2 Samuel (Word Biblical Commentary 11)

Written by Arnold A. Anderson Reviewed By J. Robert Vannoy

Anderson’s volume joins the growing corpus of literature on the books of Samuel. The approach is that of a traditional commentary, involving textual and exegetical analysis combined with discussion of literary ‘strata’ allegedly discernible in the narrative. Anderson does not employ to any great extent the methods of the more recent discourse-oriented analyses which emphasize the artistry of the writer, although occasionally he does utilize insights derived from authors such as Fokkelman and Gunn.

Although Anderson questions the ‘local text theory’ of Frank M. Cross, accepted by both Klein (1 Samuel, WBC) and McCarter (1, 2 Samuel, 2 vols., AB), he quotes McCarter’s observation that ‘none of the ancient witnesses to the text of Samuel has a monopoly on primitive readings’ (p. xxiii). For this reason, Anderson concludes that each ‘variant should be considered on its own merits’ (p. xxiii). In general, he seems to propose fewer reconstructions of the text based on the DSS material or the LXX than either Klein or McCarter, although he is ready to utilize these text traditions when there are good reasons for doing so. The sections on ‘Translation’ and ‘Notes’ are, in this reviewer’s opinion, the greatest strength of the commentary.

On questions of authorship and composition, Anderson moves in the mainstream of contemporary scholarship. He accepts the general consensus that 2 Samuel is made up from four main blocks of material: 1. The History of David’s Rise (HDR, 1 Sa. 16 (or 15)–2 Sa. 5); 2. The Ark Narrative (1 Sa. 4–6 + 2 Sa. 6); 3. The Succession Narrative (SN, 2 Sa. 9–20 + 1 Ki. 1–2); 4. The Appendices (2 Sa. 21–24).

early in the reign of David when questions concerning the legitimacy of his kingship were most acute (p. xxxi). He dates the SN to early in the reign of Solomon and views it as ‘intended to show that David was not under a curse in spite of the past events, and that Solomon was the rightful heir contrary to popular expectations (cf. 1 Ki. 2:15) and despite his youth and parentage’ (p. xxxiii). In Anderson’s view, the ‘succession narrative’ was ‘not written to answer the question, “Who of David’s sons will be king?” (as Rost has argued), because by the time the SN was composed, the answer to this question was already an accomplished fact. It is far more likely that the question on the lips of many people was, “Is any of David’s sons fit to sit on the throne of Israel?” ’ (p. xxxiii). In addition to this modification of the traditional understanding of the purpose of the SN, Anderson also suggests that it may begin as early as 1:1–16.

Anderson’s commitment to the Deuteronomistic History theory affects many parts of his commentary and leads him not only to identify numerous ‘Deuteronomistic’ additions to earlier material, but also to find material that was reshaped at various stages in its tradition history. This, of course, affects the question of historicity and whether or not things really happened as they are reported in the narratives of 2 Samuel. Anderson of necessity concludes that we cannot assume that all the events and dialogues contained in the book happened just as the present text suggests.

This review is hardly the place to engage the questions of the date of Deuteronomy, the putative existence of the Deuteronomistic History and the Succession Narrative, but all of these issues need to be addressed in assessing Anderson’s commentary, because they are not just theoretical but affect interpretation. These matters also raise the basic question of the methodology to be utilized in writing an ‘evangelical’ commentary. Anderson’s methodology seems to lie more in the mainstream of contemporary critical scholarship than in an approach governed by the constraints of an evangelical view of Scripture.

J. Robert Vannoy

Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, PA