(Originally 1 & 2 Samuel were one book until the time of the Septuagint (LXX). As translated during the renaissance, the Catholic version (Douay-Rheims in 1610) joined 1 & 2 Samuel with 1 & 2 Kings rendering 4 books of the Kings. j.t.)
From the Archaeological Bible p. 395 some background information. “We do not know who wrote 1 and 2 Samuel, which were named after the judge and prophet God used to establish Israel’s monarchy. Originally these now separated sections comprised one book, which was divided in to two parts by the translators of the Septuagint (early Greek translation of the OT). Based upon the wide span of history covered in 1 and 2 Samuel – from the days of Eli (1 Sa. 1) to the end of David’s reign (2 Sa. 24) – we know that no single writer or compiler could have been alive to record all of this information upon direct knowledge.
“Some features of 1 Samuel suggest that several independent, unedited sources, including firsthand accounts, were used, possibly at times verbatim, in the author’s compositions. Scholars sometimes speak of the “Succession Narrative” (2 Sa. 9 – 1 Kings. 2) as being a single-source document, but this viewpoint is debated. The writers/compilers certainly referenced the historical records of Samuel, Saul and David.
“The book of 1 Samuel (as well as its various sources) was evidently written between the end of David’s life and some point during Solomon’s reign. We cannot pinpoint exact dates because the data is insufficient to build a precise chronology. David’s birth and the length of his reign are certain (cf. 2 Sa. 5:4-5), but most other dates are not – including that of Saul’s ascension to the throne and the end of his reign. Adding to these chronological challenges is the lack of dates for Samuel’s birth and death. To complicate the situation still further, the editors/compilers of 1 Samuel did not always arrange their material in strict chronological sequence. The following proposed dates provide a helpful framework:
Birth of Samuel, about 1105 B.C.
Birth of Saul, about 1080 B.C.
Birth of David, 1040 B.C.
David anointed to be Saul’s successor, about 1025 B.C.
End of David’s reign, 970 B.C.
“The original audience of 1 Samuel consisted of the Israelites who lived during the reigns of David and Solomon, as well as of their successive generations. The stories in this book spoke most directly to Israelites who lived while the monarchy was being established, particularly in light of the fact that the account legitimized God’s choice of David (16:13).
“During this period (c. the eleventh century B.C.) no superpower overshadowed the region now known as Palestine. Consequently, led by David, Israel used its opportunities to subdue other nations in Canaan. The Philistines, however, who lived in the coastal areas along the Mediterranean Sea, proved to be a resilient and persistent enemy. The book of 1 Samuel introduces Samuel and goes on to explore the tension between covenant loyalty to God and human kingship. King Saul generally disobeyed God, so God set plans in motion for David to become Israel’s next king.” The Archaeological Bible p. 395.
[Just an aside about this last statement – the monarchy had to move from [the tribe of] Benjamin (Saul) to [the tribe of] Judah (David) because
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Gen. 49:8-10 [ESV]
This prophecy was made about 1689 B.C. almost 600 years before the birth of Samuel. j.t.]
Notes from the ESV Study Bible p.486: “The purpose of the book of 1 Samuel is to highlight two major events: first, the establishment of the monarchy in Israel (chs. 8-12); and second, the preparation of David to sit on the royal throne after Saul (chs. 16-31). Saul was rejected by the LORD in favor of David (chs. 15-16) even though, humanly speaking, he stayed on the throne until his death at Mount Gilboa (ch. 31). Later in 2 Samuel 7 God promises David and his house an eternal dynasty. In these two central events the role of the prophet Samuel was very important because he had anointed first Saul, then David, as king over the covenant people. The book of 1 Samuel establishes the principle that the king in Israel is to be subject to the word of God as conveyed through his prophets. In other words, obedience to the word of God is the necessary condition for a king to be acceptable to the God of Israel. This is what Jesus the Messiah-King did in his life of obedience to God the Father, even up to ‘death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). First and Second Samuel deal with a transitional period in the history of ancient Israel – the transition from the priest Eli to the judge Samuel, then from the judge Samuel to the king Saul, and then from Saul to David, who founded the dynasty that would last as long as the kingdom of Judah. The prophet Samuel thus functions as the link between the judgeship and the kingship. The kingdom of Saul was transitional in a further sense: it was more than a loose confederation that gathered together when there was a common threat, but it was not a period of strong central rule such as existed later. The story of the rise of David in the second half of 1 Samuel prepares for the full-scale kingship of David in 2 Samuel.”