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THE EARLY LIFE OF SAMUEL.
THE GENEALOGY AND BIRTHPLACE OF SAMUEL (1 Samuel 1:1-8)
1 Samuel 1:1
There was a certain man of Ramathaim-Zophim. Though Samuel belonged to the tribe of Levi, yet no special mention is made of the fact, because he owed his importance and rank as a judge not to his Levitical origin, but to the gift of prophecy, which was independent of the accidents of birth and station. In the First Book of Chronicles, 1 Samuel 6:1-21; his parentage is twice given, that in 1 Chronicles 6:22-28 being apparently the family genealogy, while that in 1 Chronicles 6:33-38 was probably taken from the records of the temple singers, sprung from Heman, Samuel's grandson (1 Chronicles 6:33). His name there appears as Shemuel, our translators not having perceived that it is the same as that for which elsewhere they give the familiar rendering, Samuel. The variations Elkanah, Jeroham, Elihu, Tohu, Zuph (1 Samuel 1:1); Elkanah, Jeroham, Eliab, Nahath, Zophai (1 Chronicles 6:26, 1 Chronicles 6:27); Elkanah, Jeroham, Eliel, Toah, Zuph (ibid. 1 Chronicles 6:34-35), are interesting as showing that the genealogies in Chronicles. were compiled from family documents, in which, as was usual in the case of proper names, there was much diversity of spelling, or possibly of interpreting the cumbrous signs used for letters in those early days. The variations, however, in Elihu (God is he), Eliab (God is Father), and Eliel (God is God) were probably intentional, as were certainly other changes in names, such as that of Ishbaal into Ishbosheth. The name of Samuel's father, Elkanah (God is owner), is a common one among the Kohathites, to which division of the sons of Levi Samuel belonged.
The prophet's birthplace was Ramathaim-Zophim, no doubt the Ramah which was Samuel's own head-quarters (1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 15:34; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Samuel 19:18-23; 1 Samuel 25:1); the place where he dwelt, wrought, died, and was buried, and the Arimathsea of the Gospels. The Septuagint generally gives the name in full, but this is the only place where it is so written in the Hebrew. Ramah signifies a height, and the dual Ramathaim the double height, the town being situated on a hill ending in two peaks. But which it was of the many Ramahs, or hill towns, in the Holy Land, is hotly contested; probably it was the Ramah in Benjamin, about two hours' journey northwest of Jerusalem. Its second name, Zophim, is taken from Zuph, Samuel's remote ancestor, with whom the genealogy here begins. Zuph had apparently emigrated from Ephraim, one of the three tribes (Ephraim, Manasseh, Dan) to which the Kohathites were attached, and was a person of sufficient power and energy to give his name to the whole district; called the land of Zuph in 1 Samuel 9:5. His descendants, the Zophim, had Ramah as their centre, and Elkanah, as their head, would be a man of wealth and influence. Though actually belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, Ramah is said to be upon Mount Ephraim, because this limestone range extended to and kept its name almost up to Jerusalem (see Judges 4:5, and 2 Chronicles 13:4; 2 Chronicles 15:8, compared with 2 Chronicles 13:19). Elkanah too is called an Ephrathite, i.e. an Ephraimite, no doubt because before Zuph emigrated the family had belonged to Ephraim, it being apparently the practice to reckon Levites as pertaining to the tribes to which they were attached (Judges 17:7). The Hebrews Ephrathite is rightly rendered Ephraimite in Judges 12:5, and should be so translated here, and in 1 Kings 11:26. In Ruth 1:2; 1 Samuel 17:12 it means Bethlehemite, that town being also called Ephratah, the fruitful; Ephraim has the same meaning, but being a dual, no adjective can be formed from it.
1 Samuel 1:2
As a wealthy man, Elkanah had two wives, Hannah—the Anna of Virgil, who very properly gives this name to the sister of the Phoenician Dido, the language of Phoenicia being identical with Hebrew—and Peninnah. The word Hannah signifies gracefulness, while Peulnnah is the red pearl, translated coral in Job 28:18, but ruby in Proverbs 3:15, etc. Its ruddy colour is vouched for in Lamentations 4:7. The Hebrew names for women generally bear witness to the affection and respect felt for them; while those for men are usually religious. Though polygamy was a licence permitted to the Jews, it does not seem to have been generally indulged in, except by the kings. Here, as elsewhere, it was the ruin of family life. In Christianity it was marked for final extinction by the rule that no polygamist should be admitted even to the diaconate, and much less to higher office (1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12).
1 Samuel 1:3
This man went up out of his city yearly. Once in the year Elkanah went up to offer sacrifice before the ark. The original command had required this thrice a year of all Israelites; but though a Levite and a religious man, Elkanah went up but once; and such apparently was the rule in our Lord's time (Luke 2:41), the season preferred being naturally the passover, while the other feasts gave opportunities for the performance of this duty to those unable to leave their homes at so early a period of the year. The ark was now at Shiloh, a town in Ephraim, about ten miles south of Shechem; for Joshua had removed it from Gilgal (Joshua 18:1), not merely because Shiloh occupied a more central position, but as marking the primary rank of his own tribe (1 Chronicles 5:1, 1 Chronicles 5:2). Its destruction by the Philistines after the capture of the ark (1 Samuel 5:1) was so complete, and attended apparently by such barbarous cruelties (Psalms 78:60-64), that it never recovered its importance, and Jeroboam passed it by when seeking for places where to set up his calves.
To sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts. This title of the Deity, "LORD (in capitals, i.e. Jehovah) of Hosts," is a remarkable one. Fully it would be "Jehovah God of Hosts," and the omission of the word God shows that the phrase was one of long standing shortened down by constant use. And yet, though found 260 times in the Bible, this is the first place where it occurs. "Lord of Hosts" (Lord not in capitals, and meaning master ruler) occurs only once, in Isaiah 10:16. "God of Hosts," Elohim-Sabaoth, though rare, occurs four times in Psalms 80:4, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:14, Psalms 80:19. The word Sabaoth, hosts, does not mean armies, inasmuch as it refers to numbers, and not to order and arrangement.. It is usually employed of the heavenly bodies (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3), which seem countless in multitude as they are spread over the vast expanse of an Oriental sky (Genesis 15:5); and as their worship was one of the oldest and most natural forms of idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:19; Job 31:26-28), so this title is a protest against it, and claims for the one God dominion over the world of stars as well as in this lower sphere. Its origin then is to be sought at some time when there was a struggle between the worship of the sun and stars and the pure monotheism of the Hebrews. Occasionally the angels are called "the host of heaven" (1 Kings 22:19; Psalms 103:21; Psalms 148:2), whenever the allusion is to their number, but when the idea is that of orderly arrangement they are called God's armies (Genesis 32:2).
The two sons of Eli ... were there. The right translation of the Hebrew is, "And there (at Shiloh) the two sons of Eli ... were priests." Eli apparently had devolved upon his sons his priestly functions, while he discharged the duties only of a judge. His position is remarkable. In the Book of Judges we find a state of anarchy. The people are rude, untutored, doing much as they pleased, committing often atrocious crimes, yet withal full of generous impulses, brave, and even heroic. There is little regular government among them, but whenever a great man stands forth, the people in his district submit themselves to him. The last judge, Samson, a man of pungent wit and vast personal prowess, seems to have been entirely destitute of all those qualities which make a man fit to be a ruler, but he kept the patriotism of the people alive and nerved them to resistance by the fame of his exploits. In Eli we find a ruler possessed of statesmanlike qualities. The country under him is prosperous; the Philistines, no longer dominant as in Samson's time, have so felt his power that when they gain a victory the Israelites are astonished at it (1 Samuel 4:3). Moreover, he is not only judge, he is also high priest; but instead of belonging to the family of Phinehas, the dominant house in the time of the Judges, he belongs to that of Ithamar. When, to solve the problem, we turn to the genealogies in the Chronicles, we find Eli's house omitted, though, even after the massacres at Shiloh and Nob, his grandson Ahimelech was still powerful (1 Chronicles 24:3), and one of his descendants returned from Babylon as jointly high priest with a descendant of Phinehas (Ezra 8:2). How long a space of time elapsed between the rude heroism of Samson's days and Eli's orderly government in Church and State we do not know, but the difference in the condition of things is vast. Igor do we know the steps by which Eli rose to power, but he must have been a man of no common ability. Warrior as well as statesman, he had delivered the people from the danger of becoming enslaved to the Philistines. In his own family alone he failed. His sons, allowed to riot in licentiousness, ruined the stately edifice of the father's fortunes, and the Philistines, taking advantage of the general discontent caused by their vices, succeeded in once again putting the yoke on Israel's neck.
1 Samuel 1:5
A worthy portion. This rendering is based upon the idea that the Hebrew, which is literally "one portion of two faces," may mean "one portion enough for two persons." But for this there is no sufficient authority, and though the word is a dual, it really signifies the two sides of the face, or more exactly "the two nostrils," and so simply the countenance. The Syriac translation, "a double portion," is based upon an accidental resemblance between the words. As the term sometimes signifies anger from the swelling of the nostrils of an enraged person, the Vulgate translates, "And Elkanah was sad when he gave Hannah her portion; for …" The Septuagint has a different reading, epes for apaim, and though the words look different in our writing, they are nearly identical in Hebrew. This is probably the true reading, and the translation would then be, "And to Hannah he gave one portion only (because she bad no child, while Peninnah had many portions, as each son and daughter had a share); for he loved Hannah, though Jehovah had shut up her womb." These portions were of course taken from those parts of the victim which formed a feast for the offerers, after Jehovah and the priests had had their dues. It is plain from this feast that Elkanah's annual sacrifice was a peace offering, for the law of which see Le 1Sa 7:11 -21.
1 Samuel 1:6, 1 Samuel 1:7, 1 Samuel 1:8
Her adversary also provoked her sore. The pleasure of this domestic festival was spoiled by the discord of the wives. Peninnah, triumphant in her fruitfulness, is yet Hannah's adversary, because, in spite of her barrenness, she has the larger portion of the husband's love; while Hannah is so sorely vexed at the taunts of her rival, that she weeps from sheer vexation. In vain Elkanah tries to give her comfort. The husband really is not "better than ten sons," for the joy of motherhood is quite distinct from that of conjugal affection, and especially to a Hebrew woman, who had special hopes from which she was cut off by barrenness. In 1 Samuel 1:7 there is a strange confusion of subject, owing to the first verb having been read as an active instead of a passive. It should be, "And so it happened year by year: when she (Hannah) went up to the house of Jehovah she (Peninnah) thus provoked her, and she wept and did not eat." It must be remembered that the Hebrews had no written vowels, but only consonants; the vowels were added in Christian times, many centuries after the coming of our Lord, and represent the traditional manner of reading of one great Jewish school. They are to be treated with the greatest respect, because as a rule they give us a sense confirmed by the best authorities; but they are human, and form no part of Holy Scripture. The ancient versions, the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Vulgate, which are all three older than the Masoretic vowels, translate, "And so she (Peninnah) did year by year;" but this requires a slight change of the consonants.
1 Samuel 1:1-3
The main facts implied or expressed in this section are—
1. A state of national degeneracy.
2. A scarcity of spiritual illumination.
3. A family morally imperfect and troubled, yet rigidly observant of religious duties.
4. A Divine will using that family for the further unfolding of Messianic purposes.
I. AN UNBROKEN CONTINUITY runs through the revelations of the Old Testament, analogous to that of the physical order and the education of the individual. It is only ignorance of the Bible that can suppose it to be destitute of the unity in variety which is known to characterise the material creation. Separate books, like diverse strata in the crust of the earth, are preliminary to what is to follow; and the character of the events recorded, and the condition of morality and religious light referred to, must be considered as related to the one general purpose. Sometimes the transition seems to be sudden and abrupt, and a totally new set of subjects appears; but, as in the reference here to a "certain man," whose life was chiefly spent during the era covered by the latter part of the Book of Judges, so generally connecting links may be found.
II. THE CONSERVATION AND DISCIPLINE OF THE CHOSEN RACE are subservient to the development of the Divine purpose in Christ. History is the basis of revelation. Man is not to be saved by abstract truth, but by an historical Christ. The historical Christ is to appear in the "fulness of time," not from the skies, but from a human line well authenticated. Human factors are the transitory element in the Divine unfolding of salvation in Christ. That God should use men, during a long succession of ages, as the channel through which his mercy should embrace all the world, is as natural and reasonable as that he should perfect his will in the beautiful order of the earth by a long series of changes in crude material elements. God did not make imperfect men perfect in order to use them; but showed his wisdom in training and holding together the chosen race just as they were. Degenerate as they were during the period of the Judges, they were not cut off forever, but chastened and quickened. Thus the process was continued, until the purpose was ripe for the appearing of the Christ, and his proper identification, by the combination of history and prophecy.
III. THE FORM AND DEGREE OF REVELATION vouchsafed to an age are largely dependent on the ideas and moral character previously attained to. Man at first entered on life devoid of ancestral literature; and so Adam's descendants, in succeeding ages, inherited less of knowledge and experience in proportion as they were nearer to the founder of the race. It is not wise to import our modern ideas into the minds of those who, in the days of Jacob, Moses, and the Judges, had not been fashioned by our inheritance of knowledge. The devout men and women of Elkanah's time, having acquired knowledge of the existence of hosts of intelligent beings, took a wider conception of God's sovereignty (verses 3, 11) than was possible to men of an earlier age. God conveyed truth in so far as men were able to bear it. It would be as unnatural for Isaiah's lofty teachings to follow at once on the scanty illumination of the era of the Judges, as for philosophical conceptions to be set before children. Divine wisdom shines through the graduated teaching of Israel's history (Matthew 19:7, Matthew 19:8).
IV. THE EDUCATION OF A PEOPLE, with ulterior view to the world's instruction, by provisional, not final truth, necessitates eras of transition. All through the ages God was educating a race for the benefit of the world; and, as education means steady development, widening vision, the elements of things would form the staple of early teaching. Times came when a new feature had to be introduced, and early arrangements to give place to something more suited to the wider truth to be taught. The occasional vision and message, suited to patriarchal life, were followed by the systematic symbolism and rigid rules appropriate to national consolidation under Moses. The casual illumination of the Judgeship, also, yields to the more steady teaching and guidance of the prophetic schools inaugurated by Samuel. Later on, the early dawn of the prophetic ages gives place to the "dayspring" which reveals the Sun of righteousness. As in nature, so in revelation, stage succeeds stage; transitions are according to law.
V. THE INSTRUMENTS FOR EFFECTING A TRANSITION are duly chosen, and are silently, unconsciously prepared for their work. The world little knew of the germinal Divine purpose working out in an obscure home of Mount Ephraim; nor did the "certain man" know how the conflicting elements in his home were being graciously over ruled to the development of a piety not surpassed in Old Testament history, and the sending forth of one who should be a blessed forerunner of One greater still. Germs of future good lie in undreamed of places and persons. Out of the vast storehouse of the universe the all-gracious God is constantly preparing some new channel of good to his creatures. In the scattered villages and towns of the land there are being nurtured, unconsciously, the lives that in days hence shall be foremost in the Redeemer's host. "Little Bethlehem," and the lowly Joseph and Mary, were in reserve for the greatest of events. Any new advances to be made by the Church in the future are sure to be provided for by chosen men, possibly unknown to the world, and silently trained by Providence for their work.
VI. PERSONS, PLACES, AND EVENTS, IN THEMSELVES OBSCURE, BECOME IMPORTANT when associated with the unfolding of high spiritual purposes. It was the connection of Samuel with Christ's glorious kingdom that linked a "certain man" and his wife with the same, and so raised them from obscurity. Spiritual uses give real value to things. The frail and insignificant becomes enduring and important when blended with the interests of the "kingdom that cannot be moved." Every member of Christ's body is precious to him. Names are recorded in heaven which enter on no earthly roll. The life and spirit of every lowly Christian are known by God to exercise a widespread, abiding influence in the invisible sphere. As the kingdom is to be eternal, so, whatever part each one may take in its unfolding, that item will be saved from the transitoriness and oblivion of other toil. Fame in the world is not the criterion and measure of real usefulness. The chief concern should be so to live as to be, in some form, useable by God for advancing the glory of Christ. All are morally great when employed in his service to the full extent of their capacities.
VII. A DILIGENT USE OF SUCH LIGHT AS IS BESTOWED, especially in degenerate times, may qualify even obscure men for rendering important service. The family religion of a "certain man" bore its fruit. The moral ground of usefulness lies in character, and character is spiritually strong in so far as improvement is daily made of privileges, however few they may be. Men's fitness to confer benefits on the world is more connected with a wise use of what they have and know, than with the absolute possession of knowledge. A little goodness, and a humble routine of devotion in a dark age, shines the brighter because of the surrounding gloom. From the ranks of pious men in modern times, who cared for piety at home, there have gone forth many sons distinguished for service in the Church of God. It is worthy of note how fixed ordinances and seasons of Divine worship nourish whatever of piety may be struggling here and there against degenerate manners and official corruption. The usual services of the tabernacle and the recurring festivals, though despised and profaned by many, furnished comfort and cheer to the faithful few. In spite of unworthy priests, God is found in his courts by all who seek him.
1 Samuel 1:4-8
The facts given in this section are—
1. Hannah's grief and disappointment.
2. Peninnah's cruel jealousy.
3. Elkanah's efforts to console.
I. PROVIDENCE sometimes seems to RUN COUNTER TO WHAT IS MOST DESIRABLE, in withholding gifts where they would be devoutly valued and wisely used. Humanly speaking, Hannah was the most fit person to be blessed with offspring to be nurtured. The course of nature which finds expression in family life is of God. Though the free element of human action plays a part, yet God is supreme. Providence is over the home of the pious. Poverty and riches, new life and bereavement, are of the Lord. Looked at in its early stages, and tested by our range of vision, the course of Providence is often the reverse of what makes for the joy of the home and the good of the world. Often the illiberal spirit holds wealth, while the loving heart has only good wishes. Many a good, Christlike heart laments that it has not the means of clothing the poor, and sending forth messengers of the cross. Men of very slender abilities and lowly position, but of intense enthusiasm for Christ, may wonder why they have not been endowed with the intellectual and social qualities which would enable them to stem the tide of scepticism, and gain over to Christianity persons now inaccessible to them.
II. PROVIDENCE, for reasons net obvious, sometimes SEEMS TO FAVOUR INFERIOR CHARACTERS, bestowing gifts where there is not the purest spirit to improve them. Peninnah was immensely inferior to Hannah in all that makes character to be admired. If judged by the benefits conferred on some persons, and the disposition to use them, Providence would be said to have erred. The writer of Psalms 37:1-40. and 73, had once bitter reflections on this subject. The causes of the Divine conduct lie deep in hidden counsels. The inequalities and disproportions of life clearly show that we see only the beginning of things, and that there is a future where every man shall receive according to his work. It is enough to know, that in the abundant blessings which often fall to the lot of the inferior and the bad, they have experienced goodness and mercy, so as to be without excuse for ingratitude, and that the Judge of all the earth cannot but do right.
III. INTENSE GRIEF IS NATURAL ON THE BLIGHTING OF A SUPREME HOPE. Every one must see the naturalness of Hannah's grief. The ordinary course of nature fosters hope; it is the basis of reasonable expectations. A well balanced mind lives in strong sympathy with nature's ways, for they are of God, and always beneficent in final issue. God is not displeased with grief, not discontent, when it comes in the order of Providence, even though the grief rise from a wish that he had ordered otherwise. Tears have been consecrated by Christ. The wail over Jerusalem was not unconnected with blighted hope. But so far as men are concerned, the roots of their sorrow frequently lie in their ignorance of God's times and methods. He doth not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. There is some undeveloped purpose for their good which will yet vindicate his goodness.
IV. To have a deep and SACRED GRIEF INTENSIFIED BY UNMERITED AND CONTINUOUS REPROACH is the climax of domestic suffering. The griefs of private life are sacred. The wounded spirit shuns the inquisitive eye. Sorrow often seeks sad comfort in self-isolation. The cruel jibes of her rival were agony to Hannah's gentle spirit. So the Man of sorrows felt the bitter reproach of his own people as a most painful addition to that secret sorrow he ever carried in his heart. In many an unhappy home there is yet to be found a meek, loving soul grieving over deferred hope of a husband or children saved, and compelled also to bear scorn, and perhaps ill treatment, from those most dear. A patient, Christlike spirit is the Divine counterpoise of such suffering.
V. LONG YEARS OF MEEKLY ENDURED TRIAL MAY BE THE DIVINE TRAINING for subordinating natural gratification to high spiritual ends. Completed history gives the clue to the enigmas of its early stages. Posterity has seen that the long trial of Hannah was not without its blessed uses in sublimating her hopes, and deepening her piety. It is a first principle that trial to the devout is essentially a good. The spirit of the sufferer has to grow up to the Divine intent by meek submission. Like many mothers, Hannah might have rested in the simple joy of bearing offspring had not a merciful God prepared means for directing her desires to a higher good. When sympathy with the holy purposes of Christ is developed in the soul, natural desires will fall into harmony with his will, and be laid at his feet. And the deepened piety of a mother tells most powerfully on the subsequent nurture of her child.
VI. It is possible for HIGH RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS TO BE
(1) embittered by the presence of wicked jealousies,
(2) marred by an outburst of pent up grief.
The holy sanctuary is frequented by the devout and the profane, and the longing heart of a Hannah is fretted by the unkind expressions of a Peninnah. Side by side before the holy throne may be found men and women embittered by the very presence of each other. Divine worship and hallowed festivities should be the occasion when all animosities and vexations of spirit are lost in the calm, holy joy of God's favour. But when the wounded heart is pierced afresh in the house of God, or amidst Zion's rejoicings, the very joyousness of the occasion makes sorrow more sorrowful. Many are the tears shed in the sanctuary! The heart speaks its woes the more that joy becomes the place.
VII. INDISCREET FAVOURS IN A HOME ONLY ADD TO TROUBLE. Monogamy is the dictate of religion and of philosophy. Trouble must arise in society by departure from the prime law. Elkanah's troubles were his own seeking, and no amount of affection ostentatiously bestowed availed to cover the original error, or to lessen the inconveniences of it. Persons committed to conflicting domestic obligations, and beset with difficulty, need to exercise more than ordinary discretion in the expression of their feelings. Even in properly constituted homes, unwise preferences lay the foundation for alienation and strife.
VIII. MEN OF TENDEREST AFFECTION AND ORDINARY GOODNESS MAY BE INCAPABLE OF FULLY APPRECIATING THE GREAT SORROW OF THEIR HOME. With all his kindness, Elkanah was unable to enter fully into the grief of his wife. Natures move in diverse spheres. Some lack responsiveness to the deepest experiences of their kindred and friends, or they have not the spiritual insight to recognise more than secular elements in trouble. The full bliss of one is not a standard for another. There are incommensurable joys, and joys inconceivable. A husband's love is a perfect, beautiful thing. A wife's joy in holy offspring is also perfect and beautiful. The presence of the one blessing may console, but cannot compensate for the absence of the other. The "woman of sorrowful spirit" yearned to be the means of advancing Messiah's kingdom, and mourned that the joy was not hers; no assurance of affection could satisfy such an unrealised yearning. And so, good as the love of friends may be, it can never give full rest to the souls that peer into the future, and long to have the bliss of contributing their best to the Redeemer's glory.
Hence the Practical suggestions:—
1. Be not hasty in forming a judgment on the course of Providence.
2. Cherish sympathy with those whose hopes are deferred.
3. Be careful and sow not in the home, by some irrevocable action, the seeds of permanent discord.
4. Avoid partiality where vows and relationships demand equal treatment.
5. Adore the wisdom that can out of our failings and errors elicit a future blessing.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 1:1-8. (RAMAH.)
A Hebrew family.
The family is a Divine institution. It is the most ancient, most needful, and most enduring form of society; and, in proportion as it accords with the plan of its original constitution, it is productive of most beneficent effects, both temporal and spiritual, to the individual and the community. In times of general laxity and anarchy it has been, in many instances, a little sacred islet of purity, order, and peace, and nurtured the elements out of which a better age has grown. The real strength of a nation lies in its domestic life, and Israel was in this respect eminent above all other ancient nations. Even in the days of the judges, when "there was no king in Israel," and "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25), there were many godly families scattered through the land. One of these was that which gave birth to SAMUEL, the last of the series of the judges, the first of the order of the prophets, and the founder of the Hebrew monarchy. This family is introduced with a brief description (1 Samuel 1:1, 1 Samuel 1:2). The residence of the family was Ramah (the Height), or, more fully described, Ramathaim (the Two Heights). Here Samuel was born and nurtured; had his permanent abode during the latter portion of his life; died, and was buried. There is not a more sacred spot on earth than the home which is endeared by tender association and religious communion.
"A spot of earth supremely blest;
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest."
"Things are not to be valued on account of places, but places for the good things which they contain" (Bede). "God chooses any common spot for a mighty incident or the home of a mighty spirit." Consider the family as—
I. ORDERED BY A GODLY HEAD (1 Samuel 1:3). His piety was shown—
1. By his regular attendance on Divine ordinances. He worshipped "the Lord of hosts," not Baalim and Ashtaroth (1 Samuel 7:4); in the way of his appointment, at the tabernacle in Shiloh, at the proper season, and with the prescribed sacrifices; not according to his own reason or inclination merely, a will worship which is not acceptable to God.
2. By his sincere and spiritual service, in contrast to the formal, worthless, and hypocritical service of others, especially the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:12), and undeterred by their evil conduct in the priestly office.
3. By his faithful performance of his vows (1 Samuel 1:21).
4. By his conversation and prayer in his own house (1 Samuel 1:23).
5. By his conducting all the members of his family to "the house of the Lord" (1 Samuel 1:7), in the exercise of his parental authority, accompanied by instruction and example. The words of the Law of Moses were evidently familiar to him (Deuteronomy 6:6-9), and happy is the family in which they are obeyed.
II. UNITING IN SOCIAL FESTIVITY (1 Samuel 1:4, 1 Samuel 1:5). Once a year he took his journey, in company with his family, from Ramah to the central sanctuary of the Divine King of Israel, for the twofold purpose of worshipping (lit; bowing down) and sacrificing before Jehovah. The sacrifice he offered was a peace offering (Deuteronomy 27:7), in which, when the animal was killed, the priest received its breast and right shoulder as his lawful portion, whilst the rest was given back to the worshipper that he and his family might feast on it before the Lord. Their festivity was—
1. Religious. It was the festivity of those who were received into communion with God. They were guests at his table, and overshadowed by his presence. It is said of the elders of Israel that they "saw God, and did eat and drink" (Exodus 24:11). And if no such visible sign of his glory now appeared, yet their consciousness of his presence (according to his promise, and symbolised by the ark of the covenant) would give solemnity to their repast, and prevent improper indulgence and revelry, which were but too common in this corrupt time (1 Samuel 1:14; Judges 21:19, Judges 21:21). It should ever be the same when Christians join in social festivity.
2. Joyous (Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 16:11). Its religiousness did not detract from its gladness, but made it pure, elevating, and refreshing. "The joy of the Lord is your strength."
3. Participated in by the whole family, children as well as adults. As the fathers the women and the children took part in idol feasts (Jeremiah 6:18), so they should take part in "feasting before the Lord."
4. It also called forth expressions of affection (1 Samuel 1:4). The kindness of God to all should lead to kindness one toward another, and the example of kindness set by the head of the family should be followed by all its members. Even the ordinary family meal may and ought to be such a scene of sacred festivity, but the highest realisation of it on earth is in "the Lord's Supper" (1 Corinthians 11:20). And how great is the blessing which rests upon the family, all the members of which partake together of the "cup of blessing," and are "all partakers of that one Bread."
III. DISQUIETED BY DOMESTIC TROUBLE (1 Samuel 1:5-8). It was natural that Hannah should feel disappointed at being childless. Her condition was deemed a reproach, and a sign of Divine displeasure. But her grief arose chiefly from the conduct of her rival, Peninnah. There was thus an element of discord and trouble in the family. This trouble—
1. Existed where it might have been least expected. The family was distinguished by earthly prosperity and genuine piety. But what home is there on earth wholly free from trouble? Beneath the fairest appearances there is seldom wanting a cause of disquiet, to check self-complacency and teach the soul its true rest.
2. Was occasioned by want of conformity to a Divine ordinance. The introduction of a second wife by Elkanah was not according to the Divine appointment "in the beginning" (Genesis 2:24; Ma Genesis 2:15; Matthew 19:4). The violation of that appointment had taken place at an early period (Genesis 4:19); it was sanctioned by long usage; and it was permitted under the Law "for the hardness of their hearts," and until they should be educated up to a higher moral condition. But it was followed by pernicious consequences (Genesis 4:23; Genesis 30:8), as it always is in those families and nations where it obtains. Ignorance of the laws of God may mitigate or exempt from guilt; but it does not do away with all the evil consequences of their violation; for those laws are rooted in the fixed relations and tendencies of things.
3. Was immediately caused by the indulgence of improper feeling and unseemly speech. Peninnah may have been jealous of the special love shown to Hannah by her husband (1 Samuel 1:5). She was proud and haughty on account of her own sons and daughters, and, instead of sympathising with her who had none, she made her defect a ground of insult; and trials ordained by Divine providence are peculiarly severe when they become an occasion of human reproach. Finally, she gave free play to "an unruly evil" (James 3:8), especially at those seasons when it should have been held under restraint. Such things are the bane of domestic life.
4. Disturbed the proper performance of sacred duties. Peninnah could have little peace in her own breast, and be little prepared for Divine worship or sacred festivity. As for Hannah, although she did not angrily retaliate, but patiently endured the reproaches cast upon her (affording an admirable example of meekness), yet "she wept and did not eat" (1 Samuel 1:7), and her joy was turned into mourning. Domestic disturbances tend greatly to hinder prayers (1 Peter 3:7).
5. Was alleviated by affectionate expostulation (1 Samuel 1:8). "In Elkanah we have an example of a most excellent husband, who patiently tolerated the insulting humour of Peninnah, and comforted dejected Hannah with words full of tender affection, which was truly, in St. Peter's words, to dwell with them according to knowledge" (Patrick). Let each member of the family endeavour to soothe and alleviate the sorrows of the rest, and all learn to find their own happiness in promoting the happiness of others.
6. Was over ruled by Divine providence for great good. In her trouble Hannah was led to pray fervently, and her prayer was answered; sorrowing gave place to rejoicing; the family was benefited; and the people of God were greatly blessed. So, in his wonderful working, God "turned the curse into a blessing" (Nehemiah 13:2).—D.
1 Samuel 1:3. (SHILOH)
Worship is worship, the honour paid to superior worth; more especially it is the reverence and homage paid to God in religious exercises. Public worship (as distinguished from private and family worship) is designed to give an open expression, before men, of the praise and honour which are his due (Psalms 145:10-12); a purpose which is not fulfilled by those who neglect it, and is forgotten by those who observe it only as a means of obtaining their own spiritual benefit. It is often enjoined in the word of God, and is commended by the example of good men. The conduct of Elkanah is suggestive of useful hints concerning—
I. GOING TO WORSHIP. Persuaded of the obligation and privilege, "he went up out of his city" and home. He did "not forsake the house of the Lord" (Nehemiah 10:39; Hebrews 10:25). Neither the distance, nor the trouble involved, prevented him; nor did the unworthy conduct of many of the worshippers keep him away. He took all his family with him, except when any of them were hindered by sickness or necessary duties (1 Samuel 1:20). He thought of the purpose for which he went, and made the needful preparation for "worshipping and sacrificing unto the Lord." He was careful to be in time; and, doubtless, sought the blessing of God on his service, entertained the journey with profitable conversation, and came with reverence and self-restraint (Ecclesiastes 5:1).
II. THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP. "The Lord of hosts." He did not worship an "unknown God." Man must worship because he is a man; but he will worship a false or unworthy object, as well as in a wrong manner, unless he be Divinely taught, because he is a sinner. He "knew what he worshipped," even the living and true God, who had revealed himself to his people; Creator, Redeemer, Ruler; holy, just, and merciful (Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7). Our knowledge of God is necessarily imperfect (Job 11:7); but it may be true as far as it goes, and the true idea of God is "the root of all absolute grandeur, of all truth and moral perfection" (John 17:3).
III. THE PLACE OF WORSHIP. He went to worship in Shiloh (Deuteronomy 16:15), where the tabernacle, made in the wilderness, having been first pitched at Gilgal, had now been standing 300 years. It was the palace of the great King. Here his servants the priests ministered, and offerings were presented by his subjects at his altar in the outer court (1 Samuel 2:33); the lamp of God (1 Samuel 3:3), the altar of incense (1 Samuel 2:28), and the table of shew bread (1 Samuel 21:4) stood in the holy place; and the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 4:3) in the holiest of all (Hebrews 9:25). These were symbols of spiritual truth and means of Divine communion (Exodus 29:43; Deuteronomy 16:11). The ideas that underlay them are fully realised in Christ and his Church, and the symbols are no longer needed; nor is there any more one central and sacred spot "where men ought to worship" (John 4:20, John 4:23). God draws nigh to us, and we can call upon him "in every place." The presence of holy souls makes all places holy, in so far as any place can be so called.
"What's hallowed ground? 'Tis what gives birth
To sacred thoughts in souls of worth."
Common worship, however, renders necessary special places of worship, the declared purpose and holy associations of which make them dear to good men and helpful to their devotions, so that they are sometimes constrained to say with Jacob, "How dreadful is this place," etc. (Genesis 28:17). "A fearful place, indeed, and worthy of all reverence, is that which saints inhabit, holy angels frequent, and God himself graces with his own presence."
IV. THE TIME OF WORSHIP. "He went up yearly," or from year to year, and continued several days. The Law required that the tribes should assemble at the sanctuary three times a year; but in those unsettled times it appears to have been the custom for them to attend only once, probably at the passoVerse What acts of worship he performed, or what times he observed at Ramah, we are not told. The Sabbath (though not mentioned in the Books of Samuel) we may be sure was not neglected by him, nor should it be by us. The spirit of continual Sabbath keeping (Hebrews 4:9) is, indeed, of greater importance than the observance of one day in seven; but its observance, with reference to the higher truths which the first day of the week commemorates, is most needful and beneficial.
V. THE MANNER OF WORSHIP. "He went up to worship and sacrifice." His worship consisted of adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving. It was connected with and embodied in sacrifices of various kinds, and of different significance: expiatory (sin offerings), self-dedicatory (burnt offerings), and eucharistic (peace offerings). They had a real and deep relation to the sacrifice of Christ. From it they derived their worth, and by it they have been done away. Our worship demands spiritual sacrifices, the broken and contrite heart, the "presenting of our bodies as a living sacrifice," prayer, thanksgiving, holy and benevolent dispositions and conduct. "By him, therefore (who brings us nigh to God, and makes, us capable of serving him aright): let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, etc. (Hebrews 13:16.)
VI. RETURNING FROM WORSHIP. After the sacred feast was over, he and his family "rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned" (1 Samuel 1:19). Morning is a most favourable season for devotion (Psalms 5:3); and those who are about to take a journey or enter on a new enterprise do well to rise up early and seek the Divine guidance and help. Elkanah showed that he was not weary of his devotions, but desired to avail himself to the utmost of the opportunities afforded him; and, by doing so, he obtained the greatest permanent benefit from his visit to the sanctuary. The manner in which we return from public worship greatly influences its permanent results (Matthew 13:4, Matthew 13:19; Luke 11:28). And our aim and endeavour, when we return, should be to sanctify all places, all times, all occupations by the spirit of unceasing prayer and thanksgiving, and so make the whole of life a preparation for the services of the heavenly temple.—D.
1 Samuel 1:3, 1 Samuel 1:11. (SHILOH.)
The Lord of hosts.
There is no subject more worthy of study than the nature and character of God. His perfections are often called his Name, and his Name is expressed by various words, all of which are significant. They are not merely designations, but also descriptions. The word God is commonly supposed to mean the Good One, but it probably denotes "he on whom one calls," or "he to whom one sacrifices; "the word Lord = Giver or Distributor of bread; Deity (Sanscrit, Dyaus) = the Resplendent, Light giving Heaven, the Shining One, showing the pure conception which the ancient Aryans (the ancestors of the Indo-European nations) entertained of the Divine Being. But the Bible mentions other names of God, which were either in common use among the Semitic nations, or given by special revelation to the Hebrews; and of these one of the most noteworthy is that of "the Lord of hosts" (Jehovah Sabaoth), which occurs no less than 260 times, this being the first instance of its use. Observe—
I. ITS HISTORICAL USE.
1. Founded on what had been previously known or revealed. Jehovah Sabaoth = Jehovah, Elohe (God of) Sabaoth (Keil; 2 Samuel 5:10). El (Beth-El, Isra-El, El-kanah, Samu-El)—the Strong or Mighty One; used in the plural as "comprehending in himself the fulness of all power, and uniting in himself all the attributes which the heathen ascribe to their divinities." Jehovah (Yahveh) = he who is, or he who will be, the Being, the Absolute One, the Cause and Support of all other beings, the Eternal, the Unchangeable; employed with special reference to his personality, unity, his close relationship to his people, and his promise to be their God; the Proper Name of Israel's God (Exodus 3:14; Exodus 6:3). Sabaoth (hosts) = the heaven and the earth (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19), the angels (Genesis 32:2, where, however, another word of similar import is used; Psalms 103:21), and more commonly armies of men (Genesis 21:22; Exodus 6:26; Joshua 5:14). The whole name = "Jehovah, the God of the armies of Israel, the Giver of the victory in battle, of the stars and of the angels."
2. First used when he was about to make a fresh display of his power and grace to his people under their anointed king (1 Samuel 4:4; 1 Samuel 17:45; 2 Samuel 6:1-23:27). By Hannah, the most spiritually minded person of that age (see Wordsworth's 'Com.').
3. "Rose into new prominence in proportion as the people came into contact with the Assyrian and Chaldaean races, by whom the worship of the heavenly bodies was systematised into a national religion, and was therefore perpetually on the lips of Isaiah and Jeremiah as a protest against it" (Isaiah 6:1-13.; Jeremiah 46:18; Jeremiah 48:15).
4. Most frequently used by the later prophets, "who doubtless sought to counteract by this means the fear which the Jews, as a poor, despised people, had of the power of the Gentiles, and to prove to them that the God in whom they believed had hosts enough to protect them, though they should be devoid of all earthly might wherewith to defend themselves against their enemies" (Roos).
5. Only once employed, in direct statement, in the New Testament (James 5:4); other and still higher revelations of his character being made by Jesus Christ.
II. ITS SUBLIME IMPORT. "God alone is great."
1. His personality and unity, as opposed to "the gods many and lords many" worshipped by the heathen; the keystone of the faith of Israel being, "The Lord our God is one Lord." This is not contradictory to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which signifies a threefold distinction in the One God.
2. His supremacy. He is higher than the highest, the great King and Law-giver, whose will all must obey (Psalms 24:10; Malachi 1:14).
3. His immensity. He fills all space; rules over sun, moon, and stars; myriads of angels; nations, families, and individual men. "All are thy servants."
4. His omnipotence. "Lord God Almighty." "Power belongeth unto God." "It is the flower of his crown imperial, which he will suffer none to usurp. If the proudest of creatures go beyond the bounds and limits of his present permission, he will send worms to eat them up, as he did Herod" (Owen). "Thine omnipotence is not far from us when we are far from thee", Other revelations have now been given. "God is spirit." "God is light." "God is love." "Our Father which art in heaven." But his name as the Lord of hosts ought often to be an object of devout contemplation.
III. ITS PRACTICAL INFLUENCE. It is adapted—
1. To correct error: atheism, polytheism, pantheism, positivism, scepticism, secularism, etc.
2. To elevate our conceptions of him, and fill us with humility, reverence, and adoration.
3. To encourage us to pray to him, with strong confidence that we shall be heard (1 Samuel 1:11; Zechariah 8:21; Matthew 26:53; Ephesians 3:20).
4. To strengthen us in labour. "Work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:4).
5. To incite us to contend against his foes, to "fight the good fight of faith." "I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts" (1 Samuel 17:45).
6. To console us in trouble. "The Lord will protect his own" (Psalms 34:7; Isaiah 8:13). He is the Protector and Avenger of the oppressed (James 5:4). "He calls God the Lord of hosts in order to strike terror into those who think that the poor have no protector" (Bede).
7. To warn all who disobey his voice, and set themselves in opposition to him and his people. "Beware, therefore."—D.
1 Samuel 1:9-28
HANNAH'S PRAYER FOR A SON (1 Samuel 1:9-18).
1 Samuel 1:9
After they had eaten .... after they had drunk. The Hebrew favours the translation, "After she had eaten in Shiloh, and after she had drunk;" the somewhat forced rendering of the A.V. having arisen from a supposed discrepancy between this verse and 1 Samuel 1:7. Really there is none. The words simply mean that Hannah took part in the sacrificial banquet, though she did so without appetite or pleasure; and thus they connect her visit to the temple and her prayer with the most solemn religious service of the year. To take part in this banquet was a duty, but as soon as she had fulfilled it she withdrew to the temple to pour out her grief before God. There Eli, the priest, i.e. the high priest, as in Numbers 26:1; Numbers 27:2, was seated upon, not a seat, but the pontifical throne, placed at the entrance leading into the inner court of the tabernacle, so that all who came to worship must pass before him. It is remarkable that the tabernacle is called the temple (so 1 Samuel 3:3; Psalms 5:7), or, more literally, the "palace" of Jehovah, his royal residence; and it thus appears that the name had come into use before Solomon's building was erected. The curtains (Exodus 26:1) also had given place to a mezuzah, translated a post, but really a sort of porch, with doors, as appears from 1 Samuel 3:15 (comp. Exodus 21:6; 1 Kings 7:5). As the tabernacle remained stationary at Shiloh for 300 years, naturally numerous buildings of a more solid nature grew up around it.
1 Samuel 1:10, 1 Samuel 1:11
She … prayed unto the LORD. Kneeling down in the inner court, but within sight of Eli, whose throne in the porch probably overlooked the whole inner space, Hannah prays unto "Jehovah of Sabaoth" for a male child. Her humility appears in her thrice calling herself Jehovah's handmaid; her earnestness in the threefold repetition of the entreaty that Jehovah would look on her, and remember her, and not forget her. With her prayer she also makes a twofold vow in case her request is granted. The son given her is, first, to serve not for a stipulated number of years, as was the law with the Levites (Numbers 4:3), but for life; and, secondly, he is to be a Nazarite. We gather from Numbers 6:2 that Moses found this singular institution in existence, and only regulated it, and admitted it into the circle of established and legalised ordinances. Essentially it was a consecration to God, a holy priesthood, but not a sacrificing priesthood nor one by right of birth, as the Aaronic, but personal, and either for a limited period, or for life. During the continuance of the vow, a Nazarite might
(1) partake of no produce of the vine, signifying thereby abstinence from self-indulgence and carnal pleasure. He might
(2) take no part in mourning for the dead, even though they were his nearest relatives, because his holier duties raised him above the ordinary joys and sorrows, the cares and occupations of every day life. Lastly, no razor might come upon his head, the free growing hair being at once the distinctive mark by which all men would recognise his sacred calling, and also a sign that he was not bound by the usual customs of life. By Hannah's first vow Samuel was devoted to service in the sanctuary, by the second to a holy consecrated life. This institution remained in existence unto our Lord's days; for John the Baptist was also consecrated to God as a Nazarite by his mother, though not as Samuel, also given to minister in the temple.
1 Samuel 1:12-18
She continued praying. Hannah's prayer was long and earnest, but in silence. She spake not in, but "to her heart," to herself. It was an inward supplication, which only her own heart and God heard. Eli watched, and was displeased. Possibly silent prayer was something unusual. It requires a certain advance in civilisation and refinement to enable a supplicant to separate the petition from the outward expression of it in spoken words, and a strong faith before any one can feel that God hears and knows the silent utterances of the heart (comp. Matthew 8:8-10). Naturally men think that they shall be heard for their much speaking, and for speaking aloud. Unused then to such real prayer, Eli, as he marked the quivering lips, the prostrate form, the face flushed with earnestness, came to the coarse conclusion that she was drunken, and with equal coarseness bids her "put away her wine from her," that is, go and sleep off the effects of her debauch. Hannah answers indignantly, "No, my lord." She is "a woman hard of spirit;', heavy hearted, as we should say, and she had been lightening her heart by pouring out her troubles before Jehovah. She is no "worthless woman;" for Belial is not a proper name, though gradually it became one (2 Corinthians 6:15), but means worthlessness, and "a daughter of worthlessness" means a bad woman. "Grief" is rather provocation, vexation. Hannah cannot forget the triumph of her rival, exulting over her many portions, while for her there had been only one. Convinced by the modesty and earnestness of her answer, Eli retracts his accusation, gives her his blessing, and prays that her petition may be granted. And Hannah, comforted by such words spoken by the high priest (John 11:51), returned to the sacrificial feast, which apparently was not yet finished, and joined in it, for "she did eat, and her countenance was to her no more," that is, the grieved and depressed look which she had so long borne had now departed from her. There is no reason for the insertion of the word sad.
HANNAH'S PRAYER ANSWERED (1 Samuel 1:19, 1 Samuel 1:20).
1 Samuel 1:19, 1 Samuel 1:20
They rose up. After solemn worship early the next morning Elkanah returned to his home at Ramah, and God answered Hannah's prayer, and gave her the wished for son. She calls him Samuel, lit. Shemuel (Numbers 34:20; 1 Chronicles 7:2), which was an ordinary Hebrew name, and means "heard of God," not "asked of God," as in the margin of the A.V. It seems to have been the mother's right to give names to her children (Luke 1:60), and Hannah saw in Samuel, whom she had asked of God, a living proof that she had been heard by him. The name, therefore, is of fuller significance than the reason given for it. Ishmael has virtually the same meaning, signifying "God heareth."
THE VOW FULFILLED (1 Samuel 1:21-28).
1 Samuel 1:21
Elkanah... went up. When at the return of the year Elkanah went up as usual to Shiloh, Hannah remained at home, purposing to wait there till her son was old enough to be given to the Lord. This followed soon after his weaning, which in the East is delayed much longer than with us. In 2 Macc. 7:27 we find three years mentioned as the usual period of lactation, but the chief Jewish authorities make the time one year shorter. At three years old a child in the East would cease to be troublesome; but besides this, there was an order of women attached to the sanctuary (see on 1 Samuel 2:22), and probably regulations for the training of children devoted to the temple service. The yearly sacrifice, lit. "sacrifice of days," would include among its duties the carrying to Shiloh of the tithes which were to be consumed before the Lord (Deuteronomy 12:17, Deuteronomy 12:18), and the payment of those portions of the produce which belonged to Jehovah and the priests, and had become due during the year. His vow shows that Elkanah had ratified Hannah's words, by adding thereto a thank-offering from himself.
At Shiloh Samuel was to abide forever; his dedication was to be for his whole life. And when Elkanah prays, Only the Lord establish his word, it is evident that he and Hannah expected that a child born under such special circumstances would, like so many children of mothers long barren, be intended for some extraordinary work. The word of Jehovah referred to is that spoken by Eli in Verse 17, which contained not merely the assurance of the birth of a son, but a general confirmation and approval of all that Hannah had prayed for. In Verse 24 the Septuagint reads, "a bullock of three years old," probably on account of the one bullock mentioned in Verse 25; but as three-tenths of an ephah of flour formed the appointed meat offering for one bullock (Numbers 15:8-10), the mention of a whole ephah confirms the reading three bullocks. Probably the one bullock in Verse 25 was the special burnt offering accompanying the solemn dedication of Samuel to Jehovah's service, while the other two were for Elkanah's usual yearly sacrifice, and the thank offering which he had vowed. At the end of the verse the Hebrews reads, "And the child was a child," the word in both places being na'ar, which may mean anything up to fifteen years of age. The child really was about three years old, and the Sept. is probably right in reading, "And the child was with them." Both the Vulgate, however, and the Syriac agree with the Hebrew.
1 Samuel 1:28
I have lent him. The word lent spoils the meaning: Hannah really in these two verses uses the same verb four times, though in different conjugations, and the same sense must be maintained throughout. Her words are, "For this child I prayed, and Jehovah hath given me my asking which I asked of him: and I also have given back what was asked to Jehovah; as long as he liveth he is asked for Jehovah." The conjugation translated to give back what was asked literally means to make to ask, and so to give or lend anything asked. The sense here requires the restoration by Hannah of what she had prayed for (comp. Exodus 12:35, Exodus 12:36), but which she had asked not for herself, but that she might devote it to Jehovah's service. At the end of 1 Samuel 1:28 the sing. "he worshipped" is rendered in the pl. by all the versions except the Sept; which omits it. But he, i.e. Elkanah, includes all his household, and it may be correctly translated in the pl; because the sense so requires, without altering the reading of the Hebrew. In the sing. it puts an unnecessary difficulty in the way of the ordinary reader.
1 Samuel 1:9-18
The main facts are—
1. Hannah, impelled by trouble, goes to the sanctuary and records her wish in a vow.
2. Eli misjudges her character, but hearkens to her self-defence.
3. Eli discovers therefrom her real piety, and helps to create within her heart an assurance of answer to prayer.
4. Hannah enters on a brighter path.
I. IT BRINGS THE SOUL DIRECT TO GOD. It was doubtless good for Hannah to join the family worship, and derive all possible comfort from the festivals which to the devout mind told of a "mercy" which "endureth forever;" but when sorrow is of the godly sort, when the gentle or heavy hand of God has been duly recognised in trial, the soul needs more than the prayers of others. Heart and flesh then cry out for the living God. There are clearly traceable stages in trial before this result ensues. In the case of Hannah, which is typical of many others, it began with a fond hope deferred, awakening only the anxiety common to such domestic incidents. Then, as time wore on, grief was generated, wearing away the strength of the spirit. Years of silent waiting on Providence followed—wonder, doubt, occasional hope, and corresponding despair filling up the experience. The weary heart would turn sometimes to God, and social worship would be valued as a means of grace, but without relief. Sadder and sadder, increasingly sensible of dependence on God, and impelled by the discovery that not even a husband's love can enter into the deepest sorrow, a strong resolve is taken to seek refuge in God by an act of urgent appeal to him. Such is the proper issue of all trials when sanctified. There is no morose repining, no internal war against the Supreme Will, no utter abandonment to despair, no resting in the sympathy and counsel, or even prayers, of the Church; the soul wants God, and, as never before, carries its load straight to him.
II. IT LEADS TO THE MERCY SEAT. There is all the difference between fleeing to God in ignorant desperation, and recognising his covenant mercies in Christ. No doubt there is compassion forevery poor dark creature who under the impulse of trouble cries out to the invisible God; but it was not without a reason that the devout Hebrew preferred to retire to the place where the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat were kept. She knew, as the most enlightened of her people knew, that there was a way to God, and drawing nigh towards the mercy seat was a distinct recognition of One in whom the troubled might expect to be blessed. Trial still leads us to God, not trusting in our righteousness, but by the "new and living way" consecrated by Christ. And though that invisible mercy seat is ever near, it is the wont of those who are being blessed by trial to seek the house of God, and there, pleading his mercy, find relief and lay off their burdens.
III. IT MAKES NATURAL DESIRES FOR AN EARTHLY GOOD SUBORDINATE TO HIGH RELIGIOUS FEELING. It is not certain at what stage in the providential discipline the event occurred, but the fact is clear that there was a time in the process when a natural love of offspring, per se, became absorbed in a passion for devoting the most precious of gifts to God. It is difficult to trace the purifying process by which pure and lofty spiritual feeling emerges out of the fires, but experience in all ages attests the fact that it does. It is an evidence that trouble is blessed when one can say, "There is none on the earth that I desire beside thee." All good things are intended to be helpful to our higher spiritual life, and it is a sign of spiritual health when the possession of them is sought primarily for the furtherance of religious ends, either in self or in the world. Religion is not in antagonism with nature. It rather purifies and ennobles it. Personal endowments, reasonable desires for family, or influence, or wealth, are laid at the cross when self is lost in zeal for God. There were a few features in Hannah's experience which correspond with the action of sanctified trial on others.
1. She learnt the vanity of life apart from God's blessing. Unless he made life rich with the desired good, there was no sense of joy or perfection in life. It is a great gain to learn the lesson of our need of God in order to feel life to be a daily bliss.
2. She, by the action of long trial, was being weaned from dependence on earthly good for the joy of life, and hence was more free to cherish awakening sympathy with the enduring kingdom of God. Disappointment in temporal affairs has often been blessed to a deepened interest in the unseen realities of Christ's kingdom.
3. Her religious sensibilities, being gradually quickened and refined, rendered her increasingly sensitive to the terrible abominations of the age, and hence opened her eyes to see the need of some great reformer of the nation. Thus would the natural desire for offspring merge into the hope that she might send forth the man. It is when souls are more alive to their own spiritual condition that they long also for means by which to check prevailing sin.
IV. IT ISSUES IN THE HIGHEST FORM OF PERSONAL CONSECRATION. Solemn vows are the strongest expression of self-surrender. In Hannah's case a mother gives up her body and soul, her present powers and future possessions and influence, specifically to God. It was not possible for female service to go further. The routine service of the Levite, to be entered on at a definite age, was not enough for the now sanctified woman. Her heart was not satisfied even with the prospect of a son who should grow up in blamelessness of life. It was not the personal comfort of the presence in the house of a loving, pious child that stirred the soul to pray: a vision, given of God, of the coming Messiah imparted spiritual tone to her nature, and nothing would, therefore, give satisfaction short of the consecration from infancy, to the service of the sanctuary, of a son, to be thus prepared for holy labours among the degenerate people, and to be a faint type and useful forerunner of a still more blessed Child. Thus, the limits set by nature, the requirements of an emergency, and the prospective honour of Christ are recognised in an intelligent consecration brought about by the all-wise discipline of him who knows how to qualify for noble service. The exalted ideal of life attained to by this "sorrowful woman" bespeaks the thoroughness of the discipline through which she passed. A young life habituated to the calm and elevating influences of the sanctuary, separated from the sad and sorrow producing evils of the age, untouched by the artificial appliances of man, and nourished in health without the man created stimulants which give so much unreality to conduct—a very Nazarite in spirit and in body—this rose before the mind as an object of fond desire, and was laid lovingly at the throne of God; doubtless, also, in prediction of the One true and perfect life.
V. IT QUALIFIES FOR RENDERING CONTINUOUSLY IMPORTANT SERVICE TO THE CHURCH. No better service can be rendered to the Church than to nurture a life in such a way as to impart to it a tone far above the average of spirituality, and while doing that to pour forth from the heart sentiments that shall act as an inspiration to the wise and good in all ages. It was worth while for Hannah to spend years of sorrow, to issue, under the blessing of God, in the superbly beautiful nurture of a son like Samuel, and in the lofty strains of her celebrated song. Sanctified affliction enriches the soul with qualities permanent in value. The invalid gains spiritual power which in daily prayer brings down blessings on those nigh and afar off. The devout mother who has quietly borne reproach for Christ's sake, sweetens home all the rest of her days by her calm faith in God and ever present gentleness. The merchant who has endured adversity as befits a child of God, gathers from the deep sorrows of his life power to pray and live for imperishable good far in excess of his former capacity. It is good to be afflicted.
If these things be so, there arise several Practical questions deserving conscientious replies:—
1. Is desire for temporal good toned and regulated by regard for spiritual usefulness?
2. Do the private unspeakable sorrows of life draw us nearer to God, or render us sullen and bitter?
3. In our approaches to God do we sufficiently recognise the mercy seat of the New Testament?
4. Have we ever consecrated ourselves or our belongings to God by deliberate vow, and as far as nature permits, and the claims of religion require?
5. Does our personal consecration, or the devotion of our offspring to God, approach toward the Nazarite ideal consecration of perfect freedom of life from all that is artificial and unwholesome—a holy simplicity?
1 Samuel 1:9-18
I. A RARE FORM OF WORSHIP. It was a rare thing for a solitary woman to be seen offering prayer without audible words and with a semblance of folly. The vicinity of the sanctuary was the scene of many strange and painful events in those days; but here was singularity combined with and expressive of the deepest piety. Prayer, though not in form of set phrase, is true worship when characterised by the features seen in that of the "sorrowful "woman: such as longing of the heart for a definite object, intense fervour of spirit, reverent submission to the will of God, profound regard in what is sought for the Divine glory, and directed to the Source of all power through the mercy seat in Christ. The question of set forms of utterance for public worship must be settled by considerations covering the range of history, and the order and welfare of the Church. The heart of the true Christian will contain petitions which no words can anticipate or express. It is not just to prescribe how individuals shall pray, for a living piety must grow according to its inner laws, which partake of our own individuality. Sometimes the Church may witness the spectacle of unusual acts of worship, and it is good for the world when they arise. Spurious worship, eccentricity in the name of religion, can be readily detected. Deviation from ordinary forms where piety is sincere may occur when intense feeling precludes or subdues utterance. Sighs, tears, groans may be prayers. Or the privacy of the request, though it be made under the eye of worshippers in the house of God, is unsuited to the public ear. Many a secret vow is made on the Sabbath in the sanctuary. And sometimes the spirit may know its want, but cannot speak to God for very awe of the Divine presence.
II. A MISTAKEN JUDGMENT. Eli erred in judgment when he classed among the vile the most devout and holy of the age. Here was an instance of the guardian of the sanctuary, and the chief authority in law and religion, judging from appearance, and not from the heart. The causes of the error were probably such as frequently act among men.
1. Natural inability of man to read the real character by casual outward appearances. The heart is too deep to be penetrated by aid of occasional signs, for the same outward action may proceed from diverse internal motions.
2. Strong tendency in some persons to estimate others by the standard of their own experience. The area of one man's life may be much broader than that of another. The form, therefore, of religion in the one may be far beyond the appreciation of the other.
3. The strong hold on some good men of conventional modes of worship. Religion in some instances has been trained to find outward expression for itself by rule, and hence whatever expression deviates from the conventional type is liable to be regarded with suspicion.
4. In some cases men hold office in connection with public worship whose sympathies are not broad enough for the varieties of character and want that come under their observation.
III. A NOBLE SELF-VINDICATION. The "sorrowful spirit" of the worshipper shrinks from the very thought of being counted vile and a defamer of the place she loved. The cruel pang of the accusation only developed the strength and beauty of her piety. The depth of her sorrow and the utter absorption of her spirit in the one longing of her life, coupled with a sense of her unworthiness to be used in the high service of Messiah, checked any tendency to anger and recrimination. True self-vindication can dispense with passion. Its qualities are calm self-possession even under cruel wrong, a gentleness of spirit which knows how to be firm, a respectful deference to authority when confronting it, a delicate reference to self and the private sorrows that may have occasioned the misapprehension, an abstention from all that would exasperate, and a plain and fearless assertion of innocence. The comfort of the misjudged lies much in the conviction that God knows all. Religion gains much when the injured exhibit the spirit inculcated and exemplified by Christ. It requires much grace to be a Christian indeed. The world is slow to practise what it always in its heart admires, when the misjudged vindicate themselves after the Saviour's example.
IV. A LIGHTENED HEART. It was a morn of joy after the long night of sorrow, when, giving a true interpretation to the official words of the high priest, Hannah rose from prayer and went her way. The free, joyful heart shone forth in the countenance, and gave ease to every common duty of life. When God makes us glad, new energy enters into our nature. Hence, true religion, bringing to men elasticity of spirit, increases a man's power as a citizen, improves his capacity for business, lends lustre to the home, and, in fact, becomes an important element in the material wealth of nations. And what is most important is, the joy which God gives is real, permanent, resting on foundations which abide amid all change. In so far as the really devout are concerned, the lightened heart is the result of—
1. The relief natural to true prayer. Even when specific answers are not obtained, the believer is rested and relieved by laying the burden before the mercy seat.
2. Clear indications of God's acceptance. These vary with the age and circumstances. The high priest was endowed under special conditions with the power of indicating the Divine approval. External channels may convey unmistakably the will of God. The immediate course of events may be seen to correspond to the request. God is at no loss to convey outward intimations that the prayer of faith is not in vain.
3. The inward witness may be given, clear and strong, when God has important ends to accomplish thereby. The Spirit of God is in direct contact with the human, and can make known a truth. Christ's people know his voice. As the Spirit moved St. Paul to go to definite places, so he moves the true heart to believe in coming answer to prayer.
1. Much prayer may be offered when forms of worship are lacking, in the sanctuary, in the city, on the open sea, and at daily toil.
2. Encouragement may be found in remembering that God understands our thoughts "afar off," and when words fail.
3. We should not estimate the value of prayer in others by what we can ascertain of it by our observation.
4. The guardians of pure worship have much need of charity and a discriminating spirit.
5. Errors of judgment should be freely admitted when ascertained.
6. The quiet dignity of truth befits all acts of self-defence.
7. The joy coming from God is the real strength and beautifier of life.
1 Samuel 1:19-28
The facts are—
1. Hannah, having independently fixed the future of her offspring, reveals the vow to her husband.
2. Elkanah acquiesces in her vow, and allows her will in respect of time and method of perfecting it.
3. A united and solemn surrender of Samuel to his life work.
I. QUALIFIED WIFELY INDEPENDENCE. Although Elkanah knew his wife's great sorrow, yet in the matters connected with its removal and in the subsequent transactions she evidently followed her own course. It was a great decision to fix a child's lot in life apart from consultation and consent. The spontaneous choice of a name, though harmonious with a mother's secret knowledge of past experiences, was in any case, and more so in Hebrew instances, a bold undertaking. The event of naming furnished, most probably, the occasion for explanation and revelation of the anterior vow, and was faced with the most perfect composure. The mother's feelings are ever to be considered in parting with children as they enter on life's work; but here the time and method appear to have been fixed by the mother taking the initiative, and, contrary to rule, the wife is the prominent figure in the religious ceremonial of dedication, whose set purpose throughout therein attains its goal. No law of social and domestic life is more clearly laid down in Scripture than the subordination of the wife to the husband, and though there are principles which limit the subordination, and sentiments which convert it into blissful freedom, yet independence of action where offspring are concerned, is as rare as it is, per se, undesirable. The high intellectual and moral qualities which render wifely action free and firm within the sphere of private affairs, are perverted when applied to the independent determination of the destiny of a son. The spirit of self-assertion will have no place in a well ordered home. The grace and the moral power of woman vanish or become enfeebled when deeds are done in secret, and the natural authority of the head of the house is anticipated. Yet there are conditions which render such independence for a season both necessary and even religious.
1. Hannah's conduct was connected with an event in her religious experience too sacred even for a loving husband to be acquainted with. One cannot unbosom, even to the dearest earthly friend, the deep and passionate longings of the soul after God. The child of promise belongs primarily to the one to whom the promise is made, and so a special proprietorship is created which gives right to choice as to the use to be made of the gift.
2. Confidence in a husband's sympathy with lofty religious aims will justify wifely freedom, when that freedom is employed to perfect holy purposes. There are great and noble deeds within the proper right of a husband which he would only rejoice to see independently performed by a confiding wife. Where mutual confidence is fortified by years of common sorrow, no great error will be committed in interpreting religious wishes.
3. The soul that is bent on the realisation of a great religious hope, and has pondered it for years, best knows the means by which it may be secured. None but Hannah could see clearly the need of winning over the assistance of Eli, and the previous interview of the woman of "sorrowful spirit" with the high priest required that she should figure in the great ceremonial of devoting a child to God.
II. WISE HUSBANDLY CONSIDERATION. The legal rights secured by Divine law (Numbers 30:6-8) are at once surrendered by acquiescence in a holy, God-honouring vow; acceptance of a memorial name; deference to wishes in matters of detail, and cheerful cooperation in completing the vow. Piety and prudence combine in making concessions where pure motives have influenced conduct, and where the ends sought are wise and useful. Exacting men never enjoy the full love and confidence of their home. It would be blessed for many homes were the holy daring of Hannah and the wise, gentle bearing of Elkanah more frequent. The key to such conduct lies not in rigid conformity to excellent rules prescribing spheres of action, nor in mutual watchfulness, but in pure affection for a loving, faithful wife; a quick perception of the special providence which overrules earthly trials; sympathy with the noble piety that could so spontaneously and cheerfully surrender the realised hope of many a weary year; a conviction that a devout soul so evidently led on by God is by far the safest guide in matters pertaining to completed vows, and an unexpressed joy in the honour of being permitted to join in offering to God the precious treasure he had given. Hence we may learn a few
1. Personal and private decisions based on a supreme regard for the glory of God, and free from selfishness, are sure to be appreciated in a pious home.
2. A loving recognition of individuality and force of character is essential to perfect domestic harmony.
3. Personal influence in the sphere of home becomes powerful when holy discipline has purged selfishness and brought the spirit into deep sympathy with the kingdom of God.
4. There is no pain, but joy, in sacrifice when our possessions are recognised as truly God's, and we perceive the honour of their being employed in his name.
5. It is a blessed thing for children to be spontaneously consecrated to God by the prayers of self-sacrificing parents.
6. Those who by reason of circumstances cannot serve in the sanctuary, may perhaps be permitted to nurture children for the ministry of the word.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE.
1 Samuel 1:9 (1 Samuel 3:3). (SHILOH.)
The temple of the Lord.
Most of the religious ideas and expressions with which we are familiar had their origin far back in distant ages; and it is interesting and instructive to trace them to their source, and mark their alteration and expansion in the progressive course of Divine revelation. This is the first instance in which the expression "the temple of the Lord" occurs. Notice—
I. ITS SCRIPTURAL APPLICATIONS.
1. A material structure. "In the earliest ages God was worshipped without any distinction at any time and at any place, whenever and wherever the promptings of devotion moved in the hearts of his creatures; more especially, however, under the shadow of embowering trees, on hills and mountains, and in places where they had experienced some special manifestations of his favour" (Jahn). The first erection (with the exception of altars) was
(1) the tabernacle or tent (Exodus 25:8), here called the temple or (more literally) the palace of Jehovah, as the royal residence of the king of Israel. Afterwards
(2) the temple of Solomon;
(3) of Zerubbabel; and
(4) of Herod.
2. The incarnate Word (John 1:14; John 2:21; Colossians 2:19).
3. Christian men. The body of each (1 Corinthians 6:19). The whole assembly (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:5). Observe the progress:—God for us, with us, in us; Father, Son, Spirit.
4. The heavenly world. Although there is no temple therein Revelation 21:22), yet heaven is altogether a temple Revelation 7:15).
II. ITS MAIN SIGNIFICANCE in all these applications. It is—
1. Set apart for the Lord. Selected, separated, and consecrated as his possession, and for his use.
2. Inhabited by him. His throne is there. He dwells between the cherubim, in fellowship with the redeemed.
3. Manifests him in his holiness and love. His glory appears, his voice is heard, his will is declared (Exodus 25:22; Hebrews 4:16).
4. In it service is rendered to him. At first it was chiefly in outward symbolical acts; afterwards of the man himself, "body, soul, and spirit" (Rom 12:1; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). In each of these particulars we see the principle of progress, from the natural to the spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:46).
III. ITS SPIRITUAL SUGGESTIONS.
1. That the place in which man worships is of far less importance than man himself and his possession of a holy character. No place or building can be holy in the full sense of the word. For holiness implies intelligence, affection, freedom; and these make him unspeakably greater than all "the gorgeous palaces and solemn temples" which the earth contains. "To this man will I look," etc. (Isaiah 57:15; 67:1, 2; Matthew 12:6). "Let more regard be paid to the promotion of religion than the decoration of churches; for although it is a good thing that churches should be beautiful edifices, yet virtue forms their best crown and ornament. It seems to us that the building of handsome churches pertains rather to the Old Testament, whilst the improvement of character and life is the more peculiar work of the Christian dispensation".
2. That the pattern to which the character of man must be conformed is Jesus Christ. He is not only the Living Stone to whom every one must come that he may be built up into the "spiritual house," the Chief Cornerstone on which the whole building rests, but also the perfect Model according to which each and all must be fashioned (Romans 8:29).
3. That the character of man is conformed to its Divine pattern by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.
4. That only those in whom God dwells here will be fit to dwell with God hereafter, and constitute the heavenly tabernacle and temple Revelation 21:3). Above all things, seek to be in the building which God is rearing for his habitation, and for an everlasting monument to his praise.—D.
1 Samuel 1:9-13. (SHILOH.)
Prayer is converse with God. The general principles which are necessary that it may be acceptable and effectual were exemplified by Hannah in the prayer which she offered at the porch of the tabernacle in Shiloh, whilst other and more special principles were contained therein. She was possessed of great intelligence, sensibility, meekness, and spirituality of mind, and embodied the noblest spiritual element existing amongst her people, even as she was a type of their history (ever rising out of weakness and distress through humiliation, faith, and prayer, into strength, and joy, and triumph). Consider her prayer as—
I. BORN OF DEEP SORROW. "She was in bitterness of soul, and wept sore "(1 Samuel 1:10). Seemingly forgotten of God, an object of reproach and scorn, without indulging feeling's of resentment, unable to tell her trouble to any one else, she betook herself to him who is "a Refuge for the oppressed in times of trouble." Prayer is the best resource at such times; and grief of heart, together with the loneliness which it usually causes, often lead to "the pouring out of the soul before the Lord." What a beneficent power is sorrow in a world like this! And how blessed are the fruits which, through Divine grace, it produces! (Psalms 55:22; Hosea 2:15; 1 Peter 5:7).
II. UTTERED ONLY IN THE HEART (1 Samuel 1:13). The first recorded instance of silent or mental prayer. The ordinary worshippers at the tabernacle prayed with audible words, and significant gestures; and in the East to this day the people pray in the same manner, and have little or no idea of praying only in the mind. They are more demonstrative than ourselves. "Mental prayer is a lifting up of the mind to God in actual or virtual supplication for what we desire." It is—
1. Frequently a necessity; inasmuch as it would not be always proper to express in the presence of others the desires of the heart.
2. Presumptively sincere; inasmuch as it consists of direct intercourse with the Invisible and Omniscient One, and cannot spring from a desire to be seen or heard of men.
3. Highly beneficial; inasmuch as it serves to strengthen the spirit of prayer, and is heard of God (Nehemiah 2:4). Even when it does not shape itself in words within the mind, but consists of aspirations and "groanings which cannot be uttered," "he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the spirit" therein (Romans 8:27).
III. EXPRESSIVE OF FERVENT DESIRE. Desire is the soul of prayer. It arises from, and is proportionate to, the sense of need. Its intensity is not always manifested by audible words; for sometimes its strength is dispersed and exhausted thereby; whereas silence condenses and increases it. "Deepest waters stillest flow." Our desires cannot be too fervent, or our requests too importunate, provided they be for things which are according to the will of God (Romans 12:12; 1 John 5:14, 1 John 5:15).
And lively hope with violence assail
The kingdom of the heavens, and overcome
The will of the Most High; not in such sort
As man prevails o'er man; but conquers it
Because 'tis willing to be conquer'd; still,
Though conquer'd by its mercy conquering."
Dante, 'Div. Com.,' Par. 20.
IV. EXHIBITING GENUINE FAITH. "O Lord of hosts,"etc. (1 Samuel 1:11). Like Abraham, she "believed in the Lord" (Genesis 15:6); trusted, leant on him, as a child rests on the bosom of a parent. She had exalted conceptions of his character; believed in
(1) his living personality, supreme dominion, power, goodness, faithfulness (Hebrews 11:6); relied on
(2) his promises, summed up in the assurance, "I will be your God" (Exodus 6:7; Le Exodus 26:12); and
(3) although she had no express promise of the particular blessing which she desired, yet, inwardly taught, she applied the general promise to herself, and had "confidence respecting things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). When express promises are wanting, it behoves us to seek particular blessings with the utmost dependence and submission; but, so far from being prohibited from seeking them, we are encouraged to do so by the unlimited range of such directions as this: "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray," etc. (Mark 11:24).
V. DISTINGUISHED BY ENTIRE SELF-SURRENDER. Once and again she called herself the "handmaid" of the Lord, as belonging to him, and wholly devoted to his service. Her will she freely offered up in sacrifice to his, and made a fresh surrender of herself in her solemn engagement to render back to him the gift he might bestow. She sought not her own gratification, but his glory and the welfare of his people. "The vow of the Nazarite embodied the yearning of the better part of the nation for a moral and religious reformation, as the only hope of Israel. It symbolised Israel's perfect calling of voluntary self-surrender to God" (Edersheim). When we seek not our own, but make it subservient to higher and larger good, we place ourselves in a line with the Divine purposes, and may entertain sure and steadfast hope of success.
VI. OFFERED WITH STEADFAST PERSEVERANCE. "She continued praying before the Lord" (1 Samuel 1:12). It was not a momentary ebullition of feeling, but the fixed direction of her whole soul (Genesis 32:26; Luke 11:8; Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18).
VII. FOLLOWED BY AN ABUNDANT BLESSING. The benediction of the high priest (1 Samuel 1:17) was to her an oracle of God, to be in due time fulfilled; whilst the immediate effect on her heart was peace and gladness, and "she went away, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad." "Prayer is heart's ease to the gracious soul."—D.
"Lord, what a change within us one short hour,
Spent in thy presence, will prevail to make;
What heavy burdens from our bosoms take;
What parched grounds refresh as with a shower!"
1 Samuel 1:11 (21, 23, 28). (SHILOH.)
"And she vowed a vow." The first recorded instance of a religious yowls that of Jacob (Genesis 28:20; Genesis 31:13). Under a sense of obligation to God, he entered into a spontaneous and solemn engagement before him to do what he believed would be pleasing in his sight, joining with it the desire of obtaining certain benefits at his hand. He did not, as it has been said, make a bargain with God; but gratefully repeated what had been virtually promised ("if" or "since God will be with me," etc.), and simply desired those blessings, without which it would be impossible for him to fulfil his purpose. Directions concerning the practice of making vows were given in the Law (Leviticus 27:1-34.; Numbers 6:1-27; Numbers 30:1-16.). The age of the judges was an age of vows. "Then appears a new power of the age, the binding vow—a spasmodic impulse, dangerous to many, yet in the greatest emergencies of life indispensable; bracing up the deepest energies, and working the greatest marvels; often renovating, or else entirely transforming, whole nations and religions; assuming a thousand forms, and in all, while the first fidelity endures, exercising an indomitable power" (Ewald). Jephthah—Samson—Samuel. Vows are seldom alluded to in the New Testament (Luke 1:15; Acts 18:18; Acts 21:23). In some of their forms, and in so far as they might embody a legal spirit, they are done away. But they are not prohibited; and, understood as denoting a solemn binding of ourselves to the service of God, or resolutions and engagements made before him to perform or omit certain definite acts, they are often needful and beneficial. Consider that—
I. THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS TO WHICH THEY MAY LAWFULLY PERTAIN.
1. Things over which we possess a rightful authority. We may not vow what does not belong to us.
2. Things which ought to be done, independently of vows; but the obligation of which is felt for the first time, or with unusual force.
3. Things which are in themselves indifferent; being right or wrong according to the individual conscience, but with reference to which a vow creates a new obligation. The vow of a Nazarite to abstain from wine, etc.
4. Things, more particularly, that relate to the use of
(1) property (Genesis 28:22; 1 Corinthians 16:2);
(3) influence over others, especially in the training of children;
(4) the various powers of body and soul (Romans 12:1).
II. THERE ARE SPECIAL OCCASIONS ON WHICH THEY ARE APPROPRIATELY MADE.
1. Severe trouble—personal affliction, nearness to death, bereavement; bringing the invisible and eternal nigh, teaching dependence on God, and exciting desire for his help (Isaiah 66:13, Isaiah 66:14).
2. Singular prosperity—unexpected recovery from illness, extraordinary deliverance from danger, unwonted providential and spiritual benefits, temporal success.
3. Spiritual exercises—in public worship, private meditation, religious profession.
4. Starting points of life—a birthday, the first day of a new year, the commencement of a fresh enterprise. These things are often occasions of spiritual illumination and impression, mountain heights that rise above the mists of ordinary life; and it is well to embody the views and feelings then entertained in fixed purposes, definite resolutions, solemn vows for future guidance and help. "Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God" (Psalms 76:11).
III. THEY SHOULD ALWAYS BE MADE IN A PROPER SPIRIT. With—
1. Due deliberation (Ecclesiastes 5:2), so as to ascertain "what the will of the Lord is," and what we may reasonably hope to accomplish, lest they should become a burden and temptation.
2. A sense of dependence on Divine grace; and not in a self-righteous spirit, as if our service were exceedingly meritorious, and deserved to be richly rewarded.
3. Humble and earnest prayer for the aid of the Divine Spirit. Vows made in our own strength are "as the morning cloud and the early dew."
4. Faith in Christ, the perfect pattern of self-surrender and self-sacrifice, the way of approach to God, the medium of Divine blessing. "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar" (Psalms 118:27).
IV. WHEN MADE THEY OUGHT TO BE STRICTLY FULFILLED. Their making is optional, voluntary; not so their performance. Their obligation—
1. Changes not with a change of feeling, even with respect to those things which are, in themselves, indifferent.
"The things which are in insight willed
Must be in hours of gloom fulfilled."
2. Rests upon the same ground as that of the obligation of promises generally, and is specially strong because of their sacred character.
3. Is enforced by the consequences of their observance or neglect. Their fulfilment is a means of grace. Broken vows undermine the foundations of character, interfere with Divine fellowship, and pave the way to destruction (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6).
4. Requires their performance with sincerity (in the sense intended, not by the substitution of something else, not in part merely), cheerfulness (Psalms 116:17, Psalms 116:18), and promptitude. "Defer not." "There is a Greek mythical story of the treatment of the goddess Juno by Mandrabulus the Samian. This man had, under her auspices, and by her directions, discovered a golden mine. In the first flush of gratitude he vowed to her a golden ram; however, he presently exchanged that for a silver one, and again that for a very small brass one, and that for nothing at all" (Trench). "It is storied of a merchant that in a great storm at sea vowed to Jupiter, if he would save him and his vessel, to give him a hecatomb. The storm ceaseth, and he bethinks that a hecatomb was unreasonable; he resolves on seven oxen. Another tempest comes, and now again he vows the seven at least. Delivered, then also he thought that seven were too many, and one ox would serve his turn. Yet another peril comes, and now he vows solemnly to fall no lower; if he might be rescued, an ox Jupiter shall have. Again freed, the ox sticks in his stomach, and he would fain draw his devotion to a lower rate; a sheep was sufficient. But at last, being set ashore, he thought a sheep too much, and purposeth to carry to the altar only a few dates. But by the way he eats up the dates, and lays on the altar only the shells. After this manner do many perform their vows".—D.
1 Samuel 1:13-18. (SHILOH.)
The duty of rebuking others when they do evil is often enjoined (Le 1 Samuel 19:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:14), and is especially incumbent on those who occupy positions of authority. But how seldom is rebuke given or received aright! Eli, the aged judge and high priest, sitting on the judgment seat, "by a post of the temple of the Lord," and observing a woman exhibiting signs of excited feeling, severely rebuked her for being intoxicated with wine. In his words, and what followed, we have rebuke—
I. UTTERED WITHOUT JUSTICE (1 Samuel 1:13, 1 Samuel 1:14). There was certainly apparent ground for the judgment he formed; for excitement caused by wine was probably no uncommon thing at the tabernacle in those corrupt times. But he did not "judge righteously" (John 7:24). Learn—
1. That apparent ground for censure is often found on inquiry to be really groundless. Therefore there should be proof before reproof.
2. That the most excellent are often the most misjudged, especially in religious matters. Whilst sensual excitement was often seen, spiritual excitement was rare. Religious services were formal, cold, and dead; and holy fervour was naturally misunderstood and misinterpreted by superficial observerses So they who were filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost were accused of being filled with new wine. And men of large views, disinterested motives, and exalted aims are often condemned by the ignorant, selfish, and unspiritual.
3. That the highest in authority are liable to err in judgment. Infallibility belongs to God alone. The assumption of it by men is rebuked by their own manifest mistakes and failings, and is an insult to heaven.
4. That persons who think that they see clearly the faults of others are commonly blind to their own transgressions (Matthew 7:3; Romans 2:1). Eli was unconscious of his own easily besetting sin, which consisted in his indulgent treatment of his children and their vices.
5. That those who censure others should themselves be undeserving of censure.
6. That our own exposure to judgment should make us cautious in passing judgment on others (Matthew 7:1-5).
7. That it is the part of charity to put the best construction on their conduct. "Believeth all things; hopeth all things." Eli exhibited a want of knowledge, consideration, charity, and tenderness. How different the High Priest and Judge "with whom we have to do"!
II. BORNE WITH MEEKNESS. Hannah was not only innocent of the vice for which she was rebuked, but was at the time uttering a vow that if the Lord would give her a son he should be a Nazarite, and a life long protest against that vice and other prevailing evils. Her fervour of spirit was equalled by her calmness, self-control, and discreet answer to the reproach of Eli (1 Samuel 1:15, 1 Samuel 1:16). Learn—
1. That resentment and retaliation toward unjust accusers afford no evidence of innocence. Some persons when rebuked fly into a passion, and utter worse judgments on others than have been pronounced on themselves.
2. That a good conscience can be calm under accusation.
3. That appearances which seem to justify censure should be as fully as possible explained.
4. That those who say they are not guilty of sin should show their abhorrence of sin. "Call not thine handmaid a daughter of Belial" ('a worthless woman'). In her view intoxication was a great sin, and deserving of severe condemnation.
5. How beautiful is "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit."
6. To look to Christ as the perfect pattern of the spirit here exhibited, and the source of the grace which is needed for its exercise (1 Peter 2:20-23). "Let me find grace in thy sight."
III. TURNED INTO BENEDICTION (1 Samuel 1:17, 1 Samuel 1:18). Learn—
1. That those who see that they have erred in judgment should be ready to acknowledge their error.
2. That meekness and patience are adapted to change a severe reprover into a kind friend.
3. That the endurance of rebuke in a right spirit is often a means of obtaining a favourable answer to prayer. God himself spoke through the voice of the high priest (1 Samuel 1:17; John 11:51).
4. That it also causes perturbation and sorrow to give place to peace and joy (Matthew 5:5, Matthew 5:11). "Strive to rejoice when others use towards thee words of injury or rebuke, or despise thee. For a rich treasure lies hid beneath this dust; and, if thou take it willingly, thou wilt soon find thyself rich unperceived by those who have bestowed this gift upon thee" (Scupoli).—D.
HOMILIES BY D. FRASER
1 Samuel 1:13-18
Harsh judgment meekly answered.
We hear much of the mothers of eminent men, and it is easy to see whence Samuel derived his elevation of mind, his religious temperament, and the natural aptitude to be a seer and prophet of God. It was from his mother—the sensitive, poetical, devout, unselfish Hannah. Her prayer at the house of the Lord in Shiloh shows her in a noble light. She asked for no vengeance on her adversary Peninnah, who had so often taunted her, but only for a son whom she might devote as a pure Nazarite to Jehovah's service. Her thought recurred to the last great judge of Israel—the Nazarite Samson. The work which he might have performed had been very imperfectly done; and Hannah's devout and patriotic wish Was to give birth to one who might repair the failure of Samson, as well as remedy the evil wrought by the sons of Eli, and work a great deliverance for Israel.
I. PIOUS EMOTION HARSHLY CENSURED. If Hannah's prayer had been mocked by the profane, it had not surprised her; but this was her trial, that the venerable priest, whose duty it was to recognise and encourage religious aspiration, cruelly misconstrued her agitation, and charged her with wickedness. Eli was weak towards men, stern to a woman. He could not restrain his own sons, but he could speak sharply and severely to Hannah. The only palliation of his readiness to impute evil to her lies in the fact that, through his weakness, there had come to be a great license of manners at the time, and women of Israel misconducted themselves at the very seat of worship. Eli took Hannah for one of these, and her holy ardour for the agitation of one unduly excited by wine. Religious emotion, especially in persons of a sensitive and pensive nature, may resemble the effect of "wine wherein is excess" in the eyes of a careless or unsympathetic obserVerse And this applies to the joyful as well as to the sorrowful in spirit. On the day of Pentecost, when the power of the Spirit descended on the disciples of our Lord, and joy in the Holy Ghost expressed itself in their looks and words, some of the bystanders began to mock and say, "These men are full of new wine." That religious fervour should be unappreciated by worldly minds need cause no wonder. That tears and prayers poured forth before the unseen God should be despised as drivelling superstition, or the flush of spiritual gladness derided as irrational frenzy, by persons of a cold, unbelieving temper, is what may be expected. But it is hard to bear misconstruction from men like Eli, who ought to understand that the spirit of man or woman sometimes faints, sometimes leaps for joy before the Lord.
II. THE EQUANIMITY OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE. When one is quite conscious of Innocence he can meet accusations with calmness, and repel them without passion or bitterness. If Hannah had been unguarded in eating or drinking at the feast after the sacrifice in Shiloh, she would probably have given a sharp answer to Eli, and exonerated herself from his charge with some heat of temper. But her conscience was quite clear in the matter. From her vow to make the son for whose birth she prayed a Nazarite, we infer that she was strongly sensible of the evils which indulgence in wine, and consequent licentious excess, had brought on the nation. So her answer to the priest, while firm, was calm, and even meek: "No, my Lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit."
III. THE TRUE RESOURCE OF THE SORROWFUL. "I have poured out my soul before the Lord." Hannah abhorred the kind of evil of which Eli accused her. "Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial." Alas, how many, because they are in low spirits, or vexed with their lot, seek exhilaration in wine or strong drink! It is a gross and dangerous consolation, fit for children of Belial, not for children of God. "Is any afflicted? Let him pray." Is any anxious? Let him by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make his request known to God. To be excited with wine is to have the imagination and passions fired through the flesh and the senses. For a time care or grief may be forgotten, and the mind may seem to become gay and brilliant; but as the appetite grows, and the fallacious pleasure beguiles, there ensues degradation and sorrow upon sorrow; the mind is clouded and enfeebled, and the heart made selfish and gross. How different from the excitement of the praying heart that is " filled with the Spirit!" This takes hold of the best and highest part of our nature, and from this acts on the whole man—subdues sensual passion, scatters delusion, and while it may for a time agitate the frame, as Hannah's was agitated, never disturbs or unhinges the regulative principles of reason and conscience within.
IV. THE COMFORT AFTER PRAYER. Whatever the worth of Eli's personal character, his office gave weight to his words; and when he invoked from the God of Israel an answer to Hannah's petition, she received his words with reverence, and went homo with a glad assurance in her heart. Have not we a great High Priest who misunderstands no one, requires no corrective explanation, discourages no suppliant; and is it not he who has said, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them"? Look to Jesus, and where is your burden? It is gone. Where are your tears? They are wiped away. Where is your desired thing, your Samuel? It is at hand. Go your way when you have poured out your prayer, for he has heard you, and "let your countenance be no more sad."—F.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 1:19-28. (RAMAH and SHILOH)
Samuel's birth and infancy.
(References—1 Chronicles 29:29, "the seer;" Psalms 99:9; Jeremiah 15:1; Acts 3:24; Acts 13:20; Heb 12:1-29 :32; Apoc. Ecclus. 46:13-20.) Consolation and hope were from the first associated with the birth of children (Genesis 3:15; Genesis 4:1, Genesis 4:25; Genesis 5:29; Genesis 21:6). More than ordinary joy (John 16:24) was felt at the birth of Samuel by his mother, because of the peculiar circumstances connected therewith, and the expectations entertained by her of the good which he might effect for Israel. Often as she looked upon her God-given infant she would think, "What manner of child shall this be?" (Luke 1:66), and ask, "How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?" (Judges 13:12). Nor did she fail to do her utmost towards the fulfilment of her exalted hopes. The child was—
I. REGARDED AS A DIVINE GIFT (Psalms 127:4). Every little infant bears the impress of the "Father of spirits" (James 3:9).
"Trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home."
The gift of a fresh, new, mysterious human life, with its vast capabilities, is a great gift, and demands grateful acknowledgment of the Divine goodness; hut it is not an absolute gift; it is rather a trust which involves serious responsibilities on the part of those into whose hands it is placed. God says in effect, "Take this child," etc. (Exodus 2:9).
II. DESIGNATED BY AN APPROPRIATE NAME (1 Samuel 1:20). Samuel = heard of God. "The mother names, the father assents, God approves, and time confirms the nomination" (Hunter). Like other personal names in the Bible, it was full of significance; being a grateful memorial of the goodness and faithfulness of God in the past, and a constant incentive to faith and prayer in the future. "Our very names should mind us of our duty." The name "Samuel" was uttered by the Lord as mindful of his history, and recognising his special relation to himself (1 Samuel 3:10). The name of a child is not an unimportant matter, and it should be given with due consideration. When parents give their children names borne by excellent men, they should train them to follow in the footsteps of such men.
III. NURTURED WITH MOTHERLY TENDERNESS (1 Samuel 1:22-25). His mother was herself his nurse (1 Samuel 1:23), not intrusting him to others, and not neglecting him, whereby many young lives are sacrificed; but thoughtfully, carefully, and constantly ministering to his physical needs, praying over him, and directing his thoughts, with the earliest dawn of reason, toward the Lord of hosts. That she might the more perfectly fulfil her trust, she remained at home, and went not up to Shiloh until he was weaned. Her absence from the sanctuary was justifiable, her worship at home was acceptable, and the service which she rendered to her child was a service rendered to God and to his people. "A mother's teachings have a marvellous vitality in them; there is a strange living power in that good seed which is sown by a mother's hand in her child's heart in the early dawn of the child's being, when they two are alone together, and the mother's soul gushes forth on her child, and the child listens to his mother as a God; and there is a deathless potency in a mother's prayers and tears for those whom she has borne which only God can estimate" (W.L. Alexander). "Who is best taught? He that is taught of his mother" ('Talmud').
IV. PRAYED OVER WITH FATHERLY SOLICITUDE. Elkanah consented to the vow of his wife (Numbers 30:6, Numbers 30:7), and appears to have made it his own (1 Samuel 1:21). He was zealous for its performance, and whilst he agreed with her in the desire of its postponement for a brief period, he expressed the wish in prayer, "Only the Lord establish his word" (1 Samuel 1:23). "Word, that is, may he fulfil what he designs with him, and has promised by his birth (1 Samuel 1:11, 1 Samuel 1:20). The words refer, therefore, to the boy's destination to the service of God; which the Eternal has in fact acknowledged by the partial fulfilment of the mothers wish" (Bunsen). HIS PRAYER indicates, with respect to the Divine word—
1. Confidence in its truth. He believed
(1) that it was his word which had been uttered by the high priest (1 Samuel 1:17);
(2) that its Divine origin and faithfulness had been in part confirmed by his own act (1 Samuel 1:20); and
(3) that it would be completely established by his bringing about the end designed.
2. Desire of its fulfilment.
(1) As a matter of great importance.
(2) Deeply felt. "Only."
(3) Through the continued and gracious operation of God. "The Lord establish his word."
3. Obedience to its requirements. In order to its establishment, cooperation on their part was—
(1) Necessary. God's purposes and promises are fulfilled in connection with human endeavour, and not independently of it.
(2) Obligatory. It had been solemnly promised by them, and was a condition of the bestowment of the Divine blessing.
(3) Fully resolved upon. "His father used to open his breast when he was asleep and kiss it in prayer over him, as it is said of Origen's father, that the Holy Ghost would take possession thereof" ('Life of Sir Thomas Browne').
V. CONDUCTED TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD. As soon as he was weaned "she took him up with her" (1 Samuel 1:24), and "they brought the child to Eli" (1 Samuel 1:25). Children are in their right place in the temple (Matthew 21:15, Matthew 21:16), and their praises are acceptable to the Lord. Even infants (sucklings) belong to the kingdom of heaven, and are capable of being blessed by him (Matthew 19:13). Therefore the "little ones" should be brought unto him (Matthew 18:14).
VI. DEDICATED TO A LIFE-LONG SERVICE (1 Samuel 1:25-28), i.e. a continual (and not a limited or periodical) service at the sanctuary as a Levite, and an entire (and not a partial) service as a Nazarite. It was done
(1) with a burnt offering,
(2) accompanied by a thankful acknowledgment of the goodness of God in answer to prayer offered on the same spot several years previously, and
(3) in a full surrender of the child. "My child shall be entirely and absolutely thy servant. I give up all my maternal rights. I desire to be his mother only in so far as that he shall owe his existence to me; after that I give him up to thee" (Chrysostom). "For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath granted me my request which I asked of him; therefore I also make him one asked of the Lord all the days that he liveth; he is asked of the Lord" (Keil). So the vow was performed. And in the spirit of this dedication all parents should give back to God "the children which he hath given them."
VII. FOLLOWED BY PARENTAL PRAYERS AND THANKSGIVINGS. "He (Elkanah) worshipped the Lord there" (1 Samuel 1:28). "And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord." (1 Samuel 2:1). "And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house" (1 Samuel 2:11). The sacrifice made in learning the child behind was great, but it was attended, through Divine grace, with great joy. The more any one gives to God, the more God gives back to him in spiritual blessing. Hannah felt little anxiety or fear for the safety of her child, for she believed that he would "keep the feet of his saints" (1 Samuel 2:9). What holy influences ever rest on children whose parents pray for them "without ceasing!" and what multitudes have by such means been eternally saved!—D.
"The boy was vowed
Unto the temple service. By the hand
She led him, and her silent soul, the while,
Oft as the dewy laughter of his eye
Met her sweet serious glance, rejoiced to think
That aught so pure, so beautiful, was hers,
To bring before her God.
I give thee to thy God—the God that gave thee,
A wellspring of deep gladness to my heart!
And precious as thou art,
And pure as dew of Hermon, he shall have thee,
My own, my beautiful, my undefiled!
And thou shalt be his child.
Therefore, farewell!—I go, my soul may fail me,
As the stag panteth for the water brooks,
Yearning for thy sweet looks.—
But thou, my firstborn, droop not, nor bewail me!
Thou in the Shadow of the Rock shalt dwell,
The Rock of Strength.—Farewell!"
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 1". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent