The Books of Samuel, vol. 2
By Cyril j. Barber
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
12.2 (Fall 2001) : 249-250
This volume on 2 Samuel is from the author of Judges, A Narrative of God’s Power and The Books of Samuel, vol. 1, on 1 Samuel. He also is well-known for his work The Minister’s Library, which he has periodically updated since the early 1970s. More recently he coauthored An Introduction to Theological Research.
The focus in the present work is on the theme of God’s sovereign faithfulness in establishing the kingdom and raising up prophets, priests, and kings, as He deals with the unfaithfulness of mankind (13). Barber outlines 2 Samuel in six divisions to reflect this emphasis. His twenty-three chapters on the twenty-four chapters of 2 Samuel sometimes deal with more than one biblical chapter at a time. At the rear of the commentary he offers chapter notes and indexes on Scripture, persons, and titles. He draws his chapter notes from commentaries, journals, encyclopedias, works of archaeology, atlases, and other sources.
Because the work is designed for pastors, Bible teachers, and group discussion leaders, each chapter on 2 Samuel begins with a transitional illustration that seizes attention. Barber crafts a broad exposition of each section within each chapter of 2 Samuel under a lucid heading and verses. He climaxes each chapter with pertinent lessons, e.g., in 2 Samuel 1, making decisions as David did in executing the Amalekite who claimed to have ended Saul’s life, and remembering the good of others as when David honored Saul and Jonathan.
The author supposes the account of Saul’s death in 1 Samuel 31 is accurate and the Amalekite’s claim a fabrication (29, 378 n. 9). He gives a good summary defense of the eternality of the Davidic Covenant (116). Barber argues that evidence is insufficient for the common belief that in 2 Sam 11:1 David was at fault for being soft, indulgent, and absent from the troops in battle (169-71). Rather he focuses on the unexpected temptation in seeing Bathsheba. He discusses the custom of bathing in an enclosed courtyard hidden from others on the ground level, but visible to one like David looking from above. In chapters 13ff. of the commentary, Barber emphasizes the vital place of choices and problems to which wrong choices can lead. He reconciles the apparent discrepancy between Satan stirring D avid to number his people (1 Chr 21:1) and God moving David to do this (2 Sam 24:1). He says that God did it in H is sovereignty, allowing “an adversary” (the word for Satan is without the article) to tempt the king (364). But a reader needs more explanation about who or what adversary might have been involved, and how such a person was relevant.
Much in the book has stimulating lessons and applications, both in the flow of exposition and at the ends of chapters. The book will provide quick, provocative ideas for preparing sermons or Bible class lessons and also stimulation for serious devotional readers.