says the text of 2 Samuel appears to have suffered from inaccurate copying over the centuries. The LXX, Masoretic and Samaritan versions represent separate traditions, and all are represented by scrolls from Qumran going back to at least the 3rd century BCE, so the copying errors and the resulting differing versions arose a very long time ago. Scholars compare them to see which version of each section makes best sense and is thus likely to be a faithful copy.
Ancient tradition says that the prophet Jeremiah wrote 1 and 2 Kings. Jeremiah prophesied from 627 BCE . The books of Samuel show common ancestry with them, yet signs of compilation from several sources, so perhaps Jeremiah edited the books Deuteronomy– Samuel into their present form.
Structure (after Anderson)
1 Samuel 16–2 Samuel 5: David's rise (c. 1000 BCE);
2 Samuel 6: the Ark Narrative (continued from 1 Samuel 4–6);
2 Samuel 9–20 and 1 Kings 1–2: the Succession Narrative;
2 Samuel 21–24: Appendices.
Audience and Content
Anderson[2 pp.xxiii–xxxi] 2 Samuel 9–20 and 1 Kings 1–2 show a consistent style involving direct speech and well-developed secondary characters, and appear to be a complete literary unit. However, 1 Kings 1–2 go into far more detail than the earlier passages, suggesting that the author lived at that time. Perhaps the succession narrative was written to justify the questionable events around the end of David's reign, and the section about David's rise had a similar purpose in relation to the start of his reign. Overall, the book is an official version of selected events.
The tribes of Israel were oppressed by the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:7). The southern tribe, Judah, was sandwiched in the hills between Philistia (the Mediterranean coastal strip) and the Dead Sea with Moab beyond. Having a long border with Philistia, it probably suffered particularly badly.
Samuel had secretly anointed David king (1 Samuel 16:13). Saul made David a general, and he led the army to notable victories, but Saul was jealous and tried many times to kill David. David eventually fled to Gath in Philistia where he was welcomed as a deserter. They gave David the town Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:1f)—though it was in Judah!—as a vassal (1 Samuel 28:1) but forbade him to join a pitched battle against Israel (1 Samuel 29), so David and his men returned to Ziklag, to find it burned and the women captured by Amalekites (1 Samuel 30). They defeated the Amalekite group (1 Samuel 31) and rescued the women, while Saul and his sons died in the battle with the Philistines.
After Saul's death David became king of Judah and then of all Israel. The author does not pass judgment, but the characters speak for themselves. The book presents anointed kings as sacred (cf. Romans 13:1–7) and David as a good one. It emphasises David's dependence on God, loyalty to Saul, and innocence of crimes against the northern tribes. God loved David despite his sins, but throughout his life there was conflict within his family, his people, and with the nations nearby.
This book is titled "2 Kingdoms" in the Greek Bible.
According to Nehemiah 8:17, the full Law was not followed throughout the period covered by this book.
See Old Testament regarding authorship.
© David Billin 2002–2021