Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
The first verse forms the introduction to the song. Holy joy in the Lord at the blessing which she had received impelled the favoured mother to the praise of God:
1 My heart is joyful in the Lord,
My horn is exalted in the Lord,
My mouth is opened wide over mine enemies:
For I rejoice in Thy salvation.
Of the four members of this verse, the first answers to the third, and the second to the fourth. The heart rejoices at the lifting up of her horn, the mouth opens wide to proclaim the salvation before which the enemies would be dumb. "My horn is high" does not mean 'I am proud' (Ewald), but "my power is great in the Lord." The horn is the symbol of strength, and is taken from oxen whose strength is in their horns (vid., Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 75:5, etc.). The power was high or exalted by the salvation which the Lord had manifested to her. To Him all the glory was due, because He had proved himself to be the holy One, and a rock upon which a man could rest his confidence.
There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
2 None is holy as the Lord; for there is none beside Thee;
And no rock is as our God.
3 Speak ye not much lofty, lofty;
Let (not) insolence go out of thy mouth!
For the Lord is an omniscient God,
And with Him deeds are weighed.
God manifests himself as holy in the government of the kingdom of His grace by His guidance of the righteous to salvation (see at Exodus 19:6). But holiness is simply the moral reflection of the glory of the one absolute God. This explains the reason given for His holiness, viz., "there is not one (a God) beside thee" (cf. 2 Samuel 22:32). As the holy and only One, God is the rock (vid., Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15; Psalm 18:3) in which the righteous can always trust. The wicked therefore should tremble before His holiness, and not talk in their pride of the lofty things which they have accomplished or intend to perform. גּבהה is defined more precisely in the following clause, which is also dependent upon אל by the word עתק, as insolent words spoken by the wicked against the righteous (see Psalm 31:19). For Jehovah hears such words; He is "a God of knowledge" (Deus scientiarum), a God who sees and knows every single thing. The plural דּעות has an intensive signification. עללות נתכּנוּ לא might be rendered "deeds are not weighed, or equal" (cf. Ezekiel 18:25-26; Ezekiel 33:17). But this would only apply to the actions of men; for the acts of God are always just, or weighed. But an assertion respecting the actions of men does not suit the context. Hence this clause is reckoned in the Masora as one of the passages in which לא stands for לו (see at Exodus 21:8). "To Him (with Him) deeds are weighed:" that is to say, the acts of God are weighed, i.e., equal or just. This is the real meaning according to the passages in Ezekiel, and not "the actions of men are weighed by Him" (De Wette, Maurer, Ewald, etc.): for God weighs the minds and hearts of men (Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 24:12), not their actions. This expression never occurs. The weighed or righteous acts of God are described in 1 Samuel 2:4-8 in great and general traits, as displayed in the government of His kingdom through the marvellous changes which occur in the circumstances connected with the lives of the righteous and the wicked.
Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.
4 Bow-heroes are confounded,
And stumbling ones gird themselves with strength;
5 Full ones hire themselves out for bread,
And hungry ones cease to be.
Yea, the barren beareth seven (children),
And she that is rich in children pines away.
6 The Lord kills and makes alive;
Leads down into hell, and leads up.
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich,
Humbles and also exalts.
8 He raises mean ones out of the dust,
He lifts up poor ones out of the dunghill,
To set them beside the noble;
And He apportions to them the seat of glory:
They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
שׂבעים are the rich and well to do; these would become so poor as to be obliged to hire themselves out for bread. חדל, to cease to be what they were before. The use of עד as a conjunction, in the sense of "yea" or "in fact," may be explained as an elliptical expression, signifying "it comes to this, that." "Seven children" are mentioned as the full number of the divine blessing in children (see Ruth 4:15). "The mother of many children" pines away, because she has lost all her sons, and with them her support in her old age (see Jeremiah 15:9). This comes from the Lord, who kills, etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39). The words of 1 Samuel 2:6 are figurative. God hurls down into death and the danger of death, and also rescues therefrom (see Psalm 30:3-4). The first three clauses of 1 Samuel 2:8 are repeated verbatim in Psalm 113:7-8. Dust and the dunghill are figures used to denote the deepest degradation and ignominy. The antithesis to this is, sitting upon the chair or throne of glory, the seat occupied by noble princes. The Lord does all this, for He is the creator and upholder of the world. The pillars (מצקי, from צוּק equals יצק) of the earth are the Lord's; i.e., they were created or set up by Him, and by Him they are sustained. Now as Jehovah, the God of Israel, the Holy One, governs the world with His almighty power, the righteous have nothing to fear. With this thought the last strophe of the song begins:
The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.
He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
9 The feet of His saints He will keep,
And the wicked perish in darkness;
For by power no one becomes strong.
10 The Lord - those who contend against Him are confounded.
He thunders above him in the heavens;
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth,
That He may lend might to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed.
The Lord keeps the feet of the righteous, so that they do not tremble and stumble, i.e., so that the righteous do not fall into adversity and perish therein (vid., Psalm 56:14; Psalm 116:8; Psalm 121:3). But the wicked, who oppress and persecute the righteous, will perish in darkness, i.e., in adversity, when God withdraws the light of His grace, so that they fall into distress and calamity. For no man can be strong through his own power, so as to meet the storms of life. All who fight against the Lord are destroyed. To bring out the antithesis between man and God, "Jehovah" is written absolutely at the commencement of the sentence in 1 Samuel 2:10 : "As for Jehovah, those who contend against Him are broken," both inwardly and outwardly (חתת, as in 1 Samuel 2:4). The word עלו, which follows, is not to be changed into עליהם. There is simply a rapid alternation of the numbers, such as we frequently meet with in excited language. "Above him," i.e., above every one who contends against God, He thunders. Thunder is a premonitory sign of the approach of the Lord to judgment. In the thunder, man is made to feel in an alarming way the presence of the omnipotent God. In the words, "The Lord will judge the ends of the earth," i.e., the earth to its utmost extremities, or the whole world, Hannah's prayer rises up to a prophetic glance at the consummation of the kingdom of God. As certainly as the Lord God keeps the righteous at all times, and casts down the wicked, so certainly will He judge the whole world, to hurl down all His foes, and perfect His kingdom which He has founded in Israel. And as every kingdom culminates in its throne, or in the full might and government of a king, so the kingdom of God can only attain its full perfection in the king whom the Lord will give to His people, and endow with His might. The king, or the anointed of the Lord, of whom Hannah prophesies in the spirit, is not one single king of Israel, either David or Christ, but an ideal king, though not a mere personification of the throne about to be established, but the actual king whom Israel received in David and his race, which culminated in the Messiah. The exaltation of the horn of the anointed to Jehovah commenced with the victorious and splendid expansion of the power of David, was repeated with every victory over the enemies of God and His kingdom gained by the successive kings of David's house, goes on in the advancing spread of the kingdom of Christ, and will eventually attain to its eternal consummation in the judgment of the last day, through which all the enemies of Christ will be made His footstool.
The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest.
Samuel the servant of the Lord under Eli. Ungodliness of the sons of Eli. - 1 Samuel 2:11 forms the transition to what follows. After Hannah's psalm of thanksgiving, Elkanah went back with his family to his home at Ramah, and the boy (Samuel) was serving, i.e., ministered to the Lord, in the presence of Eli the priest. The fact that nothing is said about Elkanah's wives going with him, does not warrant the interpretation given by Thenius, that Elkanah went home alone. It was taken for granted that his wives went with him, according to 1 Samuel 1:21 ("all his house"). את־יחוה שׁרת, which signifies literally, both here and in 1 Samuel 3:1, to serve the Lord, and which is used interchangeably with יי את־פּני שׁרת (1 Samuel 2:18), to serve in the presence of the Lord, is used to denote the duties performed both by priests and Levites in connection with the worship of God, in which Samuel took part, as he grew up, under the superintendence of Eli and according to his instruction.
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
But Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:34), were בליּעל בּני, worthless fellows, and knew not the Lord, sc., as He should be known, i.e., did not fear Him, or trouble themselves about Him (vid., Job 18:21; Hosea 8:2; Hosea 13:4).
And the priests' custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand;
"And the right of the priests towards the people was (the following)." Mishpat signifies the right which they had usurped to themselves in relation to the people. "If any one brought a sacrifice (זבח זבח כּל־אישׁ is placed first, and construed absolutely: 'as for every one who brought a slain-offering'), the priest's servant (lit. young man) came while the flesh was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, and thrust into the kettle, or pot, or bowl, or saucepan. All that the fork brought up the priest took. This they did to all the Israelites who came thither to Shiloh."
And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.
Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.
They did still worse. "Even before the fat was consumed," i.e., before the fat portions of the sacrifice had been placed in the altar-fire for the Lord (Leviticus 3:3-5), the priest's servant came and demanded flesh of the person sacrificing, to be roasted for the priest; "for he will not take boiled flesh of thee, but only חי, raw, i.e., fresh meat." And if the person sacrificing replied, "They will burn the fat directly (lit. 'at this time,' as in Genesis 25:31; 1 Kings 22:5), then take for thyself, as thy soul desireth," he said, "No (לו for לא), but thou shalt give now; if not, I take by force." These abuses were practised by the priests in connection with the thank-offerings, with which a sacrificial meal was associated. Of these offerings, with which a sacrificial meal was associated. Of these offerings, the portion which legally fell to the priest as his share was the heave-leg and wave-breast. And this he was to receive after the fat portions of the sacrifice had been burned upon the altar (see Leviticus 7:30-34). To take the flesh of the sacrificial animal and roast it before this offering had been made, was a crime which was equivalent to a robbery of God, and is therefore referred to here with the emphatic particle גּם, as being the worst crime that the sons of Eli committed. Moreover, the priests could not claim any of the flesh which the offerer of the sacrifice boiled for the sacrificial meal, after burning the fat portions upon the altar and giving up the portions which belonged to them, to say nothing of their taking it forcibly out of the pots while it was being boiled.
And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
Such conduct as this on the part of the young men (the priests' servants), was a great sin in the sight of the Lord, as they thereby brought the sacrifice of the Lord into contempt. נאץ, causative, to bring into contempt, furnish occasion for blaspheming (as in 2 Samuel 12:14). "The robbery which they committed was a small sin in comparison with the contempt of the sacrifices themselves, which they were the means of spreading among the people" (O. v. Gerlach). Minchah does not refer here to the meat-offering as the accompaniment to the slain-offerings, but to the sacrificial offering generally, as a gift presented for the Lord.
But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.
Samuel's service before the Lord. - 1 Samuel 2:18. Samuel served as a boy before the Lord by the side of the worthless sons of Eli, girt with an ephod of white material (בּד, see at Exodus 28:42). The ephod was a shoulder-dress, no doubt resembling the high priest's in shape (see Exodus 28:6.), but altogether different in the material of which it was made, viz., simple white cloth, like the other articles of clothing that were worn by the priests. At that time, according to 1 Samuel 22:18, all the priests wore clothing of this kind; and, according to 2 Samuel 6:14, David did the same on the occasion of a religious festival. Samuel received a dress of this kind even when a boy, because he was set apart to a lifelong service before the Lord. חגוּר is the technical expression for putting on the ephod, because the two pieces of which it was composed were girt round the body with a girdle.
Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.
The small מעיל also (Angl. "coat"), which Samuel's mother made and brought him every year, when she came with her husband to Shiloh to the yearly sacrifice, was probably a coat resembling the mel of the high priest (Exodus 28:31.), but was made of course of some simpler material, and without the symbolical ornaments attached to the lower hem, by which that official dress was distinguished.
And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went unto their own home.
The priestly clothing of the youthful Samuel was in harmony with the spiritual relation in which he stood to the high priest and to Jehovah. Eli blessed his parents for having given up the boy to the Lord, and expressed this wish to the father: "The Lord lend thee seed of this woman in the place of the one asked for (השּׁאלה), whom they (one) asked for from the Lord." The striking use of the third pers. masc. שׁאל instead of the second singular or plural may be accounted for on the supposition that it is an indefinite form of speech, which the writer chose because, although it was Hannah who prayed to the Lord for Samuel in the sight of Eli, yet Eli might assume that the father, Elkanah, had shared the wishes of his pious wife. The apparent harshness disappears at once if we substitute the passive; whereas in Hebrew active constructions were always preferred to passive, wherever it was possible to employ them (Ewald, 294, b.). The singular suffix attached to למקומו after the plural הלכוּ may be explained on the simple ground, that a dwelling-place is determined by the husband, or master of the house.
And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.
The particle כּי, "for" (Jehovah visited), does not mean if, as, or when, nor is it to be regarded as a copyist's error. It is only necessary to supply the thought contained in the words, "Eli blessed Elkanah," viz., that Eli's blessing was not an empty fruitless wish; and to understand the passage in some such way as this: Eli's word was fulfilled, or still more simply, they went to their home blessed; for Jehovah visited Hannah, blessed her with "three sons and two daughters; but the boy Samuel grew up with the Lord," i.e., near to Him (at the sanctuary), and under His protection and blessing.
Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
Eli's treatment of the sins of his sons. - 1 Samuel 2:22. The aged Eli reproved his sons with solemn warnings on account of their sins; but without his warnings being listened to. From the reproof itself we learn, that beside the sin noticed in 1 Samuel 2:12-17, they also committed the crime of lying with the women who served at the tabernacle (see at Exodus 38:8), and thus profaned the sanctuary with whoredom. But Eli, with the infirmities of his old age, did nothing further to prevent these abominations than to say to his sons, "Why do ye according to the sayings which I hear, sayings about you which are evil, of this whole people." רעים את־דּבריכם is inserted to make the meaning clearer, and כּל־ה מאת is dependent upon שׁמע. "This whole people" signifies all the people that came to Shiloh, and heard and saw the wicked doings there.
And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.
Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD'S people to transgress.
בּני אל, "Not, my sons," i.e., do not such things, "for the report which I hear is not good; they make the people of Jehovah to transgress." מערים is written without the pronoun אתּם in an indefinite construction, like משׁלּחים in 1 Samuel 6:3 (Maurer). Ewald's rendering as given by Thenius, "The report which I hear the people of God bring," is just as inadmissible as the one proposed by Bttcher, "The report which, as I hear, the people of God are spreading." The assertion made by Thenius, that העביר, without any further definition, cannot mean to cause to sin or transgress, is correct enough no doubt; but it does not prove that this meaning is inadmissible in the passage before us, since the further definition is actually to be found in the context.
If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them.
"If man sins against man, God judges him; but if a man sins against Jehovah, who can interpose with entreaty for him?" In the use of פּללו and יתפּלּל־לו there is a paranomasia which cannot be reproduced in our language. פּלּל signifies to decide or pass sentence (Genesis 48:11), then to arbitrate, to settle a dispute as arbitrator (Ezekiel 16:52; Psalm 106:30), and in the Hithpael to act as mediator, hence to entreat. And these meanings are applicable here. In the case of one man's sin against another, God settles the dispute as arbitrator through the proper authorities; whereas, when a man sins against God, no one can interpose as arbitrator. Such a sin cannot be disposed of by intercession. But Eli's sons did not listen to this admonition, which was designed to reform daring sinners with mild words and representation; "for," adds the historian, "Jehovah was resolved to slay them." The father's reproof made no impression upon them, because they were already given up to the judgment of hardening. (On hardening as a divine sentence, see the discussions at Exodus 4:21.)
And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.
The youthful Samuel, on the other hand, continued to grow in stature, and in favour with God and man (see Luke 2:52).
And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house?
Announcement of the judgment upon Eli and his house. - 1 Samuel 2:27. Before the Lord interposed in judgment, He sent a prophet (a "man of God," as in Judges 13:6) to the aged Eli, to announce as a warning for all ages the judgment which was about to fall upon the worthless priests of his house. In order to arouse Eli's own conscience, he had pointed out to him, on the one hand, the grace manifested in the choice of his father's house, i.e., the house of Aaron, to keep His sanctuary (1 Samuel 2:27 and 1 Samuel 2:28), and, on the other hand, the desecration of the sanctuary by the wickedness of his sons (1 Samuel 2:29). Then follows the sentence: The choice of the family of Aaron still stood fast, but the deepest disgrace would come upon the despisers of the Lord (1 Samuel 2:30): the strength of his house would be broken; all the members of his house were to die early deaths. They were not, however, to be removed entirely from service at the altar, but to their sorrow were to survive the fall of the sanctuary (1 Samuel 2:31-34). But the Lord would raise up a faithful priest, and cause him to walk before His anointed, and from him all that were left of the house of Eli would be obliged to beg their bread (1 Samuel 2:35, 1 Samuel 2:36). To arrive at the true interpretation of this announcement of punishment, we must picture to ourselves the historical circumstances that come into consideration here. Eli the high priest was a descendant of Ithamar, the younger son of Aaron, as we may see from the fact that his great-grandson Ahimelech was "of the sons of Ithamar" (1 Chronicles 24:3). In perfect agreement with this, Josephus (Ant. v. 11, 5) relates, that after the high priest Ozi of the family of Eleazar, Eli of the family of Ithamar received the high-priesthood. The circumstances which led to the transfer of this honour from the line of Eleazar to that of Ithamar are unknown. We cannot imagine it to have been occasioned by an extinction of the line of Eleazar, for the simple reason that, in the time of David, Zadok the descendant of Eleazar is spoken of as high priest along with Abiathar and Ahimelech, the descendants of Eli (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 20:25). After the deposition of Abiathar he was reinstated by Solomon as sole high priest (1 Kings 2:27), and the dignity was transmitted to his descendants. This fact also overthrows the conjecture of Clericus, that the transfer of the high-priesthood to Eli took place by the command of God on account of the grievous sins of the high priests of the line of Eleazar; for in that case Zadok would not have received this office again in connection with Abiathar. We have, no doubt, to search for the true reason in the circumstances of the times of the later judges, namely in the fact that at the death of the last high priest of the family of Eleazar before the time of Eli, the remaining son was not equal to the occasion, either because he was still an infant, or at any rate because he was too young and inexperienced, so that he could not enter upon the office, and Eli, who was probably related by marriage to the high priest's family, and was no doubt a vigorous man, was compelled to take the oversight of the congregation; and, together with the supreme administration of the affairs of the nation as judge, received the post of high priest as well, and filled it till the time of his death, simply because in those troublous times there was not one of the descendants of Eleazar who was able to fill the supreme office of judge, which was combined with that of high priest. For we cannot possibly think of an unjust usurpation of the office of high priest on the part of Eli, since the very judgment denounced against him and his house presupposes that he had entered upon the office in a just and upright way, and that the wickedness of his sons was all that was brought against him. For a considerable time after the death of Eli the high-priesthood lost almost all its significance. All Israel turned to Samuel, whom the Lord established as His prophet by means of revelations, and whom He also chose as the deliverer of His people. The tabernacle at Shiloh, which ceased to be the scene of the gracious presence of God after the loss of the ark, was probably presided over first of all after Eli's death by his grandson Ahitub, the son of Phinehas, as his successor in the high-priesthood. He was followed in the time of Saul by his son Ahijah or Ahimelech, who gave David the shew-bread to eat at Nob, to which the tabernacle had been removed in the meantime, and was put to death by Saul in consequence, along with all the priests who were found there. His son Abiathar, however, escaped the massacre, and fled to David (1 Samuel 22:9-20; 1 Samuel 23:6). In the reign of David he is mentioned as high priest along with Zadok; but he was afterwards deposed by Solomon (2 Samuel 15:24; 2 Samuel 17:15; 2 Samuel 19:12; 2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 2:27).
Different interpretations have been given of these verses. The majority of commentators understand them as signifying that the loss of the high-priesthood is here foretold to Eli, and also the institution of Zadok in the office. But such a view is too contracted, and does not exhaust the meaning of the words. The very introduction to the prophet's words points to something greater than this: "Thus saith the Lord, Did I reveal myself to thy father's house, when they were in Egypt at the house of Pharaoh?" The ה interrogative is not used for הלא (nonne), but is emphatic, as in Jeremiah 31:20. The question is an appeal to Eli's conscience, which he cannot deny, but is obliged to confirm. By Eli's father's house we are not to understand Ithamar and his family, but Aaron, from whom Eli was descended through Ithamar. God revealed himself to the tribe-father of Eli by appointing Aaron to be the spokesman of Moses before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:14. and Exodus 4:27), and still more by calling Aaron to the priesthood, for which the way was prepared by the fact that, from the very beginning, God made use of Aaron, in company with Moses, to carry out His purpose of delivering Israel out of Egypt, and entrusted Moses and Aaron with the arrangements for the celebration of the passover (Exodus 12:1, Exodus 12:43). This occurred when they, the fathers of Eli, Aaron and his sons, were still in Egypt at the house of Pharaoh, i.e., still under Pharaoh's rule.
And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?
"And did I choose him out of all the tribes for a priest to myself." The interrogative particle is not to be repeated before וּבחור, but the construction becomes affirmative with the inf. abs. instead of the perfect. "Him" refers back to "thy father" in 1 Samuel 2:27, and signifies Aaron. The expression "for a priest" is still further defined by the clauses which follow: על מ לעלות, "to ascend upon mine altar," i.e., to approach my altar of burnt-offering and perform the sacrificial worship; "to kindle incense," i.e., to perform the service in the holy place, the principal feature in which was the daily kindling of the incense, which is mentioned instar omnium; "to wear the ephod before me," i.e., to perform the service in the holy of holies, which the high priest could only enter when wearing the ephod to represent Israel before the Lord (Exodus 28:12). "And have given to thy father's house all the firings of the children of Israel" (see at Leviticus 1:9). These words are to be understood, according to Deuteronomy 18:1, as signifying that the Lord had given to the house of Aaron, i.e., to the priesthood, the sacrifices of Jehovah to eat in the place of any inheritance in the land, according to the portions appointed in the sacrificial law in Leviticus 6-7, and Numbers 18.
Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?
With such distinction conferred upon the priesthood, and such careful provision made for it, the conduct of the priests under Eli was an inexcusable crime. "Why do ye tread with your feet my slain-offerings and meat-offerings, which I have commanded in the dwelling-place?" Slain-offering and meat-offering are general expressions embracing all the altar-sacrifices. מעון is an accusative ("in the dwelling"), like בּית, in the house. "The dwelling" is the tabernacle. This reproof applied to the priests generally, including Eli, who had not vigorously resisted these abuses. The words which follow, "and thou honourest thy sons more than me," relate to Eli himself, and any other high priest who like Eli should tolerate the abuses of the priests. "To fatten yourselves with the first of every sacrificial gift of Israel, of my people." לעמּי serves as a periphrasis for the genitive, and is chosen for the purpose of giving greater prominence to the idea of עמּי (my people). רשׁית, the first of every sacrificial gift (minchah, as in 1 Samuel 2:17), which Israel offered as the nation of Jehovah, ought to have been given up to its God in the altar-fire because it was the best; whereas, according to 1 Samuel 2:15, 1 Samuel 2:16, the sons of Eli took away the best for themselves.
Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.
For this reason, the saying of the Lord, "Thy house (i.e., the family of Eli) and thy father's house (Eli's relations in the other lines, i.e., the whole priesthood) shall walk before me for ever" (Numbers 25:13), should henceforth run thus: "This be far from me; but them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be despised." The first declaration of the Lord is not to be referred to Eli particularly, as it is by C. a Lapide and others, and understood as signifying that the high-priesthood was thereby transferred from the family of Eleazar to that of Ithamar, and promised to Eli for his descendants for all time. This is decidedly at variance with the fact, that although "walking before the Lord" is not a general expression denoting a pious walk with God, as in Genesis 17:1, but refers to the service of the priests at the sanctuary as walking before the face of God, yet it cannot possibly be specially and exclusively restricted to the right of entering the most holy place, which was the prerogative of the high priest alone. These words of the Lord, therefore, applied to the whole priesthood, or the whole house of Aaron, to which the priesthood had been promised, "for a perpetual statute" (Exodus 29:9). This promise was afterwards renewed to Phinehas especially, on account of the zeal which he displayed for the honour of Jehovah in connection with the idolatry of the people at Shittim (Numbers 25:13). But even this renewed promise only secured to him an eternal priesthood as a covenant of peace with the Lord, and not specially the high-priesthood, although that was included as the culminating point of the priesthood. Consequently it was not abrogated by the temporary transfer of the high-priesthood from the descendants of Phinehas to the priestly line of Ithamar, because even then they still retained the priesthood. By the expression "be it far from me," sc., to permit this to take place, God does not revoke His previous promise, but simply denounces a false trust therein as irreconcilable with His holiness. That promise would only be fulfilled so far as the priests themselves honoured the Lord in their office, whilst despisers of God who dishonoured Him by sin and presumptuous wickedness, would be themselves despised.
This contempt would speedily come upon the house of Eli.
Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house.
"Behold, days come," - a formula with which prophets were accustomed to announce future events (see 2 Kings 20:17; Isaiah 39:6; Amos 4:2; Amos 8:11; Amos 9:13; Jeremiah 7:32, etc.), - "then will I cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall be no old man in thine house." To cut off the arm means to destroy the strength either of a man or of a family (see Job 1 Samuel Job 22:9; Psalm 37:17). The strength of a family, however, consists in the vital energy of its members, and shows itself in the fact that they reach a good old age, and do not pine away early and die. This strength was to vanish in Eli's house; no one would ever again preserve his life to old age.
And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever.
"And thou wilt see oppression of the dwelling in all that He has shown of good to Israel." The meaning of these words, which have been explained in very different ways, appears to be the following: In all the benefits which the lord would confer upon His people, Eli would see only distress for the dwelling of God, inasmuch as the tabernacle would fall more and more into decay. In the person of Eli, the high priest at that time, the high priest generally is addressed as the custodian of the sanctuary; so that what is said is not to be limited to him personally, but applies to all the high priests of his house. מעון is not Eli's dwelling-place, but the dwelling-place of God, i.e., the tabernacle, as in 1 Samuel 2:29, and is a genitive dependent upon צר. היטיב, in the sense of benefiting a person, doing him good, is construed with the accusative of the person, as in Deuteronomy 28:63; Deuteronomy 8:16; Deuteronomy 30:5. The subject to the verb ייטיב is Jehovah, and is not expressly mentioned, simply because it is so clearly implied in the words themselves. This threat began to be fulfilled even in Eli's own days. The distress or tribulation for the tabernacle began with the capture of the ark by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:11), and continued during the time that the Lord was sending help and deliverance to His people through the medium of Samuel, in their spiritual and physical oppression. The ark of the covenant - the heart of the sanctuary - was not restored to the tabernacle in the time of Samuel; and the tabernacle itself was removed from Shiloh to Nob, probably in the time of war; and when Saul had had all the priests put to death (1 Samuel 21:2; 1 Samuel 22:11.), it was removed to Gibeon, which necessarily caused it to fall more and more into neglect. Among the different explanations, the rendering given by Aquila (καὶ ἐπιβλέψει [? ἐπιβλέψης] ἀντίζηλον κατοικητηρίου) has met with the greatest approval, and has been followed by Jerome (et videbis aemulum tuum), Luther, and many others, including De Wette. According to this rendering, the words are either supposed to refer to the attitude of Samuel towards Eli, or to the deposition of Abiathar, and the institution of Zadok by Solomon in his place (1 Kings 2:27). But צר does not mean the antagonist or rival, but simply the oppressor or enemy; and Samuel was not an enemy of Eli any more than Zadok was of Abiathar. Moreover, if this be adopted as the rendering of צר, it is impossible to find any suitable meaning for the following clause. In the second half of the verse the threat of 1 Samuel 2:31 is repeated with still greater emphasis. כּל־היּמים, all the time, i.e., so long as thine house shall exist.
And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age.
"And I will not cut off every one to thee from mine altar, that thine eyes may languish, and thy soul consume away; and all the increase of thine house shall die as men." The two leading clauses of this verse correspond to the two principal thoughts of the previous verse, which are hereby more precisely defined and explained. Eli was to see the distress of the sanctuary; for to him, i.e., of his family, there would always be some one serving at the altar of God, that he might look upon the decay with his eyes, and pine away with grief in consequence. אישׁ signifies every one, or any one, and is not to be restricted, as Thenius supposes, to Ahitub, the son of Phinehas, the brother of Ichabod; for it cannot be shown from 1 Samuel 14:3 and 1 Samuel 22:20, that he was the only one that was left of the house of Eli. And secondly, there was to be no old man, no one advanced in life, in his house; but all the increase of the house was to die in the full bloom of manhood. אנשׁים, in contrast with זקן, is used to denote men in the prime of life.
And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them.
"And let this be the sign to thee, what shall happen to (come upon) thy two sons, Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall both die." For the fulfilment of this, see 1 Samuel 4:11. This occurrence, which Eli lived to see, but did not long survive (1 Samuel 4:17.), was to be the sign to him that the predicted punishment would be carried out in its fullest extent.
And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.
But the priesthood itself was not to fall with the fall of Eli's house and priesthood; on the contrary the Lord would raise up for himself a tried priest, who would act according to His heart. "And I will build for him a lasting house, and he will walk before mine anointed for ever."
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests' offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.
Whoever, on the other hand, should still remain of Eli's house, would come "bowing before him (to get) a silver penny and a slice of bread," and would say, "Put me, I pray, in one of the priests' offices, that I may get a piece of bread to eat." אגורה, that which is collected, signifies some small coin, of which a collection was made by begging single coins. Commentators are divided in their opinions as to the historical allusions contained in this prophecy. By the "tried priest," Ephraem Syrus understood both the prophet Samuel and the priest Zadok. "As for the facts themselves," he says, "it is evident that, when Eli died, Samuel succeeded him in the government, and that Zadok received the high-priesthood when it was taken from his family." Since his time, most of the commentators, including Theodoret and the Rabbins, have decided in favour of Zadok. Augustine, however, and in modern times Thenius and O. v. Gerlach, give the preference to Samuel. The fathers and earlier theologians also regarded Samuel and Zadok as the type of Christ, and supposed the passage to contain a prediction of the abrogation of the Aaronic priesthood by Jesus Christ.
(Note: Theodoret, qu. vii. in 1 Reg. Οὐκοῦν ἡ πρόῤῥησις κυρίως μὲν ἁρμόττει τῷ σωτὴρι Χριστῷ. Κατὰ δὲ ἱστορίαν τῷ Σαδούκ, ὅς ἐκ τοῦ Ἐλεάζαρ κατάγων τὸ γένος τὴν ἀρχιερωσύνην διὰ τοῦ Σολομῶνος ἐδέξατο. Augustine says (De civit. Dei xvii. 5, 2): "Although Samuel was not of a different tribe from the one which had been appointed by the Lord to serve at the altar, he was not of the sons of Aaron, whose descendants had been set apart as priests; and thus the change is shadowed forth, which was afterwards to be introduced through Jesus Christ." And again, 3: "What follows (1 Samuel 2:35) refers to that priest, whose figure was borne by Samuel when succeeding to Eli." So again in the Berleburger Bible, to the words, "I will raise me up a faithful priest," this note is added: "Zadok, of the family of Phinehas and Eleazar, whom king Solomon, as the anointed of God, appointed high priest by his ordinance, setting aside the house of Eli (1 Kings 2:35; 1 Chronicles 29:22). At the same time, just as in the person of Solomon the Spirit of prophecy pointed to the true Solomon and Anointed One, so in this priest did He also point to Jesus Christ the great High Priest.")
This higher reference of the words is in any case to be retained; for the rabbinical interpretation, by which Grotius, Clericus, and others abide, - namely, that the transfer of the high-priesthood from the descendants of Eli to Zadok, the descendant of Eleazar, is all that is predicted, and that the prophecy was entirely fulfilled when Abiathar was deposed by Solomon (1 Kings 2:27), - is not in accordance with the words of the text. On the other hand, Theodoret and Augustine both clearly saw that the words of Jehovah, "I revealed myself to thy father's house in Egypt," and, "Thy house shall walk before me for ever," do not apply to Ithamar, but to Aaron. "Which of his fathers," says Augustine, "was in that Egyptian bondage, form which they were liberated when he was chosen to the priesthood, excepting Aaron? It is with reference to his posterity, therefore, that it is here affirmed that they would not be priests for ever; and this we see already fulfilled." The only thing that appears untenable is the manner in which the fathers combine this historical reference to Eli and Samuel, or Zadok, with the Messianic interpretation, viz., either by referring 1 Samuel 2:31-34 to Eli and his house, and then regarding the sentence pronounced upon Eli as simply a type of the Messianic fulfilment, or by admitting the Messianic allusion simply as an allegory.
The true interpretation may be obtained from a correct insight into the relation in which the prophecy itself stands to its fulfilment. Just as, in the person of Eli and his sons, the threat announces deep degradation and even destruction to all the priests of the house of Aaron who should walk in the footsteps of the sons of Eli, and the death of the two sons of Eli in one day was to be merely a sign that the threatened punishment would be completely fulfilled upon the ungodly priests; so, on the other hand, the promise of the raising up of the tried priest, for whom God would build a lasting house, also refers to all the priests whom the Lord would raise up as faithful servants of His altar, and only receives its complete and final fulfilment in Christ, the true and eternal High Priest. But if we endeavour to determine more precisely from the history itself, which of the Old Testament priests are included, we must not exclude either Samuel or Zadok, but must certainly affirm that the prophecy was partially fulfilled in both. Samuel, as the prophet of the Lord, was placed at the head of the nation after the death of Eli; so that he not only stepped into Eli's place as judge, but stood forth as priest before the Lord and the nation, and "had the important and sacred duty to perform of going before the anointed, the king, whom Israel was to receive through him; whereas for a long time the Aaronic priesthood fell into such contempt, that, during the general decline of the worship of God, it was obliged to go begging for honour and support, and became dependent upon the new order of things that was introduced by Samuel" (O. v. Gerlach). Moreover, Samuel acquired a strong house in the numerous posterity that was given to him by God. The grandson of Samuel was Heman, "the king's seer in the words of God," who was placed by David over the choir at the house of God, and had fourteen sons and three daughters (1 Chronicles 6:33; 1 Chronicles 25:4-5). But the very fact that these descendants of Samuel did not follow their father in the priesthood, shows very clearly that a lasting house was not built to Samuel as a tried priest through them, and therefore that we have to seek for the further historical fulfilment of this promise in the priesthood of Zadok. As the word of the Lord concerning the house of Eli, even if it did not find its only fulfilment in the deposition of Abiathar (1 Kings 2:27), was at any rate partially fulfilled in that deposition; so the promise concerning the tried priest to be raised up received a new fulfilment in the fact that Zadok thereby became the sole high priest, and transmitted the office to his descendants, though this was neither its last nor its highest fulfilment. This final fulfilment is hinted at in the vision of the new temple, as seen by the prophet Ezekiel, in connection with which the sons of Zadok are named as the priests, who, because they had not fallen away with the children of Israel, were to draw near to the Lord, and perform His service in the new organization of the kingdom of God as set forth in that vision (Ezekiel 40:46; Ezekiel 43:19; Ezekiel 44:15; Ezekiel 48:11). This fulfilment is effected in connection with Christ and His kingdom. Consequently, the anointed of the Lord, before whom the tried priest would walk for ever, is not Solomon, but rather David, and the Son of David, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.