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.
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.