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The books 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel belong together, they form one book. They give the account of the history of Israel from the end of the 12th century BC until the beginning of the 10th century BC. The protagonist of these books is not Samuel, but David. Samuel has written but is not the author of the books that bear his name. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel together with 1 Kings and 2 Kings form one book called ‘The book of the kingship’. That the books of Samuel are also about the kingship is shown by the fact that the king has been in the foreground since 1 Samuel 8.
The big theme in the books that bear Samuel’s name is not the person Samuel, but that of which he is the forerunner and what he introduced: the kingship. We find in both books of Samuel the history of the kingship in Israel for a new period led by the spirit of prophecy. The ultimate goal is to establish the kingdom of God in Him to Whom both the priesthood of Aaron and the prophetic order of which Samuel is the representative and the kingship of Israel in David point to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The greatest of all Samuel’s deeds found in this book is the anointing of David. The books that bear his name are those that actually are about the true David, the great Son of David, the Anointed (1 Samuel 2:35), Christus, Who always stands before God’s attention. God always had His King in mind. Christ is the center of God’s counsels.
Jacob speaks of Him in connection with Shiloh and the ruler’s staff (Genesis 49:10). We also hear it in the words of Balaam when he speaks of a star and a king (Numbers 24:17). Moses speaks of Him in the royal law (Deuteronomy 17:14-Proverbs :). At the end of the book of Judges the king is missing. There we see how it goes then (Judges 21:25).
The last word of the book of Ruth is the name “David”. This gives the content of the books of Samuel that follow immediately after the book of Ruth. In David God is going to fulfil His purpose. That purpose is that He will place His dominion in the hands of men. He does this with Adam, and he does this with David. This characterizes the kingdom of God. Both Adam and David fail. The thoughts of God are revealed in the Lord Jesus. He is the true Adam and the true David.
God wants to bring order in a sinful people through His king, after the priesthood has failed. That is why God is going to introduce His king. The anointed priest represents the people with God. The high priest Eli is a believer but fails completely. The priesthood as mediatorship has ended. At first, the king of the people, king Saul, also fails. Then comes God with His man. When he reigns, the priesthood also regains its meaning.
Eli is replaced by a prophet, not by a new high priest. With this, a new office has been introduced into the people. The prophet is also an intercessor. By his speaking to the people on behalf of God and by his intercession on behalf of the people with God, the prophet prepares the people to receive God’s king. This is only possible, however, after the king of the people has been there first. As an application for our time we can say that the service of the New Testament prophet brings the hearts of the people under the rule of the Lord Jesus.
In the book of Judges and the 1st and 2nd book of Samuel we see a picture of the history of Christianity. We can compare this with the history of Christianity given to us prophetically in Revelation 2-3. In Judges we recognize the church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-Joel :). In Eli, in the beginning of 1 Samuel, we see the principles of Sardis (Revelation 3:1-Joshua :). Eli is a believing man, but his works are not perfect. He has the name to live but is dead. We see this especially in his sons. In Judges little is said about priests. What is said of it shows us the degeneration of the priesthood in Eli’s sons. It is a picture of how the priesthood has developed in Protestantism.
Then God begins a new way of communicating with His people, namely through His prophet. A period begins which is reminiscent of what is said of the church in Philadelphia. After the death in Protestantism, presented in Sardis, the prophetic service comes to the fore in all its clarity. The church of Philadelphia is reminiscent of this. It is said of the believers in that church that they have kept God’s Word (Revelation 3:8).
There are two applications to make. The first application is the prophetic one for Israel. Prophetically we see in this book the remnant of Israel connected with David. We also see that David and his people are persecuted by Saul who is a picture of the antichrist. In Hannah and her son Samuel the spirit of the remnant comes to the fore.
The second application is the practical one for us. We live in the time when the Anointed is rejected. We are connected to Him as His subjects. We need the service of prophets. This does not mean prophets who predict the future, but prophets who apply God’s Word to the hearts and consciences. Like Samuel introduces David, so do prophets today introduce the Lord Jesus through their service. They bring us under His authority. They point out to us, by telling and explaining to us God’s Word, how we should submit to Him in practice.
Samuel’s service is important. He is both judge – which in a way can be compared to king – and priest and prophet. He is the first prophet in the sense of a man of God who, in a time of decay, acts to lead the people of God back to Him (Acts 3:24; Acts 13:20). We need such men and their service to bring our hearts back under the authority of Him to Whom “all power is given in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).
In God’s Word the name of Samuel is not only connected with the name of David but also with that of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1). His name means ‘heard by God’ or ‘asked from God’. That name he makes true in his life as an intercessor for the people. Here too he is a type of the Lord Jesus. Samuel is “a man of God” (1 Samuel 9:6-2 Samuel :). The title ‘man of God’ is reserved for people who stand up for God’s rights in difficult times. Moses is called six times ‘man of God’ (Deuteronomy 33:1; Joshua 14:6; 1 Chronicles 23:14; 2 Chronicles 30:16; Ezra 3:2; Psalms 90:1). In the New Testament Timotheus is so called (1 Timothy 6:11) and anyone who places himself completely under the authority of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-Esther :).
The history of Samuel begins here as early as that of Samson began, namely before his birth, as later the history of John the Baptist and of our blessed Savior. Some of the heroes of Scripture come out of nowhere, as it were. At their first performance they appear immediately in full service, while for others the life story from birth is described. But what God says of the prophet Jeremiah applies to all: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Some great men, however, are more noticed than others when they enter the world and are distinguished from ordinary people already at an early age, as is the case with Samuel. In this case, God acts according to His sovereignty and pleasure.
Samson’s history introduces him as a child of promise (Judges 13:3), Samuel’s history introduces him as a child of prayer (1 Samuel 1:9-1 Kings :). Samson’s birth is foretold to his mother by an angel, Samuel is prayed from God by his mother. Both births indicate which wonders happen through word and prayer.
To reflect: It is God’s intention that in me a Samuel is being born and grows up, because of Hanna’s mind, exercises, and prayers in me.
Elkanah, Samuel’s Father
The history of Samuel begins with the presentation of his father Elkanah. Elkanah lives in Rama, here called “Ramathaim-zophim” which means “the two heights (of the) Zophites”. It seems that the city is so named in order to distinguish it from other cities called Ramah; the addition may have been derived from the Levitical family of Zophai or Zuph (1 Chronicles 6:26; 1 Chronicles 6:35). In the rest of this book only Ramah is mentioned. This is the place where Samuel not only is born (1 Samuel 1:19), but where he also lives, works, dies (1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 15:341 Samuel 16:13; 1 Samuel 19:18-Psalms :1 Samuel 19:22-Isaiah :) and is buried (1 Samuel 25:1; 1 Samuel 28:3).
Elkanah’s family is given back up to four generations. That corresponds to the two times that the ancestors of Elkanah are mentioned in 1 Chronicles. First, the family of Elkanah is mentioned in the genealogy of Kohath (1 Chronicles 6:26) and then in that of Heman, the leader of the singers, a grandson of Samuel (1 Chronicles 6:33). Elkanah is a Levite of the rebellious Korah family (1 Chronicles 6:27; 1 Chronicles 6:341 Chronicles 6:37; Numbers 16:1-Leviticus :). Korah perished, but his children were spared by grace (Numbers 26:11). Samuel, the son of Elkanah, is a Levite. Therefore, he can serve in the tabernacle.
Elkanah is called an “Ephraimite” because, as far as his civil place is concerned, he belongs to the tribe of Ephraim. The Levites are counted among the tribes amid which they live, so that they are also named after that tribe (cf. Judges 17:7).
Hannah and Peninnah
Elkanah’s wife, Hannah, is barren. This is also the case with Sarah (Genesis 16:1), Rebekah (Genesis 25:21) and Rachel (Genesis 29:31), the women of the patriarchs. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, is also infertile (Luke 1:7). God uses this fact to make His work visible and that its results may be to His credit. In these cases of infertility God works great things. If nothing can be expected of man, God is given the opportunity to fulfill His plans to bestow grace. He does not do this without practicing His instruments.
Elkanah is a believer, but he is not a ‘man of God’. He gives the impression of being a man who faithfully fulfils his religious obligations, as many do today. Even though his spiritual exercise is not perceptible, he has it. But Hannah still stands out far above him spiritually. The fact that he has two wives does not plead for him either, although he could point to men like Abraham and Jacob who also had two or even more wives.
Of his two wives Hannah is mentioned first, which makes it likely that he married her first. Later in this chapter his love for her is shown. Yet he took a second wife, Peninnah. Elkanah probably married also Peninnah because Hannah was barren. He will have thought up a good reason for himself, but it is against God’s intent (Matthew 19:4-Ruth :). For family life, it always means misery.
Hannah means ‘grace’, with which she is clothed. Peninnah means ‘shiny’ or ‘pearl’, but she only radiates herself. Peninnah lives in the same environment, but there is no spiritual life to be seen in her. She mocks Hannah and reveals herself as her opponent. Peninnah can point to ‘success’, she has children, perhaps even ten (1 Samuel 1:8). In this way we too can easily measure spiritual blessing by the supporters of a movement. If you compare Hannah with that, what does she represent, without ‘success’ and miserable? But God does not judge that way. He brings her into exercise, that she may produce fruit for Him.
From a prophetic point of view, the feelings of a God-fearing remnant are not primarily to be found with Samuel, but with Hannah. Her soul exercises should be those of the whole people. We are here with the few faithful. This is just as in the beginning of the Gospel according to Luke, where we meet an unknown and insignificant number of people in the midst of an apostate people, with whom the longing for blessing is present for the whole people (Luke 1-2). Among them is Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, who sings a hymn of praise (Luke 1:46-2 Timothy :) much like the hymn of Hannah that we will hear in the next chapter.
In Shiloh is the tent with the ark in it. The tent is the visible sign of God’s presence. Elkanah goes there. He does not only sacrifice, but he also worships. The faithful performance of his religious obligations does not make him a formalist, who without thinking performs a meaningless ceremony. He is aware of the grace, of which he is the object as a descendant of Korah. That makes him a worshipper. For us it is the same. Although he does not understand the deep exercises of Hannah, he is upright in what he believes.
For the first time the expression “the LORD of host” is used here. This points to the kingship of the LORD over the universe, over the angels, over the stars, and over His people. He reigns over all powers, both visible and invisible, good, and evil, wherever they may be in heaven and on earth. This name, mentioned here by the Spirit of God, is mentioned by Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:11. She speaks to Him in His royal dignity.
At the place where Elkanah goes to worship, Eli’s sons work as priests. Here only their names are mentioned. The way they exercise their priesthood is described later.
Elkanah, Hannah and Peninnah to Shiloh
It seems that when they go to Shiloh, they always have a common sacrificial meal. On that occasion, Elkanah gives each of his family members a part of the peace offering. Elkanah’s love goes particularly to Hannah, which he shows by giving her a double part of the sacrifice of the peace offering (cf. Genesis 43:34). It seems that this is also the reason for Peninnah’s hateful behavior. Every time Elkanah Hannah shows his love, Peninnah repeats her vicious, agonizing remarks.
Because of Peninnah’s hateful behavior, going up to Shiloh is always a torment for Hannah. Peninnah behaves like this year after year. Peninnah provokes Hannah mainly by mocking her because of her childlessness, as the end of 1 Samuel 1:6 seems to indicate. She may suggest that Hannah is childless because of a judgment of the LORD and that her piety will therefore not be sincere. Her behavior is reminiscent of Hagar looking at Sara with contempt from that moment on (Genesis 16:4), while Sarah, like Hannah, later has a son.
From Hannah we do not read that she scolds Peninnah for her nagging. She endures the libel. She is able to do so because she has the mind of the Lord Jesus, “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Yet her grief is so great that she cannot participate in the meal (cf. Deuteronomy 26:14).
Elkanah’s Lack of Understanding
Elkanah means well, but his reaction shows that he has no insight into Hannah’s grief. He does not understand the cause. Hannah is alone and misunderstood with her exercises. She does not react like Rachel did, who also wanted children, but blames Jacob for not doing so (Genesis 30:1). Hannah does not want anything for herself, she wants something for God. She is prepared to give directly to the LORD what she gets. Hannah does not want to prove herself against Peninnah but seeks the welfare of the people. She feels what it must mean to God that His people have deviated so far from Him.
Elkanah finds it sufficient that they have each other. Hannah looks further. The satisfaction of Elkanah only concerns himself and brings us nothing further. He does not think so much about Hannah’s well-being, but about the value he would have to have for her anyway. What he says can be felt as a reproach by a woman. He does not realize that Hannah’s feelings should be feelings of the whole people. The Lord finds such feelings more often in women than in men.
The Prayer of Hannah
In these verses we hear the prayer of Hannah in the temple. She does not go to Elkanah with her need, because she knows he does not understand her. She cannot go to Eli either. But she can go to the LORD. While others come with sacrificial animals, Hannah comes with a broken spirit and a contrite heart. God does not despise that (Psalms 51:17).
She cannot go to Eli because he represents a priesthood that is not directed toward God, but toward himself. Priests are expected to stand up to serve, but Eli sits on a chair. He put it there himself, because in the description of the tabernacle we do not read about a chair. He can no longer see well (1 Samuel 3:2) and he is old and fat (1 Samuel 4:18). These physical characteristics also indicate his mental state. He represents the priesthood as it is frequently found today.
The praying Hannah forms a great contrast with him. Hannah is the woman of whom it can be said: “Her worth is far above jewels” (Proverbs 31:10). She is a praying mother. That marks the life of the child she asks for. In the book 1 Kings and 2 Kings we often read in addition to the name of a king that “the name of his mother was …”. Timothy also owes a lot to his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5).
Hannah asks not just for a child, but for “a son”. The masculinity takes precedence. This man must stand before the LORD, to look after the interests of His people. Faith is clear and simple. Hannah prays specifically, targeted, with a purpose. Our prayers are often general, aimless, and therefore cannot be answered. That they are not heard should not surprise us.
As Levite, Samuel only must serve from the age of twenty-fifth, a service that ends when he turns fifty (Numbers 8:23-Ezekiel :). This is not in the mind of Hannah. She gives him to the LORD for all his life. We see the development of the whole life of Samuel. It is closely followed from its earliest years and is described to us, with its first formation taking place in a godless environment.
When we pray for a blessing, we can learn here from Hannah that in our prayers we also say that what we desire we want to use for the Lord’s honor. Of course, this is only valuable if it is the real desire of our heart. Then we will dedicate what we receive through faithful prayer to Him and joyfully use it in His service. It makes the enjoyment of what we have asked and received all the greater. The true joy in everything we have lies in the communion we have in it with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3-Numbers :).
Even as a Nazarite Samuel does not necessarily have to devote his whole life to God. The Nazarite vow is taken for a certain period (Numbers 6:1-Ruth :). That can be a short time. Hannah however dedicates her son for his whole life. As a trademark of this he will not cut his hair. Long hair is a picture of devotion and dependence, self-subservience. For Samuel this is for the sake of God.
In the time of the church the woman may show this to the man (1 Corinthians 11:1-Nehemiah :). For every Christian, since his conversion, he has been spiritually committed and submissive to the Lord Jesus, completely dependent on Him. It is a life based on the question: “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10).
Eli and Hannah
The high priest Eli has no knowledge of God’s thoughts. He who, as a high priest, should intervene most of all for the greatest difficulties of the people, understands the least of a sorrowful woman. He treats Hannah mercilessly, while he should be merciful just like a high priest. He brutally breaks off her fellowship with the LORD. She prays intensely and long because her grief and need are great.
Eli proves his incompetence as a high priest by not recognizing a praying woman as such. Apparently, he is more used to drunk women. But he should see the difference between a drunk woman, who behaves uncontrollably, and the praying Hannah. He has no insight into what occupies the heart of Hannah. He is incapable of sympathizing with the best spirit and disposition of his time.
When the church is born and the believers are filled with the Holy Spirit, the unbelieving people also think that the first Christians are drunk (Acts 2:13-Ezra :). The spiritual man is always fooled by those who have no knowledge of the power of God in the inner man. If the highest priest already has such a misjudgment, how should the condition of the people be?
Hannah is here the true priest who prays for the people. She is in the true priestly mind, for her desire is that the people return to God. Therefore, she prays for a male child. To bring the people back to God, she asks if God wants to raise up a man for this.
She pours out her heart, but Eli only pays attention to her mouth. He goes off on the outside and thereby comes to the wrong verdict that she is drunk. Hanna’s reaction to the accusation is gentle and lovely. She addresses him with all the respect he deserves for his age and position. She does not blame him for the behavior of his sons and his failure to punish them. She does not throw at him of having to put his own house in order first before he accuses and condemns others in a hard way. Instead of rebelling against him, she bows down before him. All she does is explain her behavior and asking for understanding.
She has been more than just fervent in her prayer to God, and that, she tells him, is the true reason for the disorder in which she seemed to be. If we are unjustly reprimanded, we may try to declare our conduct is pure before the Lord. At the same time, by explaining our conduct, we must try to convince our brothers to what they have misunderstood.
The Hearing Promised
Eli does not ask what is going on. His spiritual feeling is too numb to invite Hannah to tell him what concerns her so much, what great care and grief torments her. Yet God uses Eli to make Hannah the requested promise. As a compensation for his hasty, unfriendly reprimand, Eli blesses her kindly and fatherly.
He did not regard Hannah’s statement as an insult, as many are all too inclined to do if they are shown to be mistaken. He was convinced by Hannah and now encouraged her as strongly to believe in her prayer as he had previously hindered her in her prayer. By the words “go in peace”, he not only indicates that he is convinced of her innocence, but he blesses her as authoritative, because he is high priest, in the name of the LORD.
In a short time, he has received a totally different and this time correct opinion from her wisdom and Godliness. He promises her that the God of Israel will give her the prayer – whatever it may be – which she has prayed from Him. Hannah accepts in confidence what Eli gives her and does not despise it. She takes his blessing as the voice of God for her soul.
Hannah is an example that we can win those who have reproached us because they did not know us by showing a gentle and humble attitude towards them. We may even be able to make them our friends and turn their reprimands to us into prayers for us.
Hannah has left her burden with the LORD and returns home enlightened. The prayer has changed her. Peninnah must have been surprised to find out what happened to Hannah, how that great change came about.
Hanna’s exercises are a great encouragement to all who are in great spiritual need. For years there can be felt a deep, sharp pain, a hunger of the heart that just does not get satisfied, a disappointed hope. There is nothing but a quiet waiting. If it has the effect it has with Hannah, then it is through these circumstances that we learn how to pray. We will then discover the secret of childlike faith. We will also discover that we are being made fit to become the recipient of some invaluable gift to the world.
The Birth of Samuel
When Elkanah and his family have finished sacrificing, they go home. They have a long journey ahead of them, but they do not want to leave before they have worshipped as a family. It is an example for us personally and as a family. The strength of the spiritual life of the family lies in praying and worshipping together. There is no better start of the day than to worship the Lord, to tell Him that we admire Him for Who He is, what He has done and will do. To Him, Who is first in all things and takes the first place, should also be dedicated our first time and attention.
The birth of Samuel does not happen by supernatural means, but by the way God has given for it. He does, however, give this pregnancy because He remembered Hannah, that He remembers Hannah’s prayer and that He will now hear it. For God, remembrance is not to suddenly remember something that has forgotten, but to basis of a previous request because the time has now come. What happens is connected to something in the past.
Samuel is born. In the name she gives him, she expresses God’s great goodness to her in the answer to her prayer. “Samuel” means “prayed of God” or “answered by God” – because she has prayed for him to the LORD. This name also indicates the character of Samuel. He will be a man of prayer, his service will be marked by prayer (1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Samuel 8:61 Samuel 12:19; 1 Samuel 12:231 Samuel 15:11).
A woman of prayer brings forth a son of prayer. Hannah has begged, Samuel does intercession. Bringing the people back under the authority of God is only possible through prayer and the Word of God. For Hannah, the word applies: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting” (Psalms 126:5).
Whenever she calls the name “Samuel”, she honors God for His goodness and grace. In the same way, we should always express our gratitude for the blessings we have received (Psalms 116:1-Exodus :). How many situations can we call ‘Samuel’? Whenever we are saved from a need or when there is provided in a need based on prayer, we can write ‘Samuel’ on it. We will then particularly consecrate these situations to God, honoring Him for them.
Elkanah Confirms Hannah’s Faith
Samuel will appear before the LORD as a priest according to Hannah’s intention. In practice, he performs the priestly service. Hannah has high thoughts of her son in connection with God. She is not satisfied with an ordinary life for her son. This is not a natural pride. It stems from her desire that only the LORD will be central in his life.
First, he must be fed by her. Under her influence and through her nutrition and education he will receive the basic formation necessary for his stay with the LORD in an ungodly environment. Therefore, she stays at home when Elkanah goes on his way to make the annual sacrifice. Elkanah shows his faith by agreeing with Hanna’s desire to wait until Samuel can join them and stay there.
Elkanah has confirmed the vow of Hannah (Numbers 30:13-2 Chronicles :), and makes a vow himself. He is encouraged by the faith of Hannah. He trusts that the LORD will do what He has said. This seems to indicate that he has come to share the expectation of the blessing that will come to Israel through this child because of Hanna’s prayer.
Hannah stays at home because the child needs milk. The time will come when the child no longer needs the milk. Our children need our help in their spiritual growth, but there must come a time when they themselves take spiritual food. We teach them to read and pray and we read and pray with them, but there comes a time when they must do this themselves. They must learn to stand before the Lord independently.
Hannah Dedicates Samuel
When the time has come – Samuel is about three years old – Hannah gives him to the LORD. She entrusts him to Eli’s care, from whom he would receive his further formation and training for the tabernacle service. She has received him from the LORD and gives him back to the LORD (1 Chronicles 29:14).
She brings the son of her vow to the house of the LORD, together with a sacrifice. Her sacrifice consisted of “a three-year-old bull and one ephah of flour and a jug of wine”. The bull serves as a peace offering or votive offering, the flour as a grain offering and the wine as a drink offering. The purpose of her vow is Christ, for that is what the whole sacrifice speaks of.
The bull is often used as a sin offering and as a peace offering. This speaks of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross through which He has put sin away and made fellowship with God possible. Hanna realizes – in pictures – that it is only on this basis that she can offer her son to God. The number three is the number of the resurrection (Matthew 16:21; Luke 24:46; 1 Corinthians 15:3-Numbers :; 1 Peter 1:21). The fine flour of the grain offering speaks of the Lord Jesus as true Man Who lived in humility on earth in full dedication to God until death. Wine speaks of the joy that God finds in His Son. He also finds this joy in all those in whom the Son becomes visible on earth, as with Paul (Philippians 2:17) and as it will also happen in Samuel’s life.
With the words “as your soul lives”, Hannah wants to say, ‘as true it is that your soul lives so true it is that I stood here with you then to pray to the LORD’. She tells Eli about their first meeting and the hearing by the LORD. That will be more than three years ago. She still remembers exactly where she stood. This is often the case with special events in someone’s (spiritual) life, whether it is about suffering or a special word from the Lord or a special meeting. Hannah rejoices in the same place where she has spoken to the LORD in her sadness.
Even now, there is no blame in the direction of Eli. She does not come triumphantly to tell her right. It seems as if she has forgotten all. At this place she only thinks of her prayer. Her triumph is in God. She knows Him as the abundant Giver of all good. She comes to fulfil her vow. Hannah teaches us how to overcome and forget the injustice done to us by people.
The first act we read of Samuel is that he worships the LORD. That is the result of the milk Hannah gave him. He learned this from his mother. She is a woman of prayer. We will see this in the next chapter. Her hymn of praise is a prayer. Her prayer is worship or prophecy. Often, she will have prayed with Samuel, often he will have heard and seen her pray. The impressions he gained in his first years have shaped him.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Samuel 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany