HISTORY OF SAMUEL. — CHAPTERS 1-12.
The opening chapters of First Samuel are invaluable for the light they shed upon the darkest period of Israelitish history. From the point of time with which they open there stretches backward into the age of the Judges a period of gloom, a time of comparative lawlessness and violence, yet also of rude simplicity and homeliness, of whose manners and condition we gather much knowledge from the account of Eli’s administration. The history opens abruptly with the particulars of Samuel’s birth, and leaves us, for our knowledge of its chronology, altogether to subsequent details. We find at the head of the sanctuary worship, holding the offices of both high priest and judge, a venerable man, far advanced in years, whose name has had no previous mention. He is of the house of Ithamar; but at the last historical notice of the subject the high priesthood was held by the house of Eleazar. How the change was effected we are nowhere told, and must be content to remain ignorant. It was, doubtless, effected amidst some of the disorders of the age of the Judges; perhaps, by unlawful means. See note on 1 Samuel 1:9.
1.Ramathaim-Zophim — The name means, the double height of the watchers, and was probably so called because of two heights on which the city stood, or with which it was in some way associated. Some scholars are inclined to identify it with the modern Soba, some seven miles west of Jerusalem; but their opinion is based on the assumption that it is the same city where Saul was anointed, (1 Samuel 9:6,) an assumption that has no sufficient support. A comparison of this verse and 1 Samuel 1:3 with 1 Samuel 1:19 and with 1 Samuel 2:11, makes it certain that Ramathaim-Zophim is the same as Ramah, but a fuller form of the name. Ramah was situated about five miles north of Jerusalem, and was not only the birthplace of Samuel, but his home through life, (1 Samuel 7:17,) and the place of his death and burial. 1 Samuel 25:1. The Hebrew name of this place, as well as its modern Arabic name er-Ram, means the height, and this may explain the appended name Zophim, which means watchers, for the heights of Ramah would afford a fitting station for watchmen, who could from its heights command a wide prospect on every side, and see at a great distance any signal of danger or alarm that might be given. Compare “the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah.” Numbers 23:14. Others think that Zophim was the name of the country round Ramah, called after Zuph, one of Elkanah’s ancestors. Hence “land of Zuph” in 1 Samuel 9:5.
Mount Ephraim — See note on Judges 17:1.
Son of Jeroham — A comparison of this genealogy with 1 Chronicles 6:34-35, shows that Elkanah (and therefore Samuel) was a descendant of Levi through Kohath. No other special notice is taken of Samuel’s Levitical descent, because his work and authority as Reformer and Judge in Israel were not owing to this fact, but, rather, to his special divine call from the Lord.
An Ephrathite — Grammatically, this word is in apposition with a certain man, that is, Elkanah. He was reckoned as to his civil standing with the tribe of Ephraim, for the Levites, having been set apart to the service of the sanctuary, had no separate portion of the Promised Land assigned to them, (Joshua 14:4,) but were reckoned to the tribes in which they had their homes. Ten cities were allotted to the children of Kohath, in the tribes of Ephraim, Dan, and Manasseh. Joshua 21:5.
2.Two wives — Such bigamy at this day, and in the light of a Christian civilization, would be criminal; but the ancient laws allowed it, and custom sanctioned it. But the practice was nearly always the occasion of domestic broils. Polygamy seems to have begun with Lamech, (Genesis 4:19,) and it prevailed extensively in the patriarchal age. Jacob had two wives, and most of the ancient worthies had, besides the proper wife, one or more concubines. The great desire for offspring often prompted to this, as in the case of Abraham, (Genesis 16:2;) and it is generally supposed that Hannah was Elkanah’s proper wife, but she proving barren, his desire for children led him to take Peninnah. According to the Talmud a man was bound, after ten years of childless conjugal life, to marry another wife, and if she proved barren he should marry even a third. And all this might be done without repudiation of the first wife. This great desire for offspring is generally supposed to have been inspired by the expectation of the Messiah, and the hope, which every Hebrew woman entertained, that she might be the mother of the Promised Seed.
Hannah had no children — A great affliction to a Hebrew wife. But Hannah is on this account to be associated with other saintly women — Sarah, (Genesis 16:1,) Rachel, (Genesis 29:31,) and Elizabeth, (Luke 1:7,) who yet, by the favour of God, became the most distinguished mothers in Israel. The ancient expositors represent Hannah as a type of the Christian Church, for a long time barren, and mocked by her rival the Jewish Synagogue, but at length triumphing over her rival, and bringing forth many children to the Lord. Compare 1 Samuel 2:5.
3.Went up’ to worship’ in Shiloh — Shiloh is situated thirteen miles north of Ramah. At this place the tabernacle was set up after the Israelites had subdued and driven out the inhabitants of the land, (Joshua 18:1,) and here the tribes assembled “to worship and to sacrifice,” according to the commandment of Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Deuteronomy 16:16. Compare also Judges 21:19. So it was the Jerusalem before Jerusalem.
Lord of hosts — The commonly used abbreviation of the fuller form LORD God of hosts, (Psalms 89:8; Jeremiah 5:14,) which ought everywhere to be rendered Jehovah God of Hosts, or Jehovah of Hosts. This expression occurs here for the first time, not being found in the earlier books; neither is it found in the books of Job or Ezekiel, nor in the writings of Solomon. It designates Jehovah as Ruler of the whole universe, (Genesis 2:1; Psalms 33:6,) who knows the number of the stars, ( Psalms 147:4,) and guides them in their orbits, (Isaiah 40:26,) and whose army is composed of angels and saints in heaven and on earth. Genesis 32:2; Exodus 7:4; Deuteronomy 33:2. It is significant that this name first occurs at the beginning of those books which treat of the Monarchy of Israel, as if to teach: Though Israel become a kingdom, and have an earthly sovereign, yet by this name — JEHOVAH OF HOSTS — let them remember that the Most High has “an ever-lasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.” Daniel 4:35.
Hophni and Phinehas,’ priests of the Lord — Eli was high priest, and held peculiar functions, (see on 1 Samuel 1:9;) but he was, probably, too old and infirm to attend to all the duties of his high office. These two sons were therefore associated with him, as the sons of Aaron were associated with their father, in the holy service.
4.Portions — Parts of the flesh of the victims offered in sacrifice to the Lord. See Leviticus 7:15; Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:18. The law of the peace-offerings gave the breast and shoulder to the priest, and the fat to be burned, (Leviticus 7:31-32;) but the rest was returned to him that offered it, and served for a feast of thanksgiving.
5.A worthy portion — Margin, a double portion. Hebrews, מנה אחת אפים, a portion one of two faces. It is difficult to decide the precise meaning. The Vulgate renders: But he, being sorrowful, gave to Hannah one portion; but though אפים sometimes has the sense of anger, it never means sorrow, and the context shows that Hannah was the sorrowful one, not Elkanah. Some have thought that Hannah’s portion was called a portion of faces because of some resemblance to the show-bread, which was called bread of presence, (לחם פנים;) and Clarke suggests that Elkanah gave Hannah his own portion, which might be called a portion of presence from its having been placed before himself as the person who had offered the sacrifice. But such resemblance is far-fetched and inappropriate here. Better, then, to take the word אפים, two faces, by synecdoche, for two persons — a portion one of two persons, that is, two persons’ portion, enough for two. Accordingly, the marginal reading cited above conveys the true sense. He set before Hannah a portion as large as was set before the faces of two other persons.
For he loved Hannah — Had a peculiar affection for her such as he had not for Peninnah, and he showed it as Joseph showed his special affection for Benjamin by sending him a mess five times as great as he set before the other brothers. Genesis 43:34.
6.Her adversary — Peninnah, who was jealous of Hannah because of the peculiar favours shown her.
Provoked her sore, to make her fret — Tantalized her by parading sons and daughters before her eyes, and reminding her that she was barren.
7.He did so year by year — Elkanah yearly continued to show such special attention to Hannah as he and all his family went up to the tabernacle at Shiloh.
So she provoked her — Peninnah likewise continued to tantalize Hannah for her barrenness. This provocation was the more keenly felt because barrenness was a reproach to women among the Jews. See Genesis 30:23; Luke 1:25.
8.Better’ than ten sons — There is greater good in matrimonial concord than in mere fruitfulness. — Grotius.
9.Hannah rose up — To go to the tabernacle to pray before the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:12.
Eli the priest — הכהן, the priest, made thus definite by the article, means the high priest, who was distinguished from the ordinary priests by being anointed in some peculiarly solemn manner, and therefore called the anointed priest, (Leviticus 4:3;) also by wearing a mitre, a breastplate, and a robe, (Exodus 28:4, where see notes,) and by holding peculiar functions. Hebrews 9:7. Eli was a descendant of Ithamar, the younger son of Aaron. Eleazar, the elder son, had been inducted into the high priesthood on the death of his father on Mount Hor. Numbers 20:28. On what occasion or for what reason this honour was transferred to the line of Ithamar we are nowhere informed. Keil supposes “that at the death of the last high priest of the family of Eleazar, before the time of Eli, the remaining son was not equal to the occasion, either because he was still an infant, or too young and inexperienced to enter upon the office; and Eli, who was probably related by marriage to the high priest’s family, and a vigorous man, was compelled by the circumstances to take the oversight of the congregation.” The transfer may, however, in the lawless period of the Judges, have been brought about in a much less honourable and lawful way. Ewald supposes that Eli was in his youth a great hero and deliverer of the people, and by his remarkable prowess raised himself to the office of judge, and then “the office of high priest at Shiloh probably devolved upon him simply as a descendant of Aaron. For this office had then fallen so low, the disorganized and scattered state of the priestly class was so deep-rooted, that probably any descendant of Aaron who possessed much consideration with the people was readily acknowledged as high priest in Shiloh by all his adherents.” From 1 Samuel 4:18, we learn that he was also one of the Judges of Israel.
Sat upon a seat — Hebrew, upon the throne; an elevated seat near the door of the tabernacle, where, as judge, he could hear the complaints of the people and render judgment, as well as preserve proper order at the holy place.
The temple of the Lord — Called at 1 Samuel 1:7, the house of the Lord. This was the enclosure of boards and curtains which contained the sacred shrines, of all which a minute description is given in Exodus 25-27, where see notes. It was carried with the Israelites in all their journeys, (Numbers 1:50-51,) until they set it up at Shiloh, (Joshua 18:1;) thence it seems to have been removed by David to Jerusalem, (2 Samuel 6:17,) where it was superseded by the temple of Solomon. “The sanctuary itself,” says Stanley, “was so encased with buildings as to give it the name and appearance of a house or temple. ” See on chap. 1 Samuel 3:15.
11.All’ his life, and’ no razor’ upon his head — So he would differ from the ordinary Nazarite (compare Numbers vi) in that the vow was binding not for a certain number of days, but for his whole lifetime.
Samson and John the Baptist are supposed to have been the only other examples of a Nazarite for life.
15.Poured’ soul — Expressed the very earnest desires of her soul.
Before the Lord — In the tabernacle, where the Divine Presence was wont to be manifested.
16.A daughter of Belial — The Hebrew word בליעל, beliyaal, rendered as a proper name here and frequently elsewhere in the Old Testament, means worthlessness, lowness. Our translators have rendered it variously — wicked, (Deuteronomy 15:9;) evil, (Psalms 41:8;) naughty, (Proverbs 6:12;) ungodly, (Proverbs 16:27;) and scholars are now generally agreed that it is nowhere to be taken as a proper name.
It should here be rendered, a daughter of worthlessness, that is, a low, worthless, licentious woman, such as were those whom Eli’s own sons corrupted. 1 Samuel 2:22. Hannah besought Eli not to class her among those wretched prostitutes.
17.The God of Israel grant thee thy petition — He knows not what that petition is, (compare 1 Samuel 1:27,) but he is fully convinced of her earnestness and depth of grief, and he gives her his priestly benediction.
20.Called his name Samuel — This name (שׁמואל ) is a contraction of שׁמוע אל, heard of God, and alludes to the fact that God heard Hannah’s prayer for a child. Some derive the name from שׁם אל, name of God, which etymology, though possible, does not well agree with the comment of the immediate context. The derivation from שׁאול מאל, asked of God, though agreeing well with the comment of the context, is too artificial and farfetched. “The words Because I have asked him of the Lord are not an etymological explanation of the name, but an exposition founded upon facts. Because Hannah had asked him of Jehovah, she named him the God-heard, as a memorial of the hearing of her prayer.” — Keil. “His name,” says Smith, (Old Testament History,) “is expressive of the leading feature of his whole history, the power of prayer. Himself the child of prayer, he gained all his triumphs by prayer; he is placed at the head of those ‘who called upon Jehovah and he answered them.’”
SAMUEL’S DEDICATION TO THE LORD AT SHILOH, 1 Samuel 1:21-28.
21.And his vow — What this vow of Elkanah was we do not know, but it is generally supposed that, like Hannah’s, it had reference to the child Samuel.
22.Until the child be weaned — Which in some cases was at the age of three years, (2 Maccabees 7:27,) and so quite likely in the case of Samuel.
Abide for ever — That is, as long as he shall live. Compare 1 Samuel 1:11.
23.Only the Lord establish his word — What word Elkanah here refers to is not clear. Some, taking דבר, word, in the sense of matter or thing, a meaning which it sometimes has, paraphrase the sentence thus: The Lord carry out and perfect what he has begun in the case of this child. Others suppose that reference is made to some special revelation concerning the mission and destiny of Samuel, which the sacred writers have not recorded. But it is better to understand by his word, the benediction of Eli, 1 Samuel 1:17 — “the God of Israel grant thee thy petition.” According to this view the parents of Samuel regarded the high priest’s prayer as a prophecy — the word of God respecting Hannah’s prayer for a child, and her vow to consecrate such child to the divine service.
24.Three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine — See the law of meat offerings. Numbers 15:1-13. Several ancient versions read, instead of three bullocks, a bullock three years old; but this is probably an error, for, according to Numbers 15:9, a single bullock required with it but three tenths of an ephah of flour, while Hannah took a whole ephah, enough for three offerings.
The child was young — Probably three or four years old. Compare 1 Samuel 1:22, and 1 Samuel 2:18.
25.Slew a bullock — One of the three mentioned in the preceding verse. The Hebrew is את הפר, the bullock, that is, the particular one with which the consecration of the child was associated. This mention of one by no means implies that there was only one, or that only one of the three was offered.
26.As thy soul liveth — A form of oath peculiar to the books of Samuel. The age of the judges was noticeably an age of vows.
I am the woman — Eli had, perhaps, forgotten her, but she had kept his words in her heart. So, often, the minister of God may utter his benediction, which, though forgotten by himself, lives in another memory, and causes untold comfort.
28.Lent him to the Lord — It is hardly proper to translate the word שׁאל, to ask, in any of its forms by lend. It is used in the Hiphil form only here and Exodus 12:36, and in that form means to cause to ask. So the passage in Exodus 12 should be rendered, “And Jehovah gave the people favour in the eyes of the Egyptians, and they (the Egyptians) caused them (the Israelites) to ask.” That is, the great favour which the Israelites received from the Egyptians disposed the former to ask of the latter such things as they desired of them; and so anxious were the Egyptians to hasten the departure of the Hebrews that they willingly presented them all they asked, even to the spoiling of themselves. Compare Exodus 3:22. Accordingly we would translate this verse, And I also cause him to ask of Jehovah all the days which he shall live; he is the asked of Jehovah. To cause him to ask of Jehovah is the same as causing him to be in constant intercourse and favour with him, and this was to be Samuel’s lot and destiny. Comp. note on 1 Samuel 1:20, and 1 Samuel 3:21.
He worshipped the Lord there — The reference of he is obscure, leaving it doubtful whether Elkanah or Samuel is meant. They worshipped, that is, Elkanah and his wife, is the reading of some of the Hebrew MSS. and the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac and Arabic versions, and is much to be preferred.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany