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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Samuel 2

 

 

Verse 1

1. Hannah prayed — As the lyric psalm of Habakkuk is called a prayer, (Habakkuk 3:1,) although its language is that of adoration — and as some of David’s psalms, which are really songs of praise, are called prayers, (Psalms 72:20,) so this song of praise, in which Hannah pours out the strong feelings of her heart before God, is spoken of as an example of prayer. Adoration and praise are both, according to the Scriptures, legitimate parts of prayer.

My horn — The horn is the weapon of those animals that bear it, and the symbol of strength, honour, and glory. See Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalms 75:4-5.

Exalted… in Jehovah — For he is the source of all strength and joy. Psalms 92:10.

Opened… is my mouth over my enemies — I can now exult and sing in triumph over the jeers of Peninnah, and all who, like her, were wont to vex me, for it is more honourable to have one son consecrated to the service of the tabernacle than many living in comparative obscurity. This honourable triumph is a manifestation of thy salvation, O Jehovah.


Verses 1-10

HANNAH’S SONG, 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

“This prayer and song of Hannah,” says Wordsworth, “is one of the golden links which connect the song of Sarah on the birth of Isaac (Genesis 21:6-7) with the Magnificat of the Blessed Virgin. Luke 1:46-55. Another link is the triumphal song of Miriam, after the passage of the Red Sea. Exodus 15:20-21. Another is the song of Deborah, praising the Lord for delivering his people by the hand of a woman. Judges 5. All these poetic hymns of thanksgiving, uttered by women, are celebrations of joyful events, which are prophetic foreshadowings of the universal deliverance and victory achieved by the Promised Seed of the woman.”

The subject-matter of this song seems not, at first sight, fully to accord with the occasion that called it forth. It is professedly a psalm of thanksgiving by which Hannah glorifies God for having given her a child, but, with the exception of a part of 1 Samuel 2:5, it reads more like a war song of triumph than the rejoicing of a barren woman over the birth of a child. Hence certain modern critics have not hesitated to declare that it was composed for some other occasion, such as the victory of David over Goliath, or some other instance of Israelitish triumph, and that the compiler of the books of Samuel inserted it here in a wrong place. The mention of a king as the anointed of Jehovah, in 1 Samuel 2:10, has also been used as an argument to prove that this song must be the production of an age at least as late as that of the Kings. But if we view this song as a prophetic utterance, spoken by inspiration from the Almighty, these difficulties vanish; and if, by comparing the similar songs of Mary and Zacharias, (Luke 1,) we learn to appreciate the spiritual side of the prophecy, we shall see that, while this context acquaints us with the immediate occasion of this song, the song itself rises above the mere occasion, and, in the true spirit of prophecy, grasps a wider range of circumstances. And it was, doubtless, the high prophetic character of these songs that entitled them to a record in the sacred canon. The prophetic songs of Zacharias and Mary were occasioned by the birth of John Baptist and Jesus Christ, but their subject-matter has far more to do with the glorious results of John and Jesus’ coming into the world. “The true characteristic of sacred poetry,” says Wordsworth, “is that it is not egotistical. It merges the individual in the nation and in the church universal. Like a pebble cast into a clear and calm lake, it sends forth concentric rings of waves, ever enlarging towards the margin, so that the particular mercy to the individual produces ever-expanding undulations of praise.” So with this prophetic song of Hannah. Samuel is the great historic character during whose ministry the government of Israel took the form of a monarchy, and it is fitting that this inspired song should rise above the immediate occasion of its first utterance, and in its prophetic vision celebrate the triumphs of the coming kingdom. The Targum goes so far in its explanation of this passage as to regard each separate verse as a distinct prophecy against some enemy of Israel. Thus the first verse indicates a triumph over the Philistines; the second alludes to the Assyrian army under Sennacherib; the third is against the Chaldeans under king Nebuchadnezzar; the fourth against the Greeks, etc. It is possible, indeed, that this may have been used as a triumphal song on great occasions of victory, such as occurred in the later history of Israel, and possibly a later hand may have added somewhat to it; but no less comprehensive a composition than this, which celebrates throughout the signal providences of God, could satisfy the demands of the spirit of prophecy over the birth of Samuel. When, therefore, we view it as an inspired psalm, whose prophetic range takes in the triumphs of that monarchy which was inaugurated by the ministry of Samuel, and found its culmination in the personal Messiah, the difficulties suggested above disappear. As a part of the interpretation of this magnificent ode, we give, in connexion with the text, perhaps as literal a version of the Hebrew as our language will permit.


Verse 2

2. No rock is as our God — No defence so strong, no place of refuge so secure, no shelter so inviting. Parties threatened with danger were wont to fly for refuge to the fastnesses of the rocks. 1 Samuel 13:6; 1 Samuel 24:2. Hence God is called a rock of refuge, (Psalms 94:22,) a fortress of defence, (Psalms 31:2-3,) and a shelter from heat and storm. Psalms 61:2; Isaiah 32:2.


Verse 3

3. Arrogance… Impudence — Reference is here primarily to the haughty and impudent conduct of her adversary Peninnah, who had vexed her with taunting words. Chap. 1 Samuel 1:6. For (introducing the reason for the reproof just given) a God of knowledge is Jehovah — The word rendered knowledge is in the plural דעות, knowledges, multifarious knowledge, indicating the fulness of the Divine wisdom.

With him — In his mind; by him. The Hebrew text (kethib) has לא, not, instead of לו, to or with him, (keri,) but with that reading no tolerable sense can be made from the passage without too great a departure from the natural meaning of the words.

Actions are weighed — The actions of men, whether they be good or evil. Therefore arrogance and impudence in thought and action should be stopped, and all men fear Jehovah. Some interpreters, with less propriety, say that the actions of God are here meant; thus: With him (his own) actions are established.


Verse 4

4. Bow-heroes — Heroes armed with the bow. Hebrew, קשׁת גברים חתים, bow of heroes dismayed, the participle dismayed ( חתים ) agreeing (by attraction) with heroes, not bow. The Israelitish mind was familiar with the instruments and imagery of war, and when the devout Hannah sings the triumphs of her soul she naturally uses imagery like this.

Tottering ones — Those who are weary, feeble, faint, and just ready to fall, as Hannah was when the comforting words of the high priest (1 Samuel 1:17) inspired her with new strength. See note on 1 Samuel 1:23.


Verse 5

5. Full ones — Those who are usually sated with an abundance of food. With bread are hired, or, hire themselves out for bread. They are glad if, by toil even, they can get but their daily food.

Hungry ones cease — From their usual toils. They who were accustomed to labour hard for bread to satisfy their hunger now keep holiday; they cease to be what they were before. By this metaphorical language, as well as by the positive statements immediately following, does Hannah still further contrast the changed circumstances of herself and her rival.

Seven — That is, seven children. The number of fulness. Compare Ruth 4:15. Up to this point the prophetess seems to have had her rival particularly in view; but throughout the rest of this sacred song she rises above things peculiar to herself alone, and celebrates the power and glory of God’s universal providence.


Verse 6

6. Kills and makes alive — In his hand is the power of life and death. Sheol here evidently means the grave, as in Genesis 37:35; Genesis 42:38; but with the word is ever associated a dim and shadowy idea of a separate disembodied existence, the under-world, into which all the dead have gone.


Verse 8

8. Lifts from the dust the poor — Compare Psalms 113:7-8, which is borrowed from this prayer of Hannah.

A throne of glory — A position of eminence and power. How many has God’s providence raised up from obscurity to thrones of honour! Joseph, Gideon, Saul, David, Daniel, and others are examples.

To Jehovah — Belonging to Jehovah; his work.

Pillars of the earth — Supporters of the earth, foundations on which the world is represented as resting. A metaphorical way of representing Jehovah as the Creator and Upholder of all things.


Verse 9

9. The feet of his pious ones he will guard — That they may not wander into fatal errors.

Shall be dumb — Filled with confusion of face, confounded, and destroyed.

Not by strength shall a man become mighty — Not by his own strength, whether it consist in great physical force, deadly weapons, wealth, or influence among men. Goliath assumed to be mighty in himself, but David’s mightiness was in Jehovah. 1 Samuel 17:45.


Verse 10

10. Above him — Above the enemy who contends against God.

In the heavens he shall thunder — As he did when the Philistines attacked Samuel and the Israelites. 1 Samuel 7:10, and references.

The ends of the earth — The earth in its utmost extremities; the whole world. His king and his anointed are the same, and are to be understood, not of one particular king alone, but of Saul and David and their successors. It is not true, as some have affirmed, that this is the first time the word משׁיח, anointed one, is found in the Scriptures, for in Leviticus 4:3 ; Leviticus 5:16, it is several times applied to the high priest. Neither is it to be understood of Christ alone, for it is used of Saul, (1 Samuel 24:10,) and David, (2 Samuel 19:21; 2 Samuel 22:51,) and other Hebrew kings, (Psalms 89:38,) and even of Cyrus, the Persian conqueror. Isaiah 45:1. But the Hebrew Monarchy, of which David was the brightest star, was a type of the Messiah’s kingdom, and culminated at last in the Messiah himself. Hence Jehovah’s promises of salvation to David, his anointed, were also extended “to his seed for evermore.” Psalms 18:50; compare 2 Samuel 7:12-16. Thus we see how, in the spirit of inspiration, this song of Hannah looks far into the future, and catches glimpses even of Messiah’s day.


Verse 11

11. The child did minister — In such a way as was proper for a child, and in such services as he could perform, such as lighting the lamps, (1 Samuel 3:3,) and opening the doors of the tabernacle. 1 Samuel 3:15.

Before Eli — Under his oversight and care.


Verses 11-26

SAMUEL’S YOUTHFUL MINISTRY — THE WICKEDNESS OF ELI’S SONS, 1 Samuel 2:11-26. Observe in the following account how the piety of Samuel and the wickedness of Eli’s sons are mentioned in immediate connexion with each other, as if to call attention to the contrast, and to show how the saintliness of the one and the worthlessness of the others were developed in the midst of holy ministrations. To the one the sacred services were a savour of life unto life, to the others of death unto death. Hophni and Phinehas waxed great in wickedness, while Samuel grew in favour both with Jehovah and with men.


Verse 12

12. Sons of Belial — Worthless, good-for-nothing fellows. See note on chap. 1 Samuel 1:16.

Knew not the Lord — Had no reverence for his worship, and no deep sense of the Divine holiness.


Verse 13

13. The priest’s custom with the people — The sacrilegious custom here described had been profanely introduced in the time of the Judges, and was a sad departure from the law, which gave only certain specified portions to the priests, and required the fat to be burned on the altar. Leviticus 7:29-34.

A fleshhook of three teeth — “The three-pronged fork which fishes up the seething flesh is the earliest type of grasping at pluralities and church-preferments by base means. For students of ecclesiastical history, Hophni and Phinehas are characters ‘of great and instructive wickedness.’ They are the true exemplars of the grasping and worldly clergy of all ages.” — Stanley.


Verse 17

17. The young men — Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

Men abhorred the offering of the Lord — The conduct of these young men brought reproach upon the whole sacred service; and, indeed, there is nothing that tends more directly to bring religion itself into contempt, and to multiply infidels and scoffers, than open wickedness in the ministers of the altar.


Verse 18

18. Girded with a linen ephod — The ephod of the high priest was a shoulder-dress of fine linen, cunningly wrought, having two parts, and girded around the body below the arms. See Exodus 28:6-8. This ephod of Samuel was probably of the same shape, but of different material. He was permitted in his early childhood to wear a garment so nearly like that of the high priest because his was a special case, and he was to be in lifelong communication with Jehovah.


Verse 19

19. Made him a little coat — Probably designed for use when not engaged in the service of the sanctuary. How artlessly this token of a mother’s tenderness and love is mentioned.


Verse 20

20. The Lord give thee seed… for the loan — Literally: May Jehovah establish unto thee a seed from this woman in the place of the one asked for, (that is, Samuel,) which was asked for of Jehovah, (by both Elkanah and Hannah.) Compare the note on 1 Samuel 1:28. Eli here prays that other children may be granted to these pious parents to compensate them for the one now dedicated to the Lord, and 1 Samuel 2:21 shows that this prayer of the high priest was answered as speedily as the one recorded in 1 Samuel 1:17.


Verse 22

22. The women that assembled at the door — All classes of women, young and old, assembled at Shiloh for the purpose of worship, as Hannah did, and some were probably there employed in some kind of service for the tabernacle; but neither this passage nor Exodus 38:8, sustains the notion of some, that there was a regularly constituted order of female ministers or deaconesses that served at the tabernacle. Women may, indeed, have done some things to aid the sanctuary worship, but they certainly never constituted a sacred order of ministers in ancient Israel. “When we find the sons of Eli corrupting the women that assembled by troops at the door of the tabernacle, it seems very probable that they were imitating the conduct of the priests of Ashtoreth or of Baal-peor, with whom such license was a part of religious service.” — Wilkins’s Essay on Phenicia and Israel.


Verse 23

23. Why do ye such things — The fond father merely remonstrates and reasons, but young men so deeply sunken in sin as were Hophni and Phinehas are not to be benefitted or reclaimed by kind moral suasion alone. He should have put forth the hand of his authority as judge, to punish severely such violence and crime.


Verse 25

25. If one man sin against another — Better and literally, if man sins against man.

The judge shall judge him — Hebrew, God will judge him; that is, by the properly constituted authorities, the priests, Levites, and judges. See Deuteronomy 17:8-13. Eli himself was such a judge, and intimates to his sons that in sins of man against man he might hear testimony and decide, and in rendering his judgment be partial and kind to the offender; but in sins against Jehovah he could not render judgment, but the offended Majesty of heaven would take the judgment into his own hands.

If a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him — This question was not put for the purpose of eliciting a direct answer, but to lead these wicked sons to reflection. Yet even such solemn appeals failed.

Because the Lord would slay them חפצ להמיתם, was inclined to kill them. He had already given them over to judicial blindness. They had made themselves vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and therefore God had resolved to destroy them.


Verse 26

26. The child Samuel grew — Whilst Eli’s sons grew in wickedness, Samuel grew in grace and wisdom. See introductory note before 1 Samuel 2:11.


Verse 27

GOD’S DENUNCIATORY MESSAGE TO ELI, 1 Samuel 2:27-36.

27. A man of God — Either an angel from heaven, as was the one who appeared to Manoah and his wife, (Judges 13:8.) or a prophet, (1 Kings 13:1,) like unto Shemaiah or Elijah. 1 Kings 12:22; 1 Kings 12:17-18. The expression is that commonly used of a prophet, an inspired human messenger, and is doubtless to be so understood here. This was before the age of prophets, and this man of God appears in the sacred history, like Melchizedek, without father, without mother, without beginning of days or end of life, and so may be regarded as a permanent type of that prophetic order that subsequently arose in Israel, and, by warnings and threatenings, rebuked the wickedness of the people, even in high places, and zealously guarded the interests of the theocracy. He bears no name, but, otherwise, his sudden appearance and fearful message at a time when prophecy was almost unknown in Israel, (1 Samuel 3:1, note,) are about as remarkable as the saintly appearance of Melchizedek in Abraham’s day.

Thy father — Aaron.

When they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house — God revealed himself to Aaron in Egypt when be sent him in the wilderness to meet Moses, (Exodus 4:27,) and as his mother and sister were intimate with members of the royal family, (Exodus 2:9-10,) so Aaron himself may have had some particular service or position in Pharaoh’s house. But Pharaoh’s house may mean the nation over whom he ruled.


Verse 28

28. Did I choose him… my priest — Compare Exodus 28.

All the offerings made by fire — Aaron and his sons had oversight of all the offerings of the altar. Numbers 18:7.


Verse 29

29. Kick ye at my sacrifice — Literally, Why trample ye under foot, that is, despise, treat with contempt, my sacrifices? Eli treated with contempt the offerings by allowing his sons to desecrate the holy service when he had the authority and power to punish them as their sins deserved. In this way he virtually honoured his sons more than God. According to 1 Samuel 2:15-16, they appropriated the most choice of the offerings to themselves, thus making themselves fat at the expense and reproach of Israel and God.

Habitation — The tabernacle, the immediate dwelling place of Jehovah.


Verse 30

30. Should walk before me for ever — See Exodus 29:9; Exodus 40:15, and Numbers 25:13.

But now… Be it far from me — What then! Is God unfaithful to his promises? By no means, for his administration is based upon the following rule, which is a settled principle of the divine government: Them that honour me I will honour, etc. Though his promises, as in this case, or his denunciations, as in the case of Nineveh, (Jonah 3:4,) seem to be absolute and irrevocable, yet they must always be studied in the light of this rule. Still, though the descendants of Eli lost their part in this promise to Aaron, that promise was confirmed in Zadok and his sons, of the line of Eleazar. See note on 1 Samuel 2:35.


Verse 31

31. Cut off thine arm — To cut off one’s arm is to deprive him of strength and render him helpless. Thus was Eli’s house disabled. Compare Job 22:9; Psalms 37:17; Zechariah 11:17.

Not be an old man in thine house — Because the rest of his family should die in the flower of their age. 1 Samuel 2:33.


Verse 32

32. Thou shalt see an enemy — There can be given no satisfactory exposition of this verse as it stands in the authorized version, or by understanding either Samuel or Zadok to be the enemy referred to. The marginal reading gives a far better sense to the first part of the verse — Thou shall see the affliction of the tabernacle; but what follows — for all the wealth which God would have given Israel — makes no sense, and has no sufficient warrant in the Hebrew text. The word ישׂב, which is rendered give both in the text and margin, means to be good, cheerful, glad; and, in the Hiphil form, to cause to be good, cheerful, etc. Thus in Proverbs 15:13, our translators have rendered it maketh cheerful — “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance.” We would therefore translate the passage thus: Thou shall see an affliction of the habitation (tabernacle, as in 1 Samuel 2:29 ) in all which made Israel glad. That which above all things else made Israel glad and joyous was the possession of the ark of the covenant. Witness the joyful shout of the army when it was brought into their camp at Eben-ezer, (1 Samuel 4:5,) and the joys of Israel when David brought it to Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 6. The greatest calamity that could befall the tabernacle was the loss of the ark, the symbol of the Divine presence; and Eli lived to see that bitter affliction, (1 Samuel 4:11; 1 Samuel 4:18,) which was emphatically an affliction of the tabernacle in respect to ( ב ) all that was wont to make Israel glad. His sudden death, when he heard that the ark was captured, was as much as to say, If the ark is lost ALL is lost. So bitter an affliction was this to the nation that it was chronicled as “the captivity of the land.” See note, Judges 18:30.


Verse 33

33. And the man of thine — The meaning is, I will not cut off all thy posterity from the altar service, but there will be always remaining some, who shall witness in sorrow and grief the fulfilment of this judgment against the house of their father. Ahitub, the grandson of Eli, seems to have succeeded him in the priesthood, (1 Samuel 14:3;) after him Ahimelech, (1 Samuel 22:11,) and next Abiathar, whom Solomon thrust out of the priesthood in fulfilment of this prophecy. 1 Kings 2:27. Eli’s eyes and heart were thus consumed in the posterity that succeeded him. none of whom lived to old age, but all died in the bloom of manhood. See still other woes foretold in 1 Samuel 2:36.


Verse 34

34. And this… a sign — The death of Hophni and Phinehas in one day should be a sign that all these woful predictions should surely come to pass.


Verse 35

35. I will raise me up a faithful priest — By this “faithful priest” some have understood Samuel, and others Zadok, while a few argue that both of them may be intended. Samuel, indeed, succeeded Eli as judge of Israel, and during his lifetime the Aaronic priesthood seems to have fallen into neglect; but it is certain that neither he nor his descendants were established in the priesthood, so that it cannot be said that God “built him a sure house.” Therefore it is better to understand Zadok to be this faithful priest. As a part of this prophecy received its fulfilment in the thrusting out of Abiathar, so this verse was fulfilled in the consecration of Zadok. 1 Kings 2:35; 1 Chronicles 29:22. Zadok was a descendant of Aaron through Eleazar, (1 Chronicles 24:3,) and therefore God’s promise to Aaron was not made void by the impiety of Eli’s sons, for in Zadok, Eleazar’s posterity were established forever. Compare Numbers 25:11-13. It is also well worthy of notice that in the temple of Ezekiel’s vision, which symbolizes the spiritual Church of the then future, the sons of Zadok are named as priests. Ezekiel 40:46; Ezekiel 43:19; Ezekiel 44:15; Ezekiel 48:11.

He shall walk before mine anointed for ever — Before David, Solomon, and the later kings of Judah, until the passing away of the Hebrew monarchy before the Messianic kingdom, in which Christ himself is prophet, priest, and king.


Verse 36

36. Every one that is left in thine house — Eli’s posterity should not be utterly cut off; but even after the deposition of Abiathar they would linger as mendicants around the faithful priest, and beg of him a pittance of money and of bread, or petition for some work pertaining to the priesthood, that would yield them food. Even after the seventy years’ exile we find descendants of Ithamar among the priests who returned with Ezra from Babylon. Ezra 8:2. “See,” says Dr. A. Clarke, “the sin and its punishment. They formerly pampered themselves, and fed to the full on the Lord’s sacrifices; and now they are reduced to a morsel of bread. They led themselves without fear; and now they have cleanness of teeth in all their dwellings. They wasted the Lord’s heritage; and now they beg their bread!”

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-samuel-2.html. 1874-1909.

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