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Go to Bible: 1 Samuel 2
“Hannah prayed and said.” Hannah’s prayer is a wonderful example of a praise prayer. Although most prayers are asking for something, prayer can be praise as well.
“My horn is lifted high in Yahweh.” Hannah is using an animal metaphor (hypocatastasis; see commentary on Rev. 20:2), when an ox or other horned animal was feeling strong, free, and full of life their horn was lifted up.
“My mouth speaks boldly against.” The Hebrew is more literally, “my mouth is enlarged over my enemies.” Hannah had been derided for years because she was barren, now she can speak boldly against her enemies and rejoice in Yahweh’s deliverance.
“salvation.” This is not everlasting life salvation, but temporal salvation on earth; deliverance from her enemies.(top)
“There is no one other than you.” The “you” is second person singular. Yahweh alone is God. Hannah speaks of Yahweh in the first and third phrases, but to Him in the second phrase.(top)
“so high, so high and mighty.” The Hebrew is “so high, so high.”
“arrogance.” The word “arrogance” is a noun form in Hebrew. “Arrogance” means “arrogant speech.”(top)
“bows...are shattered.” This is a difficult sentence for a couple of reasons. Some versions say, “bow...is broken,” while other versions have “bows...are broken.” The reason for the difference is that the word “bow” is singular in Hebrew, while the verb translated “are broken” is plural. The noun-verb disagreement is likely a case where “bow” is being used as a singular because it is being used as the class of weaponry, i.e., “the bow,” and it is not being used as a single bow.
We should note that the meaning of the Hebrew word translated “broken” can also be “terrified, dismayed.” This verse could also be saying that the mighty bowmen are terrified while those people who used to be weak are armed with strength. C. F. Keil translates the verse, “Bow-heroes are confounded,” and writes, “The thought to be expressed is, not that the bow itself is to be broken, but that the heroes who carry the bow are to be confounded or broken inwardly.”a
“seven sons.” The word seven is masculine, indicating seven sons. The number seven is used in Hannah’s poetry to refer to a perfect number of sons. She herself had six children, Samuel and five other children (1 Sam. 2:21).(top)
“and brings up,” At face value, this is a reference to resurrection.(top)
“makes poor and makes rich.” The Hebrew uses causative verbs, so “makes poor” is one verb and “makes rich” is another.(top)
“refuse heap.” The Hebrew is a general reference to a refuse or garbage heap. Although the word gets translated “dunghill” in some older translations, there is no specific reference to “dung” in the word. The poor are scavengers and live off of things that the rich people don’t want. The same thing is true today in many third-world countries.
“For the pillars of the earth are Yahweh’s.” Yahweh upholds the physical earth and implied is that in the same way He upholds the moral and ethical standards on earth such that justice is eventually done for all.(top)
“the wicked will become silent in darkness.” The wicked will “become silent” (die) in darkness, the darkness of death and the tomb. This verse adds to the evidence that when a person dies they are dead in every way and not alive in any form. The wicked dead are not “suffering in Hell,” they are dead and silent. Eventually, they will be raised from the dead for the Day of Judgment and will be thrown into the Lake of Fire where they will burn up and be annihilated—silent and gone forever.
[For more on the dead being dead, see Appendix 4, “The Dead are Dead.” For more on annihilation in the Lake of Fire, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.”]
“for no man will prevail by strength.” This likely refers to prevailing over death, but it can include the idea of prevailing in this life by human strength.(top)
“shattered.” The meaning of the Hebrew word translated “shattered” can also be “terrified, dismayed.” This fits well with the context that God thunders against them.
“his anointed one.” In Hebrew, the word “anointed” is “messiah.” Hannah looked forward to the future Messianic Kingdom, ruled by the Messiah. The reign of the Messiah was foretold even in Genesis and it would be glorious. Here in Samuel, Israel was not yet a kingdom, so Hannah is not ultimately looking forward to just another earthly king, but rather to God’s appointed king and Messiah. Nevertheless, she would have almost certainly known the prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 17 that there would be earthly kings of Israel before the Messianic reign, so she would have been anticipating an earthly monarchy, which we know to be the Davidic Monarchy. It is also likely that she also thought, due to the circumstances of her pregnancy, that her son would somehow play a role in that monarchy, which indeed he did, anointing first Saul and then David himself.(top)
|1Sa 2:11||- (top)|
“sons of Belial.” “Belial” is a name of the Devil and the “sons of Belial” are children of the Devil. There is much debate among scholars as to what “Belial” means. The Hebrew is beliya`al (#01100 בְּלִיַּ֫עַל). Recent scholars have placed the meaning in the category of “worthless.” However, it is recognized by the way the word is used in the OT that it refers to a person “whose activities include those that would quickly destroy the moral fiber of a society….”a Although the etymology is debated, beliya`al seems to come from something related to Satan or the underworld. Some scholars argue that it comes from the word “Baal.” Other theories are that it comes from an Akkadian goddess of the underworld, or that it means “those who throw off the yoke [of God], or that it refers to those “without benefit,” or that it refers to a personified enemy. The Arabic cognate word has to do with being entangled or to harm, injure. In the Qumran texts and the Jewish pseudepigrapha, the word is used in a personified manner, which is the way that the NT uses a similar word, “Belial” (2 Cor. 6:15; “Beliar” in the Greek text).b The phrase, “man of Belial” seems to be used in the OT of people who have a relation to Belial as an evil god, and it is also used to describe the attributes of those people (Cp. Deut. 15:9). Thus, we can assert that a man of Belial is a man in league with the Devil, knowingly or unknowingly, as the children of the Devil are in the New Testament.
The Bible never says when or why, but at some time in their lives, Eli’s two sons had made the Devil their god (most likely by making something that the Devil controls and offers such as money or power their “god”).
Although everyone sins, and some people sin horribly, the Bible shows that there is a difference between most sinners and some sinners who have actually made the Devil their god, and the Devil has become their “father.” Some of the religious leaders that Jesus dealt with had done that (John 8:44). Also, Elymas the sorcerer whom Paul dealt with was a “child of the Devil” (Acts 13:10). The children of the Devil reflect the nature of the Devil and are consistently evil and against God, and the Devil helps them and supports their evil work.
The phrase, “son of Belial” (also, “children of Belial;” “sons of Belial;” “man of Belial;” KJV) is a phrase the Bible uses to communicate the special relationship between the “father,” the Devil, and the “son” (or “child”). Although the Bible does not describe the exact nature of the relationship between the Devil and his children, we know from the scope of Scripture that it is a spiritual relationship and an unbreakable bond and that Jesus referred to it as the unforgivable sin (Matt. 12:31).
“Belial” occurs 16 times in the Old Testament (Deut. 12:13; Judg. 19:22; 20:13; 1 Sam. 1:16; 2:12; 10:27; 25:17; 25:25; 30:22; 2 Sam. 16:7; 20:1; 23:6; 1 Kings 21:10; 21:13 (2x); 2 Chron. 13:7). The Hebrew noun beliyaal is a name for the Devil and it means “worthless,” and also in Jewish literature, it was a name for the Devil. The New Testament also uses it as a name for the Devil: “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” (2 Cor. 6:15). Every “name” of the Devil has a meaning, and the names God gives the Devil are “mini-portraits” that show us what he “looks like” and reveal how he acts. The Devil is “Worthless,” and people who are children of the Devil are “worthless” to God; in fact, worse than worthless.
The Hebrew text of 1 Samuel 2:12 reads, “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial,” and some English versions read that way (cp. DBY; Douay-Rheims; KJV; WEB). However, because the Hebrew word beliyaal means “worthless,” many English translations miss the spiritual significance of “Belial,” and translate it as if it were an adjective describing a person’s character. Although it is grammatically possible to take the phrase “son of worthless” as a phrase describing a worthless person (cp. “Eli’s sons were wicked men” (NIV); or “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men” (NASB)), that is not the truth that the Word of God is trying to convey. The phrase “son of Belial” shows the special spiritual connection between the Devil and the person such that the person has become a child of the Devil, so when an English version takes the noun beliyaal as if it was simply an adjective, the reader misses the vital lesson the Bible is teaching about the kind of people that children of the Devil are and how they behave.
Jesus knew a lot about the Devil and his children, and he learned it from the Old Testament. The Old Testament shows that the sons of Belial are enemies of God and they reflect the Devil’s nature. Like Cain, they are envious, murderers, liars, and show no genuine godly concern for humankind (Gen. 4:8-9; 1 John 3:12). They lead people away from God and into idolatry (Deut. 13:13); they rape and murder (Judg. 19:22-28), and get people involved in ungodly wars that cost thousands of innocent lives (Judg. 20:11-14); they do not “know” God, but defame God and the things of God (1 Sam. 2:12-17); they can be involved in blatant and harmful sexual sin (1 Sam. 2:22); they resent godly leadership and work to weaken it (1 Sam. 10:27; 2 Sam. 20:1); they sow division (1 Sam. 30:22; 2 Chron. 13:7); they lie even when it results in the death of the innocent (1 Kings 21:10, 13), and they must be dealt with by spiritual power, not just the “hands” of the flesh (2 Sam. 23:6). The New Testament adds more to what the Old Testament says. They do the works of the Devil (John 8:44) and as the enemies of God they always try to pervert the ways of God (Acts 13:10). For example, they twist the words of God and make God’s ways hard to obey (Matt. 15:3-9; Luke 11:46).
God authored the Old Testament with the Messiah in mind, and Jesus gained insight from the Old Testament as to what kind of people he was dealing with when he encountered the children of the Devil. No wonder he told his disciples not to try to win over the Pharisees. While he constantly spent time with “regular sinners” such as prostitutes and tax collectors and worked to turn them from error to truth, when it came to the religious leaders he was dealing with, he told his apostles, “Leave them alone! They are blind guides” (Matt. 15:14). What we see from the Bible is that the children of the Devil are unswervingly evil and have to be dealt with by force and the law, which is why it is important to have godly laws like the Law of Moses, such that much of what they do is illegal.
[For more on the children of the Devil and the unforgivable sin, see commentary on Matt. 12:31.]
“Now the rule of the priests.” This “rule” had nothing to do with the Law of Moses, yet by this time it had become a custom. This is more evidence of priestly greed. The fork with three prongs could bring out a lot of meat.(top)
“All that the fork brought up the priest would take.” Now we see why the fork had three teeth, to be able to bring up more meat.
“This is what they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites.” The priests were taking advantage of the people.(top)
“burned...into smoke.” See commentary on Exodus 29:13.(top)
“Let the fat first be burned, yes, burned into smoke.” Many of the worshipers knew enough of the Law of Moses to know that what the priests were doing was not according to the Law, but the priests would have had a small army of priests and Levites at the Tabernacle and had the manpower to bully the worshipers. For the translation, “burned into smoke,” see commentary on Exodus 29:13.(top)
|1Sa 2:17||- (top)|
|1Sa 2:18||- (top)|
|1Sa 2:19||- (top)|
“Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife.” Eli was apparently thankful for Samuel and would bless Elkanah and Hannah when they came to the Tabernacle. Here, Elkanah’s “wife” is Hannah, not Peninnah.
“to his place.” This reflects the custom that it was the man who would own the property. The couple’s house was, in the culture, the man’s house.(top)
“Yahweh visited Hannah.” Yahweh had intervened and blessed Hannah so she got pregnant. It does not mean Yahweh was somehow personally present but rather that Yahweh “visited” through the circumstances of Hannah’s life.
[For more on God “visiting,” see commentary on Exod. 20:5.](top)
“the women who served.” There were women who served at the Tabernacle (Exodus 38:8).
“at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.” Which “entrance” this is, is not specified. It seems unlikely that the women would be allowed into the courtyard where the altar was, but perhaps they were; many other Laws were being broken. Or they could have been outside the Tabernacle enclosure helping people with their offerings, etc.(top)
|1Sa 2:23||- (top)|
|1Sa 2:24||- (top)|
“they did not listen to the voice of their father.” One of the problems with the Levitical system was that the priesthood was attained by heredity, not by being qualified for it. Eli’s sons were clearly not qualified to be priests because of the way they acted, but since the priesthood was hereditary, they could not be removed from it.
“therefore Yahweh desired to put them to death.” Although most versions translate the Hebrew ki in this verse as “because” (CJB, KJV), “since” (NAB, CSB), or “for” (ESV, NIV), the word “therefore” is to be preferred in light of the Scope of Scripture, which tells us that people can make free-will decisions and that God then relates to them based on those decisions. The Bible is full of examples of this. Adam Clarke’s explanation for translating the ki as “therefore” accurately captures what we believe to be the meaning of this verse:
“continued to grow in stature and in favor.” This is similar to Jesus (Luke 2:52).(top)
“reveal, yes, reveal.” The Hebrew text uses the figure of speech polyptoton for emphasis.
[For more on polyptoton and the way it is translated, see commentary on Gen. 2:16.]
“to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in slavery.” God revealed himself to the ancestors of Eli (“the house of your father”) when they were still in Egypt, and that house included Amram, Moses, and Aaron, and Eli was a descendant of Amram and his son Aaron, the first High Priest.(top)
“and choose him.” This most likely refers to Aaron, the first High Priest and lineal ancestor to Eli, the High Priest.
“the offerings that are made by fire.” This refers to the priest’s responsibility over all the offerings and sacrifices that were burned on the altar.(top)
“you all.” The “you” is plural. Eli and his sons.
“kick” This is idiomatic for “scorn, despise.”
“sacrifices and at my offerings.” The words are singular in the Hebrew text, but they refer to categories and not a singular sacrifice or offering, so we would use the plural for clarity (cp. CJB; CSB; ESV; NAB; NLT; NRSV).
“to make yourselves fat.” This was both figurative and literal, because Eli was fat (1 Sam. 4:18).
“the best.” The Hebrew is literally, “the beginning.” The priests got the first choices and therefore the best parts.(top)
“said, yes, said.” The Hebrew text uses the figure of speech polyptoton for emphasis, doubling the word “said.”
[For more on polyptoton and this way of translating it, see commentary on Gen. 2:16.]
“would walk before me forever.” This seems to go back to the High Priestly line that came from Aaron.(top)
|1Sa 2:31||- (top)|
“You will see trouble in my habitation.” This “trouble” no doubt included having the ark of the covenant leave the Tabernacle, never to return there again. When it finally came to Jerusalem, David set up a special tent for it.(top)
|1Sa 2:33||- (top)|
|1Sa 2:34||- (top)|
“and in my soul.” The Hebrew translated “soul” is the word nephesh (#05315 נֶפֶשׁ), and nephesh has a wide range of meanings. Here it refers to God’s thoughts and desires, which is why many English translations say “mind.”
[For more on nephesh and soul see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul.’”]
“he will walk in the presence of my anointed one.” The “he” is the priest, and he will live in the presence of “my anointed one,” i.e., the king. Here the prophet speaks about the future when God will set up a king over Israel. But at this time it would be many years before there was a king.(top)
“bow down.” The common biblical way of bowing down before people or God was to fall to one’s knees and bow the upper body to the earth. It is the same Hebrew word as “worship.”
[For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20.]
“loaf of bread.” A “loaf” of bread was quite like a pancake.
“piece of bread.” Cp. Judges 19:5.(top)