The Accession Narrative (1 Samuel 27 – 2 Samuel 1) -- By: David G. Firth

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 58:1 (NA 2007)
Article: The Accession Narrative (1 Samuel 27 – 2 Samuel 1)
Author: David G. Firth

The Accession Narrative (1 Samuel 27 – 2 Samuel 1)

David G. Firth


This paper offers a reading of 1 Samuel 27 – 2 Samuel 1 as a discrete unit within the books of Samuel which consciously acts as the climax of all that precedes it in 1 Samuel. It is marked by a distinctive narrative style, which shows that it is structurally discrete within the books of Samuel, and yet at the same time it establishes links across the whole of the preceding text. These links enable it to offer a profound reflection on the circumstances and interpretation of Saul’s death as well as resolving the question of where David was when Saul died. At the same time, these links transcend the classical source-critical analysis of the books of Samuel, suggesting that the books should be read as a tightly- integrated whole.

1. Introduction

Although in recent years it has become a happy hunting ground for more literary approaches to the interpretation of the Old Testament,1

study of the books of Samuel continues to be shaped largely by two hypotheses developed and popularised in the first half of the twentieth century. The first of these was the source-critical analysis developed by L. Rost in which he identified an ark narrative (1 Sam. 4:1b–7:1 and 2 Sam. 6), a History of David’s Rise (1 Sam. 16 – 2 Sam. 5) and a Succession Narrative (2 Sam. 9-20) as the principal sources employed in the composition of the books of Samuel.2 The other dominant element continues to be Martin Noth’s hypothesis of a Deuteronomistic History,3 of which the books of Samuel are an integral part. However, in arguing for this, Noth accepted most of Rost’s analysis, including his assertion that the Deuteronomist had access to much older materials to which only relatively small adjustments or additions were made.4

Subsequent writers have not always accepted this analysis, even where they regard Samuel as part of the Deuteronomistic History. For example, Barbara Green follows Robert Polzin and reads the whole of 1 Samuel as a Deuteronomistic text produced in the exile,5 which seeks to vindicate the negative view of kingship that Noth highlighted as one

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