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CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES.—
1 Samuel 1:1. The site of Ramath-Zophim is declared by Dean Stanley to be “the most disputed problem of sacred topography.” It is universally allowed, and it is implied by Josephus to be the Ramah in which Samuel lived, died, and was buried; but next to nothing of its position can be gathered from the narrative. It is here said to be in Mount Ephraim, but the limits of that district are uncertain. The name Ramathaim—the double eminence—probably points to a city whose site was on two hills. But there were several cities of this name in the land of Israel, and all on more or less elevated sites. No certain explanation has ever been given of the addition Zophim. There was such a place on the east of Jordan (Numbers 23:14), and “the land of Zuph” is mentioned in chapter 1 Samuel 9:5. The region may have derived its name from Elkanah’s ancestor. Some regard it as a common noun signifying “watch-towers” from the high position of the city. Elkanah. “The Levitical descent of Elkanah and Samuel is put beyond doubt by a comparison of the genealogy here with those in Chronicles (1 Chronicles 6:22 sq., and 1 Chronicles 1:33 sq.). Samuel is here shown to belong to the Kohathites. Elkanah, i.e., he whom God acquired or purchased, is both in its signification and use a Levite name. All the Elkanahs mentioned in the Old Testament (leaving out the one in 2 Chronicles 28:7, whose tribe is not stated) were demonstrably Levites, and belonged mostly to the family of Korah, from whom Samuel was descended” (Lange’s Commentary).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF 1 Samuel 1:1
THE VALUE AND USE OF A GENEALOGY
I. The man who possesses a genealogy knows who and what he represents in the world. Every human creature, in fact everything in the world that possesses life, represents more than he or it is. A single corn-seed represents all the grains by which it has come into existence—all the seeds which have lived and germinated and brought forth fruit between itself and the original grain from which it sprung in the beginning. Every man knows that he represents numerically more than he is, and very possibly more intellectual power or moral greatness than belongs to him as an individual, but only he who possesses a genealogy knows certainly who and what he represents. The written pedigree of his ancestors makes him realise his oneness with the ages that are past, and he will feel ennobled or dishonoured by the record according as the lives of his forefathers accord with, or are opposed to, what he considers worth representing. Elkanah knew that he represented a line of ancestors in one of the most remarkable tribes in the Jewish nation—a tribe which had numbered among its members men of great mental power and high moral wealth. Although personally he was inferior to some of these great men, he felt in some degree that he belonged to them—that he represented their worth and greatness. A tree growing in this country may have sprung from the seed of a tropical tree. It may attain to sufficient size and beauty to be a worthy representative of its tropical ancestors, but the difference of climate, as well as some inherent weakness in the tree itself, may prevent it from reaching their gigantic stature—from branching forth into their vast proportions. So it may be with many a man who represents an old and worthily renowned family; circumstances, as well as mental inferiority may prevent them from attaining the renown of their ancestors, although they may be good and true men and worthily fill a small space in the world. Such men represent more than they are—not only in numbers, but in ability and renown. Elkanah was such a representative man. Being able as he was to trace his ancestry, he knew that he belonged to the tribe whence came the most remarkable man of the ancient world—one who has left an impress upon the nations which will last as long as time. Elkanah, by the possession of a genealogy, knew that he had the honour of numbering Moses among his ancestors, and although he knew he could never attain to the renown of his great forefather, he must have felt there was honour in belonging to the same tribe as the Jewish lawgiver. He knew that he belonged to a stock who on one memorable occasion had given proof that they preferred moral right to blood relationship—who had declared themselves on the Lord’s side in the day of Israel’s first idolatry—“who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him, neither acknowledged his brethren, nor knew his own children” (Deuteronomy 33:9), in other words, preferred the honour of Jehovah’s name to all human claims (Exodus 32:26-28).
II. The value of such a possession, and the teaching it might suggest.
1. The knowledge that those to whom we are related by ties of blood-relationship have been great and noble—have done deeds and spoken words which reflect a lustre upon their descendants long after they have left the world—ought to inspire those descendants with resolution to tread in their footsteps. Although the times in which they live may not demand the same sacrifices—may not admit of the same renown—yet the principles which govern the lives of the truly great and good are the same in all ages, and under all conditions of life. Although Elkanah could not be a Moses, he could emulate his moral excellence; although he was not called to make such a remarkable demonstration of his fidelity to Jehovah as his fathers had made in the wilderness, he could always act upon the principle of preferring duty to God before any human tie or any mere earthly consideration.
2. The knowledge that we belong to the great and good is also a source of lawful comfort and satisfaction, if we ourselves have enough godliness not to disgrace our ancestry. To feel that we are the children of those who have served their generation according to the will of God, and have perhaps been called by Him to some great and special service, cannot fail to afford lawful satisfaction to any man. Doubtless Elkanah, in his humbler and more limited sphere, felt a special gratification that he was linked in tribal relationship with him “whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10), and that he was one of that chosen tribe who were elected by God to be the teachers of Israel and the “body-guard of the sacred structure which was the sign of the presence among the people of their unseen King”—Numbers 1:51; Numbers 18:22. (See on Levi “Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible.”)
3. A genealogy teaches a man his own mortality and immortality, and the mortality and immortality of his fathers. Every family register proclaims the mortality and the immortality of man. It tells of the body whose dust is still with us, and of the spirit that is “absent from the body.” The life once lived upon the earth made a genealogy possible—linked the individual with the long line of progenitors who had gone before him and with all those who have come and will come after him. This life could not have been lived without the body which was mortal and has returned to the earth, yet that body would never have been more than lifeless clay if it had not been animated by a “living soul,” who was, and is still, the man himself—still living and feeling and acting in another part of God’s universe. To the Old Testament saints a genealogy spoke of those who were “gathered to their fathers” (Genesis 49:29, etc.); to us it tells of “just men made perfect” in the city of the living God (Hebrews 12:23), who died as to bodily life, but who live still as to spiritual life. It teaches also the earthly immortality of the race. The man passes away—the race remains. He leaves the world, but his are left in it. Abraham was long ago called away, but his descendants are with us to this day. Levi had quitted the world long before the days of Elkanah, but he lived still in Canaan in his representatives.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES.—
1 Samuel 1:2. “Two wives.” “Perhaps he took the second on account of Hannah’s barrenness” (Wordsworth).
1 Samuel 1:3. “Yearly.” Probably to the Passover, as that was the only feast which the whole family were accustomed to attend (Luke 2:41). “To worship and sacrifice.” “The beautiful picture of Israelitish piety which we have in the following account of Elkanah and Hannah is introduced by these features, as the chief and fundamental ones. The worship relates to the name of the Lord, who dwells in His chosen place in the sanctuary, and is the expression of the remembrance of this name before the Lord. The sacrifice is the embodied prayer. In the sacrifice worship is presented to the Lord as the act by which the offerer brings himself and all that he has to the Lord” (Lange’s Commentary). If the Law given by God to Moses had been observed, Elkanah would (unless he was now more than fifty years of age, which seems unlikely) have been required to officiate in his turn in the service of the tabernacle. (See Numbers 8:24-26). That he did not do so is only one evidence, among many, of the low state of religion at the time. “Lord of Hosts,” “Jehovah Zebaoth.” “Here first used as a Divine name. It represents Jehovah as ruler of the heavenly hosts, i.e., the angels (Genesis 32:2) and the stars (Isaiah 40:26); it is simply applied to Jehovah as the God of the universe” (Keil). “This appellation occurs sixty-two times in Isaiah, sixty-five in Jeremiah, and not once in Job or Ezekiel” (Wordsworth). “Shiloh.” i.e., “Rest.” The tabernacle was set up here in the days of Joshua (Joshua 18:1). Its position is described in Judges 21:19. This minute description has enabled modern travellers to identify it. “This quiet place, situated on a hill (Psalms 78:54), was the scene of the mighty revolution brought about in the history of the theocracy by the call of Samuel to be the prophet of God, and by the overthrow of the priestly house of Eli” (Lange’s Commentary). “And the two sons of Eli,” etc. They performed the priestly functions for their father, on account of his great age.
1 Samuel 1:4. “When Elkanah offered.” “That this sacrifice was a praise or thank-offering (Leviticus 7:15) is clear from what follows” (Lange’s Commentary). “Portions.” Of that part of the peace-offerings which belonged to them that offered. This was the whole, except the fat, which belonged to the Lord, and the breast and the right shoulder, which belonged to the priest, This feast was intended to be of a joyful character (Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 16:11).
1 Samuel 1:5. “A worthy portion.” This phrase has been much disputed, but it seems most likely to mean a double portion. This was an Oriental mode of expressing favour. See Genesis 43:34. “The Lord had shut up her womb.” Childlessness was not only held to be a misfortune, but a Divine punishment (Genesis 19:31; Genesis 30:1; Genesis 30:23).
1 Samuel 1:6. “Her adversary.” i.e., Peninnah.
1 Samuel 1:7. “He did so year by year,” i.e., every year Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 1:2-8
A TROUBLED HOUSEHOLD
I. A violation of the Divine intention in the institution of marriage. Elkanah had two wives. God, by creating one wife only as the helpmeet for the first man, declared against polygamy and bigamy. Our Lord, in expounding to the Pharisees the law of divorce, speaks decidedly upon the subject. “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). Apostolic teaching reiterates the law. “Let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). “Let every one of you in particular so love his wife, even as himself” (Ephesians 5:1). The violation of the Divine intention in this institution originated in a bad man. Lamech is the first person of whom it is recorded that he “took unto him two wives” (Genesis 4:19), and his own words tell us that he was a man of blood. A descendant of the first murderer, he trod in the same murderous path. His example was not followed by those sons of Seth, who were honoured to re-found the human race. Noah and his three sons entered into the ark, each having his one wife (Genesis 7:13), but the sin of Lamech became more and more common until it grew into a custom, and many better men than he thus profaned God’s holy ordinance. Abraham, Jacob, and Elkanah were good men, yet they all in this respect followed in the forbidden path first trodden by a man-slayer. A miner working in darkness unconsciously becomes blackened by the dusty atmosphere in which he is working. Imperceptibly to himself, one sooty particle after another settles upon his body and his raiment, until he becomes entirely assimilated in colour to the blackness and dirt all around him. The custom of society unconsciously colours men’s characters and habits. Their very conscience is influenced by the moral atmosphere which they breathe—they become coloured by the thoughts and actions of those by whom they are surrounded, and often yield their consent to a wicked custom, the sin of which they do not perceive because of the moral darkness in which they live. It was doubtless so with those of the patriarchs who practised bigamy or polygamy, and it was so also with Elkanah.
II. This violation of Divine intention becoming a means of chastisement. The custom of polygamy was doubtless very common in the Hebrew nation, and paved the way to much gross iniquity, and led them to the adoption of many other corrupt practices of the heathen nations, for which, as a nation, they suffered severe chastisement. Here we have an instance of chastisement in the case of an individual and upright man. Although he had committed no exceptional sin—although he had only followed other good men in conforming to a very common custom—he could not escape the inevitable retribution which must always follow breaking any fence which God has placed about man’s path. Doubtless Hannah would have been sorrowful at the absence of children if she had been Elkanah’s only wife, but it would not have been aggravated by the insolence of Peninnah. Custom had quarried these two upper and nether mill-stones, and between them Elkanah’s domestic bliss must have been ground to powder, for the strife was so bitter that it entered even into the service of the house of God. (See 1 Samuel 1:7.) The history of the world confirms the teaching of this history of a single family. The nations who adhere to God’s original intention in the marriage state are spared from many sorrows, and avoid many crimes which must always be the fruit of such a morally unhealthy and unnatural custom. The joys of the home life are unknown where polygamy is practised—a terrible penalty is paid by all those nations who thus violate God’s holy and blessed institution.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 1:1. Elkanah was one of the sons of Korah. Of that gainsaying “sinner against his own soul” came Samuel. Homo ille virtute simillimus.—Trapp.
1 Samuel 1:2. Polygamy might now plead age and example. Ill customs are like fashions of attire, which at the first are disliked as uncomely, yet, when once they are grown common, are taken up of the gravest. Yet this sin, as then current with the time, could not make Elkanah not religious; the house of God in Shiloh was duly frequented by him, and once a year with all his family. The continuance of an unknown sin cannot hinder the uprightness of a man’s heart with God; as a man may have a mole on his back, and yet think his skin clear; the least touch of wilfulness mars his sincerity.—Bishop Hall.
1 Samuel 1:3. Elkanah’s piety in maintaining a regular attendance on the Divine ordinances is the more worthy of notice, that the character of the two priests who administered them was notoriously bad. But doubtless he believed and acted on the belief that the ordinances were effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in those who administered them, but from the grace of God being communicated through them.—Fausset.
This title, “The Lord of Hosts” (see Critical Notes), seems to be inserted designedly by the sacred historian at the beginning of this book, which relates the craving of Israel for an earthly king, when the Lord was their King, and the setting up of an earthly kingdom in Saul. It is like a preliminary protest against that act of national faithlessness.—Wordsworth.
The offering was the deed which established the faithlessness of the praying word.—Starke.
This subject-matter of adoration is to be referred to the three following heads: Firstly, that when about to adore God we recognise that we owe all things to Him, and in giving thanks for past blessings we implore a still further increase of His gifts; secondly, that confessing our sins as suppliant and guilty, we pray Him to grant us true knowledge of our sins and repentance, and to pardon us; thirdly, and finally, that denying ourselves and taking His yoke upon our shoulders, we profess ourselves ready to render Him true obedience, and to conform our affections to the rule of His law and His will alone.—Calvin.
1 Samuel 1:4. The whole family take part in the feast of the peace-offerings. So as to the idol-worship in Jeremiah 7:18. Both this passage and that, as to true religion and false, may impress upon us the importance of family worship and family religion.—Lange’s Commentary.
1 Samuel 1:5. “The Lord had shut up her womb.” This is the language of piety, which refers all to God, and knows only one source of blessings; we only have that which He gives, and we cannot have that which he refuses to us.—Duguet.
Peninnah may have the more children, but barren Hannah hath the most love. If Hannah should have had both, she had been proud, and her rival despised. God knows how to disperse His favours so that everyone may have cause both for thankfulness and humiliation; whilst there is no one that hath all, no one but hath some—Bishop Hall.
Children were then regarded as a blessing, and the correctness of this view is confirmed by the inspired writers, Psalms 113:9; Psalms 127:3-5; Psalms 128:3. The contrary feeling, which is now so rapidly growing in America, is evil, both in its causes and in its consequences.—American Translator of Lange’s Commentary.
1 Samuel 1:7. Peninnah is an example of those who think themselves to be saints because they participate in holy things and partake of Divine blessings, but Hannah is a model of true penitents, seeking not to justify herself since the Lord seemed to condemn her. She judged herself unworthy to partake of the sacred feast since she deemed herself under the displeasure of God.—Duguet.
1 Samuel 1:8. In a devout marriage, the love of the one party should not only be to the other a fountain of consolation and of quieting as to painful dispensations of the Lord, but for whatever by the Lord’s will is lacking in good fortune and joy it should seek to offer all the richer compensation.—Lange’s Commentary.
In Elkanah we have an example of a most excellent husband, who patiently tolerated the insolent humour of Peninnah, and comforted dejected Hannah with words full of tender affection, which was truly, in St. Peter’s words, to dwell with his wives according to knowledge.—Patrick.
As the marriage bond is much closer than that between parents and children, it follows that husband and wife must hold each other nearer and dearer than all children.—J. Lange.
1 Samuel 1:1-8. The priestly calling of the man in his house.
1. In the close connection of his whole house with the service in the house of the Lord (prayer and offering).
2. In the nurture and admonition of the children for the Lord (see comment on 1 Samuel 1:4).
3. In expelling and keeping at a distance the evil spirit of unlovingness and dissension in the members of a family.
4. In the constant exhibition of faithful, comforting, helping love towards his wife. The preservation of genuine piety amid domestic troubles.
1. In persevering prayer, when the Lord proves faith by not fulfilling particular desires and hopes.
2. In enduring patience towards vexatious members of the family.
3. In consoling and supporting love towards those members who are easily assailed. Lange’s Commentary.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES.—
1 Samuel 1:9. “Post,” or portal. “Probably a porch which had been placed before the curtain that formed the entrance into the Holy Place” (Keil). “Temple,” “or palace, so called not on account of the magnificence of the building, but as the dwelling place of the God-king of Israel as in Psalms 5:8” (Keil). “I think this is the first place where the temple of Jehovah is mentioned. This confirms the opinion that the book was compiled after the building of the Temple” A. Clarke.
1 Samuel 1:11. “Sterile women in the East to this day perform pilgrimages to holy places, and often make a vow that, in case they should be blessed with a son, he shall become a monk (Fausset). “Vowed a Vow.” This vow contained two distinct points—
(1) That she would dedicate her son to the Lord in a life-long service, while as a Levite he was only bound from the age of 20 to 50 (Numbers 8:24-25), and
(2) that “no razor should come upon his head,” by which he was set apart as a Nazarite for the whole of his life. “There is no notice in the Pentateuch of a Nazarite for life; but the regulations for the vow of a Nazarite of days are given in Numbers 6:1-21.… Of the Nazarites for life three are mentioned in the Scriptures: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. The only one actually called a Nazarite is Samson. The Rabbis raised the question whether Samuel was in reality a Nazarite. It is expressly stated that no razor shall come upon his head; but no mention is made of abstinence from wine. It is, however, worthy of notice that Philo makes a particular point of this, and seems to refer the words of Hannah, in 1 Samuel 1:15, to Samuel himself. We do not know whether the vow for life was ever voluntarily taken by the individual. In all the cases mentioned in sacred history, it was made by the parents before the birth of the Nazarite himself. According to the general law of vows (Numbers 30:8), the mother could not take the vow without the father. Hannah must therefore either have presumed on her husband’s concurrence, or secured it beforehand. The Nazarite of days might have fulfilled his vow without attracting much notice until the day came for him to make his offering in the temple. But the Nazarite for life, on the other hand, with his flowing hair and persistent refusal of strong drink, must have been a marked man. Whether in any other particular his daily life was peculiar is uncertain. He may have had some privileges which gave him something of a priestly character—there is an ancient tradition that Nazarites were permitted even to enter into the Holy of Holies. Perhaps it would not be unreasonable to suppose that the half-sacerdotal character of Samuel might have been connected with his prerogative as a Nazarite. Though not necessarily cut off from social life, when the turn of his mind was devotional, consciousness of his peculiar dedication must have influenced his habits and manner, and in some cases probably led him to retire from the world. And as the vow of the Nazarite was taken by his parents before he was conscious of it, his observance of it was a sign of filial obedience, like the vow of the Rechabites.… The meaning of the Nazarite vow has been regarded in different lights. Some deny that it involved anything of an ascetic character; others imagine that it was intended to cultivate, and bear witness for, the sovereignty of the will over the lower tendencies of human nature; while some regard it wholly in the light of a sacrifice of the person to God.… That the Nazarite vow was essentially a sacrifice of the person is obviously in accordance with the terms of the Law (Numbers 6:2). In the old dispensation it may have answered to that “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which the believer is now called upon to make.” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary.) That part of the vow of the Nazarite which had to do with his spiritual nature was the abstinence from strong drink. The other observances were merely ceremonial, and related only to the outward man. But strong drink can and often does influence the mind, and may be the means of moral deterioration. Even when not indulged in to excess, it may be used to such an extent as to dull the spiritual sense, and to unfit men for holding intimate communion with God. It was not a mere arbitrary statute when “The Lord spake unto Aaron, saying, Do not drink wine or strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die” (Numbers 10:8-9).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 1:9-11
THE PRAYER OF HANNAH
In this prayer we have—
I. A recognition of God’s faithful performance of His promises. When a parent promises to meet his child in a certain place at a certain time, and the child is found waiting at the appointed place at the given time, the act is a declaration of faith in the parent’s faithfulness. The child’s position and attitude denote a recognition of the truthfulness of the parent’s word. God had promised to “meet the children of Israel” in an especial manner in the tabernacle (Exodus 29:43) “in the place which He should choose to place His name there” (Deuteronomy 16:11). Hannah’s choice of the house of God as the place whence she would direct her prayer—whence she would look up for help in her sorrow—is a declaration that she believed the Divine Word. Her presence there declares that she believed in another Presence there—even of Him who was known to Israel of old to “dwell between the cherubims” (Exodus 25:22; 1 Samuel 4:4).
II. A recognition of God’s knowledge of the secrets of the human soul. “She spake in her heart, only her lips moved” (1 Samuel 1:13). Speech of some kind is necessary if one human being would communicate with another, and there are some thoughts and feelings which, not being capable of being put into words, must remain for ever uncommunicated to any earthly friend. In this sense the heart is compelled sometimes to “know its own bitterness,” and “no stranger” (no one outside the spirit) can “intermeddle therewith” (Proverbs 14:10). The human body is the means by which the human soul reveals itself, and yet it conceals often more than it reveals. So word is the body of thought—the great means of making thought known among men—yet it often hides more than it makes known. But “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the spirit” (Romans 8:27). He stands face to face with the inmost feelings—the deepest emotions—of every human soul. He needs not the information conveyed by words—He sees not through them as “through a glass, darkly,” but without that veil between reads the aspirations of the burdened heart—hears the “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). Hannah recognises this truth when, without words, she speaks to the Eternal God. By her silent prayer she shows she was penetrated with that sense of the Divine Omniscience which filled David’s mind when he wrote “O Lord, Thou hast searched me, and known me, Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off” (Psalms 139:1-2).
III. A recognition of obligation to God before the petition is granted. “Thine handmaid.” Hannah was God’s handmaid whether the blessing she craved was granted or withheld. A servant (while he acknowledges the relation) is bound to obey his master’s commands—to acquiesce in his will, whether that will always coincides with his own or not. While the relationship is acknowledged the obligation continues. Hannah, by her own acknowledgment, was a servant of the God of Israel. She was under an obligation to serve Him, whether He fulfilled her heart’s desire or not. She recognises the fact that she was already God’s debtor—bound to obey His commands and acquiesce in His will, whatever might be the issue of her prayer. She admits that her obligation will be increased if God grants the desire of her heart: “If Thou wilt look upon Thine handmaid,” etc.; but she does not make her obligation to God depend upon her prayer being answered.
IV. A recognition of God’s care for the individual. That system of government and that code of laws are most perfect which take cognisance, not only of a nation as a whole, but of the special need of the individual—when it meets the need, not of men in a mass merely, but of each man. This can be done but imperfectly in human systems. Laws which are generally beneficial press hard in particular cases, or overlook particular exigencies. But it is not so in the Divine administration. His laws take hold of the individual man, and His providence works for each one, without injury to any. Each blade of grass drinks in the sunlight and is watered by the showers, as abundantly and as sufficiently as though it was alone upon the earth, instead of being a unit amid countless millions. And so each soul is as much the object of God’s care as though He had no other creature to care for. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30). Hannah’s prayer—a personal statement of her own personal sorrows and desires—shows that she recognised the fact that the God of Israel not only “knew the sorrows” of the nation as a whole, and was “willing to come down to deliver them” (Exodus 3:8), but that He had regard to the heart-grief of a single sorrowful woman among the thousands of Israel.
V. A very specific statement of her desire. “If Thou wilt give unto Thy handmaid a man-child.” All successful pleading is specific. If it begins with generalities it does not end with them. When a barrister pleads for his client he does not content himself with general appeals—he puts definitely before the jury and the judge what he wants them to do. The widow made a definite statement of her want to the unjust judge—she told him exactly what she wanted him to do—“Avenge me of mine adversary” (Luke 18:3). It has been said that “Generalities are the death of prayer.” Hannah’s prayer was most definite—she not only asks for a child—but for a son—and not only for a son but for one who would be in a special manner a servant of Jehovah.
VI. A recognition of the Divine working in and above natural laws. Hannah acknowledges God as the only Giver of natural life. The laws of nature, either in vegetable or animal life, are not the causes of that life, but the means by which the Creator pleases to give it. They are not the gods to whom the praise is due, but the servants of the one God who works in them and by them. Hannah’s prayer recognises the truth that life can only come into being by the fiat of the Eternal. She asks for a living child from the only Life-Giver of the universe—from Him who alone “hath life in Himself” (John 5:26).
VII. A dedication of the desired blessing to the service of the Giver. “If Thou wilt give unto Thine handmaid a man-child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life.” The precious gift should be returned to the Giver. God’s gift to her should be her gift to God. “The way to obtain any benefit,” says Bishop Hall, “is to devote it, in our hearts, to the glory of that God of whom we ask it: by this means shall God both pleasure His servant and honour Himself; whereas, if the scope of our desires be carnal, we may be sure either to fail of our suit, or of a blessing.”
In all the points we have noticed—in its faith in the Divine Word—in its recognition of Divine Omniscience—in its acknowledgment of the Divine claim to service—in its confidence in the Divine care for the individual—in its definiteness—in its discernment of a Divine power in all the laws of nature—and in its purpose to devote to the service of God the boon craved for at His hands—this prayer of the Hebrew matron may serve as a model for all prayers in all circumstances and in all ages. It is especially worthy of the study of those who are pleading with God, not for the gift of children—but for the spiritual life of children already given—of mothers whose daily and fervent prayer is put up to God that those whom He has given to them may be, in a spiritual sense, “sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty.”
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 1:10. “If a woman has prayed with so much importunity,” says St. Gregory, “to obtain a son from God, how ought we to pray to be made His children.”—De Sacy.
The “hand of God in history” might be the appropriate title of many of the books of Scripture, for the sacred records largely illustrate the agency of God in the affairs of men.… That simple Hannah on her knees, with her face toward the tabernacle and the mercy seat, and her lips trembling with her prayer, became the link of a chain in the revival of piety and patriotism in the promised land. Her day of small things was to be succeeded by a life which would shed its blessings upon the chosen people, and illuminate a chapter of Hebrew history.—Steele.
Herein she took a right course to get comfort. So did David (Psalms 109:4) and Paul (1 Corinthians 4:13), “Being defamed we pray.” If she should have rendered to Peninnah railing for railing, there would have been somewhat to do. Prayer and patience are the best antidotes against contumelies and contempt; the one hot, the other cold; the one quickening, the other quenching. Prayers and tears are the saints’ best weapons; their “great guns and their scaling ladders,” saith Luther.—Trapp.
A mid vexations and assaults, what should impel us to prayer?
1. The certainty that if men do us hurt, it does not occur without the Divine permission.
2. The feeling that even the best human consolation cannot satisfy the heart which is thirsting to be consoled.
3. Firm confidence in the help of the Lord, who in His faithfulness will help and in His power can help, when men will not help or cannot.—Lange’s Commentary.
1 Samuel 1:11. She thrice calls herself the Lord’s handmaid, out of a profound sense of her meanness and His majesty, and desires a man-child because only such could wait upon the Lord in the service of the tabernacle.—Patrick.
It may be asked whether Hannah or whether any parents have the right thus to consecrate their children, and so, without their consent, to interfere with their personal liberty? I answer, here was no vow of perpetual celibacy or of religious poverty. He had the liberty of marriage, for the Scripture speaks of his sons, and he preserved the possession and use of all his property. The engagement into which Hannah entered on behalf of Samuel simply consisted in his being attached to the tabernacle service for some years longer than an ordinary Levite, which was an honour, and in being brought up in the centre of religious influences. It was a precaution against the moral contagion of the times, and tended to promote a natural growth of piety in him—to make the love of God within him grow and strengthen with his years. It is true Hannah destined her son for a Nazarite, but this was only under the condition that God made him willing to accept the vow. She knew that He who inspired her to vow would inspire her child—if he were granted—with a willingness to perform his part of it; that, if God granted her the son, he would perfect his gift in inspiring him with a desire to be devoted to His service.… The human spirit, as it is since the fall, would never have established the custom of vows. Such an engaging of Providence would have appeared unworthy of the Supreme Majesty. The institution could only have come through a revelation. The universal usage, diffused among all nations, proves that the tradition descended from the family of Noah. God has condescended by this religious commerce, to bind us to Himself more firmly by means of our wants and our desires. He desires to impress upon our minds the truth that He rules in the least events of our lives, and, by this kind of contract that He makes with us in vows, He would awaken our faith by accepting the conditions that we offer, and in accomplishing that which we expect of Him.—Le Maistre de Sacy.
A vow is to be made with prayer, and paid with thanksgiving.—Trapp.
She has received nothing as yet, and she begins her prayer with a promise. She testifies already her gratitude to God, while her hands are still empty.… “I have two pleas,” it is as if she had said, “I am Thy servant, and I am in trouble.” “And my child shall be entirely and absolutely Thy servant. I give up all my maternal rights. I desire to be his mother only so far as that he shall owe his existence to me, after that I give him up to Thee.” She does not say, “If Thou wilt give me three sons, I will give Thee two, if Thou wilt give me two, I will give Thee one,” but “If Thou wilt give me one only, I will consecrate him entirely to Thee.” … She does not name her rival in her prayer, she utters no invectives, she complains of no injury, and speaks only concerning the matters which fill her soul.… If we are wise, not only will our enemies be unable to do us the least harm, but they will be the occasion of our greatest good, if prayer is our resource from the vexations that they cause us.—Chrysostom.
The local service promised by the mother was afterwards interrupted, chiefly by the call of Samuel to higher duties as prophet. To the mother the sanctuary-service seemed the best pursuit of life; but God had something better for the son. Yet Hannah’s devout spiritual purpose is maintained in her son’s life.—Translator of Lange’s Commentary.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES.—
1 Samuel 1:13. “She spake in her heart.” Prayer is almost always oral in the East, even in public (Kitto).
1 Samuel 1:14. “Put away thy wine from thee,” i.e., sleep off the effects of intoxication.
1 Samuel 1:15. “Neither wine nor strong drink has been poured out unto me, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord” (A. Clarke).
1 Samuel 1:16. “Belial,” i.e., worthlessness or wickedness. The word is not a proper name, although it has become impersonified to indicate the “wicked one.” “Complaint,” “meditation, inward movement of the heart, sighing” (Keil).
1 Samuel 1:17. This word of the High Priest was not a prediction, but a pious wish (Keil).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—1 Samuel 1:12-18
HANNAH AND ELI
I. The wrong interpretation which Eli put upon Hannah’s conduct shows—
1. That the occurrence was an uncommon one. It was not a common thing in those degenerate days for Eli to see a devout and deeply-moved worshipper in the house of God. His eyes were not accustomed to the sight of a soul so absorbed in wrestling with God, and so filled with a sense of the Divine presence as to be oblivious of all external things. He-was used probably to hear the audible, formal prayers of less spiritual worshippers, but the silent communion of the soul with its God was apparently beyond his power of spiritual apprehension. His explanation of the unwonted spectacle suggests the thought that Eli himself was not accustomed to very close communion with God—that he was not in the habit of coming into the presence of Jehovah with a heart full of emotions too deep for utterance. Be that as it may, it has never been uncommon for those who are ignorant of the deeper experiences of spiritual life—whether of a joyful or sorrowful nature—to refer them to a wrong source. The fervour of the Christian Church on the day of Pentecost was referred to the influence of “new wine” (Acts 2:13). In the days of martyrdom those who faced death with joyful courage, being filled with the power of the Spirit of God, were sometimes charged by their enemies, or by those who had never drunk at the same fountain of Divine comfort, with being in league with the devil and with being supported by him. Uncommon spiritual phenomena, like any uncommon phenomenon in the natural world, are always liable to be wrongly interpreted and to be attributed to a wrong source by those who are utterly ignorant in such matters. Festus could only account for Paul’s enthusiasm concerning Jesus of Nazareth by—“Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning doth make thee mad” (Acts 26:24). The uncommon phenomenon of such a prisoner at his bar could be referred by him to nothing else. The harsh judgment passed by Eli upon Hannah—his entire misapprehension of her character and conduct—is a type of what has happened ten thousand times in the past, is happening now, and will go on to happen while men are imperfect. And it is to be especially noted that not only does the world thus misunderstand the actions of the saints of God, but one good man or woman often, through ignorance, thus misjudges another—often refers an act which lies outside his or her own range of experience to a motive or to a cause which is the very opposite of the real one.
2. That the kind of worshipper Eli supposed Hannah to be was not uncommon in the Tabernacle. Everybody who has had any experience in the professing Church of God, knows that indulgence in strong drink and attendance upon the services of God’s house are not incompatible. Men who are lovers of wine are sometimes also very fervent and devout in external service, and will even utter prayers while under the partial influence of intoxicating drink. There is abundant evidence in the Old Testament writings that drunkenness was one of the sins of the ancient people of God. It was inseparable from such a state of things as that described in chapter 1 Samuel 2:22. Doubtless many “daughters of Belial” and daughters of Bacchus frequented the house of God in Shiloh, and Eli had often good reason to say to a devout drunkard, “How long will thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee.”
3. How suspicion blunts the power of discrimination. If a man has reason to think he has been deceived in the past by certain characters or by certain aspects of character, he will find himself always prone to suspect any person or appearance of the same kind that is presented to him. And this suspicion will make him less impartial—more uncharitable—in his judgment than he otherwise would be. It is one of the saddest influences of crime upon good men that it sometimes makes them harsh and unjust to innoceut people. Eli had seen so many hypocritical and vicious worshippers in the tabernacle that he could not discern a really devout one when she came—he hastily leaped to the conclusion that this godly woman was like most of those who frequented the service of God.
II. Hannah’s reception of the unmerited accusation. Consider how keenly she must have felt Eli’s words. Constantly insulted and taunted as she was, by her rival at home, she would naturally look for sympathy from the priest of God—to receive from him an insult greater even than she could have ever received from Peninnah, must have been like a sword-thrust to one already deeply wounded. Her defence is at once—
1. Emphatic. She meets the accusation with a decided No. It is the duty of all, when wrongly accused, to meet such an accusation with an emphatic denial. We owe it to ourselves to declare that we are innocent.
2. Calm and respectful. “No, my lord.” “Count not thine handmaid a daughter of Belial.” Nothing is more likely than an unjust accusation to arouse angry feeling. We are, then, in imminent danger of forgetting not only what we owe to the person who accuses us, but what we owe to ourselves, and to let our indignation override our self-command. Hannah’s calm reply shows that she was a woman who knew how to rule her own spirit, that she had profited by the home discipline to which she had been subjected. There were many things connected with Eli’s family which, if she had been disposed to retaliate, she might have used to inflict a wound upon her accuser. But she was too high-minded a woman to descend to the use of such weapons. Spirited as was her reply, there was no lack of respect to God’s High Priest.
3. Explanatory. We may often be conscious, when wrongfully accused, that information only is needed to convince our accuser that he is in the wrong. It is our duty not to withhold this. Circumstances which admit of a very easy explanation may look sometimes very much against us. It was so in Hannah’s case. A bottle that is full will pour out its contents much more slowly than one which contains but little. So with the heart full of sorrow. Its feelings are long in finding an outlet—it is long before there is any feeling of relief in prayer. Hannah had continued long before the Lord in silent prayer, and this, doubtless, gave some colour to Eli’s suspicion. She was not too angry, or too proud, to give him a full explanation of all that had occurred.
III. Eli’s benediction. It involves the admission that he had erred. A block of ice and a block of marble may look equally hard and feel equally cold; but if the warm sun shine on them, how soon will the difference be seen. The one will remain as hard and cold as ever, the other will be melted into streams of refreshing water. So with a good and a bad man. Both may speak harsh words in haste, both are liable to err in judgment, but the one can be melted into contrition for the wrong he has done and will acknowledge his fault, while the other remains proud and unsubdued. Eli’s change of speech and of bearing towards the woman whom he had wronged, showed his desire to atone for his error, and gave evidence that he “rejoiced not in iniquity, but rejoiced in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6); that it gave him no pleasure to utter stern rebuke, but that it gladdened his heart to be able to say, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him.” Thus we have seen:
I. The best people and the purest actions may be misconstrued even by good men.
II. The most vicious men may be found observing the external forms of religion.
III. That care is needed lest much experience of the wickedness of the wicked harden us against the good.
IV. That a false accusation should not overthrow our self-command.
V. That a good man will not be too proud to confess himself in the wrong.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 1:12-13. A devout prayer must proceed from the very bottom of the heart, and may be offered without outward words (Psalms 19:14; Psalms 27:8; Psalms 72:8; Isaiah 29:13-14).—Starke.
Her voice was not heard by man, but God heard it.—Chrysostom.
She continued praying, as resolved not to give over her suit. Prayer, like those arrows of deliverance, should be multiplied. We wring out of God’s holy hands that mercy which He with an unwilling willingness withholdeth for awhile, that we may be the more importunate.—Trapp.
Hannah had learned from Moses thus to pray, for when he fell upon his face before God, without uttering a sound, God grants his request, and says, “Why criest thou unto me?” (Exodus 14:15).—Le Maistre de Sacy.
The fervent prayer of troubled souls measures itself not by time, but exalts the soul above time into eternity, and troubles itself not about human observation and judgment, but is a pouring out of the heart before the living God.—Lange’s Commentary.
1 Samuel 1:16. Here we see what account this holy woman made of drunken persons and of drunkenness; she counteth them the sons and daughters of Belial. And, indeed, unto them fitly agree all the significations of this word:—
(1) They are licentious and lawless, without any yoke or bridle to keep them in;
(2) they are altogether unprofitable, they neither do good to others nor to themselves;
(3) and such do neither prosper in this world, and without repentance do exclude themselves from the celestial inheritance.—Willet.
She calls herself Eli’s handmaid, and strives to remove his bad opinion of her. She does not say, “He has wantonly and thoughtlessly accused me; his suspicion is most ill-timed; my conscience is clear, I will let who will calumniate me.” But she conforms to that law of the Apostle who commands us “to appear honest in the sight of men.”—Chrysostom.
Defence against unjust accusations.
1. For what purpose? As a tribute to truth, for the honour of the Lord, as a tribute to our own moral worth.
2. In what manner? In quietness and gentleness, without sinful passion, in humility and modesty.
3. By God’s help, with what result? Convincing the accusers of their wrong, changing their bad words into blessings, lightening our own hearts of a heavy load.—Lange’s Commentary.
1 Samuel 1:17. Hannah turns her accuser into her advocate by her wisdom and discretion.—Chrysostom.
1 Samuel 1:18. She that began her prayers with fasting and heaviness rises up from them with cheerfulness and repast. The conscience may well rest when it tells us that we have neglected no means of redressing our affliction; for then it may resolve to look either for amendment or patience.—Bishop Hall.
The life of faith can take comfort from a word, and rest a world upon a promise. Hannah’s affairs without the sanctuary actually remained in the same state as before; but a transaction had taken place within it, which placed them in a new point of view. The favourable aspect of God gives a new aspect to everything besides.—Cecil.
I. It is a fact of history that prayer is answered. The history of the Church of God is a part of the history of the world—it is as much a part of it as the history of the empire of Rome, or the republics of Greece—and its existence and growth in the world is inseparably connected with the fact that God hears and answers prayer. The blessings that have descended upon her members in answer to their supplications are matters of historical fact. So with the history of the Hebrew nation. It is an incontestible fact that their history, as given in the Scriptures, is true, and this being admitted, it cannot be denied that the cases of special Divine interposition in answer to prayer are true also. Their wilderness history has many instances of forgiveness and help being accorded to the earnest supplications of Moses on their behalf, and their entire early history is interwoven with records of prayers offered and prayers answered. The life of the prophet Samuel is an important part of Hebrew history—he was destined to take a foremost place among its heroes—and his very name is a record that God gives ear to the supplications of his children, and often grants to them the very gift they ask for.
II. The immediate effect of prayer upon the human spirit. “The woman went her way, … and her countenance was no more sad.” Hannah’s sorrow vanished from the hour in which she poured out her soul before the Lord in Shiloh. A consciousness arose within her that her prayer was answered—not that the fulfilment of her desire was immediate, but she had an assurance that it was certain. This assurance made her as joyful in the anticipation as in the possession. An immediate blessing always follows earnest and heartfelt prayer, though the blessing sought may be long delayed, or never granted in the form which the petitioner desires at the time. There is joy from the asking as well as from the receiving—joy from the consciousness that our cry has entered into the ear of our Father in heaven, and will not be disregarded by Him, whatever be the issue.
III. A consciousness of accepted prayer sweetens every temporal blessing. “She did eat and drink.” A child who really loves his parent feels his young life darkened, and much of his joy in existence gone, if that parent looks coldly on him. Doubtless Hannah had regarded her past condition as a mark of the absence of Divine favour, and this had deprived all the common mercies of her life of sweetness. But now she felt that the sun of God’s approval was shining upon her, and this gilded with light every social and temporal blessing. It is this, and this only, that can turn life’s water into wine.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES.—
1 Samuel 1:20. “Samuel.” “From Shama to hear, and El, God (Wordsworth). “The words of Hannah are not an etymological explanation of the name, but an exposition founded upon the facts” (Keil).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF 1 Samuel 1:19-20
THE BIRTH OF SAMUEL
I. The vast importance of the birth of a child. Every child is a new thing in the earth—the only new thing in it. It has an identity separate from all the human creatures that have gone before it, or will come after it; in some points it differs from every one of them. Forces are set in motion upon the birth of every child that will not cease to exert an influence through the ages of eternity.
II. Godly families are the cradles of great men. The real greatness of a man consists in the development of all the faculties of the soul, and first, and above all, of the development of his conscience. If the waters of a stream flow through a channel in which there is impure matter, it will imbibe some of the poisonous particles, and carry them with it through many miles of its future course. So it is with a child’s conscience. It takes its character from the character of those by whom he is surrounded. If he is born in a family of moral impurity his moral sense is defiled—the young life, passing through such a channel on its way to manhood, is tainted; and while the taint remains there can be no real greatness, for the conscience colours the entire life. As one drop of poisonous matter diffuses itself through every part of a vessel of water, so a defiled conscience makes its influence felt through all the words and deeds that go to make up life. But in a godly family the child’s conscience is not only carefully guarded from all that might defile it, but the holy example and wise teaching of the parents develop and train it, and so there is every reason to hope that the whole after-life will possess the first requisite of a great man—a healthy moral sense. Samuel could hardly have been the mighty power for good in Israel which he afterwards became, if he had not had the blessing of godly parentage, and consequently of early training in the fear of God. There have been many men in the world who have been great poets, great statesmen, great warriors—great with the greatness most esteemed by the world in general—but in how many of them has there been a moral taint, which has deprived their famous words or works of all real power for good, which has been a blot upon all their intellectual greatness. And of those who have been great in goodness as well as great in intellectual power, how large a proportion have been born in godly homes.
III. There is no blessing of earth greater than to be born in such a family. Such children are indeed “prevented with the blessings of God’s goodness” (Psalms 21:3). Contrast the lot of such a child with that of the millions who first see the light in a home where God is never acknowledged—where the supreme importance of moral purity is never thought of—or worse still, of those whose earliest experiences are those of the lowest and most revolting exhibitions of crime where the infant breathes with its first breath the atmosphere of hell. Life, when it is most impressible, in such a home is surrounded by those who will stamp it with images and characters all but indelible—with ideas that will pollute the soul through its whole life. There is more mystery involved in the advent of a child into such an atmosphere than can be solved by any human mind—it must be left in the hand of Him whom we know to be the All Wise and Righteous Ruler of the universe. But how different is the advent of a child into a godly home. Blessings of all kinds—love and holy example, and tender and wise nurture are awaiting his arrival. It is as if clouds laden with refreshing showers hung in the sky before the seed is sown ready to descend upon it the moment it is placed in the earth. Prayers on his behalf ascend to heaven before he draws his first breath—holy plans and purposes are formed concerning him before he sees the light of day. We can imagine how it was with Hannah and Elkanah while they awaited the birth of this long-desired son—this gift of the Lord—and so it is in a greater or less degree with every godly parent as they look forward to receiving such a sacred trust. Is there any blessing greater than to begin life’s journey under such propitious auspices?
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 1:19. They had ten miles to go; but “they worshipped before the Lord.” This whet they held no let in their journey, but a furtherance rather, and as oil to the wheels. It is good to go in God’s name.—Trapp.
1 Samuel 1:20. The child’s name was the mother’s memorial. As often as she looked into his infant face, or named him in her love, her soul would swell within her at the recollection of God’s mercy. She saw the Divine gift in the child of her affection, and received a lesson of gratitude and dependence in his every smile and tear.—Steel.
Blessed was Hannah, not in being a mother, but in becoming one, not having been one at first. For the first is the lot of all her sex; but the second happiness is reserved for Hannah. Blessed, because of her child-bearing, not less blessed on account of all that had gone before it.—Chrysostom.
I do not find that Peninnah asked any son of God, yet she had store. Hannah begged hard for this one, and could not till now obtain him. They which are dearest to God do ofttimes, and with great difficulty, work out those blessings which fall into the mouths of the careless.… As this child was the son of his mother’s prayers, and was consecrated to God ere his possibility of being; so now himself shall know, both how he came and whereunto he is ordained.… He cannot so much as hear himself named; but he must needs remember both the extraordinary mercy of God and his mothers vow.… There is no necessity of significant names, but we cannot have too many monitors to put us in mind of our duty.—Bishop Hall.
When pious parents receive their children with calling on God and in His fear, then is every child a Samuel. Starke.
The fact that, in common with Isaac, John the Baptist, and Samson, his birth took place beyond all human hope and expectation was calculated to produce the conviction that God had some other object than to turn the sorrow of a woman into joy.—Hengstenberg.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES.—
1 Samuel 1:21. “Yearly Sacrifice” literally, the “offering of the days,”—the Israelites’ customary and obligatory annual sacrifice. The “offering of the days “is, as it were, the yearly reckoning with the Lord, the presentation of those portions of the property which fall to him in the course of the year” (Hengstenberg). “His Vow.” Here is a proof that Elkanah had likewise vowed unto the Lord in reference to Samuel.
1 Samuel 1:23. “Only the Lord establish His word.” “Elkanah seeks from God, and suppliantly begs with prayers, that, since God has bestowed on him male offspring, He will consecrate him and make him fit for His service (Calvin).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 1:21-23
SERVING GOD IN THE HOME AND IN THE TEMPLE
I. An obedient recognition of Divine ordinances.
1. As to place. “And Elkanah went up to offer unto the Lord.” The value of laws or ordinances depends upon the wisdom of him who institutes them, and our obligation to observe them depends upon the claim to obedience that he has upon us and upon their adaptation to meet our needs. In the time of Elkanah, the place of the ark was the place appointed by God where his people were to assemble to perform acts of special worship. Under the New Testament dispensation, Christians are commanded to assemble themselves together for the same purpose (Hebrews 10:25), and the command is binding upon all because it has been given by Him who is fully acquainted with man’s spiritual needs, and knows how those needs will be most fully met.
2. As to time. Ancient Israel was commanded to assemble together at special seasons and on special days. Although it may be disputed whether Christians are bound to observe any particular day, there can be no doubt that the regular observance of a special day such as the Christian Sabbath, is indispensable to the maintenance of a national sense of the existence of a God, and if it is not absolutely necessary to preserve divine and spiritual life in the individual soul, it is indispensable to its growth and vigour. The obligation of Christians to observe a “Lord’s day” has its origin both in the Divine institution of the Sabbath at the Creation, in its recognition by Christ Himself (Mark 2:27), and in the manifest adaptation to meet their spiritual needs. He who knows man’s needs made the Sabbath for him, and to set it aside as unnecessary is to impute to Him ignorance as to the spiritual wants of His own creatures. We are as much bound to recognise a place and a period in which to meet for the public worship of God as the ancient Jew was. Christ Himself has attached a special promise to such a gathering in His name (Matthew 18:20), and in two instances on record, cheered his first disciples by fulfilling it even in His bodily presence on “the first day of the week” (John 20:19-26). It is worthy of note that the divine ordinances were observed not only by Elkanah, but by “all his house,” that is, as is evident from the following-verses, by all who were not prevented by age or by home duties.
II. A service performed for God at home. “Hannah went not up,” etc. Hannah, in her present circumstances, served God to more purpose by absenting herself for the time from the public worship of God. God permits His human creatures to be co-workers with Him in the accomplishment of His purposes. He had purposed to bring about a revival of true godliness in Israel by means of Samuel, but in bringing about the accomplishment of his purpose, He worked through ordinary human channels and used human instrumentality. Hannah, by nourishing the bodily life of her child, and by training his infant mind in a knowledge of the God whose prophet he was to be, was a co-worker with God in the raising the nation to a higher spiritual condition. It is so in all God’s purposes in relation to the world, whether in the kingdom of nature or of grace. He has purposed that the earth shall bring forth her harvests year after year to supply man with bread. But He calls man to aid Him in the accomplishment of His purpose (Isaiah 28:26-29). And so in the spiritual kingdom. And when any man of God is raised up by Him for a great work, he is not the only instrument of its accomplishment, but all those who have helped to train him for God’s services—especially his mother, if she has been faithful to her trust—have a share in the honour and joy. It may be questioned if anyone in the kingdom of Israel at this time was doing so great a work for God as Hannah in the performance of her unobtrusive work in the privacy of her home.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 1:23. Hannah looked upon her child, not as a child only, but as an offering; she had two reasons to love him, one from nature and one from grace.… Those who purpose to consecrate cups or vessels of gold to the service of God, while they keep them in their house until the day of consecration, look upon them no longer as common objects, and do not permit them to be carelessly or indifferently handled. So Hannah, with much more reason, nurtured her child with a special reference to his introduction to the temple; she loved him more than as an ordinary child, she regarded him as an offering to the Lord, looking upon herself as sanctified through him; indeed, her house had become a temple since it enclosed this priest, this prophet.—Chrysostom.
CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES.—
1 Samuel 1:24. Hebrew mothers were accustomed to suckle their children for three years (2Ma. 7:27). “A child three years old is not troublesome in the East, and his nurture and education could be committed to the women that served at the door of the Tabernacle. By the education which the boy received in the Sanctuary he was even as a child to grow into the service; and moreover, as a child, he could perform little outward services” (Lange’s Commentary). “Three bullocks.” Two would be required for the customary yearly offering, viz., one for the burnt-offering and the other for the thank-offering, the third was probably a special offering in connection with Samuel’s consecration, and on this account, the only one whose slaying is mentioned in 1 Samuel 1:25. “The child was young,” literally, “the child was a child,” i.e., not merely in tenderness of years, but in docility, meekness, and gentleness” (Wordsworth).
1 Samuel 1:28. Lent. “The meaning to lend, which the lexicons give to the word both here and in Exodus 12:36, has no other support than the false rendering of the Septuagint, and is altogether unsuitable both in the one and in the other. Jehovah had not lent the son to Hannah, but had given him; still less could a man lend his son to the Lord” (Keil). “He” refers to Elkanah, and not to Samuel (Keil).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—1 Samuel 1:24-28
I. When we pledge ourselves to a certain act or line of conduct on condition that God grants us a certain blessing, we must be very careful to fulfil our vow. If we enter into such a contract with a fellow-creature, we hold ourselves bound by honour to observe every jot and tittle of the contract. Let us be at least equally scrupulous in the performance of any pledge which we give to God. Hannah had placed before the Lord the conditions under which she would give to His service a son, to dwell in His house for ever. The petition had been granted on her own terms, and there is no holding back on her part. She evidently hastened to perform her vow; there was none of that deferring (Ecclesiastes 5:4) which looks like a repenting of the promise made. “When she had weaned him”—as soon as ever his age permitted his separation from his mother’s care—“she took him up with her.” And the sacrifices of thanksgiving which accompanied the dedication of this darling child show that the gift was that of a “cheerful giver”—that this great act of devotion on her part was performed with gladness (Psalms 100:2).
II. Our faith is strengthened, and our gratitude deepened, when our vows can be paid on the very spot where they have been made. “Arise, and go up to Bethel” (Genesis 35:1), said the Lord to Jacob. The command indicates that to visit the spot where he had fled from the face of Esau, and where he had dedicated himself to the service of God, would deepen the patriarch’s gratitude for all the mercy and truth that had followed him since, and would strengthen his faith in the “faithful Creator” and covenant-keeping God. “Arise, and go to Bethel” testifies that it is good to pay our vow in the place in which it was made. The very sight of the spot brings before us more vividly than anything else can do the circumstances of the past, and thus makes us realise more fully the blessings we have received in answer to the prayers then offered. Hannah was enabled to pay her vow in the very spot where she had made it: “I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying to the Lord,” etc.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
1 Samuel 1:28. A double sacrifice was celebrated; one of the victims is endowed with reason, and the other is not; the one is offered up by the priest, the other by Hannah. That which was offered by the mother was a far more costly sacrifice than that presented by the priest. For Hannah offered the fruit of her womb; she treads in the steps of Abraham, she emulates the self-sacrifice of the patriarch. But Abraham received back his son and led him away, but Hannah leaves hers in the temple for the rest of his days.—Chrysostom.
Hannah’s piety did not cool when her wish was gratified.—Steele.
That God gives in answer to prayer, and that man devotes to God what he obtains, so that God takes again what He has given, or lays claim to it for the ends of His kingdom, is the law of reciprocity in the intercourse between the living God and His saints; the latter contribute nothing for the realisation of the special ends of His kingdom which they have not received from Him, and are not by Him enabled to contribute.—Lange’s Commentary.
True religion is a divine life in the soul, which its author first tries and then honours.
1. It is a life of faith, hope, and love.
2. It is tried by Satan, who will seek to place such men as Hophni and Phinehas at the altar, if it be but to distress and drive away from it such worshippers as Hannah. The family is often our furnace, it has pains as necessarily secret as severe; and where they can be told they are told in vain to any but God. Such was the family of Hannah. The Church itself will try the patience and faith of its true members. It will try whether we can acknowledge a true minister of God, and meekly bear with his infirmities, though, like Eli, he mistakes our case, and chills the heart which he should cherish; whether we can receive the promises of God from His mouth, though it sometimes speaks unadvisedly. The Church is a fire to try the Church. 3. But true religion will be owned and honoured of him who gave it, as was the case with Hannah. The Lord often does so beyond all that we ask or think. Hannah had asked for a man-child; but it was not in her contemplation to ask for a Samuel—that light of Israel—that prophet mighty in word and deed—that blessing and pattern to the world in every age.—Cecil.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent