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The Book of Books Book Club weekly blog

I Samuel

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and are still having some relaxation time as we head into the new year - but I also hope you've been at least thinking about some Bible reading as well! There was no blog last week as I thought we could all enjoy some time off, but now it's time to get back to work and take on part one of this great pair of historical books.

While the two Books of Samuel have a good bit of repetition, some moments of loose chronology, and some shifting points of view, they nonetheless contain some wonderful writing, complex plotting, and well-developed characters. This first book entails the narrative arc from the call of Samuel to be the last great prophet/judge through the anointing of Saul as the first king and then into the civil wars that put David on the throne. Think of all of this as more steps in the ongoing evolution of ancient Israel's understanding of their relationship to God.

There are some great stories along the way, including the most famous of all, the story of David and Goliath (I Sam 17), that are worth noting:


- I Samuel 2 opens with the Song of Hannah, the model for Mary's response in Luke's Gospel to Gabriel's annunciation, known as the Magnificat

- Don't miss the strange offering of gold tumors and mice (evidently symbols of bubonic plague) with which the Philistines return the ark of the covenant to Israel so that the plague will leave them – I Samuel 6

- I Samuel 8, the debate about whether to have a king, provides a fabulous picture of the pros and cons of this transition

- the complicated and somewhat contradictory set of occasions on which Saul is chosen king (I Sam 10:1 I Sam 10:20-24), and then David being anointed in his stead (I Sam 16)

- for fans of the old TV show Bewitched (and its more recent incarnation as a movie), here's where the mother-in-law Endora gets her name, from the famous story of the witch at Endor: I Samuel 28

Note also the varying portrayals of the relationship between Saul and David. We are looking here at a history written centuries after the events it describes, but incorporating materials that may well have been contemporaneous, and the result is a complicated picture of a complicated situation.