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:
Verse 1. - There was a certain man of Ramathaim-Zophim. Though Samuel belonged to the tribe of Levi, yet no special mention is made of the fact, because he owed his importance and rank as a judge not to his Levitical origin, but to the gift of prophecy, which was independent of the accidents of birth and station. In the First Book of Chronicles, ch. 6, his parentage is twice given, that in vers. 22-28 being apparently the family genealogy, while that in vers. 33-38 was probably taken from the records of the temple singers, sprung from Heman, Samuel's grandson (1 Chronicles 6:33). His name there appears as Shemuel, our translators not having perceived that it is the same as that for which elsewhere they give the familiar rendering, Samuel. The variations Elkanah, Jeroham, Elihu, Tohu, Zuph (1 Samuel 1:1); Elkanah, Jeroham, Eliab, Nahath, Zophai (1 Chronicles 6:26, 27); Elkanah, Jeroham, Eliel, Toah, Zuph (ibid. vers. 34, 35), are interesting as showing that the genealogies in Chronicles. were compiled from family documents, in which, as was usual in the case of proper names, there was much diversity of spelling, or possibly of interpreting the cumbrous signs used for letters in those early days. The variations, however, in Elihu (God is he), Eliab (God is Father), and Eliel (God is God) were probably intentional, as were certainly other changes in names, such as that of Ishbaal into Ishbosheth. The name of Samuel's father, Elkanah (God is owner), is a common one among the Kohathites, to which division of the sons of Levi Samuel belonged. The prophet's birthplace was Ramathaim-Zophim, no doubt the Ramah which was Samuel s own head-quarters (1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 15:34; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Samuel 19:18-23; 1 Samuel 25:1); the place where he dwelt, wrought, died, and was buried, and the Arimathsea of the Gospels. The Septuagint generally gives the name in full, but this is the only place where it is so written in the Hebrew. Ramah signifies a height, and the dual Ramathaim the double height, the town being situated on a hill ending in two peaks. But which it was of the many Ramahs, or hill towns, in the Holy Land, is hotly contested; probably it was the Ramah in Benjamin, about two hours' journey northwest of Jerusalem. Its second name, Zophim, is taken from Zuph, Samuel's remote ancestor, with whom the genealogy here begins. Zuph had apparently emigrated from Ephraim, one of the three tribes (Ephraim, Manasseh, Dan) to which the Kohathites were attached, and was a person of sufficient power and energy to give his name to the whole district; called the land of Zuph in 1 Samuel 9:5. His descendants, the Zophim, had Ramah as their centre, and Elkanah, as their head, would be a man of wealth and influence. Though actually belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, Ramah is said to be upon Mount Ephraim, because this limestone range extended to and kept its name almost up to Jerusalem (see Judges 4:5, and 2 Chronicles 13:4; 2 Chronicles 15:8, compared with 2 Chronicles 13:19). Elkanah too is called an Ephrathite, i.e. an Ephraimite, no doubt because before Zuph emigrated the family had belonged to Ephraim, it being apparently the practice to reckon Levites as pertaining to the tribes to which they were attached (Judges 17:7). The Hebrews Ephrathite is rightly rendered Ephraimite in Judges 12:5, and should be so translated here, and in 1 Kings 11:26. In Ruth 1:2; 1 Samuel 17:12 it means Bethlehemite, that town being also called Ephratah, the fruitful; Ephraim has the same meaning, but being a dual, no adjective can be formed from it.
And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
Verse 2. - As a wealthy man, Elkanah had two wives, Hannah - the Anna of Virgil, who very properly gives this name to the sister of the Phoenician Dido, the language of Phoenicia being identical with Hebrew - and Peninnah. The word Hannah signifies gracefulness, while Peulnnah is the red pearl, translated coral in Job 28:18, but ruby in Proverbs 3:15, etc. Its ruddy colour is vouched for in Lamentations 4:7. The Hebrew names for women generally bear witness to the affection and respect felt for them; while those for men are usually religious. Though polygamy was a licence permitted to the Jews, it does not seem to have been generally indulged in, except by the kings. Here, as elsewhere, it was the ruin of family life. In Christianity it was marked for final extinction by the rule that no polygamist should be admitted even to the diaconate, and much less to higher office (1 Timothy 3:2, 12).
And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.
Verse 3. - This man went up out of his city yearly. Once in the year Elkanah went up to offer sacrifice before the ark. The original command had required this thrice a year of all Israelites; but though a Levite and a religious man, Elkanah went up but once; and such apparently was the rule in our Lord's time (Luke 2:41), the season preferred being naturally the passover, while the other feasts gave opportunities for the performance of this duty to those unable to leave their homes at so early a period of the year. The ark was now at Shiloh, a town in Ephraim, about ten miles south of Shechem; for Joshua had removed it from Gilgal (Joshua 18:1), not merely because Shiloh occupied a more central position, but as marking the primary rank of his own tribe (1 Chronicles 5:1, 2). Its destruction by the Philistines after the capture of the ark (1 Samuel 5:1) was so complete, and attended apparently by such barbarous cruelties (Psalm 78:60-64), that it never recovered its importance, and Jeroboam passed it by when seeking for places where to set up his calves. To sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts. This title of the Deity, "LORD (in capitals, i.e. Jehovah) of Hosts," is a remarkable one. Fully it would be "Jehovah God of Hosts," and the omission of the word God shows that the phrase was one of long standing shortened down by constant use. And yet, though found 260 times in the Bible, this is the first place where it occurs. "Lord of Hosts" (Lord not in capitals, and meaning master ruler) occurs only once, in Isaiah 10:16. "God of Hosts," Elohim-Sabaoth, though rare, occurs four times in Psalm 80:4, 7, 14, 19. The word Sabaoth, hosts, does not mean armies, inasmuch as it refers to numbers, and not to order and arrangement.. It is usually employed of the heavenly bodies (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3), which seem countless in multitude as they are spread over the vast expanse of an Oriental sky (Genesis 15:5); and as their worship was one of the oldest and most natural forms of idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:19; Job 31:26-28), so this title is a protest against it, and claims for the one God dominion over the world of stars as well as in this lower sphere. Its origin then is to be sought at some time when there was a struggle between the worship of the sun and stars and the pure monotheism of the Hebrews. Occasionally the angels are called "the host of heaven" (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 103:21; Psalm 148:2), whenever the allusion is to their number, but when the idea is that of orderly arrangement they are called God's armies (Genesis 32:2). The two sons of Eli... were there. The right translation of the Hebrew is, "And there (at Shiloh) the two sons of Eli... were priests." Eli apparently had devolved upon his sons his priestly functions, while he discharged the duties only of a judge. His position is remarkable. In the Book of Judges we find a state of anarchy. The people are rude, untutored, doing much as they pleased, committing often atrocious crimes, yet withal full of generous impulses, brave, and even heroic. There is little regular government among them, but whenever a great man stands forth, the people in his district submit themselves to him. The last judge, Samson, a man of pungent wit and vast personal prowess, seems to have been entirely destitute of all those qualities which make a man fit to be a ruler, but he kept the patriotism of the people alive and nerved them to resistance by the fame of his exploits. In Eli we find a ruler possessed of statesmanlike qualities. The country under him is prosperous; the Philistines, no longer dominant as in Samson's time, have so felt his power that when they gain a victory the Israelites are astonished at it (1 Samuel 4:3). Moreover, he is not only judge, he is also high priest; but instead of belonging to the family of Phinehas, the dominant house in the time of the Judges, he belongs to that of Ithamar. When, to solve the problem, we turn to the genealogies in the Chronicles, we find Eli's house omitted, though, even after the massacres at Shiloh and Nob, his grandson Ahimelech was still powerful (1 Chronicles 24:3), and one of his descendants returned from Babylon as jointly high priest with a descendant of Phinehas (Ezra 8:2). How long a space of time elapsed between the rude heroism of Samson's days and Eli's orderly government in Church and State we do not know, but the difference in the condition of things is vast. Igor do we know the steps by which Eli rose to power, but he must have been a man of no common ability. Warrior as well as statesman, he had delivered the people from the danger of becoming enslaved to the Philistines. In his own family alone he failed. His sons, allowed to riot in licentiousness, ruined the stately edifice of the father's fortunes, and the Philistines, taking advantage of the general discontent caused by their vices, succeeded in once again putting the yoke on Israel's neck.
And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.
Verse 5. - A worthy portion. This rendering is based upon the idea that the Hebrew, which is literally "one portion of two faces," may mean "one portion enough for two persons." But for this there is no sufficient authority, and though the word is a dual, it really signifies the two sides of the face, or more exactly "the two nostrils," and so simply the countenance. The Syriac translation, "a double portion," is based upon an accidental resemblance between the words. As the term sometimes signifies anger from the swelling of the nostrils of an enraged person, the Vulgate translates, "And Elkanah was sad when he gave Hannah her portion; for..." The Septuagint has a different reading, epes for apaim, and though the words look different in our writing, they are nearly identical in Hebrew. This is probably the true reading, and the translation would then be, "And to Hannah he gave one portion only (because she bad no child, while Peninnah had many portions, as each son and daughter had a share); for he loved Hannah (and did not leave her without this mark of affection), though Jehovah had shut up her womb." These portions were of course taken from those parts of the victim which formed a feast for the offerers, after Jehovah and the priests had had their dues. It is plain from this feast that Elkanah's annual sacrifice was a peace offering, for the law of which see Leviticus 7:11-21.
And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.
Verses 6, 7, 8. - Her adversary also provoked her sore. The pleasure of this domestic festival was spoiled by the discord of the wives. Peninnah, triumphant in her fruitfulness, is yet Hannah's adversary, because, in spite of her barrenness, she has the larger portion of the husband's love; while Hannah is so sorely vexed at the taunts of her rival, that she weeps from sheer vexation. In vain Elkanah tries to give her comfort. The husband really is not "better than ten sons," for the joy of motherhood is quite distinct from that of conjugal affection, and especially to a Hebrew woman, who had special hopes from which she was cut off by barrenness. In ver. 7 there is a strange confusion of subject, owing to the first verb having been read as an active instead of a passive. It should be, "And so it happened year by year: when she (Hannah) went up to the house of Jehovah she (Peninnah) thus provoked her, and she wept and did not eat." It must be remembered that the Hebrews had no written vowels, but only consonants; the vowels were added in Christian times, many centuries after the coming of our Lord, and represent the traditional manner of reading of one great Jewish school. They are to be treated with the greatest respect, because as a rule they give us a sense confirmed by the best authorities; but they are human, and form no part of Holy Scripture. The ancient versions, the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Vulgate, which are all three older than the Masoretic vowels, translate, "And so she (Peninnah) did year by year;" but this requires a slight change of the consonants.
And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
Then said Elkanah her husband to 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?
So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.
Verse 9. - After they had eaten .... after they had drunk. The Hebrew favours the translation, "After she had eaten in Shiloh, and after she had drunk;" the somewhat forced rendering of the A.V. having arisen from a supposed discrepancy between this verse and ver. 7. Really there is none. The words simply mean that Hannah took part in the sacrificial banquet, though she did so without appetite or pleasure; and thus they connect her visit to the temple and her prayer with the most solemn religious service of the year. To take part in this banquet was a duty, but as soon as she had fulfilled it she withdrew to the temple to pour out her grief before God. There Eli, the priest, i.e. the high priest, as in Numbers 26:1; Numbers 27:2, was seated upon, not a seat, but the pontifical throne, placed at the entrance leading into the inner court of the tabernacle, so that all who came to worship must pass before him. It is remarkable that the tabernacle is called the temple (so 1 Samuel 3:3; Psalm 5:7), or, more literally, the "palace" of Jehovah, his royal residence; and it thus appears that the name had come into use before Solomon's building was erected. The curtains (Exodus 26:1) also had given place to a mezuzah, translated a post, but really a sort of porch, with doors, as appears from 1 Samuel 3:15 (comp. Exodus 21:6; 1 Kings 7:5). As the tabernacle remained stationary at Shiloh for 300 years, naturally numerous buildings of a more solid nature grew up around it.
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.
Verses 10, 11. - She... prayed unto the LORD. Kneeling down in the inner court, but within sight of Eli, whose throne in the porch probably overlooked the whole inner space, Hannah prays unto "Jehovah of Sabaoth" for a male child. Her humility appears in her thrice calling herself Jehovah's handmaid; her earnestness in the threefold repetition of the entreaty that Jehovah would look on her, and remember her, and not forget her. With her prayer she also makes a twofold vow in case her request is granted. The son given her is, first, to serve not for a stipulated number of years, as was the law with the Levites (Numbers 4:3), but for life; and, secondly, he is to be a Nazarite. We gather from Numbers 6:2 that Moses found this singular institution in existence, and only regulated it, and admitted it into the circle of established and legalised ordinances. Essentially it was a consecration to God, a holy priesthood, but not a sacrificing priesthood nor one by right of birth, as the Aaronic, but personal, and either for a limited period, or for life. During the continuance of the vow, a Nazarite might
(1) partake of no produce of the vine, signifying thereby abstinence from self-indulgence and carnal pleasure. He might
(2) take no part in mourning for the dead, even though they were his nearest relatives, because his holier duties raised him above the ordinary joys and sorrows, the cares and occupations of every day life. Lastly, no razor might come upon his head, the free growing hair being at once the distinctive mark by which all men would recognise his sacred calling, and also a sign that he was not bound by the usual customs of life. By Hannah's first vow Samuel was devoted to service in the sanctuary, by the second to a holy consecrated life. This institution remained in existence unto our Lord's days; for John the Baptist was also consecrated to God as a Nazarite by his mother, though not as Samuel, also given to minister in the temple.
And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head.
And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.
Verses 12-18. - She continued praying. Hannah's prayer was long and earnest, but in silence. She spake not in, but "to her heart," to herself. It was an inward supplication, which only her own heart and God heard. Eli watched, and was displeased. Possibly silent prayer was something unusual. It requires a certain advance in civilisation and refinement to enable a supplicant to separate the petition from the outward expression of it in spoken words, and a strong faith before any one can feel that God hears and knows the silent utterances of the heart (comp. Matthew 8:8-10). Naturally men think that they shall be heard for their much speaking, and for speaking aloud. Unused then to such real prayer, Eli, as he marked the quivering lips, the prostrate form, the face flushed with earnestness, came to the coarse conclusion that she was drunken, and with equal coarseness bids her "put away her wine from her," that is, go and sleep off the effects of her debauch. Hannah answers indignantly, "No, my lord." She is "a woman hard of spirit;' (see marg.), heavy hearted, as we should say, and she had been lightening her heart by pouring out her troubles before Jehovah. She is no "worthless woman;" for Belial is not a proper name, though gradually it became one (2 Corinthians 6:15), but means worthlessness, and "a daughter of worthlessness" means a bad woman. "Grief" is rather provocation, vexation. Hannah cannot forget the triumph of her rival, exulting over her many portions, while for her there had been only one. Convinced by the modesty and earnestness of her answer, Eli retracts his accusation, gives her his blessing, and prays that her petition may be granted. And Hannah, comforted by such words spoken by the high priest (John 11:51), returned to the sacrificial feast, which apparently was not yet finished, and joined in it, for "she did eat, and her countenance was to her no more," that is, the grieved and depressed look which she had so long borne had now departed from her. There is no reason for the insertion of the word sad. HANNAH'S PRAYER ANSWERED (vers. 19, 20).
Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.
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 have poured out my soul before the LORD.
Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.
And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her.
Verses 19, 20. - They rose up. After solemn worship early the next morning Elkanah returned to his home at Ramah, and God answered Hannah's prayer, and gave her the wished for son. She calls him Samuel, lit. Shemuel (Numbers 34:20; 1 Chronicles 7:2), which was an ordinary Hebrew name, and means "heard of God," not "asked of God," as in the margin of the A.V. It seems to have been the mother's right to give names to her children (Luke 1:60), and Hannah saw in Samuel, whom she had asked of God, a living proof that she had been heard by him. The name, therefore, is of fuller significance than the reason given for it. Ishmael has virtually the same meaning, signifying "God heareth." THE VOW FULFILLED (vers. 21-28).
Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.
And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.
Verse 21. - Elkanah... went up. When at the return of the year Elkanah went up as usual to Shiloh, Hannah remained at home, purposing to wait there till her son was old enough to be given to the Lord. This followed soon after his weaning, which in the East is delayed much longer than with us. In 2 Macc. 7:27 we find three years mentioned as the usual period of lactation, but the chief Jewish authorities make the time one year shorter. At three years old a child in the East would cease to be troublesome; but besides this, there was an order of women attached to the sanctuary (see on 1 Samuel 2:22), and probably regulations for the training of children devoted to the temple service. The yearly sacrifice, lit. "sacrifice of days," would include among its duties the carrying to Shiloh of the tithes which were to be consumed before the Lord (Deuteronomy 12:17, 18), and the payment of those portions of the produce which belonged to Jehovah and the priests, and had become due during the year. His vow shows that Elkanah had ratified Hannah's words, by adding thereto a thank-offering from himself. At Shiloh Samuel was to abide forever; his dedication was to be for his whole life. And when Elkanah prays, Only the Lord establish his word, it is evident that he and Hannah expected that a child born under such special circumstances would, like so many children of mothers long barren, be intended for some extraordinary work. The word of Jehovah referred to is that spoken by Eli in ver. 17, which contained not merely the assurance of the birth of a son, but a general confirmation and approval of all that Hannah had prayed for. In ver. 24 the Septuagint reads, "a bullock of three years old," probably on account of the one bullock mentioned in ver. 25; but as three-tenths of an ephah of flour formed the appointed meat offering for one bullock (Numbers 15:8-10), the mention of a whole ephah confirms the reading three bullocks. Probably the one bullock in ver. 25 was the special burnt offering accompanying the solemn dedication of Samuel to Jehovah's service, while the other two were for Elkanah's usual yearly sacrifice, and the thank offering which he had vowed. At the end of the verse the Hebrews reads, "And the child was a child," the word in both places being na'ar, which may mean anything up to fifteen years of age. The child really was about three years old, and the Sept. is probably right in reading, "And the child was with them." Both the Vulgate, however, and the Syriac agree with the Hebrew.
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 the LORD, and there abide for ever.
And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.
And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young.
And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.
And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.
For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.
Verse 28. - I have lent him. The word lent spoils the meaning: Hannah really in these two verses uses the same verb four times, though in different conjugations, and the same sense must be maintained throughout. Her words are, "For this child I prayed, and Jehovah hath given me my asking which I asked of him: and I also have given back what was asked to Jehovah; as long as he liveth he is asked for Jehovah." The conjugation translated to give back what was asked literally means to make to ask, and so to give or lend anything asked. The sense here requires the restoration by Hannah of what she had prayed for (comp. Exodus 12:35, 36), but which she had asked not for herself, but that she might devote it to Jehovah's service. At the end of ver. 28 the sing. "he worshipped" is rendered in the pl. by all the versions except the Sept., which omits it. But he, i.e. Elkanah, includes all his household, and it may be correctly translated in the pl., because the sense so requires, without altering the reading of the Hebrew. In the sing. it puts an unnecessary difficulty in the way of the ordinary reader.