The Agora
Bible Commentary
1 Samuel

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

1 Samuel 2

1Sa 2:1

For several years now, Hannah had been absent from the sanctuary of Shiloh. (Modern practice is to wean a child before it is a year old, but in Israel women were accustomed to nurse their children three or four years -- and sometimes longer: cp 2Ma 7:27.) Nevertheless her heart had been full with rejoicing and praise to the Almighty for the great blessing of a son. In her meditations, as she cared for the child, she had seen beyond even Samuel's time to the greater time of which it was typical -- that is, to the establishment of God's kingdom in its worldwide scope. Now Hannah, bringing her precious gift to the Lord, stands once more at Shiloh. The troubles of former days are recalled, the provocations and inner conflicts. Now the sunshine of Divine favor has been experienced, and her life has come full circle, back again to the place where she cried out of the depths of despair and God heard her plea. Her heart is full with thanksgiving to God, and her words pour forth like a fountain, fresh and clear and sweet.

Hannah's song has close links with three other Bible passages: Psa 75 (most likely dealing with the angelic destruction of Sennacherib's army), Psa 113 (one of the "great Hallel" Psalms, commemorating the Passover and deliverance from Egypt), and of course Luk 1:46-55 (Mary's song of rejoicing at the prospective birth of an even more important son than Samuel). Perhaps one reason for this is that, in each instance, deliverance or visitation came at Passover!

MY HORN IS LIFTED HIGH: Sym power and strength and exaltation, as the power of an animal is in its horn, or horns (Psa 75:4,5; 89:17,24; 112:9; 2Sa 22:3).

MY MOUTH BOASTS OVER MY ENEMIES: Hannah was now in a position to speak in confidence and even to rebuke her enemies, because God had vindicated her in giving her a son. Now she could open wide her mouth in praise to God. The plural, "enemies", suggests that Peninnah had been joined by her children in taunting the barren Hannah -- just as Hagar had been joined by Ishmael in taunting first Sarah and then Isaac. (Cp Christ: out of his mouth goes a sharp 2-edged sword: Rev 1:16; 2:16; 19:15.)

FOR I DELIGHT IN YOUR DELIVERANCE: The reason why "my heart rejoices in the Lord." All things are possible, all things work together for good, if we will steadfastly set ourselves to rejoice in God's salvation. The psalmists of Israel used the word "rejoice" many times. It is the very spirit of the Psalms. Five times they repeat the precise words of Hannah: "I will rejoice in thy salvation." Paul, writing to the Philippians, expressed a closely related thought. He spoke of his imprisonment, of enmity and rivalry, of partisanship, insincerity, and pretense. Then he spoke of the need continually to rejoice: Phi 1:18,19. So even evil men could be used by God to serve a good purpose, and even in distress and persecution Paul could rejoice at the outworking of God's salvation. Hannah too had suffered for several years from the cruelty and reproach of Peninnah (1Sa 1:6), because of her barrenness. Perhaps others had taken up the thought that God was sorely punishing barren Hannah for some great hidden sin. It did indeed appear that God was blessing Peninnah and chastening Hannah, but there was a wise divine providence at work that in time drastically changed these outward appearances.

REJOICE... DELIVERANCE: Or "salvation" (AV). Salvation is so wonderful and marvelous and glorious a thing that -- if the whole mind is set on it, and the whole life directed toward it, and everything else is put resolutely aside -- there can be no unhappiness. Unhappiness can only be due to failure of vision!

1Sa 2:2

THERE IS NO ONE HOLY LIKE THE LORD: The perfect, glorious, and incomparable holiness of the Lord is a great and powerful and inspiring thought. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!", even the seraphim cried (Isa 6:3). Holiness is the highest ambition toward which any mortal can aspire, for it brings him closest to God. Cp Luk 1:49.

THERE IS NO ONE BESIDES YOU: Hannah recognizes the unique and exclusive supremacy of God. This attribute of God is emphasized over and over throughout the Bible, but nowhere more effectively than: "I am the Lord, and there is none else. There is no God beside me..." (Isa 45:5,6).

THERE IS NO ROCK LIKE OUR GOD: Used by Moses numerous times in Deu 32. Strength, dependability, defense, shelter, security, permanence, and unchangeableness. More tangibly, a "rock in ancient times could be a fortress or a hiding place or an impregnable refuge.

1Sa 2:3

DO NOT KEEP TALKING: The verb is in the masculine plural, which could refer to the sons of Peninnah, or perhaps the sons of Eli (v 12), since Hannah no doubt saw that her son's mission would involve in some way the elimination of these "sons of Belial" (cp Pro 8:13).

A GOD WHO KNOWS: "A God of knowledge" (AV). God knew all things: He knew the sins of Eli's sons, and He knew the faith of the barren woman. He knew the need, of the whole nation of Israel, for a man to lead them back to righteousness. And He was not only a God who KNEW, but He was also a God who ACTED upon that knowledge. He was a God who could wait, with infinite patience, and then still act, deliberately, to do what must be done.

BY HIM DEEDS ARE WEIGHED: God judges not by outward appearance, but God judges the heart. Even Hannah's son needed to learn this lesson, when years later he looked upon the sons of Jesse (1Sa 16:7). By outward appearances, Peninnah was more righteous than Hannah -- but God was trying the hearts (Psa 11:4,5). In the conclusion of the matter, the relative positions of the two wives were reversed for all the world to see.

Israel compared to Sodom:

a. Condemnation of pride
1Sa 2:3
Eze 16:49
b. Darkness
1Sa 2:9
Gen 19:11
c. Judgments from heaven
1Sa 2:10
Gen 19:24
d. Their sin was "very great"
1Sa 2:17
Gen 19:20
e. Greed for abundance, fatness
1Sa 2:16,29
Eze 16:49
f. A "door"
1Sa 2:22; 3:15
Gen 19:11
g. The "poor"
1Sa 2:7,8
Eze 16:49
h. The ignorance about God ("sons of Belial"
1Sa 2:12

1Sa 2:4

It does not appear that Hannah suffered from anything more severe than the tongues of her enemies. Nevertheless, she sees prophetically the future day when everything that exalts itself against God's purpose, whether words or weapons, will be broken without remedy. Her thought here is taken up and amplified by later prophets (Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3; Joel 3:10).

1Sa 2:5

THOSE WHO WERE FULL HIRE THEMSELVES OUT FOR FOOD: Ref the survivors of the house of Eli, who in their future calamity would come cringing to beg a crust of bread (v 36).

SHE WHO WAS BARREN HAS BORNE SEVEN CHILDREN: Hannah and others like her, blessed by God to bear children though once barren, are typical of Jerusalem. The city is personified as a woman mourning at the loss of "husband" and "children", then rejoicing at the multitude of children born to her by faith (Isa 54:1-13). The figure is worked out in detail by Paul in Gal 4, where he uses Ishmael and Isaac as types of two classes of Abraham's seed. The one, Ishmael, represents those Jews after the flesh who rejoice in being literally sons of Abraham but who lack the faith of their father. The other, Isaac, represents the "children of promise", spiritual Jews, born after the other, but of a higher status -- since their link to Abraham is one of faith. Thus the barren Sarah becomes the "mother" of a multitude who, through faith in Christ, partake of the promises held dear by her and her husband.

BUT SHE WHO HAS HAD MANY SONS PINES AWAY: Evidently this was fulfilled in some way in Peninnah. But the antitypical fulfillment, of course, is natural Israel reduced to "widowhood" because she has rejected the Lord, her Maker and Husband.

1Sa 2:6

Vv 6,7: Here is a series of contrasts that, more than anything else, calls to mind Paul's list in 2Co 6:8-10:
"As deceivers, and yet true;
as unknown, and yet well known;
as dying, and behold, we live;
as chastened, and not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."

In each of the pairs, the first word or phrase describes Paul's condition externally or in the eyes of his fellows. But the contrasting word or phrase describes his spiritual condition -- the outcome in God's overruling providence of the trials he endured. So it was with Hannah. Her adversity and apparent reproach paved the way for her prosperity. Poor in children, she was rich in faith. "Brought low" because of her barren womb, she was "lifted up" in wonder and amazement at the birth of the promised son.

1Sa 2:7

Vv 7-10: Hannah's prayer related not only to Samuel -- but to David: throne, king, anointed, whom Samuel would find. Cp Psa 113:7,8; Luk 1:46-53.

POVERTY AND WEALTH: Both prosperity and adversity can be beneficial for believers.

1Sa 2:8

Vv 8-10: Hannah's song is related not only to Samuel, but also to David, the great king he would anoint. And even beyond this, she must have caught a glimpse also of David's greater son, Jesus (Luk 1:46-55). Her son Samuel would set in motion a marvelous chain of events that will not climax till David's "Lord" Jesus Christ will ascend his ancestor's throne of glory.

LIFTS THE NEEDY FROM THE ASH HEAP: Cp Luk 1:52: "lifted up the humble".

1Sa 2:9

Vv 9,10: This carries Hannah -- and us -- far beyond her own time, to the day when every enemy of God will be broken like a potter's vessel (Psa 2:9), when all the earth will acknowledge the rule of His Son (Num 14:21; Isa 11:9; Zec 14:9), whose "horn" will be exalted.

1Sa 2:10

AND EXALT THE HORN OF HIS ANOINTED: The last phrase brings Hannah's prophetic song back to its beginning (v 1). The same God who will exalt my horn, she says, will also exalt the horn of His Messiah forever. What a blessing, to be associated with the Messiah in exaltation at the hand of the Almighty! (This is the first direct mention -- by title -- of the "Messiah", the "Anointed", in all of the Bible.)

1Sa 2:11

So Samuel was left to grow up at the tabernacle, but we need not suppose that he was left totally without motherly love and attention. There are many hints in Scripture of a more or less permanent class of women who "ministered" to the Lord at His house of worship throughout its history. Though in this period of decadence some of these had apparently prostituted themselves to the vile passions of Eli's sons (1Sa 2:22), certainly there must have been a few righteous women who remained aloof. Like Anna (the same name as Hannah!) they departed not from the tabernacle (Luk 2:37); amongst their other duties, they provided a safe "nest" for the little "sparrow" Samuel as he grew to maturity (Psa 84:3,4).

1Sa 2:12

WICKED MEN: "Sons of Belial" (AV). Not a proper name, of course, but a Heb word signifying "wickedness" (as NIV) or "worthlessness" (as RSV). They "had no regard for the Lord." Supposing that godliness was a source of gain (1Ti 6:5), they abused their positions of trust and authority in the most despicable ways, to the point even of stealing directly from God his portions of the offerings (Lev 3:14-17). And this was no isolated infraction: see "all" in v 14.

1Sa 2:13

Ct Lev 7:31-35: Only the breast and right shoulder belong to priests (Tes 30:250).

1Sa 2:15

EVEN BEFORE THE FAT WAS BURNED: They stole from God even before the offering was made!

1Sa 2:16

IF ANY MAN SAID TO HIM...: Insisting on the proper order (cp Lev 3:14-16).

1Sa 2:17

It is a fearful and a sobering thought that our sins may have disastrous consequences not only to us personally, but to those closest to us -- our families in particular. And, furthermore, that as our influence for good grows in proportion to our years in the Truth, our ecclesial responsibilities, and our general "visibility" -- then so does our potential influence for evil! (cp Jam 3:1).


1Sa 2:18

Ct with v 17: The elderly and broken-hearted Eli saw in the faith of Hannah and the young child a second chance for himself and the nation. Eli accepted a just rebuke from God (vv 30-32) and gave over his declining years, not to frustration and sorrow, but to the education of the young prophet through whom God was now to speak (v 35). "He must increase; I must decrease" -- it is a difficult role for any man to assume, especially a High Priest! (The arrogant priests of Christ's day would not accept God's judgments and step down from their seats; consequently, not only did their house perish, but they themselves were lost.)

SAMUEL WAS MINISTERING BEFORE THE LORD: How lovely a picture! The little child growing up in such a holy place, his first impressions of his surroundings a blending of reverence and delight. Before him was gradually opened, day by day, that "illustrated book" which was the Tabernacle. As idea after idea unfolded, God would appear in everything around him: the garments, the sacrifices, the lamps, the "bread of the presence", the incense rising noiselessly toward the heavenly throne. With solemnity he would contemplate the veil which hid the holiest place, tracing on it the figures of the cherubim -- the "living creatures" that mutely declared the unfailing purpose of the Almighty to fill the earth with His glory! All this Samuel saw, and more. In the Tabernacle was depravity of the lowest order; there God's Name was profaned in the worst way by scornful pretenders. Yet it remained God's tabernacle! The ark rested in its place, the lamps still burned, the blood still flowed at the altar, the incense still ascended: and God was there!

A LINEN EPHOD: See v 19.

1Sa 2:19

This coat was prob a linen robe, the same as that worn by the ordinary priests and Levites (1Sa 22:18; 2Sa 6:14). But to Samuel, it would be special almost beyond expression -- because it was his only tangible link, for most of every year, to the mother who had "lent" him to the Lord, yet loved him as her very life. As he went about his daily tasks, it constantly reminded him of her devotion. Mothers still make garments for their children -- and not just with cloth and needle! By their deeds, displayed from day to day before young and observant eyes, mothers fashion "robes" that their children wear for a lifetime. What children see they imitate, almost unconsciously dressing themselves in the characters -- whether good or ill -- which they see in their mothers in the kitchen or the garden. Can there be a stronger incentive than this, to resolve that all our lives, in every part, be a continuing fellowship with God?

1Sa 2:21

THREE SONS AND TWO DAUGHTERS: Five, the number of grace. What Hannah gave away became more valuable in God's service -- and she received much more than her original possession.

1Sa 2:22

ELI, WHO WAS VERY OLD: Not senile (for see next chapters), but rather increasingly infirm -- thus passing on more responsibility to sons -- and thus more apt to be indulgent toward their shortcomings.

HOW THEY SLEPT WITH THE WOMEN...: Was this an attempt to mimic the "religious" fornication of the Canaanite fertility cults? Complaints were addressed to the aged Eli from all his people (v 23). He could have administered the severest threats, which were certainly within his power to carry out (as High Priest if not as father). But instead, Eli satisfied himself with the mildest admonition: v 24. Eli by his tolerance and weakness built his "house" unwisely; "and great was the fall of it" (Mat 7:27). His sons were "precious seed" cast thoughtlessly to the wind, and one day it was too late to redeem them. We naturally wonder if Eli "loved" them too much ever to tell them "No!" (1Sa 2:29; 1Ki 1:6). Eli's work was "wood" and "stubble" and it perished (1Sa 2:34; 1Co 3:12-15), yet Eli himself may be saved "so as by fire". Here are grounds for the most serious self-examination on the part of any married brother who aspires to any leadership position in the ecclesia. He must never forget that his first responsibility is to his own family -- to lead them by word and deed. Better to do less on the platform and more by the fireside, if the discharge of other duties in any way hinders the spiritual development of wife and children: Pro 22:6; 1Ti 3:2,4,5.

1Sa 2:23

WHY DO YOU DO SUCH THINGS?: As though there could be ANY reasonable answer!

1Sa 2:26

Surely this is worth notice, especially by those who often fret that the Truth is in danger of being lost today. Much in such fears may be well-founded as to particulars, but not as to the conclusion sometimes reached: that the only course of action when evil arises is to forsake the assembly and begin again somewhere else. With such examples as this before us here, surely that is not the answer!

Paul was imprisoned and near to the executioner's block. Men like Hymeneus and Philetus (is the similarity of names, with Hophni and Phinehas, only a coincidence?) were undermining the faith of some. All around was hopeless, half-hearted "discipleship". Was it time to give up hope, to flee like a hireling from the "wolves" of rebellion and pride and error? No, the answer of the aged apostle was clear: "Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his" (2Ti 2:19).

So it was in the days of Eli. The Lord knew who was His. He had called him into being in the barren womb of a righteous woman. He had seen him brought to His house. There his soul was nourished with visions of the eternal purpose. There he grew up strong and faithful, amidst the grossest wickedness -- waiting for the time when he would be presented to Israel as God's ordained prophet. The same tent that protected the holy ark sheltered him. There, in innocence, he slept. The foundation of God stood sure.

Cit Luke 2:52, speaking of Jesus Christ.

1Sa 2:27

NOW A MAN OF GOD CAME TO ELI...: Even in such decadent days, God did not leave Himself without witness.

WHEN THEY WERE IN EGYPT UNDER PHARAOH: KJV has "when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house" (cp NET). Does this refer to Moses' family? Did his father Amram and his brother Aaron have some official capacities or offices, and thus were living apart from the other Israelites, and near Pharaoh and his court? Possibilities: (1) special representatives of the Israelites, ie liaison with Pharaoh, or (2) "priests" of some Egyptian god, serving in Pharaoh's house?

1Sa 2:29

SCORN: Lit, "trample on".

1Sa 2:30

THOSE WHO HONOR ME I WILL HONOR: "That ancient law of the Kingdom stands today unchanged by the passing of time or the changes of dispensation. The whole Bible and every page of history proclaim the perpetuation of that law. 'If any man serve me, him will my Father honour' [cp Joh 12:26], said our Lord Jesus, tying in the old with the new and revealing the essential unity of His ways with men. Sometimes the best way to see a thing is to look at its opposite. Eli and his sons are placed in the priesthood with the stipulation that they honor God in their lives and ministrations. This they fail to do, and God sends Samuel to announce the consequences. Unknown to Eli this law of reciprocal honor has been all the while secretly working, and now the time has come for judgment to fall. Hophni and Phineas, the degenerate priests, fall in battle, the wife of Hophni dies in childbirth, Israel flees before her enemies, the ark of God is captured by the Philistines and the old man Eli falls backward and dies of a broken neck. Thus stark tragedy followed upon Eli's failure to honor God" (AWT).

1Sa 2:31

CUT SHORT YOUR STRENGTH: Removing of sons, his "strength", an extension of himself.

1Sa 2:34

THEY WILL BOTH DIE ON THE SAME DAY: Eli's work -- the wood and stubble -- would perish (1Co 3:12-15), yet Eli himself would be saved "as by fire".

1Sa 2:35

FAITHFUL... FIRMLY: Both these words are "aman"!

FAITHFUL PRIEST: Consider the "trustworthy" priests put in charge of temple treasuries: Neh 13:13; and Jesus "the faithful High Priest" in Heb 2:17.

I WILL FIRMLY ESTABLISH HIS HOUSE: The Davidic covenant: "The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you" (2Sa 7:11).

ALWAYS: Cp 2Sa 7:13: "He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever."

1Sa 2:36

PIECE OF SILVER... CRUST OF BREAD: Sig smallness of request.

APPOINT ME TO SOME PRIESTLY OFFICE SO I CAN HAVE FOOD TO EAT: Fulfilled in Abiathar, the last remaining descendant of Eli's family (1Sa 22:23).

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