Literature / Books of Samuel

The ninth and tenth books of The Bible.

The first book tells the story of Samuel who is dedicated by his mother to the priesthood. He grows up to be the most important religious and political figure of his day, becoming the last shofet or "Judge" of Israel (in the sense meant by the Book of Judges) and (somewhat reluctantly) helps establish the Israelite kingship.

The second book tells of the kingship of David, Israel's greatest king and ancestor of Jesus.

Joseph Heller's God Knows is a modern — and not a little meta — retelling of the Books of Samuel.

The Books of Samuel are followed by the Books of Kings.

These books contain the following tropes

  • All Crimes Are Equal: In part of Samuel's harsh rebuke to Saul's incomplete genocide and rejection as King of Israel, he states in I Samuel 15:23 that rebellion is just as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness is just as evil as idolatry. note 
  • Armor Is Useless:
    • Goliath is wearing more than a hundred pounds of armor, including a bronze helmet. However, the rock David fires at Goliath kills him instantly by going through his eye socket, which presumably was not covered by the helmet.
    • David also rejects Saul's armor, as it's far too big for him.
  • Artifact Title: Samuel only played a significant role in the beginning of the first book, then died in the middle and is not mentioned in the second. Those books focus more on the King David.
  • ...And That Little Girl Was Me: Nathan tells David a story about a rich man who stole a poor man's pet lamb. But when David expresses outrage, Nathan reveals that the rich man was an allegory for David's Uriah Gambit and lays down the "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Asshole Victim: Goliath, Absalom, King Saul, Joab, the Philistines and the Amalekites.
  • Babies Ever After: God was so pleased at Hannah giving her firstborn to His service after years of infertility that He made her quite fertile from that point on. She proceeds to have five more children.
  • Badass Israeli: A whole lot of them, probably most notably David and his mighty men. Saul was no wimp either.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: King David had thirty elite One-Man Army soldiers to act as his personal bodyguards, but he's such a badass he probably didn't need them anyway.
  • Combat by Champion: David vs. Goliath, the most famous example in history.
  • Combat Pragmatist: David defeats his massive and well-equipped foe by shooting him in the face from a distance.
  • David vs. Goliath:
    • Trope Namer. Goliath was more or less ancient history's André the Giant — some translations put him at nine feet tall! David, meanwhile, was hammered home as the runt of his family, the youngest of ten siblings and not much older than 18 when Goliath bellowed his challenge to Saul's army.
    • On a political level, David and Saul. Saul was not a short man, and was God's anointed king (for a time) with direct control of the army. That's stiff competition for a former sheep herder.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Saul getting rejected as king just because he did some of Samuel's duties may seem like this but remember that the high priest makes sure the king does God's commands to the letter. Saul tries to bypass this and concentrate all power on himself. He was a tyrant in the making.
  • Dream Team/Badass Crew: David assembles an elite squad of thirty "mighty men" to be his personal guard. All of them had impressive achievements in battle, including one who killed 800 Philistines in one day, one who singlehandedly defended an entire field, and one who "killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day."
  • Driven to Suicide: Saul, eventually. And Ahithophel, when Absalom prefers to take Hushai's advice as for what to do with King David over his own.
  • Due to the Dead: The funeral pyres for Saul and his three sons and the burial of their ashes at the end of 1 Samuel. David later has the ashes reburied in the family tomb along with the remains of the seven men who had been killed for their ancestor's massacre of the Gibeonites.
  • The Evil Prince: David's sons Amnon (raped his half-sister) and Absalom (led a rebellion).
  • Eye Scream: Saul's first great act was saving a city under siege from a warlord who would let them live if they allowed him to gouge out their eyes.
  • Fatal Flaw
    • Saul's tendency to follow his own way rather than waiting for a command from God.
    • David's inability to control his sex drive, which lead to the poor discipline of his children.
    • Joab's violence.
  • Final Solution: What God, through Samuel, orders King Saul to do the Amalekites, and is punished for being insufficiently thorough in the extermination.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: David danced before the Lord in an ephod when he successfully brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem as per the Lord's instructions. His wife Michal treats it as though he was dancing naked in public.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: King Saul changes his views on David every chapter. David actually has to prove twice that he has no intention to kill him.
  • Hereditary Curse: God does this to David's family after David has an affair with Bathsheba and has her husband killed.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: David and Jonathan.
  • Holy Is Not Safe
    • The Ark of the Covenant proves to be an equal-opportunity Doomsday Device in 1 Samuel 4-7. The Israelites bring the Ark onto the field of battle, which scares the Philistines into fighting harder instead. They capture it, then make the mistake of keeping it in the same room as an idol of Dagon. God breaks the statue and smites the Philistines with a plague of tumors and rats. The Philistine cities play hot potato with the Ark for a while before sending it back to Israel with a guilt offering. Aaaand the Israelites promptly have a whole bunch of people die from looking into the Ark.
    • As David tried to bring the Ark on a cart into Jerusalem and the oxen stumbled, Uzzah touched the Ark to keep it from falling off and was struck dead for doing so.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: David and Jonathan's relationship, let the text speak for itself. 2 Samuel 1:26 "I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women." Needless to say, this is a controversial point.
  • Honor Before Reason: During a battle with the Philistines, Saul disrupted his own army by making them swear that they will not eat or drink until they have won. They had no choice but to obey, and the enemy escaped. Only Jonathan thought this was dumb.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Trope Namer. Part of David's eulogy for King Saul and Jonathan, though it is how the king has fallen in battle, not how he has fallen in might.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The Philistines had a monopoly on weapons so the Israelites (with the exception of Saul & Jonathan) had to weaponise their farm tools.
  • It's All My Fault: David bravely comes clean and says "I have sinned against the Lord" when Nathan the prophet confronts him with his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband Uriah to cover it up. Because he repents, the Lord lets him live but still punishes him.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "As I served your father, so shall I serve you."
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Penninah has children, and lords it over Hannah, who has none. Hannah eventually does conceive, but not without divine intervention.
  • Mistaken For Drunk: When Hannah is praying for a child, Eli (the priest) assumes she's drunk. When she corrects him, he apologizes, and says something along the lines of "May God grant you what you ask for."
  • Morality Pet - Mephiboseth, Jonathan's crippled son, is this to David, to the point where he's exempted when David has to select seven of Saul's descendants to be punished for Saul's massacre of the Gibeonites.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: The result of David's Uriah Gambit was his marriage to Bathsheba, whom he had inadvertently knocked up.
  • Naked First Impression: David first sees Bathsheba bathing outdoors. Thus begins the affair.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: David was forced to flee (from Saul) into exile at the court of the King of Gath (Goliath's hometown), who happened to be an enemy of Israel. When the King of Gath recognizes him as an anti-Philistine guerrilla warrior, David pretended to be a raving madman, causing the king to think him harmless.
  • Offered the Crown: Saul, then David.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The Rephaim, including Goliath. David and friends make a name for themselves by killing a few of these in battle.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: David infamously peeps on Bathsheba when she is bathing on a rooftop. This leads to his adultery and the resulting Uriah Gambit.
  • Please Shoot the Messenger: King David has Uriah the Hittite carry a letter to Joab, his commanding officer:
    And he wrote in the letter, saying: Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.
  • Polyamory:
    • The story begins with Elkanah, who had two wives, Penninah and Hannah.
    • Also, David has Michal and Bathsheba, plus several other women.
  • Precision F-Strike: King Saul gets one in the original Hebrew and also in a few translations (e.g. The Living Bible) upon figuring out that Jonathan, who he had favored to be his successor, was on David's side.
  • Punished for Sympathy: King Saul is chastised by Samuel because he had spared only one Amalekite, King Agag (whom Saul viewed as a strategically valuable hostage), as well as the sheep and cattle. God had commanded Saul to kill them all. For this, God officially rejected Saul as king of Israel, to be replaced with David.
  • The Purge
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: David's Mighty Men.
  • Redemption Equals Affliction: David repents of pulling the Uriah Gambit as well as committing adultery. Although God forgave him, He allowed David and Bathsheba's child to die in infancy and David's life got quite complicate afterwards.
  • Rejected Apology: Saul repents to God for the incomplete genocide of the Amalekites, but Samuel informs him that God won't accept it and has now rejected him as King of Israel.
  • Rule of Seven: For a famine in 2 Samuel 21 to end, seven of King Saul's descendants have to pay for his massacre of the Gibeonites.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Saul's attempts at killing David and saving his dynasty end up dooming it.
  • Sins of Our Fathers:
    • David commits adultery with Bathseba and then pulls off his infamous Uriah Gambit. As a punishment, the son of that adultery dies, but later they have another son: Solomon. David is also cursed with war and public shame, which results in the deaths of two of his other sons (they probably deserved it though, but David is still crushed).
    • David delivered seven of Saul's descendants to be executed because Saul committed the massacre of the Gibeonites.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Though passed off by David as an Honorable Marriage Proposal; he married Bathsheba (after killing her husband off) because he got her pregnant.
  • Son of a Whore: Jonathan gets called this by his own father Saul when he suspects that Jonathan is protecting David.
  • Sucksessor:
    • Eli's sons sucking leads the way for Samuel to become the priest; then, Samuel's just as terrible sons lead the way to Saul being crowned.
    • Saul sees Jonathan as this, since Jonathan cares more about his friendship with David than the throne, but being the suck-sessor to a terrible king is hardly a bad thing.
  • The Uriah Gambit: Trope Maker and Trope Namer, but not in the same event. The Trope Maker is Saul sending David on missions to get him killed (unsuccessful), whereas the Trope Namer is David sending Uriah to his death.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Courtesy of King Saul, and the first recorded example in human history.
    "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! I know that you side with the son of Jesse—to your shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness!"
  • 20 Bear Asses: Ur-Example, 100 Philistine foreskins. David brought back 200.
  • Tragic Bromance: David and Jonathan.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Many English translations have Saul swear at Jonathan along the lines of, "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman!" Needless to say, there is indeed a closer English equivalent to the Hebrew original, but apparently most translators don't like the thought of putting it in The Bible. (The Living Bible is a notable exception.)
  • Villain Has a Point: After Absalom's rebellion fails because Joab kills him despite David's explicit orders to the contrary, David becomes extremely sad and the story clearly expects us to feel sympathy for the man who just lost one of his sons. Joab goes to his uncle and tells him to man up and behave like a king should, stop crying like a child and criticizes him to the face how he constantly constantly shows goodwill to people who try to harm him while showing no gratitude to those who faithfully serve him. Not even the narrative denies that Joab, morally ambiguous as he is, has something of a point by now, especially since David does just what his nephew tells him afterwards.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Nathan reaming out David for his adultery, and his murder of Uriah.
    • There's also Samuel chewing out Saul for burning an offering without waiting for him to arrive to Gilgal and later for sparing King Agag and the cattle and sheep when God commanded him to kill all Amalekites.
  • The Wise Prince: Prince Jonathan proves to be a wiser and more caring ruler than his father King Saul, and the earlier stories involving him tend to be optimistic...until his Tragic Bromance with to-be-king David kicks in...

Alternative Title(s): Samuel