Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Samuel from Collins English Dictionary

n Old Testament

1 a Hebrew prophet, seer, and judge, who anointed the first two kings of the Israelites (I Samuel 1–3; 8–15)

2 either of the two books named after him, I and II Samuel


Summary Article: Samuel
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

two books of the Bible, originally a single work, called First and Second Samuel in modern Bibles, and First and Second Kingdoms in the Septuagint. They are considered part of “Deuteronomistic history,” in which the book of Deuteronomy functions as the interpretive key for understanding Hebrew history. The books cover the careers of Samuel, Saul, and David (roughly the 11th cent. B.C.), as follows: first, Samuel's career and judgeship; second, the establishment of the Hebrew monarchy, with the anointing and subsequent success of Saul, followed by the anointing of David and the bitter rivalry between David and Saul; third, the reign of David, first at Hebron, then at Jerusalem; and, fourth, an appendix of various, unordered materials. Scholars have detected two main strands in the composition of the book, based on divergent attitudes toward the monarchical establishment. In both the books of Samuel and of Kings, the prophets represent the claim of the divine over human kingship. One section is said to be written by a contemporary of David, making it the oldest piece of Bible narrative. The prophet Samuel, fl. 1050 B.C., was the last judge of Israel and the first of the prophets after Moses. The circumstances of his birth, childhood, and vocation are told at the beginning of First Samuel. His judgeship was dominated by war with the Philistines, who captured the Ark of the Covenant. In his old age he agreed, at divine request, to the establishment of a king; he thus anointed Saul and remained chief prophet during Saul's reign. In this role he anointed David, and after dying, appeared to Saul at Endor. Samuel became a national hero and eventually a popular figure of Jewish legend.

  • See studies by P. K. McCarter (1980, 1984), J. Baldwin (1988), and W. Brueggemann (1990);.
  • Alter, R. , The David Story (1999). See also bibliography under Old Testament.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles


Full text Article Circa 800 The Bible, Second Book of Samuel (New Revised Standard Version)
Contemporary World Issues: Invasion of Privacy: A Reference Handbook

In the Bible, God orders a counting of people or fighting-age men on several occasions (Exod. 38:26; Num. 1, 3:14–43, 26). But in the second...

Full text Article The First Book of Samuel otherwise called, The First Book of the Kings - Chapter 1
The Holy Bible, King James Version, Cambridge University Press

1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the...

Full text Article The First Book of Samuel otherwise called, The First Book of the Kings - Chapter 3
The Holy Bible, King James Version, Cambridge University Press

1 And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open...

See more from Credo