1 Samuel 1:1
Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
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(1) Now there was a certain man.—Literally, And there was, &c. These introductory words do not signify that this history is the continuation of the Book of Judges or of any preceding writing. It is a common historical introductory formula. We find it at the commencement of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Kings, Esther, Ezra, Ezekiel, &c. The circumstances under which this record was probably compiled are discussed elsewhere.

Of Ramathaim-zophim.—The name Ramathaim—literally, The Two Ramahs—is the dual of the well-known Ramah, the appellation by which this city is usually known. The old city was, no doubt, built on two hills, which looked one on the other: hence perhaps the name Zophim, the watchers. Possibly at an early date watch-towers or outlooks, to enable the citizens to guard against surprise, were built on the summit of these hills. Either of these suppositions would account for the suggestive name by which Ramah was once known, the “Ramahs of the Watchers.”

Others would connect the appellation “Zophim” with the family of Zuph, from whom Elkanah descended. (See 1Chronicles 6:35, and 1Samuel 9:5, where the land of Zuph is mentioned.) An interesting. though fanciful, derivation refers Zophim, watchers, to the “prophet-watchmen” of the house of Israel, as Ramah in after years was a school of the prophets.

On the whole, the simplest and least strained explanation is the one given above, which refers the name to the hills so placed that they watched one another, or better still, to the watch-towers built at an early date on the two summits.

Ramah lay among the mountains of Ephraim, which extended into the territory of Benjamin, in which tribe the city of Ramah lay.

His name was Elkanah.—Elkanah, the father of the future prophet-judge, was a Levite of the family of Kohath (compare the genealogy given here with 1Chronicles 6:22). He is here termed an Ephrathite: that is, an Ephraimite, because, as far as his civil standing was concerned, he belonged to the tribe of Ephraim.

Some have found a difficulty in reconciling the Levitical descent of Samuel with his dedication to the Lord by his mother, supposing that in the case of a Levite this would be unnecessary; but the dedication of Samuel, it should be remembered, was a life-long one, whereas the Levitical service only began when the Levite was twenty-five years old; and even then the service was not continuous.

1 Samuel 1:1. Ramathaim-zophim — The latter word means watchers, or watchmen, and the former the Ramahs. The place is called Ramah, (1 Samuel 1:19,) and seems to have been a village situated on two hills, which, on account of their elevation, commanded extensive prospects, and were proper places from which to make observations. Probably there might be a watch-tower and sentinels placed in each. Of mount Ephraim — This is added to distinguish this from other places, which had the name of Ramah in other tribes, particularly in that of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25. An Ephrathite — That is, one of Beth-lehem-judah, by his birth and habitation, though by his origin a Levite.1:1-8 Elkanah kept up his attendance at God's altar, notwithstanding the unhappy differences in his family. If the devotions of a family prevail not to put an end to its divisions, yet let not the divisions put a stop to the devotions. To abate our just love to any relation for the sake of any infirmity which they cannot help, and which is their affliction, is to make God's providence quarrel with his precept, and very unkindly to add affliction to the afflicted. It is evidence of a base disposition, to delight in grieving those who are of a sorrowful spirit, and in putting those out of humour who are apt to fret and be uneasy. We ought to bear one another's burdens, not add to them. Hannah could not bear the provocation. Those who are of a fretful spirit, and are apt to lay provocations too much to heart, are enemies to themselves, and strip themselves of many comforts both of life and godliness. We ought to notice comforts, to keep us from grieving for crosses. We should look at that which is for us, as well as what is against us.Ramathaim-zophim may signify "the two hills 1 Samuel 9:11-13 of the watchmen," so called from its being a post from which the watchmen looked out. But since Zuph is the name of the head of the family, it is more probable that Zophin means the Zuphites, the sons of Zuph (see Zophai, 1 Chronicles 6:26), from whom the land about Ramah was called "the land of Zuph," 1 Samuel 9:5.

There is reason to believe that Elkanah - an Ephrathite, or inhabitant of Bethlehem 1 Samuel 17:12; Ruth 1:2 and of the territory of the tribe of Ephraim 1 Kings 11:26 - the father of Samuel, represents the fifth generation of settlers in Canaan, and therefore that Samuel was born about 130 years after the entrance into Canaan - four complete generations, or 132 years - and about 40 years before David.



1Sa 1:1-8. Of Elkanah and His Two Wives.

1, 2. a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim—The first word being in the dual number, signifies the double city—the old and new town of Ramah (1Sa 1:19). There were five cities of this name, all on high ground. This city had the addition of Zophim attached to it, because it was founded by Zuph, "an Ephrathite," that is a native of Ephratha. Beth-lehem, and the expression "of Ramathaim-zophim" must, therefore, be understood as Ramah in the land of Zuph in the hill country of Ephratha. Others, considering "mount Ephraim" as pointing to the locality in Joseph's territory, regard "Zophim" not as a proper but a common noun, signifying watchtowers, or watchmen, with reference either to the height of its situation, or its being the residence of prophets who were watchmen (Eze 3:17). Though a native of Ephratha or Beth-lehem-judah (Ru 1:2), Elkanah was a Levite (1Ch 6:33, 34). Though of this order, and a good man, he practised polygamy. This was contrary to the original law, but it seems to have been prevalent among the Hebrews in those days, when there was no king in Israel, and every man did what seemed right in his own eyes [Jud 21:25].


Elkanah goeth yearly up to the feast at Shiloh with his two wives: Hannah is barren; Peninnah upbraideth her, 1Sa 1:1-6. Hannah prayeth fervently to the Lord for a son; promising to separate him a Nazarite unto God, 1Sa 1:7-12. Eli thinking her drunk rebuketh her; upon her answer, blesseth her, 1Sa 1:13-18. She returneth home with Elkanah, and conceiveth; beareth Samuel; offereth her sacrifice; performs her promise concerning him, 1Sa 1:19-28.

Ramathaim-zophirn, called Ramah, 1Sa 1:19, and here is the dual number Ramathaim, i.e. double Ramah, probably because it consisted of two parts, whereof the one might be called the old city, the other the new, both being united into one; and the additional title of Zophim, which signifies watch-towers, or watchmen, may note either the height of its situation, which made it fit for that use; or that the prophets, who are called watchmen, as Eze 3:17, had a school or college there.

An Ephrathite, i.e. one of Bethlehem-judah, Rth 1:2, to wit, by his birth and habitation, though by his original a Levite. Thus divers Jews by nation are called Medes, Elamites, Cretians, &c., Act 2:9-11, because they were born and bred there. Now there was a man of Ramathaimzophim, of Mount Ephraim,.... Ramathaim is a word of the dual number, and signifies two Ramahs; the city consisted of two parts, being built perhaps on two hills, and were called Zophim; because, as the Rabbins say, they looked one to another; or rather, because situated on eminences, there were watchtowers in them, where watchmen were placed; or because they were inhabited by prophets, who were sometimes called watchmen, Ezekiel 3:17 and here is thought to be a school of the prophets, see 1 Samuel 19:19 and which seems to be countenanced by the Targum, in which the words are paraphrased thus, "and there was one" man of Ramatha, of the disciples of the prophets; or, as others think, the sense is this, this man was one of the Ramathites, the inhabitants of Ramah, and of the family of Zuph, or the Zuphites, which gave the name to the land of Zuph, and the grand ancestor of Elkanah is in this verse called Zuph, see 1 Samuel 9:5. According to Jerom (e), this is the same with Arimathaea, of which Joseph was, Matthew 27:57 for thus he writes,"Armatha Sophim, the city of Helcanah and Samuel, in the Thamnitic region near Diospolis (or Lydda), from whence was Joseph, who in the Gospels is said to be of Arimathaea;''but Reland (f) thinks it cannot be the same that was about Lydda, which was all a champaign country; whereas this was in the mountains of Ephraim, which must be sought to the north of Jerusalem, and not the west, and so it follows:

of Mount Ephraim: which is added to distinguish it from other Ramahs in several tribes, as in Benjamin, Naphtali, &c. though this may refer not to the situation of Ramathaim, but to the country of this man, who was originally of Mount Ephraim, as was the Levite in Judges 19:1 who was the cause of much evil to Israel, as this was of great good, as Kimchi observes:

and his name was Elkanah; which signifies "God hath possessed"; that is, possessed him, or he was in possession of God; he had an ancestor of the same name, 1 Chronicles 6:23. This man was a Levite, one of the Kohathites, and a descendant of Korah; so that the famous prophet Samuel was of the sons of Korah:

the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph; the three last of these names are somewhat differently read in 1 Chronicles 6:26, where they are Eliab, Nahath, Zophai; and in 1 Chronicles 6:34. Eliel, Toah, Zuph:

an Ephrathite; which appellation is to be connected, according to Kimchi, not with Elkanah, but with Zuph; though neither of them were so called from Bethlehemjudah, the inhabitants of which were indeed called Ephrathites from Ephratah, another name of it; so Elimelech, and his sons Mahlon and Chilion, being of that city, were so called, Ruth 1:2 not from their being of the tribe of Ephraim, as Jeroboam of that tribe is called an Ephrathite, 1 Kings 11:26, see Judges 12:5 for these were Levites, the descendants of Kohath, in the line of Korah; but because they sojourned in Mount Ephraim, or dwelt there, as Elkanah did; and it is well known that the Kohathites had cities given them in the tribe of Ephraim, Joshua 21:5.

(e) De loc. Heb. fol. 88. K. (f) Palestin. Illustrat. tom. 2. p. 581.

Now there was a certain man of {a} Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:

The Argument - As God had ordained in De 17:14, that when the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, he would appoint a king for them: so here in the first book of Samuel the state of the people under their first king Saul is declared. Not content with the order that God had temporarily appointed for the government of his Church, they demanded a king, so that they might be as other nations. As well they thought they would be better off, not because they could serve God better by it, but because they would be under the safeguard of him who represented Jesus Christ the true deliverer. Therefore God gave them a tyrant and a hypocrite to rule over them, so that they might learn that a king is not sufficient to defend them, unless God by his power preserves and keeps them. Therefore he punishes the ingratitude of his people, and sends them continual wars both at home and abroad. Also, because Saul, whom God had given to the honour of a king out of nothing, did not acknowledge God's mercy to him, but rather disobeyed the word of God and was not zealous of his glory, he was removed from his estate by God, and David the true figure of Messiah was placed in his stead. His patience, modesty, constancy, persecution by open enemies, feigned friends, and deceitful flatterers, is left to the Church and to every member of it, as a pattern and example of their state and calling.

(a) There were two Ramatus, so that in this city in mount Ephraim were Zophim, that is, the learned men and prophets.





Ch. 1 Samuel 1:1-8. Elkanah’s household and devotion

1. Now] And. The conjunction implies that the book of Samuel is a continuation of the history contained in the book of Judges which it immediately follows in the order of the Hebrew Bible, Ruth being placed among the Hagiographa.

Ramathaim-zophim] The name Ramathaim (= “the two heights”) is found here only, and is no doubt another name for Ramah (= “the height”) the birthplace (1 Samuel 1:19), residence (1 Samuel 7:17), and burial-place (1 Samuel 25:1) of the prophet Samuel. Its site “is the most disputed problem of sacred topography.” Probably it is to be placed either (a) at Er-Ram, a conical hill about 5 miles due north of Jerusalem, in which case it will be identical with Ramah of Benjamin (Joshua 18:25): or (b) at Neby Samwil (= “the prophet Samuel”) a conspicuous eminence 5 miles N. W. of Jerusalem, on which is still shewn the traditional tomb of Samuel: or (c) at Ram Allah, east of Beth-horon on the western slopes of Mount Ephraim.

The epithet Zophim distinguishes the town from others of similar name, as Ramathaim in Zuph (1 Samuel 9:5), a district probably named after Elkanah’s ancestor, Zuph or Zophai (1 Chronicles 6:26).

Ramathaim is possibly the same as Arimathaea in the N. T. The form Armathaim in which it appears in the LXX. gives the link of connexion between the names.

of mount Ephraim] The central mountainous district of Palestine, in which the tribe of Ephraim settled (Joshua 17:15), was “a good land.” The limestone hills are intersected by fertile valleys, watered by innumerable fountains, and still remarkable for their fertility. See Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, p. 229, ff. The name extended southwards to the territory of Benjamin in which Ramah lay. Thus Deborah’s palm tree was “between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim” (Jdg 4:5).

Elkanah] In 1 Chronicles 6:22-28; 1 Chronicles 6:33-38, Samuel’s descent from Kohath the son of Levi is given at length. Shemuel in 1 Chronicles 6:33 is the Hebrew form of the name for which the E. V. usually substitutes the Latinized form Samuel. The discrepancies in these genealogies may be partly due to corruptions of the text, partly to the same individuals bearing different, though in some cases synonymous, names.

an Ephrathite] The Levite Elkanah is called an Ephrathite, i.e. Ephraimite, because his family had originally belonged to the Kohathite settlements in the territory of Ephraim (Joshua 21:20). It is suggested in the Speaker’s Commentary, that as Salmon, the 7th from Judah, entered Canaan with Joshua, Zuph, who was the 7th from Levi, according to the genealogy in 1 Chr., may very probably have lived at the time of the settlement of the land. The genealogy would naturally stop with the first settler in Canaan, who gave his name to “the land of Zuph” (1 Samuel 9:5). If so, we must suppose that he at once migrated from the residence assigned him in the tribe of Ephraim.Verse 1. - There was a certain man of Ramathaim-Zophim. Though Samuel belonged to the tribe of Levi, yet no special mention is made of the fact, because he owed his importance and rank as a judge not to his Levitical origin, but to the gift of prophecy, which was independent of the accidents of birth and station. In the First Book of Chronicles, ch. 6, his parentage is twice given, that in vers. 22-28 being apparently the family genealogy, while that in vers. 33-38 was probably taken from the records of the temple singers, sprung from Heman, Samuel's grandson (1 Chronicles 6:33). His name there appears as Shemuel, our translators not having perceived that it is the same as that for which elsewhere they give the familiar rendering, Samuel. The variations Elkanah, Jeroham, Elihu, Tohu, Zuph (1 Samuel 1:1); Elkanah, Jeroham, Eliab, Nahath, Zophai (1 Chronicles 6:26, 27); Elkanah, Jeroham, Eliel, Toah, Zuph (ibid. vers. 34, 35), are interesting as showing that the genealogies in Chronicles. were compiled from family documents, in which, as was usual in the case of proper names, there was much diversity of spelling, or possibly of interpreting the cumbrous signs used for letters in those early days. The variations, however, in Elihu (God is he), Eliab (God is Father), and Eliel (God is God) were probably intentional, as were certainly other changes in names, such as that of Ishbaal into Ishbosheth. The name of Samuel's father, Elkanah (God is owner), is a common one among the Kohathites, to which division of the sons of Levi Samuel belonged. The prophet's birthplace was Ramathaim-Zophim, no doubt the Ramah which was Samuel s own head-quarters (1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 15:34; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Samuel 19:18-23; 1 Samuel 25:1); the place where he dwelt, wrought, died, and was buried, and the Arimathsea of the Gospels. The Septuagint generally gives the name in full, but this is the only place where it is so written in the Hebrew. Ramah signifies a height, and the dual Ramathaim the double height, the town being situated on a hill ending in two peaks. But which it was of the many Ramahs, or hill towns, in the Holy Land, is hotly contested; probably it was the Ramah in Benjamin, about two hours' journey northwest of Jerusalem. Its second name, Zophim, is taken from Zuph, Samuel's remote ancestor, with whom the genealogy here begins. Zuph had apparently emigrated from Ephraim, one of the three tribes (Ephraim, Manasseh, Dan) to which the Kohathites were attached, and was a person of sufficient power and energy to give his name to the whole district; called the land of Zuph in 1 Samuel 9:5. His descendants, the Zophim, had Ramah as their centre, and Elkanah, as their head, would be a man of wealth and influence. Though actually belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, Ramah is said to be upon Mount Ephraim, because this limestone range extended to and kept its name almost up to Jerusalem (see Judges 4:5, and 2 Chronicles 13:4; 2 Chronicles 15:8, compared with 2 Chronicles 13:19). Elkanah too is called an Ephrathite, i.e. an Ephraimite, no doubt because before Zuph emigrated the family had belonged to Ephraim, it being apparently the practice to reckon Levites as pertaining to the tribes to which they were attached (Judges 17:7). The Hebrews Ephrathite is rightly rendered Ephraimite in Judges 12:5, and should be so translated here, and in 1 Kings 11:26. In Ruth 1:2; 1 Samuel 17:12 it means Bethlehemite, that town being also called Ephratah, the fruitful; Ephraim has the same meaning, but being a dual, no adjective can be formed from it. And the neighbours said, "A son is born to Naomi," and gave him the name of Obed. This name was given to the boy (the context suggests this) evidently with reference to what he was to become to his grandmother. Obed, therefore, does not mean "servant of Jehovah" (Targum), but "the serving one," as one who lived entirely for his grandmother, and would take care of her, and rejoice her heat (O. v. Gerlach, after Josephus, Ant. v. 9, 4). The last words of Ruth 4:17, "he is the father of Jesse, the father of David," show the object which the author kept in view in writing down these events, or composing the book itself. This conjecture is raised into a certainty by the genealogy which follows, and with which the book closes.
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