1 SAMUEL CHAPTER 1
1 Elkanah a Levite, having two wives, worshipeth yearly at Shiloh. 4 He cherisheth Hannah, though barren, and provoked by Peninnah. 9 Hannah in grief prayeth for a child. 12 Eli first rebuking her, afterwards blesseth her. 19 Hannah having born Samuel, stayeth at home till he be weaned. 24 She presenteth him, according to her vow, to the Lord.
Verse 1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.
Now. From the Hebrew word that is usually translated “and,” but also “now,” “then,” or “but,” according to the context.
It does not necessarily connect this book with preceding writings. Ezekiel, for instance, opens with the same word, yet no one claims that book to be merely a continuation of some previous work.
Ramathaim-zophim. Literally, “two high places of the watchmen,” or, “twin heights of the Zuphites,” indicating either twin cities or perhaps two sections of the same city, for in 1:19 and 2:11 Ramathaim-zophim is referred to simply as Ramah.
The location of Ramah, the home of Samuel, is not known. For a consideration of the various proposed sites, see Additional Note at close of chapter.
Elkanah. Literally, “whom God has bought.” A Levite (1 Chron. 6:33–38; compare 22–28; PP 569) of the family of Kohath who lived in the tribe of Ephraim.
It is interesting to find that Samuel was a descendant of Korah (1 Chron. 6:33–38), who so violently opposed the Lord’s decision to make Aaron’s sons priests (see Num. 16).
Here is evidence that children are not punished for the sins of their fathers, but that “every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deut. 24:16).
Verse 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
The name Hannah signifies “graciousness,” whereas Penninah means “one with rich hair.”
At this period in the world’s history polygamy was considered ethical, and God permitted it (see on Deut. 14:26).
Yet because of financial restrictions only the well-to-do class and kings seem to have indulged in plural marriages.
Rulers sought to secure peace through sending a princess to the harem of another monarch.
But instead of peace the practice of polygamy often brought intrigue, jealousy, and failure to both royal harem and private home.
In New Testament times polygamy rendered a man unfit for any religious office (1 Tim. 3:2, 12).
Verse 3 This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there.
Went up. Since he lived perhaps only 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the tabernacle in Shiloh, it was natural for Elkanah, a Levite, to be regular in his attendance at the three feasts of the year (see on Ex. 23:14–17; Lev. 23:2), and especially at the first and most important one, the Passover, in the early spring.
This feast, typifying the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, also pointed their hearts forward to the great antitypical Passover Lamb, Jesus, who through His great sacrifice provided the way for man’s redemption from the house of spiritual bondage (1 Cor. 5:7).
Although his services were not required at the sanctuary, yet, like many another Levite during the period of the judges (Judges 17:8, 9), Elkanah went up as a common Israelite with his own sacrifices to encourage his neighbors and set them a good example.
Though he lived in the midst of an evil environment, his spirituality was evidently at a high level.
Even though Hophni and Phinehas were corrupt, Elkanah was faithful in his worship and in the offering of his sacrifices.
This was also true of Anna and Simeon in the days of Christ (Luke 2:25–38).
The same should be true in modern times. One’s allegiance to Christ is not to be dependent on the works of others.
Sons of Eli. Even at this early date nepotism—favoritism to one’s relatives in making appointments to office—had taken a firm hold on Israel.
While the specter (ghost)of unemployment faced the Levites scattered in every tribe, three members of Eli’s family—the father and two sons—secured a living, irrespective of the fact that two of them were not morally qualified for the office.
Such a miscarriage of justice is always a contributing factor to discontent and revolution.
Verses 4-6 And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb.
A double portion. Literally, “one portion of two faces.” Elkanah exerted every influence at his command to bring unity, giving each member of his family a “portion.”
To show publicly that it was not his wish that Hannah should be barren, he gave her a double portion, as if she had a child (see PP 569).
Provoked her severely. Peninnah’s attitude was due, in part, to Elkanah’s well-intentioned generosity.
Even as in the case of Satan in heaven, jealousy over attentions offered another, whether in the home or elsewhere, breeds a taunting, exasperating malice that finds expression in the icicle drippings of ridicule.
Such tauntings not only deprived Hannah of appetite but also caused her to refrain from partaking of the feast.
Was it because she felt unworthy, as Aaron did after the death of his sons, Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:19)?
Did she not need the spiritual blessings of the feast all the more, under the circumstances?
It might also be asked, How much of the blessing of the feast had Peninnah received, seeing she permitted herself to taunt her fellow?
Such a situation was comparable to that mentioned by Christ in the story of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:10–14).
However, like the publican, Hannah did not render railing for railing, but kept the trouble wholly to herself and gave way to quiet tears.
Verses 7-9 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. 8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” 9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord.
Hannah rose up. Hannah did not harden herself in sorrow and self-pity, nor grow sullen when spoken to by her husband, but manifested a commendable degree of self-control. She found refuge at the sanctuary.
Verses 10,11 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. 11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
Give him to the Lord. Hannah’s acceptance of God’s spiritual gift to her through the feast impelled her plea for a more tangible gift—a son—promising that such a gift would be immediately returned to the Lord, holy and consecrated to Him.
Perhaps God had waited long for such a surrender; He could have opened her womb before, but was she ready to bear the responsibility?
Worldly wisdom teaches that prayer is not essential, that there can be no real answer to prayer, that this would violate natural law, and that miracles just cannot be.
It is part of God’s plan to grant, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not otherwise bestow (GC 525). Why?
Because it is part of Heaven’s plan that man voluntarily surrender as fully to the infilling and outworking of the Holy Spirit as did Christ when He was here on earth.
So far as God was concerned it was not necessary for Abraham to wait 25 years for the fulfilling of the divine covenant. When the patriarch came to the place where he could enter fully into Heaven’s plan for him, God was able to turn all past failures into steppingstones of blessing. So it was with Hannah.
But God did not speak to her through an angel; He used the appointed medium of the priesthood, even though it was imperfect and in need of reformation.
God recognized the fact that Hannah’s natural desire for offspring had finally been absorbed in a passion for devoting the most precious of gifts to Him, and He answered her petition through Eli.
Verses 12-14 And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth. 13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”
Drunk. Eli, the guardian of the sanctuary and the chief authority in law and religion, judged from circumstantial evidence rather than from the heartthrobs of his worshipers.
He was measuring Hannah by the criterion of his own experience with his sons, yet he was not past the point where he could understand the unfolding revelation of God.
Through Hannah’s experience the Holy Spirit revealed to him that God looks upon the motives of the heart.
Verses 15,16 But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”
Do not consider. With calm self-possession under the sting of such a rebuke, with gentleness of spirit, and with respectful deference to one in authority, Hannah delicately referred to the private sorrows that had occasioned his misapprehension, and fearlessly affirmed her innocence.
It was the same spirit in which Christ answered His accusers.
Verse 17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”
Go in peace. Peace comes only on the cessation of hostilities, on full victory or surrender.
Having made such a surrender to the Lord, Hannah found that the animosity and jestings of Peninnah lost their sting.
With her Saviour she could say, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Eli was quick to recognize the hand of God, and was moved by the Holy Spirit to indicate divine approval.
Christ exemplified the true spirit of love and discrimination, and would impart that same spirit to His undershepherds.
But whether or not they receive it, whether or not they pass it on to others, nothing can prevent the most lowly sheep of His pasture from hearing His voice and following Him.
Hannah was not dependent on circumstances; she rested her case with God—and an answer came forthwith.
Verses 18-20 And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. 19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the Lord.”
Samuel. The name means “heard of God,” and like other personal names in the Bible, it was full of significance. “Samuel” was a memorial of her request to the Lord, a reminder of her pledge, and a recognition of God’s approval.
Time was to demonstrate the truth of all this. From his earliest childhood Samuel recognized that he was the servant of the Lord.
Verses 21,22 Now the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever.”
Hannah did not go up. Samuel was looked upon by his mother not merely as a child but as an offering to God.
Therefore she sought to have him trained for God from his earliest infancy.
She ministered to his physical needs with much care and prayer, directing his thoughts toward the Lord of hosts from the very earliest age.
That she might the more perfectly fulfill her trust, she did not visit Shiloh till after he was weaned.
How far reaching is the influence of a mother in Israel Whether she be an exile and a slave, like Jochebed the mother of Moses, or the persecuted member of a Levite home in Canaan, her moments are priceless.
Realizing this, Hannah began to work not only for time but for eternity. It was her responsibility to impress upon a human soul the image of the divine. Thus it was also with Mary the mother of Jesus.
More than once there has been entrusted to a handmaiden of the Lord the task of reviving the decadent faith of a sin-loving and discouraged people who have failed to realize that God makes use of the weak things of the world to confound the wise.
Meditate on Jochebed’s consecration to her task, on Hannah’s clear vision as she brought Samuel into the world, or on Mary’s sense of solemn responsibility as she replied to the angel’s message, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).
But even with the most earnest thought on the part of the mother, the child still has to make his own choice in life. So it was with Samson, for instance.
Yet even Samson, after a long period of self-serving, caught a vision of God that led him to give his life with no thought of return, a consecration that placed him in the great galaxy of those who triumphed through faith, as recorded in the 11th chapter of Hebrews.
How true it is that the very ones whom God proposes to use as His instruments for a special work, Satan seeks to employ, to lead astray.
For ever. See on Ex. 12:14; 21:6. By “for ever” Hannah meant that Samuel was to be a Nazirite for life (1 Sam. 1:11; see also on Gen. 49:26; Num. 6:2).
A fragment from the book of 1 Samuel found in the fourth cave at Khirbet Qumrân and published in 1954 specifically states that Samuel was a Nazirite.
Verse 23 So Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the Lord establish His word.” Then the woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
Her husband said. Elkanah consented to the vow of his wife (Num. 30:6, 7), and according to 1 Sam. 1:21, made it his own (see on Num. 30:6).
The Lord establish. That is, “May the plan of the Lord for Samuel come to pass” God had already acknowledged His part in the fulfillment of Hannah’s prayer and vow.
Elkanah believed (1) that God had indeed spoken by Eli (17); (2) that Samuel’s birth confirmed the divine origin of Eli’s promise (20); and (3) that the promise would be completely fulfilled in Samuel’s life of ministry.
Much depends upon the cooperation of husband and wife in the Christian home.
Elkanah was deeply touched by the consecration of his wife and heartily joined her in her desire.
He is an excellent example of Paul’s admonition, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25).
He assumed responsibility for her vow and associated himself most intimately with it, yet recognized her freedom of choice and desired that her choice of consecration to God meet with success.
His attitude illustrates the desire in the heart of Christ to work with each man in such a way as to enable him to express his own individuality, and thereby reveal to the universe the prismatic beauty of the divine character.
Verses 24,25 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli.
Elkanah’s sacrifice presented in fulfillment of the vow (vs. 11, 21) consisted of a bullock, with its requisite cereal and wine offerings (Num. 15:9, 10).
Because Elkanah and Hannah brought a whole ephah of flour, and the amount required for one bullock was three tenths of an ephah (Num. 15:8–10), it is probable that the bullock mentioned in v. 25 was the burnt offering with which the child Samuel was consecrated to the Lord, and that the other two bullocks were sacrificed as the accompanying sin offering and peace offering, each of which would require three tenths of an ephah of flour.
Verses 26,27 And she said, “O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. 28 Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.” So they worshiped the Lord there.
This child. Samuel’s age when he was weaned is not known. It is a common thing in the Orient for a child to continue nursing till he is three years old, and it is quite possible that Isaac, for example, could have been five years old when Abraham held the feast at which he made Isaac his heir (see Gen. 21:8).
Since Hannah had not attended the feast since Samuel’s birth, Eli had probably forgotten the incident.
According to this verse Hannah had not told Eli the nature of her request, but now with great joy she proceeded to do so.
In giving expression to her joy she made a turn on the Hebrew word sha‘al, “to ask,” using different forms of the verb.
Translated literally the text reads, “Concerning this child I interposed myself, and the Lord has given me my asking which I asked of him, and I am also constrained to ask him for the Lord. As long as he lives he is asked for the Lord.”
Hannah recognized with joy that her gift to God was first His gift to her. She could say with David, “Of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chron. 29:14).
It was such love as this that led Ruth to exclaim, “The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:17), and Paul to affirm, “To me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21).
ADDITIONAL NOTE ON CHAPTER 1
The exact location of Ramathaim-zophim, the home of Samuel, is not known. Various sites have been suggested:
(1) Beit Rima in Ephraim, 11 mi. (18 km.) west of Shiloh, where the mountains of central Palestine fall away to the rolling hills of the Shephelah, or possibly 5 mi. (8 km.) farther west at Renṭis;
(2) er–Rām in Benjamin, about 5 1/2 mi. (8.8 km.) north of Jerusalem on the road to Shechem;
(3) Ramallah in Ephraim, 9 mi. (14.4 km.) north by west of Jerusalem, 12 mi. (19.2 km.) south by west of Shiloh, and 1 3/4 mi. (2.8 km.) southwest of Bethel.
Beit Rima, 11 mi. (17.6 km.) west of Shiloh, and Renṭis, even farther west, were too far distant from Gibeah of Saul (in Benjamin) to be Samuel’s home (1 Sam. 9:1 to 10:9; cf. PP 608, 609).
Saul would not have been looking for his father’s asses 25 or 30 mi. from home within two days of the time they had been missed, nor would it have been possible for him and his servant to search all the hills, valleys, and ravines of that mountainous terrain by the third day.
Other cities by the name of Ramah in Asher (Joshua 19:29), Naphthali (Joshua 19:36), Simeon (Joshua 19:8), and Manasseh (Ramoth-gilead, Deut. 4:43, cf. 2 Kings 8:29; 2 Chron. 22:6) are even farther away and therefore impossible.
The weight of evidence seems to favor Ramallah, in the mountains of southern Ephraim, near the Benjamin border.
A town located in this vicinity meets all known specifications for the home of Samuel.
The Ramah of Judges 4:5, near which was the palm tree of Deborah, was not far from Bethel; as noted, Ramallah, about 1 3/4 mi. (2.8 km.) southwest of Bethel, could not be the Ramah of Benjamin, for the writer would then have named any one of several towns closer to Ramah of Benjamin than Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim.
Samuel was born at Ramah (1 Sam. 1:1, 19, 20; PP 572). It was here that he served Israel as priest, prophet, and judge, and that he established one of the two original schools of the prophets (1 Sam. 7:17; 8:4; 15:34; 19:18–20; PP 593, 604).
This was evidently the unnamed town where Saul met Samuel for the first time and was anointed king (9:5, 6, 11, 14, 18; PP 608, 609). Here Samuel died and was buried (1 Sam. 25:1; 28:3).
The Ramah of Samuel was also known as Ramathaim-zophim (1 Sam. 1:1, 19), in the “land of Zuph” (1 Sam. 9:5; cf. PP 608, 609).
Zuph was a descendant of Levi through Kohath, and an ancestor of Samuel in the fifth generation (1 Chron. 6:33–38).
In the division of Canaan the Kohathite Levites were assigned cities in various tribes, including Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim (see Joshua 21:4, 5; 1 Chron. 6:54–70).
The district in which the descendants of Zuph—the Zophites—lived would properly be known as the “land of Zuph” (1 Sam. 1:1; 9:5), and their city, Ramah, as Ramathaim-zophim, literally, “Ramathaim of the Zophites.”
Elkanah, Samuel’s father, was “of mount Ephraim,” and probably, like his ancestor Zuph, an Ephrathite (1 Sam. 1:1).
An Ephrathite was a resident either of Bethlehem (Ruth 1:2; 1 Sam. 17:12) or of Ephraim (1 Kings 11:26).
Elkanah was apparently an Ephrathite in the latter sense. Mt. Ephraim was simply the mountainous region within the boundaries of the tribal allotment of Ephraim, and did not properly include any part of the mountains of Benjamin (see Judges 18:12, 13; 19:13–16; 1 Sam. 9:4).
No place in Benjamin is spoken of in the Bible as being in “mount Ephraim.”
Later the Lord described Saul to Samuel as “a man out of the land of Benjamin” (1 Sam. 9:16).
Furthermore, when Saul left Ramah, the home of Samuel, in Mt. Ephraim, he crossed the border of Benjamin in order to reach his own home at Gibeah, in Benjamin (1 Sam. 10:2–9; PP 608, 609).
Some have identified the unnamed city of 1 Sam. 9:1 to 10:9 as Bethlehem.
This identification is based on the statement of Gen. 35:16–19 that Rachel was buried “but a little way” from “Ephrath, which is Beth-lehem,” and the reference of 1 Sam 10:2 to Rachel’s tomb as being “in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah.”
But, as with Ramah, the exact site of Rachel’s tomb is not known. It was on the road between Bethel and Bethlehem (Gen. 35:16–19), a distance of something more than 15 mi. (24 km.).
But the Hebrew of Gen. 35:16, “a little way to come to Ephrath,” reads literally, “some distance from Ephrath,” and seems to imply some considerable distance (see on Gen. 35:16).
The traditional site of Rachel’s tomb, 1 1/8 mi. (1.8 km.) north by west from Bethlehem, would be about 4 mi. (6.4 km.) from the Benjamin border.
But according to the Hebrew of 1 Sam. 10:2, Rachel’s tomb was much closer to the border than this, possibly even within the boundaries of Benjamin.
If, however, the northern rather than the southern border of Benjamin be understood, there is harmony with both the Hebrew of Gen. 35:16 and the location of Zelzah north of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah’s mention of the voice of “Rahel weeping for her children” (Jer. 31:15; cf. Gen. 35:16–19) being heard “in Ramah” implies that Rachel’s tomb was not far from Ramah, and this agrees with Samuel’s instructions to Saul in 1 Sam. 10:2.
But the traditional site near Bethlehem would be more than 9 mi. (14.4 km.) from Ramah in Benjamin and nearly 13 mi. (20.8 km.) from Ramallah in Ephraim. Jeremiah’s reference to “Rahel weeping for her children” is based on the historical incident of the assembling of Judean captives at Ramah in preparation for the journey to Babylon (see Jer. 31:1–17; 40:1).
The prophetic application of Jeremiah’s statement is made in Matt. 2:18 (see on Deut. 18:15). Unless this Ramah was near Rachel’s tomb, Jeremiah’s reference to “Rahel weeping for her children” would be rather pointless. His further reference to Samaria and Mt. Ephraim (Jer. 31:5, 6) seems to call for a Ramah near the border of Benjamin and Ephraim, and this corroborates the information given in 1 Sam. 10:2.
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
1–28 PP 569-571
3 SR 184
8, 10, 14–17, 20 PP 570
22 PP 592
27, 28 PP 571
28 5T 304