Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls and one ephah of flour and a skin-bottle of wine, and brought him to the house of Yahweh in Shiloh. And the child was just a child. Bible see other translations

“three bulls.” The Masoretic Hebrew text reads “three bulls,” but “three-year-old” is the reading of the Septuagint and the Qumran scroll, and many scholars think that is the correct reading and that the Masoretic text is corrupted. The fact is that either sacrifice, a bull or three bulls, was much more than the Law required for the redemption of a firstborn son (Lev. 12:6) and likely reflects on the wealth of Elkanah. Gordon Wenham writes in support of there being three bulls: “One bull was for the burnt offering, one for the purification offering that was expected after childbirth (Lev. 12), and the third for the peace offering in payment for her vow. An ephah of flour (1 Sam. 1:24) is approximately three times the normal quantity of flour to be offered with a bull (Num. 15:9), which supports the idea that three bulls were in fact offered on this occasion.”a However, something unexplained in Wenham’s argument is that a bull was not required after the birth of a child, but a year-old lamb was (Lev. 12:6). It has been suggested that Elkanah brought much more than the Law required because it would help offset the expense of caring for Samuel, after all, most families that offered sacrifices did not leave babies to take care of when they left the Tabernacle.

“skin-bottle.” A “bottle” or container made from animal skin.

[For more on skin-bottles, which were usually made from the skins of goats, see commentary on 1 Sam. 10:3.]

“the child was a child.” This apparent tautology is actually the figure of speech antanaclasis (“word clashing”), in which the same word is used in a sentence (or in very close proximity) with different meanings, and the antanaclasis catches the reader’s attention and brings an emphasis to the text.b Perhaps the most famous English example of antanaclasis was in the speech that Benjamin Franklin made to the early continental congress about the American Revolution in which he addressed the division among them and the danger of that division in the light of their treason against England: “Gentlemen, we must all hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.” Other examples could include: “We were driving all day in a driving rain,” and “I wait on tables while my customers wait on me.” There are many biblical examples of antanaclasis, for example, Matthew 8:22 says, “Let the dead bury their dead,” i.e., let the spiritually dead bury their physically dead relatives. Romans 2:12 says, “For as many as have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law,” i.e., those people who sinned who did not have the regulations of the Law will perish but not because they were judged by the judgments in the Law. Romans 9:6 says, “For they are not all Israel, who are descended from Israel.” The meaning is that not every Israelite by birth is a part of the true believers of Israel who will be part of the resurrection of the Righteous and receive everlasting life. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB) says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf.” In this antanaclasis, the Greek word hamartia (#266), which can mean “sin” or “sin offering,” is used with two different meanings, and the REV catches the sense: “He made him who did not know sin to be a sin offering on our behalf” (cp. CJB; NLT). Other examples of antanaclasis include Judges 11:27; Ezekiel 20:9). There are times when a word in a general context has different meanings but it is not the figure antanaclasis, it is simply the fact that most words have more than one meaning (see commentary on 1 Sam. 14:16, “multitude”).

Here in 1 Samuel 1:24, the word “child” has two different meanings, “the child (little boy) was a child (very young),” but the antanaclasis catches our attention and emphasizes that Samuel was very young when taken to the Tabernacle. This was a great sacrifice for Hannah, and showed her love for God and her dedication to Him.

[See figure of speech “antanaclasis.”]

Wenham, The Book of Leviticus [NICOT], 78-79, n12.
E. W. Bullinger has a number of biblical examples of the figure antanaclasis in his classic work, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, 286.

Commentary for: 1 Samuel 1:24