Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-36

1 Samuel 2:1 . Hannah said, my heart rejoiceth. This song is much admired: the lines form a constellation of appropriate beauties. The composition is perfect in its kind. The phrases are short, and the sentiments brilliant. The soul of the poetess was full of her subject.

1 Samuel 2:12 . Sons of Belial, as in Deuteronomy 13:13. They committed sacrilege; they committed adulteries on a notorious scale; they despised their father, and all judicial reproof; they filled up their measure, and sinned unto death. Solomon might refer to this, in Proverbs 29:1.

1 Samuel 2:18 . Samuel girded with a linen ephod. From infancy the Lord apparently raised him to the rank of priest and prince. What other levite ever wore an ephod? David wore it, for the day, when he danced before the ark. 2 Samuel 6:14.

1 Samuel 2:22 . Women that assembled, is a correct reading of the Hebrew. Women congregated from different places for devotion: yet some versions would turn the word for “women that served,” virgins and matrons. If so, the crime of the priests was double. Many vestal virgins in the temples of the heathens have been put to death on violating their vows, by proving pregnant.

1 Samuel 2:25 . Because the Lord would slay them. The Hebrew particle vau, neither designates the cause of their destruction, nor the direct and absolute intention of God to cut them off in their sins; it is used to declare the conditional intention of God, in case of their final impenitency. So also is the plain comment of Jerome. Epis. ad Hedib. tom. 1 Samuel 3:9-10. So likewise is the gloss of Augustine. Tom. 10. ser. 88, De Temp. The gloss therefore of Calvin, which imputes their destruction to the decrees of God, is unsupported by ancient authority.

1 Samuel 2:27 . A man of God; and truly so, for all his words came to pass. God mostly warns before he strikes, though sometimes the lightning kills before the thunder is heard. Aaron’s race in the line of Phinehas had now held the priesthood for seven generations.

1 Samuel 2:30 . I said indeed that thy house and the house of thy father should walk before me for ever; but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me. This text is very important, as it throws light on the nature of the covenant, and in conjunction with many other passages of similar import. Hence when once perfectly understood, it will be a key to all those passages. It is the basis of that great and most sanctifying truth, that every covenant of God has its CONDITIONS. On this passage, our Poole quotes R. Lipsom to the same effect: Omnia pacta, quibus paciscitur Deus, cum adversa, tum prospera, omnia ista sub conditione decernit. Syn. Crit. Because Phinehas boldly purged the camp of Israel from idolatry and fornication, God gave to him and his seed the covenant of an everlasting priesthood. Numbers 25:10-13. But his children proving unfaithful, as is supposed, forfeited the privileges and blessings of the pontificate. And when Eli was pious in his youth, and called in a divine manner to be judge of Israel, God conferred on him the blessings forfeited by the children of Phinehas. So the promise of an everlasting priesthood passed from Eliezar’s line to Eli’s, who, according to Josephus, was descended from Ithamar, Aaron’s youngest son. God promised and sware to Abraham, that his seed should possess the gates of their enemies; yet, awful to say, when Israel had revolted against him, and worshipped the calf, he tempted Moses not to pray for them, saying, “Let me alone that I may consume them in a moment, and I will make of thee a greater nation than they.” The promise and oath of God are the two immutable things in which it was not possible for him to lie; therefore he would have raised up of Moses the Messiah to fulfil his word. Just so he reprobated all Israel for rejecting the Messiah, except a small converted remnant, and he elected the gentiles in their place. Romans 9:10-11.

Saul, we find also, and his posterity were fully elected to the throne; but on account of his repeated acts of disobedience, Samuel said to him, “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee; for now the Lord [ stabiliveret ] had established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue.” 1 Samuel 13:13-14. Against these conditions it will be objected, that God says, though the mountains depart, and the hills be removed, my kindness shall not depart from thee; neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed. Isaiah 54:10. Jeremiah 31:35-36. St. Paul also says, that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29. The plain answers to these are to be found in the writings of the same prophets and apostles; viz. that the conditions of the covenant are sometimes expressed, and sometimes omitted; and it is evident that where they are not expressed, they are implied. This will fully appear, if the reader will have the goodness to consult the following passages. Jeremiah 23:7-9. Ezekiel 18:24-26. 2 Corinthians 6:2. Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 4:1. Rom 11:20-22 . 2 Timothy 2:12. Revelation 2:4-5. To this it will be farther objected, that the Jewish covenant had its conditions; but that the gospel covenant has no conditions. But this objection is completely done away by the proofs which are adduced. The Jewish and the Christian covenants are in fact both one; the gospel was mixed in all the promises made to Israel, and in all their worship. “To them was the gospel preached as well as unto us.” Hence, it is well said, “so run that ye may obtain: let no man take thy crown.” And again, “giving all diligence to make your calling and election sure.” If God spared not Phinehas, Eli, and Saul; “if he spared not the natural branches,” all the unbelieving Jews, “take heed lest he spare not thee.”

1 Samuel 2:31 . I will cut off thine arm. The LXX, thy seed. Abiathar, who conspired against Solomon, was the last. We afterwards find Azariah executing the priest’s office. 1 Chronicles 6:7-10.


Hannah, now so distinguished by her faith and prayer, after a space of eight or ten years, brought her devoted son, that she might pay her vows in Shiloh. The last time she bowed in the sanctuary of God, it was all weeping and tears, now it was all songs and rejoicing. Her horn being exalted above her enemy, she magnified the salvation of God, who has no equal in holiness and strength. She put to silence the tongue of the arrogant, and associated herself with the warriors and the princes, who had risen from obscurity to splendour. In the transports of sacred song she saw her son presiding over Israel, and extricating them from all their miseries: for by living to anoint Saul, and David, he laid the foundation of glory to Israel. So shall the poor despised and afflicted believer, if he continue faithful to his God, triumph over all his foes. He shall return to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be on his head; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

From Hannah’s joy we come to Eli’s tears. This old man lived, in a manner to adopt a son, designated to eclipse his lustre, and bear away the laurels of his house. And mark; yes, mark well, oh my soul, the cause of so great a fall. The sons of Eli were sons of Belial, lawless, wicked men. Being proud and voluptuous, they robbed God of the fat, and the people of the flesh. Rioting in wine instead of weeping for Israel, they filled their own hearts with lawless lusts, and the foul stains of adultery could never be washed out of their white and sacred robes. Good men abhorred the offering of the Lord, and we afterwards find, God himself abhorred his own altar, and ceased to protect his ark. When ministers damn, instead of saving the souls of the people; when they are guilty of a whole trinity of crimes, voluptuousness, sacrilege, and adultery, the glory will depart from the sanctuary, and all the curses of a forfeited covenant will roll upon them in the full tide of overwhelming vengeance.

What is still worse, Eli completed the ruin of his house, and inflicted ten thousand wounds on Israel by making himself a partaker of the sins of his sons. Reprove them he did, and fairly too; but that was all. They would retire from so mild a reproof, winking the eye, and lolling the tongue, fully resolved never to bear the smallest restraint of passion. And what had they to fear from either Eli, or the elders? God had promised them a priesthood for ever; nor had he, as also in the promise of Phinehas, expressed the smallest condition. Thus Eli by a criminal supineness became a partaker of the iniquity of his sons; for had the elders made the same complaints of the sons of any poor levite, the old man would have answered in the language of justice, “Bring them forth, that they may die.” Hence, let all fathers take warning, if it be their sad case to have a prodigal son, never to support him by connivance and money in a course of crimes which must in the issue be productive of destruction.

When admonitions are despised, vengeance must ensue. But mark, before the Lord executed the blow, he sent a man of God to warn this exalted family; and such a sermon, Eli and his sons had never heard before. And had they repented, per-adventure the Lord would have repented of the punishment, for he is slow to anger and of great compassion. But ah, those sons who are deaf to a father, seldom yield to sermons, how close soever they may press the conscience, and denounce the judgments of heaven against the guilty.

In the fall of this family we see that the Lord will honour and glorify all those who honour him. The scripture characters glorified God in their trying situations, and God has honoured them with glory in return. They have been honoured with a large share of the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit; they have been honoured in the church by the most signal acts of faith, and blessings of providence; they were honoured also in the hour of death with a special confidence; and they shall be honoured for ever with the glory, and vast rewards of eternal life. But all they who have despised his word shall be lightly esteemed as chaff, as brands, and as stubble, reserved to eternal burning. This is the minister’s portion who knows not God.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.