Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:Analysis and Annotations
I. SAMUEL THE PROPHET AND JUDGE
1. The Birth and Childhood of Samuel
1. Elkanah and his wives (1Samuel 1:1-8)
2. Hannah’s prayer and vow (1Samuel 1:9-18)
3. The prayer answered and Samuel born (1Samuel 1:19-20)
4. The child weaned and presented unto the Lord (1Samuel 1:21-28)
The descent of Samuel opens the book. The names are of striking significance. Elkanah means “acquired of God.” He was the son of Jeroham (tenderly loved), the son of Elihu (my God is He), the son of Tohu (prostration), the son of Zuph (honeycomb). They were pious generations from which the great man came. Elkanah had two wives. Hannah (grace) the much beloved was barren; Peninnah (pearl) had children. The fact that Hannah’s name stands first makes it probable that her barren condition led Elkanah to marry a second wife. (See Deuteronomy 21:15.) Elkanah was an Ephraimite. But from 1Chronicles 6:20-28 we learn that Samuel and his father were of levitical descent. This has been pointed out as a discrepancy. It is however not at all inconsistent with the statement that Samuel’s father was of Ephraim. He was one of those Levites to whom cities were assigned in the portion given to the tribe of Ephraim (Joshua 21:20).
Each year Elkanah went to Shiloh to sacrifice unto the LORD of Hosts. It is noteworthy that the name of God as “LORD of Hosts” (Jehovah Zebaoth) appears here for the first time in the Bible. (It is found 281 times in the Bible. It is not found in the Pentateuch; it occurs some 80 times in Jeremiah and 50 times in Zechariah.) It is the name of God as the Lord of power, the Lord of all the hosts of heaven and earth. That it is used the first time in the book which reveals the Kingdom is especially appropriate.
Hannah in her visits to Shiloh presents a sorrowful picture. She is beloved and receives a double portion from Elkanah, while Peninnah, her adversary, provoked her on account of her childless condition, so that she wept and did not eat at the feast. Then she arose from the sacrificial feast which she had not tasted and sought the presence of the Lord. There she wept and vowed a vow that if the Lord of hosts would grant her a man-child she would give him back to the Lord and he should be a Nazarite. She cast herself upon the Lord and laid hold on Him. Samuel therefore was the child of prayer, asked of the Lord; his whole life afterwards manifests the spirit of prayer and dependence.
Then Eli the priest is mentioned for the first time. He was astonished seeing her thus engaged in silent prayer and accused her of drunkenness. His astonishment and accusation are a witness to the sad state of Israel. Evidently few ever sought the presence of the Lord, and his reproof makes it evident that it was not an uncommon thing that drunkenness prevailed during the feasts at Shiloh.
Hannah’s prayer was answered. The son is born and was called Samuel, which means “heard of God.” Little did she know of the mighty work her son was called to do; her prayer was answered far beyond her thought. She did not go up again to Shiloh till the child was weaned. Then she went up to fulfill her vow and presented him unto the Lord. Before Samuel could begin to serve the Lord he had to be weaned. “As a weaned child no longer cries, frets, and longs for the breast, but lies still and is content, because it is with its mother, so the soul must be weaned from all discontented thoughts, from all fretful desires of earthly good, waiting in stillness upon God, finding its satisfaction in His presence, resting peacefully in His arms.” (Perowne, The Psalm.) He began to minister at once unto the Lord before Eli the priest (2:11). He was brought up in the sanctuary and became that solid, earnest, prayerful man of God. It is the weaning and the sanctuary every servant of Christ still needs. And Hannah had given back to the Lord what He so graciously had bestowed upon her. This should be the case with all our prayer-answers.