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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

2 Samuel

- 2 Samuel

by Johann Peter Lange




general superintendent of the province of silesia, and professor of theology in the university of breslau

translated, enlarged and edited

Rev. C.H. TOY, D.D., LL.D.,
professors in the theological seminary at louisville, ky.


The Commentary on the two Books of Samuel was prepared in German by the Rev. Dr. Erdmann, General Superintendent of Silesia and Honor. Professor of Theology in the University of Breslau, and in English by the Rev. C. H. Toy, D. D., LL. D., and the Rev. John A. Broadus, D. D., LL. D., Professors in the Theological Seminary at Greenville, South Carolina.
Dr. Erdmann, in his Preface, dated Breslau, March 8, 1873, says:
‘In regard to the execution of the work in its several parts, I add the following remarks. In the translation, while I have tried to follow the ground-text closely, I have preserved as far as possible the tone and impress of Luther’s translation. On account of the admitted defectiveness of the Masoretic text of these books, it seemed to me better not to place the textual remarks and discussions, together with the various readings and emendations, under the text of the translation, but to insert them in the exegetical explanations. In the exegesis I have departed in one point from the form usual in this Bible-Work, namely, instead of explanations under each verse, I have given an exegesis that reproduces the content of the text in connected development, following the received division of verses. “Exegesis,” therefore, or “Scientific Exposition,” would have been a fitter heading for the section in question than “Exegetical Explanations.”1 In the next division, instead of the usual heading, “Dogmatic and Ethical Fundamental Thoughts,” I have chosen as a more appropriate designation for these prophetical-historical books: “Theocratic-historical and Biblical-Theological Comments;”2 for we have here to do with a new step in the historical development of the Theocracy in Israel, and with the wider unfolding of the religious-ethical truth which has its root in the advancing revelation of God. From this point of view of the history of revelation and the theocracy, the comments and remarks of this section are intended to serve as contributions to the hitherto too little cultivated science of the Biblical Theology of the Old Testament. In the homiletical section, while I have given my own words, I have rather cited the diverse witnesses of ancient and modern times, from whom I could derive any valuable material for fruitful application and parænetic use of the text on the basis of the preceding scientific exposition.

‘In every part of my work on this portion of the Old Testament history of the Kingdom of God, with its fund of religious-ethical revelation, I have been constantly reminded of and deeply impressed by a profound saying of Hamann, with which I here close: “Every biblical history is a prophecy, which is fulfilled through all the centuries and in the soul of every human being. Every history bears the image of man, a body, which is earth and ashes and nothing, the sensible letter; but also a soul, the breath of God, the life and the light, which shines in the dark, and cannot be comprehended by the darkness. The Spirit of God in His word reveals itself as the Self-sufficient in the form of a servant, in flesh, and dwells among us full of grace and truth.” ’

As regards the English edition, the work has been so divided that Dr. Toy prepared the Exegetical and Historical sections, and paid careful and minute attention to the Hebrew text; Dr. Broadus has reproduced the Homiletical and Practical portions, partly condensing and partly enlarging the original from English sources, especially from Bishop Hall’s Contemplations and Sermons, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, and Dr. W. Taylor’s Life of David.


New York, 42 Bible House, March 1, 1877.




The Hebrew text of “Samuel” is in the main well supported by internal and external evidence. Yet the biographical and statistical character of the narrative has exposed it more than any other of the historical books of the Old Testament to textual corruption; it is sometimes inaccurate and unclear not only in particular words and expressions, but also in the connection of its parts. Many such cases are referred to in the Commentary and the Translator’s Notes; see 1 Samuel 6:9, 1 Samuel 6:12, 1 Samuel 6:17, 1 Samuel 6:18, 1 Samuel 6:20, 26; 2 Samuel 4:5, 23 and elsewhere. For the fixing of the Heb. text we have not the Manuscript-evidence that is available for a book of the New Testament. Though there are known a large number of Hebrew MSS. of “Samuel,” they seem all to be conformed to the masoretic recension (which was completed about the sixth century of our era, but probably begun some time before), whereby any differences that may have existed have vanished. The recently discovered Odessa MSS. and those brought to light by the Karaite Firkowitsch have not up to this time yielded any readings of importance; the early dates of the latter are now called in question by Strack and Harkavy. The various readings of the Talmud and the Masora present very slight differences from the received text. Assuming, then, the possibility of text-corruption from various causes, we are forced to examine the ancient Versions the more carefully as almost the only sources of materials for text-criticism. But while the Hebrew text is not to be regarded as absolutely authoritative, the text of a version has to be subjected to especially searching criticism for two reasons: 1) because the translator may have given an incorrect or free rendering, and may thus unintentionally misrepresent his original, and 2) because a version is exposed to greater textual corruption (by corrections, marginal insertions, etc.) than a MS. of the original, especially in the case of the Old Testament. The intentional changes in our Versions are few and usually obvious. It need not be remarked that the fixing of the text of a Version as accurately as possible must precede its employment as an instrument of criticism. In order to call the attention of those that have not used them to the critical importance of the Ancient Versions and to furnish a general guide in their use, the following brief account of the value of the versional material at hand for the text-criticism of “Samuel” is subjoined.

I. The Greek Versions.—Of these the only one of any special value is the Septuagint, which represents a Hebrew text of c. B. C. 200, far older than any known Hebrew manuscript. For an account of the Greek MSS. containing it see Tischendorf’s Prolegomena to his edition of the Septuagint; the only readings generally accessible (for the Book of Samuel) are those of the Vatican and Alexandrian MSS., of which the latter is critically almost worthless, because it has evidently in many places been corrected after the masoretic Hebrew text. Substantially, therefore, the Vatican text (Tischendorf’s edition) must be adopted as the best now obtainable, but must itself be subjected to criticism. The text in Stier and Theile’s Polyglot is eclectic, and of no critical value; the various readings of Holmes and Parsons are undigested.

The critical value of the Septuagint (Vatican text) version of “Samuel:”

1) Its honesty. It aims at giving a faithful rendering of the Hebrew, which it follows with servility, closely imitating Hebrew idioms in defiance of Greek usage, rendering particles and other words literally to the exclusion of sense, and guessing at or transferring words whose meaning was unknown. There are marginal insertions, double readings (see below) and those slight divergencies that are unavoidable in a version; but there is no trace of intentional misrepresentation. The translation does not shrink from any difficulties in its original, and may be taken as a fair rendering of the Hebrew text that the Alexandrian translator had before him.

2) Its freedom from halachic, haggadic and euphemistic elements. There is no introduction of later Jewish legal prescriptions (Halacha), even, for instance, in 2 Samuel 24:15, or of legendary statements and superstitious fancies (Haggada). The two supposed cases of the latter cited by Frankel (Vorstudien zu der Sept., pp. 187, 188), 1Sa 20:30; 1 Samuel 28:14, do not warrant his interpretation. In the first passage there is no ground to assume in the phrase: υἱὲ κορασίων αὐτομολούντων (deserting) an allusion to the story that Jonathan’s mother was one of the maidens carried off at Shiloh (Judges 21:0), and willingly offered herself to Saul, nor does the ὄρθιον (זקף), “upright” (not “headforemost”), of the second passage point to the belief that kings magically conjured up rose head first, while ordinary persons came feet-foremost.—It has no euphemisms for the avoidance of anthropomorphisms and unseemly expressions.

3) Its correctness as a translation. While in general it gives the sense of the Hebrew accurately, it is not merely lacking in smoothness and elegance, but shows a good deal of looseness and ignorance. It not seldom misreads consonants and vowels, mistakes the meaning and construction of words, and distorts the connection of sentences, and thus sometimes makes sad work with the sense, as in 2 Samuel 23:1-7 (while 2 Samuel 22:0. is well translated). It naturally badly miswrites proper names (apart from differences in the Egyptian and Palestinian pronunciation of Hebrew words), but shows a good acquaintance with the syntax of the Hebrew verb.

4) Its insertions and omissions. While it is true that this version of Samuel is to be considered an honest one, it must be remembered that ancient translators did not recognize the same obligation to their text that is now felt, but thought themselves at liberty to make occasional deviations from it. Still our Version takes few liberties. The shorter insertions and omissions (as of the Nominal or Pronominal subject or object, and of explanatory words and phrases) do not usually materially affect the sense; and they are not always to be referred to the translator or a copyist, but may sometimes be regarded as part of the original Alexandrian Hebrew text. To be especially noted are the duplets or double readings, where a second marginal rendering of a passage, or a rendering from a somewhat different recension has gotten into the text; sometimes also triplets or triple renderings are found, and these different renderings standing side by side are sometimes combined into one sentence by a copyist or a corrector. The longer insertions (1 Samuel 2:10; 2Sa 8:7; 2 Samuel 14:27; 2 Samuel 24:25) are parallel passages or historical notices added by a reader in the margin and then inserted in the text by a copyist; but it is possible that one of these additions (2 Samuel 24:25) was found in the translator’s Hebrew text. The more important omissions (1 Samuel 17:18.) are discussed at length in the Commentary.

5) Its utility for the establishment of the true text. Its relation to our present Hebrew text shows that it was not translated from the same text that furnished the masoretic recension. On the contrary, it represents as its original an independent Hebrew text of the 2d or 3d century B. C., and is therefore itself to be regarded as an independent authority for the restoration of the original Hebrew of “Samuel.” As is remarked above, its character guarantees its faithful rendering of its Hebrew original, and it thus brings us face to face with a Hebrew MS. older by many hundred years than any we now possess, and, what is more important, independent of the masoretic recension. This is enough to show its great critical value.

The general result of the comparison between the Hebrew and Greek texts of “Samuel” is the maintenance of the former. Usually the Septuagint sustains the Hebrew by its agreement with it (sometimes with Kethib, sometimes with Qeri). Its divergences from the Hebrew do not always or generally make against the latter, but in many cases they do give or suggest a better text, instances of which will be found in the Translator’s textual notes; see, for example, 1 Samuel 14:18 and 2 Samuel 14:0.

In the study of the Greek of Samuel it is recommended that Schleusner’s Lexicon of the Septuagint and the Commentaries of Thenius, Böttcher and Wellhausen be used.
The other Greek versions (fragments of Aquila, Theodotion and Symmachus) represent very nearly the present Hebrew text, and, being much later than the Septuagint (2d century after Christ), have not much critical value.

II. Latin Versions.—Of the Latin Versions the Old Latin (2d century after Christ) is a translation of the Septuagint, and has therefore only a secondary critical value as a help in settling the text of the Septuagint.

The translation of Jerome, the Latin Vulgate (Codex Amiatinus, edited by Tischendorf) was made from the Hebrew, but not altogether independently of the Old Latin. For several reasons it must be used with caution in the criticism of the Hebrew text: 1) where it coincides with the Septuagint against the Hebrew, it is probable that Jerome or a copyist has adopted the rendering of the Old Latin, and it is therefore not an independent authority; 2) the Hebrew text of Jerome had probably received the emendations of the Masorites, and is in so far identical with that of existing Heb. MSS. and not an independent authority; 3) Jerome’s translation is much freer than that of the Septuagint, and frequently obscures the exact form of the Hebrew.

Still the Vulgate gives a certain control over the Hebrew, and in some cases differs from both Hebrew and Greek. In such cases it may represent a variation in Jerome’s Heb. text or a variation in the Greek text from which the Old Latin was made.

III. The Syriac Version.—The only known Syriac text of “Samuel” is that of the Peshito Version, given in the Paris and London Polyglots and Lee’s edition, and in at least one unedited MS. in the British Museum.5 A trustworthy text from existing MSS. is still a desideratum. For the control of the Polyglot text and that of Lee, we have the various manuscript-readings in Vol. VI. of Walton’s Polyglot, the citations in the works of Ephrem Syrus and other Syrian writers, and the Arabic version of “Samuel” in the London Polyglot, which was made from the Peshito Syriac; but, as the biblical quotations of the early Christian writers are often loose and inaccurate (because they quote from memory) and the Arabic does not always hold itself strictly to its original, these authorities must be used cautiously.

The Syriac text of “Samuel” was made directly from the Hebrew, and is in the main a literal and correct translation. It is, however, far less useful than the Septuagint for the criticism of the Hebrew text and the elucidation of its meaning:
1) It was probably not made before the 2d century of our Era, at which time the present masoretic text had been substantially formed, and it has in some places perhaps been corrected after the masoretic recension; it is therefore of little use in reaching a pre-masoretic Hebrew text.
2) It sometimes takes liberties with the Hebrew, abridging or expanding, especially in obscure or corrupt passages, as 1Sa 13:3-4; 1 Samuel 14:13; 1 Samuel 14:25-26; 1 Samuel 16:15-16; 2 Samuel 5:6 sq.; 2 Samuel 21:16; it omits a verse from homœoteleuton, 2 Samuel 13:18, or a part of a verse from breviloquence, 2 Samuel 7:6; it entirely fails to catch a fine conception, as in 1 Samuel 15:23; it miswrites proper names, as Ishboshul 2 Samuel 2:8, Kolob iii. 3, Adoniram xx. 24, Edom for Aram 2 Samuel 10:6; 2 Samuel 10:8, prophets for Abel 2 Samuel 20:18; and it sometimes misunderstands the meaning and connection of words.

3) It shows some connection with the Septuagint and the Targum, though it is hard to determine the relation between them. It sometimes agrees with the Septuagint against Hebrew and Chaldee, as in 1 Samuel 1:24 (a three-year-old bullock), in the division between chapters 3 and 4, at the end of 2 Samuel 3:24 and in 2Sa 21:9.6 Very frequently it agrees with the Hebrew against the Septuagint, sometimes varies (commonly slightly) from Hebrew, Septuagint, and Chaldee, and sometimes shows a general agreement with the last, as in 2 Samuel 24:15 and 1 Samuel 16:23, where it is with Septuagint and Chaldee against Hebrew. It may be that the translator had the Septuagint before him and occasionally followed it, or that readings from the Greek got from the margin into the text. It is possible also that he followed in some cases the same general Jewish hermeneutical tradition that shows itself in the Targum. For

4) There seem to be in the Syriac a few attempts to avoid anthropomorphisms and unseemly expressions, and a few cases of Rabbinical interpretation. Thus: 2 Samuel 24:16 : “the Lord restrained the Angel of death who was slaying the people, and said to him “instead of “Jahveh repented him of the evil and said;” 2 Samuel 24:17 : “David said to that angel” instead of “David said to Jahveh;” 1 Samuel 21:5-6 : “if the young men have kept themselves from the offering (corban). And David said, The offering is lawful for us.” In the first clause the Arabic has the full explanation: “if the young men have preserved their vessels from impurity unfit for those that approach the offering.” The obscure passage 2 Samuel 24:15, is rendered by the Peshito: “from the morning to the sixth hour” (Hebrew מוֹעֵד), where the Targum has: “from the time of slaying the stated sacrifice to the time of offering it,” while the Septuagint, avoiding the halachic interpretation, renders: “from morning to noon” (ἀρίστου).7

In general the masoretic text of “Samuel” is supported by the Peshito Version. The Syriac text has to be closely watched throughout. In addition to Thorndyke’s emendations above referred to (found in Vol. VI. of the London Polyglot) see the remarks of Rödiger in his monograph8 on tne Arabic Version, pp. 76, 77. The Arabic must all along be compared with the Syriac.

The Arabic Version. As is remarked above the Arabic Version of “Samuel” in the Polyglots is a translation from the Peshito Syriac, and is useful in the criticism of the text of the latter, not of the Hebrew immediately. It deserves a more careful textual examination than it has yet received. Its character is most fully discussed by Rödiger in the work cited above. The same text (unpointed) with a few variations is given in the Arabic Bible printed for the British and Foreign Bible Society by Sarah Hodgson, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1811.

IV. The Jewish-Aramaic (Chaldee) Version.—The text of this version (in the Targum of Jonathan) is given in the London Polyglot and in the edition of P. De Lagarde, Leipzig, 1873. This Targum probably received its present form not earlier than the fourth century of our Era (though it doubtless rests on an earlier translation), and is of little use in the establishment of a pre-masoretic text. It is made immediately from the Hebrew, and is in the main a good translation.

It is commonly marked by extreme literalness, but sometimes departs from its text to avoid an anthropomorphic or unseemly expression, to introduce a late legal idea, or to expand and illustrate. The principal additions are in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 and 2 Samuel 23:3-4; 2 Samuel 23:7-8, where it inserts rambling commentaries, and in 1 Samuel 15:17, where it explains Saul’s elevation by a historical reference on which the Bible is silent (Benjamin’s heading the march through the sea). Goliath’s braggart speech in 1 Samuel 17:8, given in the London Polyglot, is omitted by Lagarde. It ingeniously fills out the corrupt passage, 1 Samuel 13:1, and attempts some explanation of the numbers in 1 Samuel 6:19. Among its Rabbinical features are the substitution of scribe for prophet in 1Sa 10:10-12; 1 Samuel 19:20; 1 Samuel 19:24; 1 Samuel 28:6, and the phrase “remember what is written in the book of the law of Jahveh,” 2 Samuel 13:11; 2 Samuel 20:18. In 1 Samuel 28:13 it avoids the possible irreverence in Elohim by rendering: “angel of Elohim.” Its rendering in 1 Samuel 14:19 “bring the ephod” instead of the Hebrew “withdraw thy hand,” suggests an emendation of the Heb. of verse 18 (see the Textual Notes). Thus, without being of high text-critical authority, it secures a general control over the Hebrew text.

C. H. T.


[1][‘Exegetical and Critical’ is the heading adopted for the section in this translation.]

[2][‘Historical and Theological’ in the translation.] 

[5]Tregelles, Art. Versions in Smith’s Bible-Dictionary, Bleek (Introd. to Old Test., Eng. Trans., II. 447, Note) seems to have supposed that this was a Hexaplar-Syriac text. I have not access to the catalogues of Syriac MSS. in the Bodleian Library and the British Museum by Payne Smith and W. Wright, and do not know whether other MSS. of “Samuel” are found among them.

[6]Nöldeke (Zeitschrift d. Deutsch. morgenländ. Gesellschaft, XXV. 267) remarks that the text of the ancient Syriac Pentateuch MS. in the British Museum sometimes agrees with the Hebrew where our editions approach the Greek more nearly, and that it doubtless preserves the original Syriac more faithfully. The relation between the Septuagint, Syriac and Chaldee calls for closer investigation.

[7]Perles (Meletemata Peschitthoniana, pp. 16–21) adduces other examples, not always in point; comp. Prager, De Vet. Test. Vers. Syr. quam Peschittho vocant Quœst. Criticœ, Pars I.

[8]De origine et indole Arab. Libr. V. T. Histor. Interpretations. Halle, 1829.