|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:12-18 The defeat of the army was very grievous to Eli as a judge; the tidings of the death of his two sons, to whom he had been so indulgent, and who, as he had reason to fear, died impenitent, touched him as a father; yet there was a greater concern on his spirit. And when the messenger concluded his story with, The ark of God is taken, he is struck to the heart, and died immediately. A man may die miserably, yet not die eternally; may come to an untimely end, yet the end be peace.
Verse 15. - Eli was ninety and eight years old. Until the invention by the Arabs of the present system of numerals, all ancient nations had a most cumbrous system of expressing numbers. The Hebrew method was to attach a value to each of the letters of the alphabet, and then add them together, and thus the eighth and nineteenth letters would between them make up ninety-eight. Such a system led to constant mistakes in copying, and thus the numerals in the earlier parts of the Old Testament are beset with uncertainty. Here the Septuagint has ninety, and the Syriac seventy-eight. But as Eli was described already as "very old" in 1 Samuel 2:22, the Hebrew text is the most probable. Instead of dim the Hebrew has set, i.e. Eli was now absolutely blind, as the word expresses the motionless state of the eye when obscured by cataract. In 1 Samuel 3:2 a different word is used, rightly there translated "dim," as the disease is one which comes on gradually. In 1 Kings 14:4 we read that Ahijah was blind from the same cause, and the word is there correctly rendered "set."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now Eli was ninety eight years old,.... Which is very properly observed, he being now come to the end of his days, and which also accounts for his blindness after mentioned:
and his eyes were dim, that he could not see; could not see the messenger, and read in his countenance, and perceive by his clothes rent, and earth on his head, that he was a bringer of bad tidings; or his eyes each of them "stood" (h); were fixed and immovable, as the eyes of blind men be. In 1 Samuel 3:2 it is said, "his eyes began to wax dim"; but here that they "were" become dim; and there might be some years between that time and this, for Samuel then was very young, but now more grown up: though Procopius Gazaeus thinks that Eli was then ninety eight years of age, and that the affair there related was just before his death; but it rather appears to be some time before.
(h) "stetit", Montanus; "stabant", Tigurine version.
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