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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

1 Samuel 2

Verses 1-10

First Samuel - Chapter 2

Hannah’s Prayer-Song, vs. 1-10

This prophetic prayer-song of Hannah is far-reaching in scope, with more than one Messianic reference. Though it would be presumptuous to speculate on the knowledge of Hannah relative to the Messianic promise, His reign, etc., it is apparent that she was very much conscious of such a promise. It is a song of joy in realization of her blessing in the Lord. Her personal exultation over her blessing has undertones which suggest that she may be thinking of her triumph over Peninnah Yet they are analogous to the triumph of Christ over His persecutors. The horn is the symbol of power, which Hannah ascribes to the Lord, and the enlarging of her mouth is for the purpose of rejoicing in His salvation. She continues, to ascribe to the Lord holiness, uniqueness, and trustworthiness. The figure of the rock for the Lord’s steadfastness goes back to Moses (De 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31) and is used throughout the Bible in like manner (e.g., Isaiah 32:2; Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:4). The arrogant are rebuked for their words against the Lord, for He weighs actions, and causes His will to tome to pass.

Those who depend on the might of men are broken; they stumble and fall. They were once full, but become needy. Those who were considered barren and empty produce seven, symbolic of a full return for their reliance on the Lord. The omnipotence of the Lord is excelling and irresistible. He kills and makes alive, brings down and raises up, makes poor and makes rich, humbles and exalts. It is the Lord who will lift the poor from the dust and take the beggar from the dunghill to place them among princes on thrones of glory. For the Lord controls all; and His will prevails. All these things are illustrative of His spiritual rescue of men who turn to Him in repentance and faith.

The Lord is lauded as the Creator ifs verse 8, as the Keeper of the saved (vs. 9), as Judge of the wicked (vs. 9, 10). The song ends with a preview of Armageddon and Millennium, when adversaries are broken to pieces, the world is judged, the King is enthroned, and the Horn of the Anointed is exalted..

Verses 11-17

Wicked Priests, vs. 11-17

First, it is said that Elkanah and Hannah returned to Ramah to their house, of course leaving Samuel with Eli at the tabernacle. A heart­rending picture could be portrayed of the young child being left with an aged priest in a tabernacle ruled over by licentious priests, bereft of his mother. But he was born for this purpose, and Hannah must not have suffered any twinges of regret, for she trusted his care to the Lord who gave Samuel to her in answer to her prayer and vow. The Lord would comfort and care for His child, the gift of a dedicated mother.

Then the scene turns to another parent and his sons. Eli’s sons were already noted sons of Belial, which means they were sorry, no good, and wicked. The worst thing of all, "they knew not the Lord," meaning they had not their trust in Him. They exercised their offices for their own profit, much like, it is feared, many professing ministers of the gospel in this day and age. Their infidelity was blatantly exposed in their treatment of the sacrifices which the Israelites brought to the tabernacle.

The law carefully set forth the manner of the sacrifices and the priests’ portion. The order concerning the burning of the fat is seen at Leviticus 7:22-27, and the one violating it was accursed from Israel. The portion which the priests was to receive from the people’s offering is plainly stipulated (De 18:3-5; see also the law of the peace offering, Leviticus 7:28-34). But Eli’s sons were not pleased with what the Lord had given them nor did they approve of His assessment. They did not wait for the boiling of the flesh to eat the sacrifice with the one offering as required by the law. They desired to eat the fat which was dedicated to the Lord, and they demanded the mw flesh before it was sacrificed, possibly implying that they ate it without properly bleeding it as the law required. They sent their servants to the sacrifice and belligerently demanded to make their own choice out of the offerings, even over the protestations of some.

The Scriptures state that their sin "was very great before the Lord." It was an open defiance of God, reminiscent of Cain and Nimrod (Genesis 4:5; Genesis 10:8-11). Such put them under the certain judgment of the Lord. Their flagrant disobedience to the law of the offerings was abhorring of the law. The statement, "for men abhorred the offering of the Lord," seems not to be said of them alone. Their light esteem caused those who came with their offerings also to abhor them. What seems permissible to those who represent the Lord is thought to be permissible by those they minister unto.

Verses 18-26

Samuel and Eli, vs. 18-26

In these verses the last glimpse of Elkanah and his family in the Scriptures is found. What kind of ministry the child Samuel had in the tabernacle is not known, but it appears that he was dressed as a miniature priest. He wore a linen ephod like the high priest. This piece of apparel was a beautiful, multicolored vest-like affair fastened at the shoulders. A long robe was made to wear with it, and this may have been the coat which Hannah brought to him each year when she came to the annual sacrifice. He needed this new coat each year, for he was constantly growing taller, and it should reach to his feet.

Eli must have become very fond of young Samuel, probably treat­ing him as a favorite grandchild. He uttered his priestly blessing on EI­kanah and Hannah for lending the child and prayed for them the blessing of other children. In time the couple became parents of three sons and two daughters, Samuel evidently being the oldest of the three sons.

Not only did Samuel grow physically, but also ’grew before the Lord,” evident reference to his gaining knowledge and wisdom in the law of God. Eli possibly exerted much effort in teaching him in a belated effort to make some amends for the poor reflection made on him by his own sons. Eli was a man of God, but he had failed with his sons, being too lax with them, as shall appear in the sequel.

People told Eli the awful way they were treating the sacrifices. But he also learned that they were committing fornication with the women who had dedicated their lives to the service of the tabernacle. This may not mean that the women were necessarily guilty also, for it has been seen how overbearing and imperative these evil priests were. No doubt many, perhaps all, of these were morally good women, compelled to undergo this sin by the priests.

Eli tried to reason with Hophni and Phinehas, but they were beyond listening. He warned them that a judge may judge between man and man, but it is fearful to be judged of the Lord, when there is none to entreat for you. They were lost sinners, and this is the condition of all sinners of any age. It is said they hearkened not "because the Lord would slay them." This indicates that they were hardened in their sin, beyond the conviction that might lead them to repentance, with irrevocable judgment awaiting them (1 Corinthians 11:31-32).

While this condition continued in the priest family, Samuel was growing to adulthood and being favorably approved, by both God and men.

Verses 27-36

Judgment Pronounced, vs. 27-36

There is an interesting thing about the priesthood of Eli, not revealed in the Bible. Instead of having descended from Aaron through the line of Eleazar, like other priests had, his descent was through Aaron’s youngest son, Ithamar This was the fact though seemingly God had put the high priesthood in that line in the person and acclamation of Phinehas for his fidelity at Baal-peor (see Numbers 25:10­13). See the reference to Ahimelech as "of the sons of Ithamar" (1 Chronicles 24:3). Ahimelech was the son of Abiathar (1 Chronicles 18:16) who was the son of an older Ahimelech, who is also called Ahijah, who was the son of Ahitub (1 Samuel 22:20) who was the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli (1 Samuel 14:3). It seems that the house of Eli had somehow succeeded to the high priesthood contrary to God’s plan.

The Lord sent a prophet to Eli, with a message of judgment on his house. It opens with a reminder of how the Lord had privileged the house of Aaron to occupy the high office of priest. From what is seen here the Lord must have revealed this to Aaron while he was still in Egypt. Here is a reminder of the high favor the Lord has bestowed on the family by choosing them out of all the tribes of Israel, giving them the ministry of the Lord’s holy things, as the altar, the incense, the ephod,, and supplied their needs through the offerings of the Israelites.

The prophet proceeded with the Lord’s charge against Eli. It is directly made against Eli, although he was outwardly a devout moral person. He was accused of kicking at the Lord’s sacrifices. This was, of course, done through his sons, but it was by the permissiveness of their father. Had Eli been as jealous of the Lord’s service as he should have been he would not have allowed his sons to continue in the priesthood when he knew their wickedness. He should have exercised the demand of the law in having them put to death (De 21:18-21). Instead Eli had honored his sons above God and condoned, likely participated by eating in their abuse of the priest’s portion of the sacrifices.

Next the prophet recalled the Lord’s promise to the house of Aaron, that it should walk before Him for ever. But in Eli the house had abrogated that promise, and God would not honor it longer but esteem it lightly. Eli’s arm and that of his father’s house would be cut off, symbolic of their power exercised in the priesthood. No man of his house would survive to old age, and those who did continue to live would be to consume the eye with pity and the heart with grief for their physical condition. Eli would, himself, see a stranger in the house of God, and Hophni and Phinehas would both die on the same day. These things would begin to happen very soon, but would not be complete until the time of Solomon (1 Kings 2:26-27).

Some have sought a short-range fulfillment of the prophecy of a faithful priest in Samuel, but Samuel was not of a priest family, though he did exercise that office because of the position in which the Lord placed him. Others have suggested the fulfillment in the restoration of the high priesthood to Eleazar’s line, in Zadok by Solomon (1 Kings 2:35). But the ultimate fulfillment is certainly in Jesus Christ, the High Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek (Psalms 110:4; Hebrews 5:5-10). Only Christ can and will fulfill the things said of the faithful priest in this prophecy.

Learn from chapter two: 1) Knowing the will of God and keeping one’s promises to Him will bring great joy and confidence in His promises; 2) trusting loved ones to the Lord’s care will result in peace and satisfaction for God’s children; 3) many supposed ministers of the Lord are among His most despised enemies; 4) light esteem for the commandments of the Lord will bring judgment on the guilty; 5) pursuit of right in a new endeavor will not erase the guilt in an earlier unconfessed matter; 6) evil continually condoned must certainly be judged at last.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-samuel-2.html. 1985.