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THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- I & II CHRONICLES --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH---ESTHER---PSALMS 1-73--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

Commentary on SAMUEL (or 1 & 2 Samuel)

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

Introduction (to be read).

The book of Samuel (which in the original Hebrew text was one book, but was divided into 1 & 2 Samuel by the translators of the Septuagint so as to fit onto scrolls) is a compilation from a number of contemporary prophetic sources, which have been brought together to form a continuous whole. They form a complete history from the birth of Samuel to the closing years of the reign of David. We may summarise the book as follows:

  • 1). The Birth, Rise, Prophetic Ministry And Judgeship of Samuel (1-12).
  • 2). The Reign of Saul As King Until His Rejection. His Successes And The Reasons For His Rejection By YHWH (13-15).
  • 3). The Anointing Of David: His Rise, His Successes And His Preservation by YHWH In The Face Of All Saul’s Attempts To Destroy Him (16-31).
  • 4) The Reign Of David Over Israel (2 Samuel).

It is thus the story of three men and what happened as a result of God’s activity in their lives. It is finally a reminder that it is not enough for a man to be outwardly suitable. The real test lies in the heart that believes and obeys.

But we may see the book from another angle, and that is as a portrayal of how history continually goes forward, with sinful man equally continually marring the work of God, and of how God constantly intervenes in that history through men of the Spirit so that the spiritual decay is counteracted for those who are truly His. Thus we may also summarise the book as follows:

  • The birth of Samuel in readiness for the work that lies before him (1.1-2.10).
  • A period describing the wickedness of the unbelieving priests who ran the Tabernacle, and how they brought judgment on sinful Israel, interspersed with the growth and development of Samuel (2.11-4.1a).
  • The adventures of the Ark due to the sinfulness of Israel and the way that through it YHWH reveals His Kingship (4.1b-7.1).
  • The life and judgeship of Samuel and his deliverance of Israel from the Philistines (7.2-17).
  • The disobedience of Israel in seeking for a king, and that king’s subsequent disobedience resulting in his rejection by God (8.1-15.35).
  • God’s raising of David to remedy the failures of Saul (16.1-18.30).
  • The continuing attempts of Saul to destroy David and prevent his succession which go on until Saul’s death (19.1-31.13).
  • The final triumph of David and his reign, including both its victories and its failures (2 Samuel).

In this analysis we see the ups and downs of history and a description of times which seemed to suggest inevitable failure, followed by times when God intervened through chosen servants in order to take history forward in accordance with His will. Thus there are many black spots and periods of failure in the book, but always God finally brings His people through to ultimate success. It is thus a book that we can turn to when life seems bleak, because from it we can gain the confidence that God will triumph in the end.

The Sources of The Book.

Some idea of the kind of sources that may have been used in writing ‘Samuel’ is indicated in the book of Chronicles which refers to ‘the words of Samuel the seer (roeh - ‘one who sees’), the chronicle of Nathan the prophet, and the chronicle of Gad the seer (chozeh - ‘one who gazes’)’ (1 Chronicles 29.29). ‘Roeh’ was the earlier title as found in the first part of Samuel, but as not then found again until cited in the book of Chronicles, chozeh was the later title. This verse thus provides evidence which suggests that Samuel himself certainly wrote a history of some kind, a history which was presumably preserved in the School of the Prophets, and then in the Tabernacle and the Temple, and there can really be little doubt therefore that this was one valuable source from which the first part of this book was compiled. Samuel also wrote ‘the charter of the kingdom’ and similarly ‘laid it up before YHWH’ (1 Samuel 10.25). There may, however, have been other prophetic writings which were written at the same time, say by ‘the sons of the prophets’, although these are conjectural. They may have included, for example, a record of the activities of the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH in its goings. The Ark had led the people through the wilderness in triumph (Numbers 10.35-36) and it may well have been carried into battle more than once, although the impression gained from Samuel is that such an action was unusual (1 Samuel 4.13).

The other two sources mentioned in Chronicles, ‘the chronicle of Nathan the prophet, and the chronicle of Gad the seer (chozeh)’, would also appear to have been contemporary with some of the events described, for Nathan and Gad were both official members of David’s court and advised him at different times (2 Samuel 7.2 ff; 12.2 ff, 25; 24.11 ff; 1 Kings 1.8 ff). Nor must we forget that David had lived with Samuel and the sons of the prophets at Naioth where he had specifically recounted to them his experiences (1 Samuel 19.18), and that during his days when he was in hiding Gad had kept in constant touch with him (1 Samuel 22.5). Note how Gad knew exactly where to find him. Thus the prophets had full knowledge of what was going on.

It would appear from all this that the prophets considered it to be one of their responsibilities to ensure that the divine histories were recorded (compare also 2 Chronicles 12.15; 13.22; 20.34; 26.22; 32.32; 33.18-19). Additionally to this, it is clear that by the time of David’s reign official court records were being maintained (2 Samuel 8.16). These would include the details of important events that occurred during his reign, and information concerning his officials and mighty men, in line with a general tendency in the Ancient Near East. Supplementing these would be the records preserved from the earliest times, which included information about the wars in which Israel engaged, preserved, for example, in the continually maintained Book of Jashar (Joshua 10.13; 2 Samuel 1.18) and the Book of the Wars of YHWH (Numbers 21.14). Compare also Exodus 17.14. .

The combined name given to the books (‘Samuel’) reflects the fact of the importance of Samuel in the sacred history. That is why his name is given to the whole book. They commence with details of the birth, growth and judgeship of Samuel, and then they describe the lives of the two kings whom he anointed as ‘YHWH’s Anointed’ to be king over Israel. They thus reflect his life and what resulted from it in his proteges, Saul and David. Samuel is seen as the king-maker supreme, the instrument of YHWH whose actions would finally lead to full deliverance for Israel from its enemies.

Which of the prophets actually brought the parts together in one whole we will probably never know, but it was clearly in line with what was expected of the prophetic function that it be done. That is why, to Israel, these ‘historical books’ were known as ‘the former prophets’.

The Date Of The Final Compilation.

The Hebrew text suggests an early date for its compilation, for it is written in pure Hebrew free from Aramaisms and late forms. There are certain indications that might suggest that its final completion took place during the reign of Rehoboam, although it must be pointed out that some of these indications may have been due to an updating of an original earlier compilation. Thus:

  • 1). An archaic term is explained in 1 Samuel 9.9 and reference is possibly made to what was by then an obsolete custom (2 Samuel 13.18 - although this could equally be simply an explanation to those unfamiliar with the court). However either of these might merely indicate an updating of the original.
  • 2). The common occurrence of ‘unto this day’ (1 Samuel 5.5; 6.18; 27.6; 30.25; 2 Samuel 4.3; 6.8; 18.18). How far this is significant depends on what we see such a phrase as indicating. In common parlance it can indicate a fairly short period of time. (We might say of someone, ‘he promised to do it and has not done it to this day’, indicating a period of say six months or even less).
  • 3). The length of time necessary before a proper historical perspective can be taken of successive events and their relationship with each other. But this would only require a few years in a discerning person, and Solomon’s reign was one in which many rejoiced in the accomplishments of David.
  • 4). It must clearly have taken place after the death of David for it includes almost his whole reign (see 2 Samuel 5.5).
  • 5). The LXX version of Samuel reads in 2 Samuel 8.7, ‘And Shishak king of Egypt took them when he came up against Jerusalem in the days of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon’, and in 2 Samuel 14.27, ‘And she (Tamar) became the wife of Rehoboam the son of Solomon and bore him Abia’. However, these do not reflect the Hebrew text that we have (the subject of their relationship is complex) and may be later additions resulting from a time when a longer version was written.
  • 6). The mention of ‘the kings of Judah’ in 1 Samuel 27.6 might be seen as reflecting the division of the kingdoms into Israel and Judah. On the other hand the treaty under which the city of Ziklag was signed over may have mentioned ‘David of Judah’ in which case ‘kings of Judah’ could simply be seen as reflecting David and Solomon, as those who ruled over Judah and to whom thus the treaty right belonged. Judah’s partial separation from the remainder of Israel, even before the division of the kingdoms, is in fact made clear throughout Samuel (11.8; 17.52; 18.16).

Depending on how we see the above we may consider that the compilation was made during either the reign of Solomon or Rehoboam. There is nothing in the narrative that requires a later date.

The Relationship Of Samuel To The History Of Israel.

After the deliverance of Egypt from Israel by Moses, (recorded in Exodus to Deuteronomy), we have seen how Joshua entered Canaan and swept through it triumphantly, enabling Israel to settle in the land (a situation recorded in Joshua). However, his victories did not remove the enemy completely, nor did he conquer all the major cities, or permanently occupy all that he did conquer, even though he defeated their forces in battle, and once he had moved on to other conquests the defeated armies would make their way back to their cities and re-establish themselves. What Joshua did accomplish, however, was to prevent them from interfering with Israel’s occupation of available land. Canaan was heavily forested all over, apart from the coastal plain, and the mountain region (hill country) was relatively free from occupation (see Joshua 17.15, 17-18), so while an influx of peoples at this level was not welcome, it was more difficult to prevent, and it was due to the victories of Joshua that it could not be prevented.

Then, once they had settled in, Israel in their enclaves grew stronger and stronger and it was at this point that they failed to obey God, remain united, and drive the Canaanites out of the land (Judges 1). Israel thus found themselves continually intermingling with the inhabitants of Canaan and learning from them their seemingly more sophisticated ways, as described in the first chapter of the Book of Judges. Meanwhile the Philistines had arrived from overseas as one of the Sea peoples, had attempted to invade Egypt, but had been repulsed, and the result was that many of them had settled in the Coastal Plain (this was around 1200 BC), being ruled by five ‘Tyrants’ (seren - a word reserved for the leaders of the Philistines).

The result of all this was that Israel, having settled in the land and having been divided up into sections, separated to some extent from each other by the terrain and by the inhabitants of the land, became vulnerable to outside enemies, a situation described throughout the Book of Judges, which enables us to see how fragmented they had become. It does, however, also reveal that some of the tribes (Judges 5), and sometimes all (Judges 20-21), did still come together when called on in an emergency, in accordance with the requirements of the tribal treaty. The Amphictyony (the tribal league) was still at least partly operative, and it was this that enabled their survival as a nation.

We do not know how long this period lasted, for while twelve judges are mentioned in the book of Judges (thirteen if we include Abimelech) it is unlikely that we are to see them as succeeding each other. Rather we are probably to see that some of them operated in different parts of Israel at the same time as others. These Judges, and their diverging authority, may be listed as follows:

Judge Oppression Peace Area Enemy
Othniel 8 years 40 years Judah Mesopotamia
Ehud18 years 80 years Benjamin Moab, Ammon, Amalek
Shamgar not stated not stated Judah? Philistines
Deborah after Ehud’s death 20 years 40 years Zebulun and Naphtali Hazor
Gideon 7 years 40 years half tribe of Manasseh Arabs
Abimelech after Gideon 3 years Shechem
Tola after Abimelech 23 years Issachar (Ephraim hill country)
Jair After Tola 22 years Gileadite
Jephthah18 years 6 years Gileadite Moab, Ammon
Ibzan 7 years Bethlehem
Elon 10 years Zebulun
Abdon 8 years Ephraim
Samson 40 years 20 years Dan and Judah Philistines

In looking at this list it appears that:

  • 1). No judge appears to have ruled the whole of Israel. So while they were able to call on other tribes for help in accordance with the requirements of the amphictyony (the treaty combining the twelve tribes), their actual jurisdiction appears to have been limited to their own particular area. Consider how after Ehud’s victory the land had rest for eighty years. And yet he appears to have been a mature man at the time of his victory. As it is not likely that he lived to be 120, this suggests that the unrest which followed his death (4.1) which occurred in a totally different part of Palestine, was within the eighty year period of rest in Ehud’s part of the land. Ehud’s part of the land was in fact not disturbed again until the time of Gideon.
  • 2). Where judges were appointed in different areas ‘after --’ need only mean ‘at a time after the appointment previously mentioned’ (even where the previous judges death is mentioned) except in the cases where ‘after his death’ or similar is specifically stated (4.1; 8.32 ff).
  • 3). The number 40 occurs so regularly that it must probably be seen as a round number, possibly signifying a generation (which would be closer to 25 years). This was how numbers were used in ancient times. People did not tend on the whole to be numerate or use numbers exactly beyond, say, ten or twenty. They were used to give an impression (as we would say ‘I have a thousand and one things to do today’).
  • 4). If we see Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali as indicating the north (affected by the northern Canaanites), Manasseh and Ephraim as indicating the centre (affected mainly by enemies coming across the Jordan through the Jericho pass, or by the Philistines), Judah/Dan as indicating the South (affected more by the Philistines, but also by those coming round the bottom of the Dead Sea), and Gilead as indicating Transjordan (affected largely by Moab, Ammon, and by Arab tribes), it will be clear that the judgeships had jurisdiction in different areas and that some could have overlapped, in each case at times having to deal with different enemies.

This being so it would be quite arbitrary to add up all the periods mentioned above in order to obtain an indication of how long the period of the judges was. Discernment needs rather to be used taking into account the above factors. The whole period may have been no longer than say 120 years and upwards.

For in considering the matter we do need to recognise the fact that in ancient times historians did not seek to synchronise lists as we would today. We can compare, for example, how the Egyptians simply listed each series of rulers and reigns separately one after the other, regardless of the fact that some were contemporary with each other (see the Turin Papyrus for an example). The same phenomenon occurs in Sumerian and Old Babylonian lists. They were not interested in synchronisation.

The Book of Samuel appears at first sight to take up where Judges leaves off. However it is more than probable that there is actually an overlap and that one or two of the later judges, Samson for example, were in operation during the time of Eli and Samuel (see below). There is no suggestion of either Eli or Samuel having specific jurisdiction in Transjordan, nor among the northern tribal areas, nor indeed in Judah who saw themselves as very much an independent group even though in loose affiliation with the remainder of the tribes. Note that Samuel’s circuit consisted of Bethel, Mizpah and Gilgal (7.16), that is, it is restricted to only the central region of Palestine. Of course his influence as a Prophet was wider, and when the necessity arose he was able to call on all of Israel to respond to the call to arms in an emergency. But the latter was true for all the tribal leaders and not unique to Samuel. Each tribe could call on assistance when required.

As a result of this the date at which the early chapters of Samuel commence is not easy to determine. If we seek to do it by dating downwards from the Exodus, the date of which is also uncertain, there is far too much uncertainty due to what has been said above.

But dating back presents similar difficulties, although not quite so complex. Much depends on how we interpret the round number ‘forty years’. If we take the date of Rehoboam’s accession as around 930 BC, based on the invasion by Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt (1 Kings 14.25) in around 925 BC, and add back around eighty years for the reigns of David and Solomon (although in each case ‘forty years’ is probably a round number) and a further forty for Saul (although this may be slightly high), we get back to a date for Saul’s accession of around 1050 BC. This may be slightly incorrect for the reasons mentioned, so that 1040-1035 BC is probably nearer the mark. This would then suggest that Samuel and his sons operated roughly around 1070-1030 BC and Eli roughly 1110-1070 BC, in each case give or take a few years. And as we have seen one or two of the other judges may well have been operating during the periods of Eli and Samuel. Thus the ‘forty years’ in Judges 13.1 may well have ended at the battle of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 7.12-13), in which case Samson lived (although in captivity for the last part) during the lifetime of Eli and even during the early years of Samuel. It must be recognised that most of these dates are tentative, but they do give a general idea of when all this happened. At this time the generally weak twentieth and twenty first dynasties were reigning in Egypt and apart from occasional forays could largely be ignored.

The Message of the Book of Samuel.

The initial chapter of the book is of great importance theologically. The birth of a child as the result of a ‘miraculous’ activity of God, especially as connected with prophecy, had always been heralded among God’s people as indicating the birth of someone of great importance in God’s ongoing purposes. Thus we have the birth of Isaac, the birth of Jacob, the birth of Samson and now the birth of Samuel, in all of which cases the birth occurred ‘beyond due time’. (Consider also the miraculous birth of the coming Anointed King (Isaiah 7.14), that of John the Baptist (Luke 1), and, of course, that of Jesus). This chapter therefore indicates that a new important stage in God’s purposes had taken place.

It was a very necessary stage. Israel were disunited and in disarray, the priesthood was failing, the Philistines were growing ever stronger and stronger and were seeking to establish an empire, and all was beginning to seem hopeless. And it was at this point that the young Samuel was born. He would be the one to whom Israel would look, and who would re-establish them after they had been humiliated by the Philistines. Yet interestingly enough both he and Eli would demonstrate the uselessness of depending on a permanent dynasty, for none of their sons proved suitable to take over from their fathers. No wonder Samuel was so dead set against the idea of kingship. He could hardly have been otherwise. For while he himself was the prime evidence that God could provide the leadership that was required when it was needed, and when the people were obedient to YHWH, his family also provided the evidence that dynasties could not be relied on.

It is doubtful, however, if most of Israel saw it in that way at the time. They saw rather the provision of kingship as leading up to the glorious reign of David who would be the pattern of all future kingship, followed by the glorious opening decades of Solomon’s reign. Saul, it is true, was a warning of what should be avoided, but David was seen as very much the image of the ideal king. That is why, whenever in the future they looked forward to an ideal king, they thought of him in terms of David.

But the author of Samuel was determined that amidst all that happened sight should not be lost of the Kingship of YHWH, and in chapters 4-7 of 1 Samuel there is a vivid portrayal of that Kingship in terms of the Ark of YHWH, which, bearing the Name of YHWH (2 Samuel 6.2), and having been despised by Israel and treated as a kind of talisman, proves itself powerful over the gods of Philistia, and is subsequently restored to Israel with all due honour, where it also brings judgment on disrespectful priests, until it is finally established in honour in the house of Abinadab, where it will remain in honour until the rising of YHWH’s true king. Meanwhile Samuel’s call to Israel to repent and turn from their idolatry is textually closely linked with the Ark’s presence (7.2-3), thus indicating that YHWH was no longer reigning in Israel through the Tabernacle and its priesthood, but through the prophet Samuel.

Saul also draws attention to its presence, an indication that it is not forgotten (14.18), and that does raise the question as to why, when the Tabernacle was re-established (chapter 21), the Ark was not restored to the Tabernacle by Saul (a fact commented on in 1 Chronicles 13.3). It may well have been because, once there was again a High Priest, he saw himself as rejected by YHWH and did not want the power of the priesthood fully restored. Thus the Ark was not to be restored for use in public worship (although even then not to the Tabernacle) until the rightful king, the king after God’s own heart, was on the throne (2 Samuel 6). Only then was YHWH again truly acknowledged as King over Israel.

Dual Narratives.

It has been argued by those who are interested in seeking to divide up the text which has been so carefully brought together, that Samuel is presented as having two incompatible faces, that of a local seer and that of a great prophet, whilst it is often also claimed that at the same time the appointment of Saul to kingship is outlined in such divergent ways that each contradicts the other. Both these suggestions, however, arise from a failure to appreciate that change on the scale depicted here required a process that gave the outward appearance of being confused and longwinded, simply because it was a mirror of life. Progress was never going to be easy. The fact is, of course, that Samuel was both a local seer and a great prophet. He was a man deeply concerned in the petty, local affairs of his people in situations where people often needed a ‘seer’ to guide them. He saw nothing as too low for him, even to the point of finding their asses. That was why the people loved him. But at the same time he proved himself fully capable of rising to the occasion when greater things were required.

Furthermore he was fully aware that the path to acceptability for a suitable war leader and ruler from among the people was never going to be easy. It was one thing for him to be asked to appoint a king. It was quite another to find a candidate who would be continually acceptable to all parties. We need to consider the difficulties. Each tribe was jealous for its own reputation, while he knew that in order to be successful whoever was appointed would, in the end, have to finish up with full authority among a people who were used to their own kind of democracy in terms of the ‘congregation of Israel’, and who were each jealous for the precedence of their tribe. That was why the appointment had inevitably to be carried out in the stages that we find in the text, stages in which the new leader was shown firstly to be acceptable to God, and then to be an effective military leader, and finally someone appointed by popular acclamation. Only then could he be crowned. Whoever was appointed had to be proved from every possible angle.

Such a pattern was to some extent, in fact, also often followed in the establishment of kingships elsewhere. When a new king was being put forward there would first of all be selection by influential backers, then the calling on the gods for omens, then the gaining of support, then, if necessary, the proof of his ability by success in warfare (often in defeating the other candidates), and finally public acclamation. The pattern is not so dissimilar.

As we look at the kingship it is true in one sense that God was ‘grieved’ because they no longer felt able to look to Him as their king and trust Him to supply their necessary leaders. Indeed this should not surprise us, for our own constant lack of trust in Him even now constantly grieves Him. And it was probably in order that they might learn this lesson that He commenced by providing a king who while outwardly adequate, and with the necessary potential, proved to be unsatisfactory. He wanted them to learn a lesson the hard way. But in the end He did provide them with a king who was a pattern for the great King Who was to come Who would do all His will. Thus He faced them with both chastening and blessing, that in the end they might continue to look to Him in all things.

It is perhaps salutary to realise that this book which begins with such hope in the birth of a babe (1 Samuel 1), ends with the tragedy of a plague that has to be stayed, simply because of the sinful actions of the one truly chosen to be the king (2 Samuel 24). It was not the best advertisement for kingship. But at least it was an honest one. The writer clearly did not see David as the culmination of Israel’s hopes.

Are Elements of Anti-Kingship Revealed in Samuel?

At first sight the answer to this question may seem obvious. Some may say, ‘Is it not clear, for example, that Samuel himself was anti-Kingship?’ But perhaps the problem here lies rather in what is meant by anti-Kingship. Certainly Samuel was against the idea of ‘a king like all the nations’ (in its worst sense), in other words one who would rule in supreme power who could act as king-priest, and who could usurp the authority of YHWH. But anti-Kingship is not how the writer sees him, for he makes clear from the start that Samuel’s family was one that was looking forward to one who would come as the true King, as YHWH’s anointed, one who would be in full submission to YHWH and appointed as His king while He ‘judged’ the earth (2.10).

It is rather true therefore to say that what Samuel was against was men stepping in and on their own terms appointing a king over against YHWH before the time that YHWH had appointed (Genesis 49.10), rather than continuing to look to a ‘judge’ like himself. And that is surely why he sought to ensure that Saul and the people recognise from the start how Saul was to be seen. He was to be seen as YHWH’s ‘nagid’ - ‘war-leader’ (9.16), whose enabling came from Him (10.5-6) and whose responsibility it was to ensure the keeping of YHWH’s commandments (12.21-25). He was to be YHWH’s representative, the maintainer of the covenant (in line with Deuteronomy 17.14-20), and not His replacement. But the people took it further, and indeed it was precisely because Saul was unwilling to remain in this role that he was finally rejected. For twice he seized to himself the prerogatives of YHWH, firstly when he offered sacrifices on his own volition before the time appointed by YHWH (13.8-14), and secondly when he sought to retain for himself what had been ‘devoted’ to YHWH (15.10-30). And in the end he revealed it nowhere more clearly than in his treatment of the priests of YHWH at Nob (22.9-19). From then on Saul was unable to receive any response from YHWH (28.6).

Thus Samuel had no problem with anointing the man of YHWH’s choice, David, and in supporting him on his way to the kingship, because he knew that through David was coming YHWH’s genuine ‘anointed one’. And the writer later makes clear that it was in fact David who was to be the founder of the ‘everlasting kingdom’ (2 Samuel 7.13, 16).

So it is apparent that Samuel’s anti-kingship was more the result of the way in which Israel wanted to go about it, than because kingship itself, under YHWH, was questionable.

The Importance of Samuel.

It is difficult to ever-estimate the importance of Samuel. He grew up in an Israel which was at its lowest ebb, constantly in fear of the encroaching Philistines and in danger of being overwhelmed, with a corrupted priesthood and a failing sanctuary, and an Israel that was disunited and traumatised, and he established a school of prophecy which would lift it to new religious heights, maintained it throughout a period when there was no Ark or Tabernacle in public use, finally re-established the central sanctuary after it had initially collapsed, and anointed the two kings who would first hold back the Philistines, and would then finally destroy their power so that they would never be a real threat to Israel again. He was an undoubted major turning point in Israel’s history.

Analysis of 1 Samuel 1-2 Samuel 20.22.

SECTION 1. The Birth, Rise, Prophetic Ministry And Judgeship of Samuel (1-12).

This section divides up into three parts, each following a chiastic arrangement:

A). The Birth, Call and Establishment of Samuel the Prophet (1.1-4.1a).

  • a The birth of Samuel (1.1-28).
  • b The prophecy of Hannah (2.1-10).
  • c Samuel ministers to YHWH (2.11).
  • d The failure of Eli’s sons (2.12-17).
  • e The blessing of God on Samuel and on the house of Elkanah (2.18-21).
  • d The failure of Eli’s sons (2.22-25).
  • c Samuel grows in favour with YHWH and men (2.26).
  • b The prophecy of the man of God (2.27-36).
  • a The call and establishment of Samuel as a prophet (3.1-4.1a).

B). The Ark As The Focal Point Of The Kingship Of YHWH (4.1b-7.14).

  • a The Philistines defeat Israel and capture the Ark of God (4.1b-22).
  • b The Ark of God is taken to Ashdod and the idol Dagon falls before YHWH and is smashed in pieces (5.1-5).
  • c The Ark of God brings misery and plague on the Philistines who disrespect it (5.6-12).
  • d The Ark of God is returned to Israel with due tributes and reparations (6.1-16).
  • c The Ark of God brings misery on the Israelites who disrespect it (6.17-7.2).
  • b The Ark of God being suitably re-established in Israel, they are promised that if they return to YHWH and put away their idolatry they will be delivered from the Philistines (7.2-4).
  • a The Ark having been restored, Israel defeat the Philistines through the prayers of Samuel (7.5-14).

C). The Judgeship of Samuel At The End Of Which The People Seek And Are Granted A Human King (7.15-12.25).

  • a Samuel judges Israel faithfully and well (7.15-17).
  • b Samuel’s sons prove unworthy and the people call for a King (8.1-6).
  • c The manner of the King that they will receive (8.7-22).
  • d Saul is brought to Samuel by God and is revealed and greeted by him as the new king (9.1-21).
  • e Saul is feasted and then secretly anointed, and learns that the asses have been found (9.22-10.2).
  • f The signs of Saul’s acceptance and his coming enduing with the Spirit of YHWH (10.3-7).
  • g Saul is to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to come in order to offer offerings and sacrifices and to show him what he is to do (10.8).
  • f The promised signs are fulfilled and the Spirit of YHWH comes on Saul (10.9-13).
  • e Saul returns to his uncle and informs him that Samuel had told him that the asses had been found, but maintains the secret of the kingship (10.14-16).
  • d Saul is brought before the people, revealed as their king by lot and greeted by them as the king (10.17-24).
  • c Samuel records ‘the manner of the kingship’ and writes it in a book (10.25-27).
  • b YHWH delivers His people from the Ammonites through Saul and the kingship is finally confirmed at Gilgal (11.1-15).
  • a Samuel hands back the judgeship to the people and charges the people to be faithful to YHWH (12.1-25).

SECTION 2 (13.1-15.35). The Rise and Fall of Saul.

  • a Saul disobeys YHWH and does not wait for His advice through Samuel. His dynasty are rejected from the kingship (13.1-18).
  • b Jonathan and YHWH deliver Israel (13.19-14.23a).
  • c Saul makes a rash oath and Jonathan unknowingly breaks it and becomes liable to sentence (14.23b-31a).
  • d As a result of Saul’s rash oath his men eat animals with their blood resulting in Saul building his ‘first altar’ (14.31b-35).
  • c Saul consult the oracle over his rash oath and Jonathan is sentenced to death, but the people will not allow it (14.36-46).
  • b Saul and Abner deliver Israel (14.47-52).
  • a Saul disobeys YHWH and preserves for himself and the people what is ‘devoted’ to YHWH. He is rejected from the kingship (15.1-35).

SECTION 3 (16.1-20.42). The Rise And Preservation of David.

A). The Rise Of David (16.1-18.4).

  • a Samuel Anoints David As The Prospective King And The Spirit Of YHWH Comes Mightily On Him (16.1-13).
  • b Saul’s Psychiatric Problems Result In The Introduction Of David To Saul’s Court As The Son Of Jesse.
  • c Goliath And The Philistines Challenge Israel (17.1-19).
  • d David Is Appalled That An Uncircumcised Philistine Dares To Defy The Armies Of The Living God (17.20-30).
  • e David Offers To Fight Goliath And Is Accepted As Saul’s Champion ( 17.31-39).
  • d David Challenges Goliath For Daring To Defy The Armies Of The Living God (17.40-50).
  • c The Philistines Are Routed (17.51-54).
  • b Saul Enquires Into David’s Antecedents (17.53-58).
  • a Jonathan, The Heir Apparent, Gives To David His Own Armour Out Of His Love For Him (18.1-4).

B). Saul’s Aim To Destroy David At Court (18.5-19.24).

  • a David’s Military Success And Saul’s Growing Suspicion - Saul Prophesies And Tries To Spear David (18.5-14).
  • b Saul Seeks To Use Marriage To His Daughters As A Means Of Arranging For The Philistines To Kill David. David Marries Michal (18.15-30).
  • c David Must Die! Jonathan Successfully Intercedes For David (19.1-7).
  • b Further Attempts on David’s Life By Spearing And Arrest. David Is Saved By Saul’s Daughter Michal (19.8-17).
  • a David Flees To Samuel. Saul Follows, Is Rendered Helpless And Prophesies (19.18-24).
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C). Jonathan Acts On David’s Behalf In Order To Protect Him From Saul But They Finally Have To Say Farewell (20.1-42).

  • a David Tells Jonathan That Saul Intends To Kill Him (David). Jonathan Does Not Believe It But Excuses David From Attendance At The New Moon Festival (20.1-9).
  • b Jonathan Renews Covenant With David And Declares That He Will Discover His Father’s Intentions (20.10-24a).
  • b Jonathan Discovers Saul’s Intentions At The Moon Festival And Fasts Out Of Grief (20.24b-34).
  • a Jonathan Confirms To David That He Was Right And They Say Farewell (20.35-42).

SECTION 4. The Years Of Preparation In The Wilderness (21.1-26.25).

A). David Becomes An Outlaw And Forms A Private Army (21.1-22.23).

  • a The Refugee David Visits Ahimelech The Priest And Obtains Provisions (21.1-7).
  • b David Obtains The Sword Of Goliath And Goes To Gath, Only To Have To Feign Madness And Return To Judah (21.8-15).
  • c David Goes To The Cave Of Adullam And Gathers A Private Army (22.1-2).
  • b David Goes To Moab And Seeks Refuge For His Parents, Remaining In A ‘Stronghold’ There Until He Is Told To Return To Judah (22.3-4).
  • a Ahimelech Is Called To Account By Saul For Provisioning David And As A Result He And The Priests Of Nob Are Slaughtered (22.5-19).

B). David Delivers Keilah From An Invasion By The Philistines, Is Visited by Jonathan, And Avoids Capture By Saul (23.1-28)

  • a David Delivers Keilah From An Invasion By The Philistines (23.1-5).
  • b Saul Calls In The Levy Of The Tribes In Order To Trap David In Keilah, David Learns That Keilah Will Hand Him Over To Saul (23.6-13).
  • c Jonathan Visits David In Order To Assure Him That He Need Not Be Afraid Of Saul’s Searches Because YHWH Is With Him (23.14-18).
  • b The Ziphites Try To Hand David Over To Saul And Saul Calls On His Men To Pursue David (23.19-24).
  • a David Is Delivered From Saul By An Invasion Of The Philistines (23.25-28).

C). David Twice Spares The Life Of Saul And Spares The Life Of Nabal (23.29-26.25).

  • a David Is Pursued In The Wilderness Of Engedi And Spares Saul’s Life Because He Is YHWH’s Anointed (24.1-22).
  • b The Death Of Samuel, David’s Mentor, And Introduction To Nabal The Fool And Abigail The Wise And Beautiful (25.1-3).
  • c David Is Rebuffed By Nabal And Sets Out To Take Vengeance (25.4-19).
  • d Abigail The Wise Turns David From His Vengeance (25.20-36).
  • c When Nabal Is Stricken David Rejoices That He Had Been Kept From Vengeance (25.26-39b).
  • b The Loss Of Michal, David’s Royal Wife, And His Receiving Instead Of Abigail The Wise And Ahinoam of Jezreel (25.39c-44).
  • a David Is Pursued In The Wilderness Of Ziph, And Spares Saul’s Life Because He Is YHWH’s Anointed (26.1-25).

SECTION 5. David’s Rise To Petty Kingship At Ziklag, The Final Fall And Death Of Saul (1 Samuel 27.1-2 Samuel 1.27).

A). David’s Rise To Petty Kingship And Subsequent Triumph While Saul Stumbles On In The Darkness (27.1-30.31).

  • a David leaves his haunts in Judah and goes over Achish of Gath to escape from Saul (27.1-4).
  • b David becomes a petty king under Achish and attacks and defeats the Amalekites, slaughtering them and obtaining great booty (27.5-12).
  • c David swears loyalty to Achish in view of the invasion of Israel (28.1-2).
  • d Saul seeks to consult Samuel through a necromancer who is an enemy of God and is reminded that he is rejected by YHWH (28.3-20).
  • e Saul shares hospitality with a woman condemned by YHWH and goes out into the night (28.21-25).
  • d David is accompanying the Philistines who are enemies of God and is rejected by them (29.1-7).
  • c David swears loyalty to Achish in view of the invasion of Israel (29.8-11).
  • b David finds his kingdom despoiled and attacks and defeats the Amalekites, slaughtering them and obtaining great booty (30.1-25).
  • a David shows his gratitude to those who had assisted him among the people of Judah when he was escaping from Saul (30.26-31).

B). The Death Of Saul And Jonathan (1 Samuel 31.1-2 Samuel 1.27).

  • a The Death Of Saul And Jonathan On Mount Gilboa (31.1-7).
  • b The Tidings Concerning Saul’s Death And Defeat Are Spread Among The Philistines (31.8-10).
  • c The Men Of Jabesh Gilead Arrange For A Decent Burial For Saul (31.11-13).
  • b The Tiding Concerning The Death Of Saul Are Brought To David (2 Samuel 1.1-16).
  • a David Commemorates The Death Of Saul And Jonathan In Song (2 Samuel 1.17-27).

SECTION 6. David Becomes King Over Judah And Then Over All Israel (2.1-5.5).

  • a David is anointed as King over Judah and Ish-bosheth is set over Israel (2.1-11).
  • b Abner and Israel seek to win the whole kingdom for Ish-bosheth by defeating Judah, but are soundly beaten. Abner slays Asahel, something which will finally result in his own death (2.12-28).
  • c The aftermath of the invasion, the number of the slain, Judah mourn over Asahel (2.29-32).
  • d David grows stronger in Hebron while Abner makes himself strong in the house of Saul in the midst of a weakening Israel (3.1-6).
  • e Abner quarrels with Ish-bosheth and determines to betray him to David by advancing David’s claims in Israel (3.7-16).
  • e Abner negotiates to advance David’s claims in Israel (3.17-26).
  • d Joab makes himself strong by slaying Abner and obtaining both blood revenge for Asahel and the death of a rival (3.27-30).
  • c The aftermath of Joab’s vengeance, description of the slain, Judah mourn over Abner (3.31-39).
  • b The kingdom is taken from Ish-bosheth as a result of his assassination by two of his commanders, something which will finally result in their own death (4.1-11).
  • a David becomes king over all Israel (5.1-5).

David’s Greatness Is Established By YHWH And He Is Promised That His House Will Result In Everlasting Kingship (5.6-10.19).

  • a David Reacts To Taunts And Captures Jerusalem Thus Purifying And Uniting The Land (5.6-10).
  • b Hiram Builds David A House Of Cedar Which Demonstrates the Establishment Of His House And Kingship On Behalf Of God’s People (5.11-12).
  • c David Bears Many Sons (5.13-16).
  • d David Utterly Defeats The Philistines Releasing Their Grip For Ever On Israel (5.17-25).
  • e David Brings The Ark Of God Containing the Covenant Into Jerusalem With Rejoicing Expressing His Love For And Dedication To YHWH (6.1-19).
  • f Michal Expresses Her Disgust At David’s Behaviour Resulting In The Barrenness Of The House Of Saul (6.20-23).
  • g David Wishes To Build A House Of Cedar For YHWH And Learns That YHWH Is Above Houses Of Cedar (7.1-7).
  • f The House Of David Is To Be Fruitful Result In An Everlasting Kingship (7.8-17).
  • e David’s Prayer Expresses His Gratitude To YHWH For All His Goodness (7.18-19).
  • d David Utterly Defeats All His Enemies Round About Freeing Israel From The Threat Of Invasion (8.1-15).
  • c David’s Sons Become ‘Priests’ (8.16-18).
  • b David Establishes The House Of Saul By Receiving Jonathan’s Son At Court and Giving Him Back His Ancestral Lands (9.1-13).
  • a David Reacts To Taunts And Defeats The Greater Powers Who Threaten His Borders Thus Establishing The Land (10.1-19).

SECTION 7. In The Midst Of A Period Of Warfare And Victory Over The Ammonites David Sins Greatly (11.1-12.31).

  • a David sends Joab to besiege Rabbah (11.1).
  • b David lies with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, with the result that she becomes pregnant (11.2-5).
  • c David arranges for the death of Uriah the Hittite so as to cover up his sin (11.6-17).
  • d Joab sends David a message to let him know that Uriah is dead (11.18-27a).
  • e E. YHWH is displeased with David (11.27b).
  • d YHWH sends a message to David through Nathan the prophet in order to let him know that YHWH knows why Uriah is dead (12.1-14).
  • c David's infant son dies as a consequence of David’s sin (12.15-23).
  • b David lies with Bathsheba, who is now his wife, with the result that she becomes pregnant (12.24-25).
  • a Joab sends for David to come and besiege Rabbah (12.26-31).

SECTION 8. The Causes Of Absalom’s Rebellion Resulting In His Final Breach With David (13.1-15.9).

  • a The sexual misbehaviour of David’s heir apparent, Amnon, because of his royal arrogance, under the pretence of seeking comfort, resulting in his father’s great anger (13.1-22).
  • b Absalom invites the king’s sons to the sheepshearing celebrations under false pretences (13.23-27).
  • c Amnon’s subsequent death at the hands of Absalom, David’s third son, an act of treason against David which results in Absalom’s flight from Jerusalem to Geshur (13.28-39).
  • d Joab arranges for Absalom’s restoration to Jerusalem through a wise woman (14.1-21).
  • c Joab restores Absalom to Jerusalem but not into the king’s favour (14.22-33).
  • b Absalom wins the favour of the people under false pretences (15.1-6).
  • a The political misbehaviour of David’s heir apparent, Absalom, because of his royal arrogance, under the pretence of worshipping YHWH (15.7-12).

SECTION 9. The Course Of The Civil Wars Resulting From Absalom’s Rebellion (15.13-20.22).

  • a Absalom raises rebellion against David and enlists the services of the wise Ahithophel (15.13-31).
  • b The ancient Hushai the Archite comes to David and is called on to counter the wisdom of Ahithopel (15.32-37).
  • c Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, meets David with provisions and traduces Mephibosheth (16.1-4).
  • d David is cursed by Shimei as a man of blood and Abishai wishes to execute him (16.5-14).

    e Conflicting advice on how to ensure that David’s power will be broken among the people (16.15-17.14).

  • f Hushai warns David that he must flee over the Jordan (17.15-23).
  • g The opposing armies prepare for battle and David pleads for mercy for his son (17.24-18.5).
  • h The final battle (18.6-17).
  • g David receives tidings of the course of the battle and mourns for Absalom (18.18-33).
  • f Joab warns David of the consequences of his behaviour with regard to his people (19.1-8a).
  • e David calls for the restoration of his power among the people (19.8b-15).
  • d Shimei meets David and pleads for forgiveness while Abishai wishes to execute him (19.16-23).
  • c Mephibosheth meets David and David learns of Ziba’s treachery (19.24-30).
  • b The ancient Barzillai conducts David back over the Jordan (19.31-40).
  • a Sheba raises a rebellion against David and is betrayed by the wise woman of Abel (20.1-22).

    COMMENTARY.

    SECTION 1. The Birth, Rise, Prophetic Ministry And Judgeship of Samuel (1-12).

    This first section of the book covers the life of Samuel from his birth to the setting up of Saul as king in response to the people’s request. The first three chapters deal with the birth and spiritual growth of Samuel. This is then followed in chapter 4 by the Philistine invasion in which the Ark of YHWH of hosts is lost to Israel, something which takes place while Samuel is still a youth. That loss indicates YHWH’s demonstration of the fact that He no longer sees Himself as king over an Israel that has forsaken Him. However, He then goes on to demonstrate His authority over the gods of the Philistines by bringing disaster on them, so that His Ark is restored to Israel by the Philistines, who also pay Him generous tribute. The Ark is then placed with due honour (after a previous unfortunate incident) in the house of Abinadab where it will remain for many years. It is a recognised symbol that YHWH is still present as King over His people, and will therefore, once they turn back to Him, act on their behalf through His appointed deliverers.

    This will firstly be through Samuel in this section, then through Saul before he is finally rejected, in the next section, and then through the young David in the final section, until he is outlawed and then exiled as a result of Saul’s activities. As a result of his exile there will be a lull, and the Philistines triumph. But in the second part of the book David will become the Spirit inspired king, the Philistines will be defeated, and then the Ark will be restored for public worship, having been ‘purified’ by its period spent in the house of Abinadab. The Kingship of YHWH has triumphed.

    A). The Birth, Call and Establishment of Samuel the Prophet (1.1-4.1).

    This opening subsection of the book commences with a description of the events that led up to the birth of Samuel. That is then followed by a description of the spiritual growth of Samuel which is interwoven with a description of the sinfulness of the sons of Eli, the High Priest of Israel, and leads up to a prophetic denunciation of the priesthood of the house of Ithamar. After that we have a description of how Samuel is called to be a prophet and a summary of what follows, ending with the fact that Samuel takes the word of YHWH to all Israel.

    • a The birth of Samuel (1.1-28).
    • b The prophecy of Hannah (2.1-10).
    • c Samuel ministers to YHWH (2.11).
    • d The failure of Eli’s sons (2.12-17).
    • e The blessing of God on Samuel and on the house of Elkanah (2.18-21).
    • d The failure of Eli’s sons (2.22-25).
    • c Samuel grows in favour with YHWH and men (2.26).
    • b The prophecy of the man of God (2.27-36).
    • a The call and establishment of Samuel as a prophet (3.1-4.1).

    Note that in ‘a’ we have described the miraculous birth of Samuel, and in the parallel his establishment as a Prophet of YHWH. In ‘b’ we have the prophecy of Hannah, and in the parallel the prophecy of a man of God, both including reference to YHWH’s ‘anointed one’.

    Chapter 1. The Birth of Samuel, The Miracle Son.

    At a time when the priesthood was at a very low ebb, and Israel’s faith was failing in the face of the terrible threat of the ferocious Philistines, a woman in Israel who was seemingly perpetually barren prayed for a son and promised that if one was born to her she would dedicate him to YHWH. In the course of time that son was born, and she gave him to YHWH. And although no one apart from God realised it, it was the indication of a new beginning for Israel.

    The greatness of Samuel cannot be overestimated. He took over a broken and weakened nation, re-established it, and guided by God anointed and nurtured the one who would take Israel to its greatest heights. The description in detail of his birth is intended to bring out the importance of the occasion. It indicated that this was all God’s doing, and that it was all part of God’s sovereign plan. It was no accident. God was at work replacing Israel’s failing leadership in His own way. This is the message of the whole book, and there can be no doubt that David’s godliness and rise to power owed much to the influence of Samuel

    But however that may be, alongside this we have a very human story. Man in his weakness is seen to cause a multiplicity of problems, and produce a multiplicity of difficult situations. The pendulum appears to swing to and fro. But in the end all this is seen to be under control. God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill are seen to progress hand in hand.

    The Events That Lead Up To Samuel’s Birth (1.1-20).

    We should note initially the godliness of both Elkanah and Hannah. The writer’s aim is to bring out that they were worthy and godly people. The message is that when God seeks to do a work it is usually to such sources that He looks, and that always in every age, however dark the hour, He has such people to call on. And their godliness emphasises that what is to follow is the doing of YHWH. They stand in stark contrast both to Elkanah’s disgruntled second wife, Peninnah, and to the two sons of Eli. The stress is on the fact that, while the country might time and again be almost on its knees, there are always those who trust in YHWH. And that is the picture being depicted here.

    For us there is the message that often what appears to be a tragedy in our lives is actually God’s way of bringing about His purposes, so that we can confidently look forward and say, ‘all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose’ (Romans 8.28).

    The Household of Elkanah (1.1-8).

    The writer commences with a detailed description of the household of Elkanah. In it he reveals that one of Elkanah’s wives who is named Hannah (meaning ‘grace) is barren and in great distress because she has had no child.

    Analysis.

    • a Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill-country 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, and he had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of other Peninnah, and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children (1.1-2).
    • b And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice to YHWH of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests to YHWH, were there (1.3).
    • c And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions (1.4).
    • d But to Hannah he used to give a double portion, for he loved Hannah. But YHWH had shut up her womb (1.5).
    • c And her rival behaved towards her with great provocation, in order to upset her, because YHWH had shut up her womb (1.6).
    • b And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of YHWH, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat (1.7).
    • a And Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why are you crying, and why do you not eat, and why is your heart grieved? am not I better to you than ten sons? (1.8).

    Note that in ‘a’ Hannah had no children, but she had a worthy husband, and in the parallel her husband asks whether he is not better to her than tens sons. In ‘b’ Elkanah went up on a regular basis to sacrifice, and in the parallel he does the same. In ‘c’ we have a description of Elkanah’s provision for Peninnah and her children, and in the parallel we have described Peninnah’s attitude towards Hannah. Centrally in ‘d’ we have described Elkanah’s special love towards Hannah. Note also the repetition of the phrase ‘YHWH had shut up her womb’, a kind of pattern of repetition that occurs regularly in Biblical chiasmuses.

    1.1-2 ‘Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill-country 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, and he had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of other Peninnah, and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.’

    The importance of what is about to be described is revealed in the detail given about Elkanah’s ancestry. For this is to be seen as also the ancestry of Samuel (Shemuel). He was an Ephrathite (Ephraimite) descended from Zuph. 1 Chronicles 6.33-38 reveals further that Zuph was a Levite descended from Kohath, the son of Levi. Thus Samuel (Shemuel) was of Levite origin, and descended from the Levites who had settled among the Ephraimites (Joshua 21.20). Elkanah (‘bought by El’) in fact appears from its uses to be a Levite name. Given that Salmon, the seventh from Judah in descent, entered Canaan with Joshua, we might assume that Zuph, the seventh from Levi, did the same, which would explain why he was seen as so important. He was the original dweller in the land.

    Elkanah lived in Ramathaim-zophim. Ramathaim (LXX Armathaim) means ‘the twin heights’ (ramah = ‘height’) and its whereabouts is disputed, but it is presumably the same as the Ramah (verse 19) which was Samuel’s birthplace and later headquarters (7.17; 8.4 ff; 9.6, 10; 25.1). Zophim may indicate that it was in the land of Zuph (9.5 ff). It has been suggested that it is the same as the later Arimathea (John 19.38).

    ‘Of the hill country of Ephraim.’ This was the central mountainous district of Palestine, made up of limestone hills intersected to a certain extent by fertile valleys which were watered by numerous springs. Deborah’s palm tree was ‘between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim’ (Judges 4.5).

    ‘And he had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of other Peninnah, and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.’ Elkanah was a polygamist. He had two wives. Polygamy was practised in the Old Testament quite regularly and was tolerated by the Law (Deuteronomy 21.15-17), even though not in line with the creation ordinance (Genesis 2.24). Abraham and Jacob were both polygamists, and there is never any hint that polygamy was frowned on by God or man. Indeed the impression given is that God was quite reconciled to the idea. However, with the exception of kings and chieftains (Abraham and Jacob were chieftains) it does not appear to have been frequent, and no example of it is found in Scripture after the exile. It was, however, left to Jesus to make clear the importance of Genesis 2.24.

    ‘Hannah’ means ‘grace’, and Peninnah means ‘pearl’ or ‘coral’. But only Peninnah was blessed with children. This would be a great hardship to Hannah who would feel that she was failing in her duty. Every Israelite woman longed to produce children. It was that that gave her status. And she felt it to be her responsibility. The situation was somewhat similar to that of Hagar and Sarah, with Sarah being barren. In that case also there was grave disquiet between the two. It was an inevitable consequence of polygamy. It may well be that Elkanah had married Peninnah because Hannah was childless.

    1.3 ‘And this man went up out of his city from year to year to worship and to sacrifice to YHWH of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests to YHWH, were there.’

    Elkanah went up from Ramah to Shiloh on a regular basis for the great feasts. Shiloh was the central sanctuary of Israel where the Tabernacle had been erected, and a number of buildings had been built around it. Some of these buildings have been excavated. It would seem also that as time passed the entrance gateway had been made more permanent (1.9). But as a result of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines Shiloh would later cease to be the central sanctuary, and it is possible that it was even destroyed by them (Jeremiah 7.12), although that is open to question. We should note that Samuel would operate from there for some time (3.21). It would, however, emerge later in Nob as again in operation (1 Samuel 21).

    ‘From year to year.’ Literally ‘from the days to days’. Compare Exodus 13.10; Judges 11.40. This may therefore indicate attendance at all three major feasts during the year (Exodus 34.23; Deuteronomy 16.16) rather than just the one.

    Operating as priests at Shiloh at this time were the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, whose behaviour left much to be desired (2.12-17). Note the parallel of the ‘two sons’ with the ‘two’ wives of Elkanah. But at least in the case of the wives one was godly, whereas in the case of the brothers neither were. The mention of his sons may suggest that Eli was in semi-retirement. Or the writer’s point may simply have been to bring out that all this happened when things were at their lowest ebb.

    ‘To sacrifice to YHWH of hosts.’ This is the first use of this title for God, a title which would be regularly used from now on. Here the emphasis is probably on the fact that YHWH was seen as supreme commander of the hosts of Israel (17.45), but the title also came to include His being Lord of the heavenly hosts (the angels) and of the hosts of heaven (sun, moon and stars) and may already have done so here. In the light of the Philistine menace ‘YHWH of the hosts of Israel’ was very relevant.

    1.4-6 ‘And when the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions, but to Hannah he used to give a double portion, for he loved Hannah. But YHWH had shut up her womb. And her rival behaved towards here with great provocation, in order to upset her, because YHWH had shut up her womb.’

    Regularly Elkanah would offer his peace offerings and thanksgiving offerings of which all would partake in feasting once the priests had received their portion (Leviticus 7.11-18). And when he did so he would give Peninnah and her sons and daughters their portions. But to Hannah he would give a larger portion (‘a portion of the face’). This is said to be because he loved her. He may also have had in mind that she was his first wife and therefore worthy of extra honour. It is a reminder of how in that society a meal consisting of meat was a special treat. Usually they were limited to a fruit and vegetable diet.

    In contrast with his love for Hannah and the extra portion that he gave her was the fact that YHWH had ‘shut up her womb’. It appeared that she was husband-blessed but not God-blessed. In view of what would happen this is a reminder to us that when God is silent it does not always mean quite what we might at first see it as meaning. For unknown to them all God was planning for her a blessing almost beyond telling. It is a reminder that for those who know God, when things are darkest it is often because there is going to be a glorious dawn.

    ‘ And her rival behaved towards her with great provocation, in order to upset her, because YHWH had shut up her womb.’ Sadly Elkanah’s second wife did not behave well. Instead of rejoicing in the fact that God had been good to her, she gloated over her rival’s misfortune. She behaved towards her with great provocation so as to upset her, constantly drawing her attention to her failure to give Elkanah a son, and presumably also drawing her attention (with a satisfied smirk) to the fact that it demonstrated that at least she was not YHWH’s favourite. She was aware that Elkanah showed a special preference for Hannah and was jealous. How often we overlook how God has blessed us because we are jealous of what other people have, and thereby lose out and belittle ourselves. Peninnah has gone down in history as a shrew. And yet God would use her spite to drive Hannah to prayer.

    Such behaviour is ever so when favouritism is shown. How careful we should be to avoid it within families. It was always especially a danger in a polygamous marriage, but it is equally a danger with our children. Remember what happened to Joseph because he was his father’s favourite. Such favouritism is devilish and ungodly.

    1.7 ‘And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of YHWH, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.’

    This situation went on for years, and thus whenever they went up to the house of YHWH the provocation continued, and it reduced Hannah to weeping, and to not partaking of the feast. Of what benefit was a double portion in such circumstances? It was a blessing to no one. It is a sad thing to think that such a joyous occasion as going up to the house of YHWH to celebrate and rejoice was being marred by such human sinfulness. But the writer is seeking to bring out that that is what life is like, and yet that God Who is over all can use such circumstances for His own glory.

    ‘And did not eat.’ Eating indicated rejoicing, and she felt that she had nothing to give thanks for.

    1.8 ‘And Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why are you crying, and why do you not eat, and why is your heart grieved? am not I better to you than ten sons?” ’

    Elkanah tried his fumbling best. He hated seeing his beloved Hannah in such distress. So with a man’s lack of insight he asked her why she was so grieved over not having son, when she had him and his love. Was he not better to her than ten sons? While he was around she did not need a son to look after her and care for her needs (compare Ruth 4.15). And it may be that he was not as insensitive as he seemed. For what other consolation could he offer her? He was doing his best. Note the threefold ‘crying -- not eat -- grieved at heart’, indicating her ‘complete’ misery. (Three regularly indicates completeness). We also have here an example of the use of ‘ten’ to mean ‘a number of’ (compare Genesis 31.41).

    The great emphasis on Hannah’s predicament is intended to be in contrast with the great work that God was going to do. It brings out that out of suffering would come blessing. That is often God’s way. ‘The corn of wheat to multiply, must fall into the ground and die’ (John 12.24).

    Hannah’s Prayer For A Son And How She Became Confident That YHWH Had Answered Her Prayer (1.9-18).

    In this passage Hannah prays desperately for a son, and promises YHWH that if He will grant her a son she will give him to YHWH for as long as he lives. And when Eli ‘the Priest’ (the High Priest) has blessed her she knows that God has heard her prayer.

    Analysis.

    • a So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk (1.9a).
    • b Now Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the door-post of the temple of YHWH (1.9b).
    • c And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to YHWH, and cried bitterly (1.10).
    • d And she vowed a vow, and said, “O YHWH of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a man-child, then I will give him to YHWH all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head” (1.11).
    • e And it came about that, as she continued praying (‘multiplied to pray’) before YHWH, Eli noted carefully her mouth (1.12).
    • f Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart, only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard, Eli therefore thought she was drunk (1.13).
    • e And Eli said to her, ‘How long will you go on being drunk? Put away your wine from you” (1.14).
    • d 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 I have poured out my soul before YHWH” (1.15).
    • c “Do not count your handmaid as a wicked woman; for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken prior to this” (1.16).
    • b Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have requested from him” (1.17).
    • a And she said, “Let your handmaid find favour in your sight.” So the woman went her way, and ate, and her countenance was sad no more (1.18).

    Note that in ‘a’ Hannah rises up so that she may approach the Sanctuary in order to pray, and in the parallel she makes her way from the Sanctuary with joy in her heart because her prayer is heard. In ‘b’ Eli sits at the Temple entrance, and in the parallel it is he who tells Hannah to ‘Go in peace”. In ‘c’ she prays in bitterness of soul, and in the parallel she explains her bitterness of soul. In ‘d’ she pours out her soul to YHWH and in the parallel informs Eli that that is what she has done. In ‘e’ Eli notes the movement of her mouth, and in the parallel accuses her of being drunk. Centrally in ‘f’ we learn that far from being drunk she is praying from the heart.

    1.9 ‘So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the door-post of the temple of YHWH.’

    The time came when Hannah could bear it no longer. And when they had eaten and drunk their festival meal she rose up and made her way to the door of the sanctuary. She may well have done it many times before, but this time she was particularly distressed. The old priest Eli was there, sitting on his seat by the doorpost of ‘the temple’, watching as the people approached to worship, faithful to his duty. In spite of his sons he would appear to have been a godly man, and he appears to have grieved over his sons, and over the state of the people. Especially it grieved him how lax the people had become in their approach to YHWH. And when he saw this woman approaching he thought that here was such a one. How careful we should be in our judgments.

    The description of the Tabernacle as ‘the temple’ illustrates how it had come to be seen by the people. It had been surrounded by buildings, and had been given a grand entrance. And the result was that people saw it as ‘a temple’ (the normal name for a place of worship of the time). It would seem a natural description to them. Compare also 3.3 and Psalm 5.7.

    Eli was descended from Ithamar, Aaron’s fourth son. The previous Priest of the sanctuary of whom we have information had been Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, Aaron’s third son, in Judges 20.28. (Aaron’s first two sons had been slain for sacrilege - Leviticus 10.1-2). Why the position had passed to the line of Ithamar we do not know. Perhaps when the need had arisen for a priest there had not been a mature male of the house of Eleazar, and thus someone of the line of Ithamar had been appointed. The privilege would eventually return to the line of Eleazar because of God’s penalty on the failure of Eli’s two sons (2.31-34).

    1.10 ‘And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to YHWH, and cried bitterly.’

    And there before the Temple, in great bitterness of soul, Hannah prayed silently to YHWH, mouthing her words noiselessly and weeping bitterly as she did so.

    1.11 ‘And she vowed a vow, and said, “O YHWH of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a man-child, then I will give him to YHWH all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head.’

    From the bottom of her heart she vowed a vow. She vowed that if the great YHWH would look on her affliction (was that not what He did best?) and would remember her, and not forget her (as He had seemed to do up to this point), and would give her a son, a male child, that most desired of gifts to a woman, then she would give him back to YHWH so that the whole of his life might be dedicated to YHWH in the most solemn way. He would be so dedicated that no razor should touch his hair. Unshaven hair was the sign of a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6.5; Judges 13.5). A Nazirite vow was usually temporary, but here it was to be a permanent vow, as with Samson. It would presumably include abstinence from wine and strong drink. Perhaps indeed she had in mind what she had heard about Samson in a similar situation (Judges 13.2-5).

    It is extremely probable that she had discussed the matter with her husband before making her vow. Certainly such a vow would not have been binding on her husband if he did not agree with it (Numbers 30.6-7). It is true that as a Levite Samuel would enter Tabernacle service anyway (although not as a priest) when he was twenty five years of age, but this vow went far deeper than that. Now that the Sanctuary was settled in one place Levite service was limited to three times a year at the Sanctuary, and it was otherwise exercised in other duties to be performed on behalf of the people among whom they lived, such as teaching the Law, gathering tithes, ministering tithes to the poor, and advising people about God’s requirements. But Samuel was not being set aside for this. He was being devoted to YHWH for ever. He was to be a child of the Sanctuary to live only to do YHWH’s will.

    That this was taken totally seriously comes out in that later we find that Samuel is operating within the sanctuary, probably as having been adopted by Eli (or by YHWH) and thus being now of priestly stock. This would explain why he could operate within the sanctuary and why later he could offer sacrifices. But no great emphasis would be laid on this by the writer. To him what was important was that Samuel was a prophet of YHWH (3.20). Here was a prophet like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18.18). The voice of prophecy had begun to speak again.

    1.12-13 ‘And it came about that, as she continued praying (‘multiplied to pray’) before YHWH, Eli noted carefully her mouth. Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart, only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard, Eli therefore thought she was drunk.’

    What happened here speaks volumes about spiritual conditions in Israel at the time. It is clear that Eli’s expectations had sunk so low that when he saw a woman standing before the sanctuary with her lips moving up and down he did not even consider that she might be praying. (Silent prayer was probably not common at the time). He thought rather that she was drunk. This was what he had come to expect of worshippers at the sanctuary.

    But Hannah was praying earnestly before YHWH, at the door of the sanctuary. She could not, of course, enter it. That was for heads of families who brought sacrifices and offerings, and also for the priests. But she had come as near to God as she could. And humbly she spoke in her heart. Her lips moved but there was no sound. It is clear that in those times this was so unusual that Eli failed to recognise what she was doing.

    ‘Continued praying.’ Literally ‘she multiplied to pray’. Thus, she prayed long and earnestly.

    1.14 ‘And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put away your wine from you.” ’

    Thinking that she was drunk Eli called to her roughly. ‘How long are you going to go on in your drunkenness?’ he asked. ‘Get rid of your wine and sober up.’ He must have been sad at heart to see the condition of those who were supposed to be God’s people. But he was to receive a pleasant surprise in response to his rough words.

    1.15 ‘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 I have poured out my soul before YHWH.” ’

    Hannah addressed him respectfully as ‘my lord’, and pointed out that she was not drunk. Rather, she pointed out, she was a woman of sorrowful spirit (‘heavy of spirit’). She had drunk neither wine nor strong drink. Rather she had poured out her soul to YHWH. There may be an intended play on ideas in that she had not poured out drink for herself, but had rather poured out her soul to YHWH.

    1.16 “Do not count your handmaid as a wicked woman; for out of the abundance of my complaint and my provocation have I spoken prior to this.”

    She pleaded with him not to think of her as a godless person (a ‘daughter of worthlessness (belial)’). Rather her behaviour was as a result of the fact that she had a complaint about how God had treated her, and because she had been driven to it by provocation. It was that that had driven her to behave as she had up to this point.

    1.17 ‘Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have requested from him”.’

    Recognising her genuineness Eli blessed her and told her to go in peace, and asked that the God of Israel would grant what she had asked of Him. This is the only reference in Samuel to YHWH solely as ‘the God of Israel’ (usually it is ‘YHWH, the God of Israel’) apart from on the lips of the Philistines in chapters 5-6. This may indicate that through Eli the writer wants us immediately to recognise the significance of this child as the one appointed by the God of Israel to deliver the whole of Israel from the Philistines.

    1.18 ‘And she said, “Let your handmaid find favour in your sight.” So the woman went her way, and ate, and her countenance was sad no more.’

    Encouraged by his words and now confident that God had heard her, Hannah politely and humbly bade him farewell and went her way. She was no longer sad and so she began to enjoy the feast for the first time for many years.

    Note the threefold evidence of her complete faith. She ‘went her way -- ate -- her countenance was sad no more’. Contrast the threefold signs of distress in verse 8.

    They Return Home and Samuel Is Born, And When He Is Weaned He Is Given To YHWH (1.21-26).

    In accordance with Hannah’s faith she bears a son, and will not again go up to the Temple until she can fulfil her vow and present him to YHWH. Then upon his being weaned off his mother’s milk she and Elkanah again go to the Temple together and she presents her son to YHWH.

    Analysis.

    • a And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before YHWH, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah, and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and YHWH remembered her. And it came about that when the time was come about, Hannah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of YHWH” (1.19-20).
    • b And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer to YHWH the yearly sacrifice, and his vow (1.21).
    • c But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “I will not go up until the child be weaned; and then I will bring him, that he may appear before YHWH, and there abide for ever” (1.22).
    • d And Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems good to you. Wait until you have weaned him. Only YHWH establish his word.” So the woman waited and breast fed her son, until she weaned him (1.23).
    • c And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of meal, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of YHWH in Shiloh, and the child was young (1.24).
    • b And they slew the bullock, and brought the child to Eli (1.25).
    • a And she said, “Oh, my lord, as your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to YHWH. For this child I prayed; and YHWH has given me my petition which I asked of him, therefore also I have granted him to YHWH. As long as he lives he is granted to YHWH.” And he worshipped YHWH there (1.26).

    Note that in ‘a’ YHWH responds to Hannah’s prayer and gives her a son, and she calls him ‘asked of GOD’, and in the parallel she informs Eli of the fact and grants him to YHWH. In ‘b’ Elkanah and his house go up to offer the yearly sacrifice, and in the parallel they offer a sacrifice and bring the child to YHWH. In ‘c’ Hannah will not go up until the child is weaned, and in the parallel the child is weaned and she takes him up with her. In ‘d’ Elkanah is satisfied with whatever she does but stresses that YHWH’s word must be made sure.

    1.19 ‘And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before YHWH, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah, and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and YHWH remembered her.’

    Next morning, following her prayer, they rose early and worshipped before YHWH, after which they returned home to their house at Ramah. There they renewed normal sexual relations and ‘YHWH remembered her’ (compare Genesis 30.22).

    1.20 ‘And it came about that when the time was come about, Hannah conceived, and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of YHWH.” ’

    And when the time that He had planned came Hannah conceived, and she bore a son and called his name Shemuel because she had asked him of YHWH. The name means ‘El has heard’. Thus the name was a commemoration of the fact that she had asked for a son from YHWH, and He had heard.

    1.21-22 ‘And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer to YHWH the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “I will not go up until the child be weaned; and then I will bring him, that he may appear before YHWH, and there abide for ever.” ’

    The time came for the next visit to the Sanctuary at Shiloh at which ‘the yearly sacrifice’ might be offered to YHWH. This may have been the Passover, or it may have been an offering to be offered at the Feast of Tabernacles. And with it Elkanah was to make a sacrifice in respect of a vow. This may have been the vow described in verse 11, which he had taken on himself. Or it may have been some other vow. But either way Hannah would not go up with them. This was probably because she felt that she could not visit the Sanctuary with her vow uncompleted. She would not go until she could give her son to YHWH after weaning. It was not seen as necessary that women attend at the Sanctuary so that this would not have been seen as unusual.

    The weaning of a child (bringing him off breast feeding) normally took two to three years. Then, said Hannah, she would bring him so that he might appear before YHWH and abide there ‘for ever’ (i.e. as long as he lived). There is pathos in the words. As far as she was concerned she really was losing him ‘for ever’. We must not overlook the huge cost to Hannah of what she was doing. She knew that once Samuel was a child of the Sanctuary she would see little of him. She would have relinquished all rights to him. And yet she was not hesitating. Rather she wanted to ensure that she did the right thing. That was why she did not want to appear ‘before YHWH’ until she could honour her vow to Him.

    1.23 ‘And Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems good to you. Wait until you have weaned him. Only YHWH establish his word.” So the woman waited and breast fed her son, until she weaned him.’

    Elkanah was happy for her to do what she wished. She could wait until the child was weaned. But note that he was determined that YHWH’s word must be established. YHWH had spoken by granting them their son. Now His will must be done with regard to him. Thus neither Elkanah nor Hannah had any thought of disobedience to God’s will. So Hannah waited and breast fed her son until she had weaned him.

    1.24-25 ‘And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of meal, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of YHWH in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they slew the bullock, and brought the child to Eli.’

    Once Samuel was weaned she took him ‘up’ with her to Shiloh. (Shiloh was on a high place). And with him she took three bullocks, an ephah of meal and a wineskin of wine. The size of the offering suggests that they were a well-to-do family. Three bullocks was a considerable offering for an individual family to make. It may be that one was for a burnt offering, one for a votive offering in respect of the vow, and one a peace offering (compare Numbers 15.8-10). Three tenths part of an ephah of meal, together with some wine, had to be offered with each offering (Numbers 15.9) Taking these offerings with her she, with Elkanah, went with her son to the house of YHWH in Shiloh. And once there they slew a bullock and brought the child personally to Eli.

    ‘And the child was young.’ Some have doubted whether such a young child would have been accepted at the Tabernacle. But there were women there ‘who did service at the door of the Tent of Meeting’ (2.22) who would be well able to look after him, and such a gift could not be spurned. Samuel belonged to YHWH. He was ‘holy’. So he would immediately begin to serve in any way that he could, growing up to know that he belonged wholly to YHWH.

    1.26-28 ‘And she said, “Oh, my lord, as your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to YHWH. For this child I prayed; and YHWH has given me my petition which I asked of him, therefore also I have granted him to YHWH. As long as he lives he is granted to YHWH.” And he worshipped YHWH there.’

    Approaching Eli, Hannah introduced her son. She reminded him of when they had last met, and how she had prayed to YHWH for a child. Then she informed him about her vow. She told him that YHWH had given her a son, and that now she was in turn giving him back to YHWH as she had promised. As long as he lived he would belong to YHWH. It was a most solemn moment.

    ‘And he worshipped YHWH there.’ This almost certainly indicates the acceptance of Samuel as belonging to YHWH. From now on into the future Samuel worshipped YHWH in his Sanctuary. The deed was done. Some, however, see it as referring to Eli or Elkanah in the light of the circumstances. The reference to Samuel seems more likely (‘he, him’ referring to Samuel is the only real close antecedent). Whichever way we take it, however, it indicates the solemnity of the occasion.

    Chapter 2. Samuel Grows Up Amidst The Sad State Of Affairs At The Tabernacle.

    After Hannah’s prayer, which is in effect a summary of all that is to come in the remainder of the book, this chapter alternates the growth of Samuel with the evil behaviour of Eli’s sons, bringing out how he continues to grow spiritually, even amidst the sordidness of the behaviour of the priests. It commences with the prayer-cum-prophecy from Hannah, and a brief description of the settling in of the child, which is then followed by a description of the wicked behaviour of the sons of Eli. Meanwhile Samuel is seen as continuing to develop and the godliness of Elkanah and Hannah is commended. This commendation is placed in direct contrast with the rebuke that Eli gives to his own sons, and at the same time Samuel is seen to be growing in favour before all. The chapter closes with the arrival of a man of God who prophesies the doom of Eli’s house.

    The Prayer-Prophecy of Hannah (2.1-10).

    This prayer-prophecy should be seen as continuing the thought of chapter 1. It does, however, summarise the message of the whole book, leading up to the exaltation of His righteous king, and the promise of an everlasting king arising from David’s house. In it Hannah prophesies concerning the greatness of YHWH, and of his dealings with the righteous as against the unrighteous, and then she gazes ahead to the establishment of the glorious, ideal kingship which past prophecy had led true believers to anticipate. This kingship had been prophesied in Genesis 17.6, 16; 35.11; 49.10; Numbers 25.17; Deuteronomy 18.14-20. Once the king came all their problems would be solved. So God had from the beginning led His people to anticipate the coming one day of a great king who would do all His will (Genesis 49.10; Deuteronomy 18.14-20), and, as we know, the people had already experimented with kingship (Judges 8.22-23, 29-32). Now as she dedicates her son to YHWH Hannah looks ahead to this greater gift that YHWH will one day give to His people. In view of what follows it is clear that this dream of a coming king was something that was in the minds of all God’s people, as it had also been in Judges 8.22, and it was in the light of this desire that we must see the later request for a king (8.5). God’s disapproval would not be of their desire for a king, but of the kind of king that they had in mind, one who essentially displaced YHWH and was like the kings of all the nations.

    Hannah had been preparing for this moment for three years and may well have spent considerable time thinking over what she would say when it came, and to that end her mind had clearly ranged far and wide. We must see her words in that light, and not just as the inspiration of the moment. To us the prayer might not seem personal enough for the occasion. But in those days individualism was not emphasised and each Israelite saw himself/herself as a part of a whole rather than as an individual. Their own futures were therefore seen by them as very much tied up in the future of the whole people. If blessing was to come, therefore, it would come upon all who were righteous. And to that end it was her prayer that her gift of her son might contribute to the good of the nation. It is clear that the greatness of her sacrifice had given her great expectations. Surely, she had thought, this must aid in the bringing about of God’s ultimate purposes, and even in the coming of the hoped for Shiloh (Genesis 49.10)?

    We can divide her prayer up as follows:

    • 1). The Greatness And Saving Power Of YHWH. She exults in the deliverance and security that she anticipates for herself and her people from YHWH. They lived in dangerous days and none were more aware than she was of how much they needed God’s continued deliverance and protection. It was this confidence that would sustain the godly in Israel in the dark days that were to come. But it also indicated her own triumph in her deliverance as something accomplished by God in the face of her own adversary (2.1-2).
    • 2). A Warning To The Proud And Arrogant. She warns of the need of all men for humility before YHWH in the light of the fact that He knows all things and weighs their actions. She may especially have had in mind here the well publicised behaviour of the priests. But she no doubt also had in mind her own persecution at the hands of Peninnah. As readers we may also see it as pertinent to the behaviour of Saul throughout the first half of the book. It was his arrogance that led to his downfall. If anyone needed this advice, he did (2.3).
    • 3). God Humbles The Proud And Raises Up The Humble And Needy. Hannah was very much aware that this was what YHWH had done for her and she emphasises YHWH’s continual care for the weak, hungry and barren, in contrast with His dealings with the powerful, rich and seemingly well-blessed. Here she has in mind her own experience, as seen in the light of God’s continuously revealed concern for the poor, the widow, the fatherless and the needy (e.g. Deuteronomy 10.18; Exodus 22.22; Deuteronomy 14.29 and often). Her own experience of barrenness had given her a realisation of the heartfelt needs of the people (2.4-5). She had become one with them in their need. It also, however, depicts the vicissitudes through which David would go in his conflict with Saul.
    • 4). YHWH’s Sovereignty Over Humanity As Giver Of Life And As Their Creator. In these verses she beautifully expresses YHWH’s control over life and death as Creator, (death was ever close in those days), and over people’s future prospects and destinies, having special reference to his love for the downtrodden and His readiness to exalt them. She especially felt that this applied to her because YHWH had given life to her in the giving of her child. But these things were all her people’s everyday concerns and this also reflected her compassion and hopes for her people (2.6-8). That indeed was why she had given her child to YHWH, so that he might be a blessing to the whole people. But also reflected in these words we can see David’s rise to power out of seeming death.
    • 5). She Glories In The Power Of YHWH And In His Coming King. In closing she emphasises YHWH’s care for ‘His holy ones’ (including herself) and warns those who vaunt themselves against Him of the consequences. And all this is in the light of the future glorious day when YHWH will rule over the whole earth (‘judge the ends of the earth’) through His coming anointed king. The hoped for Shiloh will come, and to Him will the gathering of the people be (Genesis 49.10). See also Numbers 23.21; 24.17; Deuteronomy 17.14-20. It was her dream that her child might have his part to play in this glorious scenario (as indeed he would). This found partial fulfilment in the enthroning of David, but the ending of 2 Samuel in a plague caused by the king’s disobedience (2 Samuel 22) demonstrates quite clearly that even to the writer he was only to be seen as a prototype and not as the real thing. The real thing would lie in the final everlasting king from David’s house described in 2 Samuel 7.13, 16.

    The Greatness And Saving Power Of YHWH.

    2.1-2 ‘And Hannah prayed, and said:

    “My heart exults in YHWH,
    My horn is exalted in YHWH,
    My mouth is enlarged over my enemies,
    Because I rejoice in your salvation.
    There is none holy as YHWH,
    For there is none besides you,
    Neither is there any rock like our God.”

    Hannah exults in YHWH Who has given her a son, and even more over her great privilege of giving him to YHWH. This has raised her status above all women in Israel (her horn is exalted in YHWH, i.e. she can now toss her head like the horned stag in his triumph). At the same time she no longer has to keep silent in humiliation in the face of her adversaries because she has borne a son to the discomfiture of all her enemies who had criticised her. For God has saved her from her humiliation and proved that none is holy like Him (compare Exodus 15.11), none can be compared with Him, none is so firm a foundation as He is. The idea of God as her rock comes from Deuteronomy 32.4, 15, 18, 30.

    A Warning To The Proud And Arrogant.

    2.3

    “Talk no more so exceeding proudly,
    Let not arrogance come out of your mouth,
    For YHWH is a God of knowledge,
    And by him actions are weighed.”

    Hannah may have had in mind here her treatment by Peninnah and other spiteful women of her acquaintance who had expressed their own pride and had given her a hard time. But in mind also may have been the behaviour of the current priesthood as soon to be described. It is, however, a general warning to all. She wants all to humble themselves before YHWH as she has, so that they may also enjoy similar blessings to the ones which she has received from the One Who has weighed her actions and responded accordingly. If only Saul had heeded these words, what a difference it might have made to him.

    Her point is not that she has been blessed because her good actions have outweighed the bad, but that God has weighed up the longing of her heart and the purity of her purpose. That is why He has blessed her.

    God Humbles The Proud And Raises Up The Humble And Needy.

    2.4-5

    “The bows of the mighty men are broken,
    And those who stumbled are girded with strength.
    Those who were full have hired out themselves for bread,
    And those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
    Yes, the barren has borne seven,
    And she who has many children languishes.”
    .

    Hannah here contrasts the proud, self-sufficient warriors with those who stumble on their way, and is pointing out that it is God Who brings down and disarms the one while giving strength to the other. That is what He has done for her. In her weakness He has girded her with strength. (We can compare here also the contrast between Saul and David). She then contrasts the rich with their high standard of living with those who go hungry, and warns that God will cause the rich to have to fend for bread, while the hungry will cease being hungry because their needs will be supplied, in the same way as God has fed her own hungry soul. This is also relevant to Saul and David. In both cases the warning is to the proud and arrogant of what God does to those who are so proud unless they consider their ways, while at the same time being gracious to the weak and helpless, something that she has now experienced for herself. She lived at a time when such vicissitudes of life were constantly being revealed. They were turbulent times.

    The third example of the three is especially pertinent to her own case, and again warns against arrogance in the face of other people’s sufferings. She who was barren has borne a child who has fulfilled her desire. To her he is the equivalent of seven children the divinely perfect number (compare Ruth 4.15). In contrast the one who has many children will languish (either because of her pride and unkindness to those less fortunate than herself, with Peninnah in mind, or because she loses her children and is left bereft - Jeremiah 15.9).

    The overall point is that all such people should take into account God and His ways so that they are not caught out. For she has learned through her own experience what matters most is not to trust in one’s own strength and resources, but to trust in YHWH.

    YHWH’s Sovereignty Over Humanity As Their Creator.

    2.6-8

    “YHWH kills, and makes alive,
    He brings down to Sheol, and brings up.
    YHWH makes poor, and makes rich,
    He brings low, he also lifts up.
    He raises up the poor out of the dust,
    He lifts up the needy from the dunghill,
    To make them sit with princes,
    And inherit the throne of glory.
    For the pillars of the earth are YHWH’s,
    And he has set the world upon them.”

    This now turns her thoughts to YHWH’s overall sovereignty both in life and death, and in regard to wealth and poverty. She is very much aware of this because of the life that God has given her in her son. There is no reference here to resurrection. The thought is rather that life and death are in His hands. Some die, others are ‘given life’, or revive after illness. But all depend on YHWH. Some are brought down to the grave world (Sheol), others are raised up from their beds of sickness. And in the same way it is He Who makes men poor or rich, Who brings men low, or raises them up. This indeed is what has happened to her, She herself feels that she has been lifted out of a living death, and has been made rich and exalted in her bearing of a son.

    For she has come by it to recognise that YHWH is the One Who lifts the poor and needy from the dust and from the dunghill (the place of misery and humiliation. See Isaiah 47.1; Lamentations 4.5), and makes them enjoy the privilege of being princes, and of sitting on a glorious throne (a total contrast to the dust and the dunghill). No doubt at that moment she felt that she, who had spiritually been mourning on a dunghill, was indeed now enthroned in glory at her joy over Samuel’s birth. The picture in general is, of course, idealistic, although examples can certainly be found from history. Perhaps Jephthah sprang to mind. And it would certainly be true of David. But she has in mind what will happen ultimately when the ideal king who has been promised has come. And all this will be so because YHWH controls creation itself and is Lord over it all. Its very continuance is dependent on His provision, as is demonstrated by the fact that ‘the pillars of the earth are YHWH’s, and He has set the world upon them’. This vivid description pictures the world as being like a house or temple (see Judges 16.26). If He were to pull the pillars away the house would come crashing down.

    We gain from this some understanding of how Hannah’s soul is exalted, for in her eyes all these descriptions bring out what YHWH has done for her. He has turned her world upside down. And her point is that He not only does it for her, but will do it for others. David will be a prime example.

    She Glories In The Power Of YHWH And In His Coming King (2.9-10).

    2.9-10

    “He will keep the feet of his chosen ones,
    But the wicked will be put to silence in darkness,
    For by strength will no man prevail,
    Those who strive with YHWH will be broken to pieces.
    Against them will he thunder in the heavens,
    YHWH will judge the ends of the earth,
    And he will give strength to his king,
    And exalt the horn of his anointed.”

    Hannah finishes her words with an expression of confidence in the fact that YHWH will keep the feet of His chosen ones, while disposing of the wicked who will be put to silence in darkness. They will end up in Sheol. For no man can prevail by his own strength, which is why His chosen ones need Him to keep their feet from failing, while the unrighteous will end up in darkness and those who strive with Him will be broken in pieces. Indeed He will thunder against them in the heavens. Again we can compare David and Saul.

    The word for ‘chosen ones’ means ‘those who are the objects of His covenant love’. It refers to those who walk in faithful response to His covenant, and therefore enjoy His covenant love.

    The final three lines may simply represent a general expectation. YHWH will rule over (judge) the ends of the earth, and in that role will give strength to any He appoints as king, and exalt the power of any whom He sets aside and anoints. But it is far more likely that it has in mind the expectation of God’s world wide rule, when He will be the ‘Judge’ of all the earth and establish and give strength to the promised king of Genesis 49.10 and exalt his power as His ‘anointed’ (the one whom He has set apart for His service). It should be noted that the fact that YHWH has established him as king would necessarily be seen as signifying that he would be anointed. That was what happened to kings at this time (Judges 9.8). Thus ‘His anointed’ simply means ‘His appointed King’. The words bring out that even at this stage after the vicissitudes of the Judges period Israel still had great expectations. Then they had had no king and it had been reflected in how they had lived. Every man had done what was right in his own eyes. But Hannah knew that as Abraham’s descendants they were intended to bring blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12.3), and be a kingdom of priests to an earth that belonged to YHWH (Exodus 19.6; compare Deuteronomy 10.14). Thus in the future a kingship was envisaged, a kingship in which the king would rule wisely under YHWH (Deuteronomy 17.14-20). That was partly why God had brought them back to Canaan and given them their own land, so that they might minister to the nations. So she was confident that one day Shiloh would surely come and would triumphantly gather the peoples to him so as to bring it all into effect (Genesis 49.10). It was then that God would establish His rule over the nations.

    This certainly found part fulfilment in the accession and triumphs of David. Indeed many must have thought of him as Shiloh. But the writer is careful at the end of his book to remind us that there were great deficiencies in David’s rule (2 Samuel 24). He wants us to recognise that the future yet awaits a greater David Who will establish His everlasting kingship (2 Samuel 7.13, 16).

    The Rise Of Samuel And The Fall Of The House Of Eli (2.12-3.1).

    In this section we now have a description of the careful build up of Samuel’s ministry and of his own spiritual growth. But deliberately interlaced within it is the continuing description of the downfall of the house of Eli. While the lesson from it is simple. Even in the same environment some develop and grow nearer to God, while others continue headlong on the way to disaster.

    This continued growth of Samuel, and the fall of the house of Eli, is depicted as follows:

    • a ‘The child ministered to YHWH before Eli the Priest’ (2.11).
    • b A description of the wicked behaviour of the sons of Eli (2.12-17).
    • c ‘Samuel ministered before YHWH being a child girded with a linen ephod ---and the child Samuel grew before YHWH’ (2.18-21).
    • d Eli rebukes his sons for their wickedness in trespassing on what belongs to YHWH (2.22-25).
    • c ‘And the child Samuel grew on and was in favour both with YHWH and also with men’ (2.26).
    • b A man of God prophesies the fall of the house of Eli and the death of his wicked sons (2.27-36).
    • a ‘And the child Samuel ministered to YHWH before Eli’ (3.1).

    The narrative is carefully patterned. Note that in ‘a’ the child Samuel ministers to YHWH before Eli, and in the parallel he does the same. In ‘b’ we have described the wickedness of the two sons of Eli and in the parallel the fate of both they and their house is described. In ‘c’ Samuel continues to grow before YHWH, and the same occurs in the parallel. In ‘d’, and centrally, Eli rebukes his two sons for trespassing on the preserves of YHWH and warns them of the consequences of their actions. It is the consequences of their behaviour for Israel that will cover the next part of the book (3-6), and will also affect the years ahead until the rise of Samuel, a rise which will lead to a ‘golden age’ in which the Philistines will be driven back, and will subsequently as a consequence of the activity of his protégé David, result in the Ark returning to its proper place in the Tabernacle/Temple.

    Samuel Is Set Apart For The Service Of YHWH (2.11).

    2.11 ‘And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child ministered to YHWH before Eli the priest.’

    In a few poignant words the traumatic moment of the separation is rapidly passed over. There is no mention of Hannah. Her prayer has said all that needs to be said. As the head of the house the godly Elkanah leaves Samuel with Eli, and returns to his house in Ramah without his son, for his son has been given to YHWH. And Samuel remains behind at Shiloh and begins to minister to YHWH under Eli’s guidance and instruction. He has been adopted by YHWH and is under Eli’s protection. How Eli must have wished that his own sons were like this.

    The Two Sons of Eli (2.12-17).

    The lives of the two sons of Eli were the very opposite of Samuel’s. They too had been ‘given to YHWH’ when they had been made priests, but their behaviour revealed how far they were from YHWH. No wonder that YHWH had deserted Shiloh (3.21).

    2.12 ‘Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know YHWH.’

    These men who had the responsibility for ministering to YHWH on behalf of Israel are described as ‘worthless men’. No wonder then that Israel languished. And the result was that ‘they did not know YHWH’. We know from 3.7 that this refers to the fact that YHWH did not reveal His word to them. Thus those who came to Shiloh seeking spiritual assistance and guidance went away empty. We must not, however, see Israel as totally empty of such guidance for, as 2.27 reveals, YHWH still had local prophets (‘men of God’) who would pronounce His word. Throughout the ages this has always been so. God has always had His ‘local prophets’. But the central place at which that guidance should have been made available was empty. The fountain had dried up. It was a pattern that would be revealed again and again throughout history.

    2.13-14 ‘And the custom of the priests with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was boiling, with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand, and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot. All that the flesh-hook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.’

    The Law had laid down clear instruction about the priest’s portion, which consisted of the breast and shoulder (Leviticus 7.29-34). But these two men took no notice of the Law. Instead of simply accepting the breast and shoulder, whenever a sacrifice was offered they sent their servant with a three pronged fork, and when the flesh that had been taken off the sacrifice was still boiling, in went the fork, and whatever came out was claimed by the priests. This may have been additionally to the breast and shoulder, or it may simply be that the fork was designed in such a way as to ensure the collection of much larger portions. Either way they were taking more than was allotted to them. This was what Shiloh had come to under their priesthood. A place of daylight robbery. And no one dared to argue with God’s ‘holy’ priests.

    In the same way we also should ask ourselves whether we are similarly robbing God. For we too are His servants, and all the wealth that is committed to our care is His. The danger for us also is that we can use for our own purposes what we should really see as His, for as Jesus informed His disciples when He directed their attention to the widow who gave her mites in the Temple, our giving is judged on the basis, not of how much we give, but of what we keep for ourselves. Others of us want more than God intends for us, and spend time that we should be spending in His service on obtaining more wealth for ourselves.

    However, here the priests got tired of boiled meat and so they devised another plan in order to satisfy themselves.

    2.15-16 ‘Yes, before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man who sacrificed, “Give flesh to roast for the priest, for he will not have boiled flesh from you, but raw.” And if the man said to him, “They will surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as your soul desires,” then he would say, “No, but you must give it to me now, and if not, I will take it by force.” ’

    This second breach of the Law was even more flagrant than the first. They actually demanded that they be given the raw flesh before the fat, which had to be given to YHWH, had been burnt. Presumably therefore it was before it had been removed. This was sheer blasphemy. At such a gross breach of the Law the people protested. The Law emphasised that the fat must first be given to YHWH and burned on the altar. It was sacred. Then the priests could have as much as they wanted. But they were then threatened that if they did not do as they were told force would be used so that the priests would get their way. None, of course, could prevent it. No one would dare to strike a holy priest or his servant. That would have been sacrilege. So they had to give way. Thus the two priests and their servants blatantly insulted YHWH by ignoring all His requirements, taking advantage of their privileged position.

    2.17 ‘And the sin of the young men was very great before YHWH, for the men despised the offering of YHWH.’

    The writer sums up the situation. The sin of these young men, Hophni and Phinehas (verse 34), was very great before YHWH, in that by their actions they were demonstrating that they despised the offering of YHWH. (This was, of course, a later Phinehas than the one in Numbers 25.11). And the result was that the offerings would become despised by the people (Malachi 2.8-9). The whole sacrificial system was being brought into disrepute because of the scandalous behaviour of these two priests. And it seems that Eli did nothing about it.

    The Contrasting Behaviour Of Samuel and His Family (2.18-21).

    In total contrast the young Samuel, dressed similarly to a priest even though still a child, ministered before YHWH, and continued to grow in righteousness. He must have been both bewildered and grieved at what he saw. And no doubt he came in for some stick because of it. But in contrast with the house of Eli, Samuel’s family were greatly blessed. It demonstrated that there were still some who looked faithfully to YHWH.

    2.18 ‘But Samuel ministered before YHWH, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.’

    ‘Samuel ministered before YHWH.’ We are not told what Samuel’s duties consisted of, but he clearly carried them out faithfully. And there in the Tabernacle he diligently served YHWH, and wore a linen ephod, which distinguished him as a ‘holy’ child, a child set apart wholly to the worship of YHWH. An ephod was a garment which went over the head and covered the shoulders and was secured round the waist. It was mainly distinctive of the priests (verse 28; 22.18), although it could be worn by others when engaged in sacred activities (2 Samuel 6.14). There was a special ephod for ‘the Priest’ (the High Priest) or whoever was standing in for him (Exodus 28.6 ff). Thus the ephod demonstrated that Samuel was continually engaged in sacred duties. There is no suggestion, however, that he offered sacrifices at this stage.

    2.19 ‘Moreover his mother used to make him a little robe, and used to bring it to him from year to year (literally ‘from days to days’), when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice (the sacrifice of days’).’

    The ‘little robe’ was similar to the garment that ‘the Priest’ wore under the ephod. A new one was brought by his mother every time that she attended the regular feasts, which she did regularly in order to offer a sacrifice through her husband. She never forgot her son, and she never neglected to worship YHWH.

    2.20 ‘And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, “YHWH give you seed of this woman for the petition which was asked of YHWH.” And they went to their own home.

    It would seem that Eli watched out for Samuel’s parents and gave them his personal attention. No doubt Samuel had won his heart, and he was undoubtedly thankful to have him ministering in the Sanctuary. Thus when he offered sacrifice on their behalf he blessed Elkanah and his wife, and prayed that God would continue to answer her petition by giving her more children. And with that blessing they went to their own home.

    2.21 ‘And YHWH visited Hannah, and she conceived, and bore three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before YHWH.’

    And so partly in response to her prayer, and we are no doubt intended to see partly due to the blessing of the Priest, YHWH again ‘visited’ Hannah, and the result was that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. God was giving her a family to fill the gap that Samuel’s departure had unquestionably left. God is no man’s debtor. Meanwhile her first child, Samuel, ‘grew before YHWH’. He grew in His presence both physically and spiritually, for he was separated totally to YHWH.

    Eli’s Sons Become Worse And Worse Until They Have ‘Sinned Unto Death’ (2.22-25).

    While Samuel was growing and developing, Eli’s sons were shrivelling and disintegrating. By this time Eli was an old man. His time as Priest was coming to an end. And while Samuel cheered his godly heart continually, the news that he heard about his two sons grieved him greatly. Indeed it had become so serious that he determined to give them a severe warning.

    2.22 ‘Now Eli was very old, and he continued hearing all that his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who did service at the door of the tent of meeting.’

    Notice the extent of the influence of these godless men, now somewhat older, but certainly no wiser. Indeed they had become even more sinful, for they not only continued to sin before all Israel, but they lay with the women who were in the service of YHWH, the women who did service at the door of the Tent of Meeting itself. This was not only adultery, but adultery carried out in the very face of YHWH. We do not know whether the women freely consented, but it is probable that they at least had pressure put on them by the priests, who may well have stated that it was their duty as servants of the Tabernacle, citing the example of Canaanite worship where ritual sex was prevalent. So they disgraced their office in a new way.

    We do not know what kind of sacred service these women normally performed (compare Exodus 38.8), but they clearly had regular duties, which may have included the singing of Psalms and the cleaning of the surrounds of God’s house. Jephthah’s daughter had probably become one of them (Judges 11.37-40 - which may well have been intended to indicate that she lived in perpetual virginity, having been redeemed by the offering of a ram) and was possibly still alive at this time. And they were equally clearly sacred to YHWH. Thus the two men had found a way of committing sacrilege which went even beyond what they had done before. They committed adultery before God’s very face with the very women who were dedicated to YHWH. This may well have been due to Canaanite influence, for in the Canaanite religion sacred prostitutes were commonplace, but they knew perfectly well that it was inexcusable.

    ‘At the door of the tent of meeting.’ This was particularly heinous as this was where people would come to YHWH for judgment on different issues (Exodus 29.42). It was where a woman who was accused of adultery would be tested out ‘before YHWH’ (Number 5.16). And yet now the very women who served there had been made into adulteresses, and that by the very priests of YHWH.

    2.23-24 ‘And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all this people. No, my sons, for it is no good report that I hear. You make YHWH’s people to transgress. If one man sin against another, God will arbitrate for him, but if a man sin against YHWH, who will arbitrate for him?”

    Eli challenges his sons on their behaviour, but it was something that he should have done long before. He points out that he is hearing about their bad behaviour from everywhere. All are talking about it. (Possibly previously he had closed his ears to the ‘rumours’. But now they could be ignored no longer). And he reproves them because the report he is receiving is not good. Why, he asks, are they doing such things? Do they not realise that they are making YHWH’s people transgress? This was serious indeed, because, if a man sins against another, God will step in as arbitrator and judge, but when a man sins directly against YHWH who is there to arbitrate for him? And the answer is, no one. For there is no one whose plea would be sufficient in view of the greatness of the sin.

    ‘YHWH’s people’ may refer to the fact that the women with whom they had been sinning were specifically set apart to YHWH. Or it may simply mean ‘Israel’ as YHWH’s people. Either way it was to be seen as a serious matter.

    2.25 “Notwithstanding, they did not listen to the voice of their father, because YHWH was minded to slay them.’

    Whether they would have listened to their father of their own volition even if YHWH had not hardened them we do not know. The probability is that they would not, for they were hardened sinners. After all their father must surely have spoken to them about the rumours before. But now there was another reason why they did not listen, and that was because, as a result of the fact that they had hardened their hearts for so long, God had now hardened their hearts. As with Pharaoh previously, the time for forgiveness had passed. YHWH had determined that they must die. They had committed the ‘sin unto death’ (James 5.16-17).

    Samuel Continues To Grow On, And Is Increasing In Favour Both With YHWH And With Men (2.26).

    2.26 ‘And the child Samuel grew on, and increased in favour both with YHWH, and also with men.’

    While Eli’s sons have totally deteriorated, and have come under the condemnation of both YHWH and men. Samuel continues to ‘grow on’. He is doing the exact opposite. He is increasing in favour both with YHWH and with men. Happy the one of whom this can be said. All who had contact with him were impressed and found blessing from him. He was in total contrast to the sons of Eli.

    YHWH Sends A Man Of God To Pass His Verdict On Eli’s House (2.27-36).

    Scripture constantly reveals that God is never left without a witness. Always at special times of need a ‘man of God’ appears. In this case there comes an anonymous ‘man of God’ to Eli. He may well, of course, have been known to Eli, but like a number of ‘men of God’ in Samuel and Kings he is not made known to us. He is one of God’s anonymous witnesses. He is, however, important nonetheless, and his message is even more important, for he has come to signal the demise of Eli’s house.

    The coming of ‘the man of God’ has another significance in the passage. For it indicates that at this point in time YHWH has no one else that He can use in order to convey the message to Eli. But in chapter 3 the situation will change, for there YHWH uses Samuel for the purpose. It is thus an indication that Samuel is by then also accepted as a ‘man of God’, able to receive and pass on a message from YHWH. His status is continually growing.

    2.27-28 ‘And there came a man of God to Eli, and said to him, “Thus says YHWH. Did I reveal myself to the house of your father, when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house? And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? And did I give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire?” ’

    The man of God comes to Eli and outlines in YHWH’s Name all that YHWH has done for his house. He had revealed Himself to the house of his ‘father’ (ancestor) Aaron when he was in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house. He had chosen him out of all the tribes of Israel to be His Priest, so that he might go up to His altar, burn incense, and wear the ephod (of the Priest) before Him. Note the order as it moves forwards from the sacrificial altar in the courtyard, to the altar of incense in the Holy Place, to wearing the Priest’s ephod before YHWH in the Holiest of All. It was a huge privilege that the house of Aaron had been given. And YHWH had also given to the house of his father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire, a part of which was given to the priests, the very offerings which were now being misused by them.

    2.29 “Why do you trample on my sacrifice and my offering, which I have commanded in my habitation, and honour your sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?”

    The charge is then laid, that Eli and his house have trampled on His sacrifice and offering which He has commanded in His own habitation, and indeed that Eli, by allowing what he has, has honoured his sons above YHWH, and what is more, has by participating in their behaviour made himself fat with the best parts of the offerings of His people Israel. Eli is thus not to be exonerated from blame.

    2.30 “Thus the word of YHWH (neum YHWH - an indication of a solemn prophetic statement), the God of Israel, “I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before me for ever.” But now, the word of YHWH (neum YHWH), “Be it far from me; for those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me will be lightly esteemed.”

    In Exodus 29.9; Numbers 25.13 God had said that the family of Aaron in all its branches would serve perpetually as priests in His presence, but now He was altering the promise as far as Eli’s line were concerned. The time would come when they would cease to act as priests. And the reason for it was because they had lightly esteemed Him and despised Him. For, He declares, ‘those who honour Me I will honour, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed’. By this they had excluded themselves from God’s covenant. Thus they would be cut off from the priesthood, and the promise would from then on only apply to the house of Eliezer, that is, to the Zadokites. These last would, of course, also later be cut off as a result of their attitude towards Jesus Christ by the destruction of the Temple. In God’s eyes Israel therefore no longer has a sacerdotal priesthood, apart from the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. But that was yet in the far future.

    2.31 “Behold, the days come, that I will cut off your arm, and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house.”

    To cut off the arm meant to remove the strength. Thus the point was being made that no male of his house would in future grow to be an old man, because YHWH would not permit it.

    2.32 “And you will behold the distress of my habitation, in all that which God has shown of good to Israel, and there will not be an old man in your house for ever.”

    This cutting off of the arm would have consequences also for the Tabernacle. As a result of the behaviour of Eli’s family distress would come upon God’s habitation, thus affecting all that God had given to Israel in their unique form of worship. And distress would come on Eli’s family to such an extent that they would no longer be long-lived (something seen as an indication of God’s displeasure)

    So Eli would live to see YHWH’s habitation distressed. This would happen when he received news of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines. The loss of the Ark was a cause of great distress to the Tabernacle, God’s dwellingplace. It meant that Israel were bereft of the very symbol of God’s presence with them. ‘In all which God has shown of good to Israel’ would then refer to the loss of all the benefits that the Tabernacle brought to Israel. This would be the consequence of their defeat at the hands of the Philistines. The Ark would be taken, and later the Sanctuary of Shiloh would itself either be destroyed, or fall into disuse.

    Alternately we can translate, ‘you will see a rival in my habitation’, the ‘you’ in this case referring to his descendants who would see themselves being displaced by the house of Zadok when Abiathar was forcibly ‘retired’ by Solomon. This would fit better with the translation of the next phrase as ‘in all that God will give to Israel’ found in many versions. For Zadok’s day (the time of David and Solomon) would be a time of great prosperity, when the sacrifices and offerings would be numerous. But all would be lost to Eli’s descendants. And again it is emphasised that no male in his house would live to old age, but now this judgment will be ‘for ever’.

    2.33 “And the man of yours, whom I will not cut off from my altar, will be to consume your eyes, and to grieve your heart; and all the increase of your house will die in manhood ( ‘in men’).”

    And any man of the house of Eli whom God does not cut off from His altar (prevent from being a practising priest), will be a cause of great sadness and grief of heart to his family, and all the males born in his house will die while still young men. In other words the future for his house is grim. They will never again produce satisfactory priests. It will be noted that they are not being excluded from the priesthood, only from its greatest blessings and benefits, and above all from the High Priesthood.

    2.34 “And this will be the sign to you, that will come on your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas. In one day they will die, both of them.”

    And the evidence that this prophecy will be fulfilled will be that Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will both die on the same day, an event which will shortly be recorded (see 4.11).

    2.35 “And I will raise me up a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and in my mind, and I will build him a sure house, and he will walk before my anointed for ever (literally, ‘all the days’).”

    The promise is then that in contrast to Eli and his family, which is now rejected, God will raise up a faithful Priest who will be totally faithful to Him, and He will establish his house and make it sure, and when he comes, this Priest will serve God’s anointed one ‘all the days’. For ‘God’s anointed one’ compare 2.10, which is the only mention of an anointed one up to this point, and is pointing forward to a future ideal king. Essentially therefore the promise here is of a faithful and true High Priest who will serve the coming expected ideal prince, the prince who in the future will be the anointed of YHWH. This is Israel’s glorious future. While our thoughts may naturally turn to what lies ahead in Samuel that was not in anyone’s mind when this prophecy was given. The thought was rather of the coming of ‘God’s expected anointed one’, which to them would have indicated, as it did to Hannah, the coming hoped for ideal king mentioned in 2.10, whom God would raise up in accordance with Genesis 17.6, 16; 35.11; 49.10; Numbers 23.21; 24.17; Deuteronomy 17.14-20. The thought is therefore essentially ‘Messianic’, and find its ultimate fulfilment in our Lord Jesus Christ Who would become our great and perfect High Priest, acting on our behalf (Hebrews 2.17 and often; compare also John 17).

    But the reader is also clearly intended by the writer to see it as referring to later events in the Book of Samuel, which can be seen as a partial fulfilment of this promise. In this light there are two main views as to whom this refers. The majority view is that it is referring to the High Priest Zadok (2 Samuel 20.25), to whom David gave the responsibility for the Ark (2 Samuel 15.24), and who, being from the line of Eleazar, continued on as High Priest, followed by his heirs, when Abiathar (of the line of Ithamar and Eli) ceased from being the joint High Priest (1 Kings 2.26). From that day the High Priest never again came from the line of Ithamar (and Eli). Zadok was faithful to his trust, and his house was made sure, the line of Zadok (and Eleazar) lasting until the exile, and finally, after a few ups and downs, until the cessation of sacrifices. And Zadok did walk before David and Solomon (the prototypes of the coming king) all his days after his appointment, fulfilling the responsibilities of the High Priest’s office. His line was also that which Ezekiel saw as operating at the new altar to be built after the Exile through which the heavenly Temple was to be accessed (Ezekiel 43.19; compare 40.46).

    A minority view is that it refers to Samuel. He may well be seen as having been ‘adopted’ by Eli, thus becoming recognised as of the priestly line, and he would certainly later offer sacrifices as a priest (although he never claimed the office of High Priest which was seemingly in abeyance after the destruction of Shiloh until it emerged again in Ahijah, the son of Ahitub (14.3) to be followed by Ahimelech (21.1). Ahitub was Ichabod’s brother). Furthermore no one was more faithful than Samuel was and would be, and he would certainly do according to what was in God’s heart and mind.

    But where the prophecy fails with regard to Samuel is in the question of his being built a sure house, which in context means the house that would replace the house of Eli, for his sons in fact failed in their responsibilities (8.1-3,5) and as far as we know never became priests. It is true that his house was later ‘established’ in that his grandson became David’s chief musician, and father of fourteen sons and daughters (1 Chronicles 6.33; 25.1, 4, 5), but it was not as priests, and the thought in the prophecy here appears to be that the making sure was to be of a house connected with the priesthood. Samuel’s house was not connected with the priesthood after his death. They too had forfeited the right to be so. Thus Samuel might have been a prospective candidate, but he did not fulfil all the qualifications. He only partially fulfilled the conditions.

    2.36 “And it will come about that every one who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread, and will say, “Put me, I pray you, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a morsel of bread.”

    In terms of Messianic expectation the thought here is that the coming High Priest will be so exalted that this current priesthood will have to humble themselves before Him in order to receive life’s necessities, desiring to serve Him in order to enjoy their bread. We find a fulfilment of this depicted in the covenant meal offered to the crowds by Jesus, followed by His exposition of it in terms of the need to receive Him as the Bread of life John 6.35. All would have to come to Him in this way. If we would live, we too must eat of Him.

    But this vivid picture also emphasises how the line of Eli will be humbled in the nearer future. In the near future those who are of his line will have to submit to the line of Eleazar in order to receive their priest’s portion, and their humiliation is emphasised. They will be relatively destitute. Such will be the destiny of Eli’s house because of their atrocious behaviour and sacrilege.

    The Continued Faithfulness Of Samuel (3.1a).

    Meanwhile, while all this is going on, Samuel continues on in his faithful service of YHWH without wavering. Samuel stands out like a shining light against the dark background of Eli’s priestly family and their behaviour (and is a credit to Eli).

    3.1a ‘And the child Samuel ministered to YHWH before Eli.’

    There was no blip in Samuel’s service. He continued faithfully to serve YHWH. And he did it under Eli’s jurisdiction and guidance. So God had not overlooked what was good in Eli, and He had entrusted to his care the one in whom His coming purposes would be fulfilled. It was not so much Eli himself who was rejected, but his family line.

    Chapter 3.

    God now informs Samuel himself of what He will do to the house of Eli. As a result from this time on Samuel is himself to be seen, even at a young age, as a ‘man of God’ who can be entrusted with YHWH’s message (3.2-18). And in this chapter we then see a ‘flash forward’ of his sprouting forth as a prophet of YHWH, ‘And Samuel grew and YHWH was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of YHWH. And YHWH appeared again in Shiloh, for YHWH revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of YHWH. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel’ (3.19-4.1a).

    Samuel’s Vision And Its Consequences (3.1b-4.1a)

    In this passage we are shown the huge transformation that takes place as a result of Samuel’s presence at Shiloh. It commences with a situation where there is no frequent vision, and ends with Samuel revealing YHWH’s word to all Israel. It must indeed have seemed at the time as though Samuel was the faithful Priest whom YHWH would raise up (2.35). He certainly fulfilled most of the requirements as the adopted son of Eli. But it is noteworthy that Samuel never himself made any claim to be High Priest, nor ever sought to act as such. He acted as a priest, a judge and a prophet, but never as the High Priest of the Tabernacle. That position was reserved for others who were trueborn sons of Aaron. YHWH would be faithful to His promise to Aaron.

    We may analyse the chapter as follows:

    • a And the word of YHWH was precious in those days. There was no frequent vision (3.1b).
    • b And it came about on that day, when Eli was laid down in his place (now his eyes had begun to wax dim, so that he could not see), and the lamp of God was not yet gone out, and Samuel was laid down to sleep, in the temple of YHWH, where the ark of God was, that YHWH called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am”. And he ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down. And YHWH called yet again, “Samuel.” And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” And he answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again” (3.2-6).
    • c Now Samuel did not yet know YHWH, nor was the word of YHWH yet revealed to him’ (3.7).
    • d And YHWH called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” And Eli perceived that YHWH had called the child. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call you, that you will say, “Speak, YHWH; for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And YHWH came, and stood, and called as at other times, “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (3.8-10).
    • e And YHWH said to Samuel, “Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one who hears it will tingle” (3.11a).
    • f In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from the beginning even to the end” (3.11b-12).
    • g “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves, and he did not restrain them” (3.13).
    • f “And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated with sacrifice nor offering for ever” (3.14).
    • e And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of YHWH. And Samuel was afraid to show Eli the vision (3.15).
    • d Then Eli called Samuel, and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “What is the thing that YHWH has said to you? I pray you, do not hide it from me: God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that he said to you”. And Samuel told him every detail, and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is YHWH. Let him do what seems good to him” (3.16-18).
    • c And Samuel grew, and YHWH was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground (3.19).
    • b And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of YHWH (3.20).
    • a And YHWH appeared again in Shiloh; for YHWH revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh in the word of YHWH. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel (3.21-4.1a).

    Note that in ‘a’ the word of YHWH was rare and precious and there was no vision published abroad, and in contrast in the parallel the word of YHWH came to Samuel, and through him to all Israel. In ‘b’ YHWH calls to Samuel twice, and in the parallel he was established as a prophet of YHWH. In ‘c’ Samuel had not yet had the word of YHWH revealed to him, and in contrast in the parallel Samuel grew and YHWH was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. In ‘d’ Eli perceived that YHWH had called Samuel and told him to listen to what YHWH had to say, and in the parallel. Samuel tells Eli every detail of what YHWH had said. In ‘e’ YHWH tells Samuel that what He has to tell him will make every ear tingle, and in the parallel Samuel is afraid to give the details to Eli. In ‘f’ YHWH says He will perform against Eli all that He has spoken concerning his house from beginning to end, and in the parallel the iniquity of Eli’s house would not be expiated for ever. Centrally in ‘g’ is given the reason for the curse on the house of Eli.

    The Situation (3.1b).

    3.1b ‘And the word of YHWH was precious in those days. There was no vision published abroad.’

    Preparatory to what is to happen to Samuel the writer describes the parlous situation in which Israel finds itself. The word of YHWH was precious because it was so rare. There was ‘no vision published abroad’; compare 4.1a. God had almost stopped speaking to His people. During the long judgeship of Eli, and especially towards its latter end, the voice of YHWH had been virtually silent. And even before that (if it was before it) it had been silent since the birth of Samson. The behaviour of those who should have been the means of speaking to His people had made it impossible. Indeed in the whole of the time of the Judges we have only two references to a prophet (Judges 4.4; 6.8). It was true that God still delivered His people, but they received no ‘word from YHWH’.

    YHWH Approaches Samuel (3.2-6) .

    3.2-4 ‘And it came about on that day, when Eli was laid down in his place (now his eyes had begun to wax dim, so that he could not see), and the lamp of God was not yet gone out, and Samuel was laid down to sleep, in the temple of YHWH, where the ark of God was, that YHWH called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am.” ’

    It cannot be accidental that the writer provides us with this detail. Outwardly the scene was commonplace. Old and almost blind Eli had lain down in his quarters in the sacred area surrounding the Tabernacle, probably in one of the Tabernacle buildings which surrounded it. Eli’s condition explains why Samuel thought that it was Eli who was calling for assistance. The sevenfold lampstand still had its light burning through the night as it always had at nights. This demonstrates that dawn had not yet arrived for it was still lit. And Samuel also, having finished his duties for the day had also lain down to sleep ‘in the temple of YHWH where the Ark of God was’. This does not necessarily mean that he slept inside the Sanctuary, although it is possible. It probably means that he slept in the wider Temple area which included the store rooms and the sleeping quarters for those dedicated to YHWH. The point of its being ‘where the Ark of God was’ lay in the fact that it was the Ark which represented the presence of YHWH, and it was YHWH Who was about to speak to him. This last is especially significant in that the Ark would not be there all that much longer. It would shortly be captured by the Philistines and defiled, with the result that, although it was soon returned, it would for a considerable period be unavailable for worship (all through the judgeship of Samuel and the kingship of Saul). But at this stage the Ark was still with His people, and, unknown to Israel, the One Whom it represented was about to call the one who would later act in its place as YHWH’s representative, and would restore Israel.

    But we may, also see behind the details described the state of Israel. Their leadership was almost blind, and while their light was not yet out, it was on the point of ‘going out’. The situation was spiritually grim. And it was only saved by YHWH speaking from the Ark of God for the last time for many years.

    And so from His throne on the Ark, from the place of propitiation, the mercy seat, YHWH called to Samuel by name. Samuel was used to a voice calling in the night for the ailing Eli no doubt often had to seek his help. So when he heard the voice he thought that it could only be Eli. He was not yet at this stage used to hearing the voice of YHWH.

    3.5 ‘And he ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down.’

    On hearing the voice Samuel ran to where Eli was lying and said, ‘Here I am for you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call my son. Go back to bed.” And Samuel returned to his bed. Notice Eli’s description of Samuel as ‘his son’. We may certainly see that he has adopted Samuel so that he could legitimately be a priest.

    3.6 ‘And YHWH called yet again, “Samuel.” And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” And he answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”

    Then YHWH again called his name, and again Samuel went to Eli saying, ‘Here I am for you called me.” And again he replied, “I did not call my son, go back to bed.”

    Samuel Was Not As Yet Used To Hearing The Word Of YHWH (3.7)

    3.7 ‘Now Samuel did not yet know YHWH, nor was the word of YHWH yet revealed to him.’

    We are now given the reason for Samuel’s confusion. Up to this point he did not ‘know YHWH’ In other words he had never had personal and specific communication with Him and from Him. This was indeed the day on which he would become ‘a man of God, a prophet’. For from now on he would continue to hear the voice of YHWH. The long years of darkness for Israel were over. Spiritually the light would not go out. Rather it would go on shining ever more brightly as the years went by.

    YHWH Calls To Samuel Again And The Aged Eli Is Enlightened And Recognises The Truth (3.8-10).

    3.8 ‘And YHWH called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” And Eli perceived that YHWH had called the youth.’

    Once more YHWH called Samuel’s name, and again he ran to Eli and said, ‘Here I am for you called me’. But this time Eli recognised that something unusual was happening. He recognised that it was YHWH who was calling the young man (the word for young man signifies not yet a full adult).

    3.9 ‘Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call you, that you will say, “Speak, YHWH; for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place’

    So Eli told Samuel that if he heard the voice again he must say, “Speak YHWH, for your servant is listening.’ And with that Samuel returned to bed.

    3.10 ‘And YHWH came, and stood, and called as at other times, “Samuel, Samuel.” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” ’

    Then YHWH ‘came, and stood, and called’ his name again. Note the threefold activity indicating its completeness. The previous threefold call was probably intended to be seen as indicating the completeness of his calling. It indicated a kind of inauguration. Now YHWH came in a complete revelation of Himself. Note in fact that the writer only has Samuel’s name mentioned on three of the occasions (indicating a complete call). Now YHWH speaks Samuel’s name twice. This time He expects a reply. And Samuel replies, ‘speak YHWH for your servant is listening.’ From now on Samuel is a ‘a servant of God’, a ‘man of God’, a ‘prophet of YHWH’.

    YHWH’s Word To Samuel Concerning The House Of Eli (3.11-14).

    It is probable that Samuel had no notion of what the man of God had said to Eli. It was not the kind of thing that Eli would have shared with a boy. Thus what YHWH said to him must have come as a complete surprise.

    3.11 ‘And YHWH said to Samuel, “Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one who hears it will tingle.”

    YHWH informs Samuel of the seriousness of what He is about to tell him. For He is about to do something that will stir the whole of Israel and make their ears tingle because of the seriousness of it. The news of the exclusion from the High Priesthood of the ‘reigning’ line would come as a huge shock to Samuel. It was almost unthinkable. High Priests were for ever. And it also portended terrible events to bring it about, something truly earthshaking.

    ‘At which both the ears of every one who hears it will tingle.” This phrase always portends judgment. Compare the use of it in 2 Kings 21.12; Jeremiah 19.3. Indeed Jeremiah would later liken the destruction of the Jerusalem to the destruction of Shiloh (Jeremiah 7.12-14; 26.6).

    3.12-13 “In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from the beginning even to the end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves, and he did not restrain them.”

    Notice the regular prophetic phrase ‘in that day’, which always signals something God will assuredly do in the future, usually in the form of judgment (but be it noted not necessarily always in the end days). And ‘in that day’ YHWH tells him, He will perform against Eli all that He had spoken concerning his house from beginning to end. Then He explains to him that He has informed Eli that His permanent judgment has been passed on Eli’s house for ever because of the iniquity that he knew about and did nothing to prevent. That is, the iniquity of his two sons and their sacrilegious behaviour.

    Samuel was, of course, well aware of the behaviour of Eli’s sons, and had probably anticipated that at some time YHWH would act on the matter. But he had probably not dreamed that it would affect his beloved Eli. He was as yet too young to recognise that to fail to put restraint on open sin when it was within a person’s authority, was to be guilty of participation in that sin.

    3.14 “And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated with sacrifice nor offering for ever.”

    And therefore, YHWH explains, He has sworn to the house of Eli that no sacrifice or offering would be able to expiate their sin for ever. Thus Samuel learns, possibly for the first time, that sacrifices and offerings do not inevitably expiate sin. Obedience also is necessary.

    The news must have come to him in a way that chilled his bones. He was learning from the commencement that being a prophet of YHWH was never going to be an easy thing. For he was learning that as a prophet he would be called on to bear the ‘burden’ of others, and to communicate unpleasant news.

    The Next Morning (3.15-18).

    3.15 ‘And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of YHWH. And Samuel was afraid to show Eli the vision.’

    Notice that it does not say ‘slept’. It is doubtful whether he could sleep. As he lay on his mattress his thoughts must have been turning over and over. How could he possibly tell his beloved mentor what God had told him? And when he rose in the morning wondering what on earth the day would bring, he said nothing to Eli but went to the doors of the outer court, and opened them ready for the new day. He did not dare to say anything to Eli.

    3.16 ‘Then Eli called Samuel, and said, “Samuel, my son.” And he said, “Here I am.” ’

    Eli may only have had dim sight, but he could hardly have failed to notice how quiet Samuel was, and calling to Samuel he said, ‘Samuel, my son’. And in what must have been a very strained voice, Samuel replied, ‘Here I am.’

    3.17 ‘And he said, “What is the thing that YHWH has said to you? I pray you, do not hide it from me: God do so to you, and more also, if you hide anything from me of all the things that he said to you.”

    Eli must have know perfectly well that Samuel had received some important message. He probably even suspected that it concerned himself. And so he quietly asked him for full details of what YHWH had said to him. He asked him what had been said, and to hide nothing, and put him under a mild oath not to do so on pain of God’s displeasure. Note the threefold injunction, a sign that it was necessary for Samuel to answer. The use of ‘God’ rather than YHWH (which is continually in use in this passage) demonstrates that this was a common oath, regularly used and therefore fixed in its phraseology (compare Ruth 1.17. But there Ruth used YHWH).

    3.18 ‘And Samuel told him every detail, and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is YHWH. Let him do what seems good to him.” ’

    And obediently Samuel explained to him everything that he had been told. He must have been very relieved when the godly Eli took it calmly. But Eli’s faith was sufficient to acknowledge that it was YHWH Who had spoken and that YHWH knew what He was doing. Let Him therefore do what seemed good to Him.

    Eli was a godly man. The problem was that he had just been too weak to deal properly with his headstrong sons. He is a warning to us all not to be too reticent in dealing with sin. Where we have responsibility we must take the blame if we do not fulfil our responsibility.

    Samuel Develops As A Prophet (3.19-20)

    The phrase ‘YHWH was with him’ regularly indicates His acting through the one in mind. Note its use of Abraham (Genesis 21.22; Jacob (Genesis 28.15; Joseph (Genesis 29.2; Moses (Exodus 3.12); Joshua (Joshua 1.5); Gideon (Judges 6.16); David (1 Samuel 16.18; 18.14). Samuel was following in a line of powerful men of God.

    3.19 ‘And Samuel grew, and YHWH was with him, and let none of his words fall to the ground.’

    As Samuel grew up YHWH was with Him. (See above). He now ‘knew YHWH’ and received His word (compare verse 7). And as he passed them on to the people YHWH let none of his words be wasted, and fulfilled all that was promised. Everything that he spoke came about (compare 9.6), and came to the people as the oracle of YHWH. His words were certainly going to be needed. They were entering one of the darker periods of Israel’s history in the face of continued Philistine oppression which threatened to engulf them.

    This description takes us beyond 4.1b-7.2, which was happening while Samuel was ‘growing’. It is a ‘flash forward’. There is no reason to think that Samuel was involved in the disastrous (though understandable) decision to take the Ark into battle. That was the decision of the priests.

    3.20 ‘And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of YHWH.’

    And the result was that all Israel ‘from Dan to Beersheba’ knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of YHWH. The news spread everywhere among the tribes. At last YHWH was speaking again. He had raised up a prophet like to Moses (Deuteronomy 18.15).

    The description ‘from Dan to Beersheba’ was a standard expression encompassing all the tribes of Israel, Dan being the northernmost point and Beersheba the southernmost. Compare Judges 20.1; 2 Samuel 3.10; 17.11; 24.2, 15; 1 Kings 4.25, and regularly in the book of Samuel. This did not refer to the area of Samuel’s judgeship. It referred to his status as a prophet.

    ‘Was established.’ That is, all recognised that his position was ‘made sure’ by YHWH. Happy the man on whom God sets His seal (which He does in a more general way on all who are His - Ephesians 1.13; 4.30; but in a special way on those whom He chooses).

    YHWH Again Appears In Shiloh (3.21-4.1a).

    This is a flash forward to the situation which lay beyond chapter 4.1-7.1. During the ‘rule’ of Hophni and Phinehas Samuel was very much in the background faithfully performing his duties in the Tabernacle.

    3.21 ‘And YHWH appeared again in Shiloh; for YHWH revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh in the word of YHWH.’

    As a result of Samuel’s prophesying Shiloh would one day regain its status as the place where YHWH revealed Himself. For YHWH revealed Himself to Samuel by giving him ‘the word of YHWH’. Thus the authentic voice of YHWH was again being heard. It portended a new beginning for Israel in its development as a nation. Indeed had it not been for Samuel the defeat by the Philistines might have crushed Israel once for all. This fact that Shiloh would continue to be influential in the future suggests that its final destruction (if it occurred) was not directly connected with what happened to the Ark. It possibly occurred on a later foray by the Philistines whose pressure on Israel no doubt continued due to Israel’s weakness. The only thing in fact that saved them from being totally overrun was that they were able to retreat back into the mountains. But a good part of lowland Israel was under Philistine control (see 13.19-23), and would remain so until Samuel reached manhood.

    4.1a ‘And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.’

    Having received the word of YHWH Samuel would pass it on to the people. The word of Samuel was heard wherever Israelites were found.

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