|The Book of 1 Samuel|
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Go to Bible: 1 Samuel 1
“an Ephraimite.” That is, from the tribe of Ephraim.(top)
|1Sa 1:2||- (top)|
“Yahweh of Armies.” 1 Samuel 1:3 is the first time in the Bible that the name of God, “Yahweh of Armies” is used. The Hebrew is translated “LORD of hosts” in many English versions, but very few people today think of a “host” in reference to an army, making that translation unclear at best. The English word “host” in the phrase “Lord of hosts” is derived from the Late Latin hostis “stranger; enemy” (same basic root as in “hostile”), and referred to an army or an orderly multitude. Thus, the “heavenly host” is the orderly army of spirit beings, and also the orderly “army” of stars in the sky, while “Yahweh of hosts” refers to God’s army of spirit beings and, in the Old Testament, Israel.
The word “host” is confusing because the English word “host” also means a person who entertains guests, but the Latin root of the entertainment type “host” is hospes, not hostis. It is too bad that both hospes and hostis developed into the English word “host,” but that is the situation. To properly understand the Bible, the student of Scripture must know that “Lord of hosts” does not refer to God’s entertainment of guests, but rather to His being the God of His “armies.”
Andrew Steinmann (Concordia Commentary: 1 Samuel) writes: “In military contexts, ‘armies’ in ‘Yahweh of armies’ can refer to Israel’s army (1 Sam. 17:45). The noun צָבָא [tsaba', “army”] is often used for the army of Israel or for an enemy army (e.g. 1 Sam. 12:9; 14:50; 17:55). In this phrase with יְהֹוָה [Yahweh], the noun is always used in the plural צְבָא֖וֹת. The plural is never clearly explained in the OT, but 1 Sam. 17:45 indicates its military significance by using another plural in parallel to it: David refers to “Yahweh of armies, the God of the battle lines of Israel”….The plural may denote that Yahweh commands a heavenly army (the angles; see BDB, s. v. צָבָא, 1 b; cf. 2 Kings 6:17) as well as an earthly one (Israel’s army). The stars and other heavenly bodies can also be called an ‘army’ (Gen. 2:1; Isa. 40:26; 45:12; BDB, 1 c). In that case, it probably refers to the apparent regimented alignment of the stars like the alignment of soldiers in the army’s ranks (i.e., the stars are grouped in constellations where each has its specific place and each appears in the sky in the proper season; see Gen. 1:14).”
Although the meaning of the name “Yahweh of armies” is not specifically stated in the Bible, that should not surprise us because we are not told the specific meaning of any of the names of Yahweh in the Bible, we learn their meaning from the vocabulary itself and the contexts in which the name is used. In this case, “armies” is a well-known word, and there is plenty of biblical context to understand that God has enemies and that He commands armies who fight for Him and with Him. For example, when the Israelites left Egypt, God referred to them as “my armies” (Exod. 7:4), and Exodus also says, “Yahweh is a man of war” (Exod. 15:3). When God came to help Israel leave Egypt’s control, He came with thousands of angels (Deut. 33:2). Also, the warfare between enemy angels, while not a major subject in the Bible, is nevertheless certainly present (Dan. 10:13; Jude 1:9), as is the warfare between God’s angels and God’s enemies on earth (Gen. 19:12-13; Josh. 5:13-14; 2 Kings 19:35). In fact, the angel that appeared to Joshua introduced himself as the commander of Yahweh’s army (Josh. 5:14). Furthermore, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, will lead armies and destroy God’s enemies (Ps. 2:6-9; Isa. 11:4; 63:1-5; Rev. 19:19-21).
The fact that 1 Samuel 1:3 says that Elkanah went yearly to Shiloh to worship “Yahweh of Armies” tells us that although this is the first time we see that name for God in the Bible, it was not new in the culture. God may have revealed the name to some prophet in Israel, or it may be in the wars that Israel was fighting, God’s help and presence were so powerfully manifested that “Yahweh of Armies” was invented as a fitting name for Him. We can see that people were comfortable enough with the name “Yahweh of Armies” that it was used to directly address God in prayer, as Hannah did: “O Yahweh of Armies, if you will see…” (1 Sam. 1:11). Once it was introduced here in Samuel, the name “Yahweh of Armies” was commonly used in the Bible, occurring almost 250 times in the Old Testament.
God has enemies with whom He, His angels, His human armies, and His Messiah are at war. This is very solid evidence that God is not in control of everything that happens on earth. If God were in control of both sides of the conflict between good and evil, then His kingdom would be divided and would fall, just as Jesus said, “And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom is not able to stand” (Mark 3:24, cp. Matt. 12:25-26; Luke 11:17-18).
[For more on the war between God and the Devil, and that God is not in control of everything that happens, see commentary on Luke 4:6].(top)
|1Sa 1:4||- (top)|
|1Sa 1:5||- (top)|
“Her rival.” Hannah’s rival was Penninah, Elkanah’s other wife. As we see in other places in the Bible (such as when Abraham took the slave Hagar as a concubine), and in history, the wives of a polygamous man often did not blend into “one happy family.” In fact, it was often the case that the two wives would each have their own tent, and the husband went back and forth between them.(top)
|1Sa 1:7||- (top)|
“Am I not better to you than ten sons.” Elkanah was trying to be helpful, but his question almost certainly did not help. So much a woman’s social life was just among other women, and between feeling cursed by God and scorned by other women, Elkanah was not better than having sons. Elkanah’s ignorance of Hannah’s situation shows up in the fact that he does not even seem to be aware that Peninnah was cruel to Hannah.(top)
“Yahweh’s temple.” The word “temple” is being used generally, as the place of God’s residence. At this point in history, God lived in a tent, the “Tent of Meeting,” often referred to in Christian circles as “the Tabernacle.”(top)
“wept, yes, wept.” The verb is doubled for emphasis in Hebrew, and is the figure of speech polyptoton. Hannah “wept, yes, wept,” meaning she wept deeply, freely, bitterly. [For more on the figure polyptoton and this style of translating the figure, see commentary on Gen. 2:16, “eat, yes, eat”].(top)
“see, yes, see.” The Hebrew text has the figure of speech polyptoton. Hannah wanted Yahweh to really see her and her situation and intervene in her behalf. [For more on the figure polyptoton and this style of translating the figure, see commentary on Gen. 2:16, “eat, yes, eat”].
“remember me.” In this context, “remember” is being used idiomatically, meaning to act on one’s behalf. Hannah was not asking for God to simply mentally remember her, but to support her and act on her behalf. [For more on the use of “remember,” see commentary on Gen. 8:1].(top)
“continued a long time praying.” The Hebrew text is more literally something such as, “as she multiplied (or ‘made many’) to her praying.” Hannah was desperate. This was not a short “said and done” prayer. She took a long time in petitioning Yahweh for what she so badly wanted. Godly men and women throughout the Scriptures pray a lot, and they realize their weakness and inability to accomplish their desire apart from help from God. There is no prideful “I can make it happen” attitude in Hannah, and no thought that if she “just had faith” she would gain her desire. Hannah knew what all Christians should know: she could not force God’s hand; she just had to rely on His grace and mercy. She came to God with humility, honesty, passion, and brokenness—a way that every Christian should pray. Her future was in the hands of God. [For more on faith and trust, see Appendix 16, “‘Faith’ is ‘Trust’”].(top)
“Eli thought she was drunk.” At first blush we can see that Eli may have thought that Hannah was drunk because most people did not pray that long or move their mouth without discernably saying something when they prayed. Prayers in the ancient world were either said out loud, or said to oneself in the heart, they were not usually spoken in such a way as Hannah was doing. Nevertheless, it is a sad situation when the High Priest’s first thought is that Hanna was drunk. Eli had many faults, and here we see one of them: assuming the worst about someone before finding out the facts.(top)
“Put away your wine from you.” Eli was so quick to judge some people’s sins, but would do nothing about his own sons who committed horrific sins, and right at the Tent of Meeting itself! But so many people are that way—they excuse their own sins and/or the sins of their family and friends, but are hard on other people.(top)
|1Sa 1:15||- (top)|
“a daughter of Belial.” Being a son or daughter of Belial is to be a child of the Devil. [For more on sons of Belial, see commentary on 1 Sam. 2:12. For more on the unforgivable sin and children of the Devil, see commentary on Matt. 12:31].(top)
|1Sa 1:17||- (top)|
“So the woman went her way.” There is much in a seemingly unimportant sentence. The text does not name Hannah, but says, “the woman.” It was Hannah as woman, a wife, and a potential mother that was at stake here, and she had just been blessed by the High Priest. As a woman, Hannah went forth, grasping onto the blessing of Eli as the Word of Yahweh that she would have a son, and she was no longer downcast. Hope had been given, joy had been restored.(top)
“Elkanah knew Hannah his wife.” An idiom for sexual intercourse. See commentary Matthew 1:25.
“remembered her.” “Remembered” is an idiom for “acted on her behalf.” See commentary on 1 Samuel 1:11.(top)
“at the turning of days.” This is an idiom for the turning of the year, or about a year later. The Hebrew idioms about the turning of days were a godly reminder of the “wheel of life”—birth, growth, death—that is the essence of life on earth (cp. James 3:6). Here, the days turn and Samuel is born. Eventually, he will grow, marry, and have children of his own, then age and die. Samuel’s godly mother Hannah also aged and died, but she is not mentioned again after 1 Sam. 2:21.(top)
|1Sa 1:21||- (top)|
“…until the child is weaned.” Hannah’s sentence starts with “until,” which is more accurate than “after” or “once,” which many versions have. This is an emotional time. Hannah envisions herself giving up her beloved baby boy to the High Priest and then only seeing him again once a year. She does not speak in a complete sentence. She speaks in a plea, with her eyes, her tone of voice, perhaps with the shake of her head. She looks at her husband Elkanah, who had the authority in the house to force her to go, and silently asks, “Can I wait.” “Can I wait...until the child is weaned?” Elkanah, who loved her and no doubt saw her pain but understood her resolution to keep her commitment to give Samuel to be a Nazarite and serve God throughout his life, agreed to her request.(top)
“may Yahweh fulfill his word.” In this case, the word of God refers to the blessing of Eli, the High Priest, who blessed Hannah, saying may God grant her request that she requested (1 Sam. 1:17), and also to the fact that what Hannah had requested was a boy, whom she would then give to God as a Nazarite to serve God throughout his life (1 Sam. 1:11). Here, Elkanah shows that he understands the promise that Hannah has made and that the High Priest blessed, and he reminds Hannah of her commitment as he left on his annual journey to Shiloh to worship. So Elkanah allowed Hannah to stay home but reminded her that there would soon come a time when she would not be able to stay home, but would need to fulfill her vow. Hannah, godly and faithful, did indeed fulfill her vow once little Samuel was weaned (1 Sam. 1:24).(top)
“three-year-old bull.” Some texts read “three bulls,” but “three-year-old” is more likely original. Also, it likely points to the age of Samuel. We cannot be sure, but it seems logical that the sacrifice of a three-year-old bull would be a fitting sacrifice at the dedication of three-year-old Samuel, and weaning at three years of age was not uncommon biblically, in fact, many babies were weaned later than that.
“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).”(top)
|1Sa 1:25||- (top)|
|1Sa 1:26||- (top)|
|1Sa 1:27||- (top)|
“And he worshiped.” This refers to Samuel and is a summary statement showing that Hannah’s prayer and promise had come to pass.(top)