1 Samuel 2
Benson 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.
1 Samuel 2:1. Hannah prayed — That is, praised God. Hymns of praise are frequently comprehended under the name of prayers. To utter this hymn Hannah was raised by divine inspiration, while she was engaged in devout meditation on the extraordinary goodness of God to her. My heart rejoiceth — Or, leapeth for joy; for the words signify, not only inward joy, but also the outward demonstration of it. She was influenced by the same spirit which moved St. James to say, Is any afflicted? Let him pray, as she did, 1 Samuel 1:10. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms, as she now does. In the Lord — As the author of my joy, that he hath heard my prayer, and accepted my son for his service. My horn is exalted — My strength and glory (which are often signified by a horn) are advanced, and manifested to my vindication, and the confusion of my enemies. She who was bowed down and dejected, now lifts up her head and triumphs. My mouth is enlarged, &c. — That is, opened wide to pour forth abundant praises to God, and to give a full answer to all the reproaches of my adversaries. Enemies — So she manifests her prudence and modesty in not naming Peninnah, but only her enemies in general. I rejoice in thy salvation — The matter of my joy is no trivial thing, but that strange and glorious deliverance thou hast given me from my oppressing grief and care, and from the insolent reproaches of my enemies.

There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2:2. There is none holy as the Lord — None so perfectly, unchangeably, and constantly holy. None besides — Not only none is so holy as thou art, but in truth there is none holy besides thee; namely entirely, or independently, but only by participation from thee. Any rock — Thou only art a sure defence and refuge to all that flee to thee.

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.
1 Samuel 2:3. Talk no more — Thou Peninnah, boast no more of thy numerous offspring, and speak no more insolently and scornfully of me. She speaks of her in the plural number, because she would not expose her name to censure. A God of knowledge — He knoweth thy heart, and all that pride, and envy, and contempt of me, which thy own conscience knows: and all thy perverse carriage toward me. By him actions are weighed — That is, he trieth all men’s thoughts and actions, (for the Hebrew word signifies both,) as a just judge, to give to every one according to his works.

The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.
1 Samuel 2:4. The bows of the mighty are broken — The strength of which they boasted. They that stumbled — Or, were weak and feeble. The great sense she had of God’s power, branches out itself into an humble acknowledgment of this glorious attribute, in divers instances. And, first, in vanquishing the most victorious; for bows were a principal part of warriors’ weapons, Psalm 44:6; and their girdles, being an important part of the military habit, are elegantly interpreted to signify strength and warlike prowess.

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.
1 Samuel 2:5. Have hired themselves out for bread — They that formerly lived in affluence have been so reduced as to be obliged to labour hard for daily bread. They that were hungry ceased — That is, ceased to suffer hunger, or to complain of it. This vicissitude of human affairs, especially the sudden turns which often take place, from a great height of prosperity to a very low condition, and the contrary, are very wonderful, and ought seriously to be pondered; that no man may be self-confident and proud, nor any one be dejected and desponding. So that the barren hath born seven — That is, many children. She alludes to the great change God had made in her own condition. For though she had actually born but one, yet it is probable she had a confident persuasion that she should have more, grounded either upon some particular assurance from God, or, rather, upon the prayer or prediction of Eli. She that hath many children, &c. — Those that have been fruitful grow barren when God pleaseth.

The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
1 Samuel 2:6-7. The Lord killeth and maketh alive — The power of life and death is in the hands of God; whom he pleaseth he takes out of the world, and whom he pleaseth, he preserves in it; raising men even from the brink of the grave, when they are ready to drop into it. The Lord maketh poor, &c. — Here she acknowledges the power of God, in frequently changing the conditions of men, reducing the rich to extreme poverty, and exalting the poor to great riches.

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.
1 Samuel 2:8. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, &c. — From the most mean estate and sordid place. To set them among princes — Instance Joseph, David, and Daniel. To make them inherit the throne of glory — That is, a glorious throne or kingdom; not only to possess it themselves, but to transmit it to their posterity, as the word inherit implies. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s — The foundations which God created and upholds, and wherewith he sustains the earth and all its inhabitants, as a house is supported with pillars. These words signify the reason of all that is contained in the five preceding verses. For the very earth being founded, upheld, and supported by the Lord, it is no wonder that all the inhabitants of it are in his power, so that he can dispose of them as he pleases.

He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
1 Samuel 2:9. He will keep the feet of his saints — That is, will both uphold their steps or paths, and direct their counsels and actions, that they may not fall into ruin, nor wander into those fatal errors into which wicked men daily run. The wicked shall be silent in darkness — They who used to open their mouths wide in speaking against heaven and against the saints, shall be so confounded with the unexpected disappointment of all their hopes, and with God’s glorious appearance and operations for his people, that they shall be put to silence, and have their mouths quite stopped: and this in darkness, both internal, in their own minds, not knowing what to do or say; and external, through outward troubles, distress, and calamities. For by strength shall no man prevail — Namely, against God, or against his saints, as the wicked are ready to think they shall do, because of their great power, wealth, and numbers.

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.
1 Samuel 2:10. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces — Here we have an instance of pious affections rising up, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, to the height of prophecy. Here Hannah begins to predict the deliverance of the Israelites from the hand of the Philistines, and their other enemies: and her prediction was fulfilled when, at the command of Samuel, they were gathered together, and fought with the Philistines at Mizpeh, chap. 1 Samuel 7:10. At which time, as Hannah foretels, the Lord thundered out of heaven upon them; and again when David slew Goliath, and the men of Israel and Judah routed and pursued them, (1 Samuel 17:52,) as well as on many other occasions, till at length they were finally subdued. The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth — That Isaiah , 1 st, The Philistines, who lived in the extremity of Canaan westward; and, 2d, The enemies of God’s people in the remotest parts of the earth, who shall be converted or destroyed before the consummation of all things. He shall give strength unto his king — Here she predicts they should have a king. But she is chiefly to be understood as speaking, either, 1st, of David, who was most properly God’s king, appointed and anointed at his express command, instead of Saul, whom he rejected, on account of his disobedience; or, 2d, Of Christ, David’s son, of whom David was but a type. “Who doth not perceive,” saith St. Augustine, (De Civ. Dei, lib. 17, cap. 4,) “that the spirit which animated this woman, whose name, Hannah, signifies grace, prophesied of the Christian religion, the city of God, whose king and founder is Christ? Who does not see that she speaks of the grace of God, from which the proud are estranged that they may fall, but with which the humble are filled, that they may rise.” Thus also the preceding clause, The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth, obtains a more sublime and important sense, and more exact accomplishment. David’s victories and dominions reached far, but God will give to the son of David the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. And he will give strength unto his king, for the accomplishment of his great undertaking. And, as the next words express, will exalt the horn — The power and honour, of his Anointed — Till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. It is remarkable, that this is the first time that the name Messiah (or God’s anointed) is found in the Scriptures, there being no such word in any of the preceding books. This is an additional reason why we should consider this prophecy of Hannah as looking forward to gospel days. “And when one considers,” as Dr. Dodd observes, “the terms in which this beautiful song is expressed; when one considers the perfect resemblance there is between this and that of the blessed Virgin, Luke 1:46; when one considers the allusion which the father of John the Baptist makes to the latter part of it, (Luke 1:69-70,) one cannot persuade one’s self but that Hannah had a respect to something higher than Peninnah her rival, or the triumphs even of David himself. The expressions are too magnificent and sublime to be confined to such objects. Kimchi (the Jewish rabbi) was so struck with them, that he ingenuously acknowledges, that the king, of whom Hannah speaks here, is the Messiah; of whom she speaks either by prophecy or tradition. ‘For,’ continues he, ‘there was a tradition among the Israelites, that a great king should arise in Israel; and she seals up her song with celebrating this king, who was to deliver them from all their enemies.’ In short, all the particulars of the 9th and 10th verses especially, perfectly characterize the reign of the Messiah; his protection of his saints; the vain efforts of their enemies; their triumph over them; the extent of his kingdom, and the perpetual increase of his power.”

And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest.
1 Samuel 2:11-12. The child did minister unto the Lord — As soon as he was capable, and in a way agreeable to his tender years, as in lighting the lamps, or in singing and playing on instruments of music. Before Eli the priest — That is, under the inspection and by the direction of Eli. The sons of Eli were sons of Belial — Very wicked men, Deuteronomy 13:13; being ungodly, profane, covetous, and guilty of violence and filthy lusts. They knew not the Lord — They had no experimental and practical knowledge of his justice or mercy, of his holiness or grace, of his power, or love, or faithfulness; no saving acquaintance with his divine perfections, or with the relations in which he stands to his people; they neither honoured, loved, nor served him.

Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
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;
1 Samuel 2:13. When any man offered sacrifice — Brought his peace-offerings to be offered at the altar. While the flesh was in seething — Or boiling. As the Lord’s part of the peace-offerings was burned upon the altar, so the priests’ and offerers’ parts were to be boiled. And when the temple was built, there were certain rooms in the court of the people, wherein they had liberty to boil the flesh, in order that they might feast with God at his own house. And the like rooms, no doubt, there were in the outward court of the tabernacle.

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.
1 Samuel 2:14-15. All that the flesh-hook brought up, &c. — This was a new custom, which they had profanely introduced. For, not content with the breast and right shoulder, allowed them by God, they took also part of the offerers’ share; besides which, they snatched their part before it was heaved and waved, contrary to Leviticus 7:34. Also before they burnt the fat — Which entirely belonged to God with the other parts that were to be burned with it. The priest’s servant came, &c. — This was a high and profane contempt of God, and an additional injury; for they took such parts as they liked best while it was raw, and before that which belonged to God had been offered to him.

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.
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.
1 Samuel 2:16-17. Nay, but thou shalt give it me now, &c. — This was the very height of haughty impiety. That such submissive language did not prevail with them to have so much respect for God, as to permit his portion to be presented to him in the first place, especially as they offered to the priest more than his share afterward, manifested excessive profaneness and contempt of things sacred. To what pitch of wickedness may not a man arrive who has shaken off the fear of God, and all sense of his presence and power! Men abhorred the offering of the Lord — Nothing brings religion so much into contempt with the people as the open profaneness of those that are ministers of it. The validity, however, and efficacy of God’s ordinances, do not depend altogether on the piety of those that minister in them. So that it was a sin in the people to neglect divine institutions because of the wickedness of the priests. But it was a still much greater sin in the priests to give them occasion so to do.

Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.
1 Samuel 2:18. But Samuel ministered before the Lord — Though he was very young, yet he carefully and faithfully performed such offices in God’s tabernacle as he was capable of discharging, and did not follow the bad example of others. Girded with a linen ephod — A garment used in God’s service, and allowed, not only to the inferior priests and Levites, but also to eminent persons of the people, and therefore to Samuel, who, though not a priest, was both a Levite and a Nazarite from his birth.

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.
1 Samuel 2:19. His mother made him a little coat — The ephod, being used only in the service of God, was no doubt provided at the public expense. But for his ordinary wearing apparel Hannah took care to provide, that she might still express her piety in contributing to his maintenance at the house of God.

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.
1 Samuel 2:20-21. Eli blessed Elkanah, &c. — This benediction given in his character of high-priest, and that by a divine suggestion, was followed by the desired effect, and verified what Hannah had uttered in her prophetical song. The Lord visited Hannah — None are losers by what they dedicate to the Lord, or employ in such a manner as is pleasing in his sight. The child Samuel grew — Not only in age and stature, but especially in wisdom and goodness. Before the Lord — Not only before men, who might easily be deceived, but in the presence and judgment of the all-seeing God. This will generally be the case with those children whose parents dedicate them early to the Lord, and endeavour to instil into their minds the true and genuine principles of piety and virtue.

And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.
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.
1 Samuel 2:22. Now Eli was very old — And therefore unfit either to manage his office himself, or to make a diligent inspection into the carriage of his sons, which gave them opportunity for their wickedness. All that his sons did to Israel — Whom they injured in their offerings, and alienated from the service of God. At the door of the tabernacle — The place where all the people, both men and women, waited when they came up to the service of God, because the altar on which their sacrifices were offered was by the door.

And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.
1 Samuel 2:23-24. And he said, Why do ye do such things? — He reproved them, but far too gently, as these and the following words manifest. This might proceed partly from the coldness of old age, but it arose chiefly from his too great indulgence to his children. I hear of your evil dealings by all this people — Their wickedness was so notorious that there was a general complaint of it, which should have moved him to much greater severity than merely to reprove and chide them. He ought to have restrained them, and if he could not otherwise have done it, to have inflicted those punishments upon them which such high crimes deserved, according to God’s law, and which he, as high-priest and judge, was in duty bound to inflict without respect of persons. Nay, my sons, for it is no good report that I hear — This is the language of a father, not of a zealous judge. Ye make the Lord’s people to transgress — By causing them to neglect and despise the service of God, and tempting them to lewdness.

Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the LORD'S people to transgress.
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.
1 Samuel 2:25. If one man sin against another, &c. — If only man be wronged, man can set the matter right, and reconcile the persons. If a man sin against the Lord — As you have done, wilfully and presumptuously; who shall entreat for him? — The offence is of so high a nature that few or none will dare to intercede for him, but will leave him to the just judgment of God. The words may be rendered, Who shall judge for him? Who shall interpose as umpire between God and him? Who shall compound that difference? None can or dare do it. And therefore he must be left to the dreadful but righteous displeasure of God. Eli reasoned well; but reasoning was not sufficient, nor any reproof he could have given in this case. It demanded a more serious interference; and he ought not to have referred their punishment unto God, when it was in his power to have punished them himself. They hearkened not, &c., because the Lord would slay them — Or, as the Hebrew may be rendered, Therefore the Lord would slay them. The sense, however, according to the common translation, is Scriptural and good. They had disregarded many admonitions, which, no doubt, their father had given them; they had now hardened their hearts, and sinned away their day of grace, and therefore God had given them up to a reprobate mind, and determined to destroy them, 2 Chronicles 25:16.

And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men.
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?
1 Samuel 2:27-28. There came a man of God unto Eli — That is, a prophet, sent from God to deliver the following message to him: Did I plainly appear — Hebrew, Manifestly reveal myself unto the spouse of thy father — Unto Aaron, who was the head of the family of the priests. It is the way of the prophets, when they call men to repentance for their sins, to show them the aggravations of these sins, by enumerating God’s many and great mercies to them. See Isaiah 1:2, &c.; Micah 6:3-5. All the offerings made by fire — There were none of the sacrifices offered at the altar of which the priest had not some share: see Numbers 18:8-10. For even of the burnt-offerings, which were wholly consumed on the altar, the skin was, by an express law, given to the priest, Leviticus 7:8.

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?
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?
1 Samuel 2:29. Wherefore kick ye, &c. — Using my sacrifices irreverently and profanely; both by abusing them to your own luxury, and by causing the people to abhor them. He chargeth Eli with his sons’ faults. Honourest thy sons — Permitting them to dishonour and injure me, by taking my part to themselves; choosing rather to offend me by thy connivance at their sin, than to displease them by severe rebukes and just punishments. To make yourselves fat — To pamper yourselves. This you did, not out of necessity, but out of mere luxury. Chiefest — Not contented with those parts which I had allotted you, you invaded those which I reserved for myself.

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.
1 Samuel 2:30. I said — Where, or when did God say this? To Eli himself, or to his father, when the priesthood was translated from Eleazar’s to Ithamar’s family. Should walk before me — That is, minister unto me as high-priest. Walking is often put for discharging one’s office; before me, may signify that he was the high-priest, whose sole prerogative it was to minister before God, or before the ark, in the most holy place. For ever — As long as the Mosaical law and worship lasts. Be it far from me — To fulfil my promise, which I hereby retract.

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.
1 Samuel 2:31. I will cut off thine arm — I will take away thy strength, or all that in which thou placest thy confidence. This threatening was fulfilled, when the ark, which is called God’s strength, (Psalm 78:61,) and was Eli’s strength, was delivered into the hands of the Philistines; and more especially when God took away all power and authority from him and his family, both as he was a priest and as he was a judge. Or, thine arm, may mean thy children, to whom the words following seem to confine the expression. Of thy father’s house — That is, thy children’s children, and all thy family; which was in a great measure accomplished, 1 Samuel 22:16.

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.
1 Samuel 2:32. Thou shalt see an enemy, &c. — The words may be rendered, as in the margin, and seem evidently to mean, Thou shalt see, in thy own person, the affliction or calamity of my habitation; that is, either of the land of Israel, wherein I dwell; or of the sanctuary, called God’s habitation by way of eminence, whose greatest glory the ark was, (1 Samuel 4:21-22,) and consequently whose greatest calamity the loss of the ark was; for, or instead of, all that good wherewith God could have blessed Israel, having raised up a young prophet, Samuel, and thereby given good grounds of hope that he intended to bless Israel, if thou and thy sons had not hindered it by your sins. So this clause of threatening concerns Eli’s person, as the following concerns his posterity. And this best agrees with the most proper signification of that phrase, Thou shalt see.

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.
1 Samuel 2:33. The man of thine — That is, of thy posterity. Shall be to grieve thy heart — Shall be so forlorn and miserable, that if thou wast alive to see it, it would grieve thee at the heart, and thou wouldst consume thine eyes with weeping for their calamities. The increase of thy house — That is, thy children. Flower of their age — About the thirtieth year of their age, when they were to be admitted to the full administration of their office.

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 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.
1 Samuel 2:35. I will raise me up a faithful priest — Of another line, as is necessarily implied by the total removal of that office from Eli’s line. The person designed is Zadok, one eminent for his faithfulness to God, and to the king, who, when Abiathar, the last of Eli’s line, was deposed by Solomon, was made high-priest in his stead. Build a sure house — That is, give him a numerous posterity, and confirm unto him and his children that sure covenant of an everlasting priesthood made to Phinehas, of Eleazar’s line, Numbers 25:13, and interrupted for a little while by Eli, of the line of Ithamar. The high-priesthood continued in his line till the captivity of Babylon, as appears from Ezekiel 40:16; and a long time after it, as Josephus shows, lib. 4. cap. 4. He shall walk before mine Anointed — That is, Zadok and his descendants shall perform the office of high-priest before that king whom God shall anoint, and before his successors. The high- priest is said to walk before God’s anointed, chiefly because he wore the breast-plate of judgment, which he was to consult, not in common cases, but for the king, in the affairs of state. For ever — A learned writer justly observes, that though this, according to the history, was intended of, and may properly be applied to Zadok, yet in the highest sense it belongs to none but our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered himself to the Father for us, and is our great High-Priest for ever; who in all things did his Father’s will, and for whom God will build a sure house, build it on a rock, so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. For he is the main scope and design not only of the New but of the Old Testament, which, in all types and ceremonies, represented him; and the high-priest especially was an eminent type of him, represented by his person, acted in his name and stead, and did mediately what John the Baptist did immediately, namely, go before the face of the Lord Christ; and when Christ came, that officer and the office he sustained were to cease.

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.
1 Samuel 2:36. Every one that is left in thy house — That remains of thy family, not being cut off; shall crouch to him for a piece of silver, &c. — Shall humble himself to Zadok, or the high-priests of his line, begging a small relief in the great poverty to which he shall be reduced. Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, &c. — Or, Put me into somewhat belonging to the priesthood, as it is in the Hebrew; that is, Give me the meanest pension that is allowed to those priests who are prohibited from officiating, or some part, of what belongs to the priests. See 2 Kings 23:9; Ezekiel 44:13. This was fulfilled in the days of Abiathar, who, for treason, was not only put out of his office, but sent to live upon his own farm in the country; and not suffered to enjoy the portion given to the priests at the temple, 1 Kings 2:26-27. Through this, his posterity fell into extreme want, in which the just judgment of God may be observed, in that the children of those who were so wanton, that they would not be content unless they had the choicest parts of the sacrifices for their portion, should fall into so low a condition as to beg their bread!

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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