Dating 1 Samuel
We can accurately position the book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament chronology using our pivotal verse in the Old Testament, namely 1 Kings 6:11 which tells us:
1And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.
Using this verse, which tells us that it is the fourth year of Solomon's reign, and positioning that date as 966 B.C., we realise that, if Solomon had reigned for 4 years in 966 B.C. then the date of his coronation as king would have been 970 B.C. His predecessor in the monarchy was, of course, David, and we read in 2 Samuel 5:4 that: "David was 30 years old when he began to reign and he reigned 40 years." If David reigned forty years then he was crowned king in 1010 B.C. David's predecessor was Saul and we read in Acts 13:211: "And afterward they desired a king and God gave unto them, Saul, the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin by the space of 40 years." If David was crowned king in 1010 B.C. then we know that 40 years prior to that date was 1050 B.C., the coronation of Saul, and we can use this date to position the terminal point in the book of 1 Samuel because chapter 31 ends with the death of Saul which we have determined to be in 1010 B.C.
However, we still need to determine the starting date for the book of I Samuel and we continue our quest to discover this date by turning back to 1 Samuel, Chapter 10, and writing the year 1050 B.C. alongside verse 24 which records the shouts of the people for their chosen king: "Long live the king, and Saul began his forty year reign" (Acts 13:211). The crowning of Saul was preceded in chapter 8 by the demand of the people for a king. Until this point in their history they had been, admittedly, an often desultory theocracy under the leadership of judges and Samuel the priest. Little time seems to have passed between the demand in chapter 8, the introduction of Saul in chapter 9, and his anointing & crowning in chapter 10 - perhaps one to two years at the most so we can write 1052-1050 B.C. beside chapter 8. The demand for a king followed immediately after the military activity recorded in chapter 7, which is an important consideration for our dating system for it marks the military victory at the Battle of Mizpeh and the end of the Philistine occupation, for we read (v10-131):
The Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.... So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
Israel had repeated her earlier mistakes and allowed nationalism and confidence in their own power to deceive themselves that the victory had been brought about by their own abilities and they now demanded a king like the other nations. Assuming, therefore, a date of 1055 to 1050 B.C. for this battle, we can date Judges 13:1 at 1095 B.C., since it records the birth of Samson and the beginning of the forty year Philistine occupation which terminated with the Battle of Mizpeh. We still need more information in order to determine the date for the beginning of I Samuel and we find it in I Samuel 7:1-21, which states:
And the men of Kiriath-jearim came, and fetched up the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord. And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kiriath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
This valuable information is also important in studying the life of David and, by investigating the circumstances which caused the Ark to be transported to Kiriath-jearim and kept there for twenty years, we will have determined another historical event that can be used to record the opening date for the book of First Samuel. We read that the Philistines took possession of the Ark during the Battle of Aphek which is described in I Samuel 4:11: "And the word of Samuel came to all Israel." The Israelites had pitched their camp besides Ebenezer while the Philistines pitched in Aphek and were victorious in the ensuing battle in which they also captured the Ark of the Covenant from the Israelites who had foolishly taken it with them into battle. First Samuel 5:11 records: "And the Philistines took the Ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod." Verse 9 tells us that during the time the Ark was in the city of the Philistines, the hand of the Lord was against the city and smote the inhabitants. I Samuel 6:1 records that the Ark was in the country of the Philistines seven months and, when the Philistines realized that possessing the Ark was causing their problems, they arranged for its return to Israel where, as we read, it remained in Kiriath-jearim for twenty years. Based on this evidence, we can date the Battle of Aphek to 1075 B.C., or twenty years before the Battle of Mizpeh, so we know that 1 Samuel 4:1 records the history of the year 1075 B.C. The Battle of Aphek would have occurred at about the midpoint of the Philistine oppression, which takes us back to 1095 B.C. for its beginning, corresponding with the birth of Samson.
(Continued on page 497)