I Samuel 2
1. And Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
My horn is exalted in the LORD.
I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
Hannah offers a prayer to the LORD at this point, a prayer that is also a poem of praise. This prayer seems to be prophetic, and so it could be that the Spirit of the LORD took her at this point and guided her words. It could also be that she had composed this prayer in preparation for this time, and the Spirit had helped her compose it.
She proclaims that her heart rejoices in the LORD. This word “heart” is one that we take to mean the center of emotions, but we will get off track if we take this English meaning into the Scriptures. The heart in Scripture is the inner man or the inner being. Its first use in Genesis 6:5 is of the thoughts of men’s hearts. Its third use is of speaking in the heart, which we would call thinking in your head. So we can see that the heart is the inner being, in which all hidden thoughts and emotions find a home, and from which all spoken words and expressed emotions emanate.
Next, she declares that her horn is exalted in the LORD. This seems strange to us, not knowing their customs of the day, for what is a “horn”? The horn is part of the head-dress women wore at that time. They would wrap it so it came to a peak, and this peak was called the horn. From this horn the veil would be hung. When a woman became a mother, she was allowed to raise this peak higher, showing that she had more honor than a childless woman. This is not anything that is common today, although even today in French restaurants, the man who wears the highest hat is the top chef.
She smiles at her enemies, she declares next. No doubt she is thinking of Peninnah and her children who had mocked her. Now, she can smile at their taunts, rather than being crushed by them.
She rejoices in the LORD’s salvation. In this case, salvation refers to her deliverance from her childless state. Yet God’s salvation is always a cause for joy, no matter what salvation it might be.
2. “No one is holy like the LORD,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
No one, Hannah declares, is holy like the LORD. To be holy means to be set apart, and our God is indeed set apart and unique from all others. No one is like Him! And Hannah declares this again, declaring to the LORD her belief that there is none besides Him. Our God is not just one of a race of super-beings who decided to create a universe and be a God to it. He is alone, He is unique, and there is none equal to Him.
Finally she proclaims that there is no rock like our God. This is a truth that is a common theme throughout Scripture: that God is rock. Rock makes a stable foundation upon which to build. A rock provides protection from the rain and storm, and is a strong defense at your back when facing your enemies. So it is with God. He is our firm foundation and stability, and He is our protection. He is a rock, and there is no rock as great as Him.
3. “Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the LORD is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed.
She speaks of her rival wife Peninnah, who had talked proudly and arrogantly against her. The LORD had weighed between the two, and He had provided Hannah with children. What Hannah says here is true, however, and applies beyond her situation. The LORD really does know and weigh the actions of men. We live in the time of God’s secret dispensation, when His weighing actions are not open or obvious. Yet they still take place, and in the day when all actions are judged His opinion will become clear.
4. “The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And those who stumbled are girded with strength.
The LORD is a God Who can reverse fortunes, if He so desires, just as He has reversed hers by giving her children. Here, she uses the example of soldiers in a battle. The LORD can break the bows of the mighty men who otherwise would have won. He can gird with strength those who stumbled and otherwise would have lost.
5. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
And the hungry have ceased to hunger.
Even the barren has borne seven,
And she who has many children has become feeble.
Again Hannah speaks of ways the LORD is able to reverse the fortunes of people as He desires. Those who are full and have plenty of food He can bring to such want that they hire themselves out just for food. Those who are hungry, on the other hand, He can end their hunger. Then she speaks of an example much more appropriate to her specific situation. The one who was barren He can make to bear seven children, a desirable number. She who has many children, on the other hand, He can make feeble by taking them away from her and not allowing her to benefit from them.
6. “The LORD kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.
Now she uses the example of death and life, telling us that the LORD can kill and He can make alive. As men, we can kill, and all of us have done this, even if only to kill things like bugs. Yet even something as small and simple as a bug we cannot bring back to life once it is dead. Only the LORD can bring someone back to life, and He does.
It is very interesting that Hannah believes in God’s power to raise people from the dead here, as we have no Biblical examples of resurrection that take place before this, though we certainly do have many after this. The closest we get to an example of resurrection before this is Abraham trusting that God could raise Isaac from the dead if he followed God’s command and sacrificed him. Yet this never actually happened, and besides, it is Hebrews not Genesis that tells us this is what Abraham had in mind. Yet Hannah believes in God’s power to raise the dead, and her belief is impressive. There is no indication in the Bible that the Old Testament believers were unaware of any life after death. They all knew that this was their hope. It is only today when we have substituted the idea of dying and going to heaven for the hope of resurrection that we do not understand.
We need to be careful with this statement, because some have expanded this out until it has become absolute error. It is true that the LORD kills. We can see Him doing this in the case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Numbers 16:31-33. Yet just because the LORD kills does not mean that everyone who dies was killed by Him! This is what many believe. Any time anyone dies, they say, “It must have been his time,” or, if they are clearer about what they mean, “God took him.” They claim that no one dies unless God determines it is their time to die. This results in the idea that any time anyone dies, it is because God killed him. Yet this is a foolish and unbiblical idea. Nowhere in Scripture is it suggested that the only time anyone dies is if God puts him to death.
Yet is that not what this passage is saying, some might ask? If so, then we would also have to conclude that God also makes sure wars are always won by the weaker party (verse 4,) that those who start their lives with plenty of food will always end up starving, whereas those who begin their lives without enough food will always end up with plenty (verse 5,) and that those who have many children will never be able to enjoy them, whereas those who start out barren will always end up having children (verse 5 again.) Is this the case? If not, if these statements apply only in certain cases and are not universal, then why should verse 6 be universal?
But is it not true that everyone is going to be raised from the dead by God, some might ask? Yes, it is true, for that is revealed elsewhere in Scripture, in I Corinthians 15:22. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” Yet just because God is going to raise all does not mean God also conversely has to be the One Who kills all. This verse tells us “all” die in Adam. The reality is that God does not have to do anything, and all men will still die because they are in Adam. The idea that everyone who dies did so because God chose the time is simply not a Biblical one.
The Hebrew word for “grave” here is sheol. This is the only occurrence of this word in I Samuel, and it occurs only once again in II Samuel. This word in Scripture is applied both to the righteous and the wicked, to the Godly and the ungodly. When applied to the Godly, our translators have often made it “grave,” as here. When applied to the ungodly, it is usually translated “hell.” Yet it means neither hell nor grave. This word has to do with death as a temporary state. In other words, a person can be dead, but as long as resurrection is still in his future, it is a temporary state. When a person is poor, he might be in a state of poverty, but that state can be reversed if he somehow obtains riches. When a person is alone, he is in a state of solitude, but that can be reversed if he goes among people. So death can be reversed, yet it is a state that men can find themselves in. This state is what is described in Hebrew by the word sheol.
7. The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
The LORD can do these things, but sometimes they happen on their own. When we consider men who are involved with organized crime, we will find that sometimes they have become very rich by their illicit activities. Are we to believe that the LORD made these wicked men rich? Not at all! Yet there are men whom God has made rich. Job was one of these; at least, Satan argues this to the LORD, and the LORD does not deny it. Yet this does not mean that all men who are rich are rich because the LORD made them that way. Nor does this mean that anyone who is poor is poor because the LORD made him that way. Sometimes, these things just happen on their own.
Then the LORD brings low and lifts up. We could consider how he brought men like Herod low in Acts 12, or how he exalted a mere shepherd boy like David and made him the king of Israel in the very book we are studying now. Yet again this is not universal. Every Hollywood star that makes it big was not lifted up by God. Every politician who holds high office was not put there by God. He can do these things, and He has done these things, but this does not mean He is doing these things every time they happen.
8. He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.
“For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
And He has set the world upon them.
The poor are those who have nothing, either in the way of wealth or in the way of power or strength. The LORD exalts these, who are nothing in the eyes of the world, and sets them among the chief men of the world. Again, David is a great example of this, yet David is certainly not the only one. We know that the believer in Christ today is seated together with Christ in the most exalted seats, according to Ephesians 2:6. We may have started out with nothing before we believed, but He is going to make us to inherit a glorious throne in the kingdom of God to come.
The pillars of the earth are those (men) who are in control of the governments of this world. They are figuratively called “pillars” because they are holding up the world, the very system or order of men upon the earth, and this order is propped up on them. This statement anticipates the future, when God will take control of the governments of this world, and all who are pillars in that government will belong to the LORD.
9. He will guard the feet of His saints,
But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.
“For by strength no man shall prevail.
The LORD watches out for His people. He guards the feet of those set apart to Him, meaning He watches their every step to ensure that they do not stumble. The wicked, on the other hand, have no helper. When the kingdom comes, they will not be raised from the dead, but will lie silent in darkness while God’s people enjoy the blessings of olam life.
No man shall win by strength. This is true when the LORD acts, for no man can overpower Him. When He sets His mind to something, no man, no matter how strong, can oppose it. We will see how King Saul learned this lesson to his own destruction. Yet this is also certainly true of the kingdom of God to come. It will not matter how great one was in this life. That strength will do nothing to bring him into God’s government. All that will matter then is if God raises him from the dead.
10. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven He will thunder against them.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
“He will give strength to His king,
And exalt the horn of His anointed.”
The things Hannah speaks of here will happen when the LORD takes control of the earth by His kingdom government. Then, as He takes control of the earth, He shall break all His adversaries in pieces, thundering against them from His place of exaltation. At that time, He will judge the ends of the earth. Judge does not mean “punish” here, as many imagine it means. It means that He will determine what is right for this earth, and then He will set things right according to the determinations He has made. What a different place this earth will be when God does this!
At that time, His king will be on the throne, and will be strengthened and exalted by Him. The king referred to here is Jesus Christ reigning from heaven. His anointed is the Messiah, in Hebrew Machiyach, who will be David in the kingdom of God reigning from Jerusalem under his Son and Lord in heaven. Hannah has already spoken of her own horn being exalted, but now she speaks of the Messiah’s horn being exalted. It is the same word keren, but this time is speaking of strength.
11. Then Elkanah went to his house at Ramah. But the child ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest.
At this point Hannah’s prayer comes to an end. Elkanah returns to his house at Ramah, taking his wives with him, but leaving Samuel behind. Samuel now serves the LORD under Eli the priest.
12. Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD.
Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas were introduced to us back in chapter 1 and verse 3, but now we learn about their character. God describes them to us as sons of Belial, which we have suggested means worthlessness. In this case it probably indicates that they were drunkards, for such are often described this way, and we saw that is the way Hannah used the word back in I Samuel 1:16. Then the record sums up their condition in this way: they did not know Jehovah. What could be more telling as to their true character? And consider that this is being said of the men who were God’s priests! For Eli was old and semi-retired at this time, and his sons were performing the priestly duties. So though they were the priests, we can be certain from this, God’s description of them, that they have no hope for a future in the resurrection.
13. And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling.
Here we learn some of the corrupt and wicked practices of the priests at this time. The priests were allowed to eat part of the sacrifices that were brought to the tabernacle, but there were laws as to which parts. Here, we read that the priests sent a servant when any man was offering a sacrifice with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand. This would happen while the meat was boiling in the pot.
14. Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.
The servant then would thrust his fleshhook into the pan, kettle, or cauldron, or pot that the sacrifice was boiling in, and whatever the fleshhook brought out, the priest would eat. But this is not the way things were supposed to be done. The sacrifice of peace offerings, which this is probably referring to, was to be eaten by the offerer, according to Leviticus 7:15.
15. ‘The flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering for thanksgiving shall be eaten the same day it is offered. He shall not leave any of it until morning.
We have more details on this in Leviticus 7:28-29.
28. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 29. “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘He who offers the sacrifice of his peace offering to the LORD shall bring his offering to the LORD from the sacrifice of his peace offering. 30. His own hands shall bring the offerings made by fire to the LORD. The fat with the breast he shall bring, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering before the LORD.
So the peace offering was sacrificed, and then only the breast and the fat were brought to Yahweh. As we have said, the rest was the offerer’s to keep and eat from. What is done with the fat and the breast is explained in the next verses.
31. And the priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be Aaron’s and his sons’.
So the fat is burned on the altar, and the breast is for Aaron and his sons the priests to eat.
32. Also the right thigh you shall give to the priest as a heave offering from the sacrifices of your peace offerings. 33. He among the sons of Aaron, who offers the blood of the peace offering and the fat, shall have the right thigh for his part.
So the right thigh too is given to the one who actually does the offering of the blood and the fat.
34. For the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering I have taken from the children of Israel, from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and I have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons from the children of Israel by a statute forever.’”
35. This is the consecrated portion for Aaron and his sons, from the offerings made by fire to the LORD, on the day when Moses presented them to minister to the LORD as priests.
So there were certain parts of the animal that belonged to the priests. Yet only those parts did they have a right to. The other parts belonged to the one offering the sacrifice. So what the priests were doing was stealing from the portion the offerer was supposed to keep by randomly drawing out from it whatever their fleshhook would bring up.
15. Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, “Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.”
It seems that stealing from the offerer was not enough for these wicked priests. They also decided they liked roasted meat better than boiled meat, and since the meat was tastier with the fat in it, they wanted the meat before the fat was removed as well. However this was not just the part that belonged to the offerer, for the fat was the part that was supposed to be offered to the LORD. These men were actually stealing from the LORD Himself! This was a grave violation indeed, and Leviticus 7:22-25 tells us what was supposed to happen to one who did something like this.
22. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23. “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24. And the fat of an animal that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it. 25. For whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people.
So even for an animal that was not offered to the LORD, no Israelite was supposed to eat its fat if it even was an animal that could be offered to the LORD. If anyone did eat the fat of such an animal, they deserved expulsion from Israel! How much more did Hophni and Phinehas deserve punishment, when they actually ate the fat that was supposed to belong to the LORD from His offerings?
16. And if the man said to him, “They should really burn the fat first; then you may take as much as your heart desires,” he would then answer him, “No, but you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force.”
Of course there were some in Israel who were aware of the laws, and realized that the fat must be burned as belonging to Jehovah. These might speak up and protest that they should burn the fat first. Then, the man might offer, the priests could take as much as they wanted. This was actually very generous, for of course the priest had no right to take as much as he wanted, for he only really had a right to the parts given to him by the law. This shows us that a man who would protest this way did not care so much about his own portion, but was really concerned that Jehovah should be given His due out of the offering he had brought. Yet this wicked and corrupt servant did not recognize and did not care about the loyalty to God this offerer thus displayed. Instead, he would demand the meat with the fat, and threaten that if he didn’t give it, the servant would take it by force. Since Eli’s sons had the power of government on their side, it is likely that they almost always got away with this hubris. Yet Jehovah was watching all this, and He knew how these men despised Him.
17. Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
Samuel assures us that this sin of these young men was very great before Yahweh, and of course we can see that it was! This made Yahweh’s offering abhorrent to those who came to offer it, and how could it help but do so? This offering was supposed to be an expression of peace, an indication that the offerer sought a true union with God. Yet how could such an offering be effective when Yahweh never received His portion of it, but it was stolen by the sinful and greedy priests? Therefore instead of the peace offerings being a blessing to those who offered them, they became actually abhorrent to them. What a terrible sin it was indeed that these wicked men committed!
18. But Samuel ministered before the LORD, even as a child, wearing a linen ephod.
We see that Samuel, Eli’s servant, is much more faithful than his sons! Samuel ministers before the LORD, even as a child. Eli’s sons were long since grown men, and yet they knew nothing of real ministry to the LORD. But this child ministers, and does so faithfully. Moreover, we read that Samuel wore a linen ephod, the garment that the priests were supposed to wear when they ministered before the LORD. In this, as in all things, Samuel served as he was supposed to serve.