THE EARLY LIFE OF SAMUEL.
THE GENEALOGY AND BIRTHPLACE OF SAMUEL (1 Samuel 1:1-8)
1 Samuel 1:1
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, 1 Samuel 6:1-21; his parentage is twice given, that in 1 Chronicles 6:22-28 being apparently the family genealogy, while that in 1 Chronicles 6:33-38 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, 1 Chronicles 6:27); Elkanah, Jeroham, Eliel, Toah, Zuph (ibid. 1 Chronicles 6:34-35), 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 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 ( 17:7). The Hebrews Ephrathite is rightly rendered Ephraimite in 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.
1 Samuel 1:2
As a wealthy man, Elkanah had two wives, Hannah—the Anna of Virgil, who very properly gives this name to the sister of the Phoenician Dido, the language of Phoenicia being identical with Hebrew—and Peninnah. The word Hannah signifies gracefulness, while Peulnnah is the red pearl, translated coral in Job 28:18, but ruby in Proverbs 3:15, etc. Its ruddy colour is vouched for in Lamentations 4:7. The Hebrew names for women generally bear witness to the affection and respect felt for them; while those for men are usually religious. Though polygamy was a licence permitted to the Jews, it does not seem to have been generally indulged in, except by the kings. Here, as elsewhere, it was the ruin of family life. In Christianity it was marked for final extinction by the rule that no polygamist should be admitted even to the diaconate, and much less to higher office (1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:12).
1 Samuel 1:3
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, 1 Chronicles 5:2). 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 (Psalms 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 Psalms 80:4, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:14, Psalms 80:19. 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; Psalms 103:21; Psalms 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.
1 Samuel 1:5
A worthy portion. This rendering is based upon the idea that the Hebrew, which is literally "one portion of two faces," may mean "one portion enough for two persons." But for this there is no sufficient authority, and though the word is a dual, it really signifies the two sides of the face, or more exactly "the two nostrils," and so simply the countenance. The Syriac translation, "a double portion," is based upon an accidental resemblance between the words. As the term sometimes signifies anger from the swelling of the nostrils of an enraged person, the Vulgate translates, "And Elkanah was sad when he gave Hannah her portion; for …" The Septuagint has a different reading, epes for apaim, and though the words look different in our writing, they are nearly identical in Hebrew. This is probably the true reading, and the translation would then be, "And to Hannah he gave one portion only (because she bad no child, while Peninnah had many portions, as each son and daughter had a share); for he loved Hannah, though Jehovah had shut up her womb." These portions were of course taken from those parts of the victim which formed a feast for the offerers, after Jehovah and the priests had had their dues. It is plain from this feast that Elkanah's annual sacrifice was a peace offering, for the law of which see Le 1 Samuel 7:11 -21.
1 Samuel 1:6, 1 Samuel 1:7, 1 Samuel 1:8
Her adversary also provoked her sore. The pleasure of this domestic festival was spoiled by the discord of the wives. Peninnah, triumphant in her fruitfulness, is yet Hannah's adversary, because, in spite of her barrenness, she has the larger portion of the husband's love; while Hannah is so sorely vexed at the taunts of her rival, that she weeps from sheer vexation. In vain Elkanah tries to give her comfort. The husband really is not "better than ten sons," for the joy of motherhood is quite distinct from that of conjugal affection, and especially to a Hebrew woman, who had special hopes from which she was cut off by barrenness. In 1 Samuel 1:7 there is a strange confusion of subject, owing to the first verb having been read as an active instead of a passive. It should be, "And so it happened year by year: when she (Hannah) went up to the house of Jehovah she (Peninnah) thus provoked her, and she wept and did not eat." It must be remembered that the Hebrews had no written vowels, but only consonants; the vowels were added in Christian times, many centuries after the coming of our Lord, and represent the traditional manner of reading of one great Jewish school. They are to be treated with the greatest respect, because as a rule they give us a sense confirmed by the best authorities; but they are human, and form no part of Holy Scripture. The ancient versions, the Septuagint, the Syriac, and the Vulgate, which are all three older than the Masoretic vowels, translate, "And so she (Peninnah) did year by year;" but this requires a slight change of the consonants.
1 Samuel 1:1-3
The main facts implied or expressed in this section are—
1. A state of national degeneracy.
2. A scarcity of spiritual illumination.
3. A family morally imperfect and troubled, yet rigidly observant of religious duties.
4. A Divine will using that family for the further unfolding of Messianic purposes.
I. AN UNBROKEN CONTINUITY runs through the revelations of the Old Testament, analogous to that of the physical order and the education of the individual. It is only ignorance of the Bible that can suppose it to be destitute of the unity in variety which is known to characterise the material creation. Separate books, like diverse strata in the crust of the earth, are preliminary to what is to follow; and the character of the events recorded, and the condition of morality and religious light referred to, must be considered as related to the one general purpose. Sometimes the transition seems to be sudden and abrupt, and a totally new set of subjects appears; but, as in the reference here to a "certain man," whose life was chiefly spent during the era covered by the latter part of the Book of Judges, so generally connecting links may be found.
II. THE CONSERVATION AND DISCIPLINE OF THE CHOSEN RACE are subservient to the development of the Divine purpose in Christ. History is the basis of revelation. Man is not to be saved by abstract truth, but by an historical Christ. The historical Christ is to appear in the "fulness of time," not from the skies, but from a human line well authenticated. Human factors are the transitory element in the Divine unfolding of salvation in Christ. That God should use men, during a long succession of ages, as the channel through which his mercy should embrace all the world, is as natural and reasonable as that he should perfect his will in the beautiful order of the earth by a long series of changes in crude material elements. God did not make imperfect men perfect in order to use them; but showed his wisdom in training and holding together the chosen race just as they were. Degenerate as they were during the period of the Judges, they were not cut off forever, but chastened and quickened. Thus the process was continued, until the purpose was ripe for the appearing of the Christ, and his proper identification, by the combination of history and prophecy.
III. THE FORM AND DEGREE OF REVELATION vouchsafed to an age are largely dependent on the ideas and moral character previously attained to. Man at first entered on life devoid of ancestral literature; and so Adam's descendants, in succeeding ages, inherited less of knowledge and experience in proportion as they were nearer to the founder of the race. It is not wise to import our modern ideas into the minds of those who, in the days of Jacob, Moses, and the Judges, had not been fashioned by our inheritance of knowledge. The devout men and women of Elkanah's time, having acquired knowledge of the existence of hosts of intelligent beings, took a wider conception of God's sovereignty (verses 3, 11) than was possible to men of an earlier age. God conveyed truth in so far as men were able to bear it. It would be as unnatural for Isaiah's lofty teachings to follow at once on the scanty illumination of the era of the Judges, as for philosophical conceptions to be set before children. Divine wisdom shines through the graduated teaching of Israel's history (Matthew 19:7, Matthew 19:8).
IV. THE EDUCATION OF A PEOPLE, with ulterior view to the world's instruction, by provisional, not final truth, necessitates eras of transition. All through the ages God was educating a race for the benefit of the world; and, as education means steady development, widening vision, the elements of things would form the staple of early teaching. Times came when a new feature had to be introduced, and early arrangements to give place to something more suited to the wider truth to be taught. The occasional vision and message, suited to patriarchal life, were followed by the systematic symbolism and rigid rules appropriate to national consolidation under Moses. The casual illumination of the Judgeship, also, yields to the more steady teaching and guidance of the prophetic schools inaugurated by Samuel. Later on, the early dawn of the prophetic ages gives place to the "dayspring" which reveals the Sun of righteousness. As in nature, so in revelation, stage succeeds stage; transitions are according to law.
V. THE INSTRUMENTS FOR EFFECTING A TRANSITION are duly chosen, and are silently, unconsciously prepared for their work. The world little knew of the germinal Divine purpose working out in an obscure home of Mount Ephraim; nor did the "certain man" know how the conflicting elements in his home were being graciously over ruled to the development of a piety not surpassed in Old Testament history, and the sending forth of one who should be a blessed forerunner of One greater still. Germs of future good lie in undreamed of places and persons. Out of the vast storehouse of the universe the all-gracious God is constantly preparing some new channel of good to his creatures. In the scattered villages and towns of the land there are being nurtured, unconsciously, the lives that in days hence shall be foremost in the Redeemer's host. "Little Bethlehem," and the lowly Joseph and Mary, were in reserve for the greatest of events. Any new advances to be made by the Church in the future are sure to be provided for by chosen men, possibly unknown to the world, and silently trained by Providence for their work.
VI. PERSONS, PLACES, AND EVENTS, IN THEMSELVES OBSCURE, BECOME IMPORTANT when associated with the unfolding of high spiritual purposes. It was the connection of Samuel with Christ's glorious kingdom that linked a "certain man" and his wife with the same, and so raised them from obscurity. Spiritual uses give real value to things. The frail and insignificant becomes enduring and important when blended with the interests of the "kingdom that cannot be moved." Every member of Christ's body is precious to him. Names are recorded in heaven which enter on no earthly roll. The life and spirit of every lowly Christian are known by God to exercise a widespread, abiding influence in the invisible sphere. As the kingdom is to be eternal, so, whatever part each one may take in its unfolding, that item will be saved from the transitoriness and oblivion of other toil. Fame in the world is not the criterion and measure of real usefulness. The chief concern should be so to live as to be, in some form, useable by God for advancing the glory of Christ. All are morally great when employed in his service to the full extent of their capacities.
VII. A DILIGENT USE OF SUCH LIGHT AS IS BESTOWED, especially in degenerate times, may qualify even obscure men for rendering important service. The family religion of a "certain man" bore its fruit. The moral ground of usefulness lies in character, and character is spiritually strong in so far as improvement is daily made of privileges, however few they may be. Men's fitness to confer benefits on the world is more connected with a wise use of what they have and know, than with the absolute possession of knowledge. A little goodness, and a humble routine of devotion in a dark age, shines the brighter because of the surrounding gloom. From the ranks of pious men in modern times, who cared for piety at home, there have gone forth many sons distinguished for service in the Church of God. It is worthy of note how fixed ordinances and seasons of Divine worship nourish whatever of piety may be struggling here and there against degenerate manners and official corruption. The usual services of the tabernacle and the recurring festivals, though despised and profaned by many, furnished comfort and cheer to the faithful few. In spite of unworthy priests, God is found in his courts by all who seek him.
1 Samuel 1:4-8
The facts given in this section are—
1. Hannah's grief and disappointment.
2. Peninnah's cruel jealousy.
3. Elkanah's efforts to console.
I. PROVIDENCE sometimes seems to RUN COUNTER TO WHAT IS MOST DESIRABLE, in withholding gifts where they would be devoutly valued and wisely used. Humanly speaking, Hannah was the most fit person to be blessed with offspring to be nurtured. The course of nature which finds expression in family life is of God. Though the free element of human action plays a part, yet God is supreme. Providence is over the home of the pious. Poverty and riches, new life and bereavement, are of the Lord. Looked at in its early stages, and tested by our range of vision, the course of Providence is often the reverse of what makes for the joy of the home and the good of the world. Often the illiberal spirit holds wealth, while the loving heart has only good wishes. Many a good, Christlike heart laments that it has not the means of clothing the poor, and sending forth messengers of the cross. Men of very slender abilities and lowly position, but of intense enthusiasm for Christ, may wonder why they have not been endowed with the intellectual and social qualities which would enable them to stem the tide of scepticism, and gain over to Christianity persons now inaccessible to them.
II. PROVIDENCE, for reasons net obvious, sometimes SEEMS TO FAVOUR INFERIOR CHARACTERS, bestowing gifts where there is not the purest spirit to improve them. Peninnah was immensely inferior to Hannah in all that makes character to be admired. If judged by the benefits conferred on some persons, and the disposition to use them, Providence would be said to have erred. The writer of Psalms 37:1-40. and 73, had once bitter reflections on this subject. The causes of the Divine conduct lie deep in hidden counsels. The inequalities and disproportions of life clearly show that we see only the beginning of things, and that there is a future where every man shall receive according to his work. It is enough to know, that in the abundant blessings which often fall to the lot of the inferior and the bad, they have experienced goodness and mercy, so as to be without excuse for ingratitude, and that the Judge of all the earth cannot but do right.
III. INTENSE GRIEF IS NATURAL ON THE BLIGHTING OF A SUPREME HOPE. Every one must see the naturalness of Hannah's grief. The ordinary course of nature fosters hope; it is the basis of reasonable expectations. A well balanced mind lives in strong sympathy with nature's ways, for they are of God, and always beneficent in final issue. God is not displeased with grief, not discontent, when it comes in the order of Providence, even though the grief rise from a wish that he had ordered otherwise. Tears have been consecrated by Christ. The wail over Jerusalem was not unconnected with blighted hope. But so far as men are concerned, the roots of their sorrow frequently lie in their ignorance of God's times and methods. He doth not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. There is some undeveloped purpose for their good which will yet vindicate his goodness.
IV. To have a deep and SACRED GRIEF INTENSIFIED BY UNMERITED AND CONTINUOUS REPROACH is the climax of domestic suffering. The griefs of private life are sacred. The wounded spirit shuns the inquisitive eye. Sorrow often seeks sad comfort in self-isolation. The cruel jibes of her rival were agony to Hannah's gentle spirit. So the Man of sorrows felt the bitter reproach of his own people as a most painful addition to that secret sorrow he ever carried in his heart. In many an unhappy home there is yet to be found a meek, loving soul grieving over deferred hope of a husband or children saved, and compelled also to bear scorn, and perhaps ill treatment, from those most dear. A patient, Christlike spirit is the Divine counterpoise of such suffering.
V. LONG YEARS OF MEEKLY ENDURED TRIAL MAY BE THE DIVINE TRAINING for subordinating natural gratification to high spiritual ends. Completed history gives the clue to the enigmas of its early stages. Posterity has seen that the long trial of Hannah was not without its blessed uses in sublimating her hopes, and deepening her piety. It is a first principle that trial to the devout is essentially a good. The spirit of the sufferer has to grow up to the Divine intent by meek submission. Like many mothers, Hannah might have rested in the simple joy of bearing offspring had not a merciful God prepared means for directing her desires to a higher good. When sympathy with the holy purposes of Christ is developed in the soul, natural desires will fall into harmony with his will, and be laid at his feet. And the deepened piety of a mother tells most powerfully on the subsequent nurture of her child.
VI. It is possible for HIGH RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS TO BE
The holy sanctuary is frequented by the devout and the profane, and the longing heart of a Hannah is fretted by the unkind expressions of a Peninnah. Side by side before the holy throne may be found men and women embittered by the very presence of each other. Divine worship and hallowed festivities should be the occasion when all animosities and vexations of spirit are lost in the calm, holy joy of God's favour. But when the wounded heart is pierced afresh in the house of God, or amidst Zion's rejoicings, the very joyousness of the occasion makes sorrow more sorrowful. Many are the tears shed in the sanctuary! The heart speaks its woes the more that joy becomes the place.
VII. INDISCREET FAVOURS IN A HOME ONLY ADD TO TROUBLE. Monogamy is the dictate of religion and of philosophy. Trouble must arise in society by departure from the prime law. Elkanah's troubles were his own seeking, and no amount of affection ostentatiously bestowed availed to cover the original error, or to lessen the inconveniences of it. Persons committed to conflicting domestic obligations, and beset with difficulty, need to exercise more than ordinary discretion in the expression of their feelings. Even in properly constituted homes, unwise preferences lay the foundation for alienation and strife.
VIII. MEN OF TENDEREST AFFECTION AND ORDINARY GOODNESS MAY BE INCAPABLE OF FULLY APPRECIATING THE GREAT SORROW OF THEIR HOME. With all his kindness, Elkanah was unable to enter fully into the grief of his wife. Natures move in diverse spheres. Some lack responsiveness to the deepest experiences of their kindred and friends, or they have not the spiritual insight to recognise more than secular elements in trouble. The full bliss of one is not a standard for another. There are incommensurable joys, and joys inconceivable. A husband's love is a perfect, beautiful thing. A wife's joy in holy offspring is also perfect and beautiful. The presence of the one blessing may console, but cannot compensate for the absence of the other. The "woman of sorrowful spirit" yearned to be the means of advancing Messiah's kingdom, and mourned that the joy was not hers; no assurance of affection could satisfy such an unrealised yearning. And so, good as the love of friends may be, it can never give full rest to the souls that peer into the future, and long to have the bliss of contributing their best to the Redeemer's glory.
Hence the Practical suggestions:—
1. Be not hasty in forming a judgment on the course of Providence.
2. Cherish sympathy with those whose hopes are deferred.
3. Be careful and sow not in the home, by some irrevocable action, the seeds of permanent discord.
4. Avoid partiality where vows and relationships demand equal treatment.
5. Adore the wisdom that can out of our failings and errors elicit a future blessing.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
1 Samuel 1:1-8. (RAMAH.)
A Hebrew family.
The family is a Divine institution. It is the most ancient, most needful, and most enduring form of society; and, in proportion as it accords with the plan of its original constitution, it is productive of most beneficent effects, both temporal and spiritual, to the individual and the community. In times of general laxity and anarchy it has been, in many instances, a little sacred islet of purity, order, and peace, and nurtured the elements out of which a better age has grown. The real strength of a nation lies in its domestic life, and Israel was in this respect eminent above all other ancient nations. Even in the days of the judges, when "there was no king in Israel," and "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" ( 21:25), there were many godly families scattered through the land. One of these was that which gave birth to SAMUEL, the last of the series of the judges, the first of the order of the prophets, and the founder of the Hebrew monarchy. This family is introduced with a brief description (1 Samuel 1:1, 1 Samuel 1:2). The residence of the family was Ramah (the Height), or, more fully described, Ramathaim (the Two Heights). Here Samuel was born and nurtured; had his permanent abode during the latter portion of his life; died, and was buried. There is not a more sacred spot on earth than the home which is endeared by tender association and religious communion.
"A spot of earth supremely blest;
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest."
"Things are not to be valued on account of places, but places for the good things which they contain" (Bede). "God chooses any common spot for a mighty incident or the home of a mighty spirit." Consider the family as—
I. ORDERED BY A GODLY HEAD (1 Samuel 1:3). His piety was shown—
1. By his regular attendance on Divine ordinances. He worshipped "the Lord of hosts," not Baalim and Ashtaroth (1 Samuel 7:4); in the way of his appointment, at the tabernacle in Shiloh, at the proper season, and with the prescribed sacrifices; not according to his own reason or inclination merely, a will worship which is not acceptable to God.
2. By his sincere and spiritual service, in contrast to the formal, worthless, and hypocritical service of others, especially the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:12), and undeterred by their evil conduct in the priestly office.
3. By his faithful performance of his vows (1 Samuel 1:21).
4. By his conversation and prayer in his own house (1 Samuel 1:23).
5. By his conducting all the members of his family to "the house of the Lord" (1 Samuel 1:7), in the exercise of his parental authority, accompanied by instruction and example. The words of the Law of Moses were evidently familiar to him (Deuteronomy 6:6-9), and happy is the family in which they are obeyed.
II. UNITING IN SOCIAL FESTIVITY (1 Samuel 1:4, 1 Samuel 1:5). Once a year he took his journey, in company with his family, from Ramah to the central sanctuary of the Divine King of Israel, for the twofold purpose of worshipping (lit; bowing down) and sacrificing before Jehovah. The sacrifice he offered was a peace offering (Deuteronomy 27:7), in which, when the animal was killed, the priest received its breast and right shoulder as his lawful portion, whilst the rest was given back to the worshipper that he and his family might feast on it before the Lord. Their festivity was—
1. Religious. It was the festivity of those who were received into communion with God. They were guests at his table, and overshadowed by his presence. It is said of the elders of Israel that they "saw God, and did eat and drink" (Exodus 24:11). And if no such visible sign of his glory now appeared, yet their consciousness of his presence (according to his promise, and symbolised by the ark of the covenant) would give solemnity to their repast, and prevent improper indulgence and revelry, which were but too common in this corrupt time (1 Samuel 1:14; 21:19, 21:21). It should ever be the same when Christians join in social festivity.
2. Joyous (Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 16:11). Its religiousness did not detract from its gladness, but made it pure, elevating, and refreshing. "The joy of the Lord is your strength."
3. Participated in by the whole family, children as well as adults. As the fathers the women and the children took part in idol feasts (Jeremiah 6:18), so they should take part in "feasting before the Lord."
4. It also called forth expressions of affection (1 Samuel 1:4). The kindness of God to all should lead to kindness one toward another, and the example of kindness set by the head of the family should be followed by all its members. Even the ordinary family meal may and ought to be such a scene of sacred festivity, but the highest realisation of it on earth is in "the Lord's Supper" (1 Corinthians 11:20). And how great is the blessing which rests upon the family, all the members of which partake together of the "cup of blessing," and are "all partakers of that one Bread."
III. DISQUIETED BY DOMESTIC TROUBLE (1 Samuel 1:5-8). It was natural that Hannah should feel disappointed at being childless. Her condition was deemed a reproach, and a sign of Divine displeasure. But her grief arose chiefly from the conduct of her rival, Peninnah. There was thus an element of discord and trouble in the family. This trouble—
1. Existed where it might have been least expected. The family was distinguished by earthly prosperity and genuine piety. But what home is there on earth wholly free from trouble? Beneath the fairest appearances there is seldom wanting a cause of disquiet, to check self-complacency and teach the soul its true rest.
2. Was occasioned by want of conformity to a Divine ordinance. The introduction of a second wife by Elkanah was not according to the Divine appointment "in the beginning" (Genesis 2:24; Ma Genesis 2:15; Matthew 19:4). The violation of that appointment had taken place at an early period (Genesis 4:19); it was sanctioned by long usage; and it was permitted under the Law "for the hardness of their hearts," and until they should be educated up to a higher moral condition. But it was followed by pernicious consequences (Genesis 4:23; Genesis 30:8), as it always is in those families and nations where it obtains. Ignorance of the laws of God may mitigate or exempt from guilt; but it does not do away with all the evil consequences of their violation; for those laws are rooted in the fixed relations and tendencies of things.
3. Was immediately caused by the indulgence of improper feeling and unseemly speech. Peninnah may have been jealous of the special love shown to Hannah by her husband (1 Samuel 1:5). She was proud and haughty on account of her own sons and daughters, and, instead of sympathising with her who had none, she made her defect a ground of insult; and trials ordained by Divine providence are peculiarly severe when they become an occasion of human reproach. Finally, she gave free play to "an unruly evil" (James 3:8), especially at those seasons when it should have been held under restraint. Such things are the bane of domestic life.
4. Disturbed the proper performance of sacred duties. Peninnah could have little peace in her own breast, and be little prepared for Divine worship or sacred festivity. As for Hannah, although she did not angrily retaliate, but patiently endured the reproaches cast upon her (affording an admirable example of meekness), yet "she wept and did not eat" (1 Samuel 1:7), and her joy was turned into mourning. Domestic disturbances tend greatly to hinder prayers (1 Peter 3:7).
5. Was alleviated by affectionate expostulation (1 Samuel 1:8). "In Elkanah we have an example of a most excellent husband, who patiently tolerated the insulting humour of Peninnah, and comforted dejected Hannah with words full of tender affection, which was truly, in St. Peter's words, to dwell with them according to knowledge" (Patrick). Let each member of the family endeavour to soothe and alleviate the sorrows of the rest, and all learn to find their own happiness in promoting the happiness of others.
6. Was over ruled by Divine providence for great good. In her trouble Hannah was led to pray fervently, and her prayer was answered; sorrowing gave place to rejoicing; the family was benefited; and the people of God were greatly blessed. So, in his wonderful working, God "turned the curse into a blessing" (Nehemiah 13:2).—D.
1 Samuel 1:3. (SHILOH)
Worship is worship, the honour paid to superior worth; more especially it is the reverence and homage paid to God in religious exercises. Public worship (as distinguished from private and family worship) is designed to give an open expression, before men, of the praise and honour which are his due (Psalms 145:10-12); a purpose which is not fulfilled by those who neglect it, and is forgotten by those who observe it only as a means of obtaining their own spiritual benefit. It is often enjoined in the word of God, and is commended by the example of good men. The conduct of Elkanah is suggestive of useful hints concerning—
I. GOING TO WORSHIP. Persuaded of the obligation and privilege, "he went up out of his city" and home. He did "not forsake the house of the Lord" (Nehemiah 10:39; Hebrews 10:25). Neither the distance, nor the trouble involved, prevented him; nor did the unworthy conduct of many of the worshippers keep him away. He took all his family with him, except when any of them were hindered by sickness or necessary duties (1 Samuel 1:20). He thought of the purpose for which he went, and made the needful preparation for "worshipping and sacrificing unto the Lord." He was careful to be in time; and, doubtless, sought the blessing of God on his service, entertained the journey with profitable conversation, and came with reverence and self-restraint (Ecclesiastes 5:1).
II. THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP. "The Lord of hosts." He did not worship an "unknown God." Man must worship because he is a man; but he will worship a false or unworthy object, as well as in a wrong manner, unless he be Divinely taught, because he is a sinner. He "knew what he worshipped," even the living and true God, who had revealed himself to his people; Creator, Redeemer, Ruler; holy, just, and merciful (Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7). Our knowledge of God is necessarily imperfect (Job 11:7); but it may be true as far as it goes, and the true idea of God is "the root of all absolute grandeur, of all truth and moral perfection" (John 17:3).
III. THE PLACE OF WORSHIP. He went to worship in Shiloh (Deuteronomy 16:15), where the tabernacle, made in the wilderness, having been first pitched at Gilgal, had now been standing 300 years. It was the palace of the great King. Here his servants the priests ministered, and offerings were presented by his subjects at his altar in the outer court (1 Samuel 2:33); the lamp of God (1 Samuel 3:3), the altar of incense (1 Samuel 2:28), and the table of shew bread (1 Samuel 21:4) stood in the holy place; and the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 4:3) in the holiest of all (Hebrews 9:25). These were symbols of spiritual truth and means of Divine communion (Exodus 29:43; Deuteronomy 16:11). The ideas that underlay them are fully realised in Christ and his Church, and the symbols are no longer needed; nor is there any more one central and sacred spot "where men ought to worship" (John 4:20, John 4:23). God draws nigh to us, and we can call upon him "in every place." The presence of holy souls makes all places holy, in so far as any place can be so called.
"What's hallowed ground? 'Tis what gives birth
To sacred thoughts in souls of worth."
Common worship, however, renders necessary special places of worship, the declared purpose and holy associations of which make them dear to good men and helpful to their devotions, so that they are sometimes constrained to say with Jacob, "How dreadful is this place," etc. (Genesis 28:17). "A fearful place, indeed, and worthy of all reverence, is that which saints inhabit, holy angels frequent, and God himself graces with his own presence."
IV. THE TIME OF WORSHIP. "He went up yearly," or from year to year, and continued several days. The Law required that the tribes should assemble at the sanctuary three times a year; but in those unsettled times it appears to have been the custom for them to attend only once, probably at the passoVerse What acts of worship he performed, or what times he observed at Ramah, we are not told. The Sabbath (though not mentioned in the Books of Samuel) we may be sure was not neglected by him, nor should it be by us. The spirit of continual Sabbath keeping (Hebrews 4:9) is, indeed, of greater importance than the observance of one day in seven; but its observance, with reference to the higher truths which the first day of the week commemorates, is most needful and beneficial.
V. THE MANNER OF WORSHIP. "He went up to worship and sacrifice." His worship consisted of adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving. It was connected with and embodied in sacrifices of various kinds, and of different significance: expiatory (sin offerings), self-dedicatory (burnt offerings), and eucharistic (peace offerings). They had a real and deep relation to the sacrifice of Christ. From it they derived their worth, and by it they have been done away. Our worship demands spiritual sacrifices, the broken and contrite heart, the "presenting of our bodies as a living sacrifice," prayer, thanksgiving, holy and benevolent dispositions and conduct. "By him, therefore (who brings us nigh to God, and makes, us capable of serving him aright): let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, etc. (Hebrews 13:16.)
VI. RETURNING FROM WORSHIP. After the sacred feast was over, he and his family "rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned" (1 Samuel 1:19). Morning is a most favourable season for devotion (Psalms 5:3); and those who are about to take a journey or enter on a new enterprise do well to rise up early and seek the Divine guidance and help. Elkanah showed that he was not weary of his devotions, but desired to avail himself to the utmost of the opportunities afforded him; and, by doing so, he obtained the greatest permanent benefit from his visit to the sanctuary. The manner in which we return from public worship greatly influences its permanent results (Matthew 13:4, Matthew 13:19; Luke 11:28). And our aim and endeavour, when we return, should be to sanctify all places, all times, all occupations by the spirit of unceasing prayer and thanksgiving, and so make the whole of life a preparation for the services of the heavenly temple.—D.
1 Samuel 1:3, 1 Samuel 1:11. (SHILOH.)
The Lord of hosts.
There is no subject more worthy of study than the nature and character of God. His perfections are often called his Name, and his Name is expressed by various words, all of which are significant. They are not merely designations, but also descriptions. The word God is commonly supposed to mean the Good One, but it probably denotes "he on whom one calls," or "he to whom one sacrifices; "the word Lord = Giver or Distributor of bread; Deity (Sanscrit, Dyaus) = the Resplendent, Light giving Heaven, the Shining One, showing the pure conception which the ancient Aryans (the ancestors of the Indo-European nations) entertained of the Divine Being. But the Bible mentions other names of God, which were either in common use among the Semitic nations, or given by special revelation to the Hebrews; and of these one of the most noteworthy is that of "the Lord of hosts" (Jehovah Sabaoth), which occurs no less than 260 times, this being the first instance of its use. Observe—
I. ITS HISTORICAL USE.
1. Founded on what had been previously known or revealed. Jehovah Sabaoth = Jehovah, Elohe (God of) Sabaoth (Keil; 2 Samuel 5:10). El (Beth-El, Isra-El, El-kanah, Samu-El)—the Strong or Mighty One; used in the plural as "comprehending in himself the fulness of all power, and uniting in himself all the attributes which