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

“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. George 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” (Gordon Wenham, NICOT, The Book of Leviticus, pp. 78-79, fn. 12). However, something unexplained in Winham’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.” The apparent tautology is actually the figure of speech antanaclasis, in which the same word is used in a sentence with different meanings, the “word clashing” bringing an emphasis to the text. Perhaps the most famous 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 amongst 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.” Here in 1 Samuel 1:24, “the child (little boy) was a child (very young).”

Commentary for: 1 Samuel 1:24