Timmy Time in First Samuel: a book review

One of my favorite books of the Old Testament is Samuel. Samuel tells the story of Israel’s movement from the time of the judges to a monarchy (first Saul and then the Davidic monarchy). Far from being an apologetic for David, the author of Samuel reveals Israel’s greatest king to be a man with feet of clay. My love of the book of Samuel was perhaps birthed by Sunday School tales of David when I was a ruddy wee lad; however seminary allowed me to dig deeper in the text. I never had a formal class on Samuel but the professor who taught me biblical Hebrew and Exegesis had a Ph.D. from Cambridge where he wrote a dissertation on Samuel. The stories of Samuel, Saul and David were full of illustrative material and he drew on this book a lot. These pages taught me how to read the Bible well and I am grateful for it.

1 Samuel For You is the third commentary in the ‘For You’ series from the Good Book Company. It is the second commentary I’ve read from Tim Chester, pastor at the Crowded House in Sheffield, UK. So far this is my favorite of the lot. This may be because of my peculiar love of Samuel, but I think Chester delivers the goods here! This is a commentary which is sensitive to the historical and literary context, places Samuel in a canonical/theological frame and presents the narrative in an accessible and winsome way. This is what you want from a popular level commentary. I was pleased that in a number of places Chester picks up on the Hebrew wordplay (i.e. sa’al ‘ask’ in Hanna’s prayer in 1:20 is similar to the name Saul whom God will give to those who ask for a king; Eli collapsing under his own weight as the Glory (weight) departs from Israel in chapter 4; The wine–nebel–runs out of Nabal when he hears of the disaster his wife prevented in 25:37; etc.) These examples reveal some of the literary sophistication in Samuel. Chester does not delve exhaustively into every example of Hebrew wordplay, but often popular level commentaries do not explore it at all. So well done here!

Chester understands the genre of Samuel as ‘preached history.’  This is a historical treatment but it is also exhortative. Chester’s comments come in two parts for each passage. The first part looks closely at the text. The second part builds a bridge between the passage and the wider canonical context. Thus he draws the link between the historical David, and the ‘Son of David.’ The former was a christ–‘an annointed one.’ One of David’s descendants is the Christ–Jesus our Messiah. Chester does a good job of drawing connections in the text. If you do not spend much time in the Old Testament this commentary will help you enter into the Hebrew Bible a little deeper. This is not an exhaustive commentary (not every verse or passage is covered), but it does represent a cogent and helpful approach to this book of the Bible. I highly recommend this for personal or group study. I give it five stars.

Notice of Material Connection: I received this book from the Good Book Company via Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review.

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