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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 2

 

 

Verses 1-36


Hannah's Song of Thanksgiving. The Sin of Eli's Sons

1-10. The Song of Hannah.

This beautiful poem has been well called the 'Magnificat of the Old Testament.' The song of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:46-55) is clearly modelled on it very closely. In each case there is the rejoicing over the exaltation of the poor and despised and the humiliation of the rich. But there is a world of difference between Mary's quiet and restrained gratitude and calm confidence in God's mercy, on the one hand, and the exultant and almost fierce triumph of this song. 1 Samuel 2:5 has doubtless led to the attribution of the song to Hannah; but in its general tone it seems more suitable to some public person, and 1 Samuel 2:10 (unless it be an interpolation) suggests a later date in Israel's history. Compare the expressions of national triumph in the songs of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18) and Deborah (Judges 5).

1. Mine horn is exalted] The figure is that of an animal carrying its head high: cp. Psalms 112:9. My mouth is enlarged] The idea is that of speaking with confidence and derision: cp. Isaiah 57:4. Salvation] In the Bible this word denotes help or deliverance of any kind.

2. Holy] The Holiness of God in the OT. denotes positively the completeness of the divine nature and negatively God's unlikeness to anything else. Rock] This is a frequent metaphor to express the strength and unchangingness of Jehovah. The name also conveys the idea that the strength of God is a refuge for His people (Psalms 91:2). Rocks, as capable of easy defence, were often used as places of refuge.

3. Weighed] i.e. estimated. The idea is the same as in Proverbs 21:2.

5. Seven] the number of completeness, perfection.

6. Grave] Heb. Sheol, the place where departed spirits were believed to be gathered at death. Bringeth up] restores to life those who were at the point of death.

8. Pillars] the great men of the state on whom it depended for its stability: cp. Galatians 2:9; Revelation 3:12.

9. Saints] RV 'holy ones': rather, 'pious ones, those who love God.'

10. His anointed] a common name for the Jewish king.

12. Knew] This verb in the Bible has of ten the added idea of appreciation, recognition of character, affection.

13-17. The sons of Eli were guilty of a twofold sin. (a) Instead of being content with their allotted portion (Leviticus 7:31.) they took all they could get of the offerer's portion. (b) They dishonoured God by making their claims take precedence of His. The blood and the fat were to be consumed on the altar immediately after slaughtering (Exodus 23:18), but they claimed their share before this had been done. After the fat had been conveyed to God the sacrificial flesh was boiled, but Eli's sons demanded their portion raw with a view to its being roasted: see HDB. art. 'Sacrifice.'

16. If any man] RV 'if the man,' i.e. the offerer. Presently] i.e. immediately, at once.

17. For men abhorred] rather, 'for the men (i.e. the sons of Eli) despised.'

18. But Samuel] Throughout this section Samuel is contrasted with the profligate sons of Eli. Linen ephod] the usual priestly garment (1 Samuel 22:18).

20. For the loan which is lent] rather, 'in return for the petition which was made for (i.e. for the benefit of) the Lord,' i.e. in place of Samuel, the man-child who, if born, was to be given to the Lord.

22. Assembled at] RV 'did service at.' It is probable that these women were permanently connected with the Tabernacle: cp. Exodus 38:8.

Lay with the women] There is no doubt that the surrender of their chastity was regarded by the women of Canaan and Syria as the highest sacrifice they could make in honour of their gods. The sons of Eli introduced these immoral rites into the worship of Jehovah, and hence the severity of their condemnation.

25. In the original, point is given to Eli's rebuke by the fact that the word here used for 'judge' (Elohim) also means 'God.' The judge was regarded as the representative of God: see Psalms 82:6. If it is a case of men, God has appointed some one to settle the matter; but when God Himself is the offended party, no higher power exists to whom the case can be submitted. God is both adversary and judge.

Would slay them] lit. 'wished to slay them.' In the OT. the direct intervention of God is assumed, and His ever-present agency realised as a determining fact. We say that after a man has persisted for long years in sinful habits, he finds it impossible to alter. The Bible expresses the same truth by stating, first that the sinner (e.g. Pharaoh) hardens his own heart, and then that God hardens the sinner's heart. The punishment of the wicked is considered to be as much in accordance with God's will as the reward of the righteous.

27. A man of God] a common name for a prophet. With the books of Samuel we come to a period when God guides His people by human agency rather than by direct communication. Did I plainly appear?] RV 'Did I reveal myself?' It is an impassioned question, 'Did I or did I not?' Thy father] i.e. Aaron.

In Pharaoh's house] LXX reads 'In bondage to Pharaoh's house.'

28. Give.. all the offerings] see Leviticus 2, 6, 7.

29. Kick ye at] The figure is that of a pampered and intractable animal: cp. Deuteronomy 32:15. Sacrifice and.. offering] bloody and unbloody sacrifices. Honourest thy sons above me] Eli should have removed his sons from a position they disgraced. But he could not bring himself to humiliate them and lower his own position in the sight of the people.

30. When Abiathar, the descendant of Eli, fled to David (1 Samuel 22:20), Zadok, a descendant of Eleazar, may have been made chief priest by Saul. He appears soon after, and it is not known how or when the office was bestowed on him. David divided the dignity between the two (2 Samuel 8:17), but Abiathar was deposed by Solomon (1 Kings 2:27), and the priesthood remained with Zadok and his descendants down to the time of the exile. Thus the prophet's threat was fulfilled.

31-35. It is keenly disputed to what events these vv refer. The simplest explanation is that 1 Samuel 2:31 refers to the massacre of the priests at Nob, 1 Samuel 2:32-33 to the deposition and consequent poverty of Abiathar, and 1 Samuel 2:35 to Zadok.

31. Cut off thine arm] destroy thy power, as Psalms 10:15.

32. An enemy in my habitation] lit. 'affliction of habitation.' The context seems to show that the reference is to Eli's own dwelling. While Israel increased in wealth and prosperity in the reign of Solomon, Eli's family were to fall into poverty and obscurity.

33. Those who did not die young would pass their life in vexation and grief. Thine eyes.. thine heart] rather as LXX, 'his eyes.. his heart.' Shall die in the flower of their age] LXX reads 'shall die by the sword of men.'

35. I will build him a sure house] i.e. I will give him a continuous posterity: cp. 1 Samuel 25:28; 2 Samuel 7:16. Mine anointed] the king (singular), really referring to the long line of kings who were to follow David.

36. Put me into] rather, 'attach me to,' 'make me a hanger on.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/1-samuel-2.html. 1909.

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