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- 1 Samuel
by Joseph Parker
Almighty God, thou comfortest those that be bowed down. Thou liftest up those whose souls cleave unto the dust. The Lord is very pitiful and kind, and truly his mercy endureth for ever. It comes to us before the light of the morning, it remains with us when the sun has gone down, it is our guardian by night, it doth beset us behind and before and defend us from all evil. We desire, therefore, humbly to recognise thy mercy in the whole course of our life; we would see it everywhere giving strength and beauty, and meaning and pathos, to all the affairs of our daily history. Help us evermore to know that our power is in thy mercy; that we have no strength but in thy strength; that out of thy fulness alone can we receive grace upon grace. May we be released from all worldly memories, from all tormenting anxieties. May our souls be led away into the light! May our spirits be blessed with unspeakable peace! Ever teach us how to pray. May the desires of our heart be pure; may our purposes before God be simple, and may our whole supplication rise from the Saviour's cross, that even in our prayers we may know the mystery of self-sacrifice. What we pray, we pray in the Mediator's name; there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, through whom, the Child of Bethlehem, the Man of sorrows, the mighty and only Redeemer of our souls, we offer every desire of our hearts. Forgive our sins. Cleanse our thoughts by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Establish thy counsels in our hearts that they may be repronounced in our daily life; and may our whole course be elevated and sanctified by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Now what wait we for, but for the opening of heaven, that we may receive the blessing we have no room to contain, that we may be satisfied with the peace which passeth understanding! Unto the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, whom we adore as Three Persons in one God, be the kingdom and the power and the glory, world without end. Amen.
The Books of Samuel. These two books were anciently reckoned as one, the present division being derived from the Septuagint and Vulgate. In those versions they are called the first and second Books of Kings, as they form part of the history of the Kings of Israel and Judah.
The question of the authorship of the books is not free from difficulty; but the decided preponderance of evidence is in favour of the ancient view, that Samuel wrote 1 Samuel 1-24 and that the rest was written by Nathan and Gad ( 1Ch 29:29 ). The authenticity of the history found in the Books of Samuel rests on sufficient grounds. Portions of them are quoted in the New Testament ( 2Sa 7:14 in Hebrews 1:5 ; 1Sa 13:14 in Act 13:22 ). References to them occur in other sections of Scripture, especially in the Psalms, to which they often afford historic illustrations.
The contents of the Books of Samuel belong to an interesting period of Jewish history. The preceding Book of Judges refers to the affairs of the republic as they were administered after the conquest, when the nation was all but a congeries of independent cantons, sometimes partially united for a season under an extraordinary dictator. As, however, the form of government was changed, and remained monarchical till the overthrow of the kingdom, it was of national importance to note the time, method, and means of the alteration. This change happening under the regency of the wisest and best of their sages, his life became a topic of interest. The first Book of Samuel gives an account of his birth and early call to the duties of a seer under Eli's pontificate; describes the low and degraded condition of the people, oppressed by foreign enemies; proceeds to narrate the inauguration of Samuel as judge; his prosperous regency; the degeneracy of his sons; the clamour for a change in the civil constitution; the installation of Saul; his rash and reckless character; and his neglect of, or opposition to, the theocratic elements of the government. The historian goes on to relate God's choice of David as king; his aberrations from the path of duty; the unnatural rebellion of his son Absalom and its suppression; his carrying into effect a military census of his dominions, and the divine punishment which this act incurred. The second Book of Samuel, while it relates the last words of David, yet stops short of his death. As David was the real founder of the monarchy and reorganiser of the religious worship; the great hero, legislator, and poet of his country; as his dynasty maintained itself on the throne of Judah till the Babylonian captivity it is not a matter of wonder that the description of his life and government occupies so large a portion of early Jewish history. The Books of Samuel thus consist of three interlaced biographies those of Samuel, Saul, and David.
The design of these books is not very different from that of the other historical treatises of the Old Testament. The Books of Kings are a history of the nation as a theocracy; those of Chronicles have special reference to the form and ministry of the religious worship, as bearing upon its re-establishment after the return from Babylon. Samuel is more biographical, yet the theocratic element of the government is not overlooked. It is distinctly brought to view in the early chapters concerning Eli and his house, and the fortunes of the ark; in the passages which describe the change of the constitution; in the blessing which rested on the house of Obed-Edom; in the curse which fell on the Bethshemites, and Uzzah and Saul, for intrusive interference with holy things. The book shows clearly that God was a jealous God; that obedience to him secured felicity; that the nation sinned in seeking another king; that Saul's special iniquity was his impious oblivion of his station as Jehovah's vicegerent, for he contemned the prophets and slew the priesthood; and that David owed his prosperity to his careful culture of the central principle of the Hebrew Government.
the Fourth Week after Epiphany