1 Samuel Chapter 1: The Family and Early Years of Samuel

Nov 7th, 2009 | By | Category: 1 & 2 Samuel, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

1 Samuel Chapter 1: The Family and Early Years of Samuel


1 Sam. 1:1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:

The phrase “of mount Ephraim” is an improper translation, for the name would mean that Elkanah was from the northern kingdom of Israel. Instead, we believe that Elkanah was an Ephrathite, as stated in the lineage. In other words, Elkanah was from Ephratah, a suburb of Bethlehem in Judah, and he was a Levite (1 Chron. 6:16,34).

1 Sam. 1:2 And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, and the implication is that there was a problem, a conflict, for Hannah was barren and Peninnah had children. Elkanah’s having two wives is not a startling fact in the Old Testament, for Abraham, David, Jacob, etc., all had more than one wife. No prohibition was given against having multiple wives until the New Testament, which has a higher standard with the marital relationship prefiguring Christ and his Bride. Multiple wives were permitted in Old Testament times so that the population would increase more rapidly, although most men had only one wife at the time 1 Samuel was written.

Later, when the Period of the Kings was ending and Zedekiah was about to be dethroned and Jerusalem destroyed, the Lord counseled the Israelites to be sure that children were raised up for a deceased brother who had no lineage, or seed. In Babylonian captivity, the Israelites tried to somewhat make up for the loss of life, but it is interesting that only a small portion of them returned to Israel at the end of the 70 years. Nevertheless, the number was more significant than it would have been without multiple wives.

1 Sam. 1:3 And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto theLORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.

Elkanah went three times a year to worship and sacrifice at Shiloh—for Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles—as was required under the Law for all males (Deut. 16:16). Eli was the high priest at the time, and he had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Eli was important, for he was the next-to-the-last judge in Israel, Samuel being the last.

Hophni, meaning “hollow” or “cup of the hand” in the sense of a clenched fist or an openhanded slap, prefigured the scribes. Phinehas, an Egyptian word signifying “serpent’s mouth,”prefigured the devious and patronizing Pharisees. Eli essentially means “my God.”

1 Sam. 1:4 And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:

1 Sam. 1:5 But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.

The fact that Elkanah gave “portions” to Peninnah and all her sons and daughters and a “worthy portion” to Hannah indicates he had some means. The King James margin and the NIV state that Hannah got a “double portion” because Elkanah loved her and God had closed up her womb. He gave these portions each time they went to Shiloh. In other words, part of the animal that was sacrificed was eaten by the offerer, and Elkanah shared the animal with his family. In the distribution, he gave Hannah an extra piece. The same principle applied with a meal (or cereal) offering.

1 Sam. 1:6 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.

1 Sam. 1:7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.

Hannah’s “adversary,” or rival in the household, was Peninnah, who provoked and vexed Hannah for being barren. A similar rivalry existed between Leah and Rachel and between Hagar and Sarah.

The suggestion is that the family accompanied Elkanah each year on his trip to Shiloh. While it was customary for a family to go occasionally, the Law did not have such a mandatory requirement. Both in transit and at Shiloh, Peninnah kept needling Hannah. As a result, Hannah grieved and did not eat, but she did not  reciprocate.

1 Sam. 1:8 Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?

On this particular occasion, Elkanah asked Hannah why she was so sad and did not eat. He tenderly inquired, “Am not I better to thee than ten sons?”

1 Sam. 1:9 So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.

1 Sam. 1:10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.

1 Sam. 1:11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.

Hannah rose up after eating and went to the Tabernacle to offer a prayer and make a lifetime Nazarite vow for a son if God would grant her one. She was “in bitterness of soul” and weeping as she prayed. Under the Nazarite vow, no razor would come upon the child’s head. (We are reminded of Samson, who was a Nazarite from birth.) Hannah made the dedication, and evidently, the Lord blessed the relationship, for the child was obedient by disposition yet strong in character. Sometimes a domineering mother suppresses the development of the child, adversely affecting his character, but not in this case, as shown by the temperament, deeds, and actions of Samuel in later life.

Q: Would the Nazarite vow still hold when Samuel matured?

A: From Hannah’s standpoint, the vow was perpetual. However, when Samuel came of age, it was his choice or decision to comply. For one who had a tender conscience and knew the circumstances of his birth—his mother’s prayer in regard to being barren and her promise to the Lord—it was natural to voluntarily continue the vow.

Q: If Samuel let his hair grow continually, was it extremely long?

A: Yes, he had a long, bushy head of hair that grew until his death and extended down his back. By the nature of his hair and his character and deeds, the people would have known that the length was the result of a Nazarite vow.

Eli sat on a seat in the Court near a post of the Tabernacle. His posture by the post indicated he was a judge. While he was seated there, anyone with a problem could come to him. The post became very significant later, when the Temple was built, the usual practice being to anoint the king by the front pillar in the courtyard.

The word “temple” was used because the Tabernacle had remained stationary in Shiloh for 440 years when this incident occurred, as opposed to the frequent transportation and setting up during the 40 years of the wilderness wanderings. The term “tabernacle” implies a temporary and a journeying state, but now the structure was considered a “temple.”

1 Sam. 1:12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.

1 Sam. 1:13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.

1 Sam. 1:14 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.

1 Sam. 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 have poured out my soul before the LORD.

1 Sam. 1:16 Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.

1 Sam. 1:17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.

For Hannah to come into the Court on this occasion was not only proper but customary. A congregation of women customarily came for prayer that was usually ceremonial and more perfunctory, but Hannah’s prayer was sincere and heartfelt. The women were expected to show an act of obeisance to the Lord in their prayers, so Hannah’s agonizing seemed to be out of place. If we put ourselves in Eli’s place, we can understand why he assumed she was drunk.

He started to castigate her, but when Hannah explained, Eli replied in effect, “Whatever you have prayed for, the LORD give you peace. May you have that prayer answered.”

“Belial” is a reference to Satan. The word implies an orgy with music, sex, and lust. It is interesting that Eli was ready to reprimand Hannah but could not reprimand his own two sons.

1 Sam. 1:18 And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.

Notice Hannah’s response. She cheered up by faith, believing her prayer would be answered in the affirmative because Eli, God’s representative, had so indicated. She now had peace of heart and was able to eat. “Her countenance was no more sad.”

1 Sam. 1:19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her.

“They rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD.” In other words, Elkanah and his family were in a sacred precinct at Shiloh. They got up early in the morning, but before they departed, they went to the Tabernacle and prayed, showing respect and reverence in saying good-by to the LORD of hosts as represented in that sanctuary. Thus the family reverenced God. Even though there were personal problems and friction, they could reverence Jehovah and love Him, for there are different degrees of honor and obedience.

Notice that their house was in Ramah. Verse 1 said Elkanah was of the side-by-side twin cities of Ramathaim and Zophim. Probably one was the older section of the city, and the other, Ramah, was the newer section. Then “Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her”; that is, Hannah conceived.

1 Sam. 1:20 Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.

With a different pronunciation, the name Samuel can be a play on words. However, Hannah’s giving that name to her son probably signified something like “asked of the LORD,” referring to her agonizing prayer that was answered. Later, as Samuel developed, his name had a different signification.

1 Sam. 1:21 And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.

Verse 21 probably refers to the Passover, the beginning of the sacred year. “Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.” Similarly, we say, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7,8). In other words, the Memorial observance is a time for rededication.

Of course in viewing the Passover, the Israelites did not see Christ, but they could see a new life, for they had been in bondage in Egypt when the Lord rescued them in a period of national deliverance. Therefore, they used the occasion of the Passover to feel the start of a new year. It is likely that the annual vow was a resolution according to a need Elkanah felt from year to year. The vow could vary, but in essence it was a rededication, even if he was trying to brush up on a weakness or a lack. He was showing his intention for the forthcoming year. Now a new component was added. Hannah, who had been barren, had a child, and evidently, Elkanah made a vow with regard to Samuel. Hannah had dedicated the child, a Nazarite, to the Lord “all the days of his life” (verse 11). The fact that Elkanah did not nullify her vow indicates he was in harmony with it.

1 Sam. 1:22 But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.

1 Sam. 1:23 And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.

Elkanah went to Shiloh without Hannah on this occasion. Hannah said she would bring the young child to the residence of the Tabernacle in northern Israel after she had weaned him.

Depending on the nature of the child and whether the family lived a bedouin type of existence, the length of time to wean a child was much longer than in present-day society. In some cases, the weaning took five years, but it was a minimum of three years. As the mother, Hannah would have had a tremendous influence on Samuel during those tender years, and the mode of life was conducive to taking that amount of time for family care. Under the circumstances, it is likely that Hannah took at least five years to wean Samuel so that he would be old enough to be of some service in the Tabernacle when she took him to Shiloh in fulfillment of her vow.

1 Sam. 1:24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young.

When Samuel was weaned, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle in Shiloh. She also took a three-year-old bullock (according to the RSV), one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine.

However, she may have taken three bullocks, which would have been an unusual and costly offering. The King James may be correct, for a full ephah was enough flour for three bullocks, the requirement being a third of an ephah for each bullock.

1 Sam. 1:25 And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.

1 Sam. 1:26 And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.

1 Sam. 1:27 For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:

A bullock was slain—one of the three bullocks? If Hannah took three bullocks, perhaps she was trying to give Eli “child support” or was donating for his keep, for in either case, old Eli would be willing or would feel obligated to keep young Samuel and break him in for doing little chores in connection with the Tabernacle service.

Comment: It would have been very traumatic for Hannah to leave Samuel with Eli after wanting a son for so long.

Reply: Yes, and we can imagine the affection poured out on that child before he was separated from his mother. Nevertheless, she lived up to her promise. “For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition.”

1 Sam. 1:28 Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.

The words “lent” and “borrowed” had different meanings in the year 1611, when the King James translation was done. For example, at the time of the Exodus, the Israelites permanently “borrowed” trinkets and jewelry of silver and gold from the Egyptians. There was no intention to return the items, nor did the Egyptians expect them back. Hannah had promised that Samuel would be the Lord’s from birth to death. Since believing Jews looked forward to the resurrection, she felt she could have more rapport and communion with Samuel in the Kingdom (as vaguely understood by the Israelites prior to Christ).

Q: Did Hannah have more children subsequently?

A: Yes, she had three sons and two daughters (1 Sam. 2:21).

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