[K:NWTS 23/1 (May 2008) 82-83]

Book Review

 David T. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007. 698 pp. Cloth. ISBN: 978-0-8028-2359-5. $50.00.

Tsumura has made a reputation among evangelical OT scholars for his linguistic studies. Notable in this regard is The Earth and the Waters in Genesis 1 and 2: A Linguistic Investigation, where he provides helpful lexical analysis from Eblaitic, Ugaritic, Sumerian, Akkadian and Hebrew lemmas. This commentary in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series reflects that linguistic ability as well. In defending the integrity of the MT (Massoretic Text) as over against the longer LXX (Septuagint) recension, Tsumura eschews the slap-happy emendation of the original Hebrew version which is the pastime of liberal fundamentalist scholars. The reliability which he cedes to the Hebrew text is parallel to the reliability of the narrative reported in the text. Tsumura is an articulate defender of the historicity of 1 Samuel. And yet, Tsumura gives us little more than a rehash of P. Kyle McCarter’s Anchor Bible commentary (the liberal fundamentalist standard), with a tip of the hat to Ralph Klein (Word Commentary) and Robert Gordon. His comments are predictably conservative, adequate, but not penetrating. His failure to interact with J. P. Fokkelman’s magisterial work (Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel, 4 vols.) is a disappointment to this reviewer, who has learned a great deal from the Professor at the University of Leiden (for all his theological liberalism, he is a superb Hebraist). Theology, let alone biblical theology, is not the forte of either Tsumura or Fokkelman. All the more reason for Tsumura to have been stimulated by Fokkelman to think, dare we suggest, like Geerhardus Vos would have thought about this narrative of the dawn of Israel’s monarchy. Surely the new age which dawns with David surpasses and displaces the theocratic age which passes away with Samuel. And if the (organic) progress of the history of redemption unfolds by ‘better things to come,’ even within the body of the OT revelation (monarchy better than theocracy), then we eagerly look for the eschatological displacement of the former era with the final age to come as it dawns in the eschatological David. In fact, we are increasingly impressed as we relate the two monarchical eras together (protological David and eschatological David) by the provisional embodiment of the latter in the former. May we be so bold as to suggest a provisional ‘pre-incarnation’ of the latter Kingdom of Heaven in the former. Older writers would have called this paradigm ‘typology’; we prefer to describe it as anticipatory eschatological intrusion. This is the direction we seek from evangelical commentators on 1 Samuel. Sadly, Tsumura does not advance our journey in that direction.

—James T. Dennison, Jr.