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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 1

 

 

Introduction

SECTION 1. The Birth, Rise, Prophetic Ministry And Judgeship of Samuel (1-12).

This first section of the book covers the life of Samuel from his birth to the setting up of Saul as king in response to the people’s request. The first three chapters deal with the birth and spiritual growth of Samuel. This is then followed in chapter 4 by the Philistine invasion in which the Ark of YHWH of hosts is lost to Israel, something which takes place while Samuel is still a youth. That loss indicates YHWH’s demonstration of the fact that He no longer sees Himself as king over an Israel that has forsaken Him. However, He then goes on to demonstrate His authority over the gods of the Philistines by bringing disaster on them, so that His Ark is restored to Israel by the Philistines, who also pay Him generous tribute. The Ark is then placed with due honour (after a previous unfortunate incident) in the house of Abinadab where it will remain for many years. It is a recognised symbol that YHWH is still present as King over His people, and will therefore, once they turn back to Him, act on their behalf through His appointed deliverers.

This will firstly be through Samuel in this section, then through Saul before he is finally rejected, in the next section, and then through the young David in the final section, until he is outlawed and then exiled as a result of Saul’s activities. As a result of his exile there will be a lull, and the Philistines triumph. But in the second part of the book David will become the Spirit inspired king, the Philistines will be defeated, and then the Ark will be restored for public worship, having been ‘purified’ by its period spent in the house of Abinadab. The Kingship of YHWH has triumphed.

A). The Birth, Call and Establishment of Samuel the Prophet (1:1-4:1).

This opening subsection of the book commences with a description of the events that led up to the birth of Samuel. That is then followed by a description of the spiritual growth of Samuel which is interwoven with a description of the sinfulness of the sons of Eli, the High Priest of Israel, and leads up to a prophetic denunciation of the priesthood of the house of Ithamar. After that we have a description of how Samuel is called to be a prophet and a summary of what follows, ending with the fact that Samuel takes the word of YHWH to all Israel.

a The birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-28).

b The prophecy of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10).

c Samuel ministers to YHWH (1 Samuel 2:11).

d The failure of Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:12-17).

e The blessing of God on Samuel and on the house of Elkanah (1 Samuel 2:18-21).

d The failure of Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:22-25).

c Samuel grows in favour with YHWH and men (1 Samuel 2:26).

b The prophecy of the man of God (1 Samuel 2:27-36).

a The call and establishment of Samuel as a prophet (1 Samuel 3:1 to 1 Samuel 4:1).

Note that in ‘a’ we have described the miraculous birth of Samuel, and in the parallel his establishment as a Prophet of YHWH. In ‘b’ we have the prophecy of Hannah, and in the parallel the prophecy of a man of God, both including reference to YHWH’s ‘anointed one’.

Chapter 1. The Birth of Samuel, The Miracle Son.

At a time when the priesthood was at a very low ebb, and Israel’s faith was failing in the face of the terrible threat of the ferocious Philistines, a woman in Israel who was seemingly perpetually barren prayed for a son and promised that if one was born to her she would dedicate him to YHWH. In the course of time that son was born, and she gave him to YHWH. And although no one apart from God realised it, it was the indication of a new beginning for Israel.

The greatness of Samuel cannot be overestimated. He took over a broken and weakened nation, re-established it, and guided by God anointed and nurtured the one who would take Israel to its greatest heights. The description in detail of his birth is intended to bring out the importance of the occasion. It indicated that this was all God’s doing, and that it was all part of God’s sovereign plan. It was no accident. God was at work replacing Israel’s failing leadership in His own way. This is the message of the whole book, and there can be no doubt that David’s godliness and rise to power owed much to the influence of Samuel

But however that may be, alongside this we have a very human story. Man in his weakness is seen to cause a multiplicity of problems, and produce a multiplicity of difficult situations. The pendulum appears to swing to and fro. But in the end all this is seen to be under control. God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill are seen to progress hand in hand.


Verses 1-8

The Events That Lead Up To Samuel’s Birth (1 Samuel 1:1-20).

We should note initially the godliness of both Elkanah and Hannah. The writer’s aim is to bring out that they were worthy and godly people. The message is that when God seeks to do a work it is usually to such sources that He looks, and that always in every age, however dark the hour, He has such people to call on. And their godliness emphasises that what is to follow is the doing of YHWH. They stand in stark contrast both to Elkanah’s disgruntled second wife, Peninnah, and to the two sons of Eli. The stress is on the fact that, while the country might time and again be almost on its knees, there are always those who trust in YHWH. And that is the picture being depicted here.

For us there is the message that often what appears to be a tragedy in our lives is actually God’s way of bringing about His purposes, so that we can confidently look forward and say, ‘all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

The Household of Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:1-8).

The writer commences with a detailed description of the household of Elkanah. In it he reveals that one of Elkanah’s wives who is named Hannah (meaning ‘grace) is barren and in great distress because she has had no child.

Analysis.

a Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill-country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite, and he had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of other Peninnah, and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children (1 Samuel 1:1-2).

b And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice to YHWH of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests to YHWH, were there (1 Samuel 1:3).

c And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions (1 Samuel 1:4).

d But to Hannah he used to give a double portion, for he loved Hannah. But YHWH had shut up her womb (1 Samuel 1:5).

c And her rival behaved towards her with great provocation, in order to upset her, because YHWH had shut up her womb (1 Samuel 1:6).

b And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of YHWH, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat (1 Samuel 1:7).

a And Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why are you crying, and why do you not eat, and why is your heart grieved? am not I better to you than ten sons? (1 Samuel 1:8).

Note that in ‘a’ Hannah had no children, but she had a worthy husband, and in the parallel her husband asks whether he is not better to her than tens sons. In ‘b’ Elkanah went up on a regular basis to sacrifice, and in the parallel he does the same. In ‘c’ we have a description of Elkanah’s provision for Peninnah and her children, and in the parallel we have described Peninnah’s attitude towards Hannah. Centrally in ‘d’ we have described Elkanah’s special love towards Hannah. Note also the repetition of the phrase ‘YHWH had shut up her womb’, a kind of pattern of repetition that occurs regularly in Biblical chiasmuses.

1 Samuel 1:1-2

Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill-country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite, and he had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of other Peninnah, and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.’

The importance of what is about to be described is revealed in the detail given about Elkanah’s ancestry. For this is to be seen as also the ancestry of Samuel (Shemuel). He was an Ephrathite (Ephraimite) descended from Zuph. 1 Chronicles 6:33-38 reveals further that Zuph was a Levite descended from Kohath, the son of Levi. Thus Samuel (Shemuel) was of Levite origin, and descended from the Levites who had settled among the Ephraimites (Joshua 21:20). Elkanah (‘bought by El’) in fact appears from its uses to be a Levite name. Given that Salmon, the seventh from Judah in descent, entered Canaan with Joshua, we might assume that Zuph, the seventh from Levi, did the same, which would explain why he was seen as so important. He was the original dweller in the land.

Elkanah lived in Ramathaim-zophim. Ramathaim (LXX Armathaim) means ‘the twin heights’ (ramah = ‘height’) and its whereabouts is disputed, but it is presumably the same as the Ramah (1 Samuel 1:19) which was Samuel’s birthplace and later headquarters (1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 8:4 ff; 1 Samuel 9:6; 1 Samuel 9:10; 1 Samuel 25:1). Zophim may indicate that it was in the land of Zuph (1 Samuel 9:5 ff). It has been suggested that it is the same as the later Arimathea (John 19:38).

“Of the hill country of Ephraim.” This was the central mountainous district of Palestine, made up of limestone hills intersected to a certain extent by fertile valleys which were watered by numerous springs. Deborah’s palm tree was ‘between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim’ (Judges 4:5).

“And he had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of other Peninnah, and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.” Elkanah was a polygamist. He had two wives. Polygamy was practised in the Old Testament quite regularly and was tolerated by the Law (Deuteronomy 21:15-17), even though not in line with the creation ordinance (Genesis 2:24). Abraham and Jacob were both polygamists, and there is never any hint that polygamy was frowned on by God or man. Indeed the impression given is that God was quite reconciled to the idea. However, with the exception of kings and chieftains (Abraham and Jacob were chieftains) it does not appear to have been frequent, and no example of it is found in Scripture after the exile. It was, however, left to Jesus to make clear the importance of Genesis 2:24.

“Hannah” means ‘grace’, and Peninnah means ‘pearl’ or ‘coral’. But only Peninnah was blessed with children. This would be a great hardship to Hannah who would feel that she was failing in her duty. Every Israelite woman longed to produce children. It was that that gave her status. And she felt it to be her responsibility. The situation was somewhat similar to that of Hagar and Sarah, with Sarah being barren. In that case also there was grave disquiet between the two. It was an inevitable consequence of polygamy. It may well be that Elkanah had married Peninnah because Hannah was childless.

1 Samuel 1:3

And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice to YHWH of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests to YHWH, were there.’

Elkanah went up from Ramah to Shiloh on a regular basis for the great feasts. Shiloh was the central sanctuary of Israel where the Tabernacle had been erected, and a number of buildings had been built around it. Some of these buildings have been excavated. It would seem also that as time passed the entrance gateway had been made more permanent (1 Samuel 1:9). But as a result of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines Shiloh would later cease to be the central sanctuary, and it is possible that it was even destroyed by them (Jeremiah 7:12), although that is open to question. We should note that Samuel would operate from there for some time (1 Samuel 3:21). It would, however, emerge later in Nob as again in operation (1 Samuel 21).

“From year to year.” Literally ‘from the days to days’. Compare Exodus 13:10; Judges 11:40. This may therefore indicate attendance at all three major feasts during the year (Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16) rather than just the one.

Operating as priests at Shiloh at this time were the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, whose behaviour left much to be desired (1 Samuel 2:12-17). Note the parallel of the ‘two sons’ with the ‘two’ wives of Elkanah. But at least in the case of the wives one was godly, whereas in the case of the brothers neither were. The mention of his sons may suggest that Eli was in semi-retirement. Or the writer’s point may simply have been to bring out that all this happened when things were at their lowest ebb.

“To sacrifice to YHWH of hosts.” This is the first use of this title for God, a title which would be regularly used from now on. Here the emphasis is probably on the fact that YHWH was seen as supreme commander of the hosts of Israel (1 Samuel 17:45), but the title also came to include His being Lord of the heavenly hosts (the angels) and of the hosts of heaven (sun, moon and stars) and may already have done so here. In the light of the Philistine menace ‘YHWH of the hosts of Israel’ was very relevant.

1 Samuel 1:4-6

And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions, but to Hannah he used to give a double portion, for he loved Hannah. But YHWH had shut up her womb. And her rival behaved towards here with great provocation, in order to upset her, because YHWH had shut up her womb.’

Regularly Elkanah would offer his peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings of which all would partake in feasting once the priests had received their portion (Leviticus 7:11-18). And when he did so he would give Peninnah and her sons and daughters their portions. But to Hannah he would give a larger portion (‘a portion of the face’). This is said to be because he loved her. He may also have had in mind that she was his first wife and therefore worthy of extra honour. It is a reminder of how in that society a meal consisting of meat was a special treat. Usually they were limited to a fruit and vegetable diet.

In contrast with his love for Hannah and the extra portion that he gave her was the fact that YHWH had ‘shut up her womb’. It appeared that she was husband-blessed but not God-blessed. In view of what would happen this is a reminder to us that when God is silent it does not always mean quite what we might at first see it as meaning. For unknown to them all God was planning for her a blessing almost beyond telling. It is a reminder that for those who know God, when things are darkest it is often because there is going to be a glorious dawn.

“ And her rival behaved towards her with great provocation, in order to upset her, because YHWH had shut up her womb.” Sadly Elkanah’s second wife did not behave well. Instead of rejoicing in the fact that God had been good to her, she gloated over her rival’s misfortune. She behaved towards her with great provocation so as to upset her, constantly drawing her attention to her failure to give Elkanah a son, and presumably also drawing her attention (with a satisfied smirk) to the fact that it demonstrated that at least she was not YHWH’s favourite. She was aware that Elkanah showed a special preference for Hannah and was jealous. How often we overlook how God has blessed us because we are jealous of what other people have, and thereby lose out and belittle ourselves. Peninnah has gone down in history as a shrew. And yet God would use her spite to drive Hannah to prayer.

Such behaviour is ever so when favouritism is shown. How careful we should be to avoid it within families. It was always especially a danger in a polygamous marriage, but it is equally a danger with our children. Remember what happened to Joseph because he was his father’s favourite. Such favouritism is devilish and ungodly.

1 Samuel 1:7

And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of YHWH, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.’

This situation went on for years, and thus whenever they went up to the house of YHWH the provocation continued, and it reduced Hannah to weeping, and to not partaking of the feast. Of what benefit was a double portion in such circumstances? It was a blessing to no one. It is a sad thing to think that such a joyous occasion as going up to the house of YHWH to celebrate and rejoice was being marred by such human sinfulness. But the writer is seeking to bring out that that is what life is like, and yet that God Who is over all can use such circumstances for His own glory.

“And did not eat.” Eating indicated rejoicing, and she felt that she had nothing to give thanks for.

1 Samuel 1:8

And Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why are you crying, and why do you not eat, and why is your heart grieved? am not I better to you than ten sons?” ’

Elkanah tried his fumbling best. He hated seeing his beloved Hannah in such distress. So with a man’s lack of insight he asked her why she was so grieved over not having son, when she had him and his love. Was he not better to her than ten sons? While he was around she did not need a son to look after her and care for her needs (compare 1 Samuel 4:15). And it may be that he was not as insensitive as he seemed. For what other consolation could he offer her? He was doing his best. Note the threefold ‘crying -- not eat -- grieved at heart’, indicating her ‘complete’ misery. (Three regularly indicates completeness). We also have here an example of the use of ‘ten’ to mean ‘a number of’ (compare Genesis 31:41).

The great emphasis on Hannah’s predicament is intended to be in contrast with the great work that God was going to do. It brings out that out of suffering would come blessing. That is often God’s way. ‘The corn of wheat to multiply, must fall into the ground and die’ (John 12:24).


Verses 9-18

Hannah’s Prayer For A Son And How She Became Confident That YHWH Had Answered Her Prayer (1 Samuel 1:9-18).

In this passage Hannah prays desperately for a son, and promises YHWH that if He will grant her a son she will give him to YHWH for as long as he lives. And when Eli ‘the Priest’ (the High Priest) has blessed her she knows that God has heard her prayer.

Analysis.

a So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk (1 Samuel 1:9 a).

b Now Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the door-post of the temple of YHWH (1 Samuel 1:9 b).

c And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to YHWH, and cried bitterly (1 Samuel 1:10).

d And she vowed a vow, and said, “O YHWH of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a man-child, then I will give him to YHWH all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head” (1 Samuel 1:11).

e And it came about that, as she continued praying (‘multiplied to pray’) before YHWH, Eli noted carefully her mouth (1 Samuel 1:12).

f Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart, only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard, Eli therefore thought she was drunk (1 Samuel 1:13).

e And Eli said to her, ‘How long will you go on being drunk? Put away your wine from you” (1 Samuel 1:14).

d And Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before YHWH” (1 Samuel 1:15).

c “Do not count your handmaid as a wicked woman; for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken prior to this” (1 Samuel 1:16).

b Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have requested from him” (1 Samuel 1:17).

a And she said, “Let your handmaid find favour in your sight.” So the woman went her way, and ate, and her countenance was sad no more (1 Samuel 1:18).

Note that in ‘a’ Hannah rises up so that she may approach the Sanctuary in order to pray, and in the parallel she makes her way from the Sanctuary with joy in her heart because her prayer is heard. In ‘b’ Eli sits at the Temple entrance, and in the parallel it is he who tells Hannah to ‘Go in peace”. In ‘c’ she prays in bitterness of soul, and in the parallel she explains her bitterness of soul. In ‘d’ she pours out her soul to YHWH and in the parallel informs Eli that that is what she has done. In ‘e’ Eli notes the movement of her mouth, and in the parallel accuses her of being drunk. Centrally in ‘f’ we learn that far from being drunk she is praying from the heart.

1 Samuel 1:9

So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the door-post of the temple of YHWH.’

The time came when Hannah could bear it no longer. And when they had eaten and drunk their festival meal she rose up and made her way to the door of the sanctuary. She may well have done it many times before, but this time she was particularly distressed. The old priest Eli was there, sitting on his seat by the doorpost of ‘the temple’, watching as the people approached to worship, faithful to his duty. In spite of his sons he would appear to have been a godly man, and he appears to have grieved over his sons, and over the state of the people. Especially it grieved him how lax the people had become in their approach to YHWH. And when he saw this woman approaching he thought that here was such a one. How careful we should be in our judgments.

The description of the Tabernacle as ‘the temple’ illustrates how it had come to be seen by the people. It had been surrounded by buildings, and had been given a grand entrance. And the result was that people saw it as ‘a temple’ (the normal name for a place of worship of the time). It would seem a natural description to them. Compare also 1 Samuel 3:3 and Psalms 5:7.

Eli was descended from Ithamar, Aaron’s fourth son. The previous Priest of the sanctuary of whom we have information had been Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, Aaron’s third son, in Judges 20:28. (Aaron’s first two sons had been slain for sacrilege - Leviticus 10:1-2). Why the position had passed to the line of Ithamar we do not know. Perhaps when the need had arisen for a priest there had not been a mature male of the house of Eleazar, and thus someone of the line of Ithamar had been appointed. The privilege would eventually return to the line of Eleazar because of God’s penalty on the failure of Eli’s two sons (1 Samuel 2:31-34).

1 Samuel 1:10

And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to YHWH, and cried bitterly.’

And there before the Temple, in great bitterness of soul, Hannah prayed silently to YHWH, mouthing her words noiselessly and weeping bitterly as she did so.

1 Samuel 1:11

And she vowed a vow, and said, “O YHWH of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a man-child, then I will give him to YHWH all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head.’

From the bottom of her heart she vowed a vow. She vowed that if the great YHWH would look on her affliction (was that not what He did best?) and would remember her, and not forget her (as He had seemed to do up to this point), and would give her a son, a male child, that most desired of gifts to a woman, then she would give him back to YHWH so that the whole of his life might be dedicated to YHWH in the most solemn way. He would be so dedicated that no razor should touch his hair. Unshaven hair was the sign of a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:5; Judges 13:5). A Nazirite vow was usually temporary, but here it was to be a permanent vow, as with Samson. It would presumably include abstinence from wine and strong drink. Perhaps indeed she had in mind what she had heard about Samson in a similar situation (Judges 13:2-5).

It is extremely probable that she had discussed the matter with her husband before making her vow. Certainly such a vow would not have been binding on her husband if he did not agree with it (Numbers 30:6-7). It is true that as a Levite Samuel would enter Tabernacle service anyway (although not as a priest) when he was twenty five years of age, but this vow went far deeper than that. Now that the Sanctuary was settled in one place Levite service was limited to three times a year at the Sanctuary, and it was otherwise exercised in other duties to be performed on behalf of the people among whom they lived, such as teaching the Law, gathering tithes, ministering tithes to the poor, and advising people about God’s requirements. But Samuel was not being set aside for this. He was being devoted to YHWH for ever. He was to be a child of the Sanctuary to live only to do YHWH’s will.

That this was taken totally seriously comes out in that later we find that Samuel is operating within the sanctuary, probably as having been adopted by Eli (or by YHWH) and thus being now of priestly stock. This would explain why he could operate within the sanctuary and why later he could offer sacrifices. But no great emphasis would be laid on this by the writer. To him what was important was that Samuel was a prophet of YHWH (1 Samuel 3:20). Here was a prophet like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18). The voice of prophecy had begun to speak again.

1 Samuel 1:12-13

And it came about that, as she continued praying (‘multiplied to pray’) before YHWH, Eli noted carefully her mouth. Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart, only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard, Eli therefore thought she was drunk.’

What happened here speaks volumes about spiritual conditions in Israel at the time. It is clear that Eli’s expectations had sunk so low that when he saw a woman standing before the sanctuary with her lips moving up and down he did not even consider that she might be praying. (Silent prayer was probably not common at the time). He thought rather that she was drunk. This was what he had come to expect of worshippers at the sanctuary.

But Hannah was praying earnestly before YHWH, at the door of the sanctuary. She could not, of course, enter it. That was for heads of families who brought sacrifices and offerings, and also for the priests. But she had come as near to God as she could. And humbly she spoke in her heart. Her lips moved but there was no sound. It is clear that in those times this was so unusual that Eli failed to recognise what she was doing.

“Continued praying.” Literally ‘she multiplied to pray’. Thus, she prayed long and earnestly.

1 Samuel 1:14

And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put away your wine from you.” ’

Thinking that she was drunk Eli called to her roughly. ‘How long are you going to go on in your drunkenness?’ he asked. ‘Get rid of your wine and sober up.’ He must have been sad at heart to see the condition of those who were supposed to be God’s people. But he was to receive a pleasant surprise in response to his rough words.

1 Samuel 1:15

And Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before YHWH.” ’

Hannah addressed him respectfully as ‘my lord’, and pointed out that she was not drunk. Rather, she pointed out, she was a woman of sorrowful spirit (‘heavy of spirit’). She had drunk neither wine nor strong drink. Rather she had poured out her soul to YHWH. There may be an intended play on ideas in that she had not poured out drink for herself, but had rather poured out her soul to YHWH.

1 Samuel 1:16

Do not count your handmaid as a wicked woman; for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken prior to this.”

She pleaded with him not to think of her as a godless person (a ‘daughter of worthlessness (belial)’). Rather her behaviour was as a result of the fact that she had a complaint about how God had treated her, and because she had been driven to it by provocation. It was that that had driven her to behave as she had up to this point.

1 Samuel 1:17

Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have requested from him”.’

Recognising her genuineness Eli blessed her and told her to go in peace, and asked that the God of Israel would grant what she had asked of Him. This is the only reference in Samuel to YHWH solely as ‘the God of Israel’ (usually it is ‘YHWH, the God of Israel’) apart from on the lips of the Philistines in 1 Samuel 5-6. This may indicate that through Eli the writer wants us immediately to recognise the significance of this child as the one appointed by the God of Israel to deliver the whole of Israel from the Philistines.

1 Samuel 1:18

And she said, “Let your handmaid find favour in your sight.” So the woman went her way, and ate, and her countenance was sad no more.’

Encouraged by his words and now confident that God had heard her, Hannah politely and humbly bade him farewell and went her way. She was no longer sad and so she began to enjoy the feast for the first time for many years.

Note the threefold evidence of her complete faith. She ‘went her way -- ate -- her countenance was sad no more’. Contrast the threefold signs of distress in verse 8.


Verses 19-26

They Return Home and Samuel Is Born, And When He Is Weaned He Is Given To YHWH (1 Samuel 1:21-26).

In accordance with Hannah’s faith she bears a son, and will not again go up to the Temple until she can fulfil her vow and present him to YHWH. Then upon his being weaned off his mother’s milk she and Elkanah again go to the Temple together and she presents her son to YHWH.

Analysis.

a And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before YHWH, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah, and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and YHWH remembered her. And it came about that when the time was come about, Hannah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of YHWH” (1 Samuel 1:19-20).

b And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer to YHWH the yearly sacrifice, and his vow (1 Samuel 1:21).

c But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “I will not go up until the child be weaned; and then I will bring him, that he may appear before YHWH, and there abide for ever” (1 Samuel 1:22).

d And Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems good to you. Wait until you have weaned him. Only YHWH establish his word.” So the woman waited and breast fed her son, until she weaned him (1 Samuel 1:23).

c And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of meal, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of YHWH in Shiloh, and the child was young (1 Samuel 1:24).

b And they slew the bullock, and brought the child to Eli (1 Samuel 1:25).

a And she said, “Oh, my lord, as your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to YHWH. For this child I prayed; and YHWH has given me my petition which I asked of him, therefore also I have granted him to YHWH. As long as he lives he is granted to YHWH.” And he worshipped YHWH there (1 Samuel 1:26).

Note that in ‘a’ YHWH responds to Hannah’s prayer and gives her a son, and she calls him ‘asked of GOD’, and in the parallel she informs Eli of the fact and grants him to YHWH. In ‘b’ Elkanah and his house go up to offer the yearly sacrifice, and in the parallel they offer a sacrifice and bring the child to YHWH. In ‘c’ Hannah will not go up until the child is weaned, and in the parallel the child is weaned and she takes him up with her. In ‘d’ Elkanah is satisfied with whatever she does but stresses that YHWH’s word must be made sure.

1 Samuel 1:19

And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before YHWH, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah, and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and YHWH remembered her.’

Next morning, following her prayer, they rose early and worshipped before YHWH, after which they returned home to their house at Ramah. There they renewed normal sexual relations and ‘YHWH remembered her’ (compare Genesis 30:22).

1 Samuel 1:20

And it came about that when the time was come about, Hannah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of YHWH.” ’

And when the time that He had planned came Hannah conceived, and she bore a son and called his name Shemuel because she had asked him of YHWH. The name means ‘El has heard’. Thus the name was a commemoration of the fact that she had asked for a son from YHWH, and He had heard.

1 Samuel 1:21-22

And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer to YHWH the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “I will not go up until the child be weaned; and then I will bring him, that he may appear before YHWH, and there abide for ever.” ’

The time came for the next visit to the Sanctuary at Shiloh at which ‘the yearly sacrifice’ might be offered to YHWH. This may have been the Passover, or it may have been an offering to be offered at the Feast of Tabernacles. And with it Elkanah was to make a sacrifice in respect of a vow. This may have been the vow described in verse 11, which he had taken on himself. Or it may have been some other vow. But either way Hannah would not go up with them. This was probably because she felt that she could not visit the Sanctuary with her vow uncompleted. She would not go until she could give her son to YHWH after weaning. It was not seen as necessary that women attend at the Sanctuary so that this would not have been seen as unusual.

The weaning of a child (bringing him off breast feeding) normally took two to three years. Then, said Hannah, she would bring him so that he might appear before YHWH and abide there ‘for ever’ (i.e. as long as he lived). There is pathos in the words. As far as she was concerned she really was losing him ‘for ever’. We must not overlook the huge cost to Hannah of what she was doing. She knew that once Samuel was a child of the Sanctuary she would see little of him. She would have relinquished all rights to him. And yet she was not hesitating. Rather she wanted to ensure that she did the right thing. That was why she did not want to appear ‘before YHWH’ until she could honour her vow to Him.

1 Samuel 1:23

And Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems good to you. Wait until you have weaned him. Only YHWH establish his word.” So the woman waited and breast fed her son, until she weaned him.’

Elkanah was happy for her to do what she wished. She could wait until the child was weaned. But note that he was determined that YHWH’s word must be established. YHWH had spoken by granting them their son. Now His will must be done with regard to him. Thus neither Elkanah nor Hannah had any thought of disobedience to God’s will. So Hannah waited and breast fed her son until she had weaned him.

1 Samuel 1:24-25

And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of meal, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of YHWH in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they slew the bullock, and brought the child to Eli.’

Once Samuel was weaned she took him ‘up’ with her to Shiloh. (Shiloh was on a high place). And with him she took three bullocks, an ephah of meal and a wineskin of wine. The size of the offering suggests that they were a well-to-do family. Three bullocks was a considerable offering for an individual family to make. It may be that one was for a burnt offering, one for a votive offering in respect of the vow, and one a peace offering (compare Numbers 15:8-10). Three tenths part of an ephah of meal, together with some wine, had to be offered with each offering (Numbers 15:9) Taking these offerings with her she, with Elkanah, went with her son to the house of YHWH in Shiloh. And once there they slew a bullock and brought the child personally to Eli.

“And the child was young.” Some have doubted whether such a young child would have been accepted at the Tabernacle. But there were women there ‘who did service at the door of the Tent of Meeting’ (1 Samuel 2:22) who would be well able to look after him, and such a gift could not be spurned. Samuel belonged to YHWH. He was ‘holy’. So he would immediately begin to serve in any way that he could, growing up to know that he belonged wholly to YHWH.

1 Samuel 1:26-28

And she said, “Oh, my lord, as your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to YHWH. For this child I prayed; and YHWH has given me my petition which I asked of him, therefore also I have granted him to YHWH. As long as he lives he is granted to YHWH.” And he worshipped YHWH there.’

Approaching Eli, Hannah introduced her son. She reminded him of when they had last met, and how she had prayed to YHWH for a child. Then she informed him about her vow. She told him that YHWH had given her a son, and that now she was in turn giving him back to YHWH as she had promised. As long as he lived he would belong to YHWH. It was a most solemn moment.

“And he worshipped YHWH there.” This almost certainly indicates the acceptance of Samuel as belonging to YHWH. From now on into the future Samuel worshipped YHWH in his Sanctuary. The deed was done. Some, however, see it as referring to Eli or Elkanah in the light of the circumstances. The reference to Samuel seems more likely (‘he, him’ referring to Samuel is the only real close antecedent). Whichever way we take it, however, it indicates the solemnity of the occasion.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 1:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-samuel-1.html. 2013.

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