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Samuel and His God

Marti J. Steussy

Publication Year: 2013

Samuel and His God explores the relationship among a prophet, his deity, and their people in 1 Samuel. Marti J. Steussy illumines the vexing elements central to this multifaceted narrative and probes the questions it raises, particularly with regard to the authoritative voice of Samuel, of God as portrayed in this account, of the narrator or narrators, and of the Bible itself. In this sense, Samuel becomes a case study in how the Bible's authors use stories to argue for who may speak for God. In the biblical account, Samuel hears the Lord's calling as a boy, becomes a servant to the priest Eli, and later becomes Eli's successor. As a leader of the people of Israel and a conduit for God's message, Samuel is a figure of immense authority, ultimately anointing the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, and thus precipitating the transformation of Israel from a collection of tribes into a nation under a monarchy. But in biblical and historical portrayals of Samuel's interactions with his God, their people, and these early kings, the narratives introduce significant discontinuities and disruptions, most famously with respect to the question of whether kingship came to Israel as a sinful human initiative or as a divine gift. Steussy takes up the challenge of helping readers grapple with the possibility that a multitude of storytellers representing disparate agendas may be responsible for aspects of Samuel's tale, and this makes mapping the cumulative story a problematic but revealing task. The relationship between Samuel and God is often contentious, and Samuel is presented as an irascible and ambitious character whose own stakes in his community at times govern how he interprets and represents his relationship to his God. Steussy's close readings negotiate the plethora of viewpoints to be found here—those of the narrator(s), the characters, and other scholars of Samuel's story.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Studies on Personalities of the Old Testament


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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Series Editor’s Preface

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pp. vii-viii

Critical study of the Bible in its ancient Near Eastern setting has stimulated interest in the individuals who shaped the course of history and whom events singled out as tragic or heroic figures. Rolf Rendtorff’s Men of the Old Testament (1968) focuses on the lives of important biblical figures as a means of illuminating history, ...

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pp. ix-x

This book owes its existence to James L. Crenshaw. He taught me much of what I know about biblical scholarship and also specifically requested that my 1999 book, David: Biblical Portraits of Power, be followed by an additional volume on Samuel. Most of the writing took place during a research leave granted by the trustees of Christian Theological Seminary. ...


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pp. xi-xii

Samuel in the Bible

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Chapter 1: Introduction

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pp. 1-10

The prophet Samuel’s story is told mostly in the first sixteen chapters of the book of 1 Samuel. Beginning with Samuel’s birth in the first chapter, 1 Samuel goes on to describe how Samuel grows up as servant to the priest Eli, whom he eventually replaces as the primary mediator between Lord1 and Israel. ...

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Chapter 2: Sources of the Samuel Stories

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pp. 11-26

Today we read stories about the prophet Samuel in the 1 Samuel subunit of a larger book we call “the Bible.”1 The fact that Samuel’s story is biblical invokes a whole set of assumptions and expectations. For starters, although the English word “Bible” comes from the Greek phrase ta biblia, which means “the books” (plural), the English word “Bible” is singular. ...

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Chapter 3: The Many Roles of Samuel

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pp. 27-47

In previous chapters I have referred to Samuel as a “prophet.” However, this word is used only sparingly for him in the book of 1 Samuel itself. First Samuel 3:20 tells us that “all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.” First Samuel 9 refers to him as a “seer,” with an explanatory note in 9:9 ...

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Chapter 4: The Problematic God of Samuel

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pp. 48-72

The survey of Samuel and his roles has revealed a consistent emphasis on Samuel’s standing as a spokesperson for Lord. He receives revelation by vision and word, ending an era in which such revelation has been rare (1 S 3). He announces the withdrawal of divine support from particular families and individuals ...

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Chapter 5: A Sequential Reading of Samuel

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pp. 73-94

Chapters 2 through 4 examined some probable layers in the composition of the book of 1 Samuel, the roles commonly ascribed to the character Samuel, and how God is depicted in the Samuel stories. With this as background, we turn at last to the most obvious strategy for understanding Samuel: a sequential journey through his story. ...

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Chapter 6: Samuel, His God, and Us

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pp. 95-102

The story of Samuel unsettles many common assumptions about the Bible, its prophets, and its God. In the first chapter, I mentioned a youth minister who chose 1 Samuel 3 as the sermon text for his ordination. He wanted to make the point that God has purposes even for children. He trimmed the reading to omit what God actually says to Samuel. ...


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pp. 103-112


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pp. 113-116

Scripture Index

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pp. 117-124

Hebrew Word Index

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pp. 125-126

Topic Index

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pp. 127-132

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About the Author

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p. 150-150

Marti J. Steussy is the MacAllister-Petticrew Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Steussy is the author of two science fiction novels and three previous books in biblical studies, ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172225
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570039249

Page Count: 152
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Studies on Personalities of the Old Testament