Book Review: 1 Samuel (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Richard Phillips

4 out of 5 Stars
Publisher: Puritan & Reformed
Buy 1 Samuel (Reformed Expository Commentary)
Reading Level: Moderate

If you are looking for a technical commentary this series is not for you, but let’s be honest many the technical commentaries are over the average Joe’s head anyways. This commentary reads like a beautifully written narrative and was written for your average pastor or well read lay person.

Dr. Phillips skillfully works his way through 1 Samuel highlighting important themes and addressing important textual issues in the book without getting bogged down. Most of the pipe work for the technical issues is never seen. The issues are mentioned, explained, and the ants go marching on.

For instance, he address concisely and plainly the textual issue found in 1 Samuel 13 (the length of Saul’s reign). He lays out the three major views and then briefly examines each and offers his own position (pp. 194-95). Short, sweet, and to the point.

There is also a balance of scholarly work and ease of reading that will serve many well including the lay person who wants to understand the Old Testament better. I frequently found myself reading through the passage at the start of each chapter, meditating on it, and then using the chapter as a more in-depth devotional.

Another feature which allows this commentary to be used in this regard is that there is robust application throughout I Samuel. Dr. Phillips makes application for our daily living. This is difficult. I have heard some of best preachers falter when applying the Old Testament for today. It’s hard work but Dr. Phillips’ application is rocket-fuel.

Finally, Dr. Phillips weaves the story of Israel in 1 Samuel with the larger story of Christ. Christ alone is the hero and Dr. Phillips demonstrates this. For instances,

We might honor Samuel’s legacy by recounting all the things that made him great. But a better way to honor him would be to look through him to see reasons why Jesus Christ is a better Savior, King, and Mediator, in whom we may find all that we need for the eternal salvation of our soul. (p. 192) 

and then later

The New Testament reveals this promised Son, the man truly and fully after God’s own heart, as Jesus our Savior. Like King Saul, Jesus began his ministry with a sore trial: his temptation in the wilderness. How greatly it must have rejoiced the Father’s heart when his Son honored him under the trials of Satan, passing every test through obedience to the Word of God: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’ ” (Luke 4:4, quoting Deut. 8:3); “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve’ ” (Luke 4:8, quoting Deut. 6:13); “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’ ” (Luke 4:12, quoting Deut. 6:16). (p. 205)

I would highly recommend 1 Samuel if you’re looking for a Christ-centered approach to the Old Testament. And if you’re not a pastor and the OT intimidates you this book would be a great primer in engaging the OT story and finding Christ. Here’s possibly my favorite quotation, “The cross where Jesus died for our sins is the throne from which he reigns with peace for mankind” (p. 167).

A free copy of this book was provided by Puritan & Reformed Publishing. If you plan on purchasing 1 Samuel (Reformed Expository Commentary), consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from here.