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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
1 Samuel 2

 

 

Verses 1-10

THE SONG OF HANNAH

"Hannah also prayed and said,

`My heart exults in the Lord;

my strength is exalted in the Lord.

My mouth derides my enemies,

because I rejoice in thy salvation.

There is none holy like the Lord,

there is none besides thee;

there is no rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly,

let not arrogance come from your mouth;

for the Lord is a God of knowledge,

and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are broken,

but the feeble gird on strength.

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,

but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.

The barren has borne seven,

but she who has many children is forlorn.

The Lord kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low, he also exalts.

He raises up the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the ash heap,

to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's,

and on them he has set the world.

He will guard the feet of his faithful ones; but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,

for not by might shall a man prevail.

The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;

against them he will thunder in heaven.

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;

he will give strength to his king,

and exalt the power of his anointed.'"

Willis cited six reasons why "some scholars" reject this song as pertaining in any sense to Hannah.[1] All six reasons are utterly worthless!

  1. The placement of the song is alleged as "a reason," but it appears in the text exactly where it belongs, precisely following the dedication of Samuel at the tabernacle and in connection with the worship service mentioned in 1 Samuel 1:28. Where else would the critics have placed it?
  2. The fact that 1 Samuel 2:11 is the natural continuation of 1 Samuel 1:28 is erroneously called "a reason," but there are a thousand instances in the Holy Bible were a verse, or ten verses, or a hundred verses, or whole chapters could be deleted and the disjoined portions be styled as "a natural continuation." In my commentaries, I have cited dozens of these.
  3. The criticism that the song fits Hannah's situation "only in a very general way" is simply untrue. Every line of it fits Hannah's situation perfectly. (See below.)
  4. "The details indicate a knowledge of the weapons of war, and neither Elkanah nor Hannah had any military experience." This ridiculous criticism is founded upon a single word, the word `bows' in 1 Samuel 2:4. This mention of such a weapon cannot possibly be construed as "a knowledge of military weapons, tactics, and warfare." In that age, there was not a dummy on earth who was ignorant of the fact that a bow, used to shoot arrows, was a very important military weapon.
  5. The reference to the Lord's "king" in 1 Samuel 2:10 is said to assume a time AFTER the monarchy was established. Such a conclusion is a gross error. Hannah was familiar with the Pentateuch, and Moses had specifically prophesied that Israel, in time, would have a king (Deuteronomy 13:14ff and Deuteronomy 28:36ff), and Hannah's words here are a prophesy that God would give power and strength to such a king. The real trouble that unbelieving critics have with this song is the prophetic element in it, but their wicked unbelief is of no significance whatever.
  6. 1 Samuel 2:6 here has an undeniable reference to God's raising the dead to life, and this is dubbed by critics as an example of, "theological ideas that reflect a later period." This type of nonsense is founded on the false notion that faith in the resurrection of the dead did not arise in Israel until a far later time than that of Samuel. However, Abraham, the ancestor of all Israel, believed in the resurrection, that being the sole and absolute reason for his obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice on mount Moriah (Hebrews 11:17-19). The inspired author of Hebrews could not have been wrong about that. The critical dictum that faith in the resurrection belongs to a later period than that of Abraham is merely a prejudiced and ignorant falsehood!

So much for critical efforts to get rid of this song of Hannah, their sole objective being that of nullifying the Messianic import of it.

"The refusal of modern critics to admit the genuineness of this song is founded upon an "a priori" and utter denial of the supernatural saving revelations of God, and upon a consequent inability to discern the prophetic illumination of the pious Hannah, and a complete misinterpretation of the contents of her song of praise."[2]

The genuineness of the song is attested by the following reflections of the conduct of Peninnah in Hannah's song.

  1. Proud talking and arrogance are mentioned in 1 Samuel 2:3.
  2. The barren woman bears a child in 1 Samuel 2:5.
  3. The critical woman that had many children is forlorn in 1 Samuel 2:5.
  4. The poor are made rich; the lowly are exalted, etc., appear in 1 Samuel 2:8.

No more appropriate words pertaining to that situation between Hannah and Peninnah could possibly have been written. Note especially the honor that was said to be reserved for the poor and needy who would sit among "princes." As the mother of the distinguished prophet and judge of Israel and the great king-maker of Israel, Hannah fulfilled this perfectly.

"There is no rock like our God." This line indicates that Hannah was familiar with Genesis 49:24, which records Jacob's blessing of Joseph, wherein he referred to God as the "Rock of Israel." There are many other reflections of the Pentateuch in the books of Samuel.

In the first chapter of Luke, we find that the Magnificat and the song of Zacharias are both written within the influence of the song of Hannah, indicating dramatically that the Messianic import of Hannah's song was recognized by the pious Israelites of all subsequent ages.[3]

Prior to the arrogant, unjustified criticisms that originated in the 19th century, the accepted translations of the entire Christian period, until that time, reflected the prophetic nature of this song.

Adam Clarke, for example, translated 1 Samuel 2:10, as follows:

"Jehovah shall bruise them who contend with him;

Upon them shall he thunder in the heavens.

Jehovah shall judge the ends of the earth;

And he shall give strength to his King,

And shall exalt the horn of his Messiah."[4]

In the words of F. C. Cook:

"The song of Hannah is a prophetic psalm; it is poetry, and it is prophecy. It takes its place by the side of the songs of Moses, Miriam, Deborah, the Virgin Mary, David, and Hezekiah."[5]

That the Bible indeed is filled with predictive prophecy was affirmed by Willis in these words:

"God can reveal coming events before they occur. Several passages in Isaiah 44-55 affirm that one thing that distinguishes God from the false gods is that He predicts what will come to pass and then causes it to happen as he had said (Isaiah 41:23,26; 42:9; 44:7; 45:21; 46:10-11; and Isaiah 48:3-8). Isaiah often referred to predictions that the Lord had made in the past which had already come to pass, and it seems unlikely that He would have made such arguments if His hearers did not know that they came to pass as prophesied."[6]

We should add that such evidences of fulfilled prophecies are by no means restricted to Isaiah. The Bible is literally filled with them. Who can deny that Micah prophesied that Christ would be born in Bethlehem?

In this light, therefore, we declare unequivocally that the Song of Hannah is authentic, and that the interpretation of it as Messianic, both by Jewish and Christian scholars, for thousands of years should by no means be abandoned because of Satan's being uncomfortable with it!

Like the Magnificat, Hannah's hymn of thanksgiving begins with the temporal mercies accorded to herself, but rises immediately into the realms of prophecy, foretelling Christ's kingdom and the triumphs of his Church."[7]

"The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn." This was interpreted by R. Payne Smith as, "A typical reference to the long barrenness of the Gentile world, to be followed by a fruitfulness far exceeding that of fleshly Israel."[8] The text supports this view because "seven" is a number standing for perfection, completeness, or infinity, and this did not apply to Hannah who bore six, (not seven) children.

"The Lord will judge the ends of the earth." This definitely is not a reference to the islands or to the ends of the Mediterranean Sea, but a reference to the final judgment of the Last Day when God shall judge all mankind. "`Ends of the earth' means the whole earth up to its remotest quarters."[9]

"He will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed." We are delighted to find in the Interpreter's Bible the following regarding this verse:

"This verse seems to envisage the miraculous discomfiture (defeat) of the enemies of Israel, followed by the judgment of the nations and the coming of the Messiah."[10]

Of course, the term anointed was applied especially to the kings of Israel from the times of Saul and afterward, especially to the Davidic dynasty; but "The `King' here is the Ideal Son of David (The Christ)."[11] (We do not agree with the reason for this interpretation by Caird, but his analysis of what the passage says is exactly correct).

It is not necessary to suppose that Hannah herself knew the full meaning of her prophecy (See 1 Peter 1:10-12). As Fraser expressed it, "Whether or not it was clear to Hannah's mind, the Spirit who rested upon her signified a King greater than David and a more illustrious kingdom."[12]

Concerning this tenth verse, F. C. Cook declared that, "This is a most remarkable passage, containing a clear and distinct prophecy of the Kingdom and Glory of the Christ of God (Compare Luke 1:69,70)."[13]

By her mention of the Final Judgment here, "Hannah's prayer rises to a prophetic glance at the consummation of the kingdom of God."[14]


Verses 11-20

SAMUEL IN THE SERVICE OF ELI

"Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy ministered to the Lord in the presence of the priest.

"Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord. The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, and he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or cauldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. So they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest's servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, "Give meat for the priest to roast; for he will not accept boiled meat from you, but raw." And if the man said to him, "Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish," he would say, "No, you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force." Thus, the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.

"Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy girded with a linen ephod. And his mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, "The Lord give you children by this woman for the loan which she lent to the Lord"; so then they would return to their home."

The Law of Moses defined exactly what was to be the priest's portion of every peace offering (Leviticus 7:31-35), as it also gave express directions about the burning of the fat (Leviticus 7:23-25,31). It was therefore a gross act of lawlessness and disobedience on the part of Hophni and Phinehas to take more than the Law allowed them. Evidence is afforded by this passage of the existence of the Levitical Law (the Pentateuch) at this time.[15]

It is perfectly evident here that, "The people were well acquainted with the words of the Law of Moses, and were indignant because the priests, its proper guardians, did not obey them."[16]

The children of Israel in the passages just cited were forbidden, absolutely, to eat the fat of animals. Furthermore, the priests were restricted to the breast and the thigh of animals sacrificed, and the sons of Eli brazenly disobeyed all these prohibitions. They did not heed the admonition that violators would be "cut off" from among God's people.

"A boy girded with a linen ephod." "This ephod which Samuel wore was probably like that worn by the Levites, for that of the priests was richer both in material and color."[17]

There are a number of special interests in this passage. Hannah's return to the tabernacle each year with a little robe for Samuel is a touching event. She loved her son and cherished these annual visits.

Also, Eli was evidently impressed and thankful for the service provided by the young Samuel, and, as a consequence of his appreciation, he customarily blessed Elkanah and Hannah with a prayer that God would give other children to Hannah, which, of course, God surely did.

Of great interest is the refusal of Eli to do anything about his reprobate sons and their illegal, wicked and immoral behavior in the sacred precincts of the tabernacle itself. Oh yes, we learn a little later that he "rebuked them," but that was by no means the type of treatment that those evil men deserved.


Verse 21

HANNAH'S OTHER CHILDREN

"And the Lord visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord."

We like the Good News Bible's rendition of the last sentence here, "And Samuel grew up in the service of the Lord."


Verses 22-25

ELI WAS UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO CORRECT HIS SONS

"Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading about. If a man sins against a man, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him"? But they would not listen to the voice of their father; for it was the will of the Lord to slay them."

With regard to whether or not Eli was able to control his sons, it is likely that, in his advanced age, control would have been impossible, and yet, when the unnamed prophet came and pronounced judgment against him, it was evident that there was indeed some element of blame on Eli's part. Porter commented that, "The indignation of Eli at this point was ineffectual following a lifetime of disciplinary inaction."[18]

Of course, the result of Eli's son's wickedness was a widespread public scandal that was disastrous in its effect upon God's people.

"At the entrance to the tent of meeting." It should be noted that the words "temple" (1 Samuel 1:9) and "tent of meeting" (1 Samuel 2:22) are used interchangeably in this part of 1Samuel. The temple of Solomon was not constructed until long afterward; nevertheless, the tabernacle was often called "the temple."

For it was the will of the Lord to slay them. Keil pointed out that, "This means that Hophni and Phinehas were already given up to the judgment of hardening."[19]


Verse 26

SAMUEL'S DEVELOPMENT

"Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men."

This verse is very like Luke 2:52, where almost the same declarations are made concerning our Lord Jesus Christ. Including increasing in wisdom, this four-fold development is the ideal for everyone.


Verses 27-36

GOD'S PROPHETIC WARNING OF ELI

"And there came a man of God to Eli, and said to him, "Thus the Lord has said, `I revealed myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh. And I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me; and I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from my people of Israel. Why then look with a greedy eye at my sacrifices and my offerings which I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves upon the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?' Therefore the Lord the God of Israel declares: `I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever'; but now the Lord declares: `Far be it from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold the days are coming, when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity which shall be bestowed upon Israel; and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. The man of you which I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep out his eyes and grieve his heart; and all the increase of your house shall die by the sword of men. And this which shall befall your two sons Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart; and I will bring him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread, and shall say, "Put me, I pray you, in one of the priest's places, that I may eat a morsel of bread."'"

The International Critical Commentary has a remarkably excellent summary of what these verses say. "An unnamed prophet comes to Eli and rehearses the benefits he and his house have received from Yahweh. The ingratitude with which he has treated his benefactor is pointed out, and the removal of his house from the priesthood is foretold, with the consequent impoverishment of his descendants.[20]

"I revealed myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt." In fact, God revealed himself to all Israel while they were still slaves in Egypt under Pharaoh, but this does not say that he chose Aaron and the Levites at that time, because those choices occurred after the revelation at Sinai.

"Why then look with greedy eyes at my sacrifices?" This statement and the words that follow clearly make Eli himself blameworthy.

"I promised ... but now, Far be it from me" (1 Samuel 2:30). All of God's promises are conditional absolutely upon the fidelity of the one to whom the promise came. Jeremiah spelled this out dramatically in Jeremiah 18:7-10.

1 Samuel 2:32, above, is an exceedingly obscure and doubtful passage, and the RSV rendition of it here is the result of extensive emendation,[21] a necessary procedure at times in order to come up with some likely meaning.

"All the increase of your house shall die by the sword of men." This prophecy was dramatically fulfilled by Doeg's massacre of the priests at Nob (1 Samuel 22:17,18).

The prophecy that Hophni and Phinehas would die on the same day (1 Samuel 2:34) was fulfilled when the Philistines defeated Israel and captured the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 4:11).

"The ark was not restored to Israel during the times of Samuel; and the tabernacle itself was moved from Shiloh to Nob, probably in the time of war. And when Saul had all the priests put to death, it was removed to Gibeon, where it necessarily fell more and more into contempt."[22]

"I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, etc." It is usually agreed among scholars that this is a reference to Zadok. However:

"It also refers to all the priests whom the Lord would raise up as faithful servants of his altar, and only receives its complete and final fulfillment in Christ, the true and eternal High Priest."[23]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-samuel-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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