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Chapter Commentary

1 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:2 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.3 And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice unto Jehovah of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests unto Jehovah, were there.4 And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:5 but unto Hannah he gave a double portion; for he loved Hannah, but Jehovah had shut up her womb.6 And her rival provoked her sore, to make her fret, because Jehovah had shut up her womb.7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of Jehovah, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.8 And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?9 So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest was sitting upon his seat by the door-post of the temple of Jehovah.10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto Jehovah, and wept sore.11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O Jehovah of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thy handmaid, but wilt give unto thy handmaid a man-child, then I will give him unto Jehovah all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before Jehovah, that Eli marked her mouth.13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.14 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.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 poured out my soul before Jehovah.16 Count not thy handmaid for a wicked woman; for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken hitherto.17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace; and the God of Israel grant thy petition that thou hast asked of him.18 And she said, Let thy handmaid find favor in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat; and her countenance was no more sad.19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before Jehovah, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and Jehovah remembered her.20 And it came to pass, when the time was come about, that Hannah conceived, and bare a son; and she called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of Jehovah.21 And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto Jehovah the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.22 But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned; and then I will bring him, that he may appear before Jehovah, and there abide for ever.23 And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only Jehovah establish his word. So the woman tarried and gave her son suck, until she weaned him.24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of meal, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of Jehovah in Shiloh: and the child was young.25 And they slew the bullock, and brought the child to Eli.26 And she said, Oh, my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto Jehovah.27 For this child I prayed; and Jehovah hath given me my petition which I asked of him:28 therefore also I have granted him to Jehovah; as long as he liveth he is granted to Jehovah. And he worshipped Jehovah there.
Chapter Introduction

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alter, Robert.  The David Story: A Translation With Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel.  New York: W. W. Norton, 2000.

Auld, A. Graeme.  I and II Samuel.  The Old Testament Library.  Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011. 

Halpern, Baruch.  David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001.

Hertzberg, Hans W.  I and II Samuel.  Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1964. 

INTRODUCTION

The Books of Samuel in Hebrew Bible Context.  

The Books of Samuel recount the foundational period of the Israelite monarchy and political state.  The period traversed in these books runs from the era of the judges to the establishment of the united kingdom.  One interesting question is why the division of material in the historical books of the Old Testament did not include the final period of David’s life—recounted in 1 Kings 1-2—in the Books of Samuel.  This division of material would have given a comprehensive picture of David’s life in the Books of Samuel.  Hertzberg comments: “Whoever made the present division thought it more appropriate to attach the two chapters to the complex describing the reign of Solomon" (Hertzberg, 17). 

Certainly the division of material in its present form underscores the continuity between David and his successor, Solomon.  Another feature of this presentation is that it underscores the vast alteration that took place during the life of David alone.  The story of David’s youth begins with the loose confederation of tribes and families, and it ends with a much more highly organized and centralized system of governance.  As the rebellion of Sheba had shown, there was an undercurrent of populist sentiment in Israel never really had embraced the notion of monarchy, or at least not a monarchy under David and his successors: “We have no portion in David, nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!" (2 Sam. 20:1).  Yet this kind of rebellion only makes sense against the backdrop of a major transition occurring in Israel during this generation. 

While we might debate as to whether 2 Samuel 24 should really be the closing chapter of the Books of Samuel, there is ancient evidence that the Books of Samuel and the Books of the Kings were thought to belong together.  The Septuagint presents these as two books—Samuel and Kings—rather than as four books.  The division was only applied to the books at the time that the Bible began to be printed, during the fifteenth century.  Hertzberg writes: “The purpose of this division, so familiar to us now, was surely to prevent the book from becoming too large" (Hertzberg, 17).  This consideration also helps to explain why we can speak of a “Second Book of Samuel" in which the prophet Samuel in fact makes no appearance.  “As kingmaker, he could legitimately lend his name to the combined book" (Hertzberg, 17). 

Major Characters in the Books.  

The Books of Samuel present Samuel as the man of God who has been chosen from his mother’s womb.  Like Moses, Samuel is a divinely ordained leader who combines himself both priestly and prophetic traits.  While Joshua was Moses’ successor, Joshua was never called prophet nor priest.  So Samuel is himself more than a Joshua.  “Here, too, we have something more than the prophets of later times, who stood in the midst of the people as the spokesmen of God, but in other respects were still on their periphery.  Samuel unites in his person the three offices of the Christ who is to come, prophet, priest and king" (Hertzberg, 43).  Hertzberg goes on to say that it is no accident that the New Testament passage describing the growth of the boy Jesus (Lk. 2:42) should echo the language used regarding the young Samuel (1 Sam. 2:21, 26; 3:19).  Also noteworthy is that the thanksgiving of Jesus’ own mother, Mary (Lk 1:46-55), should echo the thanksgiving of Samuel’s mother (1 Sam. 2:1-10).  “The Bible regards him [Samuel] as being to a special degree one of the forerunners of Christ, and does so with justification" (Hertzberg, 43).  

Saul, in contrast to Samuel, is a far more ambiguous figure.  He is both the chosen one and the rejected.  While the creation of the united kingdom would have been impossible without Saul, his story ends sadly and his reputation is sullied by the accounts of Saul’s disobedience.  The sadness of Saul’s story—for which both Samuel himself and even God are said to experience remorse and regret—lies in its pointless, senseless character.  There was simply no reason that Saul’s reign had to turn out as badly as it did.  Speaking generally, the Books of Samuel do not offer us an idealized or glorified picture of Israel’s leaders: “Here we have no kind of hero-worship, as can be seen above all from the chapters describing the struggle for the throne, which occupy the centre of the second book." The theological message of Samuel is “not so obvious" as in other biblical books, and it “is more often to be read between the lines than in explicit statements" (Hertzberg, 20).  

Regarding David, how does one even begin to summarize his significance?  He is warrior, worshipper, ruler, lover, and sinner.  He was both the fugitive leader of a rag-tag band of desperadoes and ne’er-do-wells, and the one who established the kingdom in Israel and laid the foundations for its glorious expansion under Solomon.  He was lionized by the people at large, and later rejected by them in an attempted coup led by his own son.  He was both the man “after God’s heart" and the sinner whose act of adultery and murder brought calamity to himself and his nation.  He was a great lover of God, a great sinner, and a great exemplification of God’s grace to the repentant.   More than any other Old Testament figure, David prefigures the coming of Christ.  Even biologically and genealogically, David stands behind the later coming of Jesus Christ, who is known as the “son of David."

Overview of the Monarchy in Ancient Israel

Since the rise and establishment of the monarchy is a major theme in the Books of Samuel, it may be appropriate to offer here a summary account of this transition.  The movement into monarchy in Israel followed a pattern observed elsewhere in the ancient Near East.  There was a transition from clan organization to hierarchical leadership, from village life toward monarchy.Typically monarchy meant that there would be a hereditary succession for the ruler.The biblical texts show both enthusiasm for and opposition to monarchy.  (See 1 Sam. 8-9.)Some scholars see monarchy as something essential alien to Israel.  On this view, a decentralized localized government was ever the ideal for ancient Israel.  Yet it should be noted that the Book of Judges does not manifest this ideal.

How was the Israelite monarchy different from other ancient monarchies?  On theory at least, the Israelite monarch was not himself divine, and was not an essential mediator between God or the gods and the people as a whole.  In 1 Samuel 8, the Israelites seem to be approximating this ancient, quasi-divine (or at least superhuman) notion of the monarch, when they say: “No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles" (1 Sam. 8:19-20).  The request for a king was “displeasing in the sight of Samuel" (1 Sam. 8:6), and Samuel emphasizes to the people that the king they wanted would not only be their public leader but would lay heavy burdens of taxation and conscription upon them.  He also warns that there would be no turning back.  Once they got a king, they would not be able to return to the pre-monarchic and more localized system of governance (1 Sam. 8:10-18).

One key difference in the Israelite monarchy was the notion that the monarch was himself subject to law and was not a law to himself.  (In seventeenth-century British discussions this was not as the idea of lex rex—“the law is king"—and was set in contrast to rex lex—“the king is law.")  For the Israelites, Yahweh was always the true king of Israel and the One who had the ultimate right to appoint and depose all rulers.  The story of Saul and David bears this out.  God rejects Saul because of Saul’s disobedience, and from this point on, Saul seeks to cling to his kingship but has no inherent right to it.  This is not to say, however, that kingship was not regarded as having an inherent dignity.  The king was Yahweh's anointed one or maschiach.  David’s refusal to harm “the Lord’s anointed" (1 Samuel 26:11) shows another side of things.  Yet, on the whole, the striking thing about the Israelite kings when compared with other ancient Near Eastern monarchs was that they were conceived of as subject to God’s own reign. 

The city of Jerusalem played a crucial role of Jerusalem in the rise of Israelite monarchy.  The city was originally under control of the Jebusites.  Once conquered by David, the city was under his control, and so was called “the city of David."   During David’s reign the city was upgraded and improved.  Moreover, David brought ark to Jerusalem.  Solomon expanded the city to some twice the size of the Jebusite city conquered by David.  Hezekiah may have taken it to ten times as large. With its royal palace and its national temple, Jerusalem was the focus for state-sponsored worship.  The designation of Jerusalem as the center of the monarchy was a shrewd political compromise, since the city lay outside of the functioning jurisdiction of the twelve tribes.  It was an extraterritorial entity.  It was something like Washington, D. C.—not taken from the land of the original thirteen colonies, but a swamp drained to create a new city (and keeping its status as extraterritorial and not included among the states).

In the Hebrew Bible, we see the development of a theology of the "election" (bahar) of Jerusalem, as well as a theology of the people’s own “election."  Jerusalem becomes known as "the city of the great king," the "holy mountain," the "city of God" (see Ps. 2:6, 48:1-2).  In some of the psalms of Zion, there are images of dominion and mastery over the forces of chaos.  According to the theology of Jerusalem’s election, there is a double affirmation—Yahweh dwells in heaven, and Yahweh dwells on earth and is especially associated with Jerusalem.  David himself is closely related to Zion.  Psalm 132 tells us that David sought to find a place for Yahweh to dwell.

Already in David's period there were signs of revolt against monarchy.  The slogan associated with Sheba—"To your tents O Israel" (2 Sam. 20:1-3)—seems an expression of a kind of populist uprising.  The growing division and separation into two kingdoms was accentuated greatly after Solomon began his system of forced labor or corvee.

Connected with King Solomon is tradition of Solomonic wisdom.  This was an internationalist movement—not a movement confined to Israel alone as the text of the Bible itself makes clear.  Men and women from many nations sought out the presence of Solomon, and some of the wise people other than Solomon who were mentioned came from other peoples (1 Kings 4:29-34).

The Books of Samuel and Kings focus on the responsibility of the kings for the spiritual welfare of the nation.  Each of the rulers in the succession is evaluated as to whether he "followed the Lord like his father David" or else "went after the Baals."  According to this test, even Solomon failed to lead the nation in obedience to God.  Solomon’s wives turned his heart away from Yahweh, and

Solomon consented for high places (i.e., places and altars for sacrifice) to be set up for other gods.

Because of Solomon's failures as a king, Jeroboam—the first king of the separate northern kingdom—initially (and rather surprisingly) found God’s support for establishing his separate monarchy alongside of Solomon’s (see 1 Kings 11:37-8). Later Jeroboam fell under condemnation because of his cultic policies—establishing a false religion with false priests, false festivals, etc.  In the end, Jeroboam is vilified in the Books of Kings for having initiated a disastrous religious policy that eventually brought the downfall of the entire Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:25-33).  The language of 1 Kings 12 echoes the incident of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32.  So it is clear that the authors regard Jeroboam as having repeated Israel’s primal sin.  Hence the entire northern kingdom was portrayed as apostate.  While only some of the southern kings were bad, all of the northern kings were—according to the express or implied position of the Books of Kings, not to mention the Books of Chronicles.  Two major cultic centers—Dan and Bethel, in the north and south respectively—catered to the false religion established by Jeroboam and continued by his successors.  These functioned as official state centers of worship, in contrast to and competition with Jerusalem.  That is what they were originally designed to be—competing centers of worship that might secure loyalty for the Northern Kingdom by providing an alternative to Jerusalem.

The Omride dynasty (stemming from King Omri) brought further changes in the north.  Omri and Ahab built a new capital in the north, named Samaria, which was royal property.  Ahab then married the Phoenician princess Jezebel.  Elijah attacked the northern monarchy at a time when it was more urbanized and international than ever before.  In the contest that took place on Mount Carmel, Elijah set for the challenge: "If Yahweh is God, follow him; if Baal is God, follow him" (1 Kings 18:21).  The account in 1 Kings 18 showed that the God of Israel merited worship, while Baal was to be mocked.  There is some question among scholars as to which of the Baals Elijah may have opposed.  Was this a local deity or the Tyrian Baal that was favored by Jezebel?  The answer is unclear.  At this stage in Israel’s history, Yahwism was on the verge of being wiped out.  Queen Jezebel had launched a persecution of the prophets of Yahweh.  Elijah had to rebuild the altar of Yahweh before he was able to offer sacrifices (1 Kings 18:30).

When Jehu's brought his political coup against the house of Ahab, he used a clever ruse to get all the Baal priests together, by pretending himself to be a Baal worship and by insisting that all the priests were to attend this gathering.  Yet this coup— recounted in 1 Kings 9-10—was as much a political move toward rejecting Phoenician political and economic influence as it was a reaction against Phoenician religion.

Hezekiah instituted a religious reform in Judah.  He went so far as to remove the "high places"—something that even the approved southern kings had not done.  He broke in pieces the standing stones, and the bronze serpent.  The Asherah removed by Hezekiah may have been seen as a cult symbol of Yahweh and his presence—comparable to the cherubs placed alongside the ark of the covenant.  Yet, on the other hand, these symbols could be seen as separate female deities in their own right.  Hezekiah removed them.  Hezekiah’s successor, Manassah, may have been the most wicked king of all who ever reigned in the Southern Kingdom.  Perhaps he had been forced by dint of political circumstances to "Assyrianize" Israel.  This point, however, is disputed among scholars.

Josiah emerges as the type and exemplar of the righteous king (2 Kings 23).  He removed from the Jerusalem Temple all the vessels for Baal and the Asherah.  He removed the foreign priests, dedicated to other gods.  He destroyed the Asherah that were located in the Temple.  He relocated to Jerusalem the priests who were serving at the high places elsewhere, thus centralizing the worship of Yahweh, as implied in the Book of Deuteronomy.  He defiled the valley of Hinnom with human bones, to keep it from being used for human sacrifices.  He defiled the high places dedicated by Solomon to foreign gods.  He destroyed the high place at Bethel.  2 Kings 23 is in effect a reversal of everything wrong in the preceding chapters.  Much of the work of Josiah was that of stripping away removing, and reversing many developments that were contrary to God’s purposes.

Damascus rose to power under Hazael in the second half of the ninth century.  By the end of the eighth century, however, Damascus would be overthrown and Israel as well.  Both were incorporated into the expanding Assyrian Empire.  While the territory of Judah was first isolated and then devastated by the Assyrians (Sennacherib's invasion), it did not actually fall for another century and a half.  Behind the accounts of the kings as we now have them are the Israelite (722 B.C.E.) and Judean (586 B.C.E.) defeats at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians.  The texts view these catastrophes as divine judgments.

Textual Issues.  

A “notorious feature" of the Hebrew text of First and Second Samuel are the “many variants and corruptions" (Hertzberg, 12).

Brief Quotations
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Background

The term “faithful priest," which appears near the beginning of First Samuel (2:35), captures a key idea in this book.  In the morally disordered and topsy-turvy world of the Judges (see Judges 17:7), God worked to raise up and to establish a “faithful priest" to replace the corrupt priesthood that existed under Eli. We see the beginnings of this process at the start of this book.  Morally and spiritually speaking, Eli (the priest) and Saul (the ruler) represent the worldly Zeitgeist in ancient Israel at 1000 B.C., while Samuel, David, and Jonathan represent the exceptions. 

History of Interpretation

The medieval Glossa Ordinaria (Patrologia Latinae 113, 539-540) labors to explain the reference to Hophni and Phineas as “priests to the Lord" (1:3), while also calling them later “sons of Belial" (2:12).  The interpretation here seems to be that they were in fact serving a false God or false gods, while pretending to be servants of the true God.  “These words are spoken of their faith, not of their way of life, since they performed depraved actions and yet were not in error regarding the faith of the founder." The medieval interpreter struggled with the idea of a wicked priesthood, and so suggested that Hophni and Phineas were serving another god altogether. 

According to the Glossa Ordinaria, Penninah with her sons and daughters represents the Jewish synagogue that possesses temporal but not spiritual goods, according to the text, “He gave them also the lands of the nations" (Ps. 105:44).  This also explains the hostility of Penninah toward Hannah, who in turn represents the Gentile church.  “Just like Penninah with Hannah, so the synagogue despised the Gentiles."  The interpreter points to Elkanah’s question in verse 8—“Hannah, why do you weep?"—and adds: “Better than the church itself is the church’s husband, which is Christ." Christ himself is better than “ten sons."

Regarding Eli’s mistaken presumption that Hannah is drunk, the Glossa Ordinaria comments: “Man looks at the appearance, God at the heart….The Lord regarded her prayer since he saw her heart."  She prayed not “in many words but in compunction of heart and effusion of tears" (PL 113, 540-541).  In this sense, Hannah is a prime instance of what Christian spiritual writers have referred to as the “gift of tears."  The text also views Hannah as a cardinal instance of one who finds peace with God through prayer: “She departed with a peaceful spirit, as if all had been accomplished already.  For God drives out from the soul all anxiety, giving lavishly to those who pray.  Let us imitate this woman by taking refuge in God in all our afflictions" (PL, 113, 541).

Hannah’s delay in bringing Samuel to the tabernacle to serve has reference to the church’s custom in accepting those into the priesthood: “Hannah did not wish to bring the boy to the house of God before he had been weaned.  Even so, the church does not advance anyone to the priesthood while he partakes of an infant’s milk rather than solid food or is incapable of spiritual understanding" (PL, 113, 541). 

Verse by Verse Exegesis

1:1

1:2

1:3

During this period the practice of Israelite religion centered on the tabernacle, which features prominently in this book.  It was then located in Shiloh, which is mentioned by name in 1:3, 1:24, and 2:14.  Jeremiah 7:12 looks back to God’s judgment on this place of his former dwelling, in warning that God might once again—in Jerusalem—bring judgment on the place where he had manifested himself.  The reference here to a "yearly" journey to "sacrifice" in Shiloh may be in reference to one of the annual feasts, such as Passover.  One wonders if there were one festival—rather than all three stipulated—that got attention during this period.  As the events of the opening chapters make very clear this was not an age known for its fidelity to God's law, so it is perfectly reasonable to imagine that the people were not celebrating all three feasts and had contracted the expectations of compliance to God's law to only one feast per year, at least for those who lived at some distance from Shiloh.

1:4

The worshippers were allowed to eat some portions from the sacrifices they offered, though, as we will see in 2:12-17, there was misunderstanding about who got what because the priests themselves were violating the law of God.  Such a sacrificial feast should have been an occasion for joy rather than strife.

1:5

“Double portion."  Hannah had favor with her husband though her life was still made bitter by the rivalry from Peninnah and by her barrenness.

1:6

It is rather obvious from the context that Elkanah’s favor and preference for his wife Hannah was exactly what caused Peninnah to resent Hannah.  So there seems to have been a vicious circle at work here.  Elkanah loved Hannah more than Peninnah (a common pattern in polygamous households, wherein one wife was favored).  This favoritism made Peninnah hate Hannah.  So Peninnah taunted Hannah over her lack of children.  And Hannah was miserable.  The annual journey to worship in Shiloh, rather than being a happy occasion, brought fresh strife and conflict year by year.  The two wives were thrown into close proximity during this period and this brought out the conflict between the two women.  It seems that Peninnah, described as the "rival," was the one who initiated the conflict.  Even though Peninnah might have been gracious to the wife who had nothing, instead she would "provoke her [Hannah] bitterly."  As with Rachel and Leah in Genesis, the pain of a wife’s infertility was exacerbated by the fertility of a second wife.  Rachel became so bitter that she cried out to Jacob: “Give me children or else I die" (Gen. 30:1).  This provoked an angry response from Jacob, who pointed out that the matter lay in God’s hand rather than his own (Gen. 30:2).  So no one was happy in this episode.  Jacob was drawn up into Rachel’s intense frustration and bitterness.  In the present passage, we do not see that Elkanah is touched and affected by the depth of Hannah’s emotional pain.  In fact, Elkanah seems out of touch.  Yet Hannah’s response to her own suffering and deprivation differs from that of Rachel.  Hannah does not cry out to her husband, but rather to God.  Like Rachel, Hannah cries out from the depth of her being.  Yet she seems to grasp what Jacob had long before, that God had “withheld from her the fruit of the womb" (Gen. 30:2) and that from God—and God alone—her provision would come.

1:7

1:8

Elkanah seems good-hearted and well-meaning but out of touch.  He may have been unaware of the family dynamic involving his two wives.  His love and care for Hannah, though commendable, did not and could not compensate for Hannah's lack of offspring.  "Am I not better to you than ten sons?"  The answer was no—he was not.  Under the whole set of circumstances, this was an insensitive comment, and it could have been Elkanah’s oblivious attitude as much as Peninniah’s provocation’s that pushed Hannah over the edge into her intense, heartfelt prayer of vv. 10-11.  When a wife is going through deep waters, a husband’s failure to empathized or appreciate the difficulty can add greatly to the emotional burden.

1:9

Hannah did eventually eat, as noted here, but it seems that she did not eat with the rest of the family.

Eli was “sitting on the seat by the doorpost." Compared with the later Temple of Solomon, this was indeed a scene of rustic simplicity.  Eli was close enough to Hannah that he could see her as she prayed, and this led him to comment in v. 14. 

1:10

The prayer of Hannah was that of a woman in "great distress" (v. 10).  Solomon in the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem spoke of prayer offered there from "the affliction of the heart" (1 Kings 8:38), and, if this is the nature of prayer, then Hannah exemplified this to the highest degree.  She was “greatly distressed" (v. 10), spoke of her “affliction" (v. 11) and of being “oppressed in spirit" (v. 15), and said that she “poured out my soul" (v. 15) and prayed “out of my great concern and provocation" (v. 16).

1:11

The pledge that Hannah made to the Lord in v. 11 was that of raising her son as a Nazirite—like Samson.  It is interesting to see that Hannah pledges her son to be a Nazirite and never to touch grapes or the product of the vine—i.e., wine—just at the point that Eli mistakenly accuses Hannah of drunkenness.  So there is certainly a mismatch between Hannah’s prayer and Eli’s response.

1:12

1:13

Eli exhorts Hannah not to “make herself drunk" and to “put away your wine."  It is a sad commentary on the low state of religion in those days that the annual festival at God’s tabernacle was apparently a scene of much drunkenness.  Eli may have regarded it as his duty to function as “bouncer" at the tabernacle—keeping out the drunken people likely to show up there.  He mistakes Hannah’s silently moving lips as a sign of drunkenness.  It is perhaps telling that in the very first scene in which Eli appears in First Samuel, he is completely mistaken in his surmises.  Eli lacks spiritual perception regarding Hannah. 

1:14

1:15

1:16

1:17

Eli does something right in this passage.  He blesses Hannah and invokes the God of Israel as the one to fulfill her petition of the Lord.  In those days an ordinarily Israelite rarely would have encountered the high priest or received any personal word from him, and so Hannah was greatly encouraged by what Eli spoke to her.  Yet what we see in this passage is not only Eli’s blessing on Hannah—important though that was.  We also see Hannah’s faith.  “Her face was no longer sad."  The change in her outward appearance reflected a change in the disposition of her heart.  She believed that God had heard her prayer.  She takes food at this point—having not eaten for some period of time, out of her distress and travail of heart.

1:18

1:19

This phrase frequently appears in scripture to designate God’s response to his people who have sought him through faith, supplication, and obedience.  The phrase consistently has a redemptive significance, pertaining to God’s gracious care and condescension toward his people in their time of need.  It has a corporate meaning—pertaining the redemption and deliverance of the whole nation (see Ex. 2:24, 6:5).  Yet equally it pertains to individuals within God’s redemptive plan, whose cries and petitions come before the throne of grace.  Thus God “remembered" Rachel and Hannah in their barrenness (Gen. 30:22; 1 Sam. 1:19).  So also God “remembered" Noah during the great flood (Gen. 8:1) and “remembered" Abraham in his petition on behalf of Lot (Gen. 19:29).  Sometimes we read not only that God “remembered" someone, but “remembered" our frailty or his promise or covenants.  The relevant passages include: Gen. 8:1, 19:29, 30:22; Ex. 2:24, 6:5; 1 Sam. 1:19; Ps. 78:39, 105:42, 106:45, 136:23.  The simple phrase “God remembered" leads us into an exceeding rich and deep appreciation of God’ graciousness.  When we consider also that God will “remember no more" our sins and lawless deeds (Heb. 10:17), we see how God’s “remembering" and God’s “forgetting" is all done with our good in view.

1:20

1:21

Here is another mention (note v. 3) to the "yearly sacrifice."

1:22

1:23

1:24

1:25

1:26

1:27

1:28

The word "dedicated" here as applied to Samuel means literally "lent."  Samuel was "on loan" to God for the whole of his life.  
Comparison / Typology
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Theology
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Application
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Introduction to 1 Samuel

Book Introduction Coming Soon.

Thematic Essays on 1 Samuel

Commentary List

  • Arnold, Bill T. 1 & 2 Samuel. NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.
  • Baldwin, Joyce G. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Volume 8; 1 and 2 Samuel. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008 [1988].
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