1 Samuel 1:3
And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Went up out of his city yearly.—The He brew expression rendered yearly, is found in Exodus 13:10, and there refers to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover. There is little doubt but that this great national festival is here referred to. It was the Passover that the whole family were accustomed to keep at the sanctuary of the Eternal. The writer places in strong contrast the piety and devotion which evidently still existed in the family life of many in Israel with the fearful disorders and crime which disfigured the priestly life in those days. There were not a few, doubtless, in Israel who, like Elkanah and his house, honoured the name of the Lord, while the recognised rulers and religious guides of the people, like the sons of Eli the high priest, too often lived in open and notorious sin.

Unto the Lord of hosts.—This is the first time in the Old Testament Book that we find the well-known appellation of the Eternal “Jehovah Sabaoth,” Lord of hosts.

It is computed that this title of God occurs 260 times in the Old Testament, but it is not found in any of the books written or compiled before this time. In the New Testament it is only once used (see James 5:4).

The glorious title, with which Isaiah, who uses it some sixty times, and Jeremiah some eighty times, have especially made us familiar, represented Jehovah, the Eternal One, as ruler over the heavenly hosts: that is, over the angels and the stars; the stars being conceived to be the dwelling-places of these deathless beings.

The idea of their invisible God-Friend being the sovereign Master of a host of those innumerable glorious beings usually known as angels, or messengers, was no strange one to Hebrew thought. For instance, already in the story of Jacob we find the patriarch calling the angels who appeared to him the “camp of God”(Genesis 32:1-2).

In the blessing of Moses in the magnificent description of the giving of the law on Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2), we read of “ten thousands of saints” (Kodesh). The glorious Angel who allowed Joshua to worship him under the towers of Jericho (Joshua 5:14) speaks of himself as “captain or prince of the host of the Lord.” It is especially noteworthy that here in these Books of Samuel, which tell of the establishment of an earthly sovereignty over the tribes, this stately title of the real King in Israel, which afterwards became so general, first appears. It was the solemn protest of Samuel and his school against any eclipsing of the mighty but invisible sovereignty of the Eternal by the passing splendours and the outward pomp of an earthly monarchy set up over the people.

It told also the strange and the alien peoples that the God who loved Israel was, too, the star ruler, the Lord of the whole universe, visible and invisible.

In Shiloh.—That is, rest. This sacred city was situated in Ephraim. It became the sanctuary of Israel in the time of Joshua, who pitched the tent of the Tabernacle there. Shiloh, as the permanent seat of the Ark and the Tabernacle, was the religious centre of Israel during the whole period of the judges. On rare occasions the sacred tent, and all or part of the holy furniture, seems to have been temporarily moved to such places as Mizpah and Bethel, but its regular home was Shiloh. At the time of the birth of Samuel, and during his younger days, the high priest resided there, and the religious families of the people were in the habit of making an annual pilgrimage to this, the central sanctuary of the worship of Jehovah.

The priests of the Lord.—The mention of these two priests of the Lord by no means suggests that the ritual of the Tabernacle had become so meagre and deficient as only to require the services of two or three ministers: indeed, the contrary is signified by the description of one portion only of the ceremonies given in the next chapter. These two, Hophni and Phinehas, are here alluded to specially by name. First, on account of their rank and connection with the high priest Eli, to whose high dignity one of the brothers would probably succeed. Secondly, because these unhappy men figured in one of the great historical disasters of the people. Thirdly, the writer, out of many servants of the sanctuary, chose two prominent figures to illustrate the terrible state of corruption into which the priesthood had fallen. Bishop Wordsworth here draws a curious but suggestive lesson. “Although Hophni and Phinehas were among the priests, yet Elkanah and Hannah did not separate themselves from the service of the sanctuary when they ministered—a lesson against schism.”

1 Samuel 1:3. To worship in Shiloh — Where the tabernacle now was, and where all sacrifices were to be offered. Hither all the males were bound to resort at the three great annual feasts, (Deuteronomy 16:16,) and not to appear before the Lord empty. Accordingly Elkanah not only worshipped God with prayers and thanksgivings, but offered such sacrifices as were suitable to the festival. Not that he sacrificed in his own person, which the Levites were not permitted to do, but by the priests. Hophni and Phinehas were there — Or, were the priests of the Lord there, under their father Eli, who is generally conceived to have been the high-priest, but being very old and infirm, his sons ministered in his stead. This is the first time in Scripture that God is called the Lord of hosts or armies. Probably Samuel was the first who used this title of God, for the comfort of Israel, at the time when their armies were few and feeble, and those of their enemies many and mighty. 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.It is likely that during the unsettled times of the Judges Jdg 21:25 the attendance of Israelites at the three Festivals Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16 fell into desuetude or great irregularity, and this one feast (see the marginal reference), which may have coincided with the Feast of Pentecost or tabernacles, may have been substituted for them.

The Lord of Hosts - This title of Yahweh which, with some variations, is found upward of 260 times in the Old Testament, occurs here for the first time. The meaning of the word "hosts" is doubtless the same as that of "army" Daniel 4:35 and includes all the myriads of holy Angels who people the celestial spheres 1 Kings 22:19. It is probably with reference to the idolatrous worship of the Host of heaven that the title the "Lord of Hosts" was given to the true God, as asserting His universal supremacy (see Nehemiah 9:6). In the New Testament the phrase only occurs once James 5:4.

And the two sons ... - It should be, "and there the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the Lord," i. e. performed the functions of priests, in the old age of Eli 1 Samuel 4:18, who is represented 1 Samuel 1:9 as sitting on a seat in the temple. The reading of the Greek Version "Eli was there, and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, priests of the Lord," is quite unnecessary, and indeed destroys the sense. The information here given concerning the sons of Eli is followed up in 1 Samuel 2:12 ff.

3. this man went up out of his city yearly to worship in Shiloh—In that place was the "earth's one sanctuary," and thither he repaired at the three solemn feasts, accompanied by his family at one of them—probably the passover. Although a Levite, he could not personally offer a sacrifice—that was exclusively the office of the priests; and his piety in maintaining a regular attendance on the divine ordinances is the more worthy of notice because the character of the two priests who administered them was notoriously bad. But doubtless he believed, and acted on the belief, that the ordinances were "effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in those who administered them, but from the grace of God being communicated through them." Yearly, to wit, at one of the solemn feasts, which probably was the passover, when he not only went up himself, but carried his wife and children with him. Compare 1 Samuel 1:7. Or, at the appointed days or times; Heb. from days to days; or, from time to time, i.e. at the three solemn feasts, when he, together with all other males, were obliged to go to worship God in the place appointed; and at other times, when he as a Levite was to go thither in his course.

To sacrifice; not in his own person, which the Levites could not do, but by the priests; in which sense David, and Solomon, and Absalom are said to offer sacrifices, 2 Samuel 15:8 1 Kings 8:63 1 Chronicles 21:26. In Shiloh; where the tabernacle had long been, and now was. See Joshua 18:1 Judges 18:31 21:19.

The priests of the Lord were there, or, were the priests of the Lord there, to wit, under their father Eli, who is generally conceived to have been the high priest, but being very old and infirm, 1 Samuel 4:15, and unfit for service, his sons ministered in his stead, being as it were second priests. See 2 Kings 25:18. And this clause seems to be added, to show that this good man did not run into that vulgar error, of neglecting his duty of offering to God for the wickedness of the priests; of which see 1 Samuel 2:17,24. This man went up out of his city yearly,.... From year to year; or, as the Targum, from the time of the solemn appointed feast to the solemn appointed feast, from one to another; there were three of them in the year, at which all the males in Israel were to appear at the tabernacle; and being a Levite, this man was the more careful to observe this rule. He is said to "go up" out of his city, which was Ramathaim or Ramah; for though it was built on an eminence, from whence it had its name, yet Shiloh, whither he went, was higher; that being, as Adrichomius says (a), on the highest mountain of all round about Jerusalem, and the highest of all the mountains of the holy land. So that as he first went down the hill from Ramah, he went up an high ascent to Shiloh, which is the place he went up to as follows:

to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh; where the tabernacle was, the place of worship, and the altar of burnt offerings, on which sacrifices were offered. This place, according to Bunting (b), was twelve miles from Ramah, though others say it was not more than seven miles from it; hither he went to worship, or bow before the Lord; to pray unto him, as it is commonly interpreted; and being put before sacrifice, is said to be preferable to that, and more acceptable to God, and more eligible to be done in the tabernacle or temple than at home; see Luke 18:10 and though he is said to go up to sacrifice, it is not to be understood of his performing it himself, but by others, by the priest; for he himself was a Levite and could not offer sacrifices. This is the first time that mention is made of this title of Jehovah, Lord of hosts, of all the hosts and armies in heaven and in earth, the Lord of Sabaoth, as in James 5:4 from an "host", or army; and from hence the Heathens called some of their deities by the name of Sabazius, as Jupiter Sabazius (c); and the Phrygians and Thracians used to call Bacchus Sabazius, and other Grecians following them did the same (d):

and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas the priests of the Lord, were there; Eli was the next judge of Israel after Samson, and who also was the high priest, as is generally supposed; but when and how the high priesthood came into his family is nowhere said, who was a descendant of Ithamar, the younger son of Aaron, in whose line it continued to the time of Solomon; and Josephus (e) places three between Phinehas and Eli, who were all of the line of Eleazar, whom he calls Abiezer, Bouci, and Ozis; but their Scripture names are Abishua, Bukki, and Uzzi, 1 Chronicles 6:50. And according to him, after Uzzi came Eli to be high priest, and therefore must be the first of the line of Ithamar that was in that office. His two sons are mentioned as officiating as priests in Shiloh, at the time Elkanah used to go yearly thither to worship and sacrifice; who were very wicked men, as appears by an after account of them; and it is generally thought that this is observed here, to show that the wickedness of these priests did not hinder this good man from doing his duty; nor did he make use of it as an excuse for not attending the worship of the sanctuary.

(a) Theatrum Terrae Sanct. p. 30. So Sandys's Travels, l. 3. p. 157. (b) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 122. (c) Valer. Maxim. l. 1. c. 3. Vid. D. Herbert de Cherbury de Relig. Gent. c. 3. p. 22. (d) Diodor. Sicul. Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 212. Harpocration in voce Lucian. Concil. deor. sect. 4. Cicero de legibus. l. 2. Aristophan vespae, v. 9, 10. Aves, 582. & Scholia in ib. Lysistrate, p. 860. & Scholia in ib. (e) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 11. sect. 5.

And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in {b} Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.

(b) For the ark was there at that time.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. yearly] The Law required every male to present himself “before Jehovah” at the central sanctuary of the nation at each of the three great Feasts (Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16), but there is no evidence that this command was ever strictly observed, and Elkanah’s practice was probably that of a pious Israelite of the time. “All his household” (1 Samuel 1:21) went with him, in obedience to the injunctions of Deuteronomy 12:10-12. To which of the Feasts he went up must remain a matter of conjecture. Our Lord’s parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41).

the Lord of hosts] See Note I. p. 235, for a discussion of the meaning of this title.

in Shiloh] The position of Shiloh is defined with remarkable exactness in Jdg 21:19. It was in Ephraim, “on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.” This agrees perfectly with the situation of the modern Seilûn, which is about ten miles north of Bethel, and east of the main road. It is thus described by Lieut. Conder (Tent Work in Palestine, I. 82): “The ruins of a modern village occupy a sort of tell or mound. On the east and north the site is shut in by bare and lofty hills of grey limestone, dotted over with a few fig trees; on the south the plateau looks down on the plain just crossed. A deep valley runs behind the town on the north. Below the top of the hill there is a sort of irregular quadrangle. The rock has here been rudely hewn in two parallel scarps for over 400 feet, with a court between, 77 feet wide, and sunk 5 feet below the outer surface. Thus there would be sufficient room for the court of the Tabernacle in this area.”

Here in the territory of the most powerful tribe, in the heart of the promised land, the whole congregation of Israel met and set up the Tabernacle of the congregation, the last relic of their wanderings in the desert (Joshua 18:1). The name is appropriate. Shiloh signifies “Rest.” Shiloh continued (with temporary exceptions, see e.g. Jdg 20:27) to be the religious centre of the nation, “the place which Jehovah had chosen to put his name there,” until after the loss of the Ark in the disastrous battle of Ebenezer. Possibly it was destroyed or occupied by the Philistines: at any rate it ceased to be the national sanctuary. Samuel sacrificed at Mizpeh, at Ramah, at Gilgal, never, so far as we read, at Shiloh. The tabernacle was removed to Nob (1 Samuel 21), and the once holy place was utterly desecrated. Jeremiah points to its desolation as the standing witness of God’s judgments. “Go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel” (Jeremiah 7:12).

And the two sons] Better, And Eli’s two sons Hophni and Phinehas were there priests to Jehovah. They are mentioned rather than their father because in his old age he had resigned the active duties of his office to them. The name Hophni occurs nowhere else in the O. T.: for Phinehas it was reserved to sully the honour of one of the most illustrious names in Israel, borne by him whose bold act of judgment “was counted unto him for righteousness” (Psalm 106:30-31).Verse 3. - This man went up out of his city yearly. Once in the year Elkanah went up to offer sacrifice before the ark. The original command had required this thrice a year of all Israelites; but though a Levite and a religious man, Elkanah went up but once; and such apparently was the rule in our Lord's time (Luke 2:41), the season preferred being naturally the passover, while the other feasts gave opportunities for the performance of this duty to those unable to leave their homes at so early a period of the year. The ark was now at Shiloh, a town in Ephraim, about ten miles south of Shechem; for Joshua had removed it from Gilgal (Joshua 18:1), not merely because Shiloh occupied a more central position, but as marking the primary rank of his own tribe (1 Chronicles 5:1, 2). Its destruction by the Philistines after the capture of the ark (1 Samuel 5:1) was so complete, and attended apparently by such barbarous cruelties (Psalm 78:60-64), that it never recovered its importance, and Jeroboam passed it by when seeking for places where to set up his calves. To sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts. This title of the Deity, "LORD (in capitals, i.e. Jehovah) of Hosts," is a remarkable one. Fully it would be "Jehovah God of Hosts," and the omission of the word God shows that the phrase was one of long standing shortened down by constant use. And yet, though found 260 times in the Bible, this is the first place where it occurs. "Lord of Hosts" (Lord not in capitals, and meaning master ruler) occurs only once, in Isaiah 10:16. "God of Hosts," Elohim-Sabaoth, though rare, occurs four times in Psalm 80:4, 7, 14, 19. The word Sabaoth, hosts, does not mean armies, inasmuch as it refers to numbers, and not to order and arrangement.. It is usually employed of the heavenly bodies (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3), which seem countless in multitude as they are spread over the vast expanse of an Oriental sky (Genesis 15:5); and as their worship was one of the oldest and most natural forms of idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:19; Job 31:26-28), so this title is a protest against it, and claims for the one God dominion over the world of stars as well as in this lower sphere. Its origin then is to be sought at some time when there was a struggle between the worship of the sun and stars and the pure monotheism of the Hebrews. Occasionally the angels are called "the host of heaven" (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 103:21; Psalm 148:2), whenever the allusion is to their number, but when the idea is that of orderly arrangement they are called God's armies (Genesis 32:2). The two sons of Eli... were there. The right translation of the Hebrew is, "And there (at Shiloh) the two sons of Eli... were priests." Eli apparently had devolved upon his sons his priestly functions, while he discharged the duties only of a judge. His position is remarkable. In the Book of Judges we find a state of anarchy. The people are rude, untutored, doing much as they pleased, committing often atrocious crimes, yet withal full of generous impulses, brave, and even heroic. There is little regular government among them, but whenever a great man stands forth, the people in his district submit themselves to him. The last judge, Samson, a man of pungent wit and vast personal prowess, seems to have been entirely destitute of all those qualities which make a man fit to be a ruler, but he kept the patriotism of the people alive and nerved them to resistance by the fame of his exploits. In Eli we find a ruler possessed of statesmanlike qualities. The country under him is prosperous; the Philistines, no longer dominant as in Samson's time, have so felt his power that when they gain a victory the Israelites are astonished at it (1 Samuel 4:3). Moreover, he is not only judge, he is also high priest; but instead of belonging to the family of Phinehas, the dominant house in the time of the Judges, he belongs to that of Ithamar. When, to solve the problem, we turn to the genealogies in the Chronicles, we find Eli's house omitted, though, even after the massacres at Shiloh and Nob, his grandson Ahimelech was still powerful (1 Chronicles 24:3), and one of his descendants returned from Babylon as jointly high priest with a descendant of Phinehas (Ezra 8:2). How long a space of time elapsed between the rude heroism of Samson's days and Eli's orderly government in Church and State we do not know, but the difference in the condition of things is vast. Igor do we know the steps by which Eli rose to power, but he must have been a man of no common ability. Warrior as well as statesman, he had delivered the people from the danger of becoming enslaved to the Philistines. In his own family alone he failed. His sons, allowed to riot in licentiousness, ruined the stately edifice of the father's fortunes, and the Philistines, taking advantage of the general discontent caused by their vices, succeeded in once again putting the yoke on Israel's neck. "These are the generations of Perez," i.e., the families descended from Perez in their genealogical order (toledoth: see at Genesis 2:4). The genealogy only goes back as far as Perez, because he was the founder of the family of Judah which was named after him (Numbers 26:20), and to which Elimelech and Boaz belonged. Perez, a son of Judah by Tamar (Genesis 38:29), begat Hezrom, who is mentioned in Genesis 46:12 among the sons of Judah who emigrated with Jacob into Egypt, although (as we have shown in our comm. on the passage) he was really born in Egypt. Of this son Ram (called Aram in the Sept. Cod. Al., and from that in Matthew 1:3) nothing further is known, as he is only mentioned again in 1 Chronicles 2:9. His son Amminidab was the father-in-law of Aaron, who had married his daughter (Exodus 6:23), and the father of Nahesson (Nahshon), the tribe-prince of the house of Judah in the time of Moses (Numbers 1:7; Numbers 2:3; Numbers 7:12). According to this there are only four or five generations to the 430 years spent by the Israelites in Egypt, if we include both Perez and Nahesson; evidently not enough for so long a time, so that some of the intermediate links must have been left out even here. But the omission of unimportant members becomes still more apparent in the statement which follows, viz., that Nahshon begat Salmah, and Salmah Boaz, in which only two generations are given for a space of more than 250 years, which intervened between the death of Moses and the time of Gideon. Salmah (שׂלמה or שׂלמא, 1 Chronicles 2:11) is called Salmon in Ruth 4:21; a double form of the name, which is to be explained form the fact that Salmah grew out of Salmon through the elision of the n, and that the terminations an and on are used promiscuously, as we may see from the form שׁריה in Job 41:18 when compared with שׁרין in 1 Kings 22:34, and שׁריון in 1 Samuel 17:5, 1 Samuel 17:38 (see Ewald, 163-4). According to the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1:5, Salmon married Rahab; consequently he was a son, or at any rate a grandson, of Nahshon, and therefore all the members between Salmon and Boaz have been passed over. Again, the generations from Boaz to David (Ruth 4:21, Ruth 4:22) may possibly be complete, although in all probability one generation has been passed over even here between Obed and Jesse. It is also worthy of notice that the whole chain from Perez to David consists of ten links, five of which (from Perez to Nahshon) belong to the 430 years of the sojourn in Egypt, and five (from Salmon to David) to the 476 years between the exodus from Egypt and the death of David. This symmetrical division is apparently as intentional as the limitation of the whole genealogy to ten members, for the purpose of stamping upon it through the number ten as the seal of completeness the character of a perfect, concluded, and symmetrical whole.

The genealogy closes with David, an evident proof that the book was intended to give a family picture form the life of the pious ancestors of this great and godly king of Israel. But for us the history which points to David acquires a still higher signification, from the fact that all the members of the genealogy of David whose names occur here are also found in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. "The passage is given by Matthew word for word in the genealogy of Christ, that we may see that this history looks not so much to David as to Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed by all as the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that we may learn with what wonderful compassion the Lord raises up the lowly and despised to the greatest glory and majesty" (Brentius).

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