Sunday, Dec 04th

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1 Samuel 1

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I first taught the books of Samuel to a packed adult class that met in my home over 40 years ago. My wife, who attended those classes, requested a repeat study of the Books and I was more than happy to oblige, for I had very happy memories of those days. So, we again studied both books from early 2000 to the middle of the year 2001, this time with different Christians. (note: and studied in 2017, again by request).

In many of those early classes, the listeners were often gripping the edge of their seats as they heard the historical narrative unfold like some great Hollywood movie block-buster! I did not need to use theatrics to make the Books come alive - they already are alive! If Christians can only read these marvellous Books with open and searching minds, they will see an era when God spoke in His actions as well as through the mouths of prophets. There was a direct response to God’s commands with direct results. And the same applies today, if only we would trust!

Samuel gave me a big thrill the first time I expounded the Book, and it did so again. I find Samuel enthralling, full of excitement and intrigue, political manoeuvres, sinful mistakes and God’s mercies. I have told my present class that Samuel would make a magnificent film if only it could be done, such is its enormous breadth of action and its portrayal of people! I find the Books breath-taking, and those who hear the account verse by verse are often on the edge of their seats as that ancient time comes alive in their minds and hearts. I hope that some of this excitement we first felt is conveyed in a small way to the present reader!

The written word is not like the spoken word, when excitement can be shown in the voice and posture – but I pray the reader, when thinking about what is contained in this series, will picture the scene in his or her own mind, and so enter the same realm of grandeur I believe is found throughout both Books of Samuel.

It is a common mistake to think of the Old Testament as simply a collection of ‘stories’, with no application to our lives today. All of scripture is relevant. All of it, including the purely historical sections, is pertinent to our lives today. Many who read this series will be aware of my distaste for the preaching technique known as ‘spiritualising’, when a preacher wrongly interprets texts by making it absurdly flowery with meanings not given by God. You will not find spiritualised texts here! You will find a proper discussion of what the verses actually say, with historical data that can be used for background knowledge. Out of it all will naturally come issues that affect us all. No need to invent a spiritualised version!

Before we begin the series by expounding the first chapter of the First Book of Samuel, a short introduction is given to place the Book in its context. It is hoped that the reader will be enthused enough by what is given, to read the actual account for him/her self. However, the full text of scripture is included in the series for purposes of study.


Much of the history of Samuel, and of the people depicted in the Book that bears his name, is shrouded in the haziness of the distant past. Even so, there are sufficient clues to enable us to envision the background to the Book. Then, we can view Samuel not just as something from the past, but as something real. Real men and women with real lives! They were really born and really died, at a time when people heard God and quaked!

Those who loved God truly are shown to have their reward, and those who rejected Him or who disobeyed reaped a chilling end. You will read of people whose good intentions led them to being struck down by a God Whose word is absolute. Their end can also be our own, for God is timeless and His word is for all people in all times.

The vista opens at a time when the Jews were established in the former land of Canaan. Though the predominant people in that land, the Israelites were still thought of as interlopers by surrounding tribes and nations. It is a startling fact that amongst the long lists of nations who fought against God’s people were tribes and peoples whose predecessors were the same as those of the Jews!

When the Book begins, we find that the Jews had no earthly king. Yet, up to that time, so long as they obeyed Jehovah God, their earthly security was assured. Every time they disobeyed and went their own way, the whole nation suffered. You might think that the Jews ought to have learned their lesson! Maybe – but their failure to learn is the same failure we all have throughout our lives. Thus, their sometimes spectacular failures with even more spectacular results, are linked with our own.

Just like today, the Jews were surrounded completely by enemies and hostile peoples. Most of the nations were relatively minor or small in size. Yet, like gnats, they constantly warred against the Jews, biting away until they fought back. The Philistines were a real thorn in their side! It is thought that they were early Phoenicians from across the Mediterranean, possibly from an area that now forms part of Greece. They took up a narrow strip of land between the sea and the Jews, who mainly lived in sparse hills and valleys, wilderness or plains.

When the Jews were at their best, they were much feared by other nations, being the most terrifying soldiers of their time. God Himself ordered them to slaughter whole tribes and peoples, so that is what they did, without mercy. Once they had an enemy on the run they followed without stopping, until everyone in their path was killed. Oddly, these same feared people could sink to the lowest depths, and at those times warring enemies overcame them easily as they ran away in terror.

This time was at the end of one era and the start of another, exciting, era, over 1000 years before Christ... it was the finish of Jewish reliance solely on God (with their insistence on having a king). It was also when the Hebrew alphabet was developed, soon to be followed by the first Hebrew literature. At about the same time, Chinese script was developed, classic paganism was at its height in Greece, and the basic religion of India, Brahminism, was starting to form.

The Phoenicians were importing tin from mines in England, and the royal tombs of Egypt were being systematically plundered. Very little is known about the way ancient Jews lived, but as you can tell from these few brief notes, they were already part of a cosmopolitan world. All around them major religions were beginning to arise; ‘culture’ was already well established, if not on the wane in some countries; and what later became ‘Britain’ was already part of the economy of Mediterranean seafarers.

The land was as hostile as it is today, but without modern means to irrigate deserts. Jews lived in towns or cities on rugged hill tops, natural fortresses with added walls, or in valleys which were just as sparse. We definitely know that many of them lived in tents, especially in the valleys and the plains. The early Temple was a similar dwelling, quite small. Eli and Samuel would have lived in or near the compound, possibly in a simple wooden, stone, or animal-skin house. This house would probably not have windows – if they existed they would not have had covers, apart from skins or cloth to ward off the worst of the weather.

Their clothes were much as nomadic clothes are today – flowing robes, loose, and tied at the middle. Food centred around sheep, goats and cattle, though wheat and other basic plants were also grown. With shortage of water they also drank alcoholic wine of varying strengths.

Until Saul became king, the Jews had no standing army. Each man had weapons at home and was ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Really, he had no choice unless he wished to be slaughtered or enslaved by any number of enemies that surrounded the Jewish state! Sadly, though God commanded that no Jew should willingly be enslaved, the Jews came very close to offering themselves as slaves on a number of occasions, rather than face a warlike nation.

Most of the action in One Samuel is set about 15 miles north of Jerusalem, for the locus of political and religious life was not yet focused on that city. As the account in Samuel progresses, we find the Jews going farther afield, even down to the border of Egypt and south to what was Arabia, but these were during acts of war, as they slaughtered thousands of enemies in flight.

The context of the books of Samuel, then, was one of continuous wars, corrupting religious influences of pantheistic peoples, and emerging cultural movements that directly opposed God and the Hebrew religion. Even so, when the Jews obeyed their God, they knew great prosperity and peace. When they strayed, they knew war, enslavement and poverty. Remarkably – but much like ourselves – they were usually warned by God of His pending wrath, yet they carried on regardless anyway.

The Books of Samuel are straightforward historical narratives, yet they contain a wealth of doctrinal truths that affect our lives today. (It is a mistake to separate doctrine from history in scripture – they are always intertwined, though not so obviously as the passages found in the New Testament). These books also describe exciting battles and moments of great courage and faith, plus times when the best of God’s men fell to sin. We begin the account with a woman who desperately wanted a baby... a baby who was to be the last of the mighty ruler-priests. Samuel was the last of the Judges.


“And she vowed a vow...”

Verses 1&2

  1. “Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of Mount Ephraim, and his name (was) Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:

  2. And he had two wives; the name of the one (was) Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.”

So, a man named Elkanah had two wives – Peninnah and Hannah. The first had children but the other, Hannah, had none. She was barren and distraught, for Jewish women believed they were second-class if they could not conceive. Other women tended to deride childless women, which made matters worse. The same thing happened to poor Hannah.

‘Ramathaimzophim’ means ‘double height of the watchers’. It is the singular of a word meaning ‘height’ or ‘high place’, so we have a clue. Elkanah (’God has created’ or ‘God has possessed’) was born in a town on top of a hill or mountain. Now, he lived on another mountain top, Mount Ephraim. Named after the second son of Joseph, it was populated by the tribe of Ephraim. His father was Jeroham (‘showing pity’) of the House of Kohath and his father was Elihu (‘He is my God’), who was the son of Tohu (‘lowly’) a Levite and therefore one of the priestly line, and he was the son of Zuph (‘honeycomb’), also a Levite. Thus, Samuel’s great-great-grandfather was of a priestly line. (Samuel was born after 1100 BC, but actual date is unknown).

The quoting of one’s family line is important in the Bible – do not think of these long lists of names as being superfluous. The very fact they exist is sufficient proof that they refer to an actual historical fact, lending credence to the narrative. To the Hebrews genealogy was important as a proof of lineage, kept in mind by verbal repetition, from father to son.

It is no surprise to find that this man of Levitical stock should have two wives. Wives and concubines are part of early Jewish life and, for a reason not given, God does not yet appear to have commanded against this arrangement, though “From the beginning it was not so”. As Believers we must work with what we are given, and not invent a moral stance that was not apparent in those days. Was such an arrangement immoral? Probably yes, though we do not read it here. One of those wives, Peninnah (‘jewel’), had children. Hannah (‘grace’) was childless. As we read on, we see how depressed this made her, and why she was prompted to cry out to God.

Verse 3

  1. “And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, (were) there.”

Now we have the historical setting: Eli was the high priest (and therefore the overall ruler and judge over Israel), and his two sons, though corrupt, were priests (of great power, being second only to their father). Eli (‘ascension’) was already getting on in years and so his two sons helped him in the administration of the country as well as the Temple rites – a source of immense frustration and anger to most Jews, as we shall see. Eli was a direct descendant of Aaron. The names of Eli’s sons seem to predict their natures... Hophni, meaning ‘pugilist’ and Phinehas, meaning ‘mouth of brass’. It is often true that names of people in the Old Testament reflected their adult natures.

Like so many men of God, Eli meant well. But, he allowed error to enter the holy place of the Tabernacle and into the daily life of the nation. Both sons were a shame on Eli, yet he seemed unable or unwilling to do anything about them. They stole the meat supposed to have been given to God and were well-known for their brutality and sexual sins – often having sexual relationships with prostitutes who stayed near the external door of the Tabernacle’s outer courtyard. Their evil directly led to the loss of the priesthood to Eli’s family and to their death by the wish of God.

Even so, Elkanah, knowing what these two were like yet respecting their office, went up to Shiloh (‘place of rest’, a city in Ephraim where Samuel grew up and where the Tabernacle was for a while) annually as required by God. He was faithful to his God even when those who were meant to be godly leaders and priests committed sin. That is our lot also. Today, so many pastors, preachers and teachers, do what is wrong and evil in God’s sight, but Christians must carry on being faithful to God anyway.

Verses 4-7

  1. “And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:

  2. But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.

  3. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.”

Look at any account of present-day tribal systems in which more than one wife is accepted, and you will discover the same jealousies and taunts! One wife will hate, attack, or taunt the others. It seems that every year before Elkanah went to Shiloh, he gave presents to his wives and to the children. However, because he loved Hannah the most he gave her a more valuable present. No doubt this infuriated Peninnah, fuelling her resentment and bitter attacks on Hannah. She understood, as did any woman of that time, that to be barren was to know God had ‘closed up’ the womb. That was how a Jewish woman thought of the matter, and felt such disgrace. It was also why other women derided barren wives, though derision was not the proper response.

We find similar situations today, when one Christian is derided by another because of a perceived lack that is attributed to God ‘closing up’ some aspect of the Christian’s life. Even if God has deliberately stopped one aspect of a life, it does not mean other Christians may deride him or her! In reality, if God has not given a particular gift, or service, or some other thing, to a Christian, then it is for His purposes and there is nothing the Christian can do to alter that. For other Christians to then deride him or her is absurd and cruel.

God gives out His favours and gifts etc., as He wills. So, if a man has a particular gift or service to perform, he must never become proud of it, for he has no control over its presence. It is of God, not of himself! So how can he deride another for not having the same thing? The man without that particular favour of God can no more cry over his lack than can a man be proud over what he has been given! Each of us is given different gifts and services to perform. They are given not for any merit in us, but by God’s will and for His own reasons.

We see such pride when one pastor derides another for having a small congregation. I have heard even the best of God’s servants thus deride others. They see the smaller congregation as being God’s judgement on the pastor for some perceived sin, when, really, it is God who builds or reduces numbers within a local church! In modern times we often find that the growing churches are the ones who teach and allow error. This is because God gives them over to their own devices, which are humanistic and sinful, and so, like the unbelieving rich man, they get richer (in terms of numbers). Thus, their growth may not be a sign of God’s favour at all, but of His anger.

It is also a fact that God will close a route or gift, so that the one being ‘barren’ of a particular favour becomes strong in the Lord and later receives far greater favours for his faith and trust. It was from such a humanly-perceived position of lack that Hannah prays fervently to God for His favour of a child. It was from her faith that a true and strong man of God came along, whose leadership was revered by all of Israel.

But, those who have favours (though freely given by God and are not given for merit) deride those who seem not to have them. This is shameful. Yet, sadly, it is commonplace in our churches. Those who so despise their fellow Believers are as an ‘adversary’, causing distress and trouble, being rivals not brethren. The word is rooted in the meaning of a foe, enemy, or oppressor, who are as hard as flint. That just about describes so many Christians I have had the misfortune to meet. God help them to repent, soften their hearts, and open-up to the truth!

Verses 7&8

  1. “And (as) he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.

  2. Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not/ and why is thy heart grieved? (am) not I better to thee than ten sons?”

Poor old Elkanah - he meant well! Surely his own presence was worth more than ten sons? Not really; not when the whole of Jewish female society scorned women who could not have children. Peninnah scorned Hannah as often as she could, but especially on this special visit to Shiloh. Elkanah was probably not around when the woman taunted her fellow wife. In the same way, those who call themselves Christians will sometimes taunt others, but will do so behind closed doors or when their peers are not there to witness it. It has happened to me many times, and to others. Pastors will pour sinful scorn on other believers but will do so ‘in love’ (that marvellous old excuse for being rude and bitter!) and when those they value (other pastors and influential folk) are not there to witness their appalling spiritual destitution.

From the text we see that the wives went with the husband to Shiloh, probably accompanied by servants. Where did they stay? Well, being a city, and one that saw many visitors during the year, Shiloh would have had travellers’ inns. In Jesus’ time these were large open-plan rooms with a raised central plinth to keep draughts off people who slept communally on top of it. There was a walk-way all around the edge, next to the outside wall. Or, they might have taken their own tent.

Whatever they all lived in for the days of pilgrimage, one wife taunted the other mercilessly, making her break down in tears. She refused to eat. We cannot tell if Hannah told her husband she was being cruelly victimised, but he did come to learn of her distress at not having children, hence his quite male attempt at making her feel better! Needless to say, it did not work.

What many folk try to do when they come across a Christian in distress is to placate them. The real answer is to get rid of the thing causing the grief. In this case, be rid of the sin of cruel jibes, and repenting.

Verses 9&10

  1. “So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.

  2. And she (was) in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.”

Hannah’s mood and heart were not eased. After the family meal (we cannot tell what time of day it was, though it was likely to have been early evening) she went on her own to the Temple to pray. The high priest, Eli, sat near the entrance. This was customary, so that he could advise people who came to him concerning matters both civil and religious. He also kept an eye on what went on.

The ‘seat’ signifies a special seat of honour, power and authority, which he had as ruler of Israel. This was sited by the entrance ‘post’ or doorway. The Temple courtyard where Hannah prayed was not that large, so she could be easily seen. She was in ‘bitterness of soul’: that is, her anguish was deep and painful. This is emphasised by her weeping ‘sore’... she cried bitterly in grief.

Verse 11

  1. “And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.”

Scripture is so full of clues! Notice here how Samuel was to have very long hair? He never cut it once. It would have been long enough to need tying-up at the back. Quite a modern hair-style! Anyway... Hannah prayed silently to God in the courtyard, promising to give her wished-for child back to God, if He granted her sincerest wish – to have a boy child. And she meant every word as she prayed to the ‘LORD of hosts’, Jehovah tsaba. This means ‘the self existing One of all creation’. Only He is self-existent. This is more important than you might think. Her prayer was to the one and only God, the One Who transcends creation and His creatures. Only He had the power to grant her this wish.

The fact that God is self-existent is also important when considering Jesus Christ, for many Christianised cults (including some charismatic types) claim that Jesus became God or godlike whilst on this earth. Thus, they deny He is truly God, co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, without beginning or end. Jesus, like the Father, is tsaba’ – self-existent. That is, He exists by His own power and authority and was not created. That is how Jesus Christ raised Himself from the dead – He is God and exists because of Who He is. He was able to raise Himself by His own word.

Hannah believed God had stopped her from having children. Now she pleaded with Him to grant her her wish of a child. This is an important statement in other ways, too, for women of every generation. Women now believe they have a ’right’ to children. Not only that, but they also have a ‘right’ to a healthy child, and a ‘right’ to abort if they so wish. But, women have no such rights! As Hannah correctly perceived, if she was meant to have a child, then God would have allowed her to have one. To have children is totally in God’s hands. It has nothing to do with women’s ‘rights’ or with human ability, or scientific endeavours.

Countless women, like Hannah, have cried out to God for a child. The mistake is to think that because they have insisted, God will give in and grant their wish. In effect, they believe they can change God’s mind. This is prevalent throughout Christianity today and is another aspect of the heresy, Arminanism.

God indeed granted Hannah her wish, but it was only because it was part of His eternal plan in the first place. It was not because she insisted or cried. The crying and pleading was all part of the build-up to granting the wish. This is rather like the fact that we are to preach the gospel to everyone, even though only a small number are saved by God. God requires that we do this, though we know His mind cannot be altered. Why preach to everyone? Why not get down to the point and just approach those who are elect? We cannot answer that question. We just know that we have been commanded to follow His instructions, whether we understand them or not.

Notice that Hannah ‘vowed a vow’. This means she set out a proposition as she prayed. It was to be established, fixed, if it came about. It was, in effect, a contract that cannot be broken. I know of so many Christians who lightly make vows to God, but who never keep them. This can only lead to God’s anger and His punishment of the person. ‘If only you will get me out of this mess, Lord, I will do (whatever it is) for you!’ they cry. But, when the desired result is achieved, they quickly forget, believing they were hasty, or that the result was a ‘natural’ event anyway. Do not ever make a vow to God unless you are willing to keep the conditions you have set forth before Him! He will remember!

Hannah wanted a man-child, who would be considered more important than a girl. All she wanted was to stop the mouth of her tormentor and to be ‘complete’ as a woman. If she could only have that one favour, she would dedicate her son to God. And, as a sign of his devotion to Jehovah, the son would never cut his hair (a common vow for men of God in those days)

Verses 12-16

  1. “And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.

  2. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.

  3. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee.

  4. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I (am) a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.

  5. Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.”

How willingly others misinterpret the actions of other believers! Eli thought he could see what was going on - here was a drunkard in the house of God! He ‘marked her mouth’ – he observed her mouth opening but not uttering words. It seems that Eli then left his seat and walked over to where Hannah was standing. “What are you doing, woman? Stop your drinking!” Hannah quickly put him right: “No my lord!” Use of the word ‘lord’ was normal, for it referred to someone who was a master or ruler. It could be used of God, but in this case it was used to show Hannah’s respect for the national leader. She explained she was of ‘sorrowful spirit’, or, her heart was weighed down by intense emotion and difficulty.

She expressed her reverence for him by calling herself his ‘handmaid’, or servant. It is a word that depicts humility. No, she said, she was not a ‘daughter of Belial’. Belial means worthlessness, being good for nothing, or wicked. Her intentions were honourable, not wicked, and her prayers were uttered from a deep sense of ‘complaint and grief’, meditation of her problem, and a provoked despair, even anger.

Verses 17&18

  1. “Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant (thee) thy petition that thou hast asked of him.

  2. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more (sad).”

He failed in some ways, but Eli was a man of God. He gave Hannah an answer from God straight away, and it came to pass. “Depart complete, because God has made you content.” That is one way to put it: “God has answered your prayer”. Hannah was overjoyed: “As your servant, let me know your favour.” She immediately went back to her dwelling place with her husband and ate. It was obvious from her face that she was no longer depressed.

Verses 19&20

  1. “And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her.

  2. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, (saying), because I have asked him of the LORD.”

This suggests they got up early the next day, worshipped at the Temple, then went back home the same day. Note the text says they went back to their ‘house’. It is likely that as they lived in a city, they indeed lived in a permanent dwelling, of wood or stone. Stone is the most likely material as the city was on a mountain in a fairly rocky area. Sometime later, probably within a month or two, Hannah became pregnant as God fulfilled her request. She must have conceived within that time otherwise we could not have read of her husband going to Shiloh again for the annual worship, which was 12 months later.

Hannah named her son Samuel, meaning ‘his name is El’. ‘Samuel’ is constituted of two words, shama’, meaning to hear/to grant a request, and ’el meaning God. So, really, Samuel means ‘God has granted my request’. (Note: ’el can also refer to god, god-like, mighty one, etc., but in this context we know the meaning because Hannah has provided it).

Verses 21-23

  1. “And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.

  2. But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, (I will not go up) until the child be weaned, and (then) I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.

  3. And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.”

Elkanah and all his household got ready for the annual worship and sacrifice journey to Shiloh, but Hannah was not yet ready. Samuel was still a tiny new-born, not yet weaned. Only a wet nurse could otherwise have fed the child, but, possibly, Hannah wanted to keep the child for the short period of weaning, so she could at least feel she had some part in his formative years. Elkanah agreed, so long as she kept her side of the promise (‘only make sure that God’s word is paramount’). Elkanah then went to Shiloh without mother and child, and Samuel stayed at home until he had been weaned.

Verses 24-28

  1. “And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child (was) young.

  2. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.

  3. And she said, Oh my lord, (as) thy soul liveth, my lord, I (am) the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.

  4. For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:

  5. Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.”

True to her word, Hannah weaned Samuel and then took him (with her husband and others) to Eli. Samuel must have been about a year old, or maybe less. As part of her pact, she took three bullocks (young bulls), one ephah of flour (an Egyptian dry measure; one ephah was about 2 litres, or one wheat sheaf, in weight), and a bottle of wine (there is no need, as some do, to agonise over this – they drank wine and used it in ceremonies. There is no evidence it was ‘non-alcoholic’). Hannah wanted to mark the occasion as a solemn seal on her oath or vow, hence the offerings.

A bullock was killed, and taken to Eli for a sacrifice. Hannah reminded Eli who she was, and of how she had prayed earnestly for God’s favour, which He had subsequently bestowed upon her. So, with God’s promise fulfilled to her, she now wanted to fulfil her end of the vow. She had come to ‘lend’ Samuel to the LORD for as long as Samuel lived. She ‘lent’ him to God; that is, she ‘made him over’ to God, as part of a formal contract. It is not clear who the ‘he’ is, who ‘worshipped the LORD there’, but it might have referred to Eli, or even to Samuel when he had grown.

There, in that first chapter, we find the start of a magnificent span of history. You will note as we go through the first book, that time is covered very quickly, as only the important points (to God) are recorded. Already, though, in these early verses, we find a woman and her husband who loved the Lord and who were willing to let-go their son to His service; a woman whose faith was rewarded, and the birth of a leader of God’s people when there was transition from the old economy of judges to the newer one, of kings not required of God. From this chapter onward there is a rapid progression through the years with plenty of sorrow and victory along the way!


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