Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings make up the section of the Hebrew Bible referred to as the Deuteronomistic history. 1 and 2 Samuel were originally a single book, but the first Greek translation, produced around the second century BCE, divided it into two. According to Jewish tradition the book was written by Samuel, with additions by prophets; modern scholars believe that the entire history was composed in the period c.630–540 BCE by combining a number of independent texts of various ages.
1 and 2 Samuel
Back to the violent history of the Israelites as we read 1 Samuel. God orders Saul to kill every Amalekite “man and woman, infant and suckling”, smites the Philistines with hemorrhoids, and kills 50,070 men for looking into the Ark of the Covenant. This is also the book where David buys a wife with 200 foreskins. It’s a bloodbath, but surely we are immune to the violence by now! Then into 2 Samuel, which, if it were made into a movie, would be rated “R”. All the elements are there – rape, murder, vengeance, adultery, nudity, pestilence, famine.
Next we get to 1 Kings (the two books of Kings were also originally a single book). David dies and Solomon (with his 700 wives and 300 concubines) comes to the throne, but he doesn’t seem any more humane than his father. Chapter 20 has the dubious distinction of containing 5 of god’s killings, more than any other chapter in the whole bible. And in a departure from the usual forms of violence, Elijah kills 450 prophets of Baal by beating them in a prayer contest.