And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a man child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And she vowed a vow.—The vow of Hannah contained two solemn promises—the one pledged the son she prayed for to the service of the Eternal all the days of his life. The mother looked on to a life-long service in the ritual of the Tabernacle for him, but the Being who heard her prayer destined her son for higher work; in his case the priestly duties were soon merged in the far more responsible ones of the prophet—the great reformer of the people. The second promise undertook that he should be a Nazarite. Now the Nazariteship included three things—the refraining from intoxicating drinks, the letting the hair grow, and the avoiding all ceremonial defilement by corpses even of the nearest kin. Samuel was what the Talmud calls a perpetual Nazarite.
These strange restrictions and customs had an inner signification. The abstinence from wine and strong drink typified that the Nazarite determined to avoid all sensual indulgence which might cloud the mind and render the man unfit for prayer to, and work for, the Lord; the avoiding contact with the dead was a perpetual outward protest that the vower of the solemn vow renounced all moral defilement, that he gave up every thing which could stain and soil the life consecrated to the Eternal’s service; the untouched hair, which here is especially mentioned, was a public protest that the consecrated one had determined to refrain from intercourse with the world, and to devote the whole strength and fulness of life to the Lord’s work. The LXX. (Greek) Version here inserts the words, “and he shall drink neither wine nor strong drink,” wishing to bring the passage into stricter accordance with Numbers 6. The original Hebrew text, however, contents itself with specifying merely the outward sign of the untouched hair, by which these solemnly consecrated ones were publicly known.1 Samuel 1:11. But wilt give unto thy handmaid — She thrice calls herself God’s handmaid, out of a profound sense of her meanness, and his majesty. And she desires a man-child, because only such could wait upon the Lord in the service of the tabernacle, as she intended her son should do, if God bestowed one upon her. Then will I give him unto the Lord — That is, consecrate him to his service in his house. No razor shall come upon his head — He shall be a perpetual Nazarite, part of whose description this is, Numbers 6:5.Judges 11:30; Judges 21:5; 1 Samuel 14:24.) For the law of vows in the case of married women, see Numbers 30:6-16; and for the nature of the vow, see the marginal references. She vowed a vow; knowing that her husband would willingly consent to it, otherwise she had not power to do it.
If thou wilt indeed look on, to wit, favourably, so as to remove it.
The affliction, i.e. the barrenness and reproach which attends it.
Give him unto the Lord, i.e. consecrate him to God’s service in his temple, as far as in me lies; for if he had any blemish, she might not do it.
All the days of his life; not only from his twenty-fifth to his fiftieth year, as all the Levites, and so he himself, were obliged by God, Numbers 4:3 8:24, but for his whole time; which is still to be understood with a reservation of God’s right, which her now must give place to, as indeed it did; for God called him to be a prophet, and a general of the army, and a judge.
There shall no razor come upon his head, i.e. he shall be a perpetual Nazarite; for under this one rule, as the chief, all the rest are contained; as elsewhere the whole Mosaical law is understood, under the title of circumcision. Numbers 30:8 and Elkanah might make the same vow his wife did, and so it stood; for as this was a vow of Nazariteship, it is a tradition of the Jews (r), that a man may vow his son to be a Nazarite, but a woman may not; but as this instance contradicts the tradition, they endeavour to explain away this vow, as it may respect a Nazarite, as will be observed hereafter:
and said, O Lord of hosts; this is properly the first time this title was used by any that we know of; for though it is expressed in 1 Samuel 1:3 there it is used as the words of the writer of this history, and so long after this prayer was put up; See Gill on 1 Samuel 1:3; and it is an observation in the Talmud (s), that from the day God created the world, no man called him the Lord of hosts till Hannah came and called him so:
if thou wilt indeed look upon the affliction of thine handmaid the sorrow of heart she had, the reproach she met with, on account of her having no children:
and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid; which petitions are the same in other words, and are repeated to denote her vehemence and importunity in prayer, and may allude to usages among men, that will look upon a person in distress, and turn away and forget them, and never think of them more; which she deprecates may not be her case with God:
but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child; or, "a seed of men" (t); a son in the midst of men, as the Targum; such as is desirable by men, as a male child for the most part is; though some Jewish writers interpret it of the seed of righteous, wise, and understanding men, such as be fit to serve the Lord, which seems to be a sense foreign to the text; a man child she asks, because no other could serve the Lord in the temple; and that she meant by this phrase such an one is clear, because she vowed that a razor should not come on its head, which is never said of females, as Kimchi observes:
then will I give him unto the Lord all the days of his life; to serve him, and minister unto him in the sanctuary; being born a Levite, it was incumbent on him to serve the Lord, and he had a right to his service; but then a common Levite did not enter on it until twenty five or thirty years of age, and was not always serving, but was dismissed from it at fifty Numbers 8:24; but the child she vows, if the Lord would give her such an one, should be trained up in his service from his infancy, and continue it all the days of his life; and was to be also a perpetual Nazarite, as Samson was, as follows:
and there shall no razor come upon his head; as was not to come upon a Nazarite, during his Nazariteship, Numbers 6:5 and as such a vow made by a woman contradicts the tradition of the Jews before mentioned, they give another sense of this clause; as the Targum, which paraphrases it,"and the fear of man shall not be upon him;''but about this there is a division (u); but that Samuel was Nazarite, and a perpetual one, is the sense of their best interpreters.And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)11. vowed a vow] The law of vows, with special limitations in the case of married women, is given in Numbers 30.
look on the affliction of thine handmaid] The rendering of the LXX. “If thou wilt indeed regard the low estate of thine handmaiden” (ἐὰν ἐπιβλέπων ἐπιβλέψῃς ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης σου) gives the words adopted by the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:48).
I will give him) The vow is twofold, involving (1) the lifelong consecration of the child to the service of Jehovah, for as a Levite he would serve from the age of 25 or 30 to 50 only, and very possibly at this time many Levites, e.g. Elkanah himself, had no official duties: (2) the special Nazirite vow, the characteristics of which were (a) abstinence from intoxicating drinks, as an act of self-denial and a protest against sensual indulgence: (b) the free growth of the hair, symbolizing apparently the complete dedication of all the man’s powers to Jehovah: (c) the avoidance of defilement by a dead body, as a token of absolute purity of life. See Numbers 6. The vow was usually taken for a limited time only, but Samson, Samuel, and St John the Baptist were dedicated to a perpetual Nazirate from their birth.Genesis 3:19 and other passages; and the use of לאפּי as a synonym for לפני in 1 Samuel 25:23, also establishes the meaning "person," since פּנים is used in this sense in 2 Samuel 17:11. It is true that there are no other passages that can be adduced to prove that the singular אף was also used in this sense; but as the word was employed promiscuously in both singular and plural in the derivative sense of anger, there is no reason for denying that the singular may also have been employed in the sense of face (πρόσωπον). The combination of אפּים with אחת מגה in the absolute state is supported by many other examples of the same kind (see Ewald, 287, h). The meaning double has been correctly adopted in the Syriac, whereas Luther follows the tristis of the Vulgate, and renders the word traurig, or sad. But this meaning, which Fr. Bttcher has lately taken under his protection, cannot be philologically sustained either by the expression פניך נפלוּ (Genesis 4:6), or by Daniel 11:20, or in any other way. אף and אפּים do indeed signify anger, but anger and sadness are two very different ideas. But when Bttcher substitutes "angrily or unwillingly" for sadly, the incongruity strikes you at once: "he gave her a portion unwillingly, because he loved her!" For the custom of singling out a person by giving double or even large portions, see the remarks on Genesis 43:34.
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