My Top Six OT Commentaries: 1-2 Samuel (Stephen B. Chapman)

My Top Six OT Commentaries: 1-2 Samuel (Stephen B. Chapman) September 28, 2021

Today’s guest post comes from Stephen B. Chapman, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity SchoolTo learn more about Chapman, check out the profile I did in 2020 on him. He is the author and editor of several books including the 2016 volume 1 Samuel as Christian Scripture: A Theological CommentarySo glad to have his expert recommendations!

See at the bottom of this blog post for what else Chapman has been up to in scholarship lately.

(If you want to look back at earlier posts in this series, check out this index)


S. R. Driver’s Notes on the Hebrew Text and Topography of Samuel (2nd ed., 1913) is a classic still worth every Hebrew student’s attention. Read it for Driver’s insights about Hebrew syntax, not his text-critical proposals (which were eclipsed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls). Driver really was that good!


The fullest contemporary treatment of Samuel is that of Walter Dietrich (professor emeritus, University of Bern) in Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht’s Biblischer Kommentar series (3 volumes in German thus far, extending through 2 Samuel 8, no English translation yet). Dietrich handles everything from text criticism to narrative criticism. He has spent his entire career with this material and his expertise in it is second to none.



Robert Gordon’s stand-alone commentary I & II Samuel (Zondervan, 1986; note: not his similarly titled OT Guides volume published by JSOT) is a little dated now. But Gordon treats both books of Samuel in a single volume, offers solid translational assistance throughout, and conducts his exegesis in a theologically alert fashion. See especially his discussion of “David and Christ” as a typology entailing contrast as well as similarity.

The “literary turn” in OT scholarship largely occurred through readings of the Samuel narrative. Two such volumes, full of insights still not often found in other commentaries, are Robert Polzin’s Samuel and the Deuteronomist: 1 Samuel (Harper & Row, 1989) and David and the Deuteronomist:2 Samuel (Indiana University Press, 1993). These volumes are also very readable.



In keeping with the Belief series, David Jensen’s 1 & 2 Samuel (Westminster John Knox, 2015) firmly keeps its interpretive horizon on contemporary Christian life, but in conjunction with a close reading of the Samuel narrative. Whether you agree with him or not along the way, he provides plenty of food for further thought.

For a bracing example of christological interpretation, see the two Crossway volumes by John Woodhouse, 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader (2014) and 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come (2015). This type of Christian interpretation has become provocative due to its rarity in modern academic circles, although it remains traditional in the church. Woodhouse is the former principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia.


More on Chapman

Chapman is currently finishing up a monograph on The Theology of the Book of Joshua for Cambridge’s OT Theology series. He is also working on an exegetical treatment of the Priestly Blessing in Numbers 6 for a new commentary series called Touchstone Texts, sponsored by Baker Academic.

Chapman is the series editor of Touchstone Texts as well. The rationale for the series is twofold: to produce exegetical studies of key biblical passages (i.e., not books) from both testaments, and to do so in an expository style that will be particularly useful for teaching and preaching in the church. First out will be Richard Briggs on Psalm 23 and Emerson Powery on Luke 10.


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