This book, authored by Samuel Driver of Brown-Driver-Briggs fame, tackles what is one of the thorniest books of the Old Testament from a text-critical point of view. It is considered by many to be one of the best commentaries on Samuel ever written.
Initially published in 1890, it is still regarded as a model of text-critical method—which is noteworthy in light of the rugged condition of the text of 1 Samuel. Driver wrote using the text of the Septuagint, without the benefit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Yet his conclusions about the validity of LXX readings of Samuel (as opposed to the MT text, which suffers from some lengthy gaps) were well argued and demonstrated to be accurate when the Qumran discovery came along.
R. W. Klein, writing in the Word Biblical Commentary volume on 1 Samuel, observes that, “The Masoretic Text of 1 Samuel is not in good shape. In particular many letters and words have been accidentally omitted, often because of the phenomenon of homoioteleuton. For more than a century commentators have attempted to emend the text on the basis of the LXX.… Thenius was the first modern scholar to make extensive use of the LXX, but a new level of excellence in the use of the LXX for the textual criticism of Samuel was achieved by Julius Wellhausen and S. R. Driver. Many of their emendations and textual notations were cited in BHK by Rudolf Kittel.… Wellhausen and Driver recognized that the LXX reflected an alternate and often superior form of the Hebrew text. Their insights were confirmed and refined with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”
In addition, Driver was an expert grammarian and his exegesis is well-respected. Moisés Silva once suggested in his bibliography for students at Westminster, “If you find this one, sell your car to buy it.”
In his book Old Testament Exegesis, Dr. Douglas Stuart writes, “Seeing how an expert does textual criticism is one of the best ways to try to understand the methods involved. One of the best examples of careful textual criticism applied to a large section of the OT is worth learning from if you can find it: S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel …”
"The present volume is designed as a contribution to the philology and textual criticism of the Old Testament. It may, I hope, be found useful as a sequel to Mr. Spurrell's Notes on Genesis. The Books of Samuel are not so suitable as a reading book for a beginner in Hebrew as some of the other historical books: for though they contain classical examples of a chaste and beautiful Hebrew prose style, they have suffered unusually from transcriptional corruption, and hence raise frequently questions of text, with which a beginner is evidently not in a position to deal. But for one who has made further progress in the language, they afford an admirable field for study: they familiarize him with many of the most characteristic idioms of the language, and at the same time introduce him to the grounds and principles of the textual criticism of the Old Testament."
Samuel Rolles Driver
English Christian Hebraist; born at Southampton Oct. 2, 1846; regius professor of Hebrew (in succession to Pusey), and canon of Christ Church, Oxford, since 1883; member of the Old Testament Revision Company, 1876-84.
Together with T. K. Cheyne and Robertson Smith, Driver has been one of the foremost champions of Biblical criticism in England. Driver approached it from its linguistic side ("Jour. of Phil." 1882, pp. 201-236). His first contribution, "A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew" (Oxford, 1874; 3d ed., 1892), has remained the most complete presentation of the subject...In matters of criticism Driver has always taken a conservative view, showing much moderation and sympathy with the orthodox position.
Driver has edited two small rabbinical works: a commentary on Jeremiah and Ezekiel by Moses ben Sheshet, London, 1871, and one on Proverbs, attributed to Abraham ibn Ezra, Oxford, 1880. He has also been a collaborator on the second edition of Smith's "Bible Dictionary," on Hasting's "Dictionary of the Bible," and on Cheyne and Black's "Encyclopædia Biblica," and is coeditor, with Professors Brown and Briggs, of the Clarendon press edition of Gesenius.
by Joseph Jacobs & Richard Gottheil