Book Reviews

1 Samuel.

Andrew E. Steinmann December 9, 2016

Interpreters of 1 Samuel will welcome the release of this fine commentary. It exhibits the qualities one has come to expect from Andrew Steinmann and the Concordia Commentary series. The author provides detailed analysis of the Hebrew text, blended with many useful exegetical and theological insights. Steinmann writes from an evangelical Lutheran perspective that regards the Bible as the inspired Word of God, authoritative for faith, life, and practice. He is a reliable guide for busy pastors looking for helpful insights into the text of 1 Samuel as they prepare lessons and sermons.

Like all the commentaries in the Concordia series, this volume’s format is user friendly. For each literary unit the author provides a translation accompanied by textual notes and commentary. The textual notes deal with text-critical, syntactical, and lexical matters. They are much more thorough than what one finds in most commentaries. The commentary per se develops the message and themes of the literary unit, and tackles key interpretive issues.

Steinmann divides 1 Samuel into two major divisions: Israel without a King (1:1–8:22), and The Reign of Saul (9:1–31:13). Under the first, he sees six sub-units containing fourteen smaller literary units in all. Under the longer second major section, he proposes a more elaborate structure with three sublevels and thirty-five smaller literary units. He provides translation, textual notes, and commentary for each of the forty-nine smaller units. He also includes twenty-eight helpful charts, such as the one laying out David’s genealogy (312–13) and another outlining the chronology of 1 Samuel 28–2 Samuel 1, where the narrator departs from a strict linear unfolding of events (548).

In contrast to source critics, Steinmann reads the text with the assumption that it is coherent and unified. His treatment of 1 Samuel 17 illustrates this nicely. Appealing to the fact that there are shorter (Septuagint) and longer (Hebrew text) versions of the story, source critics typically see two contradictory traditions here. In one David is already serving Saul (cf. 16:14–23), while in the other he meets Saul for the first time just before the encounter with Goliath. Saul’s question to Abner in 17:55 supposedly proves that Saul has never met David before this day, contrary to what 1 Samuel 16:14–23 seems to indicate. Steinmann offers a plausible explanation for Saul’s lack of awareness (337). One wishes, however, that he had discussed the meaning of Saul’s question in verse 55. Most assume Saul is asking about David’s identity, when in reality he is asking for the name of David’s father, which he had apparently and understandably forgotten. The syntax of the question merits investigation but is not addressed in the textual notes.

Steinmann’s treatment of 1 Samuel 24 and 26 also illustrates his commitment to the integrity of the text. Source critics typically understand the similar accounts, both of which tell how David spared Saul’s life, as doublets, that is, alternative versions of one event. Steinmann provides a careful comparison of the accounts and makes a convincing case that they record distinct events (459–64).

Steinmann takes a decidedly messianic interpretation of certain passages. Following Luther, he regards 2 Samuel 7, which contains God’s promise to David, as “central in the messianic focus of the book of Samuel” (24) and relates the promise to raise up David’s “seed” (2 Sam 7:12) to what he calls “the original Gospel promise of the ‘Seed’ who would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15)” (23). However, readers will have to wait until the appearance of Steinmann’s forthcoming volume on 2 Samuel to see his argument fully developed.

For Steinmann another key messianic text is 1 Samuel 2:10, where Hannah anticipates God’s “Anointed One.” Steinmann argues that Hannah’s words were not fulfilled by David (note especially “judge the ends of the earth”), and they await realization in Jesus (81). But is there no room for hyperbole in a poetic text like this? A correlation of 1 Samuel 2:10, where the Lord thunders against his enemies as he strengthens his anointed one, with 2 Samuel 22:14–20, where David depicts the Lord saving him from his enemies by thundering against them, suggests that Hannah’s words have at least an initial fulfillment in David’s experience.

Steinmann also takes 1 Samuel 2:35 as a messianic prophecy (104–7). The passage is usually understood as prophesying the demotion of Eli’s house and the rise of Zadok, who will serve before the Lord’s anointed one (the Davidic king). But Steinmann, drawing on a recent article by Karl Deenick, prefers to see just one individual here, not two. To make this work, he offers two options: (1) One could assign לִפְנֵי,“before,” the rare nuance of “as” (which he argues, is attested in 1 Sam 1:16). However, this proposal is weakened by the fact that לִפְנֵיmeans “before” in the other eleven cases where it is collocated with the hithpael of הלך.  (2 Steinmann prefers to revocalize the form as לִפָנַי, “before me,” but this reading has no textual support. The proposal is on shaky ground and should be rejected, but not the book as a whole. Quite the contrary

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Robert Chisholm Jr.
Robert B. Chisholm is Department Chair and Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. While Dr. Chisholm enjoys teaching the full breadth of Old Testament Studies, he takes special delight in the books of Judges, Samuel, Isaiah, and Amos. Dr. Chisholm has published seven books, most recently commentaries on Judges-Ruth and on 1-2 Samuel. He was translation consultant for the International Children's Bible and for The Everyday Bible and is senior Old Testament editor for the NET Bible. Any discussion with Dr. Chisholm on the Old Testament, however, can be quickly sidetracked when mentioning Syracuse University basketball or the New York Yankees, teams which probably do not have a greater fan outside the state of New York, much to the chagrin of his colleagues.
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