In this book we have an account of Eli, and the wickedness of his sons; also of Samuel, his character and actions. Then of the advancement of Saul to be the king of Israel, and his ill behaviour, until his death made way for David's succession to the throne, who was an eminent type of Christ. David's patience, modesty, constancy, persecution by open enemies and feigned friends, are a pattern and example to the church, and to every member of it. Many things in this book encourage the faith, hope, and patience of the suffering believer. It contains also many useful cautions and awful warnings.
Elkanah and his family. (1-8) Hannah's prayer. (9-18) Samuel, Hannah presents him to the Lord. (19-28)
Verses 1-8 Elkanah kept up his attendance at God's altar, notwithstanding the unhappy differences in his family. If the devotions of a family prevail not to put an end to its divisions, yet let not the divisions put a stop to the devotions. To abate our just love to any relation for the sake of any infirmity which they cannot help, and which is their affliction, is to make God's providence quarrel with his precept, and very unkindly to add affliction to the afflicted. It is evidence of a base disposition, to delight in grieving those who are of a sorrowful spirit, and in putting those out of humour who are apt to fret and be uneasy. We ought to bear one another's burdens, not add to them. Hannah could not bear the provocation. Those who are of a fretful spirit, and are apt to lay provocations too much to heart, are enemies to themselves, and strip themselves of many comforts both of life and godliness. We ought to notice comforts, to keep us from grieving for crosses. We should look at that which is for us, as well as what is against us.
Verses 9-18 Hannah mingled tears with her prayers; she considered the mercy of our God, who knows the troubled soul. God gives us leave, in prayer, not only to ask good things in general, but to mention that special good thing we most need and desire. She spoke softly, none could hear her. Hereby she testified her belief of God's knowledge of the heart and its desires. Eli was high priest, and judge in Israel. It ill becomes us to be rash and hasty in censures of others, and to think people guilty of bad things while the matter is doubtful and unproved. Hannah did not retort the charge, and upbraid Eli with the wicked conduct of his own sons. When we are at any time unjustly censured, we have need to set a double watch before the door of our lips, that we do not return censure for censure. Hannah thought it enough to clear herself, and so must we. Eli was willing to acknowledge his mistake. Hannah went away with satisfaction of mind. She had herself by prayer committed her case to God, and Eli had prayed for her. Prayer is heart's ease to a gracious soul. Prayer will smooth the countenance; it should do so. None will long remain miserable, who use aright the privilege of going to the mercy-seat of a reconciled God in Christ Jesus.
Verses 19-28 Elkanah and his family had a journey before them, and a family of children to take with them, yet they would not move till they had worshipped God together. Prayer and provender do not hinder a journey. When men are in such haste to set out upon journeys, or to engage in business, that they have not time to worship God, they are likely to proceed without his presence and blessing. Hannah, though she felt a warm regard for the courts of God's house, begged to stay at home. God will have mercy, and not sacrifice. Those who are detained from public ordinances, by the nursing and tending of little children, may take comfort from this instance, and believe, that if they do that duty in a right spirit, God will graciously accept them therein. Hannah presented her child to the Lord with a grateful acknowledgment of his goodness in answer to prayer. Whatever we give to God, it is what we have first asked and received from him. All our gifts to him were first his gifts to us. The child Samuel early showed true piety. Little children should be taught to worship God when very young. Their parents should teach them in it, bring them to it, and put them on doing it as well as they can; God will graciously accept them, and will teach them to do better.
1 Samuel 1:1-8 . OF ELKANAH AND HIS TWO WIVES.
1, 2. a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim--The first word being in the dual number, signifies the double city--the old and new town of Ramah ( 1 Samuel 1:19 ). There were five cities of this name, all on high ground. This city had the addition of Zophim attached to it, because it was founded by Zuph, "an Ephrathite," that is a native of Ephratha. Beth-lehem, and the expression "of Ramathaim-zophim" must, therefore, be understood as Ramah in the land of Zuph in the hill country of Ephratha. Others, considering "mount Ephraim" as pointing to the locality in Joseph's territory, regard "Zophim" not as a proper but a common noun, signifying watchtowers, or watchmen, with reference either to the height of its situation, or its being the residence of prophets who were watchmen ( Ezekiel 3:17 ). Though a native of Ephratha or Beth-lehem-judah, Elkanah was a Levite ( 1 Chronicles 6:33 1 Chronicles 6:34 ). Though of this order, and a good man, he practised polygamy. This was contrary to the original law, but it seems to have been prevalent among the Hebrews in those days, when there was no king in Israel, and every man did what seemed right in his own eyes [ Judges 21:25 ].
3. this man went up out of his city yearly to worship in Shiloh--In that place was the "earth's one sanctuary," and thither he repaired at the three solemn feasts, accompanied by his family at one of them--probably the passover. Although a Levite, he could not personally offer a sacrifice--that was exclusively the office of the priests; and his piety in maintaining a regular attendance on the divine ordinances is the more worthy of notice because the character of the two priests who administered them was notoriously bad. But doubtless he believed, and acted on the belief, that the ordinances were "effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in those who administered them, but from the grace of God being communicated through them."
4. when . . . Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah . . . portions--The offerer received back the greater part of the peace offerings, which he and his family or friends were accustomed to eat at a social feast Elkanah gave portions to all the members of his family; but "unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion"; that is, a larger choice, according to the Eastern fashion of showing regard to beloved or distinguished
6. her adversary also provoked her sore--The conduct of Peninnah was most unbecoming. But domestic broils in the houses of polygamists are of frequent occurrence, and the most fruitful cause of them has always been jealousy of the husband's superior affection, as in this case of Hannah.
1 Samuel 1:9-18 . HANNAH'S PRAYER.
11. she prayed . . . she vowed a vow--Here is a specimen of the intense desire that reigned in the bosoms of the Hebrew women for children. This was the burden of Hannah's prayer; and the strong preference she expressed for a male child originated in her purpose of dedicating him to the tabernacle service. The circumstance of his birth bound him to this; but his residence within the precincts of the sanctuary would have to commence at an earlier age than usual, in consequence of the Nazarite vow.
12-18. Eli marked her mouth--The suspicion of the aged priest seems to indicate that the vice of intemperance was neither uncommon nor confined to one sex in those times of disorder. This mistaken impression was immediately removed, and, in the words, "God grant," or rather, "will grant," was followed by an invocation which, as Hannah regarded it in the light of a prophecy pointing to the accomplishment of her earnest desire, dispelled her sadness, and filled her with confident hope ( 1 Samuel 1:18 ). The character and services of the expected child were sufficiently important to make his birth a fit subject for prophecy.
1 Samuel 1:20 . SAMUEL BORN.
20. called his name Samuel--doubtless with her husband's consent. The names of children were given sometimes by the fathers, and sometimes by the mothers (see Genesis 4:1 Genesis 4:26 , 5:29 , 19:37 , 21:3 ); and among the early Hebrews, they were commonly compound names, one part including the name of God.
21. the man Elkanah . . . went up to offer . . . his vow--The solemn expression of his concurrence in Hannah's vow was necessary to make it
22. But Hannah went not up--Men only were obliged to attend the solemn feasts ( Exodus 23:17 ). But Hannah, like other pious women, was in the habit of going, only she deemed it more prudent and becoming to defer her next journey till her son's age would enable her to fulfill her vow.
24. three bullocks--The Septuagint renders it "a bullock of three years old"; which is probably the true rendering.