Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 2

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-11


A SORROWFUL WIFE (1 Samuel 1:0 )

Like Ruth, the opening of First Samuel deals with events in the time of the Judges, and is the book of transition from that period to the monarchy.

1 Samuel 1:1-8 . Though there is difficulty in locating the city named in verse 1, yet it appears that Elkanah was a native of Bethlehem-judah like Elimelech (see the first lesson in Ruth). He was a Levite (see 1 Chronicles 6:33-34 ), and if it is surprising that he practiced polygamy (v. 2), we must remember the moral condition of the people at this time, but not imagine that God approved it.

1 Samuel 1:4-5 suggest a situation not unlike that of Jacob and Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29:15-35 ). The latter of the verses is rendered in the Septuagint: “But unto Hannah he gave a single portion, because she had no child; howbeit Elkanah loved Hannah.” It will be recalled from Leviticus 3:7 and Deuteronomy 12:12 that the offerer received back the greater part of the peace offerings, which he and his family might eat at a social feast in connection with the act of worship, and it is to this that “portion” alludes. The “adversary” (1 Samuel 1:6 ) is translated “rival” in the Revised Version and refers to Peninnah.

1 Samuel 1:9-18 . What a beautiful illustration of Psalms 50:15 is found in these verses! As Hannah was the wife of a Levite, a son would in any event have belonged to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:11 ); but if this one was to be a Nazarite from his birth (Numbers 6:5 ; Judges 13:5 ) it meant that his residence and service in the sanctuary must begin at an earlier period than usual.

Eli’s words in 1 Samuel 1:17 were spoken by the Holy Spirit through him whether he were aware of it or not. And Hannah seemed to understand them as a divine answer to her prayer (1 Samuel 1:18 ).

A JOYOUS MOTHER (1 Samuel 2:1-11 )

Hannah’s song foreshadows Mary’s in Luke 1:46-55 , and must not be regarded simply as a natural song of thanksgiving, although it came from Hannah’s heart. It was a prophecy of the Holy Spirit within her, making her rejoice in praise for those greater blessings in Christ of which the whole race will partake, and of which Samuel’s birth was an earnest and pledge.

Study the words carefully, and see how they pass over all the intermediate steps of the development of the kingdom of God, and point to the final goal when the dominion is extended over the ends of the earth.

Doctrinally considered, the song expresses joy in the power of God (1 Samuel 2:1 ); it praises Him for His holiness and faithfulness, which is as firm as a rock (1 Samuel 2:2 ); it extols His providence in His omniscience and omnipotence in dealing with the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the high and the low, the godly and ungodly (1 Samuel 2:3-8 ); and finally, it bears prophetic testimony to His victory at the end and the establishment of His Kingdom on the earth through Jesus Christ (1 Samuel 2:9-10 ).


1. How may this book be characterized?

2. To what tribe did Elkanah belong?

3. Can you quote from memory Psalms 50:15 ?

4. Have you read the law of the Nazarite in Numbers 6:5 ?

5. What was the nature of Hannah’s song?

6. State its scope in a sentence or two.

7. Give a theological or doctrinal exposition of the song.

Verses 12-36


After leaving their son with Eli in Shiloh, Elkanah and his wife returned home (1 Samuel 2:11 ). Then follows an account of how “Samuel ministered before the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:18-19 ), and how he grew in favor with God and man (1 Samuel 2:26 ).

In the meantime other blessings had come to Hannah (1 Samuel 2:20-21 ), a confirmation of the divine principle, “Them that honor Me, I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30 ).

But what ministry could a child have wrought in the sanctuary? It is difficult to say, but he may have played upon the cymbals or lighted the lamps, or performed other simple tasks.

PRIESTLY GRAFT (1 Samuel 2:12-17 )

But the burden of this lesson is the wickedness of Eli’s sons, over against whom the life of Samuel is placed by contrast.

The explanation of verses 13-16 seems like this: When worshippers presented a peace offering it was brought to the priest, who caused the Lord’s portion to be burnt on the altar, and whose further duty was to cause the other portions for himself and the offerer to be sodden. The priests were entitled to the breasts and shoulders of the animal (Exodus 29:27 ; Leviticus 7:31-32 ), but Eli’s sons demanded more, and even seized upon it before the waving and heaving before the Lord took place (Leviticus 7:34 ). They added also the offense of taking up with their fork whatever portion they wanted while it was still raw, in order to have it roasted. The injustice of this must have been revolting to devout worshippers.


But wicked as this was, the offense in verse 22 was more rank. The women referred to are mentioned in Exodus 38:8 , but what their duties were in the sanctuary is not told. (Compare Luke 2:36-37 .) Eli’s old age (1 Samuel 2:22 ) is named not as an excuse but an explanation of his weakness. He seems to have been an over-indulgent father, whose duty set before him in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 , was not performed. Love triumphed over justice with the usual evil consequences to other people. It is only God who holds the balance evenly.

A Good Gospel Text

God must be the judge when man fails (1 Samuel 2:25 ), but it was not His foreordination but their willful sin which caused the destruction of these sons.

Pastors will find a text for a Gospel discourse in the former part of this verse, “If a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?” The idea is that when men sin against men, God, through appointed human agents, restores the disturbed relations by composing the strife; but when men sin against God, who is there to arrange the matter? As Wordsworth puts it, A

man may intercede with God for the remission of a penalty due for injury to himself, but who shall entreat for one who has outraged the majesty of God?

Who, save Him Who is Himself God, and yet made Himself of no reputation that He might take upon Him our sins, and suffer in our stead?


Eli is held directly responsible for the conduct of his sons (1 Samuel 2:29 ). Notice that God can change His mind when it is conditioned on the conduct of His people (1 Samuel 2:30 ). Notice further, the prophecies upon Eli and his house: (1) “I will cut off thine arm and the arm of thy father’s house” (1 Samuel 2:31 ). This meant that the high priesthood would be taken from the line of Ithamar, to which Eli belonged, and restored to that of Eleazar, from which it had been taken previously. (2) “There shall not be an old man in thy house,” a circumstance which lowered the respectability of a family in Israel. (3) “Thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation” (1 Samuel 2:32 ), or as the Revised Version expresses it, “Thou shalt behold the affliction of my habitation.”

Eli would not personally live to see these things in detail, but he would see enough to assure him that the rest was coming (1 Samuel 2:34 ).

But God would take care of His own, and fulfill all His promises, as indicated in verse 35, which seems like a prophecy of Christ. The following verse somewhat qualifies this application, but perhaps the prophecy finds a partial fulfillment in Samuel and Zadok (of whom we shall learn later on) and a complete and final one in Christ, which would meet the difficulty.


1. What blessing came to Hannah as her reward?

2. What ministry could a child exercise in the sanctuary?

3. Explain the nature of the priestly graft.

4. What was Eli’s fault as a father?

5. What chastisement came upon him?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. 1897-1910.