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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 1

 

 

Verses 1-8

1 Samuel 1:1-8. Elkanah and his Rival Wives.—The book opens with a domestic scene which throws light on the practical working of polygamy in ancient Israel. The husband is an Ephraimite, Elkanah of Ramah, i.e. "the Height" perhaps Rimo, twelve miles west of Shiloh. Elkanah had two wives (a very common arrangement, cf. Rachel and Leah) whose names were Hannah (Grace) and Peninnah (Coral or Pearl). Peninnah had children, Hannah had none. The hero of the story, Samuel, was born as an answer to prayer to a mother hitherto barren—so Sarah and Isaac; Rebekah, Jacob and Esau; Rachel and Joseph. Elkanah and his family went yearly to a festival at Shiloh, probably the Vintage Festival, which was called later on the Feast of Tabernacles, a sort of Christmas away from home. What corresponded roughly to the Christmas dinner was the meal to which the sacrifice served as a somewhat elaborate grace. An ox or sheep was slain; portions were burnt on the altar with appropriate ritual; portions were given as a fee to the priest; the rest was eaten by the offerer, his household, and his guests (cf. 1 Samuel 2:13, 1 Samuel 9:12-24). It should have been a very happy occasion, but the two wives were jealous rivals, again like Rachel and Leah. This natural result of bigamy is illustrated by the fact that the one is called the Çârâ or rival of the other (1 Samuel 6, so also in the Heb. Sirach 37:11, cf. Deuteronomy 21:15). Accordingly Peninnah's nagging spoilt the feast.

1 Samuel 1:1. of Ramathaim Zophim: we should perhaps read "of Ramah, a Zuphite."

1 Samuel 1:3. Lord of Hosts: Yahweh Sebaoth, an ancient name of the God of Israel, a contraction of Yahweh, God of Hosts. The hosts were originally the armies of Israel, so 1 Samuel 17:45, Exodus 12:41. Later on the hosts seem to have been understood as angels, so perhaps Joshua 5:14 f, or stars, 2 Kings 17:16.

1 Samuel 1:5. a double portion: the original reading of the Heb, cannot be determined; LXX (cf. RVm) reads, "a single portion, because she had no child, yet, etc." This is probably nearer to the original than a double portion."


Verses 9-18

1 Samuel 1:9-18. Hannah Prays for a Child.—In her distress Hannah betook herself to the sanctuary and prayed before Yahweh, i.e. before the Ark, for a son. She vowed that if a son were given her, she would devote him to Yahweh; the outward sign of his devotion being one of the peculiarities of the Nazirites (pp. 103, 105, Judges 13:5*, Numbers 6*), viz. that his hair should be allowed to grow. The priest of the sanctuary, Eli, a local magnate, also spoken of as "judge," (1 Samuel 4:18) occupied an official seat close by: he knew that the religious character of the occasion did not always prevent feasting from degenerating into excess (Isaiah 28:7, Amos 2:8), so that when he saw Hannah moving her lips without making any audible sound, he thought she was drunk and rebuked her; but she told him she was in trouble and he dismissed her with his blessing.

9. The LXX seems to show that in the original the first sentence read, "So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh and stood before the Lord," i.e. presented herself at the Temple.—Eli: perhaps a contraction of "Eliel," "God is exalted," a name found in Semitic languages outside Israel. The names of Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinheas, were also apparently not Israelite. Eli is ignored in the genealogy of high priests (1 Chronicles 6:1-15), and there is nothing to show that our document connected Eli with Aaron.

1 Samuel 1:16. The phrase "sons of Behal" (Deuteronomy 13:13*, Proverbs 6:12*), "bad characters," is common, but daughter of Belial occurs only here. Under the conditions of Eastern life, women had fewer opportunities for getting into mischief publicly.

1 Samuel 1:18. See p. 105.


Verses 19-28

1 Samuel 1:19-28. Samuel is Born and Dedicated to Yahweh.—The family went home and in due time a son was born to Hannah, whom she called Shemuel (Samuel), possibly, "His name is God." "His Name" = Yahweh, i.e. "Yahweh is God"; cf. Elijah and Joel, which have a similar meaning. When Samuel was weaned, i.e. after two years at least, perhaps longer, as he is said to have "ministered" apparently at once, Hannah took him to Shiloh, made an offering of a bullock (LXX of 1 Samuel 1:24; cf. 1 Samuel 1:25); and devoted the boy to the service of Yahweh as an attendant at the Temple. Note that he was not a Levite (cf. 1 Samuel 1:1). Samuel has nothing to do with Sha'al, "asked"; possibly the etymology "because I have asked, etc.," is due to some similarity of sound, more probably to some alteration of the original text. It is curious that the etymology would suit Shâ'ûl (Saul), which means "asked."

1 Samuel 1:24. was young: read "was with her" or "them"

1 Samuel 1:28. See below on 1 Samuel 2:11.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/1-samuel-1.html. 1919.

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