1 & 2 Samuel
Pages 608 pages
Publisher InterVarsity Press
The books of Samuel contain two of the Bible's best-known stories - David's encounter with Goliath (1 Sam. 17), and his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah (2 Sam. 11). However, Samuel does more than just tell stories, particularly of how first Saul and then David became king of Israel and the mistakes both made; it also offers a profoundly theological reflection on this formative part of Israel's history and an artistic telling of it. We are told how Israel's monarchy began: the way this is done points to the interpretation of these events. Thus, in this excellent commentary, David G. Firth takes seriously the narrative techniques employed in the books of Samuel. Arguing that the books are a carefully constructed, intentional unit for interpretation, he explores the central theme of how the reign of God is worked out in the interplay between king and prophet. What emerges is a text that spoke with power into its own context - and which continues to address believers today.
1 & 2 Samuel Firth, David G.
David Firth’s 1 & 2 Samuel is a large entry in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series. The series “aims to to take with equal seriousness the divine and human aspects of Scripture. It expounds the books of the Old Testament in a scholarly manner accessible to non-experts, and show s the relevance of the Old Testament to modern readers” (from back cover). Firth strikes a nice balance in seeking to meet these aims. The annotated translation gives notes on Hebrew lexicography and grammar with the Hebrew transliterated for those without Hebrew. The format is similar to that of the Word Biblical Commentary series with a translation, notes, form and structure, comment and finally explanation. Firth uses the Format section to fit each pericope into the larger narrative of Samuel. In the “Explanation” section he does some very helpful biblical theology. He draws out the major themes that the author is exploring. This serves the pastor in a major way. Firth treats Samuel as a united work of theological history, and he defends its historical value. However, he adds, “What we might say about Samuel’s historical intent, it is also a work of theology. Kingship’s story is not interpreted as something deriving from political and military forces. Instead, it is ineluctably tied to Yahweh’s relationship with Israel, a relationship that reaches a new level in the establishment of the Davidic covenant (p. 21).” This overall approach guides Firth and makes for a very insightful reading in which Firth highlights the interplay between king and prophet to show Covenant relationship with God as establishing the kingship as an expression of his rule. Firth comments evenly on nearly every aspect of the text including philology, grammar, literary features, historical-cultural issues and theology. He is quite cautious not to speculate beyond what the text gives us while focusing on the author’s intended message (see his cautious but insightful handling of David’s census in 2 Samuel 24). He makes connections to the New Testament particularly in terms of the life of faith. He does not spend a lot of space drawing typological connections between David and Christ, though he does give a helpful discussion of the Davidic Covenant and its New Testament trajectory in the comments on 2 Samuel 7. My largest critique is that at times Firth seems to take too cynical a view of the political implications of David’s actions. He often seems to argue that, because something had a political consequence, it likely had a political motivation. I found some of these arguments unconvincing. Firth’s commentary is a robust and thorough commentary on the books of Samuel that thrives in literary analysis and biblical theology without neglecting other areas of study. It is highly recommended. IVP provided me with a free copy with no expectation of a favorable review.
1 & 2 Samuel Firth, David G.
This is a good commentary on 1/2 Samuel. Firth seems to be moderately evangelical in his approach. He leans toward seeing more unity in the book(s) than more liberal scholars who understand Samuel to be fragmented. He also does not hesitate to bring in New Testament texts when they are relevant, showing how Christ is the fulfillment of God's promises to David. Overall this is a helpful commentary that I have appreciated having on my shelf. One of the weaknesses of this commentary is that it is light on the contemporary significance and application, therefore it may not be as helpful for pastors as some other commentaries. Also, there are a few places where Firth opts for an overly complex reading of a text which I found quite unconvincing (e.g. the theory that David's adultery with Bathsheba was carried out because of a "rivalry" that David had with Uriah).