The Book of Samuel, now divided in two, marks the third stage of sacred history after Genesis and Exodus. Here we discover the work of God in human hearts, and how people cooperate with God’s rule.
Here are manifested, in a very calm manner, the example and failures of David; his life, similar to that of any of us, seems to hold no mystery. At the end, though, we find that God was present in everything that happened to him and that he established with him some thing that would not perish.
The importance of this book does not come from historical events of great magnitude. Indeed, there are those also, but the Bible is more concerned with the personal history of David than with his victories. This first king of Israel was the model of a believer since, being a man of great personality and of no ordinary intelligence, he also let himself be guided and inspired by God, and it was his main concern to serve him in everything.
In a way, here God hides Himself. Nothing is said about revelations or grandiose manifestations of God. Only a word to the prophet Nathan which will be decisive for the future: the kingdom of David, in Jerusalem and over Palestine, will develop into the universal kingdom of God. Christ Jesus will be the Son of David.
Two personages precede David:
– Samuel, the last of the Judges, who is also a prophet. This is a time during which the disunited Israelites feel the need to have permanent authority: “We want a king, like the rest of the nations have,” instead of depending solely on the charismatic ones, the “judges” who are not always at hand when the people need them.
– Saul, the first king chosen by God, but later rejected.
When the book opens, Israel is not yet master of the land of Canaan, but already the tribes have become used to a sedentary country life after having been nomadic herders. Settled in the hills, they have often submitted to the incursions of the Philistines established in the fertile plain of the coast, in their cities of Gath, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron.