1 Samuel 1:1-8
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 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.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: