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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 1

 

 

Verses 1-28

From 1 Chronicles 6:22-28 we learn that Elkanah was a Levite of the sons of Kohath. The names of four of his forebears are recorded in verse 1, which in order of descent are Zuph (meaning "observer"); Tohu ("low, sunk down"); Elihu ("my God is He"); Jeroham ("he is tenderly loved"); resulting in Elkanah ("God has purchased"). These meanings give some indication of the working of God in view of accomplishing His own will in the eventual outcome seen in His servant Samuel.

The two wives of Elkanah, Hannah and Penninah, remind us of Jacob's wives, Rachel and Leah. Though Jacob loved Rachel, she did not bear children, while Leah did so. Hannah means "she was gracious," and Peninnah, "glittering."

Elkanah was a godly Israelite who made a habit of appearing every year to sacrifice to the Lord at Shiloh. In verse 3 is the first time the expression is used in scripture, "the Lord of hosts." It is used five times in 1 Samuel and six times in 2 Samuel. It is only mentioned that Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were there. Eli evidently took the place of high priest (though not called that), but left the duties of priesthood to his sons. Though we are told "every priest standeth daily" (Hebrews 10:10), Eli is not spoken of as standing but twice as sitting (ch.1:9; 4:13) and once as lying down (ch.3:2).

In sacrificing, Elkanah did not forget his wives and the children of Peninnah, but was more favorable toward Hannah because of his love for her. The Lord had, in His wisdom, withheld her from childbearing. On the other hand, Peninnah had children, and became an adversary, provoking Hannah evidently with the taunt that she had none. But Hannah was to learn the lesson, as we all ought to, that "that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual" (1 Corinthians 15:46). The Lord allows mere human nature to have its way at first in order to prove its own vanity: then He introduces what is altogether superior to it just as Adam was the first man, Christ the second Man.

This is not accomplished in us without exercise of soul, for what is merely fleshly must be judged as worthless. Hannah is therefore seen weeping and fasting because of her inability to bear fruit. Elkanah was a kind, considerate husband, but did not understand the intensity of her grief, for he thought she would consider him better to her than ten sons. However, to apply this spiritually, even though the Lord Himself is sufficient to satisfy out hearts, yet He has implanted within every believer a desire to bear fruit for Him this is only normal and right.

Evidently coming to Shiloh into the Lord's presence intensified her distress, and at the temple she prayed in bitterness of soul, weeping and vowing that if the Lord would give her a son, she would devote him to the Lord as a Nazarite (Numbers 6:2-12) all the days of his life. Eli was a stranger to such exercise: he sat on a seat by a post of the temple, virtually sitting as a judge rather than standing as priest. He saw Hannah's lips move as she prayed silently, and made the sad blunder of judging that she was intoxicated. He knew how to reprove her, but did not provide the help and compassion which was the very purpose of priesthood (Hebrews 5:1-2).

Hannah's reply to Eli was most beautiful and precious. Altogether contrary to the effects of liquor, she was a woman of sorrowful spirit who had poured out her soul before the Lord. She pleads with him not to consider her a daughter of Belial, a virtual enemy of the Lord, for the facts were quite the opposite.

One would think her words would be enough to stir Eli's conscience to be ashamed of the mistake he had made, and apologize to her. But priesthood to him was merely a formal matter with little necessity for the heart to be involved. He does not even inquire as to the reason for her sorrow, but dismisses her "in peace," expressing the desire that the God of Israel would answer her petition. She, however, in spite of Eli's lethargy, takes his words as from the Lord, a precious indication of her faith: her sadness was lifted and she returned to normal living.

They returned to Ramah, and very soon she conceived a child for we are told, "The Lord remembered her." At his birth she named him "Samuel," meaning "asked of God." Though she had waited long, yet faith can afford to wait. God answered in His own time, the evidence being clear that this was His sovereign work.

Following this, when Elkanah and the rest of his household went up to Shiloh for the yearly offering, Hannah remained at home with her little child, deciding that she would go only when Samuel was weaned, in order to leave him there with Eli, for when once she brought him to appear before the Lord, she considered he should remain there always. It is precious to see her purpose of heart in regard to carrying out her vow, for it would be no small sacrifice to give up the child for whom she had so longed, and whom of course she deeply loved. But to her the Lord's interests were first.

The day then comes when she brings the child to the house of the Lord. With him she brings three bullocks, one ephah (three measures) of flour and a bottle of wine. One of the bullocks is sacrificed and the child brought to Eli. She knew this was important. We do not read of any child being rightly presented to the Lord without some symbol of the death of Christ accompanying this; for only on the ground of that death can any human being be acceptable to God. The flour reminds us of the meal offering, typical of the perfection of the humanity of Christ, and the wine symbolizes the joy that results from the value of the sacrifice, both God's joy and man's.

In verses 26 to 28 the words of Hannah to Eli are of such importance as to be recorded by the Spirit of God. She reminds him that she was the woman who had stood near him praying to the Lord adding that it was specifically "for this child I prayed." Since the Lord had graciously answered her prayer she was now returning him to the Lord, not only for a time, but permanently. She considered that the way to accomplish this was by leaving him with the priest at the house of the Lord. We may well doubt that Eli would be able to give him the same solid moral training and care that Hannah could but by faith she was really putting him into the Lord's hands, and the Lord cared for him in spite of Eli's inadequacy. In fact, the short time that Hannah had him no doubt left an indelible impression on his young heart that affected his whole life.

We hear nothing of any words that Eli may have spoken at this time: if he spoke, the Spirit of God did not consider his words worth recording. Why did he not heartily commend the faith of Hannah? Perhaps he was rather dismayed to be charged with the responsibility of caring for the young boy. The last sentence, "he worshiped the Lord there" evidently refers to Samuel.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 1:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/1-samuel-1.html. 1897-1910.

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