Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel

A full interpretation based on stylistic and structural analyses, Volume IV. Vow and desire (I.Sam. 1-12)


Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel is the vast undertaking to interpret all the material in Samuel. Everything that the text has to offer can only be understood and appreciated to the full, and its interpretation can only lay claim to full validity by means of an integral view. Therefore the author has developed a textual model which regards and covers the composition of the Samuel books as a hierarchy of twelve levels.

This is the fourth and final volume of the author’s integrative reading of the Samuel material in its entirety. Vow and Desire turns to the beginning of First Samuel and describes chapters 1-12. They contain the thematic basis of the whole composition by relating the crucial transition between two periods. The Judges period, represented by Eli and Samuel, is drawing to a close and the new order shows us the prophet Samuel who finds himself forced to anoint Saul as king, and thus to inaugurate the monarchy.

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Highlights in the stylistic and structural analyses offered here involve:

– the Song of Hannah, whose taut structure of seven strophes and three stanzas is brought to light. The poem forms the matrix of the total composition, and its significance for what follows is explored in depth.

– The birth of Samuel and the momentous naming by his mother at the end of ch.1 have a counterpart at the end of ch.4, when Ichabod is born whereas his mother dies. Thus Act 1 ends after four chapters, not three. There is no such thing as an independent Ark Narrative.

– Up to now chapters 8-12 on the inauguration of the monarchy (= Act III) have been dismantled by diachronic means. This is quite wrong. In fact the units form an ABABA series, in which the stories, in the strict sense of the word, take up B positions. They are 9:1-10:16 and 11:1-13 (not v.15) and both have been crafted with perfect symmetry.

– The units in 8, 10:17-27 and 11:14-12:25 systematically develop the idea of the monarchy. They do this, however, on the basis of the laborious and painful process which the reluctant prophet undergoes. Samuel supports an exclusive model of kingship, but is forced by his lord to evolve towards the inclusive model which has room for a human being as king (though still under the law of God).