In what ways is the book of Samuel a transitional book?

The books I and II Samuel mark several important transitions in the biblical narrative. The namesake of the text, in particular, serves as the transition of governmental practices in Israel. Samuel is the final judge over Israel and represents the closing of the period of Judges and the induction of the monarchy. In addition, Samuel becomes the first of the prophets, ushering in a new period of governance where the king receives instruction and counsel from a prophet in communication with The LORD. Samuel and the text named after him create new norms of governance, divine guidance, and ultimately the relationship between YAHWEH and His people.

In continuation of the relationship between YAHWEH and His people, the books of Samuel depict a new covenant between God and David, “I AM addresses David as ‘my servant,’ an accolade bestowed on such noteworthies as Moses and Joshua.”(footnote 1) This further indicates the transitionary nature of the book. David, as servant of the LORD, is the continuation of the leadership of Moses and Joshua and this covenant builds on existing promises to the Patriarchs. The narrative tensions which arise throughout the text also indicate a transitionary tone: the anointing of Saul and David, their respective falls from grace, and the promise to build a Kingdom all suggest that the will of God is to relate to His people in a new way.

This transition however, as in the case of many Old Testament narratives, leaves a gap which can only be filled by the revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The Davidic covenant is a shadow of impending glory and David is not the one who will crush the serpent’s head,(footnote 2) “When we first meet him in the text of Samuel, he has taken a club to kill a bear and a lion for the sake of sheep (1 Sam. 17: 34– 35), but by the end of the book, he has decided that the sheep should die for him, though this time the sheep were people (2 Sam. 24:14, 17).”(footnote 3) The implication is that, while God will certainly use the line of David to advance His Kingdom and relate to His people, the Davidic Covenant is not the final covenant but a new norm of governance, divine guidance, and relationship to be perfected through the coming of Jesus. From judges to kings, from judges to prophets, from Saul to David, from Tabernacle to Temple, and ultimately from humanity (David) to divinity (Jesus): the book of Samuel reveals the way God chooses to relate to His people in the past and present.

1 Waltke, Bruce K.,Charles Yu. An Old Testament Theology (p. 660). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

2 Gen. 3:15 ESV

3 Longman, Tremper . An Introduction to the Old Testament (p. 165). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

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