1 Samuel 1
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
1 Samuel 1:1-8. (RAMAH.) -
The family is a Divine institution. It is the most ancient, most needful, and most enduring form of society; and, in proportion as it accords with the plan of its original constitution, it is productive of most beneficent effects, both temporal and spiritual, to the individual and the community. In times of general laxity and anarchy it has been, in many instances, a little sacred islet of purity, order, and peace, and nurtured the elements out of which a better age has grown. The real strength of a nation lies in its domestic life, and Israel was in this respect eminent above all other ancient nations. Even in the days of the judges, when "there was no king in Israel," and "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25), there were many godly families scattered through the land. One of these was that which gave birth to SAMUEL, the last of the series of the judges, the first of the order of the prophets, and the founder of the Hebrew monarchy. This family is introduced with a brief description (vers. 1, 2). The residence of the family was Ramah (the Height), or, more fully described, Ramathaim (the Two Heights). Here Samuel was born and nurtured; had his permanent abode during the latter portion of his life; died, and was buried. There is not a more sacred spot on earth than the home which is endeared by tender association and religious communion.

"A spot of earth supremely blest;
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest." Things are not to be valued on account of places, but places for the good things which they contain (Bede). "God chooses any common spot for a mighty incident or the home of a mighty spirit." Consider the family as -

I. ORDERED BY A GODLY HEAD (ver. 3). His piety was shown -

1. By his regular attendance on Divine ordinances. He worshipped "the Lord of hosts," not Baalim and Ashtaroth (1 Samuel 7:4); in the way of his appointment, at the tabernacle in Shiloh, at the proper season, and with the prescribed sacrifices; not according to his own reason or inclination merely, a will worship which is not acceptable to God.

2. By his sincere and spiritual service, in contrast to the formal, worthless, and hypocritical service of others, especially the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:12), and undeterred by their evil conduct in the priestly office.

3. By his faithful performance of his vows (ver. 21).

4. By his conversation and prayer in his own house (ver. 23).

5. By his conducting all the members of his family to "the house of the Lord (ver. 7), in the exercise of his parental authority, accompanied by instruction and example. The words of the Law of Moses were evidently familiar to him (Deuteronomy 6:6-9), and happy is the family in which they are obeyed.

II. UNITING IN SOCIAL FESTIVITY (vers. 4, 5). Once a year he took his journey, in company with his family, from Ramah to the central sanctuary of the Divine King of Israel, for the twofold purpose of worshipping (lit., bowing down) and sacrificing before Jehovah. The sacrifice he offered was a peace offering (Deuteronomy 27:7), in which, when the animal was killed, the priest received its breast and right shoulder as his lawful portion, whilst the rest was given back to the worshipper that he and his family might feast on it before the Lord. Their festivity was -

1. Religious. It was the festivity of those who were received into communion with God. They were guests at his table, and overshadowed by his presence. It is said of the elders of Israel that they saw God, and did eat and drink" (Exodus 24:11). And if no such visible sign of his glory now appeared, yet their consciousness of his presence (according to his promise, and symbolised by the ark of the covenant) would give solemnity to their repast, and prevent improper indulgence and revelry, which were but too common in this corrupt time (ver. 14; Judges 21:19, 21). It should ever be the same when Christians join in social festivity.

2. Joyous (Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 16:11). Its religiousness did not detract from its gladness, but made it pure, elevating, and refreshing. "The joy of the Lord is your strength."

3. Participated in by the whole family, children as well as adults. As the fathers the women and the children took part in idol feasts (Jeremiah 6:18), so they should take part in "feasting before the Lord."

4. It also called forth expressions of affection (ver. 4). The kindness of God to all should lead to kindness one toward another, and the example of kindness set by the head of the family should be followed by all its members. Even the ordinary family meal may and ought to be such a scene of sacred festivity, but the highest realisation of it on earth is in "the Lord's Supper" (1 Corinthians 11:20). And how great is the blessing which rests upon the family, all the members of which partake together of the "cup of blessing," and are "all partakers of that one Bread."

III. DISQUIETED BY DOMESTIC TROUBLE (vers. 5-8). It was natural that Hannah should feel disappointed at being childless. Her condition was deemed a reproach, and a sign of Divine displeasure. But her grief arose chiefly from the conduct of her rival, Peninnah. There was thus an element of discord and trouble in the family. This trouble -

1. Existed where it might have been least expected. The family was distinguished by earthly prosperity and genuine piety. But what home is there on earth wholly free from trouble? Beneath the fairest appearances there is seldom wanting a cause of disquiet, to check self-complacency and teach the soul its true rest.

2. Was occasioned by want of conformity to a Divine ordinance. The introduction of a second wife by Elkanah was not according to the Divine appointment "in the beginning" (Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 19:4). The violation of that appointment had taken place at an early period (Genesis 4:19); it was sanctioned by long usage; and it was permitted under the Law "for the hardness of their hearts," and until they should be educated up to a higher moral condition. But it was followed by pernicious consequences (Genesis 4:23; Genesis 30:8), as it always is in those families and nations where it obtains. Ignorance of the laws of God may mitigate or exempt from guilt; but it does not do away with all the evil consequences of their violation; for those laws are rooted in the fixed relations and tendencies of things.

3. Was immediately caused by the indulgence of improper feeling and unseemly speech. Peninnah may have been jealous of the special love shown to Hannah by her husband (ver. 5). She was proud and haughty on account of her own sons and daughters, and, instead of sympathising with her who had none, she made her defect a ground of insult; and trials ordained by Divine providence are peculiarly severe when they become an occasion of human reproach. Finally, she gave free play to "an unruly evil" (James 3:8), especially at those seasons when it should have been held under restraint. Such things are the bane of domestic life.

4. Disturbed the proper performance of sacred duties. Peninnah could have little peace in her own breast, and be little prepared for Divine worship or sacred festivity. As for Hannah, although she did not angrily retaliate, but patiently endured the reproaches cast upon her (affording an admirable example of meekness), yet "she wept and did not eat" (ver. 7), and her joy was turned into mourning. Domestic disturbances tend greatly to hinder prayers (1 Peter 3:7).

5. Was alleviated by affectionate expostulation (ver. 8). "In Elkanah we have an example of a most excellent husband, who patiently tolerated the insulting humour of Peninnah, and comforted dejected Hannah with words full of tender affection, which was truly, in St. Peter's words, to dwell with them according to knowledge" (Patrick). Let each member of the family endeavour to soothe and alleviate the sorrows of the rest, and all learn to find their own happiness in promoting the happiness of others.

6. Was over ruled by Divine providence for great good. In her trouble Hannah was led to pray fervently, and her prayer was answered; sorrowing gave place to rejoicing; the family was benefited; and the people of God were greatly blessed. So, in his wonderful working, God "turned the curse into a blessing" (Nehemiah 13:2). - D.

1 Samuel 1:3
1 Samuel 1:3. (SHILOH)

Public worship. Worship is worship, the honour paid to superior worth; more especially it is the reverence and homage paid to God in religious exercises. Public worship (as distinguished from private and family worship) is designed to give an open expression, before men, of the praise and honour which are his due (Psalm 145:10-12); a purpose which is not fulfilled by those who neglect it, and is forgotten by those who observe it only as a means of obtaining their own spiritual benefit. It is often enjoined in the word of God, and is commended by the example of good men. The conduct of Elkanah is suggestive of useful hints concerning -

I. GOING TO WORSHIP. Persuaded of the obligation and privilege, "he went up out of his city" and home. He did "not forsake the house of the Lord" (Nehemiah 10:39; Hebrews 10:25). Neither the distance, nor the trouble involved, prevented him; nor did the unworthy conduct of many of the worshippers keep him away. He took all his family with him, except when any of them were hindered by sickness or necessary duties (ver. 20). He thought of the purpose for which he went, and made the needful preparation for "worshipping and sacrificing unto the Lord." He was careful to be in time; and, doubtless, sought the blessing of God on his service, entertained the journey with profitable conversation, and came with reverence and self-restraint (Ecclesiastes 5:1).

II. THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP. "The Lord of hosts." He did not worship an "unknown God." Man must worship because he is a man; but he will worship a false or unworthy object, as well as in a wrong manner, unless he be Divinely taught, because he is a sinner. He "knew what he worshipped," even the living and true God, who had revealed himself to his people; Creator, Redeemer, Ruler; holy, just, and merciful (Exodus 34:6, 7). Our knowledge of God is necessarily imperfect (Job 11:7); but it may be true as far as it goes, and the true idea of God is "the root of all absolute grandeur, of all truth and moral perfection" (John 17:3).

III. THE PLACE OF WORSHIP. He went to worship in Shiloh (Deuteronomy 16:15), where the tabernacle, made in the wilderness, having been first pitched at Gilgal, had now been standing 300 years. It was the palace of the great King. Here his servants the priests ministered, and offerings were presented by his subjects at his altar in the outer court (1 Samuel 2:33); the lamp of God (1 Samuel 3:3), the altar of incense (1 Samuel 2:28), and the table of shew bread (1 Samuel 21:4) stood in the holy place; and the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 4:3) in the holiest of all (Hebrews 9:25). These were symbols of spiritual truth and means of Divine communion (Exodus 29:43; Deuteronomy 16:11). The ideas that underlay them are fully realised in Christ and his Church, and the symbols are no longer needed; nor is there any more one central and sacred spot "where men ought to worship" (John 4:20, 23). God draws nigh to us, and we can call upon him "in every place." The presence of holy souls makes all places holy, in so far as any place can be so called.

"What's hallowed ground? 'Tis what gives birth
To sacred thoughts in souls of worth." Common worship, however, renders necessary special places of worship, the declared purpose and holy associations of which make them dear to good men and helpful to their devotions, so that they are sometimes constrained to say with Jacob, "How dreadful is this place," etc. (Genesis 28:17). "A fearful place, indeed, and worthy of all reverence, is that which saints inhabit, holy angels frequent, and God himself graces with his own presence."

IV. THE TIME OF WORSHIP. "He went up yearly," or from year to year, and continued several days. The Law required that the tribes should assemble at the sanctuary three times a year; but in those unsettled times it appears to have been the custom for them to attend only once, probably at the passover. What acts of worship he performed, or what times he observed at Ramah, we are not told. The Sabbath (though not mentioned in the Books of Samuel) we may be sure was not neglected by him, nor should it be by us. The spirit of continual Sabbath keeping (Hebrews 4:9) is, indeed, of greater importance than the observance of one day in seven; but its observance, with reference to the higher truths which the first day of the week commemorates, is most needful and beneficial.

V. THE MANNER OF WORSHIP. "He went up to worship and sacrifice." His worship consisted of adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving. It was connected with and embodied in sacrifices of various kinds, and of different significance: expiatory (sin offerings), self-dedicatory (burnt offerings), and eucharistic (peace offerings). They had a real and deep relation to the sacrifice of Christ. From it they derived their worth, and by it they have been done away. Our worship demands spiritual sacrifices, the broken and contrite heart, the "presenting of our bodies as a living sacrifice," prayer, thanksgiving, holy and benevolent dispositions and conduct. "By him, therefore (who brings us nigh to God, and makes, us capable of serving him aright): let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, etc. (Hebrews 13:16.)

VI. RETURNING FROM WORSHIP. After the sacred feast was over, he and his family "rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned" (1 Samuel 1:19). Morning is a most favourable season for devotion (Psalm 5:3); and those who are about to take a journey or enter on a new enterprise do well to rise up early and seek the Divine guidance and help. Elkanah showed that he was not weary of his devotions, but desired to avail himself to the utmost of the opportunities afforded him; and, by doing so, he obtained the greatest permanent benefit from his visit to the sanctuary. The manner in which we return from public worship greatly influences its permanent results (Matthew 13:4, 19; Luke 11:28). And our aim and endeavour, when we return, should be to sanctify all places, all times, all occupations by the spirit of unceasing prayer and thanksgiving, and so make the whole of life a preparation for the services of the heavenly temple. - D.

1 Samuel 1:3, 11. (SHILOH.)
There is no subject more worthy of study than the nature and character of God. His perfections are often called his Name, and his Name is expressed by various words, all of which are significant. They are not merely designations, but also descriptions. The word God is commonly supposed to mean the Good One, but it probably denotes "he on whom one calls," or "he to whom one sacrifices; "the word Lord = Giver or Distributor of bread; Deity (Sanscrit, Dyaus) = the Resplendent, Light giving Heaven, the Shining One, showing the pure conception which the ancient Aryans (the ancestors of the Indo-European nations) entertained of the Divine Being. But the Bible mentions other names of God, which were either in common use among the Semitic nations, or given by special revelation to the Hebrews; and of these one of the most noteworthy is that of "the Lord of hosts" (Jehovah Sabaoth), which occurs no less than 260 times, this being the first instance of its use (see Max Muller, 'Science of Language,' p. 172; Fairbairn, ' Studies in Philosophy;' Plumptre, 'Biblical Studies'). Observe -


1. Founded on what had been previously known or revealed. Jehovah Sabaoth = Jehovah, Elohe (God of) Sabaoth (Keil; 2 Samuel 5:10). El (Beth-El, Isra-El, El-kanah, Samu-El) - the Strong or Mighty One; used in the plural as "comprehending in himself the fulness of all power, and uniting in himself all the attributes which the heathen ascribe to their divinities." Jehovah (Yahveh) = he who is, or he who will be, the Being, the Absolute One, the Cause and Support of all other beings, the Eternal, the Unchangeable; employed with special reference to his personality, unity, his close relationship to his people, and his promise to be their God; the Proper Name of Israel's God (Exodus 3:14; Exodus 6:3). Sabaoth (hosts) = the heaven and the earth (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19), the angels (Genesis 32:2, where, however, another word of similar import is used; Psalm 103:21), and more commonly armies of men (Genesis 21:22; Exodus 6:26; Joshua 5:14). The whole name = "Jehovah, the God of the armies of Israel, the Giver of the victory in battle, of the stars and of the angels."

2. First used when he was about to make a fresh display of his power and grace to his people under their anointed king (1 Samuel 4:4; 1 Samuel 17:45; 2 Samuel 6:27). By Hannah, the most spiritually minded person of that age (see Wordsworth's 'Com.').

3. "Rose into new prominence in proportion as the people came into contact with the Assyrian and Chaldaean races, by whom the worship of the heavenly bodies was systematised into a national religion, and was therefore perpetually on the lips of Isaiah and Jeremiah as a protest against it" (Isaiah 6.; Jeremiah 46:18; Jeremiah 48:15).

4. Most frequently used by the later prophets, "who doubtless sought to counteract by this means the fear which the Jews, as a poor, despised people, had of the power of the Gentiles, and to prove to them that the God in whom they believed had hosts enough to protect them, though they should be devoid of all earthly might wherewith to defend themselves against their enemies" (Roos).

5. Only once employed, in direct statement, in the New Testament (James 5:4); other and still higher revelations of his character being made by Jesus Christ.

II. ITS SUBLIME IMPORT. "God alone is great."

1. His personality and unity, as opposed to "the gods many and lords many" worshipped by the heathen; the keystone of the faith of Israel being, "The Lord our God is one Lord." This is not contradictory to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which signifies a threefold distinction in the One God.

2. His supremacy. He is higher than the highest, the great King and Law-giver, whose will all must obey (Psalm 24:10; Malachi 1:14).

3. His immensity. He fills all space; rules over sun, moon, and stars; myriads of angels; nations, families, and individual men. "All are thy servants."

4. His omnipotence. "Lord God Almighty." "Power belongeth unto God." "It is the flower of his crown imperial, which he will suffer none to usurp. If the proudest of creatures go beyond the bounds and limits of his present permission, he will send worms to eat them up, as he did Herod" (Owen). "Thine omnipotence is not far from us when we are far from thee" (Augustine), Other revelations have now been given. "God is spirit." "God is light." "God is love." "Our Father which art in heaven." But his name as the Lord of hosts ought often to be an object of devout contemplation.


1. To correct error: atheism, polytheism, pantheism, positivism, scepticism, secularism, etc.

2. To elevate our conceptions of him, and fill us with humility, reverence, and adoration.

3. To encourage us to pray to him, with strong confidence that we shall be heard (1 Samuel 1:11; Zechariah 8:21; Matthew 26:53; Ephesians 3:20).

4. To strengthen us in labour. "Work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:4).

5. To incite us to contend against his foes, to "fight the good fight of faith." "I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts" (1 Samuel 17:45).

6. To console us in trouble. "The Lord will protect his own" (Psalm 34:7; Isaiah 8:13). He is the Protector and Avenger of the oppressed (James 5:4). "He calls God the Lord of hosts in order to strike terror into those who think that the poor have no protector" (Bede).

7. To warn all who disobey his voice, and set themselves in opposition to him and his people. "Beware, therefore." - D.

1 Samuel 1:9 (1 Samuel 3:3). (SHILOH.)
Most of the religious ideas and expressions with which we are familiar had their origin far back in distant ages; and it is interesting and instructive to trace them to their source, and mark their alteration and expansion in the progressive course of Divine revelation. This is the first instance in which the expression "the temple of the Lord" occurs. Notice -


1. A material structure. "In the earliest ages God was worshipped without any distinction at any time and at any place, whenever and wherever the promptings of devotion moved in the hearts of his creatures; more especially, however, under the shadow of embowering trees, on hills and mountains, and in places where they had experienced some special manifestations of his favour" (Jahn). The first erection (with the exception of altars) was

(1) the tabernacle or tent (Exodus 25:8), here called the temple or (more literally) the palace of Jehovah, as the royal residence of the king of Israel. Afterwards

(2) the temple of Solomon;

(3) of Zerubbabel; and

(4) of Herod.

2. The incarnate Word (John 1:14; John 2:21; Colossians 2:19).

3. Christian men. The body of each (1 Corinthians 6:19). The whole assembly (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:5). Observe the progress: - God for us, with us, in us; Father, Son, Spirit.

4. The heavenly world. Although there is no temple therein Revelation 21:22), yet heaven is altogether a temple Revelation 7:15).

II. ITS MAIN SIGNIFICANCE in all these applications. It is -

1. Set apart for the Lord. Selected, separated, and consecrated as his possession, and for his use.

2. Inhabited by him. His throne is there. He dwells between the cherubim, in fellowship with the redeemed.

3. Manifests him in his holiness and love. His glory appears, his voice is heard, his will is declared (Exodus 25:22; Hebrews 4:16).

4. In it service is rendered to him. At first it was chiefly in outward symbolical acts; afterwards of the man himself, "body, soul, and spirit" (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). In each of these particulars we see the principle of progress, from the natural to the spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:46).


1. That the place in which man worships is of far less importance than man himself and his possession of a holy character. No place or building can be holy in the full sense of the word. For holiness implies intelligence, affection, freedom; and these make him unspeakably greater than all "the gorgeous palaces and solemn temples" which the earth contains. "To this man will I look," etc. (Isaiah 57:15; 67:1, 2; Matthew 12:6). "Let more regard be paid to the promotion of religion than the decoration of churches; for although it is a good thing that churches should be beautiful edifices, yet virtue forms their best crown and ornament. It seems to us that the building of handsome churches pertains rather to the Old Testament, whilst the improvement of character and life is the more peculiar work of the Christian dispensation" (Charlemagne, Capitulary of the year 811).

2. That the pattern to which the character of man must be conformed is Jesus Christ. He is not only the Living Stone to whom every one must come that he may be built up into the "spiritual house," the Chief Cornerstone on which the whole building rests, but also the perfect Model according to which each and all must be fashioned (Romans 8:29).

3. That the character of man is conformed to its Divine pattern by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost.

4. That only those in whom God dwells here will be fit to dwell with God hereafter, and constitute the heavenly tabernacle and temple Revelation 21:3). Above all things, seek to be in the building which God is rearing for his habitation, and for an everlasting monument to his praise. - D.

1 Samuel 1:9-13
1 Samuel 1:9-13. (SHILOH.)

Effectual prayer. Prayer is converse with God. The general principles which are necessary that it may be acceptable and effectual were exemplified by Hannah in the prayer which she offered at the porch of the tabernacle in Shiloh, whilst other and more special principles were contained therein. She was possessed of great intelligence, sensibility, meekness, and spirituality of mind, and embodied the noblest spiritual element existing amongst her people, even as she was a type of their history (ever rising out of weakness and distress through humiliation, faith, and prayer, into strength, and joy, and triumph). Consider her prayer as -

I. BORN OF DEEP SORROW. "She was in bitterness of soul, and wept sore "(ver. 10). Seemingly forgotten of God, an object of reproach and scorn, without indulging feeling's of resentment, unable to tell her trouble to any one else, she betook herself to him who is "a Refuge for the oppressed in times of trouble." Prayer is the best resource at such times; and grief of heart, together with the loneliness which it usually causes, often lead to "the pouring out of the soul before the Lord." What a beneficent power is sorrow in a world like this! And how blessed are the fruits which, through Divine grace, it produces! (Psalm 55:22; Hosea 2:15; 1 Peter 5:7).

II. UTTERED ONLY IN THE HEART (ver. 13). The first recorded instance of silent or mental prayer. The ordinary worshippers at the tabernacle prayed with audible words, and significant gestures; and in the East to this day the people pray in the same manner, and have little or no idea of praying only in the mind. They are more demonstrative than ourselves. "Mental prayer is a lifting up of the mind to God in actual or virtual supplication for what we desire." It is -

1. Frequently a necessity; inasmuch as it would not be always proper to express in the presence of others the desires of the heart.

2. Presumptively sincere; inasmuch as it consists of direct intercourse with the Invisible and Omniscient One, and cannot spring from a desire to be seen or heard of men.

3. Highly beneficial; inasmuch as it serves to strengthen the spirit of prayer, and is heard of God (Nehemiah 2:4). Even when it does not shape itself in words within the mind, but consists of aspirations and "groanings which cannot be uttered," "he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the spirit" therein (Romans 8:27).

III. EXPRESSIVE OF FERVENT DESIRE. Desire is the soul of prayer. It arises from, and is proportionate to, the sense of need. Its intensity is not always manifested by audible words; for sometimes its strength is dispersed and exhausted thereby; whereas silence condenses and increases it. "Deepest waters stillest flow." Our desires cannot be too fervent, or our requests too importunate, provided they be for things which are according to the will of God (Romans 12:12; 1 John 5:14, 15).

"Fervent love
And lively hope with violence assail
The kingdom of the heavens, and overcome
The will of the Most High; not in such sort
As man prevails o'er man; but conquers it
Because 'tis willing to be conquer'd; still,
Though conquer'd by its mercy conquering."
Dante, 'Div. Com.,' Par. 20.

IV. EXHIBITING GENUINE FAITH. "O Lord of hosts,"etc. (ver. 11). Like Abraham, she "believed in the Lord" (Genesis 15:6); trusted, leant on him, as a child rests on the bosom of a parent. She had exalted conceptions of his character; believed in

(1) his living personality, supreme dominion, power, goodness, faithfulness (Hebrews 11:6); relied on

(2) his promises, summed up in the assurance, "I will be your God" (Exodus 6:7; Leviticus 26:12); and

(3) although she had no express promise of the particular blessing which she desired, yet, inwardly taught, she applied the general promise to herself, and had "confidence respecting things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). When express promises are wanting, it behoves us to seek particular blessings with the utmost dependence and submission; but, so far from being prohibited from seeking them, we are encouraged to do so by the unlimited range of such directions as this: "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray," etc. (Mark 11:24).

V. DISTINGUISHED BY ENTIRE SELF-SURRENDER. Once and again she called herself the "handmaid" of the Lord, as belonging to him, and wholly devoted to his service. Her will she freely offered up in sacrifice to his, and made a fresh surrender of herself in her solemn engagement to render back to him the gift he might bestow. She sought not her own gratification, but his glory and the welfare of his people. "The vow of the Nazarite embodied the yearning of the better part of the nation for a moral and religious reformation, as the only hope of Israel. It symbolised Israel's perfect calling of voluntary self-surrender to God" (Edersheim). When we seek not our own, but make it subservient to higher and larger good, we place ourselves in a line with the Divine purposes, and may entertain sure and steadfast hope of success.

VI. OFFERED WITH STEADFAST PERSEVERANCE. "She continued praying before the Lord" (ver. 12). It was not a momentary ebullition of feeling, but the fixed direction of her whole soul (Genesis 32:26; Luke 11:8; Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18).

VII. FOLLOWED BY AN ABUNDANT BLESSING. The benediction of the high priest (ver. 17) was to her an oracle of God, to be in due time fulfilled; whilst the immediate effect on her heart was peace and gladness, and "she went away, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad." "Prayer is heart's ease to the gracious soul." - D.

"Lord, what a change within us one short hour,
Spent in thy presence, will prevail to make;
What heavy burdens from our bosoms take;
What parched grounds refresh as with a shower!"


1 Samuel 1:11 (1 Samuel 1:21, 23, 28). (SHILOH.)
And she vowed a vow. The first recorded instance of a religious yowls that of Jacob (Genesis 28:20; Genesis 31:13). Under a sense of obligation to God, he entered into a spontaneous and solemn engagement before him to do what he believed would be pleasing in his sight, joining with it the desire of obtaining certain benefits at his hand. He did not, as it has been said, make a bargain with God; but gratefully repeated what had been virtually promised ("if" or "since God will be with me," etc.), and simply desired those blessings, without which it would be impossible for him to fulfil his purpose. Directions concerning the practice of making vows were given in the Law (Leviticus 27.; Numbers 6., 30.). The age of the judges was an age of vows. "Then appears a new power of the age, the binding vow - a spasmodic impulse, dangerous to many, yet in the greatest emergencies of life indispensable; bracing up the deepest energies, and working the greatest marvels; often renovating, or else entirely transforming, whole nations and religions; assuming a thousand forms, and in all, while the first fidelity endures, exercising an indomitable power" (Ewald). Jephthah - Samson - Samuel. Vows are seldom alluded to in the New Testament (Luke 1:15; Acts 18:18; Acts 21:23). In some of their forms, and in so far as they might embody a legal spirit, they are done away. But they are not prohibited; and, understood as denoting a solemn binding of ourselves to the service of God, or resolutions and engagements made before him to perform or omit certain definite acts, they are often needful and beneficial. Consider that -


1. Things over which we possess a rightful authority. We may not vow what does not belong to us.

2. Things which ought to be done, independently of vows; but the obligation of which is felt for the first time, or with unusual force.

3. Things which are in themselves indifferent; being right or wrong according to the individual conscience, but with reference to which a vow creates a new obligation. The vow of a Nazarite to abstain from wine, etc.

4. Things, more particularly, that relate to the use of

(1) property (Genesis 28:22; 1 Corinthians 16:2);

(2) time;

(3) influence over others, especially in the training of children;

(4) the various powers of body and soul (Romans 12:1).


1. Severe trouble - personal affliction, nearness to death, bereavement; bringing the invisible and eternal nigh, teaching dependence on God, and exciting desire for his help (Isaiah 66:13, 14).

2. Singular prosperity - unexpected recovery from illness, extraordinary deliverance from danger, unwonted providential and spiritual benefits, temporal success.

3. Spiritual exercises - in public worship, private meditation, religious profession.

4. Starting points of life - a birthday, the first day of a new year, the commencement of a fresh enterprise. These things are often occasions of spiritual illumination and impression, mountain heights that rise above the mists of ordinary life; and it is well to embody the views and feelings then entertained in fixed purposes, definite resolutions, solemn vows for future guidance and help. "Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God" (Psalm 76:11).


1. Due deliberation (Ecclesiastes 5:2), so as to ascertain "what the will of the Lord is," and what we may reasonably hope to accomplish, lest they should become a burden and temptation.

2. A sense of dependence on Divine grace; and not in a self-righteous spirit, as if our service were exceedingly meritorious, and deserved to be richly rewarded.

3. Humble and earnest prayer for the aid of the Divine Spirit. Vows made in our own strength are "as the morning cloud and the early dew."

4. Faith in Christ, the perfect pattern of self-surrender and self-sacrifice, the way of approach to God, the medium of Divine blessing. "Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar" (Psalm 118:27).

IV. WHEN MADE THEY OUGHT TO BE STRICTLY FULFILLED. Their making is optional, voluntary; not so their performance. Their obligation -

1. Changes not with a change of feeling, even with respect to those things which are, in themselves, indifferent.

"The things which are in insight willed
Must be in hours of gloom fulfilled."

2. Rests upon the same ground as that of the obligation of promises generally, and is specially strong because of their sacred character.

3. Is enforced by the consequences of their observance or neglect. Their fulfilment is a means of grace. Broken vows undermine the foundations of character, interfere with Divine fellowship, and pave the way to destruction (Ecclesiastes 5:4-6).

4. Requires their performance with sincerity (in the sense intended, not by the substitution of something else, not in part merely), cheerfulness (Psalm 116:17, 18), and promptitude. "Defer not." "There is a Greek mythical story of the treatment of the goddess Juno by Mandrabulus the Samian. This man had, under her auspices, and by her directions, discovered a golden mine. In the first flush of gratitude he vowed to her a golden ram; however, he presently exchanged that for a silver one, and again that for a very small brass one, and that for nothing at all" (Trench). "It is storied of a merchant that in a great storm at sea vowed to Jupiter, if he would save him and his vessel, to give him a hecatomb. The storm ceaseth, and he bethinks that a hecatomb was unreasonable; he resolves on seven oxen. Another tempest comes, and now again he vows the seven at least. Delivered, then also he thought that seven were too many, and one ox would serve his turn. Yet another peril comes, and now he vows solemnly to fall no lower; if he might be rescued, an ox Jupiter shall have. Again freed, the ox sticks in his stomach, and he would fain draw his devotion to a lower rate; a sheep was sufficient. But at last, being set ashore, he thought a sheep too much, and purposeth to carry to the altar only a few dates. But by the way he eats up the dates, and lays on the altar only the shells. After this manner do many perform their vows" (Adams, vol. 1. p. 112). - D.

1 Samuel 1:13-18. (SHILOH.)
The duty of rebuking others when they do evil is often enjoined (Leviticus 19:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:14), and is especially incumbent on those who occupy positions of authority. But how seldom is rebuke given or received aright! Eli, the aged judge and high priest, sitting on the judgment seat, "by a post of the temple of the Lord," and observing a woman exhibiting signs of excited feeling, severely rebuked her for being intoxicated with wine. In his words, and what followed, we have rebuke -

I. UTTERED WITHOUT JUSTICE (vers. 13, 14). There was certainly apparent ground for the judgment he formed; for excitement caused by wine was probably no uncommon thing at the tabernacle in those corrupt times. But he did not "judge righteously" (John 7:24). Learn -

1. That apparent ground for censure is often found on inquiry to be really groundless. Therefore there should be proof before reproof.

2. That the most excellent are often the most misjudged, especially in religious matters. Whilst sensual excitement was often seen, spiritual excitement was rare. Religious services were formal, cold, and dead; and holy fervour was naturally misunderstood and misinterpreted by superficial observers. So they who were filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost were accused of being filled with new wine. And men of large views, disinterested motives, and exalted aims are often condemned by the ignorant, selfish, and unspiritual.

3. That the highest in authority are liable to err in judgment. Infallibility belongs to God alone. The assumption of it by men is rebuked by their own manifest mistakes and failings, and is an insult to heaven.

4. That persons who think that they see clearly the faults of others are commonly blind to their own transgressions (Matthew 7:3; Romans 2:1). Eli was unconscious of his own easily besetting sin, which consisted in his indulgent treatment of his children and their vices.

5. That those who censure others should themselves be undeserving of censure.

6. That our own exposure to judgment should make us cautious in passing judgment on others (Matthew 7:1-5).

7. That it is the part of charity to put the best construction on their conduct. "Believeth all things; hopeth all things." Eli exhibited a want of knowledge, consideration, charity, and tenderness. How different the High Priest and Judge "with whom we have to do"!

II. BORNE WITH MEEKNESS. Hannah was not only innocent of the vice for which she was rebuked, but was at the time uttering a vow that if the Lord would give her a son he should be a Nazarite, and a life long protest against that vice and other prevailing evils. Her fervour of spirit was equalled by her calmness, self-control, and discreet answer to the reproach of Eli (vers. 15, 16). Learn -

1. That resentment and retaliation toward unjust accusers afford no evidence of innocence. Some persons when rebuked fly into a passion, and utter worse judgments on others than have been pronounced on themselves.

2. That a good conscience can be calm under accusation.

3. That appearances which seem to justify censure should be as fully as possible explained.

4. That those who say they are not guilty of sin should show their abhorrence of sin. "Call not thine handmaid a daughter of Belial" ('a worthless woman'). In her view intoxication was a great sin, and deserving of severe condemnation.

5. How beautiful is "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit."

6. To look to Christ as the perfect pattern of the spirit here exhibited, and the source of the grace which is needed for its exercise (1 Peter 2:20-23). "Let me find grace in thy sight."

III. TURNED INTO BENEDICTION (vers. 17, 18). Learn -

1. That those who see that they have erred in judgment should be ready to acknowledge their error.

2. That meekness and patience are adapted to change a severe reprover into a kind friend.

3. That the endurance of rebuke in a right spirit is often a means of obtaining a favourable answer to prayer. God himself spoke through the voice of the high priest (ver. 17; John 11:51).

4. That it also causes perturbation and sorrow to give place to peace and joy (Matthew 5:5, 11). "Strive to rejoice when others use towards thee words of injury or rebuke, or despise thee. For a rich treasure lies hid beneath this dust; and, if thou take it willingly, thou wilt soon find thyself rich unperceived by those who have bestowed this gift upon thee" (Scupoli). - D.

We hear much of the mothers of eminent men, and it is easy to see whence Samuel derived his elevation of mind, his religious temperament, and the natural aptitude to be a seer and prophet of God. It was from his mother - the sensitive, poetical, devout, unselfish Hannah. Her prayer at the house of the Lord in Shiloh shows her in a noble light. She asked for no vengeance on her adversary Peninnah, who had so often taunted her, but only for a son whom she might devote as a pure Nazarite to Jehovah's service. Her thought recurred to the last great judge of Israel - the Nazarite Samson. The work which he might have performed had been very imperfectly done; and Hannah's devout and patriotic wish Was to give birth to one who might repair the failure of Samson, as well as remedy the evil wrought by the sons of Eli, and work a great deliverance for Israel.

I. PIOUS EMOTION HARSHLY CENSURED. If Hannah's prayer had been mocked by the profane, it had not surprised her; but this was her trial, that the venerable priest, whose duty it was to recognise and encourage religious aspiration, cruelly misconstrued her agitation, and charged her with wickedness. Eli was weak towards men, stern to a woman. He could not restrain his own sons, but he could speak sharply and severely to Hannah. The only palliation of his readiness to impute evil to her lies in the fact that, through his weakness, there had come to be a great license of manners at the time, and women of Israel misconducted themselves at the very seat of worship. Eli took Hannah for one of these, and her holy ardour for the agitation of one unduly excited by wine. Religious emotion, especially in persons of a sensitive and pensive nature, may resemble the effect of "wine wherein is excess" in the eyes of a careless or unsympathetic observer. And this applies to the joyful as well as to the sorrowful in spirit. On the day of Pentecost, when the power of the Spirit descended on the disciples of our Lord, and joy in the Holy Ghost expressed itself in their looks and words, some of the bystanders began to mock and say, "These men are full of new wine." That religious fervour should be unappreciated by worldly minds need cause no wonder. That tears and prayers poured forth before the unseen God should be despised as drivelling superstition, or the flush of spiritual gladness derided as irrational frenzy, by persons of a cold, unbelieving temper, is what may be expected. But it is hard to bear misconstruction from men like Eli, who ought to understand that the spirit of man or woman sometimes faints, sometimes leaps for joy before the Lord.

II. THE EQUANIMITY OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE. When one is quite conscious of Innocence he can meet accusations with calmness, and repel them without passion or bitterness. If Hannah had been unguarded in eating or drinking at the feast after the sacrifice in Shiloh, she would probably have given a sharp answer to Eli, and exonerated herself from his charge with some heat of temper. But her conscience was quite clear in the matter. From her vow to make the son for whose birth she prayed a Nazarite, we infer that she was strongly sensible of the evils which indulgence in wine, and consequent licentious excess, had brought on the nation. So her answer to the priest, while firm, was calm, and even meek: "No, my Lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit."

III. THE TRUE RESOURCE OF THE SORROWFUL. "I have poured out my soul before the Lord." Hannah abhorred the kind of evil of which Eli accused her. "Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial." Alas, how many, because they are in low spirits, or vexed with their lot, seek exhilaration in wine or strong drink! It is a gross and dangerous consolation, fit for children of Belial, not for children of God. "Is any afflicted? Let him pray." Is any anxious? Let him by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make his request known to God. To be excited with wine is to have the imagination and passions fired through the flesh and the senses. For a time care or grief may be forgotten, and the mind may seem to become gay and brilliant; but as the appetite grows, and the fallacious pleasure beguiles, there ensues degradation and sorrow upon sorrow; the mind is clouded and enfeebled, and the heart made selfish and gross. How different from the excitement of the praying heart that is " filled with the Spirit!" This takes hold of the best and highest part of our nature, and from this acts on the whole man - subdues sensual passion, scatters delusion, and while it may for a time agitate the frame, as Hannah's was agitated, never disturbs or unhinges the regulative principles of reason and conscience within.

IV. THE COMFORT AFTER PRAYER. Whatever the worth of Eli's personal character, his office gave weight to his words; and when he invoked from the God of Israel an answer to Hannah's petition, she received his words with reverence, and went homo with a glad assurance in her heart. Have not we a great High Priest who misunderstands no one, requires no corrective explanation, discourages no suppliant; and is it not he who has said, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them"? Look to Jesus, and where is your burden? It is gone. Where are your tears? They are wiped away. Where is your desired thing, your Samuel? It is at hand. Go your way when you have poured out your prayer, for he has heard you, and "let your countenance be no more sad." - F.

1 Samuel 1:19-28. (RAMAH and SHILOH)
(References - 1 Chronicles 29:29, "the seer;" Psalm 99:9; Jeremiah 15:1; Acts 3:24; Acts 13:20; Hebrews 12:32; Apoc. Ecclus. 46:13-20.) Consolation and hope were from the first associated with the birth of children (Genesis 3:15; Genesis 4:1, 25; Genesis 5:29; Genesis 21:6). More than ordinary joy (John 16:24) was felt at the birth of Samuel by his mother, because of the peculiar circumstances connected therewith, and the expectations entertained by her of the good which he might effect for Israel. Often as she looked upon her God-given infant she would think, "What manner of child shall this be?" (Luke 1:66), and ask, "How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?" (Judges 13:12). Nor did she fail to do her utmost towards the fulfilment of her exalted hopes. The child was -

I. REGARDED AS A DIVINE GIFT (Psalm 127:4). Every little infant bears the impress of the "Father of spirits" (James 3:9).

"Trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home." The gift of a fresh, new, mysterious human life, with its vast capabilities, is a great gift, and demands grateful acknowledgment of the Divine goodness; but it is not an absolute gift; it is rather a trust which involves serious responsibilities on the part of those into whose hands it is placed. God says in effect, "Take this child," etc. (Exodus 2:9).

II. DESIGNATED BY AN APPROPRIATE NAME (ver. 20). Samuel = heard of God. "The mother names, the father assents, God approves, and time confirms the nomination" (Hunter). Like other personal names in the Bible, it was full of significance; being a grateful memorial of the goodness and faithfulness of God in the past, and a constant incentive to faith and prayer in the future. "Our very names should mind us of our duty." The name "Samuel" was uttered by the Lord as mindful of his history, and recognising his special relation to himself (1 Samuel 3:10). The name of a child is not an unimportant matter, and it should be given with due consideration. When parents give their children names borne by excellent men, they should train them to follow in the footsteps of such men.

III. NURTURED WITH MOTHERLY TENDERNESS (vers. 22-25). His mother was herself his nurse (ver. 23), not intrusting him to others, and not neglecting him, whereby many young lives are sacrificed; but thoughtfully, carefully, and constantly ministering to his physical needs, praying over him, and directing his thoughts, with the earliest dawn of reason, toward the Lord of hosts. That she might the more perfectly fulfil her trust, she remained at home, and went not up to Shiloh until he was weaned. Her absence from the sanctuary was justifiable, her worship at home was acceptable, and the service which she rendered to her child was a service rendered to God and to his people. "A mother's teachings have a marvellous vitality in them; there is a strange living power in that good seed which is sown by a mother's hand in her child's heart in the early dawn of the child's being, when they two are alone together, and the mother's soul gushes forth on her child, and the child listens to his mother as a God; and there is a deathless potency in a mother's prayers and tears for those whom she has borne which only God can estimate" (W.L. Alexander). "Who is best taught? He that is taught of his mother" ('Talmud').

IV. PRAYED OVER WITH FATHERLY SOLICITUDE. Elkanah consented to the vow of his wife (Numbers 30:6, 7), and appears to have made it his own (ver. 21). He was zealous for its performance, and whilst he agreed with her in the desire of its postponement for a brief period, he expressed the wish in prayer, "Only the Lord establish his word" (ver. 23). "Word, that is, may he fulfil what he designs with him, and has promised by his birth (vers. 11, 20). The words refer, therefore, to the boy's destination to the service of God; which the Eternal has in fact acknowledged by the partial fulfilment of the mothers wish" (Bunsen). HIS PRAYER indicates, with respect to the Divine word -

1. Confidence in its truth. He believed

(1) that it was his word which had been uttered by the high priest (ver. 17);

(2) that its Divine origin and faithfulness had been in part confirmed by his own act (ver. 20); and

(3) that it would be completely established by his bringing about the end designed.

2. Desire of its fulfilment.

(1) As a matter of great importance.

(2) Deeply felt. "Only."

(3) Through the continued and gracious operation of God. "The Lord establish his word."

3. Obedience to its requirements. In order to its establishment, cooperation on their part was -

(1) Necessary. God's purposes and promises are fulfilled in connection with human endeavour, and not independently of it.

(2) Obligatory. It had been solemnly promised by them, and was a condition of the bestowment of the Divine blessing.

(3) Fully resolved upon. "His father used to open his breast when he was asleep and kiss it in prayer over him, as it is said of Origen's father, that the Holy Ghost would take possession thereof" ('Life of Sir Thomas Browne').

V. CONDUCTED TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD. As soon as he was weaned (the first step of separate, independent life) "she took him up with her" (ver. 24), and "they brought the child to Eli" (ver. 25). Children are in their right place in the temple (Matthew 21:15, 16), and their praises are acceptable to the Lord. Even infants (sucklings) belong to the kingdom of heaven, and are capable of being blessed by him (Matthew 19:13). Therefore the "little ones" should be brought unto him (Matthew 18:14).

VI. DEDICATED TO A LIFE-LONG SERVICE (vers. 25-28), i.e. a continual (and not a limited or periodical) service at the sanctuary as a Levite, and an entire (and not a partial) service as a Nazarite. It was done

(1) with a burnt offering,

(2) accompanied by a thankful acknowledgment of the goodness of God in answer to prayer offered on the same spot several years previously, and

(3) in a full surrender of the child. "My child shall be entirely and absolutely thy servant. I give up all my maternal rights. I desire to be his mother only in so far as that he shall owe his existence to me; after that I give him up to thee" (Chrysostom). "For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath granted me my request which I asked of him; therefore I also make him one asked of the Lord all the days that he liveth; he is asked of the Lord" (Keil). So the vow was performed. And in the spirit of this dedication all parents should give back to God "the children which he hath given them."

VII. FOLLOWED BY PARENTAL PRAYERS AND THANKSGIVINGS. "He (Elkanah) worshipped the Lord there" (ver. 28). "And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord." (1 Samuel 2:1). "And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house" (1 Samuel 2:11). The sacrifice made in learning the child behind was great, but it was attended, through Divine grace, with great joy. The more any one gives to God, the more God gives back to him in spiritual blessing. Hannah felt little anxiety or fear for the safety of her child, for she believed that he would "keep the feet of his saints" (1 Samuel 2:9). What holy influences ever rest on children whose parents pray for them "without ceasing!" and what multitudes have by such means been eternally saved! - D.

"The boy was vowed
Unto the temple service. By the hand
She led him, and her silent soul, the while,
Oft as the dewy laughter of his eye
Met her sweet serious glance, rejoiced to think
That aught so pure, so beautiful, was hers,
To bring before her God.

I give thee to thy God - the God that gave thee,
A wellspring of deep gladness to my heart!
And precious as thou art,
And pure as dew of Hermon, he shall have thee,
My own, my beautiful, my undefiled!
And thou shalt be his child.

Therefore, farewell! - I go, my soul may fail me,
As the stag panteth for the water brooks,
Yearning for thy sweet looks. -
But thou, my firstborn, droop not, nor bewail me!
Thou in the Shadow of the Rock shalt dwell,
The Rock of Strength. - Farewell!"

(Mrs. Hemans)

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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