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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 1

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7

Introduction to Books of Samuel

The Books of First and Second Samuel were originally considered one book. First Samuel records the end of the judgeship in Israel, and the beginning of the kingdom. It has been suggested that they take their name, Samuel, from the fact that they begin with the career of Samuel, who was the last judge, and who anointed both Saul and David, the first kings of Israel. Of course the events recorded go far beyond the lifetime of Samuel, although it appears that he lived to be a very old man, almost to the end of Saul’s forty years’ kingship.

It is not likely that any of the events recorded are the inspired record of Samuel’s own writing, for the Books show the hand of a single author. The human author is anonymous, therefore. It is quite likely that Samuel, as well as the prophets Gad and Nathan, left records, though uninspired, of events of the times in which they were involved. Some time later someone was inspired to record the things in First and Second Samuel that have come down to the present time.

The events of First and Second Samuel begin with the birth of Samuel and extend to very near the death of King David, a period of about one hundred and forty years (cf. Acts 13:20-22). It has been conjectured that the originally inspired record of the Books of Samuel was completed about the time of David’s death, but before it occurred. The death of David is not recorded, but is left to the inspired author of the Books of Kings. Chronologically, the time is about 1104 to 965 B. C. The major characters are Samuel, Saul, and David.

Author’s Note: The parallel sections of Samuel, especially the Second Book, with the Book of First Chronicles, are discussed comparatively. In this Commentary the reader will find that only the non­parallel and non-chronological chapters of the Books of Chronicles are noted separately.

First Samuel - Chapter 1

Elkanah’s Family, v. 1-8

It is refreshing to the Bible student to find that not all the Levites of Israel were like the two who were seen in the closing chapters of the Book of Judges. Though Elkanah was guilty of plural marriage, he was nevertheless a devout and godly man. Elkanah was of the Kohathite family of the Levites, which was also the priestly family, though he was not a priest (see 1 Chronicles 6:22-28). He had his residence in Ramah in the area known as Zuph, in the tribe of Ephraim.

Though the Lord allowed plural marriage in Israel, it was not according to His creative design of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). The problems it caused were many, one of which is very apparent in this account. There is hateful jealousy and rivalry between Peninnah and Hannah, and Elkanah is caught up in it. It is agitated by the very evident partiality of Elkanah for Hannah Such would not go unnoted by the children.

The family of Elkanah comes into focus as they make their yearly trek to the tabernacle in Shiloh. The tabernacle was erected here soon after the conquest under Joshua (Joshua 18:1). The account notes that Hophni and Phinehas, the corrupt priest-sons of the high priest, Eli, were then in authority there. This is in anticipation of the sequel in chapters 2-4. At their arrival in Shiloh Elkanah would give portions in celebration of the feast to Peninnah and her children, but he would give a "worthy" portion to Hannah, as a demonstration of his surpassing love for her, although she was barren and had no children. By this act Elkanah doubtless provoked Peninnah, who in turn provoked Hannah in retaliation. In other words, she mocked Hannah because she could have no children.

Hannah would become so bitter that she would lose her appetite and weep continuously. All the importunity of Elkanah and the protestation of his deep love for her was unavailing. Hannah desired children as did all the godly women of Israel.

Verses 8-18

Hannah’s Request, v. 8-18

Like people in all ages it took a while for Hannah to realize the place she must go to get the solution to her problem. At last she went to the Lord’s house and sought Him in prayer. The tabernacle is here called the temple, though the permanent structure so called was not erected for another century and more. From other passages, as well as this, it seems that the Israelites had already begun referring to their house of worship as a temple. This was where the Lord had ordained that the people of Israel should come to worship Him. Indeed it was enjoined on all males to come up yearly to the three major feasts of unleavened bread, firstfruits, and ingathering (Exodus 23:13-19).

While Eli, the high priest, sat overseeing the sanctuary, Hannah came to pray. Out of her deep bitterness she prayed and wept. She made a vow to the Lord that if He would give her a baby boy, she would in turn dedicate the child as a lifelong Nazarite to His service. His head and face would never be shaved. (It is interesting that by all records Samuel lived faithfully a long life of dedication to his mother’s vow.)

Hannah prayed from her heart, but moved her lips as she prayed. The observant Eli, watching her, decided she was drunken, a commentary on the corruption of the times of his judgeship. When­ Hannah was accosted by Eli to put away her wine she protested that she was not one of the daughters of Belial. Evidently drinking and drunken women were not so unusual at the tabernacle. Eli’s immoral sons doubtless contributed to the condition.

It does not appear that Hannah told Eli the object of her prayer, but he was convinced of her sincerity. Therefore he gave her his blessing. Hannah’s request to find grace in the sight of the high priest is apparently her desire that he would add his prayers to hers in the matter. Hannah left Eli’s presence assured in her heart and confident that the Lord would grant her request. Therefore it must have been a great surprise to her family to have her return from the tabernacle happy, calm, and hungry. This is what the Lord’s people should expect when they leave their burdens with Him (Proverbs 3:3-5; 1 Peter 5:7).

Verses 19-28

Prayer Answered, vs. 19-28

The family of Elkanah returned to their home in Ramah, and it was not long before Hannah conceived and was with child. The Lord did not delay in granting her request, in keeping with the faith she had exercised in Him when she prayed in the tabernacle. When the baby was born Hannah named him Samuel, which means "heard of God," for she had asked for a son, and the Lord had heard her and granted her request. Thus she honored the Lord and gave Him the glory in the birth of her baby boy.

When it came time for Elkanah to go again for the yearly sacrifice the rest of the family went up without Hannah, for she would remain at home and nurse her baby. It was then that she told her husband, Elkanah, that she had dedicated the baby to the Lord for all his life, and that when he was old enough to wean she would take him to the tabernacle and leave him there.

It is a measure of the devotion of Elkanah and his. appreciation of the Lord’s blessing of his wife that he did not interfere with her vow. Under the law he had the legal right to annul her vow (see Numbers 30:7­8), but he did not, saying, "Do what seemeth thee good." Doubtless he understood the will of the Lord in the matter. So Hannah remained at home with baby Samuel until he was old enough to wean. In some cases Hebrew children were not weaned until they were two or three years of age. It is especially noted that "the child was young," suggesting that he was but little past infancy.

Hannah carried animals for the burnt sacrifice, and likely the peace offering, and an ephah of flour for the meal offering with a drink offering. Since she carried bullocks rather than lambs or birds it appears that Elkanah was a man of some material means. Coming to Eli Hannah recalled to him the day in the tabernacle when she prayed and he thought she was a drunken daughter of Belial. She now revealed to him that it was for this child she had prayed and that the Lord had heard her. Thus she said she had lent him to the Lord for his lifetime. The Lord had seemingly impressed the event on the memory of Eli. The last words of this chapter simply indicate that it occurred for Samuel, as his mother desired.

Lessons from chapter one: 1) The evils of multiple marriage are disruptive even in the Christian family; 2) parents should refrain from partiality within the family; 3) burdens can only be fully released by surrendering them to the Lord; 4) one should be very cautious against interference in the devotion of other family members; 5) dedication of children to the Lord should be the intent of every child of God who is blessed with them (Romans 12:1-2). ,

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 1". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-samuel-1.html. 1985.
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