1 Samuel 1


Establishment of Samuel’s Leadership (1:1-7:17)

Samuel and the Word of the Lord (1:1-4:1a)

The Birth and Dedication of Samuel

        • There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph, in the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, one named Hannah and the other named Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.

        • Note, I have followed the LXX translation here as many modern translations have opted to do, on the other hand, the Masoretic says Elkanah was from Ramathaim-zophim.

        • HCSB writes, “Was Elkanah an Ephraimite or a Levite? Genealogically he was a Levite, a descendant of Jacob’s son Levi (1 Ch 6:33-38), coming from the family line passing through Kohath and Izhar. The names of Elkanah’s forbears in the Chronicles genealogy agree with those found in this verse, despite differences in spelling (Elihu vs. Eliel, Tohu vs. Toah) that may be dialectic in origin…Geographically Elkanah was an Ephraimite. The Lord did not allot regional territory to the Levites in the division of the promised land, but assigned them cities throughout the other tribes’ regions (Nm 35:2-8)…Taken in combination with the Chronicles genealogy, this opening verse of 1 Sm creates another interpretive option. Elkanah’s ancestor Zuph may have been an Ephraimite adopted into the family line of Levi. In this case, Elkanah would have genealogical links to both Levi and Ephraim.”

          • This thread in hermeneutics stack exchange notes two other usages similar to this one, “David is also an Ephrathite in this sense. ‘1 Samuel 17:12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. (ESV)’ Likewise this same geographical description is used in Ruth. ‘Ruth 1:2 The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. (ESV)’”

        • We really don’t know why Elkanah has two wives, the text doesn’t tell us. However, the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “Most cases of polygyny among commoners occurred prior to the time of the monarchy. The practice was not especially common among the Israelites and generally occurred when the first wife married was barren, when marriage was required to provide offspring for a deceased brother, or for the political reasons of building alliances…”

        • Regardless of the reason, NLT Illustrated Study Bible aptly points out, “Hardly an instance exists in Scripture where a man’s simultaneous marriage to two wives did not produce serious friction.”

        • Every year, this man would leave his city to go worship and sacrifice to Yahweh of hosts in Shiloh, where Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas were priests to Yahweh.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible reminds us, “…the law required that people attend three annual festivals (Exod 23:14-17). According to God’s law, Israelites were to sacrifice at God’s chosen sanctuary (Deut 12:1-28). From the days of Joshua (Josh 18:1) through Samuel’s era, God’s sanctuary- the Tabernacle- was at Shiloh, a town in Ephraim…”

        • On the designation “Yahweh of hosts” ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The term translated ‘hosts’ is used in various OT passages to refer to the Hebrews as they came out of Egypt in organized groups (Ex 7:4), to the Israelite army (Num 2:8), to angelic beings (Josh 5:14-15), to heavenly bodies- especially the stars (Deut 4:9),- and to creation as a whole (Gen 2:1). It aptly expresses God’s sovereignty over the earthly and heavenly realms.”

        • When Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and each of her children. But, he gave Hannah a double portion because he loved her even though Yahweh had closed her womb. And her rival would taunt her to provoke her and to upset her because Yahweh had closed her womb. Year after year it was the same, every time they went to the house of Yahweh, she would taunt her. So, Hannah cried and wouldn’t eat.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Certain sacrifices involved sharing part of the sacrificial animal in a communal meal (see Lev 7:11-34).”

        • HSCB responds to another difficult area of translation, “Did Elkanah give Hannah two portions of meat or only one? The Hebrew phrase translated ‘double portion’ literally means ‘a portion of two nostrils,’ an obscure expression that forces translators to derive its meaning from the context. While most translations emphasize Elkanah’s kindness- and therefore opt for ‘double portion’- others focus on the sigma of Hannah’s childlessness and render the phrase ‘only one portion.’”

        • Her husband, Elkanah, said to her, “Hannah, why are you crying and why won’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Am I not better to you than 10 sons?”

        • After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah got up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of Yahweh. She was deeply distressed and prayed to Yahweh, weeping bitterly. She made a vow saying, “O Yahweh of hosts, if You will truly look at Your servant’s affliction, remember me, and never forget Your servant, and give Your servant a son, I will give Him to Yahweh all the days of his life, his hair will never be cut.”

        • On the temple of Yahweh, the NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “These designations reflect that the Tabernacle, a portable structure, served as the central sanctuary at Shiloh…Solomon’s Temple had not yet been constructed, so the word Temple here means the Lord’s sanctuary.”

        • Some question whether or not Hannah’s vow was appropriate, feeling that she appears to be bargaining with God. However, the following two sources have this to say:

          • HCSB: “…It is clear throughout Scripture that God wants people to have an authentic, personal relationship with Him- one that involves the expression of true feelings in a spirit of ‘give and take.’ If one can ask certain things of the Lord in faith (Mt 21:22) one can also promise Him something. Hannah was a pious woman who profoundly believed that God was powerful and good. She had suffered humiliation and insult for years due to her childlessness, and was pleading desperately with God to give her a child…Hannah offered to give the son she requested as a living sacrifice, dedicating his life-long services to the Lord. The Lord was not obligated to respond to her vow, but He had the right to accept her offer. And accept it He did.”

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible: “Unlike in…other religions, Hannah’s vow is not an attempt to manipulate God. Rather, she appeals to Yahweh, whom she knows has the power to open her womb, and hence, take away her shame. Her faith is evident in Samuel’s name, which is a play on the Hebrew verb for ‘to ask/request.’ Several years later Hannah fulfills her vow by dedicating young Samuel to the Lord at Shiloh…”

        • On Hannah’s statement that “his hair will never be cut,” NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “Recalls the second prohibition of the so-called Nazirite vow (Nu 6:1-21). While a Nazirite vow was commonly made for a limited period of time…Hannah consecrated her son for ‘all the days of his life.’ In this respect, Hannah’s vow is reminiscent of the Nazirite charge included in the annunciation of Samson’s birth (Jdg 13:3-7). No similar vows are known from the rest of the ancient world.”

        • As she continued to pray before Yahweh, Eli watched her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart, so, although her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Therefore, Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put away your wine!”

        • Guzik writes, “Eli misunderstood Hannah, but the fact that he suspected that she was drunk shows that it may not have been unusual for people to become drunk at the ‘fellowship meals’ with the LORD at the tabernacle. The fact that Eli suspected Hannah of drunkenness doesn’t speak well for what went on around the tabernacle.”

        • But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I have not drunk wine or any strong drink. But I am a sorely troubled woman and I’ve been pouring out my soul before Yahweh. Don’t think of your servant as a worthless woman, because all this time I’ve been speaking out of my great anxiety and grief.”

        • Eli replied, “Go in peace and may the God of Israel grant your petition you have made to Him.” She said, “May your servant find favor in your sight.” Then she went on her way. She ate and her face no longer looked sad.

        • They got up early the next morning, worshiped before Yahweh, then went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah was intimate with his wife Hannah, and Yahweh remembered her. In due time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel because, she said, “I requested him from Yahweh.”

        • Guzik says, “To use the term remembered is an anthropomorphism, a way of explaining God’s actions in human terms that we can understand, even if it doesn’t perfectly describe God’s action. It isn’t as if God ever forgot Hannah, but it is proper to say He remembered her.”

        • The next year Elkanah and his household went up to offer their yearly sacrifice to Yahweh and to pay his vow. But, Hannah didn’t go with them because she had told her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will take him so that he may appear in the presence of Yahweh, and live there forever.” And Elkanah replied, “Do what you think is best; wait until you have weaned him; only may Yahweh fulfill His word.” So, she stayed and nursed her son until she weaned him.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible points out, “In antiquity, a child might be nursed for three years or more…” NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Hannah would have nursed Samuel two to four years.”

        • And when she had weaned him, she took him with her to the house of Yahweh in Shiloh. She also brought with her a three year old bull, two and half gallons of flour, and a skin of wine. Then they slaughtered the bull and brought the boy to Eli. And Hannah said, “My lord, as sure as you live, I am the woman who was standing in your presence, praying to Yahweh. I prayed for this boy, and Yahweh has granted my request that I asked from Him. Therefore, I am giving him to Yahweh. As long as he lives, he will belong to Yahweh.” Then they worshiped Yahweh there.

            • The HCSB notes, “ Two ancient textual traditions exist regarding the number of sacrificial bulls that Hannah brought to Shiloh as a gift to the Lord. The Hebrew text reads ‘three,’ while the Septuagint and Syriac…read ‘son of three,’ i.e. one bull three years old. (Age, in Hebrew, is expressed by the idiom ‘son [or daughter] of’ whichever number.) The Hebrew reading may be preferable, since the accompanying gift of flour is the proper amount for three bull sacrifices (Nm 15:9). Though the leather bag (HCSB ‘jar’) of wine contained an indeterminate amount of liquid, it was probably much more than the half gallon required for a single bull sacrifice (Nm 15:10).”