I last read it "seriously" in my mid 20's, along with about a dozen various books by bible scholars with varying backgrounds and from more or less conflicting/different denominations in an attempt to make some sort of sense out of it. I do not know what I was thinking at the time intentionally picking stuff by authors from different denominations, I think I was approaching it as some sort of puzzle.
As Arkaeon has noted, reading the side narratives and arguments and opinions - it did not help AT ALL, and in an attempt to continue (I've had this horrible personal rule since childhood to ALWAYS finish reading what I started, no matter how much I regret it) I started also reading all the science fiction I could get my hands on, the bulk of which was the early original "pulp" science fiction. Oddly enough, it helped me get through it without completely losing my mind ! When I'd get really agitated I'd just read some old 40's pulp science fiction ! To this day I am convinced that it's the ONLY way to read the bible.
I ended up giving away all the bible scholar books to religious neighbors (always the men of their families ! ) who, much to my surprise, often asked me what my opinions were about this or that particular part in the Bible... Those were strange North Carolina trailer park days, back in the mid 80's. Need I say more ?
The mice and hemorrhoid thing in Samuel, that's all kind of God's sick joke in a way.
See, everybody was acting like The Ark was some sort of good luck charm. Which is basically idolatry. This wasn't a big deal at first, because God is pretty patient. But that patience got pushed WAAAAAY past his breaking point when Eli's son's, Hophni and Phinehas, apparently let the idolatry run unchecked for their entire lives, so God arranged for them to both be killed at the same time in a particular battle.
Meanwhile, back at the nasty, dirty uncircumcised Philistines' cities, they were also passing the recently captured ark around - also like a totem. This I think pissed God off even more, or maybe he just at that point stopped being furious and started getting sick and twisted, it's open for interpretation...
So God's little joke was to give them hemorrhoids. Everybody.
But that wasn't *funny* enough. He decided to also give them *mice*.
Lots of cute, little fuzzy, squeaky, hungry, *horny* viril, mice - that rapidly reproduced and ate *everything*.
And God did laugh and laugh.
But even this was not hilarious enough for God, who is infinite in in all things, including his sense of humor.
SOOOOO he finally told the chosen that if they wanted to get on his good side to make a nice, pretty idol for him - out of gold - which looked like their hemorrhoids and like mice...
When I was studying all this back in the mid 80's, I thought it was *incredibly* *hilarious* and *twisted* at the time.
Now that I'm older and actually "know" (in the biblical sense of the word) what hemorrhoids are.... Mmmm, not SO much...
“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
- Isaac Asimov