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1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart

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Davis brings cultural and historical colour to the task of interpretation and adds a pastor’s heart for personal application. You will find a point of contact with the lives of Samuel, Saul, Jonathan and David as Davis answers the question ‘What does God seek when he looks on the heart?’ Davis presents simple exposition of the literary and theological character of the text in a bright and fascinating way.

336 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1994

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About the author

Dale Ralph Davis

36 books37 followers
Dale Ralph Davis is Minister in Residence, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina. Prior to that he was pastor of Woodland Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi and Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi.

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5 stars
221 (71%)
4 stars
70 (22%)
3 stars
16 (5%)
2 stars
2 (<1%)
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1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews
Profile Image for Kevin Halloran.
Author 1 book48 followers
August 20, 2020
DRD is one of my favorite commentators. He’s a master at interpreting the OT historical books and teaching through them in a compelling way. I hope to read all of his commentaries. Rarely do you ever call a commentator a delightful writer; but here it applies.
Profile Image for David Zimmerman.
122 reviews7 followers
September 30, 2021
Ralph Davis has become my favorite author of Old Testament commentaries. His writing reflects his high regard for the authority and accuracy of the biblical text. His exposition is thorough, without being cumbersome. He adequately examines and explains the details of the Old Testament narrative, then zeroes in the timeless truths, doctrinal distinctives, and relevant applications of the text. Davis does so in a way that is readable. I read every word of every chapter of these commentaries.

This work on 1 Samuel is a masterpiece of contemporary exposition, for all the reasons noted above. It will satisfy those who look for the “Big Idea” of every text, as well as those who work to extract the Fallen Condition Focus. It is a preacher’s goldmine, although it won’t write your sermons for you.

I highly recommend this volume on 1 Samuel. Like Saul, this volume stands head and shoulders above its peers. If you could purchase only one commentary on 1 Samuel, this would be the one to get.
276 reviews
July 20, 2022
An incredible commentary. Dale Ralph Davis may be my favorite commentator out there! He is adept at getting to the heart of the text and applying it in a pastoral way. And he's fun to read!
Profile Image for Joshua Chipchase.
81 reviews1 follower
May 23, 2022
Best commentary I have ever read. Davis has a unique ability to explain a text in an exciting, conversational, and yet truly expositional way. He does not shy away from dealing with difficult issues, and he is thoroughly exegetical, but he also is brilliant in applying the scripture to everyday life. Often Old Testament commentaries can either be dry, awkwardly moralistic, or overly allegorical. But Davis is able to avoid those pitfalls and create an excellent exposition of 1 Samuel. I used it in my devotions, but it could easily be used in sermon/lesson prep, and I would be comfortable recommending it to lay people and pastors alike.
Profile Image for Alex.
215 reviews34 followers
March 29, 2023
Saul has not been given a fair shake by many modern commentators. His end has been read into his beginning. The problem with doing so is that it leads one to miss the force of the turning points in his life. Davis stays true. If you are looking for a reliable interpretation of the ambiguous and seemingly inexplicable events recorded in 1 Samuel, this is your book.
664 reviews5 followers
January 19, 2022
If Dale Davis has written a commentary on a book of the Bible, it's the best commentary available for that book every time. I'm not just saying that either, look up the best commentaries for each book of the Bible and his commentary is always at or near the top. Combine that with the fact that, unlike many/most Bible commentators, he is blessedly spare in his commentary, and you have a winning combination in my opinion.

This commentary reads like a book and can be read through as if it were a book, which you cannot say about most commentaries. If you're studying 1 Samuel, this is the book you want.
Profile Image for Kirk.
74 reviews7 followers
September 14, 2019
I rarely read a biblical commentary from cover to cover, but Dale Ralph Davis's work is just too readable AND his scholarship is both stellar and (refreshingly) not paraded out to impress his readers. While I only have a few super-minor interpretive quibbles with him, I could almost recommend his work as a devotional supplement to personal Bible study. He's that good, that accessible, and that helpful.
Profile Image for Braden.
75 reviews
August 20, 2020
I haven’t read many commentaries, but this by far the best one I’ve read. It was actually fun to read! Which is not something I ever thought I’d say about a commentary. Davis is a super engaging writer, and he doesn’t waste time, he just gets right to the point of the passage. He does so without sacrificing any of the scholarship, either. It was very helpful for me in my personal study of 1 Samuel, and I’m going to go to him for all of my OT studies, when I can.
Profile Image for Will Dole.
244 reviews6 followers
May 31, 2021
This was the best commentary I read in 1 Samuel. There were others that were good, some that gave me a little more help on background/language (this is, after all, homiletical), but Davis was my must-read commentary every week. My soul was ministered to and challenged as Davis guided me through the narrative of this OT book. I can guarantee you this, anytime from here on out that I preach a book on which Davis has written a commentary, I’ll be picking it up.
Profile Image for Marcie Morris.
10 reviews15 followers
January 30, 2019
Excellent commentary on the story of Samuel, Saul and David. Davis brings in very interesting stories that make the storylines make more sense and he has a witty way about exegesis that many commentators don’t have. He is definitely one of my favorites. Can’t wait to get his 2 Samuel commentary to finish out the whole book.
Profile Image for Stacia.
353 reviews
December 2, 2019
This commentary was amazing in its insights, wisdom and application. However, there were several questions I had about the text that were not mentioned. I know that it is written more for the lay person, and so cannot cover everything, but it does seem like some major questions that I had (and other women I was studying 1 Samuel with had) were either glossed over or not addressed at all.
20 reviews
May 17, 2020
It is not the longest or most thorough commentary on 1 Samuel, so don't expect in depth commentary on every detail. But it is an excellent short commentary, giving good insight into the text, finding the connection to Jesus and providing valuable application of the text. Overall, highly recommended commentary.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
669 reviews
February 5, 2018
Davis includes stories and structure to help the reader understand the major messages of the text. This book reminds me a little of N. T. Wright's "Bible for Everyone" series. I enjoyed it, but didn't find it as thorough in addressing questions or controversies as John Woodhouse.
206 reviews4 followers
March 15, 2018
4.5 stars. It's been a long time since I've read through a commentary, but Davis makes it a delight. Insightful and winsome, even when I'm not sure I agree with him, the author has reignited my interest in the form. On to his 2 Samuel commentary!
Profile Image for Hudson Christmas.
222 reviews14 followers
May 1, 2019
An excellent commentary. The author examines the narrative of this wonderful book and explores the themes and ideas within it. Easy to read and very well written, a worth while commentary for anyone’s study of this book.
Profile Image for Bryan Edenfield.
25 reviews
June 16, 2020
Don’t let the size of this commentary fool you. Succinct, yet packed with biblical truth. Davis has a way of presenting theological material in a delightfully digestible manner. Some of the smallest morsels of insight lend itself to contemplative feasting for the soul. Filled with helpful and sometimes humorous illustrations and perspectives, the pastoral benefits are limitless.
Profile Image for Michael Beck.
300 reviews25 followers
January 19, 2021
Davis is always helpful (and funny!) when consulted. I especially appreciate how faithfully he preaches the text as is, instead of twisting it out of context or inserting themes when they are not present. Davis' footnotes are also helpful to the reader that can make use of Hebrew.
26 reviews
December 27, 2021
Brilliant commentary on Samuel, takes you right to God in every chapter, helping make sense of lord of unusual stories.
Could have focused more on how the whole thing sits together structurally maybe but a good practical book with plenty of application.
Profile Image for Jonah.
365 reviews1 follower
August 3, 2017
This is the first commentary that I have read by Dale Ralph Davis, but it won’t be the last. In fact, this is the first commentary that I have ever read completely through. Most commentaries are beneficial as a resource on this passage or that Greek word, or some textual tradition. Davis covers those topics, of course not Greek but Hebrew, and the bulk of the commentary is like sitting down with your pastor over a cup coffee chatting about the majesty of our Lord.

Dale Ralph Davis is a wonderful exegete and this volume exemplifies his ability to understand and apply the biblical text in its manifold wisdom. In this book, Davis examines the theology of 1 Samuel, its relation to the theology of the Bible as a whole, and applies those truths with many illustrations and modern elaborations that make this little commentary a joy to read. For those looking for a high level critical commentary on the Hebrew text, you will not find that here. However, Davis does not shy away from difficult Hebraisms, or what would seem to be corrupted textual transmissions. He always addresses issues in footnotes and provides supplemental resources that have thoroughly masticated such issues.

The real light that makes this such a beautiful gem is that Davis does not write as an academic, but as a pastor with heart for his readers. I read this book over the course of a couple months, taking my time to walk through 1 Samuel with Davis as my guide. A little here and a little there. With Davis leading me, my were opened to things I had never seen in 1 Samuel. Davis is like that awesome tour guide who knows all the best sights to see, and he won’t let you join the rest of the group until he has made sure you understand the true beauty of what you are witnessing.

There are certainly difficult truths in 1 Samuel and Davis handles them with care. For example, we find that God relents (or repents in some translations) and in the same chapter we read that God is not am an that He should relent (1 Samuel 15:11, 35, 29). After some discussion Davis writes this, “The paradox tends to split our minds, but a little thought tells us that this God who both repents and does not repent is the only God we can serve. Only in the consistent God of verse 29 and in the sorrowful God of verse 35 do we find the God worthy of praise. Here is a God who is neither fickle in his ways nor indifferent in his responses. Here is a God who has both firmness and feeling. If we cannot comprehend we can perhaps apprehend, at least enough to adore” 162. Davis also draws a clear distinction between human repentance of sin and God’s repentance of deed. However, if you want more discussion on that, get the book!

Another aspect of this book that makes me recommend it highly is that anyone can read it. The chapters of the book generally follow the chapters of 1 Samuel. So, you would be able to read 1 Samuel 14, and after pondering the text, you can turn to Davis and his chapter on 1 Samuel 14. If you did a chapter a day, or followed Davis strictly, you could finish 1 Samuel, and Davis’ book in a month and your understanding of God’s Word would be greatly impacted for the rest of your life.

You can got wtsbooks.com to purchase this volume, or his six volume set.
Profile Image for Craig Childs.
789 reviews10 followers
June 22, 2015
Is it a stretch to call a Bible commentary “fast paced” and “exciting”? 1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart reads like a Sunday afternoon chat with a cheeky pastor who likes to enliven musty Old Testament texts by asking off-the-wall questions and finding little hidden ironies in the stories of Saul and David.

Isn’t it funny that David spent most of his life fighting the Philistines, but on at least two occasions they saved him from certain death at the hands of King Saul?

What must it have been like to be David’s older brother, watching in envy as his youngest brother slew Goliath in the Valley of Elah?

Did it matter that David’s great-grandmother was a Moabite? Do you think that’s why the King of Moab sheltered him when he was on the run?

Dale Ralph Davis has the heart of a storyteller, and his commentaries are unique. He invites his readers to experience the story of ancient Israel almost as if it were a novel. While he occasionally has to deal with problems of textual ambiguity and debates over translation, he does not get bogged down in a lot of technical debate. Nor does he devote much space to dating the writings or determining authorship. He wants you to feel the pulse pounding excitement of David’s years on the run in the desert. He wants you to laugh at how the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, only to find that it left a trail of havoc in every city it visited.

Davis likes to direct your attention not just to the characters but to what each story tells us about the nature of God. He makes points of modern-day application but avoids the pitfall of getting too preachy. I would not endorse this approach of every commentary—a commentary on the Book of Daniel, for example, practically demands rigorous scholarship, because it is a lynch pin for a proper understanding of eschatology and end times literature—but this is on the whole, I think, the best way to appreciate most narrative portions of Scripture.

Davis clarifies difficult sections of the story as he goes along, answering difficult questions like “Why does God withdraw his Holy Spirit from Saul’s heart? Would he do such a thing to a modern-day believer?” or “Was David in the right when he launched raids against the Amalekites and killed women and children?” These are the types of questions that most believers ask themselves at some point and in the long run are more important to understanding the character of God than the academic debates the dominate most commentaries.

My only quibble is that Davis, who is a preacher, cannot get away from the slightly annoying habit of outlining every chapter and then forcing it into a 3-point outline.

Even so, this an excellent resource I would recommend to any Christian.
Profile Image for Ray.
196 reviews2 followers
January 18, 2008
D. Ralph Davis' commentaries (Judges, Joshua, I Sam., II Sam., I Kgs) -- ALL are consisently amazing. In fact, if I had just one commentary on each of thsoe books I'd take Davis.

Davis is a former OT seminary prof, with a PhD., but has also been a pastor (Presbyterian PCA) for many years. These are all non-technical, unfootnoted, homiletical treatments. They are theologically rich, always Christocentric (or at least Christo-telic), well-illustrated, and relentlessly practical. Davis can turn a clever phrase like very few writers.

I was shocked that fellow PCAer Tremper Longman did not even include any Ralph Davis books in his survey of commentaries (though Longman treats lots and lots of inferior works).

I have two copies of each of Davis' commentaries (one for home, one for the office).

Davis is the best, but there are some other works on I Sam that are also good. Peter Leithart's A Son to Me is a little too speculative on the typology, but is often brilliant. Joyce Baldwin's volume is one of th very best in the whole (excellent) Tyndale OT set.

Profile Image for Matthew Crowe.
15 reviews4 followers
June 1, 2015
Davis does a great job once again of bringing scholarly exegesis to the person in the pew. Davis is aware of the academic literature on 1 Samuel, frequently citing it in footnotes. However, he stays diligently focused on the purpose of the narrative's final form. He has one foot planted in the academy and the other firmly planted in the church, so to speak.

His discussion questions were too abstract in this book, at least compared to his books on Joshua and Judges, which is why I give it three stars. Otherwise, it would have been four stars. Usually these questions make great discussion starters in classes and groups.
229 reviews2 followers
October 5, 2014
Dr. Davis' commentaries have always been my favorite. He uses a lot of illustrations, easy language, and his footnotes are even interesting. (Probably why it took me so long to finish this--I couldn't skip the footnotes.) I Samuel is a narrative, and the stories of Samuel are made so rich to me when I can learn contextual details I wouldn't necessarily see while reading through the book in the Bible.
Profile Image for Khai Ken.
10 reviews
November 5, 2015
This book is exactly what I am looking for in a commentary. Since I am not a preacher or a teacher, this book is setup up in such a way that is massively helpful and accessible to ordinary christians who want to grasp a better understanding of God's Words. I think this book really nailed it well in that dimension. Definitely looking forward to read the 2 Samuel and other commentaries by this author. Thank you for your good work!
Profile Image for Gabriel.
15 reviews
June 26, 2012
A wonderful companion for my daily reading of 1st Samuel. Steady guide through the twisting and turning stories of Samuel, Saul and David. Full of helpful illustrations and practical application to my daily walk. Best of all, a relentless witness to the continued purpose, provision and grace of Yahweh for his people, both past and present.
202 reviews7 followers
August 8, 2016
My overall thought on this work is it's, "Fantastically candid and clever." I think this practical pastoral commentary is great alongside other notable works. I found much marrow in this work. You can't beat the brevity and jokes. Thankful for the questions at the end of each chapter. DRD is always good. From my other reading of his work, you can't beat him.
Profile Image for David.
138 reviews4 followers
July 10, 2009
Dale Ralph Davis' works on the Old Testament are all excellent for the student or Pastor. He's done to my knowledge Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1& 2 Kings. All great, all worth owning and reading.
Profile Image for Bob O'Bannon.
209 reviews15 followers
August 6, 2013
Not a technical commentary, but one filled with poignant observations, practical exhortations, Christ-centered interpretation, and even a healthy dose of humor. Would work well for sermon prep or just for private devotions.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 44 reviews

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