I Samuel 2
HANNAH’S SONG OF PRAISE (vs. 1-10).
1 "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."
And Hannah prayed and said. Like the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), Hannah’s
hymn of thanksgiving begins with the temporal mercies accorded to herself,
but rises immediately into the realms of prophecy, foretelling Christ’s
kingdom and the triumphs of the Church. From this prophetic element,
common more or less to all the hymns of the Bible, most of them have been
used in Christian worship, and still merit a place in it, though we in the
liturgy of the Church of England now use only two, taken both from the
New Testament. In v. 1, in four strophes of equal length, Hannah
declares how, first, her heart, the center with the Hebrews, not merely of
the physical, but also of the moral and intellectual life, rejoices in Jehovah;
while the exaltation of her horn, the symbol of strength and vigor,
signifies that this inward joy is accompanied, or even occasioned, by the
changed circumstances of her outward lot. Her mouth, therefore, is opened
wide over her enemies, yet not for cursing and in bitterness, but for joyful
praise of the God who has answered her prayers. It is His salvation, the
being delivered by Him, that makes her thus burst forth into thanksgiving. It
is a proof too of her faith and spirituality that she thus refers all to Jehovah.
2"There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is
there any rock like our God." In v. 2 she gives her reasons for this holy joy.
The first is God’s absolute holiness; the second His absolute existence, in which
she finds the proof of His holiness. Hannah may have meant to express only the
language of piety, but she also stated a primary philosophical truth, which was early
grasped by the deeply religious instinct of the Hebrews, that outside of God is no
existence. Many necessary deductions follow from this fundamental truth,
that God alone absolutely exists, and that all other existence is secondary
and derived; but no deduction is more certain than Hannah’s own, that
such a Being must be absolutely holy. In calling Him a rock she assigns to
Him strength, calm, immovable, enduring, but a strength which avails for
the safety of His people (compare Deuteronomy 32:4, 15; Psalm 18:2).
For rocks, as being capable of easy defense, formed the nucleus of
most ancient towns, and continued to serve as their citadels.
The Rock of
“Neither is there any rock like our God.” The figurative representations of
God which are given in His word enable us to attain exalted, varied, and
most impressive views of His character. They are derived from objects with
which the lands of the Bible abounded; and no other lands on earth were
equally adapted to be the theatre of a Divine revelation for men universally.
Of these representations, this is one of the most common. It was first
employed by Jacob (Genesis 49:24 — stone, eben, or rock), with
allusion, perhaps, to ibid. ch. 28:11, 22; afterwards by Moses
(Deuteronomy 32:4, 18, etc. — rock, tzur = what is solid, firm,
enduring; a support, foundation, as in the text), who was so familiar with
the rocks and mountains of Sinai; frequently by David (II Samuel 22:3
— rock, sela = height, cliff or crag, resorted to as a refuge) and the
Ø His power. “To know thy power is the root of immortality.”
Ø His unchangeableness and faithfulness. “I change not” (Malachi
3:6), with reference to His merciful covenant.
Ø His eternity. “From everlasting to everlasting.” These attributes are
ascribed to Christ:
o “all power” (Matthew 28:18);
o “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 1:8-12;
o “That Rock was Christ” (I Corinthians 10:4).
He is the highest and the only perfect manifestation of God.
“Jesus is that Divine Being to whom we can draw near without
pride, and before whom we can be abased without despair”
Ø Weak. Their very strength is weakness compared with His infinite
Ø Changeable. “All men are liars,” false, unworthy, and disappointing
objects of trust.
Ø Transitory. They and their works pass away, whilst the rock endures
Ø Expect not true or lasting satisfaction from any created object. “Cease
ye from man” (Isaiah 2:22). Fear him not (ibid. ch. 51:12-13).
who live in direct fellowship with Him, and show the reality of their
fellowship by walking in the light and keeping His commandments. To them
He has promised to be all that their true welfare requires.
Ø A support; “the immovable foundation on which they may stand firm,
Ø A defence, protecting them against their enemies; “a shadow from the
heat, a refuge from the storm;” bearing on Himself the tempest that would
have fallen on them. “He that believeth shall not make haste,” or be terrified.
Ø A source of strength, of peace, and of consolation. “Rabbi Maimon has
observed that the word tzur, which we translate rock, signifies, when
applied to Jehovah, fountain, source, spring. There is no source whence
continual help and salvation can arise BUT OUR GOD!
Ø To trust in Him.
Ø Abide in Him; not merely fleeing to Him in a time of trouble and danger
(as a traveler may seek shelter in a hovel while the storm lasts, and
immediately afterwards leave it), but making Him our habitation and home.
Ø To make Him our portion and “exceeding joy.” “Trust ye in the Lord
forever; for the Lord Jehovah is the Rock of Ages” (Isaiah 26:4).
“Rock of Ages, cleft for me;
Let me hide myself in thee.”
3 "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."
Here Hannah appeals to God’s omniscience, “for Jehovah is a God of
knowledges,” the plural being intensive, and signifying every kind of
knowledge. As too He weighs and judges human actions, how can men
venture to talk so arrogantly before Him, literally so proudly, proudly. The last
clause is one of those numerous places in which there is a doubt whether
the Hebrew word lo means not, or by Him. If the negative sense be taken,
which the Hebrew spelling favors, the rendering will be “though actions
be not weighed.” Though wicked actions be not immediately punished, yet
Jehovah is cognizant of them, and in due time will requite.
The Divine Judgment of Human Actions (v. 3)
“By Him actions are weighed.” It is customary to determine the worth of
many things by weighing them. For this purpose a fixed standard is used,
and a comparison is made with it by means of a balance and scales or other
instrument. Nothing can be more natural than to speak of determining the
moral worth of actions in the same manner, and Justice is commonly
represented as a woman holding in her hand a pair of scales in which
“actions are weighed.” In this sense the above expression is employed; not,
however, of men, whose judgment is often mistaken or unjust; but of
“God, the Judge of all.” His judgment is:
ancient Egyptians, there was erected at the entrance of the unseen world a
balance or scales, over which the Judge of the dead presided, and by it the
character of every man was tested as soon as he died. In one of the scales
the figure or emblem of truth was placed, and in the other the heart of the
deceased; and the result determined his destiny. This is not an unworthy
conception of the judgment to come. But their religion pertained chiefly to
what would be in the future, rather than to what exists in the present. And
there are many at the present day who never think that they have anything
to do with God or His judgment except when they come to die. They forget
that the living and all-seeing God “pondereth their goings” (Proverbs 5:21),
“judgeth according to every man’s work” (I Peter 1:17), and that to Him they
stand responsible (Hebrews 4:13 — “with whom is the account”). “Some
men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men
they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest
beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.” (I Timothy 5:24-25)
men form of themselves and others is often false, because it is not formed
by means of such a standard. As “weights and measures” need to be
examined and to be rectified by an imperial standard, so the human
judgment and conscience need to be examined and to be rectified by the
righteousness of God as declared in the Law and the Prophets and the
Gospel of Christ. What is our relation to this standard?
depend upon their “outward appearance,” but upon the heart. In the sight
of God, who sees hearts as we see faces, the inward motives, principles,
and intentions are in reality the actions which are weighed (Proverbs
16:2; 21:2; 24:11-12; Isaiah 26:7-9). Our ignorance of these necessarily
makes our judgment imperfect, even in relation to ourselves. But “He is a
God of knowledge,” “searches the heart,” and perceives the motives which
underlie all actions, and which are often so different from what they are
thought to be (Psalm 139:23).
that have in them a moral element; to the actions of every individual soul
(for each soul stands before Him in its separate personality, bearing its own
burden of responsibility and of sin, and is dealt with by Him as though there
were no other); and to every one of its actions, however apparently
insignificant, though it cannot be really such because of its relation to God,
and its bearing upon character and destiny. Even “every idle word that men
shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”
ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS. It is not useless and ineffective; but is
attended with important consequences (Jeremiah 17:10). This life is not
simply one of probation; it is also, in part, one of retribution. The
approbation or disapprobation of God is always followed by corresponding
effects in the mind and heart and conscience of men, and often by startling
providential occurrences; as when it was said, “Thou art weighed in the
balances, and art found wanting” (Daniel 5:27, 30); The world’s
history is the world’s judgment; and, “We must all appear before the
judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:12; II Corinthians 5:10).
Ø Let us examine ourselves. (II Corinthians 13:5)
Ø Seek forgiveness of the sins that are past.
Ø “Walk before me, and be thou perfect.” (Genesis 17:1)
4 "The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled
are girded with strength. 5 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." 6"The LORD
killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up."
7 "The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up."
8 "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."
In vs. 4-8 Hannah illustrates the working of this attribute of the Deity by
enumerating the vicissitudes of human events, which are not the result of
chance, but of that omniscience combined with holiness which she has
claimed for Jehovah in vs. 2-3. She begins with the vicissitudes of war;
but these are not more remarkable than those of peace, by which the full,
the rich and wealthy, have to descend to the position of a hireling; while
those previously hungry have ceased, i.e. from labor, and keep holiday.
In a nation of small proprietors, where the land was tilled by the owner and
those “born in his house,” the position of the hireling, the “mean white” of
the southern States of America, was lower than that of the slave, especially
serf or forced laborer. In the next clause the translation may either be,
“She that was long barren hath borne seven,” or, “Until the barren” etc.;
i.e. these vicissitudes may even reach so far as to make a barren woman the
mother of seven, i.e. of a perfect number of children, happily generalized in
Psalm 113:9 into “a joyful mother of children.” But see Ruth 4:15;
Jeremiah 15:9. In this there is also a typical reference to the long
barrenness of the Gentile world, to be followed by a fruitfulness far
exceeding that of the Jewish Church, while it, prolific once in patriarchs,
and prophets, and saints, is now comparatively sterile. In v. 6 “the grave”,
Hebrews Sheol, is “the pit,” the hollow vault underground, which is the
dwelling of the dead - literally, therefore, Hannah’s words might seem to imply
a belief in the resurrection; but her meaning rather was that God brings a
man to the very brink of the grave, and then, when all hope seems past,
raises him up again. In v. 8 beggar is simply needy, but the expressions
dust and dunghill add dishonor to his poverty. To set might more
correctly be translated to make them sit; sitting, especially on a raised seat,
being a mark of honor among Orientals, who generally squat on mats on
the ground. In the next clause the Authorized Version particularizes what in
the Hebrews is quite general. “He will make them possess (or enjoy) a glorious
throne.” Their seat among the princes is not inherited, but acquired; and though
promoted thus to a place among men of hereditary rank, and given an
honorable position among them, yet it was not necessarily “the throne of
glory,” the highest seat. Still even this was quite possible; for while the
tribal chiefs and heads of fathers’ houses obtained their rank by inheritance,
nevertheless, in early days the judges, and among them Eli and Samuel,
acquired rank and power for themselves. Subsequently, under the kings,
the great officers of state took their place along with the hereditary princes,
but were dependent upon royal favor. In the last clause the word rendered
pillars is rare, being found only here and in ch. 14:4. In both places the ancient
versions are uncertain as to its signification, but in the latter it can only mean a
crag, or mass of rock. If then the rock masses of the earth are Jehovah’s, and He
can lift up and poise upon them the inhabited world (Hebrews rebel), how much
more easily can he raise up a man!
9 "He will keep the feet of His saints, and the wicked shall be silent in
darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail." The feet of His saints.
The Hebrews written text (ch’tib) has His saint, singular; but the word really
means not saint, i.e. one sanctified and holy, but pious, i.e. one lovingly disposed
towards God. The sense, therefore, is not affected by the number, but the singular
is more forcible “He will guard the steps, the earthly course, of each one that loveth
Him;” while over against this watchful providence, ever exerted for the safe keeping
of all who love the light, stands God’s punitive justice, whereby the wicked
are finally brought down to the dark silence of the grave. For they had only
human strength and prowess upon which to depend, and no man can sustain
himself in the manifold conflict of life WITHOUT HELP FROM ABOVE!
God’s Guardianship of His Saints (v. 9)
“He will keep the feet of His saints.” Who are His saints?
1. The term is sometimes used as one of reproach, by persons who are
destitute of religious life, concerning those who bear the Christian name.
(I recommend Genesis 4 - Spurgeon Sermon – TO THOSE WHO ARE
ANGRY WITH THEIR GODLY FRIENDS – this website – CY – 2016)
Pointing to the inconsistency of some of the latter, they would thereby fain
persuade themselves and others that there is no such thing as true godliness
to be found in the world. There are, doubtless, many who “profess to know
God, but in works deny him.” But there would be no counterfeit money
unless there were some genuine coin.
2. The word is also used to designate those who have been “canonized;”
and who, having gone into heaven, are supposed to have influence with
God in the granting of petitions presented on earth. But such a use of it is
unscriptural, and the doctrine is false and injurious.
3. The saints of God are those who have been accepted by Him through
faith in Christ, who do His will and walk in the way to heaven. Their way,
indeed, is often difficult and painful, like the uneven, intricate, and stony
consolation and encouragement, it is promised that “He
will “keep their feet” firm and safe, so that they may not fall and perish.
The promise is directly of preservation from temporal calamity, but it may
be regarded as including also preservation from spiritual failure and
Ø From wandering out of the way. Obscurity may gather over it. Other
ways may appear plainer, easier, and more pleasant, and tempt them to
leave it. Or they may seem more direct and shorter than the circuitous and
wearisome path they have to pursue. But kept by Him they will not go astray.
Ø From stumbling in the way. “It must needs be that offences (or
occasions of stumbling) come.” Some of them consist of:
o The difficulties of Divine revelation: “things hard to be understood.”
o The mysteries of Divine providence, which have led many to say, “As
for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped.”
o Direct solicitations to evil.
o “Afflictions and persecutions that arise for the word, whereby many
are offended.” But “great peace have they that love thy law, and
nothing shall cause them to stumble” (Psalm 119:165)
Ø From failing to reach the end of the way. Some start with bright hopes
which are not afterwards altogether fulfilled in their experience: storms
gather, enemies threaten, severe conflict must be waged; and they become
weary and desponding, and ready to halt. “But the righteous shall hold on
his way” (Job 17:9; Isaiah 40:31).
Ø Providing means of help for them:
o the Word, an instrument of guidance, refreshment, and defense;
o the fellowship of those who are traveling in the same way;
o the ministration of angels (Psalm 91:11; Hebrews 1:14).
Ø Watching over them at every step. They are not alone; but He is with
them; and they are kept by the power of God (I Peter 1:5).
Ø Imparting grace and strength to them according to their need. “As thy
days, so shall thy strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33:25) It matters not how
great the need if “the supply of the Spirit” (Philippians 1:19) be equal to it.
And, “My grace,” He says, “is sufficient for thee.” II Corinthians 12:9)
Ø He has a special interest in them, for they are “His saints,” “the portion
of His inheritance.” (I recommend Deuteronomy ch. 32 v. 9 – God’s
Inheritance by Arthur Pink – this website – CY – 2016)
Ø He has already done much for them, which is an earnest (down payment)
of continued preservation.
Ø He has high purposes to accomplish in them and through them. And,
Ø He has solemnly promised “never to leave them” (Hebrews 13:5),
and “He is faithful that promised (ibid. ch.10:23).
o Rely upon the promise.
o Presume not upon your security, nor think that without fulfilling
His commandments that you can receive His promises.
o Use the appointed means of grace with all diligence.
10 "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." The adversaries. In the Hebrew the nouns are again
singular, though the verb is plural, showing that they are to be taken collectively.
Literally, the translation is, “Jehovah they shall be broken in pieces, whoever it be
that contendeth with Him;” the word having reference to contentions in a
court of law, and the whole verse keeping the administration of justice in
view. It proceeds, “Upon him He shall thunder in heaven;” i.e. Jehovah,
seated on His throne in heaven, shall, as the supreme Judge, utter the
sentence; and thunder was to the Hebrew God’s voice. He shall judge the
ends of the earth, i.e. the whole earth up to its remotest quarters. The last
distich is remarkable. It is a distinct prophecy of David’s kingdom, and of
the king as the anointed one, but looking onwards to the Messiah, David’s
greater Son. So distinct a reference to a king before a king existed has
made some regard the whole hymn as an interpolation of later
times. But already Hannah’s thoughts had risen to a higher level than the
fortunes of the literal
righteous government of the whole world, she prepares our minds for the
corresponding thought of Jehovah being the universal Saviour. Very
probably the whole national mind was set upon having a king to enable
them to make head against the Philistines long before, under Samuel, the
desire became so strong as to be irresistible. The thought of a king was in
no respect alien from the Jewish commonwealth (Deuteronomy 17:14).
They had wished Gideon to hold this office (Judges 8:22); Jotham’s
parable in Judges 9. described the nation as eager to be thus governed, but
the better minds as bent on declining so dangerous a preeminence. There is
very much to prove that the nation had come to regard the appointment of
a king as an eventual necessity, however long delayed. But not here only,
but everywhere, the Jewish mind was constantly brooding upon the future.
Hannah does no more than every patriarch and saint and prophet of the old
dispensation. Prophecies such as that in Genesis 49:10 filled the hearts
of all alike. And though the present longings of the nation for a king make
Hannah’s words not unnatural even in their lower sense, yet the truer
exposition is that which acknowledges in
special purpose, and the bestowal by God upon its seers for the carrying
out of this purpose of the gift of prophecy. And it was this extraordinary
gift which bent and shaped the mind of the nation, and filled it with future
aspirations; and not a causeless state of the national mind which, excited by
vague hopes, made men from time to time give utterance to anticipations
which by some strange coincidence always came true.
Salvation (vs. 1-10)
The facts implied and indicated in the song are:
1. Hannah’s deliverance from grief and realization of desire are perfected.
2. God is recognized as the author of the great salvation.
3. Under Divine inspiration Hannah sees in her own personal experience a
type of various triumphs which God achieves for His people.
4. She is conscious of an overwhelming joy in her own deliverance, and in
the prevision of future triumphs of the Church.
5. A clear and joyous recognition of Christ’s final triumph as the climax of
all. The burden of this glorious song is the salvation wrought by God, and
this may be considered as:
and its application is “exceeding broad,” being inclusive of deliverance
from evils and a realization of positive good. It may be applied to an
episode in personal experience, as in the case of Hannah, David, and
others; a soul’s restoration to God through Christ; a nation’s rescue from
calamity and elevation to
relative influence, as when
from the waters of the
deliverance of the Church from persecution, as in apostolic days and
subsequently; and especially the completion of Christ’s triumph over all
enemies and the gathering into one of the redeemed children of God
(Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 7:9-17). The episode in
the life of Hannah was typical of all other salvations to be wrought by the
same merciful God. As in the physical world the trained eye can detect
what are called “typical forms,” so in the records of God’s dealings with
the saints the spiritually enlightened can see in the personal experience of
individuals a foreshadowing of numerous instances yet to occur in human
experience. Omnia in Uno (all of them from one and in the one thing all)
will hold true here. The elements of all salvations are found in the blessing
vouchsafed to the “woman of sorrowful spirit.” For there is in her case, as
in all, a deep human need, arising from a pressure of a heavy burden, and the
non-realization of the very end for which life was supposed to be given; utter
despair of human resources for the removal of the evil and the acquisition of
the good; Divine energy graciously acting directly on the hidden forces by
which sorrow or joy are governed and produced; Divine patience in working
out the processes by which the want and sorrow shall be made to pass away;
completeness of result in the bestowment of the very boon so long desired
and waited for; connection of the result attained with some ulterior issue
of still wider blessing; and employment throughout of visible and invisible
second causes in working out the purposes of mercy. Each item found reality
in Hannah’s experience, and has its counterpart in our deliverance from
trouble; in the restoration of the lost soul; in the rescue of a nation or
Church from destruction; and in the completion of the desire of Him who
from the travail of His soul looked on through the ages, saw, and was
satisfied. Every deliverance of every saint now is a shadowing forth and a
prediction sure and certain of the great salvation, in the bliss of which
Christ, and angels, and men shall share.
the great event of the life. It means freedom, rest, enrichment, full, sunny
favor of God. Hannah could not
but sing. Moses led the joy of
the shores of the
“comfort of the Holy Ghost.” The fatted calf and dance awaited the
restored prodigal son. The very advent of the one true Saviour awoke the
chorus of the skies, and heaven will resound with the joyous acclaim of
innumerable hosts when the woes of earth are past, and all power submits
to Christ (Revelation 19:1). It is noteworthy that the joy awakened by
accomplished salvation is not a mere selfish delight in one’s own
happiness. It is JOY IN GOD! In “thy salvation” do I rejoice. “In the Lord”
is my “horn exalted.” “The heart” is not set on the bliss of a Samuel’s love, it
“rejoiceth in the Lord.” Again, it is joy in God saving through His
Anointed. The “promised seed,” the foreordained Messiah, was the spring
of all inspired Hebrew expectation of blessing. The birth of a son called
forth Hannah’s song. It is curiously sweet to notice how like the echo of
some distant melody is this song, reminding us of a Child more holy than
even Samuel. Surely in the invisible spheres angels recognized here the
substance of that hymn they on a later day sang over the plains of
Hannah had been trained to pass over in vision to a salvation more perfect
than what Samuel would effect
of God. The songs of faith and of fulfillment find alike their inspiration in
“His King” and “my Saviour.” But the relationship to His chosen One grows
closer and dearer as the ages roll on. What shall it be at last! And what joy
will it awaken! Also, the condition of sharing in this joy is twofold, being
personally a saved one, and cherishing full sympathy with “His King.”
Hannah, blessed with a great deliverance from sorrow and desolation,
could sing and, laying all at the feet of God in holy sympathy with the
coming kingdom, she found inspiration for song beyond the range of her
own experience. A “new song” is learned on earth, in so far as its first notes,
by all who have known in their personal experience the salvation of God;
and it becomes sweeter and more inspired as the freed spirit sees by faith
the blessed day when the ends of the earth shall also see the King in his
God’s acts are revelations. Nature, as we call the beautiful system around
us, is but the shadow of the Eternal Presence. The Eternal Power and
Godhead are clearly seen through the visible creation. (Romans 1:20) In the
Incarnation of God in Christ we have, therefore, a higher expression of a
general truth; so that in one respect the most stupendous and mysterious
of all supernatural facts is in keeping with Nature. Especially is every
instance of salvation, whether typical or antitypical, individual or national,
a revelation to the universe of the ever blessed One. From Hannah’s
deliverance from sorrow and desolation, on through the ages of mercy,
to Christ’s final victory over death and sin, the same attributes are revealed
in the deeds and processes by which the salvation in each instance is effected.
Ø Mercy, as seen in compassion shown to the sorrowful and helpless.
Ø Holiness, inasmuch as the salvation is wrought out against evil powers
and persons, for only good and pure issues, by exacting and nourishing into
maturity holy, unselfish motives, and ordaining suffering and deferred good
only for pure and blissful ends.
Ø Power, demonstrating that “beside’’ Him “there is none,” as seen in
complete control over the hidden forces of Nature, and full realization of
all that is promised.
Ø Wisdom, counteracting the devices of the proud, and causing the
bitterest grief and protracted suffering to contribute at last to depth and
fulness of joy.
Ø Faithfulness, unshaken and firm as a “rock,” insuring that all the
strength and wisdom of the Divine nature shall be exercised for the final
bestowment of the covenanted blessings. The retrospect of a personal
history was to Hannah the means of reading the outlines of the
manifestation of the Divine glory, especially in the salvation of the Church.
She, like us, saw only the beginnings of things. The remote glory shone
through a glass darkly. It was for Paul and John to declare the same
truth in fuller and more precise terms, as the one tells of the “manifold
wisdom of God” being made known “by the Church” unto “principalities
and powers in heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10), and the other, of Him
who by virtue of what He has wrought out for His redeemed is “worthy”
of all that is due to the only Lord of glory. Men are now intent on studying
the material framework of the universe; the day will come when the best
minds will study with unbounded delight the perfections of God as seen in
the restoration of spiritual order, beauty, and joy out of the chaos of sin and
jealous and cruel Peninnah was proud in her strength and abundance. Also
Pharaoh, and other oppressors of
resources. The infant Church in primitive times was as nothing in
comparison with the numerical and social power of her enemy. The
exceeding proud talk and arrogancy of men who proclaim their vast
superiority in secular knowledge to the mass of Christians, is in keeping
with the conduct of the kings and princes who “take counsel against the
Lord and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:2). But as Hannah’s fear and
trembling yielded to confidence and joy, consequent on the casting down of
her proud enemy and the lifting up of the sorrowful spirit, so the same ever
recurring triumphs of the Redeemer, awakening in His people the song of
salvation, reads out in clear and forcible terms the instructive lesson to the
proud to “talk” no more, and to the arrogant to “shut their mouth,” and to
the seemingly prosperous that all “actions are weighed” by Him who is a
“God of knowledge.” It is ever true that no weapon formed against God’s
children can prosper. In what God has effected for the lowly pious in time
past, the proud, the wise, the strong may find instruction; and, if they will,
learn both how vain it is to curse in heart or mouth whom God has blessed,
and how important for themselves that they “kiss the Son,” lest they perish,
“while his wrath is kindled but a little.” (ibid. v. 12)
former apparently unequal and undesirable distributions of favor by
breaking the bows of the strong and giving strength to the feeble; by
causing the self-satisfied Peninnah to feel the lack of a satisfaction not to be
obtained by the cruel, and the yearning Hannah to want for nothing more.
The once proud mother of many children, from causes in the home life,
fails in her joys, while the unfruitful attains to the perfection of earthly
bliss. In the one case hopes and joys are smitten; in the other, created. The
rich in home delights becomes poor, by possibly erring sons, or enfeebled
health; the poor and sorrowful is enriched with a treasure for the use of all
ages. Thus does Hannah see in outline the reversions ever occurring in the
working out of God’s salvation in the individual, the nation, or the Church.
Ø In the human soul saved by Christ, forces of evil once strong and self-
satisfied, lacking nothing, and usurping authority, are brought low,
enfeebled, made conscious of their impotence, and finally killed; while the
poor, faint, struggling spirit of love and faith is, when once “made alive,”
girded with strength, satisfied with good, and made finally dominant over
the entire nature. Doubts, fears, and mighty temptations are laid low.
Hopes, joys, and victories of faith are called forth; and, as a final issue, the
once outcast, unhappy soul is enriched with the full bliss of a child of God.
Ø In national affairs. The strength of Egypt sinks in the sea; the
in pride of their resources set aside the practice of righteousness, one by
one are brought low by the corruption concealed beneath their material
splendor; while the feeble people who live in the fear of God go from
strength to strength, and “delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”
Ø In the Church. The wealth, power, and wisdom of Rome and Greece fell
before the rising power and spiritual know]edge of poor fishermen. The
mighty evils of an age are at length brought down, and the despised “things
that are not” are caused to be the most potent and blessed of all agencies.
was of God, and not of man. In all the second causes cooperating towards
the completion of her desire she, with true spiritual instinct, saw the work
of the First Cause. “The Lord” it was who “killed and made alive.” “The
Lord” “brought low” the proud rival, and “lifted up” “the woman of
sorrowful spirit.” He it is who “keeps the feet of his saints,” and causes the
wicked at length “to be silent.” So through the unfolding ages it is “the
Lord” who works to destroy the evils of the soul, and to create and nourish
the good. All the triumphs of the Church over political scheming, pseudo-
learning, violent persecution, and satanic opposition are by the might and
power of Him who raiseth up the wise and good, checks the rage of man,
and in the invisible sphere frustrates the “gates of hell.” All things are of
God, who worketh all and in all. It is not crude anthropomorphism that
refers all the processes of individual, national, and Church salvation to the
energy of God. It is the most penetrating philosophy, born of the inspiring
Spirit of God. There are “pillars”‘ or foundations, or bases, of all terrestrial
things. We may call this a cause, and that an effect. We may clothe matter
with qualities, and point out their uniform and necessary interaction. But
still they are all traceable down to some original constitution inherent in the
elemental forces and materials; and that constitution, that firm and grand
arrangement of invisible “pillars” or bases, is what it is because God made
it so, and for no other reason. Wisely and beautifully, therefore, does the
prophetess anticipate the philosophies of the coming ages by referring all
the agencies and powers involved in the accomplishing of salvation for men
to “the Lord.” Not unto us, but to thy name be the glory. (Psalm 115:1)
eye looks on through the material disorder of Eli’s day to a typical King in
shadow of the enduring order and unfading prosperity of the “Anointed,”
who is in the highest spiritual sense to “exalt” His “horn,” and “judge the
ends of the earth.” What though, meanwhile, “adversaries” may combine,
and the occasional “strength” of the wicked threaten to cast down “the
saints;” he that sitteth in the heavens has in reserve His swift and awe
inspiring forces (Psalm 2) to shatter all opposition, and ultimately insure a
peaceful reign over mankind. It was some years before Peninnah s ground
of annoyance to Hannah was removed, and the lowly one was raised to joy
and full satisfaction; so, proportionately to the vaster deliverance to be
wrought out for mankind, it may require many centuries to cast down all
foes and create and perfect the bliss of the redeemed. But the "strength” of
the “King” will bring it to pass by a combination of invisible and visible
forces more subtle and intricate, but not less obedient to His will, than those
which brought a mother’s joy to Hannah. Here we see the beautiful unity
of all Scripture reference to THE FINAL TRIUMPH OF MESSIAH! The
“serpent’s head” is to be “bruised” was consolation to our weeping ancestors,
that made Abraham’s life one of large sympathy with the future. “To Him
shall the gathering of the people be” was the solace of Jacob’s dying hour.
And thus, aided by Hannah’s joyous song of victory, as though already real,
the holy, blessed succession ran on, telling of the “kingdom” that “shall have
no end,” and the day when to the Name that is “above every name” every
knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that HE IS LORD AND CHRIST!
From this survey of truth concerning “salvation” note a few important
Ø See here a beautiful instance of how a single life’s experience, when
under the holy discipline of God, may be rich in instruction and inspiration
for men in all ages. This is brought about not by mere natural genius, but
by a woman’s pure and full consecration to Christ, and passionate desire to
accelerate the advent of His kingdom. Happy they who can live so as to
inspire and help posterity! Let our life become a song of thanksgiving to
our successors. This is possible to ALL in some degree.
Ø An underlying current of faith in Christ’s complete triumph runs
through the ancient Church, and this should embolden us. True saints live
much in the future, while not careless of present duties. There may be
much inspiration for work from the prospect of what is to be.
Ø The effect of true faith is to enlarge the vision and broaden the
sympathies. Hannah’s faith in a coming Christ caused her spirit to be open
to those inspirations which carried the vision over the weary ages to the
true golden age, and she felt with all the saints in all time. Religion of this
kind becomes an expansive power in whatever nature it dwells.
Ø The proper unity of the Church lies in the one faith which holds the life
to Christ, whether to come, or having come; and this will insure sympathy
with His kingdom and with purity of life, as well as consecration of what is
most precious to its realization.
Rejoicing in the Lord (vs. 1-10)
“My heart rejoiceth in the Lord.” The song of Hannah, “the Magnificat of
the Old Testament Church,” was the outburst of her deep and holy joy in
the Lord. Whilst watching over the infant Samuel at Ramah, she had
silently pondered the ways of God, and the condition and prospects of His
people and kingdom. After several years of absence from the central
on the well remembered spot where she had prayed in her distress, she
fulfils her vow, and gives back to God the sacred treasure entrusted to her
care. The trouble of former years recalled, provocations and inward
conflicts ended, the sunshine of Divine favor experienced, cause her full
heart to “bubble up like a fountain,” and pour itself out in lofty poetic
strains (v. 1). What a contrast does this language indicate between her
condition at the time of the previous visit and her condition now!
1. Then her heart was full of grief; now it “rejoiceth in the Lord.”
2. Then her “horn” (strength, a figure taken from animals whose strength is
in their horns, and here first employed. (II Samuel 22:3; Luke 1:69)
was trampled in the dust; now it is “exalted,” and she is endued with
strength and honour “by the Lord.”
3. Then her mouth was shut, in silent endurance, beneath the provocation
of her adversary (ch. 1:6); now it is “enlarged,” or opened in holy
exultation, “above her enemies.”
4. Then she was petitioning for the help of the Lord now she “rejoices in
His salvation,” or the deliverance which He has wrought on her behalf; and
it is “because” of this that she utters aloud her thanksgiving and praise. Her
soul with all its powers, like a harp of many strings, touched by the Divine
Spirit, gives forth exquisite music. The Divinely inspired song of Hannah
is like a golden key for the interpretation of the whole book. Compare this song
with the song of Miriam (Exodus 15) and of Deborah (Judges 5). Those compositions
are grand, indeed, and elevated, and worthy of that inspiration which produced them;
but they have not that tenderness of spirit, that personality of devotion, and that
eucharistic anticipation of good things to come which characterize the hymn of
Hannah. It is the model after which the song of the Virgin Mary was formed,
though there are notable points of difference between them. Considered in relation
to the circumstances, and in its general nature, her song was a song of:
those who look no further than the blessings bestowed upon them, she
looked from the gift to the Giver, and praised him with joyful lips. Her
heart rejoiced not in Samuel, but in the Lord.
afresh. The more we give to God, the more our heart is enlarged, by the
shedding abroad of His love therein, and filled with exceeding joy.
in the past.
Philistines; and, identifying herself with them, she almost lost sight of what
God had done for her in the contemplation of what He would do for them.
From this particular mercy she had received from God she takes occasion,
with an elevated and enlarged heart, to speak of the glorious things of God,
and of his government of the world for the good of the Church. She
discerned in her own individual experience the general laws of the Divine
economy, and its signification in relation to the whole history of the
f. Prophetic hope. She beheld the dawn of a new day, and was glad. In all
and above all:
g. Joy in the Lord. “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord;” not merely before Him
(Deuteronomy 12:12); but in Him, as the Object and Source of its joy;
in communion with and contemplation of Him, and in the admiration,
affection, and delight thereby excited. “My meditation of him shall be
sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (Psalm 104:34). “When I think of
God,” said Haydn (on being asked the reason why the style of his music
was so cheerful), “my soul is so full of joy that the notes come leaping and
dancing from my pen.” More especially observe that Hannah rejoiced in:
perfections must not, indeed, be thought of as existing in God separate and
distinct from each other; they are essential attributes of His living
personality, and are all really present in His every purpose and act. What is
here declared of God is, that:
Ø He alone is “holy.”
o Supremely excellent; whatever excellence exists in any other being falls
infinitely short of his (Isaiah 6:3).
o Morally perfect; invariably willing what is right and good;
transcendently glorious in the view of conscience (Leviticus 11:44).
o Absolutely existent, which is the ground of His excellence and
perfection. “For there is none except thee.” “God is the most perfect
Being, and the cause of all other beings.” His moral perfection is a
peculiar distinction of the revelation which He made to His chosen
people, needs to be specially magnified in times of corruption, and
can only be rejoiced in by His saints. The conception which men
form of God is an evidence of their own character, and exerts a
powerful influence upon it (Luke 1:49).
Ø He alone is strong. “A Rock.”
o Firm, unchanging, enduring; a sure foundation for confidence.
o None can be compared unto Him. They may not be trusted in, and they
need not be feared.
o Happy are those who can say, He is “our God.” That which is a terror
to others is a consolation to them. “The children of a king do not fear what
their father has in his arsenal.” “Let the inhabitant of the rock sing.” But
men often speak proudly and arrogantly (v. 3), as if they were
independent of Him, and could do whatever they pleased. Let them not
boast any more; for:
Ø He is the All-wise; a “God of knowledge” (literally knowledges) of all
knowledge. “The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity”
(Psalm 94:11; 138:6). His knowledge is:
o perfect, and
o universal. And,
Ø He is the Judge of human actions. He determines how far they may go
before they are effectually checked by the manifestation of His power and
wisdom. “By strength shall no man prevail.” He also forms a just
estimate of their moral worth, and gives to every man his due reward. His
righteousness and justice, as well as his strength and wisdom, when
contemplated by the good, fill them with great joy.
the laws of which are the uniform methods of His activity, and more
especially in human affairs; wherein, whilst there is room for human
freedom and prudence, and the use of means, His will encircles and
overrules all things, and His hand moves in and through those events which
are commonly attributed to chance or accident, and directs and controls
them for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). In and by
these operations —
Ø He manifests the perfections of His character: His holiness, power,
wisdom, and justice. “The Lord is righteous in all his ways." (Psalms
Ø He apportions the different conditions of men, and accomplishes the
varied changes of their condition.
o Makes the strong weak and the weak strong (v. 4).
o The full empty and the empty full (v. 5).
o Increases the lonely and diminishes the numerous family.
o Brings into great distress, even to the verge of the grave, and
again restores to health and prosperity (v. 6).
o Makes poor and makes rich.
o Brings low and raises up.
Prosperity and adversity alike, when received from the hand of God
and used aright, become occasions of joy; and the changes of life are
morally beneficial (Psalm 55:19; Jeremiah 48:11; James 1:9-10).
Ø He does great things, especially for the lowly (v. 8). Stooping to them
in their utmost need and shame (Psalm 113:7-8), and raising them to
the highest honor and glory. “God does nothing else,” said an ancient
philosopher, “but humble the proud and exalt the lowly.” “Set thyself in the
lowest place, and the highest shall be given thee; for the more elevated the
building is designed to be, the deeper must the foundations be laid. The
greatest saints in the sight of God are the least in their own esteem; and the
height of their glory is always in proportion to the depth of their humility”
(Thomas a Kempis).
Ø He supports the earth and all that is upon it. His dominion is supreme;
and He has therefore the power, as He has the right, to do whatever may
please Him. An unfaltering trust in Providence is a cure of undue anxiety
and a cause of abounding peace and joy. “Certainly it is heaven on earth to
have a man’s
mind move in charity, rest in
poles of truth” (Bacon). “The prophets of the Old Testament inculcate with
a remarkable perspicuity and decision the overruling agency of God’s
providence in the affairs of the world. Their whole prophecy is more or less
a commentary on this doctrine What a basis is laid by it of peace and
tranquility to every thoughtful and most feeling mind; and how different
the aspect of the world becomes when we have reason to know that all
things in it, and every combination of them, whether in the fortunes of
kingdoms or in a more private state, are under the control of an intelligent
and gracious Ruler. Were we in the chains of chance, how gloomy would
our case be. Were we in the hands of men, too often how fearful, how
humiliating, how conflicting. But the impression of the scene is changed
when we admit into it the direction of an All-Wise and perfect Being, in
whose rectitude and goodness we may acquiesce through the whole course
of His providential dispensation” (Davison ‘on Prophecy,’ p. 59).
“One adequate support
For the calamities of mortal life
Exists, one only; — an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, howe’er
Sad or disturb’d, is order’d by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power,
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good”
moral governor, and directs His providential operations with a view to the
setting up of a kingdom of righteousness upon earth. This kingdom existed
from the first, was more fully
exhibited in the theocracy of
culminated in the rule of Christ, who “must reign until he hath put all
enemies under his feet.” In every stage of development it involves conflict.
Ø He will protect, its subjects; His saints (literally, pious, those who love God),
against whom the wicked will contend in vain (v. 9).
Ø He will overthrow its adversaries (v. 10); their overthrow being:
o complete — “broken to pieces,” — and
o signally indicative of the interposition of heaven (ch. 7:10).
Ø He will extend its borders to the ends of the earth, and,
Ø He will clothe with strength, honor, and majesty the king whom He
appoints and anoints for the accomplishment of His purposes. Hannah
commenced her song with rejoicing on account of the strength and honor
conferred upon herself, and she closes it with rejoicing on account of the
strength and honor which would be conferred on Him who should be
“higher than the kings of the earth.” “Let the children of Zion be joyful in
their king.” “The anointed of the Lord, of whom Hannah prophesies in the
spirit, is not
one single king in
king, though not a mere personification of the throne about to be
but the actual king whom
which culminated in the Messiah. The exaltation of the horn of the
anointed of Jehovah commenced with the victorious and splendid
expansion of the power of David, was repeated with every victory over the
enemies of God and His kingdom gained by the successive kings of David’s
house, goes on
in the advancing spread of the
eventually attain to its eternal consummation in the judgment of the last
day, through which all the enemies of Christ will be made His footstool!
The Prayer Song of Hannah (vs. 1-10)
In her prayer of asking Hannah was intent not merely on having a child, but
on giving to the service of God a priest, and to the
judge, very different from the sons of Eli — a Nazarite, a second and a
better Samson. No wonder, then, that when she brought her son to the
sanctuary, her prayer of thanksgiving took a large scope, and revealed even
a prophetic fervor. What religious poetess has made such an impression
as Hannah with one ode? Reproduced in Psalm 113., and yet again in the
song of the blessed Virgin Mary, commonly called the Magnificat, it may
be said to have continued in devout minds, Hebrew and Gentile, for about
3000 years. The first verse is the introduction, and strikes the key in which
all that follows is pitched — a tone of warm and grateful confidence in
God. Then follow the praises of the Lord, with some anticipation of better
days to come.
Ø Because of His sublime attributes (vs. 2, 3). “There is none holy as
Jehovah.” The root idea of holiness is always that of separateness from
what is evil or profane. The God of Israel was the Holy One, absolutely
unique, immaculate, inviolate, and inviolable. None among the gods of the
nations might be likened to Him. So He called and required Israel to be a
holy nation, i.e. separate from the nations of the world, who are idolatrous
and unclean. So under the New Testament the saints are the separated ones
who touch not the unclean thing. “Neither any rock like our God.” (I
recommend: Acts 17 - Moody Sermon - The Great Redemption - this website
CY - 2016) God's protection cannot be invaded. His purpose does not vacillate.
His power does not fail. He is the Rock of Ages. This was what made Israel
unconquerable so long as faithful to God. The “rocks” of the nations, i.e.
the gods in
whom they trusted, were not as
God of knowledge.” Let not the wicked boast proudly. No word of scorn
cast at the humble, no haughty glance of the eye, is unobserved by the
Lord; and nothing is more certain than that, sooner or later, He will abase
the proud. “And by him actions are weighed.” In His estimate of human
conduct He holds the balances of a perfect equity.
Ø Because of His mighty works (vs. 4-8). Ruling in holy sovereignty,
God often reverses the conditions of men, lowering the exalted and
exalting the lowly. He even kills and makes alive, leads down into Hades,
and leads up from it again. Sheol or Hades was no mere pit of extinction
from which there could be no uprising. God was able to raise even the
dead. Such being His power, what could the boastful effect against
Jehovah? What might not the humble hope from Him? This is the central
thought of Hannah’s song, and it is still more finely expressed in that of the
blessed Virgin. “He hath showed strength,” etc. (Luke 1:51-53). Of the
elevation of the despised, celebrated here and in Psalm 113., how many
illustrations in sacred story! Joseph, Moses, Gideon, before the time of
Hannah; and afterwards, David, and the great Son of David, the Man
Christ Jesus, and His Galilean apostles. This fact is not to encourage
contempt of, or impatience under, earthly dignities; but it is to cheer those
who are or may be depressed by worldly disadvantage of poverty or
obscurity. God’s grace is no appanage of the rich or powerful. Was not
Martin Luther a poor miner’s son? David Brainerd a small farmer’s son?
John Bunyan a tinker’s son, brought up to follow the same craft? Were not
the good missionaries Carey and Knibb apprentices, the one bound to a
cobbler, the other to a printer? And are not such men among the princes of
God’s people? The house of Elkanah was of no eminence in Israel; but
thence God was raising up this child Samuel, whom Hannah brought to His
courts, to be, if not king, king maker, and to stand at the head of a line of
prophets who should be the guides of the kings and the people so long as
the kingdom stood.
prayer song has a prophetic strain (vs. 9-10). Hannah was confident of
God’s preservation of His saints, and of the correlative truth of the
perdition of ungodly men. Not that He has any pleasure in their death; but
that if men will fight against eternal order and righteousness, THEY MUST
FAIL IN THE STRUGGLE, THEY MUST PERISH! “As for Jehovah,
those who contend against Him are broken.” The prophetic element shows
itself in the closing expressions of the song. The government of Israel at the
time may be described as that of a commonwealth, so far as concerns human
administration. It was a theocracy, as it had been from the time of the
exodus; but the actual administration was carried on through leaders, or
judges. The eye of Hannah opened on a new epoch, foresaw a king to
whom Jehovah would give strength as His Anointed. It is the first mention
of a Messiah in Holy Writ. No doubt Hannah’s words are a prediction of
David, whose horn of power the Lord was to exalt, giving him a career of
victory over all his enemies. But whether or not it was clear to Hannah’s
mind, the Spirit who rested on her signified a King greater than David, and
a more illustrious kingdom. It is He of whom the angel said to Mary, “He
shall be great,” etc. (Luke 1:32-33). We see not yet His kingdom. We
see not all things put under Him. But we see Jesus crowned with glory and
honor; and we wait for His appearing and His kingdom. The longings of
many generations, the hopes of many Hannahs, the visions of many seers
and prophets, O may they come to pass speedily! "Even so, Come. Lord
Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20)
The King Messiah (v. 10)
The last word of the song of Hannah is the first mention of the Lord’s
Anointed, Messiah, Christ.
1. Her language was a direct prediction of the appointment of a theocratic
king, for which Samuel prepared the way, and which, under Divine
direction, he was the chief agent in effecting.
2. It was an indirect prediction of One who had been long expected
(Genesis 3:14-15; 12:1-3; 22:17-18; 49:10; Numbers 24:17-19;
Deuteronomy 18:15-19), and in whom the idea of such a king would
be completely realized.
3. It marks the dawn of a splendid series of prophecies founded on the
reign of David, and ever brightening to the perfect day (II Samuel 7.; 23:1-7;
Psalms 2; 110; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 9:25; Micah 5:2; Malachi 4:2.
Ø To unite a divided people (Genesis 49:10). Nothing was more
needed in the days of the judges.
Ø To save them from their enemies. “Thy salvation” (v. 1;
Psalm 18:50; 95:1; Matthew 1:21).
Ø To rule over them, judge them in righteousness, and establish among
them order peace, and happiness. The regal office of our Saviour
consisteth partly in the ruling, protecting, and rewarding of His people;
partly in the coercing, condemning, and destroying of His enemies.
It was the
fatal mistake of
and imposing, rather than an inward, moral, and spiritual fulfillment of this
purpose. The same mistake has, to some extent, pervaded Christendom.
kingdom is not of this world.” “The
peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and
myself have founded empires. But upon what did we rest the creations of
our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love;
and at this moment millions would die for him” (‘Table Talk and Opinions
of Napoleon Bonaparte’).
(Psalm 2:6; 18:50).
Ø The choice was of God. “Chosen out of the people” (Psalm 89:19).
Even Saul, a man after the people’s heart rather than after God’s heart,
was selected and appointed by Him. The invisible King of Israel did not
relinquish His authority.
Ø Founded on personal eminence. David. The ancient Persians believed
that their ruler was an incarnation of the eternal light, the object of their
worship, and therefore rendered him Divine honor. This was a reality in
Ø Confirmed and manifested by the anointing of His Spirit (ch. 10:1; 16:13;
II Samuel 2:4); the outward act being a symbol of the inward endowment
(Matthew 3:16; Luke 4:18). “God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him”
(John 3:34; Hebrews 1:9).
Ø After a state of humiliation; implied in the language here used; also
indicated in v. 8; and typified by the lowly origin of David and his course
to the throne.
Ø By the right hand of God. “He will give strength;” “All power is given
unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18); exhibited in His
resurrection, ascension, and possession of supreme honor, authority, and
Ø To a kingdom universal and eternal. “The Lord shall judge the ends of
the earth” (Psalms 2:8; 72:2-5; 132:18; Luke 1:31-33, 69). Whilst
Jesus lives and reigns in heaven, He also lives and reigns on earth. He does
so by the continued and ever increasing power of His example and
teachings, His wondrous life, and still more wondrous death. The truths and
principles which He declared and embodied are, at this moment, accepted
by the loftiest intellects, the purest consciences, and the tenderest hearts
amongst men. Who now reverses a single judgment which He pronounced
upon men or things? Who can conceive any character more worthy of
reverence and affection than His? The lapse of time has only served to
invest His words and character with fresh interest and power. Other kings
and conquerors are fading away amidst the shadows of the past; but He is
ever rising before the view of mankind more distinctly, and living in their
thoughts, their consciences, and their hearts more mightily. Yea, more, He
lives and reigns on earth by His Divine presence, His providential working,
and the power of His Spirit. Just as the sun, shining in mid-heaven, sheds
down his rays upon the earth; so Christ, the Sun of righteousness (though
no longer seen by mortal eye), pours down the beams of His influence upon
us continually, and rules over all things for the complete establishment of
SAMUEL’S MINISTRATIONS AT
11 "And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did
minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest."
The child did
minister. Left by his parents at
ministered unto the Lord; that is, certain duties were allotted him to
perform suited to his age; but few at first, when he was but three years old,
but increasing in importance as time went on; for the words refer to the
whole period of his service, until Eli’s death. At first Samuel would be but
a scholar, for, as we have mentioned on ch. 1:21, there were, no
doubt, regulations for the training of children devoted to the service of the
sanctuary. The peculiarity about Samuel was that he was devoted for life,
for possibly it was a not uncommon practice for young persons to receive
some training at
gathered youths round him at Naioth in Ramah for educational purposes.
Learning practically was confined to the priesthood, and we can scarcely
imagine that the knowledge which Phinehas and the family of Aaron
brought with them out of
certainly had himself received careful instruction (see on ch. 10:25),
and this could scarcely have happened if the training of young
persons had not been part of the priests’ duties at
explains why Samuel was brought to Eli at so tender an age, and why the
charge of so young a child was undertaken without a murmur. Before Eli
means under his general superintendence. Everything done at
done before Eli, as being the chief ruler there.
Samuel’s Childhood and Growth (v. 11)
“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” (v. 26). (ch. 1:24; here, vs.18-19, 21; 3:1.) “Great is the
reverence due to children.” It is said of an eccentric schoolmaster in
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
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:
Ø 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 fulfillment 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 (v. 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 color, 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).
Ø 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
Ø 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 (ch. 3:15). By means
of such things he was trained for a higher ministry.
Ø 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
Ø Familiarity with public life. There at the center of government, he must
early have become conversant with the weightiest concerns of the people.
Ø 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 rigor to act up to this conviction” (Ewald). But this could
only take place by:
Ø 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.
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).
Ø Humble submission.
Ø Great docility, or readiness to learn what he was taught.
Ø 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 (ch. 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
Ø 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
Ø Transparent truthfulness and guilelessness.
Ø Purity and self-control (I Timothy 4:12; II Timothy 2:22).
Ø Sincere devotion to the purpose of his dedication to the Lord. In this
manner he gradually grew into the possession of a holy character. 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 favor with God and man”
(Luke 2:40, 51-52).
Ø 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).
Ø 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”
(vs. 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.
12 "Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD."
Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial, i.e. worthless men
(see on ch. 1:16). They knew not Jehovah. He had never been
revealed to their consciences, and so His fear had no influence upon their
lives. The next words, in v. 13, are difficult, but literally mean, “The legal
right of the priests, towards, or as respects, the people.” On this account
the Vulgate and several commentators couple the sentence with what
precedes: “they knew neither Jehovah, nor their own legal rights.” But the
word also in v. 15 is incompatible with this rendering; for if what is
mentioned there be illegal, so must also the practice be which is recorded
here. But neither does custom give the sense; for the Hebrews has not
priest’s (singular) as the Authorized Version, but of the priests, of all priests
generally, and not of Eli merely and his sons. The right translation is that given
by the Septuagint, Syriac, and Chaldee, namely, “the due of the priests from the
people,” on which see Leviticus 7:31-35. In the original this is put
absolutely “And as to the priests’ due from the people, when,” etc., but our
language requires some insertion to make it read more smoothly. “And as
to the due of the priests from the people, the manner of its exaction was as
follows: When,” etc. But besides the due and legal portion, which,
nevertheless, they took in an illegal way, they demanded a part of the flesh
reserved for the feast of the offerer, and to which they had absolutely no
right (see Leviticus 8:31; II Chronicles 35:13). The legal due of the priest was
the right shoulder and the wave breast; but before he took them they were to be
consecrated to God by the burning of the fat upon the altar (Leviticus 3:5; 7:31, 34).
It is worth observing that the people seem well acquainted with the words of the Law,
and are indignant because the priests, its proper guardians, do not abide literally by
them. This contempt of the Law distressed their religious susceptibilites,
while the cupidity of Eli’s sons offended their moral nature. And so men
abhorred the offering of Jehovah. Literally, it is the minchah, the unbloody
sacrifice, or meat offering, but it is put here for every kind of sacrificial offering.
13 "And the priest’s 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;
14 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
15 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.
16 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.
17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the
LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
The sons of Eli were the greatest sinners of their degenerate age. From the
most favored home the worst men came forth. All sin is a great evil. It is
the curse of man, the abomination of God. In its essence it is rebellion
against the All-wise and Holy One. For all lack of conformity to His will
implies a will supposed to be a more desirable guide than His, which is
insult and insubordination. But the Bible represents some sins as of deeper
dye than others. There are beings deserving to be “beaten with many
stripes.” (Luke 12:47) The tests by which the enormity of sins is estimated are,
after reference of all to the perfect purity of God.
sons of Eli were of the vilest kind. In themselves they were calculated to
awaken the most intense disgust and abhorrence of every pure and reverent
mind. It is hard to conceive how men blessed with early privileges could
sink so low, were it not that modern Christian times have produced the
darkest sins in the professedly religious. The sins of open profanation of
the sanctuary, of despite to the solemn sacrifice, of pollution in guiltiest
lust, were but the outward expression of a state of soul foul, reckless,
defiant beyond all description. So, generally, the dark, horrid deeds on
which men look are but the indicators of a very hell of iniquity deep down
in the soul. There are:
men that they were the sons of the priest of God. It is a grave responsibility
to be born of parents endued with any degree of piety. Especially are they
under strong obligation to avoid sin who are, by virtue of their connection
with the ordinances of worship, taught out of the law of the Lord, and
surrounded by the hallowed influences of the sanctuary. Every wise book
read, every kind influence exercised, every prayer offered in public, or by
parents at home, gives additional light and power wherewith to avoid the
paths of sin. It requires a long and hard inward struggle to keep down
conscience so as to become a desperate sinner. Men do not sink to lowest
depths of vice suddenly. Every successive step is taken against clear light
and restraining powers, and when the final surrender to guilty deeds is
made, the whole privileges of the past speak out the greatness of the evil.
The poor idolater ignorantly causing his sons to pass through the fire to
Moloch is less’ guilty than the
every sacred feeling, they turn from all the light of years to profane the
sanctuary by violence and lust.
viler. The sin of despising a holier Sacrifice than of bulls and lambs is often
committed by men blessed with faithful teaching.
priest was most sacred. The reverence cherished for the office was
transferred in some degree to the person who filled it. Hence, perhaps, the
patience and submission with which the worshippers endured the greed and
violence of the guilty sons of Eli. In itself, being a consecration of life to
the holiest of employments, and considered, also, as a type of the one
perfect Priesthood, there was solid reason for the common sentiment. No
position is morally higher than that of him who stands between man and
God for the performance of most solemn duties. Hence in all ages it has
been recognized that the ministers of the sanctuary, whether priests, as
anciently, or pastors and teachers, do exercise an influence which, while
increasing the force of goodness, also aggravates their guilt when sin is
committed. Power, when used sinfully, means magnified sin. A professed
Christian sinks relatively very low when he does what other men do. A
pastor by one act may come under a condemnation from which on earth he
will never recover. A judge who sells justice is the most despised of men. A
statesman who barters truth and peace for personal greed is worse than a
common forger. Holiness is to be loved and sought for its own sake, yet it
is helpful to ask, “What manner of persons ought we to be” (II Peter 3:11),
who stand out in society as rulers, magistrates, pastors, teachers, parents?
If the ordinary sinner cannot escape the swift judgment of God, where shall
they appear who by virtue of exalted position become intensely and grievously
sinful when they sin?
heavy bodies in still water, produce wider and more violent effects than do
others. The effect is always pernicious, but when prominent men and
professed servants of God sin, the consequences are painfully and
conspicuously injurious. The sons of Eli by their crimes not only debased
their own nature and fell to lower depths of shame, but they brought the
holiest services into disrepute, alienated from the sanctuary the feelings of
the people, caused intense anguish in the minds of the pious Jews, gave
encouragement to wicked men more freely to transgress (like David who
gave “great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” –
II Samuel 12:14), and thus did more than others could do to exterminate
morality and religion from the land. It is a serious question for every one,
and especially ministers and all persons in positions of influence,
how far the neglect of religion by multitudes is the natural effect of their
own short comings. It is a mark of a great sinner when, by reason of his
conduct, the “wicked blaspheme.’’ Also, our Lord has branded those as
great sinners who wantonly cause offence to “one” of His “little ones.”
(Matthew 18:6) If skepticism and antagonism to Christianity are most
lamentable evils, it is a matter of grave consideration how far the presence
of these evils is due to the formality, the greed, the gross inconsistencies of
those professing to exhibit and love the religion of Christ. It behoves all to
see to it that they lift up “holy hands,” and speak a “pure language.”
Otherwise the terrible woes pronounced by the Saviour over would be
religious men may find an application to modern great sinners. Arising
from this subject we may notice certain:
and of conscience, a proper estimate of the responsibility of his position as
a professed Christian, a parent, a minister of the gospel, a teacher, or civil ruler.
finer sensibilities of earlier days shall become almost annihilated, and
deeds be done with impunity which once were most abhorrent.
elements of religious degeneracy may be unconsciously at work in the soul;
the more so as it is characteristic of spiritual declension to make us blind to
the fact of declension.
official services, the elements of decay should enter the spiritual life, and,
consequently, the duties of self-scrutiny and watchfulness be shunned.
Degenerate Sons (vs. 11-17)
1. Eli’s sons manifest their extreme wickedness by profaning the worship of God.
2. As a consequence, a grievous scandal is caused, and Divine worship comes
3. In spite of many evil surroundings, Samuel grows up in the blameless
discharge of religious duties.
4. Hannah continues to visit and take a deep interest in her son’s spiritual
life. The sorrowful experience of Eli in old age is sometimes repeated in
modern times. Many a good man is bowed down even to the grave by the
irreligion of sons of whom better things had been expected. No more
painful condition can a father be in than when he scarcely dare name his
children to those who ask after their welfare. The world and the Church
look on with wonder and pain at the spectacle of vile children issuing from
a pious home. The feeling of surprise with which men read of the family of
the high priest
conviction that desperately bad youths ought never to issue from Christian
homes. Such an event is contrary to all just expectations. The presumption
that the offspring of pious parents would be holy is based on various
considerations, which for the most part apply to the case of Eli.
5. There are various promises and statements to encourage the belief that
the children of the pious will share in special mercies (e. g. Deuteronomy
30:2, 6; Proverbs 22:6; Isaiah 44:7; Malachi 2:15; I Corinthians 7:14).
6. In so far as susceptibility to religious impressions is affected by
inherited qualities, they have an advantage over others.
7. The means of grace, instruction, example, and prayer are more
employed for them than for the majority.
8. The power of early habit, which plays so important a part in the
formation of character, is likely to be on the side of godliness where
religious influences early operate. The causes which account for the
ungodliness of the children of the pious are diverse, intricate, and partly
inscrutable. A broad margin must be left for the mysterious action of a free
being, even under the most favorable conditions. It is not possible to trace
the lines and say where parental responsibility ends and the responsibility of
the child begins. The two factors are to be recognized. Moreover, anterior
physical causes, operating perniciously through ancestors, may act
detrimentally on the mental and moral condition. But allowing for these
and other untraceable elements of the case, there are causes of this sad
feature of domestic life:
It is the first foe to be encountered in seeking a child’s salvation. Its subtle
power is beyond all knowledge. There may not be the complications of
wickedness which exist in the full-grown nature of the adult after years of
developed sin, but the power is persistent and insinuating. Eli’s children
shared this tendency in common with others. The special propensities
inherited are sometimes very strong, and seem to partake of the force of
the old habits of the ancestors from whom they were derived. It is also a
fact that where a malformation, or unequal development of the physical
system, supervenes on the inheritance of special evil propensities, these
latter gain immensely in force. A line of pious ancestors, as a rule, would
guarantee freedom from such abnormal developments, because continuous
piety tends to the symmetrical development of the entire man; but
occasionally there are backward leaps in nature, and old elements reappear.
Possibly some of Eli’s blood relatives were not so good as they ought to
have been. No doubt grace can subdue even the worst natures, but the
elements referred to must be considered in connection with other causes.
respect. Few persons consider how much of care, of wisdom, of
forethought, of yearning sympathy, of specific, well adapted guidance, and
of prayer is involved in the “nurture and admonition” required in training
children for God. There may be a fatal lack of faith in the very possibility of
infant piety; an expectation that, as a matter of course, a child will grow up
in sin till an age for conversion arrives; a cold, cruel casting of the spiritual
welfare of a child on teachers, attendants, official aids — the parent, under
pressure of business, declining to bear his offspring ever on his heart before
God; (If the parent does not do his work, it is for ever undone!– copied –
CY – 2016); or a lack of discretion in dealing with each soul according to its
temperament. Absence of a mother’s deep and tender interest tells most
prejudicially. An unwise method of instilling religious truth; an assertion of
mere authority in severe tones; a lack of discipline to check wrong
tendencies; a constant appeal to a sense of fear; an avoidance of the
essential truths of the gospel, or a low, groveling representation of them,
may create aversion, awake silent resistance, and finally set the entire
nature against what is falsely supposed to be religion. Perhaps there is no
department of religious obligation so little studied as this. The tender,
susceptible nature of children cannot be safely treated without much
thought and prayer. No wonder if the promise which hangs on a faithful
discharge of most delicate and solemn duties carried on year by year should
sometimes not be fulfilled. Parents have need to pray, “Search me and try
and unconscious influence, it may be regarded as distinct from direct
efforts. Children learn more of religion from what they observe in parents
than by any other means. The life they see lived is their daily book of
lessons. If it is selfish, hard, formal, worldly, no amount of verbal teaching
or professed interest will avail. There is no surer encouragement for a child
to despise all religion than a discovery of insincerity in the professions of a
parent. Real character comes into clear view in the home, and those who,
under influence of public considerations, restrain themselves in the world,
but give freedom to unhallowed feelings in private, cannot wonder if
children do not covet the piety they witness.
youth and early manhood, exercise much influence over character. It is not
every youth that is solely formative on others. Most young people receive
more from companions than they impart. The good of home may be largely
neutralized by the tone of society outside the home. (Thus the danger to
American culture by the indulgent secular influence! – CY – 2016)
Eli’s sons were not strong enough to counteract the evil tendencies of the age,
and their father erred in not taking precautions adequate to the occasion.
Probably one reason why the sons of good and eminent men sometimes
become notoriously godless is, that the utter absorption of the parent in public
affairs, albeit religious, gradually issues in alienation of sons from home
interests and committal to friendships evil in tendency. The charm of
novelty is powerful where home life is rendered dull through inattention to
the tastes and enjoyments of the young, and hence consent is given to
enticing sinners. If, in any instance, there are in operation causes, either
singly or combined, of the nature referred to, it is inevitable that a home,
though in some degree pious, should be distressed by the presence of
ungodly sons. So far as man’s conduct determines religion or irreligion in
offspring, it would be contrary to the action of natural laws for pious sons
to be the product of efforts inadequate to the end in view. If sons are godly
in spite of errors and bad influence at home, it is because God in His mercy
has brought other and more blessed influences to bear. Even defective
training may be ultimately remedied by a more true use of prayer for mercy.
A Degenerate Priesthood (vs. 12-17)
“The best things when corrupted become the worst.” It is thus with official
positions such as were held by the priests of old. Their positions were an
hereditary right, and their duties consisted largely of a prescribed routine of
services. It was required, however, that their personal character should
accord with their sacred work (Malachi 2:7); and their influence was
great for good or evil. Whilst they reflected in their character and conduct
the moral condition of the times, they also contributed in no small degree
to produce it. The sons of Eli employed their high office not for the welfare
of men and the glory of God, but for their own selfish and corrupt
purposes, and afford an example of “great and instructive wickedness.”
Concerning them the following things are recorded:
conception of Him as holy and just, and they did not consider that He
observed and hated sin by whomsoever it was committed, and would surely
punish it. They had no communion with Him, no sympathy with His
purposes, and no sense of their own obligations to Him. They were
unspiritual men, and practically infidel. And they were such
notwithstanding the instructions they received, the opportunities they
possessed, and the services they rendered. Although the servants of God,
“they knew not God,” and were “without excuse.” Amidst a blaze of light
men may be dark within. “And if the light within thee be darkness, how
great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)
liberal portions of the peace offerings which were legally assigned to them
(the breast and shoulder), they claimed other and larger portions, to which
they were not entitled, and robbed the people for the gratification of their
own appetites. What they would have fiercely denounced in others they
deemed venial offences in privileged men like themselves. How often do
official positions and selfish indulgences blind men to the injustice of their
conduct, and harden them in iniquity.
the Levitical law that the fat should be burnt on the altar before the offering
was divided between the priest and the offerer; but instead of doing this,
the priest sent his servant beforehand to demand his portion with the fat,
that it might be better fitted for roasting than boiling, which was not to his
taste. He thus appropriated to his private use what belonged to the Lord,
and “robbed God” of his due. It was a gross act of disobedience, sacrilege,
and profanity, prompted by the same pampered appetite as his dishonesty
toward men; and, in addition, it hindered the people from fulfilling their
religious purposes, and made his own servant a partner in his sin.
people gently remonstrated, and promised to give up their own portion if
the fat were first burnt on the altar, it was said to them, “Nay, but thou
shalt give it me now, or else I will come and take it by force.” Reason as
well as right was overridden. Instead of regarding himself as a servant of
God for the good of men, the priest made himself a “lord over God’s
heritage” (I Peter 5:3). Having cast aside the authority of God, he
made his own arbitrary dictum the law of others, and urged obedience to it
by the threatening of force. By the same means, backed by spiritual terrors,
he has often sought to accomplish his wishes in every age.
abstained from presenting as many offerings as they would have given, or
even from presenting them at all, being repelled from the service of God by
the evil conduct of His ministers. “Ye make the Lord’s people to
transgress” (v. 24). One unworthy priest has often made many
unbelievers. Instead of strengthening what is noblest and best in men, he
has destroyed it, and made its restoration impossible. And, generally,
ungodly conduct on the part of professed servants of God is a great
hindrance to the spread of truth and righteousness, and a powerful
influence in extending error and evil in the world. “One sinner destroyeth
much good.” (Ecclesiastes 9:18) To complete the picture, two other things
must be added, viz.:
nothing of self-control, gave the rein to their lusts, and indulged in vices
which the heathen commonly associated with their idol worship, and which
made that worship so terrible a temptation to
scarcely cared to disguise their participation in similar indulgences, and
made the tabernacle of the Lord like a heathen temple.
insensible to the presence of the invisible King, they treated His services as a
mere outward ritual, which may be performed without any felt inconsistency
between it and any amount of immorality. Why should they observe it at all?
From self-interest and from superstition, they still supposed that there was
some mysterious benefit inseparably connected with the ark, and enjoyed
by those who possessed it, apart from their moral and spiritual state. Their
religion had become a superstition, like that of the heathen. And hence they
took the ark into the battle field, in sure confidence of their safety, and were
deprived of it by the heathen, and THEY THEMSELVES DESTROYED!
Ø It is possible for men to possess the highest privileges, and yet sink into
THE DEEPEST DEGRADATION!
Ø The patience of Heaven toward sinners, is wonderful, and designed to
lead them to REPENTANCE!
Ø When men despise the goodness of God, and persist in transgression,
they are certain to meet with SIGNAL PUNISHMENT!
18 But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a
linen ephod." But Samuel ministered. While the misconduct of Eli’s sons
was thus bringing religion into contempt, and sapping the nation’s morals,
Samuel was advancing in years and piety, and was gaining that education
which made him fit to retrieve the evil of their doings. He is still styled
na’ar, a boy; for the word, according to the Rabbins, may be used up to
fifteen years (ch. 1:24). In the sense of servant there is no limit of
age; and as it is the word translated “young men” in v. 17, it probably
means there not Eli’s sons, but the servants by whose instrumentality their
orders were actually carried out. Samuel’s dress, an ephod of white linen,
was probably that worn by the Levites in their ordinary ministrations; for
the ephod of the priests was richer both in material and color (Exodus
28:6-8). As being thus the simplest ministerial garment, it was apparently
worn also by laymen when taking part in any religious service, as by David
when he danced before the ark (II Samuel 6:14).
Youthful Piety (v. 18)
It is not without significance that the sacred historian breaks the thread of
his ordinary narrative by frequent references to the child Samuel (vs. 11,
18, 21, 26; compare ch. 3:1, 18). The contrast with ungodly priests is striking. “But
Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child.” “The child was young.”
“The child grew before the Lord.” Beautiful progression! “Following on”
to “know the Lord.” “The path of the just” grows brighter. Here in face of
evil is the “perseverance of the saints.” The case of Samuel may be
regarded as a typical instance of youthful piety. The frequent allusions to
him, combined with the tenor of his subsequent life, go to prove that he
was a religious child from earliest days. Humanly his piety was the product
of his mother’s intense earnestness. Hannah had faith to believe that a child
may be God’s from the very dawn of life. In essential features his piety was
the same as that of all God’s people. There were special reasons for its
assuming the form it did in that entire and early separation from home.
1. A mother’s prevision had respect to a new and higher office to be
created and duly authenticated.
2. Extraordinary preparation was needful for the great work to be finally
entered on, and such as separation to the hallowed service of the sanctuary
3. The mother could thus evince her freedom from mere selfish
gratification in seeking a child from the Lord, and at the same time do all
within her power to advance the coming kingdom.
4. There was a secret providence in this preparing the way for the first
great step in the reformation of the people, namely, the authoritative
announcement of national disaster (ch. 3:11, 20). Taking, then,
Samuel’s as an instance of typical youthful piety, we may notice:
Samuel’s case. Since all children are psychologically alike; are born under
the same covenanted mercies; and are, therefore, open to the same Divine
regenerating influence, the position might be considered as established. But
the Church has been slow to believe the truth; and much of the nurture of
families seems to proceed on the supposition that, as a rule, at least early
manhood must be reached ere piety be regarded as trustworthy. The causes
of this unfortunate distrust of child piety are varied. They may be indicated
Ø The habit of estimating all piety by the forms and manifestations
appropriate to adult life, which habit is based on:
Ø A misconception of what constitutes the essence of all true religion.
Ø The long continued neglect of the Church, as a consequence of this
misconception, issuing in a scarcity of youthful piety.
But the possibility of it is seen in:
Ø The nature of a child being capable of the essentials of true piety. In
Samuel, and so in every child, there was a capability of:
o recognizing the Great Unseen and Holy One;
o cherishing pure love for the living, ever present Friend;
o trusting on Almighty care with an unusual absoluteness;
o learning the truth concerning the works and ways of God,
both by witnessing and sharing in acts of worship,
o listening to special instruction; and of
o obedience to a sovereign Will.
Indeed, in some respects the nature of a child, being free from the
burdensome cares of life and the unhappy suspicions of mature years,
is much more susceptible of holy, elevating influences than is that of men.
Ø The remarkable welcome to children given by Christ. The child Samuel
was welcome in the house of Jehovah. He “grew up before the Lord,” and
was in “favour with God.” Thus in his case we see a beautiful congruity
with, and may we not say prophetic of, the loving welcome given later on
by the blessed Saviour Himself, in terms never to be forgotten. Possibly
some officious priests might deem the presence of the child clad in sacred
ephod an innovation and a nuisance in the tabernacle, just as some in
excessive but erring zeal would not have Christ troubled with little ones
who could not be supposed to understand His profound teaching. The only
recorded instance of Christ being “much displeased” is when it was
supposed that He was indifferent to the spiritual condition of little children.
Ø The harmony of Hannah’s conduct and Samuel’s piety with the general
tone of Scripture. Hannah both consecrated and nurtured her son for the
Lord, thus exemplifying the precepts, “Train up a child in the way he
should go,” “Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,”
and also illustrating the just expectation of the apostle, who seemed to take
for granted that pious parents rightly conforming to all their covenanted
duties and privileges would have “holy” children (I Corinthians 7:14).
NURTURE. All religion needs culture. It is the most delicate as also the
most precious of our treasures. The production of piety in children, though
of God, as the Source of all grace, is intimately connected with the prayers
and faith of parents. Hannah travailed in spirit for a holy child long before
Samuel was born, and the succeeding nurture was only an expression of
the same earnestness. There is no warrant to think that the world would
have been blessed with a pious Samuel apart from the deep piety of a
Hannah; and so the presence and growth of piety in our children rests with
the Church of God. The very condition of children in a sinful world
suggests a care on their behalf most wise, tender, and constant. The
elements of true nurture are seen in Hannah’s care of Samuel. There was:
Ø The one and perpetual devotement of the child to the Lord — the
absolute giving up to the grace of God with a faith that would take no
denial. This act was repeated in spirit day by day for years:
leaving him in
o when silently bowing before God at home;
o when engaged in making the little ephod;
o when refitting it, as year by year he grew:
with joyous heart visiting
the mother carried Samuel on her heart before God, and gave him up to be
blessed. This is what mothers can ever do for their loved ones, and they
sorely need such care in this sinful world.
Ø The impressive teaching imparted. Surely Samuel was not placed in the
house of the Lord without much teaching suited to his capacity as to the
holy life he was to live. It is something to make a child believe that he is the
Lord’s, to see the beauty and joy of being given up to His service. With
exquisite delicacy did Hannah teach her son that he must forever be holy.
The girding with the ephod meant to him, “Thou art a servant of God, a
child of the sanctuary, thou canst not do any unworthy deeds or speak
unholy words. Remember thou belongest to the Lord, my son.” Happy
they who know the art of showing their sons the beauty of holiness, and
the manner of persons they ought ever to be.
Ø Association with the sanctuary. The hallowed associations of the house
of God exercised power over the tender child; and so the principle is set
forth that in our nurture of youthful piety we must seek to encourage a
love for the worship of the Lord and of all pertaining to His service. It is a
great gain when our youth can rejoice in the Sabbath services, feel that in
the sanctuary they have a much loved spiritual home.
4. Engagement in useful religious work. It was a wise choice of this
mother to divert the child’s attention from the evil habits of the age by
absorption in works suited to his little powers, and under the immediate
eye of a venerable man of God. Whatever love to God may dwell in the
heart of a child is strengthened and guarded by being exercised in deeds
pertaining to His service. And the service of God is very wide and varied.
There are many ways in which youthful piety may be exercised. Let
children be caused to feel that they by life, by simple prayers, and by
sympathy can bless the sorrowing world, and their piety will grow and the
world will be enriched. The momentous interests involved in the presence
or absence of youthful piety should awaken deep concern on several:
Ø To what extent does it prevail in Church and home?
Ø How far the lack of early piety is due to parental neglect, erroneous
views, defective Church organizations, or unhealthy literature?
Ø In what form can the existing piety of children be more utilized for their
own benefit and for the good of the world?
Ø How is it possible to render the services of the sanctuary more
interesting and helpful to the young?
Ø How can the missing link between the youthful and more mature piety of
the Church be restored?
Ø By what means can Christian parents be led to manifest an all-absorbing
concern for the development of piety in their offspring?
Ø What would be the effect on the ultimate conversion of the world if the
Church could be so wrought upon to exercise faith in the possibility of
early piety as to save the need of employing agencies to convert in adult
age any who have passed through its hands?
19 "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." His mother made him a little coat. The coat, meil, was
worn by priests (Leviticus 8:7), by kings and their sons (ch.18:4),
by prophets (ibid. 28:14), and even by women (II Samuel 13:18). It
was an under garment of wool, woven throughout without seam, with
holes for the head and arms, and reaching nearly to the ground: when used
by women it had sleeves (ibid.). Under it they had a tunic or shirt fitting so
closely that a man simply so clad was considered naked (ch. 19:24),
and over it priests and Levites wore the ephod, and so also David
on the occasion mentioned above (I Chronicles 15:27). The meil
seems, moreover, to have often been a handsome dress, as that of the
priests was of purple blue, with embroidery of pomegranates in three
colors, and golden bells (Exodus 28:31-34); and when made of
delicate materials for the use of the rich, it and the tunic are the soft
luxurious clothing spoken of in Matthew 11:8. As the meil was the
ordinary dress of all classes of people, it was made for Samuel at home,
and can have no special meaning; but the ephod shows that he was brought
up in the daffy practice of holy duties. This annual present, however, of
clothing made by the mother’s hands proves that the dedication of her son
to God was not allowed to interfere with home affections, and both parents
and child must have looked forward with joy to happy meetings at each
recurrence of the family visit to the sanctuary.
Judged by the customs of the age, it was a daring thing for Hannah to
clothe her child with the ephod, the every day robe of the priest, seeing
that her son was only a Levite (I Chronicles 6:19, 23; compare Exodus
39:27; ch. 22:18). She clearly intended him to be invested with
the prerogatives of the priest. The holy daring went further in her making
for him the “little coat,” which properly was part of the dress of the high
priest, and sometimes of princes and nobles. The act is in perfect keeping
with the first deed of consecration, and with the tenor of the inspired song.
To her prophetic vision this child was from birth ordained to be an
extraordinary servant of God, for the reformation of that age and the
advancement of that kingdom the glories of which she saw afar. It is not
likely that a woman of such strong and exalted hope would be ready to
speak out in detail what was in her heart, and yet the force of her faith
would demand adequate expression. Some natures are not demonstrative
by words, but prefer silent acts to both indicate their thoughts and to
nourish their faith and hope. Therefore the clothing of Samuel with the
pure “ephod” and the “little coat” was the creation of permanent symbols
of faith for his instruction and impressment, and her own satisfaction and
support. It is not for mere notice of casual incident that the sacred writer
refers to the event, but evidently to set forth valuable truth.
WOULD SEE NOTHING. It is probable that neighbors reflected on the
eccentric conduct of the mother who so unnecessarily parted with her
child. To them he was as other children. The spiritual travail of his birth
was hidden from them. But Hannah, being in sympathy with God’s
merciful purposes to mankind, saw in her son the man of the future, the
defender of the faith, the restorer of pure worship, the consecrated spirit
which has spiritual right to do priestly work, and it was rest to her soul to
express this faith not by words which might be contradicted, but by a
solemn act full of instruction to the child, and a permanent record of what
she knew would be. So is it ever. The eye of faith sees in the infant Church
of God the promise of a “glorious Church.” Simeon saw in a babe the
“Salvation” of God. A few poor men saw in the “Man of sorrows” the
coming “King of glory.” The true believer now sees in the occasional
triumphs of the gospel the earnest of a world’s subjugation to Christ.
was no one to whom Hannah could unfold in words all that was grasped by
her faith. To her the presence of this holy child in the house of God,
serving Him in the minor details of daily routine, was virtually the
realization of the prophet’s office, and the enhancement of Messiah’s glory.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” (Hebrews 11:1) The essential
reality of the remote is already in the heart. The future is as though it were
present. Prevision and accomplishment become subjectively one. This holy
mysticism of the highest spiritual life is foolishness to the unspiritual, but, is
a profound and blessed fact in the experience of the true children of God.
God s word given is as good as fulfilled, and the soul finds more in the
consciousness of this truth than can ever be indicated in language. There is
always a vast reserve of religious feeling that can never find expression.
Life is more than the forms of life. The “ephod” and “little robe,” and the
annual visits to the child, were outward signs — symbolical forms — of a
something which was too great for utterance. They were the shadows of a
great reality too sacred, too rich, too varied in its issues to be set forth in
ordinary terms. So likewise our faith holds a Christ more glorious and
precious than any terms can utter. He is “formed in the heart.” He is the
“unspeakable gift.” Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived
what is grasped by the Christian’s faith as an ever present treasure. Human
speech, in prose or song, falls below the soul’s sense of blessedness in
EXPRESSING ITSELF. Holding converse with realities which lie beyond
the ordinary mind, it deviates from routine, and carves out new and rare
modes of indicating its existence. Hannah could not rest content with
telling Elkanah, Eli, and Samuel, in casual conversation and fleeting words,
what she knew this ministering child was to be in days to come, and what
she knew of the coming kingdom. Jacob made a coat of many colors to
gratify a questionable feeling of partiality. Jochebed made a covering of
bulrushes to save a precious
life, possibly with a trust in a wise
But Hannah had a faith in God, in the revival of religion, in the Messiah’s
glory, which not only sought vent for itself, but dared to create new and, to
the eye of man, questionable forms of expression. Persistently, year by
year, as the sacred ephod required readjustment to varying stature, did the
faith reassert itself in every stitch and every trial of approval. Innovation it
might be, but it was true to faith, and faith loves reality, and seeks
congruity between itself and its outward forms. The apostle writing to the
Hebrews on the triumphs of faith recognizes its heroism, its superiority to
conventional forms, its intense energy in asserting itself (Hebrews 11.).
There are modern instances of the same holy daring. Symbolism may, like
other things, sometimes be the resort of weak minds and superstitious
tendencies, yet it may be a legitimate outgrowth of strong faith. The stately
sanctuary; the hushed feeling in listening to the word of God; the surrender
of fortune to the propagation of the gospel; the adoption of righteous
usages against the current of opinion and custom, are only some of the
symbols of a faith that longs and dares to indicate its presence. As feelings
grow in power when exercised, so faith nourishes itself by fit permanent
expressions, especially when in some bold and truthful deed.
Ø How far the faith of these times is a reality as distinguished from a
formal consent to what is commonly believed.
Ø Whether the
future toil in the acquired results of present toil.
Ø To what extent the individuality of a powerful religious life proves itself by
deeds of daring devotion.
Ø The distinction to be drawn between a safe or unsafe symbolism in
stated forms of worship, and the natural spontaneous symbolism of an
energetic personal faith.
Ø The possibility of a masterful FAITH in degenerate times, rightfully
deviating from established practices, and being used by God as preliminary
to great reformations.
20"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. 21 And the LORD visited Hannah,
so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the
child Samuel grew before the LORD." The Lord give thee seed, etc.
The manner in which Eli blesses Elkanah shows that this surrender of a very
young child to religious service was not looked upon as imposing a burden upon
the sanctuary, but as the bestowal of a valued gift. Loan and lent by no means give
the whole sense, which is in fact beyond the power of our language to express; for
the Hebrew is remarkable for its manner of saying a great deal in a few
words, by using them indefinitely. Besides the sense, then, of lending the
child to God, the Hebrews also conveys the idea of Samuel having been
obtained by prayer, but by prayer for Jehovah. Hannah had not asked
simply for a son, but for a son whom she might dedicate to God. And now
Eli prays that Jehovah will give her children to be her own (see on ch. 1:28).
Solid Character (vs. 20-21)
The facts are:
1. Eli forms a favorable estimate of the conduct and character of Elkanah
2. God enriches them with several children.
3. Samuel advances in years and gains in repute.
4. The sons of Eli, becoming more dissolute, are rebuked by their father.
Time had gradually brought out to the view of Eli the solid character of
Elkanah and his wife. Their regular attendance on worship at the appointed
seasons, and their reverent spirit, were in striking contrast with the
degenerate habits with which Eli was too familiar. Their quiet, unassuming
conduct harmonized with Hannah’s early professions of piety, and the child
which they had presented to assist Eli in his ministrations had fully
answered his expectations. Here, then, we have solid character:
succession of years had enabled Eli to form a favorable estimate of these
obscure dwellers on
his priestly benediction because of the rash words with which he once
(ch. 1:13-14) wounded a “sorrowful spirit.” It is a blessed thing
to enjoy the approval of the good. A good name is a precious treasure.
There is a sweet reward for years of toil, and possibly under
misapprehension and neglect, in being at last fairly appreciated for what
one is and has done. Although there are proud ungodly men who will
despise the godly poor, yet the conditions of character being appreciated
by the better sections of society are within the reach of the most lowly.
These conditions are:
Ø Constancy in the discharge of religious duties. Observance year by year
of public worship and of all the ordinances of God is a good sign of a
religious spirit. Eli was not wrong in supposing that there must be solid
worth in a family that kept to the ways of the Lord when so many
neglected religious duties. A man cannot claim a reputation by asking for
it. The testimony of faithfulness in religious worship is admitted by all.
Fluctuations in religious zeal always awaken distrust. Constancy is an
element always honored.
Ø Manifestation of an unostentatious spirit. This must have impressed Eli
very strongly. The quiet, unpretending spirit of the Levite and his wife
gained on the venerable man year by year. And so always the quiet, even
tenor of life tells an irresistible story. All sensible men shrink from the
egotism and ostentation which sometimes assume the garb of religion. The
proper thing for all is an earnest, lowly mind, more concerned with quietly
doing what is right and pleasing to God than with making an impression on
man. Those who think much of what men will say and think, and make
corresponding demonstrations of zeal, are sure to fall into the snare of “eye
service.” Like the steady influence of light and dew, quiet goodness at
home and in the Church and world is a real power. There are thousands of
such lives in Christian homes. (“The Lord knoweth them that are His:
(II Timothy 2:19)
Ø Self-denial in God’s service. Though Hannah’s joy in giving her heart to
God took off the edge of self-denial, yet Eli could not but be deeply
impressed with the unusual self-sacrifice of both husband and wife. The
true religious spirit of a man comes out in spontaneous offerings to the
efficiency of the services of the sanctuary and the advancement of Christ’s
kingdom. Character expressed in free, unconstrained surrender of money,
or time, or sons for religious purposes cannot but be appreciated. It is in
the power of all to perform some acts of self-denial for God, and apart
from such acts, no professions will establish a reputation in the true Church
of God. The intrinsic value of self-denial lies much in its freeness, its
timeliness, its form. The surrender of a Samuel at such a time, in such a
spirit, is an example to all ages. Are there no other Hannahs? Is all the
“precious ointment” of the Christian Church exhausted?
but through Christ; yet He honors fidelity by His special favor and greater
blessing. Hannah had been honored variously; e.g. in being heard, in
having a son according to promise, in being permitted to consecrate him to
the special service of God, in receiving grace to part with him from home if
not from heart, and in being enabled to enjoy a blessed vision of One
greater and more holy than Samuel. But the fidelity wherewith she and her
husband had, during the period covered, served God in home and in public
life, as also by the general tenor of their lives, was crowned with a great
increase of domestic joy. The home of Hannah emptied for God became
full. The surrendered child was returned in fivefold form. The long, pining
years of early life were followed by old age of blessed satisfaction. Thus do
all ages show that “there is that scattereth and yet increaseth.” (Proverbs
11:24) “I sent you forth;” “lacked ye anything’?” (Luke 22:35) There is a
promise of a “hundredfold” for all that has been forsaken for Christ (Mark
10:30). In one way or another God will prove that He is not unrighteous to
forget the work of faith and labor of love. “Them that honour me I will
Ø Let the lowly be patient in their endeavor to follow out the light they
enjoy in worship and in service.
Ø Many individuals and families can win for themselves the precious
treasure of human and Divine favor, even though the wealth and fame
coveted in the world fall not to their lot.
Ø The multiplication of quiet, unostentatious religious characters is an end
earnestly to be sought, as adding in every sense to the WELFARE OF
Ø The severity of our trials in the cause of Christ, if entered into rightly, is
sure to be crowned with blessing. (“....be thou faithful unto death, and
I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10)
ELI’S COMPLICITY IN THE SINS OF HIS SONS (vs. 22-26).
22 "Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did
how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of
the congregation." Eli… heard all that his sons did. To the profanity and greed
described in vs. 12-17 the sons of Eli added unchastity; and their sin was
the greater because the women whom they corrupted were those dedicated
to religious service (see Exodus 38:8). The order of ministering women
instituted by Moses probably lasted down to the destruction of the temple,
and Anna may have belonged to it (Luke 2:37); afterwards it appeared
again in a more spiritual form in the widows and deaconesses of the
Christian Church. The word rendered assembled means “arranged in
bands,” and shows not merely that they were numerous, but that they had
regular duties assigned them, and each one her proper place and office. The
frequent sacrifices, with the feasts which followed, must have provided
occupation for a large number of hands in the cleaning of the utensils and
the cooking of the food. But though Eli heard of the depraved conduct of
his sons in thus defiling those who ministered in the tabernacle, he gives
them but the faintest rebuke, and that apparently only because their
misdeeds were in everybody’s mouth; for the last clause of v. 23 really is,
“For I hear of your evil doings from all this people.” Eli’s old age may have
increased his indifference, but his religious character could never have had
much depth or earnestness, to allow him to regard such heinous sins so
lightly. It seems even as if he chiefly felt the annoyance occasioned to
himself by the expostulations urged upon him “from all this people.” Still
all that he says is wise and thoughtful. The sins of men in high station do
not end with themselves; they make others also to transgress. And as Eli’s
sons were Jehovah’s ministers, and they had led into wickedness those who
also were bound to holy service, their misconduct was a sin against
23 "And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your
evil dealings by all this people. 24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that
I hear: ye make the LORD’s people to transgress. 25 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. 26 And the child Samuel
grew on, and was in favor both with the LORD, and also with men."
Eli’s words are very obscure, but “Ye make Jehovah’s people to transgress”
is upon the whole the best rendering of the clause. Both the Septuagint and Syriac
have a different reading: “Ye make Jehovah’s people cease to worship Him”
In the next verse there is no sufficient reason for supposing that Elohim, God, here
means a judge. Elohim was
the head of the theocracy, the ruler of
things, and He would set to rights these delinquencies of “one man against another”
by the ordinary exercise of His judicial functions. So far all is easy, and we
must translate, “If one man sin against another, God shall judge him.” But
in the last clause there is one of those plays upon words to which the
Hebrew language, with its numerous conjugations, so readily lends itself
(see on ch. 1:28); and it is rarely possible to transfer to another
language the force of passages in which the sense depends upon the terms
in the original having a double meaning. The verb rendered shall judge in
the first clause is used again by Eli in the second, but in a different
conjugation, in which its usual meaning is to pray. According to the
lexicon, therefore, we must translate: “If a man sin against Jehovah, who
shall pray for him?” But surely it was just the occasion in which the only
remedy left was intercessory prayer. Bearing then in remembrance the use
made by Eli of the verb in the first clause, we must translate: “Who shall
act as judge for him?” “Who shall interpose as arbitrator between him and
Jehovah to settle the quarrel?” The verb itself, moreover, is a rare and old-
fashioned one, and apparently means to settle a dispute. So it is used of
Phinehas, who by his righteous zeal put an end to the rebellion against
God’s laws (Numbers 25:7-8; and accordingly in Psalm 106:30, where our
version renders “executed judgment,” the, Vulgate has placavit, appeased
Jehovah’s anger. The sense then is, In case of wrong done between man and man,
God as the supreme Arbitrator settles the dispute; but where the two parties are
God and man, what third power is there which can interfere? The quarrel
must go on to the bitter end, and God, who is your opponent, will also
punish you. The same idea is found in Job 9:33. Naturally to so mild a
remonstrance, and founded upon so low a view of the Divine nature, the
sons of Eli paid but slight attention, and by thus hardening themselves in
sin they made their punishment inevitable, “because it pleased Jehovah to
slay them.” Man can bring upon himself neither good nor evil except by the
working of God’s will, and the punishment of sin is as thoroughly a part of
God’s will as the rewarding of righteousness. An intense conviction of the
personality of God was the very foundation of the religious life of the
Israelites, and lies at the root of the words of Eli here and of those of Job;
and it was this which made them ascribe to God that hardening of the
wicked in sin which is the sure means of their punishment. We ascribe it to
the working of natural laws, which after all is but saying the same thing in a
round about way; for the laws of nature, in things moral as well as in the
physical world, are the laws of God. In v. 26, in contrast with Eli’s sons
ripening for punishment, and daily more abhorred to God and man, we
have Samuel set before us advancing in age and “in favor with Jehovah
and also with men,” like Him of whom in so many respects he was a type
(Luke 2:52), our blessed Lord.
Ineffective Reproof (vs. 22-25)
A man may possess many amiable qualities, and be, on the whole, a good
man, and yet be marked by some defect which mars his character, prevents
his usefulness, and makes him the unintentional cause of much mischief.
Such a man was Eli. Of his early life nothing is recorded. He was a
descendant of Ithamar, the youngest son of Aaron, and held the office of
high priest, which formerly belonged to the elder branch of the Aaronic
family, that of Eleazar (Numbers 20:26), but which was now
transferred to the younger, from some unknown cause, and which
continued therein until the time of Solomon. At the age of fifty-eight he
became judge, and “judged
first mentioned he must have been at least seventy years old. His sons were
children of his old age; for some time afterwards they were spoken of as
young men (v. 17), and, as is not uncommon in such cases, he
treated them with undue indulgence. He was hasty and severe in reproving
Hannah, but slow and mild in reproving them. The inefficiency of his
reproof appears in that:
go wrong generally appears at an early age; and it must have been seen by
him in his sons long before the rumor of their flagrant transgressions
reached him, if he had not been blind to their faults. But he had no
adequate sense of his parental responsibility, was old and weak, of a gentle
and easy going temperament, and omitted to reprove them (I Kings 1:6)
until they had become too strongly devoted to their evil ways to be
amenable to expostulation. A little plant may be easily rooted up, but when
it has grown into a tree it can only be removed by extraordinary efforts. If
some children are “discouraged” (Colossians 3:21) by too much
strictness, far more are spoiled by too much indulgence. “Indulgence never
produces gratitude or love in the heart of a child.”
Gentle reproof may sometimes be most effective, but here it was out of place.
Ø It was not sufficiently pointed in its application; being given to them
collectively rather than individually, in indefinite terms, by way of
question, and concerning things which he had heard, but into the certainty
of which he had not troubled himself to inquire.
Ø It exhibited no sufficient sense of the evil of sin (v. 25). He spoke of
the consequences rather than of the nature, the “exceeding sinfulness” of
sin, and spoke of them in a way which indicated little deep personal
Ø It showed no sufficient determination to correct it. He did not say that
he would judge them for their injustice toward men; and with reference to
their sin against the Lord, which was their chief offence, he simply
confessed that he could do nothing but leave them to the judgment of a
higher tribunal. “In the case where the rebuke should have descended like a
bolt from heaven we hear nothing but low and feeble murmurings, coming,
as it were, out of the dust. Cruel indeed are the tenderest mercies of
parental weakness and indulgence. And the fate of Eli shows that by such
tender mercies the father may become the minister of vengeance unto his
The law of Moses in the case of disobedient children was very severe
(Deuteronomy 21:18-21). But Eli neither observed this law “when they
hearkened not to his voice” (v. 25), nor took any further steps to prevent
the continuance of the evil which he reproved. He had none of the zeal for
which Phinehas the son of Eleazar was approved (Numbers 25:11-13);
but as a father, a high priest, and a judge he was guilty of culpable infirmity
and wilful disobedience (ch. 3:13).
contempt of reproof showed that they were already infatuated, hardened,
and abandoned to destruction; or (reading for — therefore), it filled up the
measure of their iniquities, and exposed them to inevitable judgment. “He
that hateth reproof shall die” (Proverbs 15:10).
Ø Reproof is often a solemn obligation.
Ø It should be given in an effective manner.
Ø When not so given it does more harm than good.
Ø When justly given it should be humbly and obediently received.
Abandoned (vs. 22-26)
The facts are:
1. Eli in advancing years hears of the abominable deeds of his sons.
2. He remonstrates with them, pointing out the con sequences of their conduct.
3. Heedless of the warning, they persist in sin, being abandoned by God.
The narrative of the sacred historian seems to take in two extremes — two
elements working on in moral antagonism till the one passes away and the
other becomes ascendant. The abominations and profanations of Eli’s sons,
and Samuel’s purity and entire devotion to God, are placed in striking
contrast. The history of the former is sketched as explaining the course of
The stage in the course of the dissolute priests here indicated brings into
in the most abominable crimes men could commit. The descent to
shamelessness and utter corruption becomes very rapid. (It is very
troublesome to see how quickly the United States has declined! CY - 2016)
One can hardly imagine these vile sons of Belial as once having been gentle
youths taught to revere Jehovah’s name, and to tread His courts with awe.
The momentum gained by evil desires when once let loose is among the most
fearful features of human experience. It is the same sad story as often told
now to the hearts of wailing parents:
Ø aversion to holy things,
Ø formal observances,
Ø secret associations of evil,
Ø seared conscience,
Ø loss of self-respect,
Ø profanation of sacred places,
Ø contempt for religion,
Ø self-abandonment to lust, and
Ø defiance of God.
What tears fall to earth nightly over erring ones! What blasted hopes lie on
life’s pathway! What cruel triumphs of sin over all that is fair and strong in
human nature! Holy Saviour, many of thy followers share in thy tears once
shed over sin finished in righteous doom! (James 1:15). When, when shall
the mighty power come in answer to the cry of try Church to turn back the
tide of woe, and drive the curse from the heart and home of man? “How long,
O Lord, how long?” (Revelation 6:10)
the vices of the age, and above all the crimes of his sons, and he performed
a father’s part in remonstrating with them on account of their deeds,
warning them of the dangers to which they were exposed at the hand of the
invisible Judge. But the day for warning and remonstrance was past, and
the day for swift, unsparing punishment HAD COME! As judge in civil
capacity, and as high priest in spiritual capacity, the course of Eli was clear
— immediate banishment from office and capital punishment
(Leviticus 18:6, 20, 29; 20:10; 21:6-7, 17, 23). We see how a man
good in many respects, may recognize duty and not perform it. Eli knew
that the sin of contempt for the ordinance of sacrifice, utter disregard of
the honor due to God, prostitution of the holiest office to the vilest uses,
was past condoning, past covering even by sacrifice. For God, as Eli puts
it, makes no provision to pardon and save those who wantonly scorn the
means of pardon and salvation. No sacrifice! no intercessor! Yet the
appointed judge in
refraining from an exercise of the powers wherewith he is invested for the
vindication of justice and the maintenance of order. Moral weakness was
the sin of Eli. The imperious claims of God, of public welfare, of religious
purity, appealed to the sense of duty in vain, because of some personal
sentiment or lack of resolution. Cases often arise in national affairs, Church
discipline, home life, where duty comes into collision with private
sentiments and personal affection. Sometimes, as with Nathan in accusing
David, and Ambrose in placing Theodosius under the ban, moral strength is
conspicuous. Often, as with Eli, Jonah, and David in one instance, sense of
duty yields to inferior impulses. True moral courage is a quality of high
order. It confers great honor on those in whom it appears, and is a most
important element in securing the welfare of the individual, the home, and
the public. Its presence in most perfect Christian form may be ascribed to
the combination of various elements.
Ø A natural sense of justice — a psychological condition in which moral
perceptions have more prompt influence than transitory emotions.
Ø A careful culture of the conscience through early years, and in relation
to the minutiae of life.
Ø Intelligent faith in the inviolability of moral law.
Ø Formation of the habit of immediate submission to moral dictates, on
the general principle that in morals first thoughts are truest.
Ø Strength of will to endure present suffering, as not being the worst of
Ø A nature brought fully under the quickening influence of practical
Christianity, as consisting in radical renewal, obedience to the precepts of
Christ, fellowship with a holy God, and perpetual aspiration after holiness.
There are instances still in which failure in moral courage is the one great
blot on an otherwise excellent life. Where such occur sin flourishes, and the
righteous mourn. The severe hand of justice is frequently the hand of true
kindness. Favoritism and subordination of righteousness to personal ends,
in public and domestic life, cause iniquity to abound, and sooner or later
these will be visited by THE JUDGMENT OF GOD!
to their deserved doom. They heeded not remonstrance, for they had gone
so far into sin as to be left destitute of that gracious influence from God,
without which the soul is held fast in the cords of its iniquity. The outward
fact of despising the father’s warning was evidence to the historian that
God had judicially abandoned them. “They hearkened not, because the
Lord would slay. them.” The solemn truth is clear that men may persist in
sin so utterly as TO BE GIVEN UP BY GOD WITHOUT MERCY to all its
Ø The evidence of this is full.
o Men are sometimes smitten with death as a consequence of persistent
sin, as in case of Sodom, and the rebellion of Korah, all means of
repentance being judicially cut off. (Genesis 19; Numbers 16)
o The New Testament references to the sin against the Holy Ghost, and
the apostasy of counting the blood of Christ an “unclean thing.”
o The fact that at the end of life the impenitent are given over to look for
“tribulation and anguish.” (Romans 2:9)
Ø The rationale of this is partly discoverable. It is not mere arbitrariness,
nor is it the effect of imperfect benevolence.
o It is consonant with the working of natural law. Physiology and
psychology prove that there is a tendency to permanence of character
in all. This is especially true of those who persist in strong
o There are transgressions even in society which admit of no
restoration to society.
o In a wise and endlessly ramified moral government which rests on an
eternal right, there can be no proof that a moral Ruler, whose existence
is bound up with right and order, is obliged to cover the past of free
beings who have deliberately persisted in evil, by giving them a new
power which shall make them different from what they prefer to be.
o The judicial abandonment of the intensely sinful acts as a wholesome
deterrent on the moral universe, by vindicating the holiness of God,
and the claim of universal society on the pure, loving life of each of
its constituents, and this too while giving to free beings only what
Ø The importance of guarding against first tendencies to deviate from the
path of purity and truth.
Ø The value of early habits of devotion, regard for right and purity, as a
preventive of habits of a reverse character.
Ø The extreme danger to the Church of a professional religion in alliance
with a tendency to sensual indulgence, and the need of watching closely
against such a possible combination.
Ø The value of an early training of. the moral sense, and its constant
culture, as against the inferior elements of our life.
Ø The use of the lessons of history, as illustrating the terrible power of sin,
and the damage done to society and the Church by defective discipline.
THE DIVINE JUDGMENT UPON ELI AND HIS HOUSE (vs. 27-36).
27 "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
out of all the
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
29 "Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I
have commanded in my habitation; and honorest thy sons above
me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of
usual appellation of a prophet in the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and
as such is applied by Manoah to the angel who appeared to him (Judges 13:6, 8).
Though the recorded interpositions of the Deity in those times
were generally by angels, still the readiness with which Manoah gave his
visitant this title makes it probable that prophets did appear from time to
time; and the mission of one, though, as here, without a name, is recorded
in Judges 6:8. As regards the date of this visitation of the man of God,
we find that Eli was ninety-eight years of age when the ark was captured
(ch. 4:15). At that time Samuel was not merely a man, but one whose reputation
was established throughout the whole land, and who was probably regarded not
merely as a prophet, but as Eli’s successor in the office of judge (ch. 3:19-20).
But Eli was “very old” (v. 22) when he rebuked his sons, probably between seventy
and eighty, for Samuel is then called a child (v. 26); whereas he can scarcely
have been much less than thirty years of age when the Philistines destroyed
led to the revival of the agitation for a king, he is himself described as
already “old;” but as he lived on till nearly the end of Saul’s reign, he could
not at that time have been much more than sixty. Even when God spake by
him to Eli he is still described as a boy, na’ar (ch. 3:1), though
the higher position to which he had attained, as is proved by his duties,
would lead to the conclusion that he was then verging on manhood. As
some time would naturally elapse between two such solemn warnings, we
may feel sure that the visit of the man of God occurred shortly after
Samuel s dedication. Then, as Eli neglected the warning, and the
wickedness of his sons grew more inveterate, some eight or ten years
afterwards the warning was repeated in sharper tones by the voice of his
own youthful attendant. Meanwhile Eli seems himself to have grown in
personal piety, but he could do nothing now for his sons. Past eighty years
of age, the time of activity had gone by, and resignation was the sole virtue
that was left for him to practice. And so the warning given by the mouth of
Samuel is stern and final. Ten or fifteen more years must elapse before the
ruin came. But the gloom was deepening; the Philistines were increasing in
power, and the valor of
there was a short violent crash, and the house of Eli met its doom.
The prophet begins by enumerating Jehovah’s mercies to “the house of thy
father,” that is, the whole family of Aaron, in selecting them for the
priesthood (on the choice of the house of Aaron, see Exodus 28. and 29.), and
in richly endowing the office with so large a portion of every sacrifice.
These portions are termed literally firings, or fire sacrifices, but the term
soon became general, and in Leviticus 24:7, 9 is applied even to the
shew bread. Added then to the tithes, and to the cities with their suburbs
given them to inhabit, this share of every sacrifice gave the house of Aaron
great wealth, and with it they had also high rank. There was no one above
endowments of the kings was the skins of animals offered in sacrifice
(Herod., 6:56). Why then do Eli and his sons, who benefit so greatly by
them, “kick at Jehovah’s sacrifices and offerings?” The word is taken from
Deuteronomy 32:15, and refers to the efforts of a pampered steer
violently to shake off the yoke. Eli’s sons treat the ordinances which have
raised them to rank, and given them wealth and power, as if they were an
injury and wrong. And Eli, instead of removing them from the office which
they disgraced, preferred the ties of relationship to his duty to God and the
moral welfare of the people.
30 "Wherefore the LORD God of
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 honor
me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed."
I said indeed. By thus acting Eli became an accomplice in the
irreligion of his sons, and God therefore revokes His grant of a perpetual
priesthood. The promise had been made to Aaron’s family as a whole
(Exodus 29:9), and had then been renewed to the house of Eleazar
(Numbers 25:13). But the house of Ithamar was now in the ascendant,
probably owing to Eli’s own ability, who during the anarchical times of the
Judges had won for himself, first, the civil power, and then, upon some
fitting opportunity, the high priesthood also, though I suppose the heads of
the houses of Eleazar and Ithamar were always persons of great
importance, and high priests in a certain sense. Eli had now the priority,
and had he and his family proved worthy, the possession of this high
station might have been confirmed to them. Like Saul in the kingdom, they
proved unworthy of it, and so THEY LOST IT FOR EVER! Their names,
as we have seen above, do not even occur in the genealogies.
I said .... but now Jehovah saith. Can then a promise of God be
withdrawn? Yes, assuredly. Not from mankind as a whole, nor from the
Church as a whole, but from each particular nation, or Church, or
individual. To each separate person God’s promises are conditional, and
human action everywhere is a coworker with the Divine volition, though
only within a limited sphere, and so as that the Divine purposes MUST
FINALLY BE ACCOMPLISHED! Eli then and his sons may suffer forfeit
of the promise by not fulfilling the obligations which, whether expressed or
implied, are an essential condition of every promise made by God to man.
But the high priesthood will continue, and will perform its allotted task of
preparing for the priesthood of Christ. “Them that honor me I will honour,”
states one of these conditions essential on man’s part to secure the fulfillment
of God’s promises.
A Message of Approaching Judgment (vs. 27-30)
1. This message came from God, who observed, as He ever does, the sins
of His people, and especially His ministers, with much displeasure, and after
long forbearance resolved to punish them (Amos 3:2; I Peter. 4:17).
2. It came through a man whose name has not been recorded, and who was
probably unknown to him to whom he was sent. When God sends a
message it matters little by whom it is brought. He often makes His most
important communications in a way the world does not expect, and by men
who are unknown to fame. The authority of the Lord invests His
messengers with dignity and power. And their best credentials are that they
“commend themselves to the conscience” (II Corinthians 4:2).
3. It came through a “man of God,” a seer, a prophet, and not directly from
God to Eli, the high priest. He chooses for special service men who live
near to him, and are in sympathy with His purposes, in preference to those
who occupy official positions, but are possessed of little personal worth.
For a long season no prophet had spoken (Judges 4:4; 6:8; 13:6); and
when the silence of heaven is suddenly broken, it is an intimation that great
changes are impending.
4. It came some time before the events which it announced actually
transpired. “The Lord is slow to anger” (Nahum 1:3), and executes
judgment only after repeated warnings. Predictions which are absolute in
form must often be understood as in their fulfillment conditioned by the
moral state of those whom they concern (Jeremiah 18:7-10; Jonah 3:4, 9-10).
The purpose for which this message was sent was to lead to
repentance, and it was not until all hope of it had disappeared that the blow
fell. (America and the world's nations and peoples need to ponder this!
CY - 2016)In substance the message contains:
God, and shown:
Ø By the revelation of Himself to those who were in a condition of abject
servitude (v. 27).
Ø By His selection of some, in preference to others, for exalted and
honorable service (v. 28).
Ø By His liberal provision for them out of the offerings made by the people
to Himself. Religious privileges always involve responsibilities, and should
be faithfully used out of gratitude for their bestowment.
for which the priests were endowed with these privileges was not the
promotion of their own honor and interest, but the honor of God and the
welfare of His people. But they acted in opposition to that purpose.
Ø By irreverence and self-will in His service. “Wherefore do ye trample
under foot my sacrifice?”
Ø By disobedience to His will. “Which I have commanded.”
Ø By pleasing others in preference to Him. “And honorest thy sons above
me.” Eli’s toleration of the conduct of his sons, from regard to their
interest and his own ease, involved him in their guilt.
Ø By self-enrichment out of the religious offerings of the people. The idol
which man in sin sets up in the place of God can be none other than
HIMSELF! He makes self and self-satisfaction the highest aim of life. To
self his efforts ultimately tend, however the modes and directions of sin may
vary. The innermost essence of sin, the ruling and penetrating principle, in
all its forms, is selfishness. When men use the gifts of God for selfish ends
they render themselves liable to be deprived of those gifts, and to be
punished for their misuse.
which God acts in His procedure with men (v. 30). They have been apt to
suppose that privileges bestowed upon themselves or inherited from their
ancestors were absolutely their own, and would be certainly continued. But
it is far otherwise; for:
Ø The fulfilment of the promises of God and the continuance of religious
privileges depend on the ethical relation in which men stand toward Him.
His covenant with Levi was “for the fear with which he feared me”
(Malachi 2:6-7); but when his descendants lost that fear they
“corrupted the covenant,” and ceased to have any claim upon its promised
blessings. It was the same with the Jews who in after ages vainly boasted
that they were “the children of Abraham.” In the sight of the Holy One
righteousness is everything, hereditary descent nothing, except in so far as
it is promotive of righteousness.
Ø Faithful service is rewarded. HONOR FOR HONOR. “Them that
honor me I will honor.” Consider:
o The ground: not merely His relationship as moral Governor, but His
beneficence in bestowing the gifts of nature, providence, and grace.
o The method: in thought, word, and deed.
o The reward: his approbation, continued service, extended usefulness,
Ø Unfaithful conduct is punished. Promises and threatenings are made to
individuals because they are in a particular state of character; but they
belong to all who are in that state, for "God is no respecter of persons.”
“He will give to every man according to his works.”
of Eli (vs. 31-34). Consisting of:
Ø The deprivation of strength, which had been abused. Their power would
be broken (Zechariah 11:17).
Ø The shortening of life, the prolonging of which in the case of Eli had
been an occasion of evil rather than of good. “There shall not be an old
man in thine house forever;” the result of weakness; repeated in v. 32.
Ø The loss of prosperity; the temporal benefits that would otherwise have
been received. “Thou shalt see distress of dwelling in all that brings
prosperity to Israel.”
Ø The infliction of misery on those who continue, for a while, to minister
at the altar, and of violent death (v. 33; 22:18).
Ø Although these things would not take place at once, their
commencement, as a sign of what would follow, would be witnessed by Eli
himself in the sudden death of the two chief offenders “in one day” (ch. 4:11)
If anything could rouse the house of Eli to “flee from the
wrath to come,” surely such a fearful message as this was adapted to do so.
Fear of coming wrath, although it never makes men truly religious, may,
and often does, arouse and restrain them, and bring them under the
influence of other and higher motives. The closing sentences contain:
that which had proved faithless (vs. 35-36). “I will raise up a faithful
priest,” etc., i.e. a line of faithful men to accomplish the work for which the
priesthood has been appointed, and to enjoy the privileges which the house
of Eli has forfeited. In contrast with that house, it will do my will, and I
will cause it to endure; and it will continue to live in intimate fellowship
and cooperation with the anointed kings of
that the surviving members of the fallen house will be entirely dependent
upon it for a “piece of bread.” The prediction was first of all fulfilled in
Samuel, who by express commission from God acted habitually as a priest;
and afterwards in Zadok, in whom the line of Eleazar was restored; but the
true underlying idea of a priest, like that of a king, has its full realization in
JESUS CHRIST ALONE! The gloomiest of prophetic messages generally
conclude with words of promise and hope.
Honor and Dishonor (v. 30)
Concerning the moral attitude assumed by men toward God, which is here
Our relation to others is a light thing compared with what it is to Him. This
is everything; and knowledge, power, riches, reputation, etc. nothing.
Ø Because of His nature (“There is none holy as the Lord”), His
government (moral, supreme, universal), and His claims. It is the
effectual test of our character, what we are really and essentially.
Ø It is the principal means of forming and strengthening it. What are we in
His sight? What does He think of me?
“Honor me.” “Despise me.”
Ø Honor; by reverence (the fundamental principle of the religious life),
trust, prayer, obedience, fidelity, living to His glory.
Ø Despise; by forgetfulnesss, unbelief, self-will, pride, selfishness,
disobedience, sin of every kind.
Ø There is no other alternative. “For me or against me” (Exodus
32:26; Jeremiah 8:1; Matthew 6:24; 7:13-14; 12:30).
CONSEQUENCES. “I will honor.” “Shall be lightly esteemed.”
Ø Honor; by His friendship, appointment to honorable service, giving
success therein, open acknowledgment before men here and hereafter.
“Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Ø Lightly esteemed; by Himself, men, angels, despised even by themselves,
and cast away among the vile. “He that sayeth his life shall lose it.”
Ø There is a strict correspondence between character and consequences,
both generally and particularly, in kind and measure. And the joy and
misery of the future will be the consummation and the ripened fruit of
WHAT EXISTS NOW! (Galatians 6:7).
ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN. Men often think otherwise. But “be not
Ø The natural constitution and tendencies of things, as ordained by Him
who is “above all, and in all, and through all.” (Ephesians 4:6)
Ø The recorded and observed facts of life.
Ø The express declarations of Him “who cannot lie.” (Titus 1:2)
“I will honor.” “They shall be lightly esteemed.”
Office Nothing without Character (v. 30)
The worthlessness of rank or hereditary position without corresponding
wisdom or virtue is a commonplace of moral reflection. But it is startling
to find how strongly it is affirmed in Holy Writ of those who hold high
office in the house of God. The priesthood in
in point of fact the regularity of the succession was often broken; but such
hereditary office was never meant to protect unworthy men like the sons of
Eli. Their position was forfeited by their misconduct, and their priestly
functions were transferred to other hands. The principle is for all time, and
for general application. Does one reach and occupy a high station in the
Church? No matter what his line of “holy orders” may be, or who laid
hands of ordination on his head, or what functions he is held competent to
perform, he must be judged by this test — Does he honor God in his
office, or honor and serve himself? Does he so live and act as to
commend and glorify Christ? And the same test must be applied to the man
professing himself a Christian who occupies a throne on the earth, or who
holds high dignity in the state, or who has power as a writer or an orator
over the minds of men, or who as a capitalist has great means and
opportunities of usefulness. Does he in his station glorify God? If not, his
rank, or office, or grand position avails him nothing.
this implies. To know Him truly, to reverence and love Him. In vain any
verbal or formal homage without the honor rendered by the heart (see
Matthew 15:8). He whose heart cleaves to God will show it in his daily
conduct. He will be careful to consult God’s word for direction, and
observe His statutes. He will openly respect God’s ordinances, and give
cheerfully for their maintenance, and for the furtherance of righteous and
charitable objects. He will honor the Lord with his substance, and with
the first fruits of all his increase. He will worship God with his family, and
teach his children “the fear of the Lord.” In his place or station he will
make it his aim, and hold it his chief end, to glorify God. And, without any
vaunting or ostentation, he will show his colors — avow his faith and
hope openly. The boy king, Edward VI., showed his colors when he sat
— alas! for how short a time — on the English throne. So did Sir
Matthew Hale on the bench, and Robert Boyle in the Royal Society, and
William Wilberforce in the highest circles of political life. So did Dr.
Simpson among their patients in
counting house at
These men were not in what are called religious offices; but, in such offices
or positions as
religious, God fearing men. And others there are in places and callings
more obscure who are quite as worthy of esteem; those who, in houses of
business among scoffing companions, in servants’ halls, in workshops, in
barrack rooms, in ships’ forecastles, meekly but firmly honor the Lord,
and ennoble a lowly calling by fidelity to conscience and to God. The Lord
sees and remembers all who honor Him. (II Timothy 2:19) Nay, He honors
them; but after His own manner, not after the fashion of the world. He honors
faithful servants in this world by giving them more work to do. He honors
true witnesses by extending the range for their testimony. Sometimes He
honors those with whom He is well pleased by appointing them to suffer
for His cause. Paul evidently deemed this a high honor. Witness his
words to the Philippians: “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not
only to believe in his name, but also to suffer for his sake.” Some He calls
away in early years out of the world, but they leave behind a fragrant
honored name, and they go to “glory, honour, and immortality” (Romans
2:7) in a better land. It is right to value the good opinion of our fellow men;
but there are always drawbacks and dangers in connection with honor which
comes from man. In seeking it one is tempted to tarnish his simplicity of
character, and weaken his self-respect. There is a risk of envying more
successful, or exulting over less successful competitors for distinction. But it
need never be so in seeking “the honor which comes from God only.”
(John 5:44) We seek it best not when we push ourselves forward, but when
we deny ourselves, honor Him, and by love serve the brethren. And then in
our utmost success we have no ground of self-glorying, for all is of grace.
Nor is there room for grudging or envying. With the Lord there is grace
enough to help all who would serve him, and glory enough to reward
all who serve him faithfully.
esteemed.” Despise the Lord God Almighty! Amazing insolence of the
human heart, yet not infrequent. The sons of Eli openly slighted Jehovah by
their rapacity in the priest’s office, and their profaning the precincts of His
house with their debauchery. Long after this, priests of
by the prophet Malachi for despising the name of the Lord of hosts,
making His table contemptible by laying on it polluted bread, and
dishonoring His altar by offering maimed animals in sacrifice. The warning
then, in the first instance, is to those who bear themselves profanely or
carelessly in sacred offices, and in familiar contact with religious service.
But the sin is one which soon spreads among the people. Ezekiel charged
the people of
profaned His sabbaths” (Ezekiel 22:8). This sin is a common thing in
Christendom. Men do not in terms deny God’s existence, but make light of
Him; never read His word with any seriousness; never pray unless they are
ill or afraid; count Church service and instruction a weariness. The base
gods of the heathen receive more respect and consideration from their
votaries. Allah has far more reverence from the Moslem than the great God
of heaven and earth obtains from multitudes who pass as Christians. They
live as if He had no right to command them, and no power to judge them.
They lift their own will and pleasure to the throne, and despise the Lord of
hosts. With what result? They shall be lightly esteemed. Even in this world,
and this life, the ungodly miss the best distinctions. They are not the men
who gather about them the highest confidence or most lasting influence
and esteem. After they leave the world, a few are remembered who had
rare force of character or an unusually eventful career; but how the rest are
forgotten! A few natural tears from their nearest kindred, a few inquiries
among friends about the amount and disposal of their property, a decorous
silence about themselves on the principle that nothing but what is good
should be said of the dead, and so their memory perishes. But all is not
over. A TERRIBLE HEREAFTER AWAITS the despisers of the Lord.
“As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt
despise their image.” (Psalm 73:20) The clear alternative in this text is one
that cannot be evaded. One may try to assume a negative attitude, and allege
that he remains in a state of suspense, and does not find the recognition of a
Divine Being to be an imperative necessity; but this is practically to despise
the Lord — making light of his word, and pronouncing his very existence to
be a matter of doubtful truth and of secondary importance. Reject not
wisdom’s counsel; despise not her reproof. “Today, if ye will hear the
voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:7-8)
31 "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."
I will cut off thine arm. The arm is the usual metaphor for
strength. As Eli had preferred the exaltation of his sons to God’s honor,
he is condemned to see the strength of his house broken. Nay, more; there
is not to be an “old man in his house.” The young men full of energy and
vigor perish by the sword; the Survivors fade away by disease. The Jews
say that the house of Ithamar was peculiarly short-lived, but the prophecy
was amply fulfilled in the slaughter of Eli’s house, first
at Nob by Doeg the Edomite at the command of Saul. (ch. 22) There is nothing
to warrant an abiding curse upon his family. The third or fourth generation is
the limit of the visitation of the sins of the fathers upon the children.
32 "And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth
which God shall
house for ever." Thou shalt see an enemy. The translation of v. 32 is very
difficult, but is probably as follows: “And thou shalt behold, i.e. see with
wonder and astonishment, narrowness of habitation in all the wealth which
shall be given unto
“enemy,” but as that for habitation is the most general term in the Hebrews
language for a dwelling, being used even of the dens of wild beasts
(Jeremiah 9:10; Nahum 2:12), the rendering an “enemy of dwelling”
gives no sense. Hence the violent insertion of the pronoun my, for which
no valid excuse can be given. But narrowness of dwelling, means distress,
especially in a man’s domestic relations, and this is the sense required. In
the growing public and national prosperity which was to be
under Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon, Eli was to see, not in person, but
prophetically, calamity attaching itself to his own family. His house was to
decay in the midst of the progress of all the rest. Upon this denunciation of
private distress naturally follows the repetition of the threat that the house
of Ithamar should be left without an old man to guide its course onward to
33 "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."
The man of thine, etc. The meaning of the Hebrews is here
again changed by the insertion of words not in the original. Translated
literally the sense is good, but merciful, and this the Authorized Version
has so rendered as to make it the most bitter of all denunciations. The Hebrews
is, “Yet I will not cut off every one of thine from my altar, to consume thine eyes
and to grieve thy soul;” that is, thy punishment shall not be so utter as to leave
thee with no consolation; for thy descendants, though diminished in
numbers, and deprived of the highest rank, shall still minister as priests at
mine altar. “But the majority of try house — literally, the multitude of thy house
— shall die as men.” This is very well rendered in the Authorized Version “in the
flower of their age,” only we must not explain this of dying of disease. They were
to die in their vigor, not, like children and old men, in their beds, but by
violent deaths, such as actually befell them at
34 "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."
With this the sign here given exactly agrees. Hophni and
Phinehas died fighting valiantly in battle, and then came the sacking of
this followed a long delay. For first Eli’s grandson, Ahitub, the son of
Phinehas, was high priest, and then his two sons, Ahiah and Ahimelech,
and then Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech. It was in Ahimelech’s days that
the slaughter took place at Nob, from which the house of Ithamar seems
never to have fully recovered.
35 "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."
I will raise me up a faithful priest. This prophecy is explained in three several ways,
of Samuel, of Zadok, and of
at length in his ‘De Civ. Dei,’ 17:5, argues that it cannot be reasonably said that a
change in the priesthood foretold with so great circumstance was fulfilled in Samuel.
But while we grant that it was an essential characteristic of Jewish prophecy to
be ever larger than the immediate fulfillment, yet its primary meaning must
never be slurred over, as if it were a question of slight importance. By the
largeness of its terms, the grandeur of the hopes it inspired, and the
incompleteness of their immediate accomplishment, the Jews were taught
to look ever onward, and so became a Messianic people. Granting then
that Christ and His Church are the object and end of this and of all
prophecy, the question narrows itself to this — In whom was this
prediction of a faithful priest primarily fulfilled? We answer, Not in Zadok,
but in Samuel. Zadok was a commonplace personage, of whom little or
nothing is said after the time that he joined David with a powerful
contingent (I Chronicles 12:28). Samuel is the one person in Jewish
history who approaches the high rank of
(Jeremiah 15:1). The argument that he was a Levite, and not a priest,
takes too narrow and technical a view of the matter; for the essence of the
priesthood lies not in the offering of sacrifice, but in mediation. Sacrifice is
but an accident, being the appointed method by which the priest was to
mediate between God and man. As a matter of fact, Samuel often did
discharge priestly functions (ch. 7:9, 17; 13:8, where we find Saul reproved for
invading Samuel’s office; ch. 16:2), and it is a point to be kept in mind that the
regular priests disappear from Jewish history for about fifty years after the
slaughter of themselves, their wives, and families at
Saul’s time that Ahiah, the great-grandson of Eli, appears, as once again ministering
at the altar (ch. 14:3). The calamity that overtook the nation at the end of Eli’s reign
was so terrible that all ordinary ministrations seem to have been in abeyance. We are
even expressly told that after the recovery of the ark it was placed in the house
of Abinadab at Kirjath-jearim in
Eleazar, though a Levite only, ministered there before it by no regular
consecration, but by the appointment of the men of that town. During this
time, though Ahitub, Ahiah’s father, was probably high priest nominally,
yet nothing is said of him, and all the higher functions of the office were
exercised by Samuel. Instead of the Urim and Thummim, he as prophet
was the direct representative of the theocratic king. Subsequently this great
duty was once again discharged by Abiathar as priest, and then a mighty
change was made, and the prophets with the living voice of inspiration
took the place of the priest with the ephod. For this is a far more important
matter than even the fact that Samuel performed the higher functions of the
priesthood. With him a new order of things began. Prophecy, from being
spasmodic and irregular, became an established institution, and took its
place side by side with the priesthood in preparing for Christ’s advent, and
in forming the Jewish nation to be the evangelizers of the world. The
prediction of this organic change followed the rule of all prophecy in taking
its verbal form and expression from what was then existent. Just as the
gospel dispensation is always described under figures taken from the
Jewish Church and commonwealth, so Samuel, as the founder of the
prophetic schools, and of the new order of things which resulted from
them, is described to Eli under terms taken from his priestly office. He was
a “faithful priest,” and much more, just as our Lord was a “prophet like
unto Moses” (Deuteronomy 18:15), and a “King set upon the holy hill
at the time when these prophecies were spoken. As regards the specific terms
of the prophecy, “the building of a sure house” (ch. 25:28; II Samuel 7:11;
I Kings 2:24, 11:38; Isaiah 32:18) is a metaphor expressive of assured prosperity.
The mass of the Israelites dwelt in tents (II Samuel 11:11; 20:1, etc.; I Kings
12:16), and to have a fixed and permanent dwelling was a mark of
greatness. From such passages as I Kings 2:24; 11:38, it is plain that
the idea of founding a family is not contained in the expression. As a matter
of fact, Samuel’s family was prosperous, and his grandson Heman had high
rank in David’s court and numerous issue (I Chronicles 25:5).
Probably too the men of Ramah, who with the men of the Levite town of
Gaba made up a total of 621 persons (Nehemiah 7:30), represented the
descendants of Samuel at the return from
contrast is between the migratory, life in tents and the ease and security of
a solid and firm abode, and the terms of the promise are abundantly
fulfilled in Samuel’s personal greatness.
In the promise, “he shall walk before mine anointed forever,” there is the
same outlook upon the office of king, as if already in existence, which we
observed in Hannah’s hymn (ch. 2:10). Apparently the expectation that Jehovah
was about to anoint, i.e. consecrate, for them some one to represent Him in civil
matters and war, as the high priest represented Him in things spiritual, had taken
possession of the minds of the people. It had been clearly promised them, and
regulations for the office made (Deuteronomy 17:14-20); and it was to be Samuel’s
office to fulfill this wish, and all his life through he held a post of high dignity in
But the promise has also a definite meaning as regards the prophets, in
whom Samuel lived on. For St. Augnstine’s error was in taking Samuel
simply in his personal relations, whereas he is the representative of the
whole prophetic order (Acts 3:24). They were his successors in his
work, and continued to be the recognized mediators to declare to king and
people the will of Jehovah, who was the supreme authority in both Church
and state; and in political matters they were the appointed check upon the
otherwise absolute power of the kings, with whose appointment their own
formal organization exactly coincided. From Samuel’s time prophet and
king walked together till the waiting period began which immediately
preceded the nativity of Christ.
A Faithful Priest (v. 35)
In the strictest sense Christ alone is now a Priest. In Himself assuming the
office, He has forever abolished it in others. Hence none are called priests in
the New Testament, except in the modified sense in which all who believe
in Him are so called (I Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). But taking the
expression as equivalent to “a faithful ministry,” consisting of men
appointed by Christ to a special service for Him (Malachi 2:6-7;
Acts 6:4; Ephesians 4:11; Colossians 1:7; II Timothy 2:2), and faithfully
fulfilling the purpose of their appointment, it leads us to notice:
Ø HE ALONE can do it. From Him come natural gifts and, still more, spiritual
graces, eminent faith and patience, humility, courage, meekness, tender
compassion “on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way,”
Ø He has promised and made provision for it (Jeremiah 3:15). “I will
build him a sure (enduring) house.” The death of Christ hath a great
influence unto this gift of the ministry. It is a branch that grew out of the
grave of Christ; let it be esteemed as lightly as men please, had not Christ
died for it we had not had a ministry in the world. He “will be inquired of”
for it. If Churches would have “good ministers of Jesus Christ,” they must
seek them from God (Matthew 9:38).
heart and in my mind.”
Ø Supreme regard to His will as the rule of character and labor.
Ø Clear insight into His mind in relation to the special requirements of the
time, place, and circumstances.
Ø Practical, earnest, and constant devotion to it in all things, the least as
well as the greatest. Even as “Christ himself.” “I have given you an
Ø Enjoyment of the King’s favor (Proverbs 16:15).
Ø Employment in the King’s service; in continued, honorable, beneficent,
and increasing cooperation with Him.
Ø Participation in the King’s glory forever. “Be thou faithful unto death,”
(Revelation 2:10). “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me
in my throne” (Revelation 3:21).
36 "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." Piece of silver is literally a small
silver coin got by begging and the word marks the extreme penury into which
the race of Eli fell. Gathered round the sanctuary at
sufferers by its ruin, and we have noticed how for a time they fall entirely out of
view. During the miserable period of Philistine domination which followed,
Samuel became to the oppressed nation a center of hope, and by wise government
he first reformed the people internally, and then gave them freedom from foreign
rule. During this period we may be sure that he did much to raise from
their misery the descendants of Eli, and finally Ahiah, Eli’s grandson,
ministers as high priest before Saul. Though his grandson, Abiathar, was
deposed from the office by Solomon, there is no reason for imagining that
the family ever again fell into distress, nor do the terms of the prophecy
warrant such a supposition.
Impending Retribution (vs. 27-36)
The facts in this section are:
1. A Divine message declares to Eli the coming doom of his house.
2. The justice of the judgment is brought home to him by a reference to
past privileges enjoyed and sins committed.
3. A painful sign of the certainty of the whole prediction being ultimately
fulfilled is given in a reference to the sudden death of his