David G. Firth is Old Testament tutor and head of research at St John’s College, Nottingham, England. He is the author of 1 & 2 Samuel (Apollos Old Testament Commentary), The Message of Esther, and The Message of Joshua, and he is the coeditor of Interpreting the Psalms, Interpreting Isaiah, and Words & the Word.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel?
Over several years of teaching an Old Testament survey course I developed a particular interest in the books of Samuel and began writing articles on them for academic journals which drew together both my theological interest in these books and also my growing appreciation for their literary skill. Seeing how these came together was enriching for me, so I was delighted when the opportunity arose to write this commentary.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
This commentary should be of benefits to pastors, professors and students. Although it is on the Hebrew text, because the detailed notes are confined to one section, the rest of the commentary can also be of benefit to lay Christians, though they should be prepared to work hard.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of 1 and 2 Samuel?
I think the unique feature of this commentary is its fusion of narratology with a theological commitment to the importance of this book. Samuel is a text which has been particularly important in narrative studies in recent years, but this had not been brought together into a reasonably full commentary before in combination with a fresh translation of the text.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
It’s hard to point to any one section that was particularly memorable – I think my abiding memory of writing the commentary was how enriching the whole process was as it gave me a fresh appreciation for this book even though it was one that I had already come to know quite well. So, perhaps the most memorable point was completing the commentary and realising that there was still so much more to learn and say about this fascinating book.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
A fascinating feature of Samuel is seeing how God continues to work with people who are far from satisfactory. None of Samuel, Saul or David come across as wholly positive people – each is in some way deeply flawed, and the same is true of Israel as a people. And yet, God continues to work with these people, not giving up on them because he has a purpose of bringing blessing through them. Of course, the promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 is really the seedbed for so much of the Old Testament’s messianic hope, but seeing this in the context of such fallible people is a wonderful reminder of how God’s grace does not give up on us.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on 1 and 2 Samuel?
J. P. Fokkelman’s four volumes remain an immense resource in every sense of the word. Apart from these, there are a number of helpful studies. I would recommend Gillian Keys, The Wages of Sin, H. H. Klement, II Samuel 21-24. Context, Structure and Meaning in the Samuel Conclusion, and Jonathan Y. Rowe, Michal’s Moral Dilemma: A Literary, Anthropological and Ethical Interpretation. Preachers could helpfully supplement my commentary with Bill T. Arnold’s NIVAC volume.
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I’m working on a commentary on Joshua for Broadman & Holman’s Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series which I hope to complete soon. After that, I will be working a book looking at foreigners in the Former Prophets and the Apollos volume on Psalms. The easiest way to follow what I am doing is to check my staff page at Trinity College.
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