The Books of Samuel vol.1
By Cyril J. Barber
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
6.2 (Fall 1995) : 234-235
The author has added to his more than thirty books, and Warren Wiersbe's Foreword commends the present effort for serious Bible students and expository pastors.
Barber lays out the exposition of 1 Samuel in twenty segments, each treating one to four chapters in the book. The titles are attractive: "Rules of the Game" where Saul obeyed some of God's guidelines but bypassed others (15:1-35); "A Most Unlikely Successor," David (16:1- 23); "The Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall," on David downing Goliath (17:1—18:5); and "Uncertain Future," dealing with David's fleeing into hiding (23:15—24:22).
Barber concludes the theme of 1 and 2 Samuel to be the sovereignty of God. He underscores the importance of knowing who He is and obeying what He says. This is the first time that the Bible calls God "Yahweh of Hosts (heavenly armies)." This designation views His omnipotent control and right to rule. The commentator points out examples of God's dealing sovereignly, e.g., Hannah conceiving a child as God's answer to her prayer; Hannah's song of praise for His sovereign working of the impossible (2:1-10); His setting aside Eli's house and choosing Samuel; His permitting the Philistine capture of the Ark, and plaguing them until they returned it; His defeating the Philistines at Mizpah when Samuel prayed; His enabling David to defeat Goliath; His sparing of David's life when Saul pursued to try to kill him. He cites examples in 2 Samuel as well.
Barber rejects theories of various authors for 1 and 2 Samuel, and also proposals that the books lack unity. He favors the view that Samuel initially worked on the writing with Nathan and Gad, one of whom carried the writing on after Samuel's death (2 Chr 9:29). Whoever compiled the final copy used other sources (he cites 2 Sam 1:18; 1 Chr 27:24). Barber dates the period covered by the books of Samuel c. 1105—971 B. C.
The work has a fairly good discussion of religious, social, and political conditions (27-33). Often the exposition has well-organized points that assist readers. An example is Hannah's prayer (1 Samuel 1) that shows elements of real intercession. It expresses her submission to God's will, identification with His purpose, fervency in pleading with Him, specificity in her request, and perseverance in waiting on Him (43). Barber often develops and illustrates spiritual lessons that the exposition points up. A pertinent one occurs when Saul only partially obeys and mingles partial obedience with his own will (I Samuel 15). Barber illustrates with a case of a woman in a church who felt that if she did all the things in her busy service, God would let her have her own will in one matter, in divorcing her husband and marrying another man. She went ahead with the new marriage, but she and her family reaped awful consequences from her sin (178-79).
Copious chapter footnotes from diligent research are at the end (327-60). The author has furnished indexes for Scripture, persons, and titles. The work is a lucid, usually well-informed exposition, provocative to Christian growth.