Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 11, “Samuel” pp. 189-210.
The books of Samuel, treated together by Lessing, move Israel from a group of tribes to a nation with a king (Lessing 2014, 189). The author refers to a variety of written sources consulted. There are numerous references to events as if they were in the distant past. Lessing therefore concludes the text comes from an author later than Samuel (Lessing 2014, 189). He does not think a post-exilic time fits, largely due to manuscript conventions. He concludes it was written before the exile and after the time of Solomon (Lessing 2014, 190).
Source criticism has attempted to find multiple foundations in tension. The most notable in Lessing’s view is the tension between sources positive and negative toward the monarchy (Lessing 2014, 190). Tradition-historical scholarship attempts to find narratives about different topics. Yet in the absence of source documents these moves are also uncertain (Lessing 2014, 191). Lessing finds the narrative to be cohesive. He does not think it is a collage of sources weakly related. Redaction critics seek to identify a variety of editorial layers in the text. Yet Lessing does not agree that there are competing and incompatible philosophies in conflict (Lessing 2014, 192).
Samuel is mostly historical narrative (Lessing 2014, 193). It covers the period from the end of Judges through the reign of David. While Saul tends to be seen in a nagative light, David receives more favorable treatment (Lessing 2014, 194). After discussing some of the treatments of the text, Lessing observes that the main character is not any human but is God. “The book’s literary goal is to portary God as the one who deals patiently and mercifully with sinners” (Lessing 2014, 194).
The text of Samuel has significant variants. Lessing suggest that the Septuagint may have been translated from a text tradition we no longer have (Lessing 2014, 197). This leads some scholars to be very hostile to the text or to various versions of it (Lessing 2014, 199).
Lessing discusses the historicity of David. While some schoalrs will deny his existence and some will question the extent of his kingdom, Lessing sees evidence that largely supports the view of Samuel (Lessing 2014, 199). There are ruins and inscriptions which refer to David and indicate Israelite presence in the areas specified in Samuel (Lessing 2014, 201).
As to theological themes, Samuel shows God as the one who brings success (Lessing 2014, 202). The book also describes an important role of prophets in carrying God’s Word to others (Lessing 2014, 203). God’s Spriit is also very active in the text. Finally, there are many statements about the Messiah and his kingdom (Lessing 2014, 204). The book is full of statements of sin and grace. Every major character’s sin is pointed out (Lessing 2014, 205). These sins result in trouble not only for the individuals, but often for the nation as a whole. The penalty is often a reversal of fortunes (Lessing 2014, 206). Again, a reversal of fortune may be in a positive direction for one whom God chooses (Lessing 2014, 207).