After preaching on 1 Samuel 4 yesterday, I received a question from a church member:
Does 1 Sam 4:1a go with chapter 3, or with chapter 4. Commentaries he looked at were divided, so he wondered about the reliability of commentaries, etc. Here was my answer:
I would say putting 4:1a with the rest of chpt 4 is legit. I did not make the connection consciously from the text, I suppose because you just can't mention everything going on in the text or we'd be there all day, but I alluded to it in that God sends the trouble, He moves armies, etc.
I think both interpretations can work, side by side. 4:1a goes with 3:1, but 4:1a also connects with 4:1b, by way of contrast, if nothing else. We may be dealing here with artificial chapter breaks. With no punctuation in the original text, we only know from context where to put the period and paragraph break. At the end of 3:21, or 4:1a? Most modern Bibles do that for you at 4:1a. I note Keil & Delitzsch make the application you mention. But that only works if the paragraph ends at 3:21. Then verse 4:1 reads something like this: "And the word of Samuel came to all Israel, and Israel went out to battle against the Philistines..." Conversely, NKJV and NIV, KJV all put in a "Now" to make a sharp break.
K&D is theologically reliable. But textual scholarship may have learned some things since its writing, like this chapter break thing, that they didn't consider. I wouldn't say there are commentaries to avoid, except for Scofield's dispensational stuff. It's just good to know when and who wrote it. Commentators can read their own biases into the text, too. Puritan era writers tended to comment verse by verse, not connecting larger chunks of text as much (Henry and Calvin, e.g.), whereas today commentators do more "literary" commenting - noting how the structure of the story/text communicates. Both are legit angles and needed. See the forest and each tree.
I'm using all physical books for commentaries on Samuel, so can't help you for this series there! Though I occasionally check out K&D, too. Here's what I'm using now.
- Promise and Deliverance by DeGraaf
- A Son to Me by Leithart
- Spurgeon's Treasury of David, his classic commentary on the Psalms is here
- I assume you've found John Calvin's commentaries, if you're at CCEL
- Here's something to check out, though I don't have it so can't recommend heartily.
You need to download the application, but it is free. Good stuff there includes
- Geneva Bible translation notes
- John Gill's exposition of the whole Bible
- Matthew Henry
- Treasury of David
- Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, which is a good cross-reference system.