Here are my thoughts on commentaries for the book of Matthew, to be updated in the future as needed:
Hands down, no question, the best commentary for the book of Matthew is Davies and Allison’s ICC commentary. I usually find the ICC as a series to be dry, painfully technical, and of zero use to preachers or teachers in a local church. D&A is different. They do get pretty technical, but their technical work is so good and illuminating that it’s worth reading. Not only that, they also show you a stunning range of history of interpretation, and they are not afraid to illuminate the theological implications of the text. It is extremely rare to get all of this in one commentary. It is not easy reading, and it is not cheap (3 volumes, $50 a pop), but if you’re willing to make the investment of time, money, and mental energy, it is extremely rewarding.
For the less adventurous, Dale Bruner’s Matthew commentary is the go-to mid-range commentary. He will often give you a summary of what Davies and Allison say about a passage, saving you the time of slogging through their original work. Like Davies and Allison, he does some great work with history of interpretation, but he narrows his focus to a few “friends,” like Luther and Matthew Henry. He make the book of Matthew come alive, and he has plenty of ideas for how to preach the text, if you’re into that sort of thing. His tone is very colloquial and conversational, to the point of sounding silly at times. I have to admit: I sometimes find his chattiness to be distracting from what the passage is actually saying.
Don’t bother with Stanley Hauerwas’s Matthew “commentary.” It should not be called a commentary. It should be called “Story time with Stanley.” It would be worth reading if you were a big Hauerwas fan and wanted to read what would the be the equivalent of his album b-sides.
Lastly, I have spent very little time with Craig Keener’s Matthew commentary, but what I have read was good, as is usually the case with Keener.
Here are my commentary recommendations for I and II Samuel, to be updated as I discover more:
Francesca Aran Murphy’s Brazos commentary is a fun romp through I Sam that does almost no close textual work, and the historical background stuff she does is really, really reckless. There’s some Balthasar and Augustine powering her engine, and she seems most interested in constructing an anti-modern political theology from I Sam. It’s really great.
Hertzberg (OTL) is a really great mid-twentieth century German theological commentary. Among other things, it is heartening to realize that solid theological interpretation of scripture was going strong earlier in the twentieth century before it fell back into vogue around the turn of the century.
I have not read it, but my friend Andy Kadzban tells me that Peter Leithart’s A Son to Me is a really great theological reading of Samuel. I’m pretty sure it’s a short and inexpensive book.
Robert Alter’s translation of the David narrative (The David Story) is very interesting. He tries to translate I & II Sam as a piece of world literature, where dense literary weavings are his primary concern. His overtly atheistic and demythologized reading gets depressing after a while, though.
historical/critical/modern eat-your-vegetables commentaries
As you can see, I have not been able to find a good historical-critical commentary on Samuel, but there seems to be an abundance of good theological commentaries on it. There are far worse problems, to have, for sure…