1 Samuel 2:11
Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy began ministering to the LORD before Eli the priest.
Samuel's Childhood And. GrowthB. Dale 1 Samuel 2:11
The Child ProphetAlexander Maclaren1 Samuel 2:11
1 Samuel 2:11. (SHILOH.)
And the child did minister unto the Lord before Eli the priest. "And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men" (ver. 26). (1 Samuel 1:24; 1 Samuel 2:18, 19, 21; 1 Samuel 3:1.) "Great is the reverence due to children." It is said of an eccentric schoolmaster in Germany, who lived about 300 years ago, John Trebonius, that he never appeared before his boys without taking off his hat and bowing very humbly before them. "Who can tell," said he, "what may not rise up amid these youths? There may be among them those who shall be learned doctors, sage legislators, nay, princes of the empire." Even then there was among them "the solitary monk that shook the world." But a much greater than Luther (with whom he has been compared - Ewald) was the little Nazarite, who with unshorn locks ministered in the tabernacle at Shiloh; and at a very early age he gave signs of his future eminence. "Even a child is known by his doings" (Proverbs 20:11). "The child is father to the man." But what he will be depends greatly on his early training; for "the new vessel takes a lasting tincture from the liquor which is first poured in" (Horace); "the soft clay is easily fashioned into what form you please" (Persius); and "the young plant may be bent with a gentle hand, and the characters engraved on the tender bark grow deeper with the advancing tree" (Quinctilian). Consider -

I. HIS EDUCATION, or the influences to which he was subject, consisting of -

1. Impressions under the parental roof. He did not leave his home at an age too early to prevent his receiving deep and permanent impressions from the example, prayers, and instructions of his parents. His destination would be explained to him by his mother, and made attractive and desirable; so that when the time came for the fulfilment of her vow he might readily make it his own. The memory of those early days must have been always pleasant to him; and the sacred bond of filial affection would be renewed and strengthened by the annual visit of his parents, and by the yearly present which his mother brought to him (ver. 19). The making of the "little coat" was a work of love, and served to keep her absent boy in mind, whilst the possession of it was to him a constant memorial of her pure affection. The first impressions which he thus received were a powerful means of preserving him from evil, and inciting him to good. "Every first thing continues forever with the child; the first colour, the first music, the first flower paint the foreground of life; every new educator affects less than its predecessor, until at last, if we regard all life as an educational institution, the circumnavigator of the world is less influenced by all nations he has seen than by his nurse" (Locke).

2. Association with holy things. Everything in the tabernacle was to his childish view beautiful and repressive, and overshadowed by the mysterious presence of the Lord of hosts. "Heaven lies about us in our infancy." And the veil which separates the invisible from the visible is then very attenuated. When he afterwards saw how much beneath the outward form was hollow and corrupt, he was strong enough to endure the shock, and distinguished between "the precious and the vile." Association with sacred things either makes men better than others, or else very much worse.

3. Occupation in lowly services. Even when very young he could perform many little services in such a place as the tabernacle, and in personal attendance on Eli, who was very old and partially blind. A part of his occupation we know was to open the doors (1 Samuel 3:15). By means of such things he was trained for a higher ministry.

4. Instruction in sacred truth, given by his kind hearted guardian in explanation of the various objects and services in the tabernacle, and, still more, gained by the perusal of the religious records stored up therein (1 Samuel 10:25).

5. Familiarity with public life. "There at the centre of government, he must early have become conversant with the weightiest concerns of the people."

6. Observation of the odious practices of many, especially Hophni and Phinehas. For this also must be mentioned among the influences that went to form his character. It as impossible to keep a child altogether from the sight of vice. External safeguards are no protection without internal purity. On the other hand, outward circumstances which are naturally perilous have often no effect on internal purity, except to make it more decided and robust. "The jarring contrast which he had before his eyes in the evil example of Eli's children could but force more strongly upon his mind the conviction of the great necessity of the age, and impel to still more unflinching rigour to act up to this conviction" (Ewald). But this could only take place by -

7. The power of Divine grace, which is the greatest and only effectual teacher (Titus 2:11, 12). The atmosphere of prayer which he breathed from earliest life was the atmosphere of grace. The Holy Spirit rested upon him in an eminent degree, and he grew up under his influence, "like a tree planted by the rivers of water," gradually and surely to perfection.

II. HIS CHARACTER, or the dispositions which he developed under these influences. He "grew on" not only physically and intellectually, but also morally and spiritually, manifesting the dispositions which properly belong to a child, and make him a pattern to men (Matthew 18:3).

1. Humble submission.

2. Great docility, or readiness to learn what he was taught.

3. Ready obedience to what he was told to do. How promptly did he respond to the voice of Eli, who, as he thought, called him from his slumber (1 Samuel 3:5). The watchword of childhood and youth should be "Obey." And it is only those that learn to obey who will be fit to command.

4. Profound reverence. For "he ministered before the Lord," as if under his eye, and with a growing sense of his presence. "He was to receive his training at the sanctuary, that at the very earliest waking up of his spiritual susceptibilities he might receive the impression of the sacred presence of God" (Keil).

5. Transparent truthfulness and guilelessness.

6. Purity and self-control (1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:22).

7. Sincere devotion to the purpose of his dedication to the Lord. In this manner he gradually grew into the possession of a holy character, and needed not, like many others, any sudden or conscious "conversion" from the ways of sin to the ways of God. Like John the Baptist, "he grew and waxed strong in spirit" (Luke 1:80); and his childhood is described in the very words employed to describe the childhood of our Lord:. "And Jesus increased in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:40, 51, 52).

III. HIS ACCEPTANCE, or the favour he obtained (Proverbs 3:4).

1. With God, who looked down upon him with delight, beholding in him the effect of his grace, and a reflection of his light and love. For "the Lord taketh pleasure in his people" (Psalm 149:4).

2. With men. The gratification which Eli felt in his presence and service appears in the benediction he uttered on his parents when they visited the tabernacle, and in accordance with which they were compensated with three sons and two daughters for "the gift which they gave unto the Lord" (1 Samuel 2:20, 21). Even Hophni and Phinehas must have regarded the young Nazarite with respect. And the people who brought their offerings to the tabernacle looked upon him with admiration and hope. So he was prepared for the work that lay before him. - D.

And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord.
Modern criticism has decided, to its own satisfaction, that the noble hymn here attributed to Hannah, cannot possibly have been uttered by her lips as a thanksgiving for the birth of Samuel. It breaks the obvious connexion of the narrative: its real theme is the rout of the nation's enemies, and the triumph of the national armies: above all, the concluding words, which speak of Jehovah's King, and pray that He may exalt the horn of His anointed, unmistakably stamp it as a product of the regal period, when the kingdom was already established. Some critics, of no mean reputation, go so far as to name David as the true author, and assign the slaughter of Goliath, and subsequent defeat of the Philistines, as the real occasion. Let us examine the hymn in detail. It is called a prayer; yet, with the exception of the concluding words, which should be rendered as a petition, it is wholly occupied with praise and thanksgiving. Prayer is not limited to supplication. It embraces all address of the human soul to the Most High: it includes all forms of worship. Praise and thanksgiving are true and necessary parts of prayer. And what are the thoughts which fill Hannah's heart, and will not be repressed? A deep and holy joy for the salvation which Jehovah has wrought for her. Her reproach of barrenness is taken away. She is now a mother in Israel: and mother of what a child! She is exultant; yet in the midst of triumph there is no vindictiveness, no uncharitable recollection of the taunts and unkindness which she had had to endure. Her heart is full, not of herself, but of God. He alone is holy: He alone is self-existent: He alone is the Rock of Israel, secure, unchanging, faithful in His covenant. From contemplating the character of Jehovah she passes to a survey of His dealings with men. In her own individual experience she sees an illustration of the laws which regulate the Divine economy. The most casual observer cannot fail to notice sudden vicissitudes of fortune in the lives of individuals and the history of nations. Whence these sharp contrasts? It is Jehovah who is "the God of life and death and all things thereto pertaining"; poverty and wealth, promotion and degradation, proceed from Him. The vicissitudes of humanity are not fortuitous; Jehovah created the world; Jehovah sustains the world; Jehovah governs the world and all that is therein in righteousness. He defends His saints: He silences the wicked: and who can resist His will? "By strength shall no man prevail." Her prophetic vision grows clearer as she proceeds. We are now in a better position to estimate the worth of the hostile criticisms.

I. Can it be seriously maintained for a moment that this hymn interrupts the narrative and is obviously out of place? What could be more natural than that Hannah should join in her husband's worship, and pour out her full heart in the energy of a prophetic inspiration? What place could be more fitting for this than the tabernacle where Jehovah had fixed His visible dwelling place? What moment more appropriate than that of which she restored to Jehovah the gift she had received from His hands for His service?

II. Nor, secondly, can we agree with the assertion that the tone and contents of the hymn mark it to be an old war song, a thanksgiving for victory over enemies. There is no direct mention of an Israelite victory: the defeat of the mighty warriors is but an incidental illustration: it is but one of the contrasts introduced to show how Jehovah's government is exercised in the world.

III. The third objection is at first sight more forcible. The mention of a king might seem to argue a later date. But even this difficulty is only superficial. Why should not Hannah have spoken of a king, the anointed of Jehovah? The promises made to Abraham pointed to the eventual establishment of a kingdom for the chosen people. "I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee." "I will bless Sarah, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her." And at this period the desire for a king was manifestly stirring in the national mind. Already the men of Israel bad proposed a hereditary monarchy when they said to Gideon, "Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son;" and though he refused, saying, "The Lord shall rule over you," it must have been felt that the establishment of a monarchy could not be far distant. A monarchy, indeed, was not the ideal form of government for the chosen people. In demanding it they were actuated by unbelief and mistrust of Jehovah, and therefore it was displeasing to Him, for it was a "rejection of Him." Yet it bore its part in the preparation for Messiah's coming; it was incorporated as an element in the evolution of the divine purposes. And why should not Hannah be inspired with a prophetic foresight to see that at length the king was inevitable, and to pray that Jehovah would make his rule effectual? The review of the Divine character, and the Divine government of the world is a theme which would most naturally suggest itself to one who felt that she had just experienced a manifestation of those principles in her own case. Let us turn to a consideration of the leading idea of the hymn. The problem of the mysterious and incalculable vicissitudes of fortune is one which has presented itself to all ages. What is the cause of them? It is Φθόνος the Νέμεσις, said the Greek. The Envy of the Gods, drags the over-prosperous down to the abyss of ruin, and smites down the pride of man in middle course. He counted the Gods to be beings of like passions with himself, slaves of jealousy and spitefulness. Some, in the spirit of a truer creed, denied such a degrading hypothesis: and saw Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, dogging the footsteps of the sinner, and exacting from him to the utmost the penalty of his transgression. It is Necessity, answered the ancient Roman, stern, inexorable, heartless Necessity, before whose fiat we must bow, whose decisions we cannot investigate. It is Fortune, laughed the sceptical Horace: "Fortune exulting in her cruel task, And bent on playing out her heartless game." But centuries before Greek or Roman faced the problem, its solution had been revealed to the Hebrew mind. The Hebrew prophetess sees no angry, spiteful deity, jealous of man's prosperity: no stern and pitiless fate: no fickle and capricious Fortune at the helm of the universe; but a personal Ruler, holy, just, omniscient, almighty, governing in truth and righteousness. It was a truth which had an especial value for the Israelite of that age. He had no clear revelation of a future life: and without the knowledge of a future life the mystery of human existence is a thousandfold more perplexing. His faith was often sorely tried, because "he saw the wicked in such prosperity." The unmerited chastisement of righteous men like Job seemed almost like a flaw in the justice of the Almighty: and he had need to brace his moral consciousness by recourse to a confession such as this, declaring in no equivocal terms the universal rule of Jehovah, founded in righteousness and truth. For us the reiteration of this truth is valuable for a widely different reason. The study of second causes, the formation of laws, physical, social, moral, tend to obscure our view of the Great First Cause, and to obliterate our conception of the direct personal control exercised by the ruler of the universe. "Jehovah bringeth low and lifteth up. By strength shall no man prevail." There is a personal and a national lesson in this. We are forced, all of us, some time in our lives, to learn our own impotence, our littleness, our dependence on a power not our own. There is a lesson for nations here too. It is God who lifteth up, it is God who gives national prosperity; the continuance of that prosperity is surely conditional upon the observance of His laws, and those laws will be best observed when the national conscience acknowledges that its prosperity springs ultimately from a higher source than its own genius or industry. Pride and self-confidence have ever been the parents of corruption and degeneracy.

(A. F. Kirkpatrick, D. D.)

The emotion that filled Hannah's breast after she had granted Samuel to the Lord, and left him settled at Shiloh, was one of triumphant joy. In her song we see no trace of depression, like that of a bereaved and desolate mother. Some may be disposed to think less of Hannah on this account; they may think she would have been more of a true mother if something of human regret had been apparent in her song. But surely we ought not to blame her if the Divine emotion that so completely filled her soul excluded for the time every ordinary feeling. This was Hannah's feeling, as it afterwards was that of Elizabeth, and still more of the Virgin Mary, and it is no wonder that their songs, which bear a close resemblance to each other, should have been used by the Christian Church to express the very highest degree of thankfulness. Hannah's heart was enlarged as she thought how many lowly souls that brought their burden to Him were to be relieved; and how many empty and hungry hearts, pining for food and rest, were to find how He "satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." But it would seem that her thoughts took a still wider sweep. Looking on herself as representing the nation of Israel, she seems to have felt that what had happened to her on a small scale was to happen to the nation on a large. May not the Holy Spirit have given her a glimpse of the great truth — "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given?" And may not this high theme have been the cause of that utter absence of human regret, that apparent want of motherly heart stoking, which we mark in the song? When we examine the substance of the song more carefully, we find that Hannah derives her joy from four things about God: —

I. HIS NATURE (vv. 2-3). In the second and third verses we find comfort derived from

(1)God's holiness,

(2)His unity,

(3)His strength,

(4)His knowledge, and

(5)His justice.(1) The holiness, the spotlessness of God is a source of comfort, "There is none holy as the Lord." To the wicked this attribute is no comfort, but only a terror. Left to themselves, men take away this attribute, and, like the Greeks and Romans and other pagans, ascribe to their gods the lusts and passions of poor human creatures. Yet to those who can appreciate it, how blessed a thing is the holiness of God!(2) His unity gives comfort — "There is none beside Thee."(3) His strength gives comfort — "Neither is there any rock like our God."(4) His knowledge gives comforts — "The Lord is a God of knowledge." He sees all secret wickedness, and knows how to deal with it. His eye is on every plot hatched in the darkness. He knows His faithful servants, what they aim at, what they suffer, what a strain is often put on their fidelity(5) His justice gives comfort. "By Him actions are weighed." Their true quality is ascertained; what is done for mean, selfish ends stands out before Him in all its native ugliness, and draws down the retribution that is meet.

II. GOD'S HOLY GOVERNMENT (vers. 3-8). The main feature of God's providence dwelt on here is the changes that occur in the lot of certain classes. And these changes are the doing of God. If nothing were taught here but that there are great vicissitudes of fortune among men, then a lesson would come from it alike to high and low — let the high beware lest they glory in their fortune, let the low not sink into dejection and despair. If it be further borne in mind that these changes of fortune are all in the hands of God, a further lesson arises, to beware how we offend God, and to live in the earnest desire to enjoy His favour. But there is a further lesson. The class of qualities that are here marked as offensive to God are pride, self-seeking, self-sufficiency both in ordinary matters and in their spiritual development.


IV. Hannah rejoices in that dispensation of mercy that was coming in connection with God's "king, His anointed" (1 Samuel 2:10). Guided by the Spirit, she sees that a king is coming, that a kingdom is to be set up, and ruled over by the Lord's anointed. Did she catch a glimpse of what was to happen under such kings as David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah? Did she see in prophetic vision the loving care of such kings for the welfare of the people, their holy zeal for God, their activity and earnestness in doing good? And did the glimpse of these coming benefits suggest to her the thought of what was to be achieved by Him who was to be the anointed one, the Messiah in a higher sense? We can hardly avoid giving this scope to her song. What is the great lesson of this song? That for the answer to prayer, for deliverance from trial, for the fulfilment of hopes, for the glorious things yet spoken of the city of our God, our most cordial thanksgivings are due to God.

(W. G. Blaikie.)

As the odours and sweet smells of Arabia are carried by the winds and air into the neighbouring provinces, so that before travellers come thither they have the scent of that aromatic country; so the joys of heaven are by the sweet breathings and gales of the Holy Ghost blown into the hearts of believers, and the sweet smells of the upper paradise are conveyed into the gardens of the churches. Those joys which are stirred up in us by the Spirit before we get to heaven are a pledge of what we may expect hereafter.

( T. Manton, D. D..)

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