Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 2

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-36

The rejoicing prayer of Hannah is now uttered AFTER she has given up her child. The prayer of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, reminds us of this one, though hers was spoken before he child was born. Samuel, the first of the prophets, is surely typical of Christ, and Hannah's prayer implies the intervention of the Messiah in man's affairs, as verse 10 shows. The language is therefore that which the godly remnant of Israel will use following the suffering of the tribulation when the "the Sun of righteousness" arises "with healing in His wings" (Malachi 4:1).

First, her heart rejoices in the Lord; and secondly, her horn is exalted in the Lord. The horn speaks of potential power in place of years of humiliation. Her mouth is opened in triumph, following all the hostile, overbearing words of her enemies, because it is in God's salvation that she rejoices. Also, when His salvation is known, the heart is drawn to Him personally, so that verse 2 gives Him the place of great dignity, set apart from all others in sublime holiness, and the place of absolute stability, the Rock of eternal, solid strength, upon whom all the universe depends. What are men in the face of such glory as this? Their exceeding pride and arrogance is soundly reproved, for the Lord is a God of knowledge also. He is omniscient as well as omnipotent. He sees and weighs every activity in the scale of pure righteousness, understanding every motive.

Verses 4 and 5 show that God's intervention puts the first last and the last first. The strength of the mighty is reduced to nothing before Him, while His power is exercised in tender goodness toward the weak, whom He girds with strength. Those who have had more than heart could wish become hired servants in order to have even bread to eat, while the hungry become hungry no more. The barren woman unexpectedly bears a full number of children, while the one who had many children becomes feeble. For the new creation reverses the order of the natural creation. How much superior to natural strength is that which is spiritual!

For it is the Lord Himself who is able to kill, and able to make alive: He knows how to bring one down even to the grave; but is no less able to bring up. Hannah had learnt something of this resurrection power of God in her own body, and she recognizes that it is only God's work that accomplishes anything. Some He makes poor, others He makes rich. He will often bring one down with the object of later lifting him up.

How consistent is verse 8 with the gospel of the grace of God! -- grace that reaches down to the poorest of the poor, raising him out of the dust of his broken, sinful state; lifting the beggar from the dunghill of a corrupted life, to set him among princes, in dignity above the level of the world; and greater still, to make him inherit the throne of glory. This reminds us of the words of the Lord Jesus in Revelation 3:21. . . "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne."

Verse 8 speaks of the Lord's lifting up the poor and the beggar from the lowest degradation to make them inherit the throne of glory, for the pillars of the earth are established by the Lord alone, the world being upheld by the might of His power. He can do as He pleases, and He pleases to exalt the humble. But as well as saving by His matchless grace, He also keeps the feet of His saints (v.9) preserving them from the snares that worldlings cannot avoid. In fact, the wicked, who loudly now proclaim their own honor, will be utterly silenced in darkness, for the strength of human flesh cannot prevail, but will be totally reduced to weakness. Nor will this be all when the judgment of the Lord falls, it will break His adversaries to pieces, His voice thundering out of heaven to strike terror in their hearts. Neither will there be any isolationism at that time: the whole earth, to its limits, will be affected.

Then Hannah's prayer ends on a wonderful note of supreme victory on the part of God's King, the Lord Jesus Christ, He being given the strength of God above all others, He, the anointed Messiah of Israel, exalted in glory. His horn exalted speaks of His sovereign authority finally taking its rightful place after long patience. Notice in Hannah's prayer that the name of the Lord is mentioned seven times. In all of this too, though Hannah was a woman, only the first verse is subjective, speaking of her joy in the Lord and in His salvation: the rest is beautifully objective, dwelling on the greatness of the Lord's person and of His work.

Samuel then did not have the childhood of a normal child. Not having the care of father and mother, or the company of other children, he was left with the aged priest Eli, to minister to the Lord. For this he certainly needed, and received, special grace from God, and particularly so when he witnessed daily the wicked practices of the sons of Eli in their pretense of serving God.

They had initiated the custom, totally foreign to scripture, of having their servant come with a three pronged fleshhook to take from the offerings of the people all that the fleshhook would take up from the boiling pot. God had stipulated what part of the peace offerings the priest was to have - "the wave breast and the heaven shoulder" (Leviticus 7:34), but the greed of the priests moved them to haughtily defy His word and take all they pleased.

Another method they had, before the sacrifice had been actually made, and therefore before the fat was burned, was to require raw flesh from the offerer. If the offerer would speak for God on this occasion, urging that the fat should first be burned (for it was to be entirely devoted to God and burned on the altar -- Leviticus 7:31), the priests' servant would reject the very suggestion, and threaten to take it by force with the fat. In this way, not only did the priests cruelly oppress the people, but they treated the commandment of God with contempt. Certainly this sin was great in the eyes of God, for it led men to abhor the offerings of the Lord.

"But Samuel," though not even a priest, "ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod." His ministry is mentioned both before and after the notice of the wickedness of Eli's sons. Thus does God value the simple service of a little child. The linen ephod speaks of moral righteousness: how much more appropriate for Samuel than for the priests!

Samuel's mother was able to see him only once a year at the time of the yearly sacrifice, but certainly she did not forget him, each year bringing him a new coat which she had made. We may be sure her mother's heart was genuinely glad that her son was doing the work of the Lord. Eli, in spite of his general lethargy, had some spiritual sense left, for he blessed Elkanah and Hannah for their having offered Samuel to serve the Lord. By now at least he had found it was worth while having a boy such as Samuel with him. He expressed the desire also that the Lord would give Hannah more children. The Lord graciously answered this too, giving her three more sons and two daughters. Thus her faith was richly rewarded. In verse 18 we have read that Samuel "ministered before the Lord." In verse 21 it is added "the child Samuel grew before the Lord." No doubt this growing was more than physically, for when it is said, "before the Lord," God was observing his spiritual growth.

While we are told that Samuel "grew before the Lord," this is followed by the sad report of Eli's sons growing in evil. Eli, at this time very aged, heard the report of his sons' gross corruption, but had no spiritual energy to do anything more than mildly reprove them. "Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil report by all this people." The people were evidently all protesting to Eli and he knew that his sons were actually making the people transgress against the Lord. If it were a matter of only one man wronging another, this could be settled by a judge; but sin against God was a more dreadful matter. Who would entreat for the guilty in this case? But Eli went no further than this. Being high priest he was responsible to see that the priests did not abuse their position. He ought to have expelled them entirely from the priesthood. He speaks of a judge rightly judging between people; but it was his duty to act for God. However, he had weakly ignored this with his sons, no doubt from their youth, and they took full advantage of his weakness. His words to them took no effect because they were not backed up by action. Too many parents follow in his tracks.

In contrast, as the child Samuel grows he is found in favor both with God and with men. This will remind us of a far greater than Samuel, as we read in Luke 2:52. "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." The prophet was being prepared of God for most serious and exacting work.

Meanwhile, God will use an unnamed "man of God" to bear witness to Eli that ought to have so penetrated his soul as to move him to act with firm decision. This message from God was one of most solemn reproof to Eli himself, beginning in a questioning way. Did Eli not consider that God Himself had plainly appeared to Aaron, his father, even before Israel's deliverance from Egypt? and that He had chosen him specifically to be His priest, to be privileged to offer sacrifice on His altar, to burn incense, to wear a distinctive ephod that gave him a sanctified place of dignity in Israel? Did Eli remember that it was God who had given to his father (and by implication to his sons) the privilege of offering all the offerings of the children of Israel?

Then God blames Eli, not his sons, for kicking at His sacrifice, as to which He had given express commandments. This kicking is of course showing contempt for God's rights by rebelling against His authority. We may ask, was it not his sons who had done this, not Eli? But Eli was guilty of allowing his sons to do it, for he was in the chief place of authority. God blames him for honoring his sons above God. Solemn indictment indeed for a priest! Eli's selfishness is included with that of his sons, as God says they had made themselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel. How sadly and dreadfully one may abuse the great privileges that God has given Him!

Though under the covenant of law it had been proposed by God that Eli's house and the house of his father would walk before Him forever, yet the glaring failure of the priesthood changed this completely, for such a promise was contingent upon their faithfulness. God therefore presses upon Eli the unchanging principle, "them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." This history of the priesthood plainly illustrates the vanity of natural succession.

Therefore God pronounces a solemn judgment: the days were coming when Eli's arm and the arm of his father's house would be cut off. Of course God speaks figuratively. The arm is that which accomplishes work, the strength behind work that may be done. Nothing of this would be left: the priesthood would be reduced to impotence. An oppressor or adversary would gain some prominence in God's habitation. Israel's history has surely proven this, for the priesthood never regained its proper dignity, and priests have been notorious for their oppression of the people. God would do good to His people in spite of this, but would take away the priests in their youth. Eli was to be the last of the old men among the priests. All his sons would die in the flower of their age. A sign to confirm the reality of this was given. His two sons would die the same day. God did not add what was also true, that Eli himself would die that day.

Verse 35 looks far beyond the time of Eli and his sons and all the priests who have come and gone down through the centuries. God Himself would raise up a faithful priest -- not one of the natural succession of the line of Aaron. Certainly it can be said only of the Lord Jesus Christ that He would do according to that which is in God's heart and mind. God would build Him a sure house. This Priest was of the order of Melchisedec (Hebrews 5:9-10), not of Aaron, and as such He is a priest forever (Hebrews 5:6). He would walk before God's anointed forever (or continually). Though the language here is veiled, does it not imply that His priesthood would be consistent with His kingly dignity as Messiah (the anointed)? Just as God promised a sure house to Christ as the Son of David, the King (2 Samuel 7:16), so He promises a house to Him as High Priest.

The pathetic condition of Eli's house, on the other hand, would be such that it would be reduced to the status of beggars, having no heart of a priest, but asking for a priest's office just to relieve their hunger. The sadness of this should surely have reached the conscience of Eli, but exercise of soul seems to be foreign to formalism. Compare chapter 3:18.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 2". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. 1897-1910.