THE 1ST BOOK OF SAMUEL
Lesson 1: Introduction and Chapters 1:1-4:1
History of the Last Judges of Israel
We obey our earthly rulers when their laws do not come into conflict with Your divine Law, for when we support and cooperate with evil laws we put our eternal destiny in jeopardy. Give us the courage to stand against rulers who mislead the people and laws that promote sin and attempt to disguise that which is immoral. Lord, give us morally upright men and women to guide our nation, and give us the wisdom and the perseverance to lead the struggle for righteousness in the face of persecution and the pressures of a secular agenda. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our lesson on Israel's struggles in the last years of the era of the Judges when poor leadership left the covenant people morally and spiritual weak. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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God's command to Israel concerning the
duty to obey the Law of the Sinai Covenant prior to the conquest of Canaan: Faithfully
keep and obey all these orders which I am giving you, so that you and your
children after you may prosper for ever, doing what is good and right in the
eyes of Yahweh your God.
The last narratives in the Book of Judges
in 19:1-21:25 are introduced and concluded by the same statement as Judges 17:6
and 18:1. The statement sums up the conditions of moral and spiritual turmoil
in the period before Israel's United Monarchy when the Israelites were not
living according to Yahweh's commands but were only doing what seemed "right"
to them: The Israelites then dispersed, each man to rejoin his tribe and
clan, each leaving that place for his own heritage. In those days there was no
king in Israel, and everyone did as he saw fit [literally = what was
right in his own eyes].
The Book of Judges 21:24-25
Authorship, Composition, and Background
The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book. In the Greek translation (Septuagint or LXX), it was divided into two books, probably because of its length. The Christian Bible has followed this same division, but Jewish Bibles did not use this two part division until the 15th century AD. In the Jewish Bible, the Books of Samuel are in the 2nd division that comes after the Torah (five books of Moses) called the Nevi'im, "prophets." Within the Jewish division of "Prophets", 1 and 2 Samuel are the third and fourth books among the "former prophets." In the Christian Old Testament, 1 and 2 Samuel are found after the Pentateuch (five books of Moses) and are listed among the historical books, coming after the Book of Ruth and before 1 Kings (see the list of the Jewish and Christian canons: The Jewish Catholic and Protestant Old Testament Canon).
According to Jewish sources (Talmudic tractate Bava Batra 14b) and the Fathers of the Church (for example Clement of Alexandria and Jerome), the first inspired writer of the Book of Samuel is the man whose name is included in the book's title: the prophet Samuel. However, after Samuel's death is recorded in 1 Samuel 25, the prophets Gad and Nathan are believed to have completed the book (see 1 Chr 29:29 and Talmudic tractate Bava Batra 15a). The book opens in what was a dark time in Israel's history. Prior to the Conquest of Canaan, the Israelites were commanded by God to Faithfully keep and obey all these orders which I am giving you, so that you and your children after you may prosper for ever, doing what is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your God (Dt 12:28, emphasis added). And yet at the conclusion of the conquest, the Book of Judges records the troubling statement that everyone was doing what is "right in his eyes" (Judg 21:25). The Israelites were in direct violation of their covenant obligation to act as God commanded. The Book of Judges also makes the repeated statement that the reason for the chaos in this period was that In those days there was no king in Israel (Josh 17:6; 18:1 and 21:25). The narrative of the Book of 1st Samuel covers the transition from the era of the Judges of Israel (see the Book of Judges) to the period of kingship and Israel's united monarchy. The story begins in c. 1100 BC, in the last years of the period of the rule of Israel's Judges and the story will conclude with the death of Saul, Israel's first king in c. 1010 BC.
The Book of 1 Samuel is composed chiefly of narratives which include life stories of the principal characters along with three poems/songs (the canticle of Hannah and two hymns of David), lists, and the interwoven story of the Ark of the Covenant. The story of the transition from rule by Israel's Judges to kingship is told through the lives of four men, giving a realistic depiction of their passions, aspirations, successes and failures: the priest Eli, the prophet Samuel, Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, and David of Bethlehem-Judah. The fifth character in the narrative is God who acts behind the scenes by shaping individual destinies to further His divine plan.
Samuel is the only person in the Old Testament whose biography begins prior to his birth and continues after his death. Samuel was called to be God's holy prophet as a youth and succeeded the priest Eli as Israel's last Judge. The transition of leadership from Eli to Samuel is the first of three transitions. Samuel will be chosen by God to anoint Israel's first king, Saul of Benjamin. Saul is a tall, handsome and unstable man who looks like a king but lacks the confidence to be a successful ruler and resents Samuel's strict tutelage. The second transition in leadership is from Samuel to Saul. Saul's lack of obedience to God results in a rift in his relationship with God, and Samuel is directed to anoint the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz (the Book of Ruth), the shepherd boy David of Bethlehem as Israel's new king. The third transition is when leadership is passed from Saul to the kingship of David, the talented musician, gifted poet, and fierce warrior who deeply loves God and is endowed with a strong sense of justice and obedience to the God of Israel. David is not depicted, however, as a "cardboard" hero in the Book of Samuel: he sins, abuses his kingly power, repents and receives God's promise through an unconditional covenant that his dynasty will endure forever (see the chart on Yahweh's Eight Covenants).
|#s 5 and 6: The Judges of Israel and The United Kingdom of Israel|
|COVENANT||THE SINAI COVENANT|
the Last Judges of Israel
the First Kings of a United Israel
|Transition of Leadership from Eli to Samuel||Samuel: Priest-Prophet & last Judge of Israel||
of leadership Samuel to Saul
|Reign of King Saul||
of leadership Saul to David
|TOPIC||Decline of Israel as a Theocracy||Rise of Israel as a Monarchy|
|LOCATION||THE PROMISED LAND of ISRAEL|
|TIME||circa 1100-1010 BC|
TIME LINE B.C.
--UNITED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL----------DIVIDED KINGDOMS--
of Israel and Judah
Exile of Israel Exile of Judah "
(no recorded return) (Judah Returns)
Saul death of David Solomon death of Israel is Judah is Cyrus defeats
anointed Saul king of is king Solomon destroyed by destroyed by Babylon.
1st king David Israel -builds Rehoboam Assyria = Babylonia= -538 Edict
of Israel. king of -capture Temple is King exile of 10 exile 2 of Cyrus=
David Judah of Jerusalem   -The Great  N. tribes S. tribes  return of Judah to
anointed Schism=Divided Kingdom of Judah Promised Land
as a boy Kingdom (Judah & Benjamin)
to succeed Saul
All Scripture passages are from the New Jerusalem Bible, unless designated NAB (New American Bible) IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The New Jerusalem Bible has the divine name YHWH rendered "Yahweh" were it appears in Sacred Scripture. In the other translations, the divine Name is rendered either LORD or GOD in all capital letters.
The Birth and Early Years of Samuel
Beloved of his
people, dear to his Maker, dedicated from his mother's womb, consecrated to the
LORD as a prophet, was Samuel, the judge and priest. At God's word he
established the kingdom and anointed princes to rule the people. By the law of
the LORD he judged the nation when he visited the encampments of Jacob. As a
trustworthy prophet he was sought out and his words proved him true as a seer.
Sirach 46:13-15 (NAB)
1 Samuel 1:1-8 ~ Elkanan's Family Pilgrimage to Yahweh's
Sanctuary at Shiloh
1 There was a man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the highlands of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 He had two wives, one called Hannah, the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. 3 Every year this man used to go up from his town to worship, and to sacrifice to Yahweh Sabaoth at Shiloh. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there as priests of Yahweh. 4 One day Elkanah offered a sacrifice. Now he used to give portions to Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; 5 to Hannah, however, he would give only one portion [two-fold portion]: for, although he loved Hannah more, Yahweh had made her barren. 6 Furthermore, her rival would taunt and provoke her, because Yahweh had made her womb barren. 7 And this went on year after year; every time they went up to the temple of Yahweh she used to taunt her. On that day she wept and would not eat anything; 8 so her husband Elkanah said, "Hannah, why are you crying? Why are you not eating anything? Why are you so sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?" [..] = literal translation, Jewish Study Bible, page 561, note 5.
The genealogy of Samuel's father Elkanan shows that he was of a distinguished lineage from the Ephraimite clan of Zuph.(1) Elkanah was from the town or Ramathaim (two heights/hills), but he later moved his family to the Benjaminite town of Ramah ("height/hill," see 7:17; 18:18; 25:1; 28:3). Ramah of Benjamin was located in the hill country five miles north of Jerusalem. The mention of the man being an Ephraimite and mention of the village of Ramah are links back to the narratives in the Book of Judges: the Judge and prophetess Deborah was an Ephraimite who sat beneath a palm tree near Ramah to render judgment for the Israelites (also see Judg 17:1; 18:2; 19:1, 13 and 16).
The birth narrative of Samuel takes place in three stages at three locations in Israel:
The story begins with the somewhat familiar Biblical phrase "There was a man" (also see Judg 13:2; 1 Sam 9:1 and 2 Sam 18:10). The first part of the narrative concerns two families: the family of the priest Eli and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas, and the family of a man named Elkanah who was wealthy enough to have two wives. His wife Peninnah had given him children, but his wife Hannah was barren. Despite her failure to give him children, Elkanah loved Hannah more than Peninnah. While bigamy is never mentioned in the Old Testament as sanctioned by God, it was a common practice in Israel and in the Gentile nations of Israel's neighboring city-states and nations, especially when one wife was barren. The practice of divorce and by implication the practice of multiple marriages was condemned by Jesus in Matthew 19:1-9 when He defined marriage as authored by God as an indivisible union between one man and one woman.
Question: Hannah is one of several barren women in
the Bible who, with divine intervention, bore sons who had a mission to fulfill
in salvation history. Can you name the other barren women and their sons who
became God's agents?
In each case, God opened the wombs of these barren women to further His divine plan. Sarah bore Isaac with whom God's covenant with Abraham continued. Rebekah bore the twins Esau and Jacob; God's covenant continued with Jacob who He renamed Israel. Jacob-Israel was the father of the twelve tribe of Israel. Rachel bore Jacob's son Joseph who saved his family from famine by bringing them to live in Egypt. He was the father of Ephraim whose descendant Joshua was chosen by God to succeed Moses and to lead the Israelites in the successful invasion of Canaan. Manoah's wife became the mother of Samson who began the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines. Two of these men, Isaac and Jacob, became the ancestors of the covenant people and of the Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Elizabeth was the mother of St. John the Baptist whose mission was to prepare Israel for the advent of Jesus the Son of God and promised Redeemer-Messiah. In each case these women played an important role in salvation history by giving birth to sons whose destiny was to move forward God's divine plan for the nation of Israel and for the salvation of mankind. Hannah's son will also fulfill a divine destiny.
1 Samuel 1:3 ~ Every
year this man used to go up from his town to worship, and to sacrifice to
Yahweh Sabaoth at Shiloh. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there
as priests of Yahweh.
Eli's two sons were also priests who served at Shiloh. Both sons bore Egyptian names: Hophni means "Tadpole" and Phinehas means "the Nubian" (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, "Eli", page 456).
The mention of the yearly celebration at Shiloh is a link to the end of the Book of Judges where we were told the Sanctuary was established at Shiloh (Judg 18:31) and where an annual feast is mentioned at Shiloh (Judg 21:19). Shiloh, modern Kirbet-Seilum, is 1.5 miles east of the Jerusalem-Nablus Road (Nablus is the Aramaic name for ancient Shechem) and 20 miles north of Jerusalem. Its destruction is later mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 7:12-14) and by the psalmist in Psalm 78:60. Evidence of the destruction has been discovered in archaeological excavations and dated to the eleventh century BC.
Question: Every adult male of the covenant (age 13
and older) was required to appear before Yahweh's altar three times a year
during the "pilgrim feasts." What were these annual three feasts? See Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:16; 2 Chr 8:13.
Answer: Every man of the covenant had to appear before God's altar on the feasts of Unleavened Bread (which began the night of the Passover sacrifice), Weeks, and Shelters/Tabernacles.
It is uncertain which annual visit the text is referring to, but most scholars assume it is the week long feast of Shelters that ended in a Sacred Assembly of Israel on the eighth day (Lev 23:33-43; Num 29:12-38). The pilgrim festivals were joyous occasions and when possible whole families attended the religious ceremonies, bringing sacrifices and offerings and attending communal feasts. If Elkanah only attended a pilgrim festival at Shiloh once a year, he was violating his obligations to the covenant. Since the story of Elkanah relates that he is a righteous man who is obedient to the covenant with Yahweh, it is unlikely that he did not fulfill his obligations to the pilgrim feasts. It is more likely that the annual visit to the Sanctuary during which he took his entire family was the visit to pay his annual tithe (Dt 14:22-27). In fulfilling this annual obligation which had no fixed date and in which every family decided on the time of fulfillment, a tenth of what was produced in the fields and the first-born of the herd and flock is given to Yahweh to support the priesthood. After the gift of the tithe, the offerer was to stay and eat a communion meal in the presence of Yahweh, rejoicing with the offerer 's entire household. This is what is described in 1 Samuel 1:4-9, 18.
At this time God's holy Sanctuary and Israel's most precious shrine, the Ark of the Covenant, was still at Shiloh, located about ten miles north of Bethel and east of Jerusalem (see Josh 18:1; Judg 21:19). Some scholars suggest that the Israelites built a solid structure, a proto-temple to replace the tented Sanctuary (1 Sam 1:9; 3:15), that was later destroyed by the Philistines in c. 1050 BC (Jer 7:12-15; 26:6, 9). However, it is possible that the entire desert Sanctuary that was constructed by God's command at Mt. Sinai (Ex 25-40) still existed and what was built was a stone enclosure to protect the entire Sanctuary with additional buildings to house the sacred objects used in liturgical worship, rooms for the priests and for communion meals (1 Sam 1:9; 3:2), and perhaps a wooden structure to house or cover the tented Sanctuary called the "Tent of Meeting" that housed the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. Evidence that the tented structure still existed is found in Scripture:
Eli and his sons, descendants Moses' brother Aaron, served Yahweh Sabaoth at the Sanctuary at Shiloh. This is the first time the title Sabaoth is associated with God's divine name. It is a Hebrew word meaning "armies/hosts" and identifies Yahweh's sovereignty over the forces of creation that operate at God's command (for example see Ps 89:6-8). The title Yahweh Sabaoth, "Yahweh, [Lord] of Hosts," is used five times in 1 Samuel and is found frequently in the books of the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms and the books of the prophets.(2)
1 Samuel 1:4b-6 ~ Now he used to give portions to
Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; 5
to Hannah, however, he would give only one portion [one two-fold
portion]: for, although he loved Hannah more, Yahweh had made her barren. 6 Furthermore, her rival would taunt and provoke
her, because Yahweh had made her womb barren.
Peninnah taunted Hannah for her barren condition in the same why the pregnant slave girl Hagar taunted Abraham's barren wife Sarah (Gen 16:4-5). The Hebrew phrase translated that Elkanah "would give only one portion" to Hannah can also be translated "would give one two-fold portion" (Jewish Study Bible, page 561, note 5; NAB has "double portion"). This demonstration of favoritism could also explain Peninnah's hostility to Hannah.
1 Samuel 1:7-8 ~ And
this went on year after year; every time they went up to the temple of Yahweh
she used to taunt her. On that day she wept and would not eat anything; 8 so her husband Elkanah said, "Hannah, why are
you crying? Why are you not eating anything? Why are you so sad? Am I not
more to you than ten sons?"
Throughout the Bible the ability to bear children is considered a blessing from God while barrenness was considered a disgrace (see for example see Gen 30:1, 22-23). Hannah's barrenness is a source of great sorrow despite her husband's assurance of his love. Her grief will lead to a petition and a vow to Yahweh that will change the course of Israel's history.
1 Samuel 1:9-18 ~ Hannah's Petition and Vow
9 When they had finished eating in the room, Hannah got up and stood before Yahweh. Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the doorpost of the temple of Yahweh. 10 In the bitterness of her soul she prayed to Yahweh with many tears, 11 and she made this vow, "Yahweh Sabaoth! Should you condescend to notice the humiliation of your servant and keep her in mind [remember her] instead of disregarding your servant, and give her a boy, I will give him to Yahweh for the whole of his life and no razor shall ever touch his head." 12 While she went on praying to Yahweh, Eli was watching her mouth, 13 for Hannah was speaking under her breath; her lips were moving but her voice could not be heard, and Eli thought that she was drunk. 14 Eli said, "How much longer are you going to stay drunk? Get rid of your wine." 15 "No, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman in great trouble; I have not been drinking wine or strong drink; I am pouring out my soul before Yahweh. 16 Do not take your servant for a worthless woman; all this time I have been speaking from the depth of my grief and my resentment." 17 Eli then replied, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant what you have asked of him." 18 To which she said, "May your servant find favor in your sight." With that, the woman went away; she began eating and was dejected no longer. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 710 and Jewish Study Bible, page 562.
It is interesting that Eli is not identified as the anointed high priest, although some scholars suggest that he was sitting in the high priest's chair of authority which identifies him as the Sanctuary's high priest (1:9). However, Flavius Josephus, a Jewish priest who served in the Jerusalem Temple before its destruction, identified Eli as the high priest (Antiquities of the Jews, 5.10.1 ). Eli was a descendant of Aaron (the first high priest of the Sinai Covenant) and his youngest son Ithamar (1 Chr 24:3; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 5.11.5 . All the chief priests and those selected to be Yahweh's high priest had to be descendants of Aaron and his sons. Eli's descendant Ahimelech will become the chief priest and co-high priest of God's Sanctuary during the kingship of David (see 21:1-2; 22:9 14:3). It is possible the inspired writer does not identify Eli as the high priest because of his moral and spiritual failures.
The meal Hannah's family was eating at the Sanctuary is probably a communion Todah. There were three kinds of communion meals, but only the Todah (in Hebrew "thanksgiving") was eaten within the Sanctuary (Lev 7:11/1-15/5). Other sacred meals like the Passover victim eaten on the first night of Unleavened Bread could be eaten in the "camp" of God where the Sanctuary was located. In a sacred banquet, God shared the sacrificed animal with the offerer. The most vital parts of the victim were offered to God, a choice portion went to the presiding priest (see Lev 7:28ff) and the rest was eaten by the offerer, his family and friends/members of the congregation with unleavened bread and red wine in the presence of God.
Question: Hannah was so distressed that she could
not take part in the meal; instead what petition and what vow did she make to
Answer: She asked God to give her a son. If God honored her petition she vowed to give the child to Yahweh as His servant for the rest of his life.
Question: Although Hannah does not expressly state
the kind of vow that will bind the child in our translation, what does her
promise that a razor will never touch his head suggest and what other hero of
Israel comes to mind who was also under such a lifetime vow before he was born?
See Num 6:1-21; Judg 13:3-5.
Answer: Hannah has promised to make her son a Nazirite. It was the same vow that bound the Judge Samson in his lifetime service to God, but in Samson's case it was God who placed the obligation on Samson's mother before he was born.
The word "Nazirite" is actually used in the Septuagint Greek translation of this passage and by the Dead Sea manuscript 4QSam in verse 22. Samuel is also called a Nazirite in the Greek translation of Sirach 46:13 (Jewish Study Bible, page 562, note 11). Hannah's prayer isn't just the story of the petition of a devout childless woman. It is the story of how God intervenes and directs Hannah's life to allow her to play a critical role in God's divine plan as the mother of a future prophet and kingmaker. In this dark time in Israel's history, God intervened in Hannah's ordinary life as He continues to intervene in the lives of those who call on Him in their distress in their ordinary lives.
1 Samuel 1:12-13 ~ While she went on praying to Yahweh, Eli was watching her mouth, 13 for Hannah was speaking under her breath; her lips were moving but her voice could not be heard, and Eli thought that she was drunk.
Silent prayer was uncommon, and, since the priest does not hear her praying, he accuses Hannah of being drunk. However, Eli gives Hannah his blessing when he realizes that he is mistaken. After unburdening her heart to God and receiving the priest's blessing, Hannah is at peace and is able to take part in the communion meal.
1 Samuel 1:19-28 ~ The Birth and dedication of Samuel
19 They got up early in the morning and, after worshipping Yahweh, set out and went home to Ramah. Elkanah lay with his wife Hannah, and Yahweh remembered her. 20 Hannah conceived and, in due course, gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel, "Since," she said, "I asked Yahweh for him." 21 Elkanah, the husband, went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to Yahweh and to fulfil his vow. 22 However, Hannah did not go up, having said to her husband, "Not before the child has been weaned. Then I shall bring him and present him before Yahweh and he will stay there forever." 23 Elkanah her husband then said to her, "do what you think fit; wait until you have weaned him. May Yahweh bring about what he has said." So the woman stayed behind and nursed her child until she weaned him. 24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, as well as a three-year-old bull [three bulls], an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and took him into the temple of Yahweh at Shiloh; the child was very young. 25 They sacrificed the bull and led the child to Eli. 26 She said, "If you please, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood beside you here, praying to Yahweh. 27 This is the child for which I was praying, and Yahweh has granted me what I asked of him. 28 Now I make him over to Yahweh for the whole of his life. He is made over to Yahweh." They then worshipped Yahweh there. [..] = literal translation Jewish Study Bible, page 563; also see note b.
That Yahweh "remembered her" does not mean that God ever
forgot about Hannah; it is a repeat of her vow in 1:11 ~ Yahweh Sabaoth!
Should you condescend to notice the humiliation of your servant and keep her in
mind [remember her] instead of disregarding your servant, and give her a boy, I
will give him to Yahweh for the whole of his life and no razor shall ever touch
The use of the same Hebrew verb for "to remember" [sakar] simply means He honored her petition and she conceived a son. Mary of Nazareth will use the Greek verb "to remember" in her hymn of praise in Luke 1:72 in the literal Greek text.
Hannah named her son "Samuel," which verse 20 suggests is derived from Hannah's "asking" God for a son. While the verb sha'al/sha'ul = "to ask" will reoccur in the narrative several times, including in the name of the first man Samuel will anoint as Israel's king, Samuel's name is derived from shem-el, "name of God" or "God's name." Hannah will keep her vow to give up her son to God after he is weaned. Elkanah, according to the Law, has the responsibility of confirming his wife's vow (Num 30:13), which he does, and he also agrees to her decision to wait until the child is weaned to fulfill the vow.
Samuel's parents offered an expensive sacrifice at his dedication. An individual's whole burnt offering was usually selected according to one's wealth and could be an unblemished male animal from the herd or flock (bull, lamb or goat), or if he was poor, he could offer a turtledove or a young pigeon, which Joseph and Mary offered at Jesus' Temple dedication when He was forty days old (Lk 2:22-24).
The bull offered in sacrifice at Samuel's dedication ceremony at the Shiloh Sanctuary was either three years old or there were three bulls that were offered. The Hebrew phrase can be translated either way. If there were three bulls, only one was sacrificed (verse 25) and the other two were given as gifts to the Sanctuary, probably to offset the expense of the priests who will raise Samuel. Nevertheless, the sacrifice was generous and suggests the wealth of Samuel's father. The offering of the flour was also generous. One ephah of flour is about 3/5th bushel (about 22 liters). The priestly regulations for accompanying grain offerings specify 1/10 ephah for each lamb sacrificed (Lev 14:10, 21; Num 15:4; 28:4-9) but 3/10th for each bull (Num 15:9; 28:12, 20, 28). The prescribed grain offering for three bulls would then be 9/10th ephah which is a little less than what Hannah and her husband offered (Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, page 131).(3)
Samuel was taken to the Sanctuary when he was weaned.
Question: What does 2 Maccabees 7:27 suggest as the age a child was normally weaned?
Answer: A child was usually weaned when three years old.
Hannah reminded Eli of her vow almost four years earlier and then placed her child into his care to be raised as a life-time Nazirite and a servant of God. Samuel's parents worshipped Yahweh as they offered their sacrifice at the Altar of Burnt Offerings and took part in the daily liturgical service where Hannah offered a canticle of praise to God.
Throughout salvation history, women have played a vital role in God's divine plan. In the Old Testament covenants, the mission of many holy women prepared the way for Mary of Nazareth. "Against all human expectation God chooses those who were considered powerless and weak to show forth his faithfulness to his promises: Hannah, the mother of Samuel; Deborah; Ruth; Judith and Esther; and many other women" (CCC 489).
1 Samuel Chapter 2: Conditions at Shiloh
1 Samuel 2:1-11 ~ The Canticle of Hannah
1 Hannah then prayed as follows:
"My heart exults in Yahweh, in my God is my strength [horn] lifted up, my mouth derides my foes, for I rejoice in your deliverance. 2 There is no Holy One like Yahweh, indeed, there is none but you, no Rock like our God. 3 Do not keep talking so proudly, let no arrogance come from your mouth, for Yahweh is a wise God, his to weigh up deeds. 4 The bow of the mighty has been broken but those who were tottering are now braced with strength. 5 The full fed are hiring themselves out for bread but the hungry need labor no more, the barren woman bears sevenfold but the mother of many is left desolate. 6 Yahweh gives death and life, brings down to Sheol and draws up; 7 Yahweh makes poor and rich, he humbles and also exalts. 8 He raises the poor from the dust, he lifts the needy from the dunghill to give them a place with princes, to assign them a seat of honor; for to Yahweh belong the pillars of the earth, on these he has poised the world. 9 He safeguards the steps of his faithful but the wicked vanish in darkness for human strength can win no victories. 10 Yahweh, his enemies are shattered, the Most High thunders in the heavens. Yahweh judges the ends of the earth, he endows his king with power, he raises up the strength of his Anointed."
11 Elkanah then went home to Ramah, but the child stayed in Yahweh's service, in the presence of Eli the priest.
The Virgin Mary's Magnificat is often compared to Hannah's Canticle of praise. Both hymns have a similar beginning, praising God for His greatness and His deliverance/salvation; although Mary's hymn of praise is more personal.
|Hannah's Canticle||Mary's Magnificat|
|My heart exults in Yahweh, in my God is my strength lifted up, my mouth derides my foes, for I rejoice in your deliverance (1 Sam 2:1).||My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant (Lk 1:46-48a).|
Both poems also speak of God raising up the lowly and desolate while safeguarding the meek and righteous (1 Sam 2:3-10 and Lk 1:51-54). Both poems speak of the women's belief and confidence in God to guide their lives. In the Hebrew text of Hannah's canticle, she invokes the divine covenant name "Yahweh" nine times in six verses (2:1, 23, 6, 7, 8, 10) and then the passage concludes with a tenth mention of God's divine name in verse 11 with Samuel remaining in Yahweh's service at Shiloh.
Hannah's canticle is one of praise and prophecy. It has a poetic structure that is expressed in an alternating pattern that praises Yahweh's divine sovereignty and then comments on the reversal of human fortune when God dispenses His divine judgment; then the pattern concludes with a prophecy of kingship:
The title "Rock" for God in verse 2 is a common epithet of God in the Old Testament; it is used to convey God's protection and strength. See for example the use of the title "Rock" five times for God in the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 32 (verses 4, 16, 18, 30, and 31). In verse 3 Hannah expresses confidence in God's knowledge and works (3b).
Question: What contrast does Hannah make in verse 4?
Answer: She recalls the results of Yahweh's mighty deeds and contrasts the fate of the mighty with the lowly in their reversal of destiny when they experience God's divine justice.
Hannah's mention of "the barren woman" in verse 5 is her only direct reference to herself and her experience. Yahweh's holy sovereignty in verses 6-7 give Him authority over life and death in those who He "brings down to Sheol." Sheol is the Hebrew word for the "grave." It is the destination of both the wicked and the righteous before the redeeming work of Jesus Christ (CCC 633; Lk 16:19-31).
1 Samuel 2:8 ~ He
raises the poor from the dust, he lifts the needy from the dunghill to give
them a place with princes, to assign them a seat of honor; for to Yahweh belong
the pillars of the earth, on these he has poised the world.
"Pillars of the earth" and similar wording appears in other poetic texts (see Job 9:6; Ps 75:3; 104:5). The expression convers the concept that God is the one who upholds and has sovereignty over the earth where we live as well as over the moral order of this world. The wicked suffer in their sins but the righteous have the hope of forgiveness and being "raised" to restored life when God judges the earth, recalling the hope of Job (Job 19:25-29). He protects the destiny of His faithful and will bring them justice while He destroys the wicked and their works (verses 8-10).
Hannah's canticle concludes with the prophetic statement: ...he endows his king with power, he raises up the strength of his Anointed [Messiah] (verse 10c). This is a possible reference to the part Samuel will play as Israel's kingmaker, especially in the anointing of David of Bethlehem. But the prophecy may also point to the distant future in David's descendant the King of kings, Jesus Christ (see Ps 89:24-29 and Mt 1:1).
1 Samuel 2:11 ~ Elkanah
then went home to Ramah, but the child stayed in Yahweh's service, in the
presence of Eli the priest.
The couple has fulfilled their vow to Yahweh and Samuel begins his life of service to Yahweh as a consecrated Nazirite.
1 Samuel 2:12-17 ~ The Sons of Eli
12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels; they cared nothing for Yahweh 13 nor for what was due to the priests from the people. Whenever anyone offered a sacrifice, the priest's servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being cooked; 14 he would thrust this into cauldron or pan, or dish or pot, and the priest claimed for his own whatever the fork brought up. That was how they behaved with all the Israelites who came there to Shiloh. 15 The priest's servant would even come up before the fat had been burnt and say to the person who was making the sacrifice, "Give the priest some meat for him to roast. He will not accept boiled meat from you, only raw." 16 Then, if the person replied, "Let the fat be burnt first, and then take for yourself whatever you choose." He would retort, "No! You must give it to me now or I shall take it by force." 17 The young men's sin was very great in Yahweh's eyes, because they treated with contempt the offering made to Yahweh.
Verses 12-26 offer the contrast between Eli's adopted son, young Samuel (verses 18-21 and 26) and his two adult priestly sons (verses 12-17 and 18-21).
In a communion sacrifice, the animal is offered to God who then shares the sacrifice with his righteous covenant children. The fat of the animal is given to God by being burned on the Altar of Burnt Offerings in the Sanctuary courtyard, the blood of the animal is poured out at the base of the altar, a portion of the animal is given to the officiating priest (Lev 7:28-34/18-24), and the rest of the animal is returned to the offerer to be cooked in a pot and eaten in the Sanctuary with his family and any other covenant members who are present for a Todah "thanksgiving" communion offering (Lev 3:1-5, 14-17; 7:11-15/1-5). The eating of the sacred feast in Yahweh's presence restored peace/fellowship with God. In a sin offering, the animal was shared between God and His priest who ate the offerer's sin sacrifice (Lev 6:17-23/24-30).
Question: What was the sin of Eli's sons described
in verses 12-17? See Lev 7:28-38; Num 18:8-19 and Dt 18:3-4.
Answer: Eli's sons contemptuously ignored the regulations governing what belonged to Yahweh from the sacrifices and the priest's rightful share of the communion sacrifices according to the Law and what belonged to the people. They placed their desires above what was rightfully due Yahweh. They were not serving God and the people; they were serving themselves.
1 Samuel 2:18-21 ~ Samuel at Shiloh
18 Samuel was in Yahweh's service, a child wearing a linen loincloth [ephod]. 19 His mother used to make him a little coat which she brought him each year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, "May Yahweh grant you an heir by this woman in exchange for the one which she has made over to Yahweh," and they would go home. 21 Yahweh visited Hannah; she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the child Samuel grew up in Yahweh's presence.
The favorable account of young Samuel in verses 18-21 and
verse 26 will alternate with accounts of the failures of Eli's two sons in
verses 12-17 and 22-25.
Question: How did God blessed Hannah and Elkanah?
Answer: He gave them five more children in addition to Samuel.
1 Samuel 2:22-26 ~ The Continuing failure of Eli's Sons
22 Although very old, Eli heard about everything that his sons were doing to all Israel, 23 and said, "Why are you behaving as all the people say you are? 24 No, my sons, what I hear reported by the people of Yahweh is not good. 25 If one person sins against another, God will be the arbiter, but if he sins against Yahweh, who will intercede for him?" But they did not listen to their father's words, for Yahweh was bent on killing them. 26 Meanwhile, the child Samuel went on growing in stature and in favor both with Yahweh and the people.
Question: What was Eli's warning to his sons?
Answer: When one man sins against another, God acts as a just judge in arbitrating their conflict. But, to sin against God is far more serious and there is no one with authority to stand up for him against God. Their father's point is that they haven't just sinned against the people; they have sinned against God and have denied His divine authority over them.
Eli's sons did not listen to their father's warning, but
it was already too late. Their many sins against God and His covenant people
had resulted in God's divine judgment against them.
Question: Does God's decision mean that the sons of Eli had no opportunity to repent?
Answer: It does not mean that they did not have the opportunity to repent and turn back to God. God's decision did not deny their free will. However, the "hardening of their hearts" in disregarding their father's warning was an indication that they had no intention of repenting their sins and they foolishly had no fear of offending God.
In the meantime, Samuel was growing up, pleasing both God and His people.
1 Samuel 2:27-36 ~ The Punishment of Eli and his Sons
27 A man of God came to Eli and said to him, "This is what Yahweh says, Did I not reveal myself to your father's family when they were in Egypt as slaves in Pharaoh's household? 28 Did I not single him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn the offering, to carry the ephod in my presence; and did I not grant all the burnt offerings made by the Israelites to your father's family? 29 Why do you trample on [despise] the offering and on the sacrifice which I have ordered for my Dwelling [Dwelling place], and honor your sons more than me, by growing fat on the best of the offerings of Israel, my people? 30 Whereas, this is what Yahweh, God of Israel, declares: I had promised that your family and your father's family would walk in my presence for ever, now, however, this is what Yahweh declares; nothing of the sort! Those who honor me I honor in my turn, and those who despise me will be an object of contempt. 31 Be sure, the days are coming when I shall cut off your strength and the strength of your father's family, so that no one in your family will live to old age. 32 Besides the Dwelling, you will see all the benefits that I shall confer on Israel, but no one in your family will ever live to old age. 33 I shall keep one of you at my altar for his eyes to go blind and his soul to wither, but the bulk of your family will die by the sword. 34 What happened to your two sons Hophni and Phinehas will be a sign for you: on the same day both will die. 35 I shall raise myself a faithful priest, who will do as I intend and as I desire. 36 I shall build him an enduring House and he will walk in the presence of my Anointed for ever. The members of your House who survive will come and beg him on their knees for a silver coin and a loaf of bread and say: Please give me some priestly work, so that I can have a scrap of bread to eat.'" [..] = literal translation; underlining added. The Hebrew term ma'on is better translated "dwelling place" and is a poetic designation of the Sanctuary where God resides among His covenant people (Tsumura, pages 163-167).
Question: God sends an unnamed prophet to Eli. Who is the prophet referring to as Eli's "father" in Egypt who was chosen to
serve at Yahweh's altar?
Answer: He is referring to Eli's ancestor Aaron, the first high priest from whom all chief priests are descended.
After verse 23 the Hebrew Masoretic text adds: and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. The phrase is not found in the Septuagint and is believed to be a gloss suggested by Exodus 38:8 where women served the Sanctuary by weaving the textiles hung in the Sanctuary and the priestly tunics. If it was intended to be part of the inspired text, it does demonstrate, however, the depravity of the sons of Eli.
1 Samuel 2:28-29 ~ Did
I not single him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to
my altar, to burn the offering, to carry the ephod in my presence; and did I
not grant all the burnt offerings made by the Israelites to your father's
family? 29 Why do you trample on [despise]
the offering and on the sacrifice which I have ordered for my Dwelling
[Dwelling place], and honor your sons more than me, by growing fat on
the best of the offerings of Israel, my people?
The prophet is still speaking of Aaron, the first high priest. The ephod of the high priest was worn by him as a sign of his special status as God's representative to the people and the people's representative to God (Ex 28:6-14; 39:2-7). He stood before the people in the daily liturgical worship services as the image of redeemed man in the presence of God and for the people as a moral and spiritual icon who embodied the Ten Commandments.
Question: In honoring his sons more than his God,
what commandments has Eli broken? See the Shema in Dt 6:4-9; 11:13-21
and Num 15:37-41.
Answer: He has broken what embodies the first three of the Ten Commandments which is summarized in Israel's profession of faith in the first verses of the Shema: You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let the words I enjoin on you today stay in your heart. You shall tell them to your children, and keep on telling them, when you are sitting at home, when you are out and about .... Eli has not instructed his sons, has left them unpunished for their sins against God and the people and has put caring for his sons before God (verse 29b).
1 Samuel 2:30 ~ Whereas,
this is what Yahweh, God of Israel, declares: I had promised that your family
and your father's family would walk in my presence for ever, now, however, this
is what Yahweh declares; nothing of the sort! Those who honor me I honor in
my turn, and those who despise me will be an object of contempt.
Notice the double repetition of "despise" and "honor" in verses 29 and 30. The contrast is between honoring and dishonoring. For those who honor God, He honors, but for those who dishonor God there are no blessings and they become objects of contempt.
Question: What promise had God made to Eli's
"family" from the time of the Exodus? See Ex 28:1; 29:1-9; 40:15; Lev 2:13;
Num 18:19; Sir 45:722/27
Answer: Aaron and his descendants were to serve God as His priestly representatives in a perpetual covenant.
1 Samuel 2:31-34, 36b ~ God's judgment on Eli and his
descendants: Be sure, the days are
coming when I shall cut off your strength and the strength of your father's
family, so that no one in your family will live to old age. 32 Besides the Dwelling, you will see all the
benefits that I shall confer on Israel, but no one in your family will ever
live to old age. 33 I shall keep
one of you at my altar for his eyes to go blind and his soul to wither, but the
bulk of your family will die by the sword. 34
What happened to your two sons Hophni and Phinehas will be a sign for you:
on the same day both will die.
36b: The members of your House who survive will come and beg him on their knees for a silver coin and a loaf of bread and say: Please give me some priestly work, so that I can have a scrap of bread to eat.'"
Eli has broken the covenant God made with Aaron and with Israel. God's judgment is given in words that are similar to the curses/judgments that are the warnings to Israel of the consequences of for covenant failure in Leviticus 26:14—45 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68.
Question: What is God's judgment concerning Eli, his sons, and his family line? What is meant by their fate being a "sign"?
Answer: The judgment is not only on the sons for their failures but on their father for his failure concerning his sons and their violations of their priestly offices for which he is ultimately responsible:
Question: What is the significance of a Biblical
Answer: In Scripture a "sign" is always something concrete; it is a visible indicator of a promised spiritual blessing or the fulfillment of a promised divine judgment from God.
The prophecy will be repeated to Eli in 3:15-18 and the prophetic fulfillment will begin in chapter four when Eli's sons are killed by the Philistines. The prophecy will continue in the massacre of the priestly descendants of Eli at Nob during the reign of King Saul (1 Sam 22:18-19) with the exception of one survivor who will be deposed by King Solomon (1 Kng 2:27), signaling the end of Eli's priestly line.
The prophet ends his message with one last prophecy: 35 I shall raise myself a faithful priest, who
will do as I intend and as I desire. 36 I
shall build him an enduring House and he will walk in the presence of my
Anointed for ever. The members of your House who survive will come and beg him
on their knees for a silver coin and a loaf of bread and say: Please give me
some priestly work, so that I can have a scrap of bread to eat.'"
Eli's priestly line will die out and be replaced by the priestly line of Zadok that will be recognized as the only legitimate priestly line descended from Aaron that is eligible to serve as Israel's high priests. The Zadokite priests were the descendants of Aaron's third son Eleazar, the high priest during the time of the conquest of Canaan (1 Chr 6:50-53; Josh 24:33). Zadok will become the high priest (1 Kng 2:26-27) and his descendants will serve in the "House" of Yahweh that is the Temple King Solomon, the son of David, will build in Jerusalem. Zadok and his descendants will be responsible for the exercise of the high priesthood in Jerusalem until the destruction of the Temple in 587/8 BC and the Babylonian exile (2 Chr 31:10). When David becomes God's anointed king, God will make an eternal covenant with David and with all of David's descendants who will rule Israel as God's anointed kings after him (2 Sam 7:8-16; 23:5). The priestly line of Zadok will only serve the Davadic kings.(4)
Question: Why where Eli's sons foolish to not take
the warnings seriously and to assume that Yahweh would not destroy descendants
of Aaron who violated the commands of God concerning the liturgy of worship and
in serving God's people? See Lev 10:1-3.
Answer: A precedent had already been set in God's divine judgment in the deaths of their ancestor Aaron's two elder sons for abuses in the liturgy of worship.
Question: What is the focus of events at Shiloh in
the second half of chapter 2?
Answer: The focus is the favorable ascent of Samuel who found favor in God's eyes in contrast with the scandalous descent of the sons of Eli. Ironically, both processes were taking place simultaneously at the Sanctuary of Yahweh at Shiloh.
Chapter 3: God Calls Samuel
Samuel must have learned from his mother Hannah how "to stand before the LORD"
and from the priest Eli how to listen to his word: "Speak, LORD, for your
servant is listening." Later, he will also know the cost and consequence of
intercession: "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against
the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; and I will instruct you in the good and
the right way."
Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2578
(with references to 1 Samuel 1:9-18 and quoting from 1 Samuel 3:9-10 and 12:23)
1 Samuel 3:1-10 ~ Young Samuel hears the Voice of God
1 Now, the boy Samuel was serving Yahweh in the presence of Eli; in those days it was rare for Yahweh to speak; visions were uncommon. 2One day, it happened that Eli was lying down in his room. His eyes were beginning to grow dim; he could no longer see. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying in Yahweh's Sanctuary, where the Ark of God was, 4 when Yahweh called. "Samuel! Samuel!" He answered, "Here I am," 5 and running to Eli, he said, "Here I am, as you called me." Eli said, "I did not call. Go back and lie down." So he went and lay down. 6 And again Yahweh called, "Samuel! Samuel!" He got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, as you called me." He replied, "I did not call, my son; go back and lie down." 7 As yet, Samuel had no knowledge of Yahweh and the word of Yahweh had not yet been revealed to him. 8 Again Yahweh called, the third time. He got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, as you called me." Eli then understood that Yahweh was calling the child, 9 and he said to Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if someone calls say, 'Speak, Yahweh; for your servant is listening.'" So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 Yahweh then came and stood by, calling as he had done before. "Samuel! Samuel!" Samuel answered, "Speak Yahweh; for your servant is listening."
Question: That Eli is going blind is the sign that
what prophecy is about to be fulfilled? See 1 Sam 2:33.
Answer: It is part of the prophecy that the unnamed prophet of God told Eli: 33 I shall keep one of you at my altar for his eyes to go blind and his soul to wither, but the bulk of your family will die by the sword.
Eli had given Samuel the duty of watching over the golden Lampstand (Menorah) in the Sanctuary's Holy Place (Ex 37:17-24) to make certain that the seven oil lamps did not burn out. It was the duty of the priests to keep the lamps continuingly burning (Lev 24:2-4). Only the chief priests were permitted within the Holy Place of the Sanctuary. That Samuel was allowed to perform this duty may show that he had been fully incorporated into Eli's family or it may be another indication that Eli was not being obedient to the Law concerning maintaining the Sanctuary. Both Jewish and Christian scholars have suggested that Samuel's mother or Elkannah's mother may have been descendants of Aaron and that blood connection made Samuel eligible for his role as Yahweh's priest and allowed the inclusion of their names in the genealogy of the Kohath descendants of Levi (1 Chr 6:27/28). Even if Samuel was considered Eli's son, he was too young to perform this duty.
The Tabernacle was composed of two rooms: The Holy Place that housed the golden lampstand, the golden table of the Bread of the Presence, and the golden Altar of Incense. The Holy of Holies was the sacred space beyond the Holy Place (to the west) that was entered only once a year on the Feast of Yom Kippur (Feast of Atonement) by the high priest. It was where the Ark of the Covenant rested, and it was where God dwelt in the midst of His people between the two golden cherubim of the Mercy-seat that was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:21-22). The Ark of the Covenant was behind a curtain that separated the Holy Place where Samuel was keeping watch from the Holy of Holies. Yahweh was calling to Samuel from the Holy of Holies. See the plan of the Sanctuary and its Tabernacle.
Question: How many times did Yahweh call Samuel
before he finally responded?
Answer: God called Samuel three times and he responded the fourth time he heard his name.
The three/four pattern that we see in the call of Samuel is a familiar pattern in Scripture; for example see Judges 16:7-21 in Delilah's three unsuccessful attempts to subdue Samson that was successful on the fourth try and Matthew 12:40, 41; 16:4 and Luke 11:29, 30, 32 in Jesus' three times repetition of comparisons to the prophet Jonah that is fulfilled in the fourth "sign" that is Jesus' death, burial and Resurrection. The name "Samuel" appears twenty-four times in this chapter. In each "calling" Yahweh says Samuel's name twice, as He did when He called Abraham in Genesis 22:11; Jacob in Genesis 46:2; and Moses in Exodus 3:4.
Notice that Eli instructs Samuel to answer God by using His Divine Name and that Samuel follows those instructions, speaking God's Divine Name and saying: "Speak Yahweh; for your servant is listening." The false piety that was introduced centuries later that forbade the speaking aloud of God's Divine Name outside the Temple liturgical services or writing God's Divine Name is not found in Sacred Scripture where the divine Name is regularly written and spoken aloud by people in the Biblical narrative.
Question: What was God's command concerning His Divine
Name when He spoke it to Moses in Exodus 3:15, and who was the first person in
the Old Testament to speak God's Divine Name in Genesis 4:1?
Answer: God told Moses that YHWH (Yahweh) was the name by which all generations should call upon Him: This is my name for all time, and thus I am to be invoked for all generations to come (Ex 3:15b NJB). The first person in the Bible to speak aloud God's Divine Name was Eve, the first woman.
1 Samuel 3:10 ~ Yahweh
then came and stood by, calling as he had done before. "Samuel! Samuel!" Samuel answered,
"Speak Yahweh; for your servant is listening."
Question: What was different in Samuel's experience of the fourth calling in verse 10?
Answer: This time God "came and stood" near Samuel whereas before only "calling" was mentioned.
Does this mean that God had previously called Samuel from behind the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies where God dwelled above the Ark of the Covenant and now He has stepped out from behind the curtain to come close to Samuel? It is possible and Scripture supports that the revelation to Samuel now involved a vision. 1 Samuel 3:15 records that Samuel was afraid to tell Eli about "the vision" [other translations have "what he saw"].
1 Samuel 3:11-15a ~ God calls Young Samuel to be a Prophet
11 Yahweh then said to Samuel, "I am going to do something in Israel which will make the ears of all who hear of it ring. 12 I shall carry out that day against Eli everything that I have said about his family, from beginning to end. 13 You are to tell him that I condemn his family for ever, since he is aware that his sons have been cursing God and yet has not corrected them. 14 Therefore, I swear it to the family of Eli, no sacrifice or offering shall ever expiate the guilt of Eli's family." Samuel lay where he was until morning and then opened the doors of Yahweh's temple.
That night, Samuel began his mission as Yahweh's divine
prophet. In the morning he gave the prophecy that he was commanded to deliver
to Eli. The prophecy confirmed the previous prophecy Eli received from God's
prophet in 2:27-36.
Question: Why do you think Samuel waited until morning instead of immediately going to Eli as he had the other three times?
Answer: What God told Samuel to do concerning Eli must have been very difficult for the boy. Eli was his adopted father and Samuel must have been fond of him. He must have suffered all that night until the morning knowing what he must do, but he put God's command above his personal feelings and he did fulfill his first mission.
1 Samuel 3:15b-4:1 ~ Samuel delivers His First
15b Samuel was afraid to tell Eli about the vision, 16 but Eli called Samuel and said, "Samuel, my son." "Here I am," he replied. 17 Eli asked, "What message did he give you? Please do not hide it from me. May God bring unnamable ills on you and worse ones, too, if you hide from me anything of what he said to you." 18 Samuel then told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Eli said, "he is Yahweh; let him do what he thinks good." 19 Samuel grew up. Yahweh was with him and did not let a single word fall to the ground of all that he had told him. 20 All Israel knew, from Dan to Beersheba, that Samuel was attested as a prophet of Yahweh. 21 Yahweh continued to manifest himself at Shiloh, revealing himself to Samuel there, 4:1 and for all Israel, the word of Samuel was as the word of Yahweh; since Eli was very old and his sons persisted in their wicked behavior toward Yahweh.
Despite his many failures, in verse 18b Eli submitted
himself to God's divine judgment.
Question: What could Eli have done that he didn't do concerning his sons?
Answer: For their abuses against Yahweh and the people, he should have brought them before a court of elders, and, as Israel's Judge and high priest, he should have prosecuted the case that should have resulted in their dismissal from priestly service, putting an end to the abuses.
1 Samuel 3:20 ~ All
Israel knew, from Dan to Beersheba, that Samuel was attested as a prophet of
From the most northern part of Israel in the city of Dan, to the southernmost city of Beersheba in the tribal lands of Judah, the word of Samuel's calling spread and all the Israelites knew that Samuel was God's holy prophet
1 Samuel 3:21-4:1 ~ Yahweh
continued to manifest himself at Shiloh, revealing himself to Samuel there, 4:1 and for all Israel, the word of Samuel was
as the word of Yahweh; since Eli was very old and his sons persisted in their
wicked behavior toward Yahweh.
All Israel acknowledged that Samuel spoke for God and he became Israel's last Judge. It is the first transition of authority in the Book of Samuel of God's representative to the people from Eli to Samuel.
Question for reflection or group discussion:
How responsible are parents for the bad or good decisions their children make in life? Eli raised his sons and he raised Samuel as an adopted son; yet his sons were very different from his adopted son in their sense of morality and in their relationship with God. Why were they so different? How much is nurture and how much is nature?
1. Elkanah was the name of five different men in the Bible. In Hebrew the name means "God created [the fetus]." Some scholars believe that Ramathaim and Ramah are two names for the same town, but the translation of the Hebrews words for "two heights/hills" and "height/hill in the singular are not the same. The same genealogy in 1 Sam 1:1 is found in 1 Chr 6:19-23, but those same men are listed as descendants of Kohath son of Levi instead of Ephraim son of Joseph. It could be that Samuel's genealogy was incorporated into the tribe of Levi because he was formally adopted by the chief priest Eli who, like all chief priests, was a descendant of Aaron from the clan of Kohath within the tribe of Levi, or he may have been connected to the Aaronic bloodline through his mother or his paternal grandmother since Elkanah is also named.
2. In the New Testament, the term "Lord Sabaoth" is found in Rom 9:29 and Jam 5:4.
3. The Septuagint and a copy of the Book of Samuel found at Qumran (4QSama) read a "three year old bull."
4. The prophet Ezekiel proposed that the priesthood be restricted to the line of Zadok because they had never committed apostasy during the time of the monarchy (Ez 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11). Zadok was a descendant of Aaron through the third son and high priest Eleazar (1 Chr 6:4-8; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 5.11.5 . The Zadokites remained in charge of the priesthood after the return from the Babylonian exile in the Second Temple Period until 171 BC when the Greek Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who at that time controlled Judah, gave the office to a man named Menelaus (172-162; 2 Mac 4:24). Some Zadokites stayed in Jerusalem and formed the party of the Sadducees, others left the city and went into exile in Egypt, while still others withdrew into the Judean wilderness to form the priestly community of Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, calling themselves the "sons of Zadok" (DDS 1 QS5.8).
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2014 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Catechism references for 1 Samuel Chapters 1-3 (* indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):
1 Sam 1 (CCC 489*)
1 Sam 1:9-18 (CCC 2578*)
1 Sam 3:9-10 (CCC 2578)