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1 Samuel: Chapter 1

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1There was a certain man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite a Gk: Heb lacks and presented herself before the Lord from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2He had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

3Now this man used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD. 4On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; 5but to Hannah he gave a double portion, b That is one separated or one consecrated because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. 6Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

9After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the LORD. c Cn Compare Gk Q Ms 1.22: MT then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly. 11She made this vow: “O LORD of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite d Gk: Heb went her way until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, e Gk: Heb lacks and drank with her husband and no razor shall touch his head.”

12As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” 15But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. 16Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” 17Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” 18And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, a Gk: Meaning of Heb uncertain ate and drank with her husband, b That is one separated or one consecrated and her countenance was sad no longer. c Cn Compare Q Ms: MT lacks I will offer him as a nazirite for all time

19They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. 20In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the LORD.”

21The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow. 22But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the LORD, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a nazirite a MT: Q Ms Gk Compare Syr that which goes out of your mouth for all time.” b Q Ms Gk Syr: MT three bulls 23Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only—may the LORD establish his word.” c Gk (Compare Q Ms) and Gk at 2.11: MT And he (that is, Elkanah) worshiped there before So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. 24When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three‐year‐old bull, d Gk: Heb the Lord an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh; and the child was young. 25Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. 27For this child I prayed; and the LORD has granted me the petition that I made to him. 28Therefore I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD.”

She left him there for e Q Ms: MT your the LORD.

Notes:

c Gk: Heb lacks and presented herself before the Lord

d That is one separated or one consecrated

e Cn Compare Gk Q Ms 1.22: MT then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life

a Gk: Heb went her way

b Gk: Heb lacks and drank with her husband

c Gk: Meaning of Heb uncertain

a That is one separated or one consecrated

b Cn Compare Q Ms: MT lacks I will offer him as a nazirite for all time

c MT: Q Ms Gk Compare Syr that which goes out of your mouth

d Q Ms Gk Syr: MT three bulls

e Gk (Compare Q Ms) and Gk at 2.11: MT And he (that is, Elkanah) worshiped there before

f Gk: Heb the Lord

g Q Ms: MT your

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

3.1–4.1a : Samuel's call.

3.1

: Word of the LORD … visions are means of prophetic revelation.

3

: The lamp in the temple burned at night (see Ex 27.21 ). The lamp of God had not yet gone out, hence it was just before dawn. Samuel's bed was inside the temple near the inner sanctuary where the ark of God was kept. The ark was a portable shrine or chest representing God's presence; see 4.5n .

7

: Samuel did not yet know the LORD , Samuel's role as a prophet had not yet been established since the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. In this story Samuel comes to “know” the LORD by learning to recognize God's revelations.

9–10

: Your servant, a polite way of referring to oneself.

14

: Eli's sons profaned the sacrifices that might otherwise have expiated or atoned for their sins ( 2.12–17 ).

17

: May God do so to you and more also, a typical oath formula. Eli adjures Samuel, forcing him to reveal his conversation with the LORD.

19

: All of Samuel's prophecies come true (none fall to the ground).

20

: Dan to Beer‐sheba, the traditional northern and southern limits of Israel.

5.1–12 : The ark troubles the Philistines.

In the ancient Near East, wars between nations were interpreted as contests between their respective gods. This story explains that although the Philistines defeated Israel, the LORD was superior to Dagon, a Philistine god.

1

: Ashdod, one of five principal Philistine cities along with Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza.

2

: Beside Dagon means beside the statue of Dagon in his temple. Dagon was a Canaanite god of grain whom the Philistines adopted as a major deity.

3

: There was Dagon, fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD , bowing prostrate was a sign of subservience.

4–5

: This is an etiology (a story that explains a custom, name, etc.) for the practice of jumping over thresholds in order to avoid offending the spirits of a particular building or space (see Zeph 1.9 ).

6–12

: The tumors and mice (in the next chapter) suggest that this outbreak was bubonic plague, which was common in coastlands. According to this story, however, the plague is the LORD's doing.

8 :

The lords of the Philistines are the rulers of the Philistine pentapolis. The word “lord” (“seren”) is Philistine and cognate with the Greek word “tyrannos,” (“tyrant”).

6.1–7.1 : The return of the ark.

6.3

: Guilt offering, not a sacrifice but compensation for taking the ark and appeasement of the LORD in hopes of avoiding further punishment.

4–5

: There is one gold tumor and one gold mouse for each of the five Philistine rulers (vv. 4,17–18 ). The images serve as substitutes for the rulers and their cities in order to carry the plague away by magic.

6

: Cf. Ex 8.19,32 . A creative enhancement by the author, since the Philistines would not have known the story of the Exodus.

7

: A new cart is ritually pure. The two cows have never been yoked and are therefore fit to be sacrificed (cf. Num 19.2; Deut 21.3 ). Milch cows means that they have young calves.

9

: Unaccustomed to pulling a cart, these two cows would be expected to wander aimlessly in search of their calves. If instead they headed for Israelite territory, the Philistines would know that their sufferings had indeed been sent by the LORD.

12

: The cows take the most direct route into Israelite territory.

15

: This verse is likely a later addition by an editor concerned to have the Levites, the priestly tribe, handle the ark.

19

: It was seventy of the people of Beth‐shemesh, not seventy of the descendants of Jeconiah, who were killed. The reason is uncertain, since nothing else is known about Jeconiah or his family.

20

: To stand before the LORD is a technical expression for priestly service, suggesting that the people are asking for a priest to handle the ark. It remains unclear how the absence of a priest relates to Jeconiah.

7.1

: Abinadab is the father of several important priests (2 Sam 6.3–4,6–8; 1 Chr 13.7,9–11 ).

1.1–28 : The birth and consecration of Samuel.

The story of a barren woman who bears a child as a favor from God appears several other times in the Bible: Sarah (Gen 17.16–19 ), Rebekah (Gen 25.21–26 ), Rachel (Gen 29.31; 30.22–24 ), the mother of Samson (Judg 13.2–5 ), and Elizabeth (Lk 1.5–17 ). Such a child is designated by God for a special purpose.

1

Ramathaim, a town in Ephraim, is called Ramah later in this chapter (v. 19 ). But in later chapters the Ramah that was Samuel's home seems to be located in Benjamin ( 7.16–17 ).

2

: Peninnah is “the second” (translated the other in the NRSV) wife; Hannah is obviously the favored one. Elkanah probably married Peninnah because of Hannah's failure to produce an heir (see Gen16.1–2 ). Elkanah, therefore, was probably prosperous.

3

: Elkanah's annual pilgrimage to worship in Shiloh shows him to be a righteous man. The Lord of hosts or “armies” (Heb “tseba\ot”) is a title describing Yahweh's leadership in war on Israel's behalf. Hophni and Phinehas are Egyptian names.

7

: The house of the LORD usually refers to a temple (Jer 7.12 ). But Josh 18.1; Ps 78.60 mention a tent of meeting or tabernacle in Shiloh, and 2 Sam 7.6–7 denies that the LORD dwelt in a “house” before Solomon's Temple. see 2.22 .

9

: Eli's seat beside the doorpost of the temple (or “sanctuary,” Heb “hekal”) allowed him to see Hannah praying outside of the temple proper (see also 4.18 ).

11

: Nazirites were “devoted” to the LORD for a set period of time and were prohibited from drinking alcohol or eating grapes, cutting their hair or beards, and approaching a dead body (Num 6.1–21 ). Intoxicants, probably distilled wine or beer.

13

: Eli thought she was drunk because prayers were not usually silent.

17

: The petition you have made, the first of several word plays in this chapter on the name of Saul, which sounds like the Hebrew verb for “ask, petition.”

19

: The Elkanah knew his wife, an idiom for sexual relations.

20

: The I have asked him of the LORD. “Asked” (Heb “sha\al”) is another pun on the name Saul.

22–24

: Weaned, taken off breast milk. Samuel's age is not given, but he is older than an infant or toddler. An ephah of flour (v. 24 ), about half a bushel.

27

: The petition that I made, another pun on Saul's name.

28

: Given in both occurrences in this verse is yet another pun on Saul's name. He is given is exactly the same as Saul's name in Hebrew (“sha\ul”) and could be translated, “he is Saul to the LORD.” Some scholars believe, based on these puns, that this story was originally about Saul's birth rather than Samuel's. Or, they may be allusions to Saul as Israel's first king.

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