Tag Archives | Samuel

First and Second Samuel | Walter Brueggemann

The cover of Brueggemann's First and Second SamuelThe books of Samuel describe a critical shift in the life of Israel.

When the book begins, Israel had suffered through a series of increasingly impotent judges. The loose confederation of tribes increasingly wandered from God and did what seemed right in their own eyes. Into this world Hannah struggled and conceived a child—Samuel. When the book ends, Israel is a monarchy under the rule of King David, the second of two Kings Samuel anointed.

Here is the critical shift: Israel has gone from being a nation under YHWH to a nation under human kings.

Brueggemann’s commentary is excellent. He presents a close reading of the story of Samuel, Saul, and David with an eye for detail. All the political nuances which might escape the casual reader of scripture are brought to the forefront for consideration.

In Brueggemann’s reading, the heroes and villains of scripture are no one-sided caricatures. They are complicated, as human beings always are. David is no mere Sunday School hero—he is at the same time politically shrewd and spiritually attuned. He is human, warts and all.

The Interpretation commentary series is not overly technical. I would encourage any thoughtful Christian with a love for scripture to pick up this gem and read it alongside the text.

Brueggemann, Walter.  First and Second Samuel. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990.

The First Book of Samuel | David Toshio Tsumura

Tsumura’s entry in Eerdman’s NICOT commentary series is strong. Here is where it’s most useful:

  1. Ancient Hebrew: The core of this commentary is Tsumura’s ability to bring out the meaning of the original language. Interconnections within the text and play-on-words come to life in English under Tsumura’s hand.
  2. Geography: There are many military exploits in 1 Samuel where the geography is taken for granted. Tsumura describes the relationship between towns and how the landscape would either benefit or imperil a military assault.
  3. Modern Translation Discrepancies: If you read 1 Samuel in a variety of English translations, you discover a number of different interpretive options. This is especially noticeable in a small group setting, where each participant has their own favored translation at hand. More than most Old Testament books, there are a number of differences between the MT and the LXX, which in turn leads to a plethora of English interpretations. Tsumura’s an expert guide at navigating the MT and LXX options.

My only real issue with Tsumura’s book was his lack of narrative perspective. The significance and theological implications of many events were passed over quite quickly. If you’re looking to wrestle with the implications of the narrative, read Brueggemann’s First and Second Samuel from the Interpretation commentary series alongside the NICOT offering. (Conversely, Brueggemann passes over a lot of the technical information that Tsumura has mastered.)

David Tsumura’s commentary is an excellent resource for any pastor or serious parishioner who wants to dive deeply into the Samuel, Saul, and David stories.

Hannah’s Prayer and Its Answer | Ronald S. Wallace

They say you should be careful what you wish for, because it might come true. That aphorism pales in comparison to this one: be careful what you pray for! The first seven chapters of 1 Samuel tell the story of Hannah’s answered prayer. Ronald Wallace is a faithful guide.

This is the sort of book you get when a godly person has spent some time dwelling on the story and its implications. In fact, this book was birthed out of a series of weekly prayer meetings where Wallace expounded Hannah’s story.

The value of this volume lies in Wallace’s ability to make you think of all aspects of the narrative. We tend to grab one point in a story and make it our own—Wallace writes in panoramic style. This is an ideal book for any lay person who wants a companion to read along with 1 Samuel.

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