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Literature / Books of Samuel

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“Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the names of the great ones of the earth.’”
2 Samuel 7:8-9

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.

The first book provided the inspiration for the famous David sculpture, while Joseph Heller's God Knows — with a litle meta — retold the Books of Samuel as a whole.

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


These books contain the following tropes

  • 20 Bear Asses: Saul offered his daughter's hand in marriage to David, if David could bring him 100 Philistine foreskins. David one-upped him and brought back 200.
  • 100% Heroism Rating: David! So much so that when he was the head of Saul’s armies before becoming king, the women of Israel sang, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands!”
  • Accomplice by Inaction: Eli the high priest is regarded as this by God for not taking a more proactive stance to remove his wicked sons from serving as priests, and thus was cursed to die on the same day as his sons.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: David had a habit of fighting civil wars against his own family members, so he often engages in this trope.
    • When Saul and Jonathan (David’s father- and brother-in-law) are killed in battle, David writes a song of lamentation for both of them. While Jonathan had long been David’s Heterosexual Life-Partner, Saul had tried to kill David on several occasions. David still greatly mourns for the man who was once like a father to him.
    You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul
    Who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet
    Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
    How the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle!
    — 2 Samuel 1:24-25 (English Standard Version)
    • When Absalom is defeated, David is devastated at losing his son, and mourns so intensely that his officers finally have to give him a What the Hell, Hero? for hurting his men's morale.
  • 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 
  • Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: The ark of God is treated as this in these books. In 1st Samuel, when the Israelites were first defeated by the Philistines, they realize that if they could carry the ark of God into battle, God would have to fight for them and wipe out their enemies. As it turns out, though, God not only lets the Israelites be defeated by the Philistines again, He also allows the ark to be taken into Philistine territory, where it causes trouble among their people until they decide to have it be brought back to the Israelites by putting it on a cart driven by oxen alongside a trespass offering and have the oxen take it away.
  • 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.
  • Asshole Victim: Goliath, Absalom, King Saul, Joab (eventually), the Philistines and the Amalekites.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Inverted at Saul’s inauguration, which instead became an Awesome Moment of De-Crowning, specifically about how Israel had dethroned Samuel and, by extension, God. To demonstrate this point, Samuel calls for rain in the summer season, when it is least likely to rain. The subsequent thunder and rain greatly frightens the people of Israel, who ask Samuel to intercede for them.
  • 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 Boast: In 2nd Samuel chapter 5, when David and his men set their sights on conquering Jersualem, the Jebusites resist with a boast that "even the blind and the lame will turn you away.” This didn't work for the Jebusites, as David and his men succeeded in conquering the city, and as a curse, "the blind and the lame" are not allowed to enter into God's house — a curse that endured into the day of Jesus' earthly ministry and that of the early church.
  • Badass Crew: 2nd Samuel has a list of Badasses who worked for King David, and were referred to as the "Mighty Men". The list is filled with stories of people killing off hundreds of people singlehanded, or fighting wild animals.
  • Badass Israeli: A whole lot of them, probably most notably David and his mighty men. Saul was no wimp either.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: When King David asks a Cushite officer announcing his victory over Absalom whether Absalom is still alive, the Cushite rather tactfully replies that he hopes all of King David's enemies end up sharing that young fellow's fate.
  • Bastard Understudy: How Saul comes to view David, as the Lord has departed from Saul and His Spirit is now resting on David to give him success in battle.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The people of Israel ask Samuel for a king, believing this will bring greater stability to Israel. Samuel warns them about how oppressive kings can be, but they ignore his warning. The truth of Samuel’s warnings, though, isn’t apparent until a few kings later.
    Rehoboam: “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” – 1 Kings 12:14
  • Betrayal by Offspring: David's son, Absalom, turns against his father and seizes Jerusalem driving David beyond the Jordan River. Absalom then rules for a time as a regent and self-declared king before being slain by his father's Number Two, Joab, in the Battle of Ephraim Wood. Despite Absalom's revolt against him, David weeps over his death.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Saul chooses to kill himself rather than let the Philistines capture him.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The families of David and his mighty men, including David’s wives, Abigail and Ahinoam, were kidnapped by the Amalekites. David’s men nearly stoned him in their anguish, but after David prayed to the LORD, he led to his men to reclaim their lost families and property.
    “Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all.” — 1 Samuel 30:19 (English Standard Version)
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: David’s family!
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Soon after Phinehas and Hophni get killed in 1st Samuel chapter 5, Phinehas' widow gives birth to his son Ichabod even as she passes away.
  • 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.
  • Bowdlerize: David's adulterous affair with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband Uriah is downplayed in most retellings of the story for children as David wanting to marry Bathsheba, but after finding out that she is married to Uriah, orders for him to be killed in battle so that he could legally marry Bathsheba.
  • Brats with Slingshots: Notably not David, though many, many people believe he used one. What he really used was a sling, a weapon that relied on built-up centrifugal force to propel a dense bullet at high speed against a target; it did not use elasticity to propel the projectile in any meaningful way. In ancient-world terms it was more like a difficult-to-aim gun than a kid's toy.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Actually, half-brother and half-sister, but Amnon's rape of Tamar qualifies. The attraction between them was only one way, as Amnon was more interested in Tamar than she was in him. Tamar tries to reason with Amnon by telling him to speak to King David about giving her to him as a wife, hoping that what he intended to do to her wouldn't happen, but Amnon was too much in the heat of passion to even care.
  • Burn the Witch!: When he became king, Saul was noted for executing witches among the Israelites. Later on, though, he proved to be a hypocrite by consulting the Witch of Endor to find out about his fate in battle.
  • Bury Your Disabled: Inverted by Mephibosheth, who is the only member of the House of Saul to survive David’s reign and continue the family line. Likely a case of Disability Immunity, as Mephibosheth’s lameness prevented him from fighting in the civil war and thus avoiding David’s wrath.
  • Catch the Conscience: Following David's adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, the prophet Nathan tells him the story of a rich man who took the beloved lamb of his poor neighbor to serve to his dinner guest, despite having many fat sheep of his own. David is outraged and demands to know who the man is who could have done such a thing. Nathan tells him.
  • Civil War: First between Saul and David, and then between Ish-Bosheth and David.
  • Combat by Champion: David vs. Goliath, the most famous example in history.
  • Combat Pragmatist: David defeats his massive and well-equipped foe by pegging him in the face from a distance.
  • Comforting the Widow: In 1st Samuel chapter 25, after God avenged David by having Nabal die of a heart attack, David makes a proposal to Nabal's wife Abigail to become his wife. She immediately accepts and becomes the second of three wives that David married in the narrative at that point.
  • Curse:
    • Although not outrightly stated as a curse, when David's first wife Michal criticizes David for his "unholy" dancing, the text says that she had no children to the day of her death.
    • Because Joab had killed Abner after David had sent him away in peace, David cursed not only Joab, but also the rest of his family with painful hardships.
  • 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.
  • Dead Animal Warning: Saul cuts an oxen apart and has its dismembered bodies part sent to all the cities of Israel, a warning that the same dismemberment will happen to the livestock of any who do not fight against Nahash the Ammonite. Three hundred thousand soldiers answer the call.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Although Absalom's sister Tamar did not die after the rape by her half-brother Amnon, her public disgrace from the rape is treated as such so that Absalom named his own daughter Tamar as one of his last acts of honor.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Saul, after he was killed in 1st Samuel chapter 31, had his head cut off and his body put on display by the Philistines gloating over their victory in their battle with the Israelites. The people of Jabesh Gilead, when they heard of the desecration of Saul's body, stole it from Beth Shan and buried it under a tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted for seven days.
  • Death by Childbirth: Phinehas' wife dies while giving birth to her child, which she names Ichabod ("no glory"), for "the glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken."
  • Death by Falling Over: Eli in 1st Samuel, when he was sitting by the roadside and got the news that his two sons were killed in battle and the Ark of God had been taken away, fell over from his seat, broke his neck, and died when he heard about the Ark of God.
  • Death by Irony: Absalom was admired for his great strength and long hair. But once his rebellion failed, and he was fleeing for his life, his hair (or perhaps his whole head) got caught in some oak branches. This allowed Joab to kill him rather easily.
  • Defiled Forever:
    • David's daughter Tamar, who was raped by her half-brother Amnon, who ended up living in her other brother Absalom's house as a desolate woman. This eventually results in Absalom getting even with Amnon by having him killed in a private little party.
    • David's ten concubines by his own son Absalom going into them when he took over as king. To protect them, David had the concubines shut up afterward and no longer went into them, forcing them to live the rest of their lives in widowhood.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The rejection of Saul as king just for doing some of Samuel's duties may seem like this at the outset, but 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.
    • Also, when Nabal insults David and refuses to give him any food or aid, David plans to return the favor by slaughtering him and his household. He is persuaded not to by Nabal's wife, Abigail, at almost the last minute.
  • Divine Right of Kings: Both Saul and David are specifically chosen by God to be Israel’s kings. While Saul is clearly chosen for his great size, God also chooses David, the youngest and smallest of the sons of Jesse, despite Samuel’s objections.
    ”For the LORD sees not as man sees: the man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (English Standard Version)
  • Dream Team: 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 single-handedly defended a field, and one who "killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day."
  • Driven to Suicide: Saul, eventually. And Ahithophel, when Absalom seeks advice as for what to do with King David, and prefer's Hushai's advice over Ahithophel's.
  • 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.
    • David takes care of Mephibosheth as a way of honoring his friend, Jonathan.
    • In 2nd Samuel chapter 10 (also repeated in 1st Chronicles chapter 19), David sends counselors to King Nahash's son Hanun to comfort him concerning his father's death, only for his counselors to be shamefully treated and sent back in embarrassment because Hanun thought David actually sent his men to spy out his kingdom. This ultimately led to a war between the two kings that resulted in a massive defeat for the Ammonites and their allies, the Syrians.
  • Easily Forgiven: David forgives Abner (who led Saul’s armies during Saul’s civil war with David), Absalom (his son who led a rebellion against him), and Absalom’s supporters. Forgiveness for the first is subverted by Joab, and the latter by Solomon.
  • End of an Era: 1 Samuel depicted the final reign of the judges and the beginning of the Kingdom Of Israel.
  • Enemy Mine: David works for Philistines while on the run from Saul. Once he becomes king of Israel, he goes back to battling them.
  • Empathic Environment: Invoked by Samuel, who calls for rain at Saul’s inauguration as a sign that God is unhappy that Israel has chosen a human king over their heavenly King.
  • The Evil Prince: David's sons Amnon (raped his half-sister) and Absalom (led a rebellion). Later Adonijah, a much less overt and more underhanded type.
  • The Exile: Absalom becomes this when he kills his half-brother Amnon in a private little party and flees to another country. It takes Joab using an old woman from Tekoa pretending to be a mourner to talk some sense into King David to have Absalom returned to his own country. Unfortunately, this also leads to Absalom's seditious acts against his own father as he gathers support from most of Israel to have him be king instead of his father David.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: In 1st Samuel, when it came the time for prophet Samuel to anoint the new king, God instructed him to go to a house of a certain Jesse who had many sons. He inspected them, and they were no doubt strong, smart, and reputable, but to the surprise of Jesse and probably Samuel too, none of them were to be the king. Samuel, wondering whether he or God had mistaken the house, asked whether those were really all Jesse's sons. There was one more, a young boy who preferred to spend time alone tending the sheep. Guess which one became the king.
  • 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.
  • Fake Defector:
    • David decides to offer his services to a Philistine lord in order to hide himself from King Saul. It works for a little over a year until the other Philistine lords see him and the other Hebrews with David and suspect that he is this trope working undercover to take down the Philistines from within in order to please his "true master".
    • Hushai the Arkite became this when he served David's son Absalom during his reign of sedition, in order to find out Absalom's plans regarding his own father.
  • The Famine: In 2nd Samuel chapter 21, there was a famine in Israel that lasted for three years. David found out from the Lord that it was because of Saul's bloody slaughter of the Gibeonites, the people whom the Israelites had bound themselves with an oath to protect. The Gibeonites ask for seven of Saul's sons to be killed, and David gives them Armoni and Mephiboshethnote , the two sons of Rizpah, the daughter of Saul's concubine Aiah, and the five adopted sons of Michal, whom she brought up for her sister Merab's husband, and had them hanged before the Gibeonites. He also brings the bones of Saul and Jonathan from Jabesh Gilead and reburies them in the tomb of Saul's father Kish, and thus God was entreated by David and the famine had ended.
  • 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.
  • Fat Bastard: Eli is described as a heavy man, implying sloth, and, other than giving his sons a mild scolding, he doesn't move against them as soon as they abuse the priesthood to steal food offerings, act promiscuously, and insult God. Upon finding out his sons have been struck down in their arrogance, and that the ark of God had been taken, Eli's fat gets the better of them and he dies by falling onto his neck. Even the message God gives to Eli through young Samuel about his sons, which Samuel is forced to tell at the threat of a curse, doesn't do anything to change him; it simply makes him realize that his goose is cooked.
  • Final Solution: What God, through Samuel, orders King Saul to do the Amalekites, and is punished for being insufficiently thorough in the extermination.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: David, but really God. (See page quote above.)
  • 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.
  • Get Out!: Amnon says this to his half-sister Tamar after he had raped her in 2nd Samuel chapter 13. When she wouldn't leave because she said it would be worse than what he did to her, Amnon had his servants force her out.
  • God Is Displeased: A few examples.
    • God was displeased with Saul for not killing all of the Amalekites and rejects him as king and replaces him with David.
    • God was also very displeased with David's Uriah Gambit and subsequent marriage to Bathsheba, so he punished the household with public shame and war.
  • The Good King: David is the Biblical archetype.
  • 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.
  • Heroic BSoD: David suffers one when he receives the news that Absalom has been killed. Joab has to snap him out of it with a What the Hell, Hero? speech accusing him of ruining morale by caring more for his traitorous son than his loyal followers.
  • 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 tumorsnote  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.
    • When David visited Ahimelech the high priest while on the run from King Saul in 1st Samuel chapter 21 and asks if the priest has any common bread to eat, Ahimelech says that they only have consecrated bread, which was only for the priests to eat. However, Ahimelech is willing to give David the bread if him and his friends have kept themselves from women. David replies, “Surely women have been kept from us as previously when I set out and the vessels of the young men were holy, though it was an ordinary journey; how much more then today will their vessels be holy?”
    • As David tried to bring the Ark on a cart into Jerusalem and the oxen stumbled, Uzzah used his hand to steady the Ark lest it fall off the cart, and he was promptly struck dead for doing so.
  • 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.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Twice when David had the opportunity to kill King Saul whenever the king was nearby, David refused, even as at the first time he only cut off a corner of the king's robe and his heart was smitten, realizing that King Saul was still the LORD's anointed and he cannot touch the anointed and be considered guiltless. Both incidents ended up with Saul and David walking away with their lives. Unfortunately, Saul still didn't get it.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment: Michal was appalled by David’s celebratory dancing when the Ark was returned to Jerusalem, but David is unashamed. His response doesn't really do much of anything to help save the relationship between them, though.
    Michal: How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!
    David: It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me prince over Israel, the people of the LORD—and I will celebrate before the LORD. I will make myself more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.
    2 Samuel 6:20-22 (English Standard Version)
  • 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. The Philistines promised that they would not go to war with Israel if the Jews destroyed all of their weapons. The Jews, being Too Dumb to Live, complied. Needless to say, they regretted their decision almost immediately.
  • Insists on Paying: When God told King David to go to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite in 2nd Samuel chapter 24 to build an altar to the Lord in order to stop the plague sent upon Israel, David tells Araunah that he wants to purchase the threshing floor. Araunah was willing to give the threshing floor and the oxen and the wood free of charge to the king, but King David insists on buying the property, saying that he would not make sacrifices to the Lord with offerings that cost him nothing. In the book of 1st Chronicles (which repeats the same story), the threshing floor becomes the site for the future Temple that King David's son Solomon would build during his reign.
  • 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.
    • Earlier on, David takes responsibility for King Saul having Doeg the Edomite massacre the priests of God, knowing that his brief encounter with the high priest with Doeg present has doomed them.
  • Just a Kid: David gets this reaction from King Saul in 1st Samuel chapter 17 when he declares that he will slay Goliath the giant. King Saul says, "You're just a youth, and he [Goliath] has been a man of war from his youth." David tells King Saul how with God's help he had slain a lion and a bear while still just a youth, and that with God's help he will also conquer the giant.
  • Karma Houdini: Doeg the Eedomite slaughters a village for aiding David, on Saul's orders. He is never mentioned again. (Although one Rabbinical tradition says that David personally kills him later.)
  • The Kingslayer: An Amalekite pretends to have killed Saul, but when he boasts about this to David, David is devastated over Saul and Jonathan’s death. The Amalekite is then Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "As I served your father, so shall I serve you."
  • Last of His Kind: Michal and Mephibosheth are the only remaining descendants of Saul following first the Civil War and then the execution of Saul’s grandsons as vengeance for Saul’s massacre of the Gibeonites. Michal remains barren because of her falling out with David, but Mephibosheth has at least one son, Mica, allowing Saul’s line through Jonathan to survive.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Penninah has children, and lords it over Hannah, who has none. Hannah eventually does conceive, but not without divine intervention.
  • Leave No Witnesses: In 1st Samuel, when David and his men temporarily sold their services to a Philistine lord, they would make raids upon the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. They would make it a point to leave no survivors in those raids because they didn't want any witnesses testifying in Gath to what David has done to those people, to maintain the illusion of being a true defector.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: Nathan the prophet in his parable of the rich man and the poor man in 2nd Samuel chapter 12 says that the poor man's lamb, whom he nurtured, was "like a daughter to him" — which made what the rich man did with the lamb all the more heartbreaking and heinous in David's eyes, saying that such a man that did this "is a son of death." The real stinger is Nathan telling David, "You are that man!"
  • Magic Music: David's harp music makes an "evil spirit" that is bothering Saul depart, at first. Later on, though, it's not powerful enough to improve Saul's mood and he tries to kill David with a spear.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Witch of Endor calls up the spirit of Samuel from the grave, and he speaks in a disembodied voice, revealing the disguised Saul's identity and prophesying his defeat. Or did she? Some scholars have observed that the apparition as described would be very easy to fake with the help of a bit of clever ventriloquism note , and it wouldn't exactly take supernatural aid to deduce that the disguised man was in fact the king known for being the tallest of all the Israelites. When read with that in mind, the text is actually rather cagey on the point of whether a spirit genuinely appeared. Interpreters are divided as to what might have really happened.
  • Meaningful Name: Nabal, which means "fool". He lives up to that name as he reacts harshly to David's request for food to be given to him and his men, nearly causing a massacre to fall upon Nabal and his men had not his wife Abigail intervened.
  • Minor Kidroduction: God called Samuel when he was a child, but little else is said about him until he reaches adulthood.
  • Mistaken for Junkie: 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.
  • Mutual Kill: In 2nd Samuel 2:12-16, David's army (under Joab's command) and Ishbosheth's army (under Abner's command) meet at the pool of Gibeon and have a contest of twelve soldiers each from both armies. As verse 16 states, "Each one grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath Hazzurim, which is at Gibeon."
  • Naked First Impression: David first sees Bathsheba bathing outdoors. Thus begins the affair.
  • Nasty Party: Absalom gets his revenge on his half-brother Amnon by inviting him to a private party and then having his servants slay him in secret. This gets misinterpreted as Absalom slaying all of David's sons until Amnon's friend clears up the whole situation.
  • Necromancy: The Witch of Endor is (apparently) able to bring up the spirit of Samuel from the dead. Samuel is annoyed at being disturbed, and prophesies correctly that Saul will lose in battle the next day, and that Saul and his sons will join Samuel in the place of the dead.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Joab (who is at best more of an Anti-Hero ) uses a ruse to convince David to invite Absalom back to Israel, as Absalom was in exile for killing Amnon. Absalom’s return allowed him to sow the seeds of rebellion two years later.
  • Nonindicative Name: Samuel figures prominently in the first book, but he dies in chapter 25 and (obviously) doesn't appear at all in 2 Samuel, which is all about David's reign.
  • 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.
  • Oblivious to His Own Description: 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 his "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Offered the Crown: Saul, then David.
  • Off with His Head!:
    • Goliath was beheaded by David after he was slain with the rock thrown from David's sling.
    • King Saul gets beheaded after he fell upon his own sword and died in the battle with the Philistines.
    • Ishbosheth was beheaded by Rechab and Baanah and his head was presented to David, with the two hoping that they would be rewarded. They did — with death!
    • A rebel named Sheba son of Bikri, who incited sedition against King David, was beheaded by the people of Abel when he went to that city to hide from David's forces.
  • 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.
  • Playing Sick: Amnon in 2nd Samuel plays sick at the suggestion of his friend so that he could lure his half-sister Tamar into being alone with him, requesting for her to come and make cakes that he could eat out of her hand. This ultimately led to him raping Tamar and him also being killed by his half-brother Absalom.
  • Please Shoot the Messenger: King David gets Uriah out of the way by sending him back to camp with dispatches for the general, Joab. Joab's orders: "Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down 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, whom he had favored to be his successor, was on David's side.
  • A Protagonist Shall Lead Them: The central narrative of the Books of Samuel is David’s ascent from being an overlooked shepherd boy in his father Jesse’s home to Israel’s greatest king.
  • Punished for Sympathy:
    • Eli is chastised by a prophet of God for not taking strong measures against his sons Hophni and Phinehas for abusing their positions as priests before God — the most that Eli did was warn them, and that was it — and for that, not only did Eli lose both his sons in one day, but also his family line was cursed.
    • 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: Saul's mission was to completely wipe out the Amalekites. Unfortunately he failed, keeping Agag alive as a prisoner and a trophy that was later hacked to death by Samuel. It is assumed that there was at least one other survivor, as King Ahasuerus' adviser Haman from the book of Esther was said to be the descendant of Agag.
  • Put on a Bus: After Michal criticizes David’s dancing, the text says she had no children. (Although, probably because of a copyist error or something, it says later on that she bore five children to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.) That is the Biblical version of this trope.
  • Questionable Consent: While David clearly wanted to sleep with Bathsheba, her interest in him is less clear. When the king asks you to come over (and your husband is away at war), how do you say no?
    • The same goes for Absalom and David’s concubines. He publicly has sex with them as a way of demonstrate he has replaced David as king. Left unsaid is whether these women wanted to have sex with him.
  • Quit Your Whining:
    • When Samuel mourned for Saul being rejected by the Lord as king over Israel for his pattern of disobedience to the Lord, God had to say something to this effect to get Samuel out of his funk and anoint someone else who will take Saul's place as king.
    • When David mourned publicly for his son Absalom being dead, Joab had to speak something to this effect to get David to stop mourning for his enemy and thereby disgracing the people he was supposed to protect as their leader.
  • Rags to Royalty: David. He is tending sheep when Samuel anoints him king of Israel.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: David's Mighty Men.
  • Rape and Revenge: Absalom gets even with his half-brother Amnon for raping his sister Tamar by luring him to a private party and then having his servants kill him.
  • Rasputinian Death: An alternate interpretation of the two death accounts of King Saul in these books is that Saul fell on his sword to kill himself, but was still somehow alive when the Amalekite found him among the slain, who begged the Amalekite to finish the job, which he obliged, taking the king's possessions so he could give them to David and inform him of what happened. The Amalekite was still rewarded with death for having slain the Lord's anointed.
  • 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 leaving Amalekite genocide incomplete, but Samuel informs him that God won't accept it and has now rejected him as King of Israel.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Saul, so much so that he hid himself once Samuel drew lots to prove he was God’s choice.
    • Jonathan is also willing to step aside in favor of David.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves:
    • Though Saul's death means David's ascension to the throne, he has a liar who claims to have done a Mercy Kill on Saul put to death for daring to raise his hand against God's anointed King.
    • Later, when two men who murdered his rival for the throne Ish-Bosheth come to him looking for a reward, he reminds them of what he did to Saul's (supposed) murderer and has them put to death and hung up as a warning to others while burying his rival with full honors.
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: As recorded in 2nd Samuel chapter 23 (and also in 1st Chronicles chapter 11), David was in the stronghold in the cave of Adullam while the Philistine garrison was in Bethlehem, and remarks apparently to himself that he misses drinking water from his hometown well. In this case the desire is genuine but he doesn't expect it to actually happen. But one of his best warriors overheard, gathered a few other mighty men together, and broke through enemy lines to bring back Bethlehem well water, and the King was appalled that anyone would actually risk his life for that.
  • Robbing the Dead: The Amalekite who came to David with Saul's royal crown and armband claiming to have killed him was almost certainly not being straight with David in other parts of his story as well as the part about killing Saul (who'd already committed suicide). For one thing, people don't just "happen" to be hanging around places where battles are taking place (like Mount Gilboa) as he claims to have been. For another, he must have gotten to Saul awfully quickly to have gotten his royal trappings before the Philistines found him. The likeliest explanation? He was a thief there to scavenge from the dead and just figured he'd found the biggest score of his career when he stumbled across Saul's remains.
  • Royal Brat: The sons of Eli, Samuel, and most of David’s all fall into this category. The people of Israel actually hoped to avoid this trope by asking for a king. They saw the poor quality of Eli and Samuel’s sons are, and hoped having a king would fix the problem. And in fact, Israel’s first crown prince, Jonathan, completely averted this trope. If anything, Jonathan and Saul inverted this trope, with Jonathan being The Wise Prince and Saul being a more immature king. With David’s sons, though, it is played completely straight.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Saul, Jonathan, and David. David’s troubles begin when he subverts this trope and stays at home while his army was at war. It is then that David spies Bathsheba showering.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Three: God calls for Samuel three times before Samuel finally responds.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Saul's attempts at killing David and saving his dynasty end up dooming it.
  • 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.
  • Silent Treatment: Amnon gets this from his half-brother Absalom after the rape of Tamar to express his total displeasure and to signal that things are going to go bad for Amnon.
  • Sinister Minister: Eli's sons Hophni and Phinehas, who not only took from the sacrifices the portions that were meant for God, but also slept with the women that assembled at the door of the Tent of Meeting. This was considered wicked in Eli's eyes, but God also held Eli responsible for not taking strong measures against his sons for their abuse of power.
  • Sins of Our Fathers:
    • David commits adultery with Bathsheba 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. (And though they probably deserved it, David is still crushed.)
    • David delivered seven of Saul's descendants to be executed because Saul committed the massacre of the Gibeonites.
    • Inverted with Eli and his sons. Eli himself seems to have been a faithful priest and judge, and he tried to warn his sons about God’s wrath. But they ignored him, and God extends his wrath to Eli’s entire line, because Eli did not fully discipline his sons.
  • Slain in Their Sleep: Ishbosheth was slain by two men while he was resting in his house, with his head cut off and brought to David, hoping to expect an reward, which turned out to be death for both of them.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Michal creates one by using an image stuffed under the covers of David's bed to help her husband escape being killed by her father King Saul.
  • Son of a Whore: Jonathan gets called this by his own father Saul when he suspects that Jonathan is protecting David.
  • Spooky Séance: King Saul, after God ignores his inquiries as to how to defeat the Philistines, turns in desperation to a medium (or "witch") in Endor and asks her to raise Samuel's spirit. (The irony was that Saul had previously cracked down on all necromancy within the Kingdom of Israel.) The medium, though recognizing Saul despite his disguise and suspecting entrapment, complies, and Samuel's spirit appears as an elderly man in a robe, none too pleased to be woken from his eternal rest. He curtly tells Saul that the next day he and his sons will die in battle, and sure enough, guess what happens.
    • It's intensely argued whether or not it was actually the ghost of Samuel or if it was some other spirit posing as Samuel, but most Biblical scholars agree that the witch of Endor called up something, and the news was not good.
  • Standard Hero Reward:
    • David is allowed to marry Michal after bringing back 200 Philistine foreskins.
    • Before that, King Saul offered (presumably) his eldest daughter Merab in marriage to the one who would defeat Goliath the giant in man-to-man combat, in addition to giving his family exemption from taxes and great wealth. David succeeded in the challenge, but refused to marry Merab, and she was given over to someone else.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: In 1st Samuel chapter 15, when King Saul doesn't fully obey the Lord's command to fully wipe out the Amalekites and all they have, instead sparing King Agag and the best animals they have for sacrifice, Samuel tells Saul that the Lord would rather have obedience instead of sacrifice. This doesn't stop Saul from worshiping the Lord when he realizes that the kingdom of Israel would be torn away from his grasp and instead be given to another by the decree of God, but things really go downhill for Saul from there.
  • Sucksessor:
    • Eli's sons sucking leads the way for Samuel to become the priestnote ; 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.
  • Symbolically Broken Object: Tamar's special robe, which was a symbol of her virginity, was torn by her after she had been violated by her half-brother Amnon.
  • 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!"
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: David was perfectly comfortable killing many people, but not Saul, since Saul was the Lord’s anointed. David passed up several opportunities to kill Saul, and later executed the man who claimed to have given Saul a Mercy Kill.
  • Tragic Villain: Saul. He was a Reluctant Ruler who truly desired to be a great king, but he did not have the courage or faithfulness to be successful. He ultimately let his jealousy for David drive his country into a Civil War, committed a terrible atrocity against the priests of Nob, and died with most of his sons on the battlefield.
  • The Unfavorite:
    • Elkanah's wife Penninah, despite being able to bear children for him, was passed over in favor of his other wife Hannah, which made Penninah so jealous that she decided to torment Hannah in order to make her upset.
    • David initially, as his father Jesse didn't even invite him to the sacrifice along with his other brothers until Samuel went through all the sons present and, the Lord finding none among them to anoint, asks if Jesse still has another son.
    • Michal becomes this among David’s wives once she criticizes his un-kingly dancing.
  • Ungrateful Bastard:
    • Nabal, the sheep owner of Carmel, whom David and his men had protected the entire time they were there in 1st Samuel chapter 25. David entreated Nabal for some food he could spare for him and his men, but Nabal refused to give him any, saying that his food is only for him and his servants. David was about to massacre Nabal's household of all its men when Nabal's wife Abigail intervened, wisely entreating David not to avenge himself and to let the Lord be his avenger in that circumstance. David listened to and heeded Abigail's entreaty, and thus Nabal suffered a heart attack and died several days later.
    • King Nahash of Ammon's son Hanun, who in 2nd Samuel chapter 10 was visited by David's men to give him comfort concerning his father's death and mistook them for spies that were sent to help David conquer and destroy the land, who foolishly brought David's wrath upon himself by having the men sent back with half their beards shaved and their garments cut off at the buttocks. This resulted in a war between Israel and Ammon where, even with the help of Syria, Ammon was defeated twice by David's armies.
  • 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 prefer to use an equally accurate but not so precise translation for The Bible. (The Living Bible is a notable exception.)
  • Unreliable Narrator: In-universe with two examples:
    • 2 Samuel opens with an Amalekite bringing the account of Saul's death to David; the man claims he performed a Mercy Kill on Saul. However, the end of 1 Samuel reveals that the Amalekite is lying; Saul was actually Driven to Suicide. Presumably the Amalekite hoped to get credit for Saul's death; this went horribly right for him when David decided killing "the Lord's anointed" warranted the death penalty.
    • Later on, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth comes to David's aid when he and his men were fleeing from Absalom during his seditious takeover of the kingdom. David asks Ziba where Mephibosheth is, and Ziba answers that he's still in Jerusalem because he sided with Absalom, thinking that his grandfather Saul's kingdom would be turned over to him. After Absalom dies and David is brought back to Jerusalem, he encounters Mephibosheth and asks why he didn't come with the king, and Mephibosheth answers that Ziba had deceived him while he was preparing to go with David. So in this case, Ziba was the Unreliable Narrator who lied to the king about Mephibosheth.
  • 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's attempt to get a woman and conceal his guilt by sending her husband who is one of his own loyal soldiers to death in the hands of the enemy.
  • Villain Has a Point: After Absalom's rebellion fails because, despite David's explicit orders he be spared, Joab kills the rebel, 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 and stop crying like a child, and criticizes him to his face how he 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.
  • Warrior Poet: David, giant slayer and great musician/poet/dancer.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Samuel chews 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.
    • Michal tries to do this with David and his supposed stripping dance before the Lord, but that just results in her never having any children.
    • Nathan reams out David for his adultery, and his murder of Uriah.
    • Joab gives one to David as well, for mourning over Absalom's death so much that he neglected to thank his men for their loyalty.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: David has no problem killing Saul's soldiers in battle, but refuses to kill Saul himself, even when he gets the chance, since Saul is still considered God's anointed, and David could not kill God's anointed and be guiltless.
  • What's Up, King Dude?: Invoked by Absalom, who stood at the city gates of Jerusalem and met with all who came to Jerusalem who wanted to meet the king. He used this to gain favor with the people in preparation for his rebellion.
  • Who Will Bell the Cat?: In 1st Samuel chapter 17, the Israelites are faced with the situation of who's going to take on Goliath's challenge of facing him man-to-man in combat, with King Saul promising a reward to the man who would succeed in defeating the giant. Enter a 17-year-old shepherd boy named David, armed with only a sling, a few stones, and faith in God that he can take down the giant just as he took down a bear and a lion. David's overwhelming victory against Goliath astounded even King Saul, who was wondering whose son he was of the families of Israel.
  • 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...
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: When David and the Israelites are successful in bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, they break out into song, and David supposedly strips all the way down until he is wearing a linen ephod in worship to the Lord. Michal, one of David's wives, sees through a window David doing this, and ended up depising him in her heart, giving him a chewing out that accused him of debasing himself like a lewd person in front of the maidens. This doesn't go well for her, though, as Michal was cursed with never bearing children from that day forward.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Of all Jesse's eight sons, the last of them, David, is the one chosen by God to be the one that would succeed Saul as king of Israel. This doesn't make his eldest brother Eliab all that happy, as in 1st Samuel chapter 17 he outrightly accuses David of coming down to the battlefield at the Valley of Elah just to see the spectacle of who will go up against Goliath.

Alternative Title(s): Samuel, First Samuel, Second Samuel