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Samuel stands out in many important biblical texts as the figure who facilitated ancient Israel's transition from a tribal league to a monarchic state. On the surface of the text, this transition appears clear and linear, as does Samuel's role in bringing Israel together as a nation and selecting its first kings. Beneath this surface, however, is a far more complicated network of memories, sources and agendas, each presenting a very different picture of Samuel and his social, religious and ideological function. In some sources, Samuel serves as a symbol of Israel's developing priesthood and its system of social ethics, demonstrating the tensions within the priestly ranks. In others, Samuel's prophetic status is utilized to periodize Israel's history into distinct categories, positioning prophets over monarchs as national authorities. Elsewhere, Samuel is recruited to qualify - and disqualify - different forms of political organization in pre-monarchic Israel and systems of social hierarchy. Finally, the Jewish and Christian exegetical traditions return to the figure of Samuel and mine the texts in which he appears to re-structure Israel's national identity and the later communities that claimed descent from it. Mark Leuchter explores how the Samuel of these sources differs from the Samuel of the final form of the text, how the different writers used him to shape their ideas and transmit their messages, and how Samuel functions as a vehicle for the creation of a more elaborate literary superstructure drawn from discreet sources.
Mark Leuchter (PhD, University of Toronto, 2003) is associate professor of Religion and director of Jewish Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. His research focuses on the history and development of the Israelite priesthood, ethno-mythology in ancient Israel, and scribal methods in the production of the Hebrew Bible and early rabbinic literature.