The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, are known as the “books of Moses” because Moses is credited with their authorship. Likewise, the 16 prophetic books of the Old Testament are named after the men who wrote them or spoke the prophesies recorded within them. The book of Joshua, by contrast, is not thought to have been written by Joshua, but bears his name because he is its central figure from beginning to end.
The books of 1 and 2 Samuel are both similar and different. Samuel himself is not held to be the final author of these histories, although some material from his pen may have been incorporated into them. Some commentators speculate that the books may have been put into their final form by prophets who were close to King David, such as Nathan and Gad. Indeed, 1 Chronicles 29:29 speaks of books by Samuel, Nathan, and Gad that relate the entire history of David’s reign.
However, unlike Joshua, Samuel is not the central character in the books that are named after him. Though he quickly takes center stage in 1 Samuel, we witness little of his adult life, and as early as 8:1 he is described as an old man. The attention gradually shifts to the initial king of Israel, Saul, and then to the even more important figure of David. Before the first book concludes, Samuel is dead (25:1). Nevertheless, it is good and proper that these books should bear his name. He is a towering figure, both a priest and a prophet, the final judge of God’s people, and the anointer of the first and second kings. In short, he is the instrument of God for the establishment of the Israelite monarchy and the conduit of revelation during this important period of redemptive history.
As we studied the two preceding periods of that history, those recorded in Exodus and Joshua-Judges, we turned for guidance to the beloved commentary of English Puritan pastor Matthew Henry (1662–1714). We will rely on Henry for this study as well. Charles Spurgeon once said that every pastor should read through Henry’s six-volume commentary on the whole Bible at least once in his lifetime. By God’s grace, we will know something of the blessing Spurgeon experienced as we mine Henry’s insights from 1 and 2 Samuel.