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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

1 Samuel 1

Introduction

I. History of the People of Israel Under the Prophet Samuel - 1 Samuel 1-7

The call of Samuel to be the prophet and judge of Israel formed a turning-point in the history of the Old Testament kingdom of God. As the prophet of Jehovah, Samuel was to lead the people of Israel out of the times of the judges into those of the kings, and lay the foundation for a prosperous development of the monarchy. Consecrated like Samson as a Nazarite from his mother's womb, Samuel accomplished the deliverance of Israel out of the power of the Philistines, which had been only commenced by Samson; and that not by the physical might of his arm, but by the spiritual power of his word and prayer, with which he led Israel back from the worship of dead idols to the Lord its God. And whilst as one of the judges, among whom he classes himself in 1 Samuel 12:11, he brought the office of judge to a close, and introduced the monarchy; as a prophet, he laid the foundation of the prophetic office, inasmuch as he was the fist to naturalize it, so to speak, in Israel, and develope it into a power that continued henceforth to exert the strongest influence, side by side with the priesthood and monarchy, upon the development of the covenant nation and kingdom of God. For even if there were prophets before the time of Samuel, who revealed the will of the Lord at times to the nation, they only appeared sporadically, without exerting any lasting influence upon the national life; whereas, from the time of Samuel onwards, the prophets sustained and fostered the spiritual life of the congregation, and were the instruments through whom the Lord made known His purposes to the nation and its rulers. To exhibit in its origin and growth the new order of things which Samuel introduced, or rather the deliverance which the Lord sent to His people through this servant of His, the prophetic historian goes back to the time of Samuel's birth, and makes us acquainted not only with the religious condition of the nation, but also with the political oppression under which it was suffering at the close of the period of the judges, and during the high-priesthood of Eli. At the time when the pious parents of Samuel were going year by year to the house of God at Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifice before the Lord, the house of God was being profaned by the abominable conduct of Eli's sons (1 Samuel 1-2). When Samuel was called to be the prophet of Jehovah, Israel lost the ark of the covenant, the soul of its sanctuary, in the war with the Philistines (1 Samuel 3-4). And it was not till after the nation had been rendered willing to put away its strange gods and worship Jehovah alone, through the influence of Samuel's exertions as prophet, that the faithful covenant God gave it, in answer to Samuel's intercession, a complete victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7). In accordance with these three prominent features, the history of the judicial life of Samuel may be divided into three sections, viz.: 1 Samuel 1-2; 3-6; 7.

Verses 1-8

Samuel's pedigree. - 1 Samuel 1:1. His father was a man of Ramathaim-Zophim, on the mountains of Ephraim, and named Elkanah. Ramathaim-Zophim, which is only mentioned here, is the same place, according to 1 Samuel 1:3 (comp. with 1 Samuel 1:19 and 1 Samuel 2:11), which is afterwards called briefly ha-Ramah, i.e., the height. For since Elkanah of Ramathaim-Zophim went year by year out of his city to Shiloh, to worship and sacrifice there, and after he had done this, returned to his house to Ramah (1 Samuel 1:19; 1 Samuel 2:11), there can be no doubt that he was not only a native of Ramathaim-Zophim, but still had his home there; so that Ramah, where his house was situated, is only an abbreviated name for Ramathaim-Zophim.

And her adversary (Peninnah) also provoked her with provocation, to irritate her.” The גּם is placed before the noun belonging to the verb, to add force to the meaning. רעם ( Hiphil), to excite, put into (inward) commotion, not exactly to make angry.

1 Samuel 1:7

So did he (Elkanah) from year to year (namely give to Hannah a double portion at the sacrificial meal), as often as she went up to the house of the Lord. So did she (Peninnah) provoke her (Hannah), so that she wept, and did not eat.” The two כּן correspond to one another. Just as Elkanah showed his love to Hannah at every sacrificial festival, so did Peninnah repeat her provocation, the effect of which was that Hannah gave vent to her grief in tears, and did not eat.

1 Samuel 1:8

Elkanah sought to comfort her in her grief by the affectionate appeal: “ Am I not better to thee ( טּוב , i.e., dearer) than ten children?” Ten is a found number for a large number.

Verses 9-11

Hannah's prayer for a son. - 1 Samuel 1:9-11. “ After the eating at Shiloh, and after the drinking,” i.e., after the sacrificial meal was over, Hannah rose up with a troubled heart, to pour out her grief in prayer before God, whilst Eli was sitting before the door-posts of the palace of Jehovah, and vowed this vow: “ Lord of Zebaoth, if Thou regardest the distress of Thy maiden, and givest men's seed to Thy maiden, I will give him to the Lord all his life long, and no razor shall come upon his head.” The choice of the infinitive absolute שׁתה instead of the infinitive construct is analogous to the combination of two nouns, the first of which is defined by a suffix, and the second written absolutely (see e.g., וזמרת עזּי , Exodus 15:2; cf. 2 Samuel 23:5, and Ewald, §339, b). The words from ועלי onwards to נפשׁ מרת form two circumstantial clauses inserted in the main sentence, to throw light upon the situation and the further progress of the affair. The tabernacle is called “ the palace of Jehovah ” (cf. 1 Samuel 2:22), not on account of the magnificence and splendour of the building, but as the dwelling-place of Jehovah of hosts, the God-king of Israel, as in Psalms 5:8, etc. מזוּזה is probably a porch, which had been placed before the curtain that formed the entranced into the holy place, when the tabernacle was erected permanently at Shiloh. נפשׁ מרת , troubled in soul (cf. 2 Kings 4:27). תבכּה וּבכה is really subordinate to תּתפּלּל , in the sense of “weeping much during her prayer.” The depth of her trouble was also manifest in the crowding together of the words in which she poured out the desire of her heart before God: “ If Thou wilt look upon the distress of Thine handmaid, and remember and not forget,” etc. “ Men's seed ” ( semen virorum ), i.e., a male child. אנשׁים is the plural of אישׁ , a man (see Ewald, §186-7), from the root אשׁ , which combines the two ideas of fire, regarded as life, and giving life and firmness. The vow contained two points: (1) she would give the son she had prayed for to be the Lord's all the days of his life, i.e., would dedicate him to the Lord for a lifelong service, which, as we have already observed at 1 Samuel 1:1, the Levites as such were not bound to perform; and (2) no razor should come upon his head, by which he was set apart as a Nazarite for his whole life (see at Numbers 6:2., and Judges 13:5). The Nazarite, again, was neither bound to perform a lifelong service nor to remain constantly at the sanctuary, but was simply consecrated for a certain time, whilst the sacrifice offered at his release from the vow shadowed forth a complete surrender to the Lord. The second point, therefore, added a new condition to the first, and one which was not necessarily connected with it, but which first gave the true consecration to the service of the Lord at the sanctuary. At the same time, the qualification of Samuel for priestly functions, such as the offering of sacrifice, can neither be deduced from the first point in the vow, nor yet from the second. If, therefore, at a later period, when the Lord had called him to be a prophet, and had thereby placed him at the head of the nation, Samuel officiated at the presentation of sacrifice, he was not qualified to perform this service either as a Levite or as a lifelong Nazarite, but performed it solely by virtue of his prophetic calling.

Verses 12-14

But when Hannah prayed much (i.e., a long time) before the Lord, and Eli noticed her mouth, and, as she was praying inwardly, only saw her lips move, but did not hear her voice, he thought she was drunken, and called out to her: “ How long dost thou show thyself drunken? put away thy wine from thee,” i.e., go away and sleep off thine intoxication (cf. 1 Samuel 25:37). לבּהּ על מדבּרת , lit. speaking to her heart. על is not to be confounded with אל (Genesis 24:45), but has the subordinate idea of a comforting address, as in Genesis 34:3, etc.

Verses 15-16

Hannah answered: “ No, my lord, I am a woman of an oppressed spirit. I have not drunk wine and strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord (see Psalms 42:5). Do not count thine handmaid for a worthless woman, for I have spoken hitherto out of great sighing and grief.” לפני נתן , to set or lay before a person, i.e., generally to give a person up to another; here to place him in thought in the position of another, i.e., to take him for another. שׂיה , meditation, inward movement of the heart, sighing.

Verse 17

Eli then replied: “ Go in peace, and the God of Israel give (grant) thy request ( שׁלתך for שׁאלתך ), which thou hast asked of Him.” This word of the high priest was not a prediction, but a pious wish, which God in His grace most gloriously fulfilled.

Verse 18

Hannah then went her way, saying, “ Let thine handmaid find grace in thine eyes,” i.e., let me be honoured with thy favour and thine intercession, and was strengthened and comforted by the word of the high priest, which assured her that her prayer would be heard by God; and she did eat, “ and her countenance was no more,” sc., troubled and sad, as it had been before. This may be readily supplied from the context, through which the word countenance ( פּנים ) acquires the sense of a troubled countenance, as in Job 9:27.

Verses 19-20

Samuel's birth, and dedication to the Lord. - 1 Samuel 1:19, 1 Samuel 1:20. The next morning Elkanah returned home to Ramah (see at 1 Samuel 1:1) with his two wives, having first of all worshipped before the Lord; after which he knew his wife Hannah, and Jehovah remembered her, i.e., heard her prayer. “ In the revolution of the days,” i.e., of the period of her conception and pregnancy, Hannah conceived and bare a son, whom she called Samuel; “ for (she said) I have asked him of the Lord.” The name שׁמוּאל ( Σαμουήλ , lxx) is not formed from &#שׁמוּ שׁם and אל , name of God ( Ges. Thes. p. 1434), but from אל שׁמוּע , heard of God, a Deo exauditus , with an elision of the ע (see Ewald, §275, a., Not. 3); and the words “ because I have asked him of the Lord ” are not an etymological explanation of the name, but an exposition founded upon the facts. Because Hannah had asked him of Jehovah, she gave him the name, “ the God-heard,” as a memorial of the hearing of her prayer.

Verses 21-22

When Elkanah went up again with his family to Shiloh, to present his yearly sacrifice and his vow to the Lord, Hannah said to her husband that she would not go up till she had weaned the boy, and could present him to the Lord, that he might remain there for ever. הימים זבח , the sacrifice of the days, i.e., which he was accustomed to offer on the days when he went up to the sanctuary; really, therefore, the annual sacrifice. It follows from the expression “ and his vow,” that Elkanah had also vowed a vow to the Lord, in case the beloved Hannah should have a son. The vow referred to the presentation of a sacrifice. And this explains the combination of את־נדרו with לזבּח .

(Note: The lxx add to τὰς εὐχὰς αὐτοῦ the clause καὶ πάσας τὰς δεκάτας τῆς γῆς αὐτοῦ (“and all the tithes of his land”). This addition is just as arbitrary as the alteration of the singular נדרו into the plural τὰς εὐχὰς αὐτοῦ . The translator overlooked the special reference of the word נדרו to the child desired by Elkanah, and imagined - probably with Deuteronomy 12:26-27 in his mind, where vows are ordered to be paid at the sanctuary in connection with slain offerings and sacrificial meals - that when Elkanah made his annual journey to the tabernacle he would discharge all his obligations to God, and consequently would pay his tithes. The genuineness of this additional clause cannot be sustained by an appeal to Josephus ( Ant. v. 10, 3), who also has δεκάτας τε ἔφερον , for Josephus wrote his work upon the basis of the Alexandrian version. This statement of Josephus is only worthy of notice, inasmuch as it proves the incorrectness of the conjecture of Thenius, that the allusion to the tithes was intentionally dropped out of the Hebrew text by copyists, who regarded Samuel's Levitical descent as clearly established by 1 Chronicles 6:7-13 and 1 Chronicles 6:19-21. For Josephus ( l. c. §2) expressly describes Elkanah as a Levite, and takes no offence at the offering of tithes attributed to him in the Septuagint, simply because he was well acquainted with the law, and knew that the Levites had to pay to the priests a tenth of the tithes that they received from the other tribes, as a heave-offering of Jehovah (Numbers 18:26.; cf. Nehemiah 10:38). Consequently the presentation of tithe on the part of Elkanah, if it were really well founded in the biblical text, would not furnish any argument against his Levitical descent.)

Weaning took place very late among the Israelites. According to 2 Macc. 7:28, the Hebrew mothers were in the habit of suckling their children for three years. When the weaning had taken place, Hannah would bring her son up to the sanctuary, to appear before the face of the Lord, and remain there for ever, i.e., his whole life long. The Levites generally were only required to perform service at the sanctuary from their twenty-fifth to their fiftieth year (Numbers 8:24-25); but Samuel was to be presented to the Lord immediately after his weaning had taken place, and to remain at the sanctuary for ever, i.e., to belong entirely to the Lord. To this end he was to receive his training at the sanctuary, that at the very earliest waking up of his spiritual susceptibilities he might receive the impressions of the sacred presence of God. There is no necessity, therefore, to understand the word גּמל (wean) as including what followed the weaning, namely, the training of the child up to his thirteenth year (Seb. Schmidt), on the ground that a child of three years old could only have been a burden to Eli: for the word never has this meaning, not even in 1 Kings 11:20; and, as O. v. Gerlach has observed, his earliest training might have been superintended by one of the women who worshipped at the door of the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22).

Verse 23

Elkanah expressed his approval of Hannah's decision, and added, “ only the Lord establish His word,” i.e., fulfil it. By “His word” we are not to understand some direct revelation from God respecting the birth and destination of Samuel, as the Rabbins suppose, but in all probability the word of Eli the high priest to Hannah, “The God of Israel grant thy petition” (1 Samuel 1:17), which might be regarded by the parents of Samuel after his birth as a promise from Jehovah himself, and therefore might naturally excite the wish and suggest the prayer that the Lord would graciously fulfil the further hopes, which the parents cherished in relation to the son whom they had dedicated to the Lord by a vow. The paraphrase of דּברו in the rendering given by the lxx, τὸ ἐξελθὸν ὲκ τοῦ στόματός σου , is the subjective view of the translator himself, and does not warrant an emendation of the original text.

Verses 24-25

As soon as the boy was weaned, Hannah brought him, although still a נער , i.e., a tender boy, to Shiloh, with a sacrifice of three oxen, an ephah of meal, and a pitcher of wine, and gave him up to Eli when the ox (bullock) had been slain, i.e., offered in sacrifice as a burnt-offering. The striking circumstance that, according to 1 Samuel 1:24, Samuel's parents brought three oxen with them to Shiloh, and yet in 1 Samuel 1:25 the ox ( הפּר ) alone is spoken of as being slain (or sacrificed), may be explained very simply on the supposition that in 1 Samuel 1:25 that particular sacrifice is referred to, which was associated with the presentation of the boy, that is to say, the burnt-offering by virtue of which the boy was consecrated to the Lord as a spiritual sacrifice for a lifelong service at His sanctuary, whereas the other two oxen served as the yearly festal offering, i.e., the burnt-offerings and thank-offerings which Elkanah presented year by year, and the presentation of which the writer did not think it needful to mention, simply because it followed partly from 1 Samuel 1:3 and partly from the Mosaic law.

(Note: The interpretation of שׁלשׁה בּפרים by ἐν μόσχῳ τριετίζοντι (lxx), upon which Thenius would found an alteration of the text, is proved to be both arbitrary and wrong by the fact that the translators themselves afterwards mention the θυσία , which Elkanah brought year by year, and the μόσχος , and consequently represent him as offering at least two animals, in direct opposition to the μόσχῳ τριετίζοντι . This discrepancy cannot be removed by the assertion that in 1 Samuel 1:24 the sacrificial animal intended for the dedication of the boy is the only one mentioned; and the presentation of the regular festal sacrifice is taken for granted, for an ephah of meal would not be the proper quantity to be offered in connection with a single ox, since, according to the law in Numbers 15:8-9, only three-tenths of an ephah of meal were required when an ox was presented as a burnt-offering or slain offering. The presentation of an ephah of meal presupposes the offering of three oxen, and therefore shows that in 1 Samuel 1:24 the materials are mentioned for all the sacrifices that Elkanah was about to offer.)

Verses 26-28

When the boy was presented, his mother made herself known to the high priest as the woman who had previously prayed to the Lord at that place (see 1 Samuel 1:11.), and said, “ For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath granted me my request which I asked of Him: therefore I also make him one asked of the Lord all the days that he liveth; he is asked of the Lord.וגם אנכי : I also; et ego vicissim (Cler.). השׁאיל , to let a person ask, to grant his request, to give him what he asks (Exodus 12:36), signifies here to make a person “asked” ( שׁאוּל ). The meaning to lend, which the lexicons give to the word both here and Exodus 12:36, has no other support than the false rendering of the lxx, and is altogether unsuitable both in the one and the other. Jehovah had not lent the son to Hannah, but had given him (see 1 Samuel 1:11); still less could a man lend his son to the Lord. The last clause of 1 Samuel 1:28, “ and he worshipped the Lord there,” refers to Elkanah, qui in votum Hannae consenserat , and not to Samuel. On a superficial glance, the plural ישׁתּחווּ , which is found in some Codd., and in the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic, appears the more suitable; but when we look more closely at the connection in which the clause stands, we see at once that it does not wind up the foregoing account, but simply introduces the closing act of the transference of Samuel. Consequently the singular is perfectly appropriate; and notwithstanding the fact that the subject is not mentioned, the allusion to Samuel is placed beyond all doubt. When Hannah had given up her son to the high priest, his father Elkanah first of all worshipped before the Lord in the sanctuary, and then Hannah worshipped in the song of praise, which follows in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 1". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/1-samuel-1.html. 1854-1889.