On the last day of the feast, Elkanah and his family worshiped the Lord one more time and then left for home. When Elkanah and Hannah enjoyed the marriage bed, the Scripture tells us that the Lord remembered her (1:19). The womb that was closed by the Lord (1:5) was now opened. In the course of time, Hannah conceived and bore a son, Samuel.
READ 1 SAMUEL 1:19-28
So now the story shifts; Hannah’s unbearable humiliation is finally lifted by the birth of her son Samuel. In Hebrew, his name is Sh’mu’el, which means something like “name of God.”
Often Bible students will read verse 20 and assume that the sense of the sentence is that Sh’mu’el must mean, “asked of God” because it says she gave Sh’mu’el his name for that reason, but that is not probable. Sh’mu’el derived from the two Hebrew words shem and El, meaning respectively “name” and “God.”
The time rolled around again for the yearly festival at Shiloh but Hannah informed Elkanah she did not want to go until Samuel was weaned. And this again points up to this almost certain reality that this was NOT an annually God-ordained pilgrimage festival that was being celebrated because it is doubtful Hannah could have refused without it being a sin.
Thus it was somewhat optional, and this year Hannah did not want to turn over her young son to the Priesthood until he was a little older and weaned.
Among those ancient cultures weaning took place no earlier than three years, and sometimes it was up to 5 years if economic conditions dictated.
Elkanah offered no resistance to Hannah’s decision. In fact, he told her it was okay with him, and then took the needed step of saying, “only may Adonai bring about what he said” (at least according the CJB).
More accurately what Elkanah said was, “only may Adonai establish His word.” To “establish His word” is a saying that means approximately, “do His will.” So what Elkanah is doing is validating Hannah’s vow, which is both a duty and a prerogative of a husband.
CJB Numbers 30:13 But if her husband makes them null and void on the day he hears them, then whatever she said, vows or binding obligation, will not stand; her husband has voided them; and ADONAI will forgive her.
So Elkanah had every right to annul Hannah’s vow to give up Samuel to the Priesthood and instead keep his son, but instead, he chose to confirm it. Some time passed, the weaning occurred, and Hannah proceeded to keep her part of the bargain. The family again journeyed to Shiloh and this time brought a generous offering for the occasion.
It was the Law of Moses that before any other kind of sacrifice could occur, an ‘Olah sacrifice had to be presented. An ‘Olah required an animal (as opposed to produce) and usually, the more economically well off a worshipper was, the more expensive of an animal was used.
Thus when Elkanah’s family went on its annual pilgrimage to Shiloh they probably brought two animals with them: one for the ‘Olah, and then another for the Zevah Shelamim.
The worshipper was not allowed to eat from the ‘Olah, only the Zevah. So when we read of Elkanah’s family having their banquet, the meat was the result of the Zevah Shelamim offering.
However, this time there was an extra kind of offering, the vow offering, that had to be performed as an entirely separate act. The Law required that any time a vow was made to the Lord, a vow offering was needed upon the completion of the terms of the vow.
Recall how in the New Testament St. Paul went to Jerusalem to make a vow offering to complete some vow agreement he had made with God.
Also, remember Jephthah and his ill-fated daughter. Jephthah made a vow that if he achieved victory over his enemies, then he would sacrifice (as his vow offering) the first thing that came out of his house when he returned from battle. Sadly his daughter was that first thing, and Jephthah committed the atrocity of sacrificing her.
So here we have a situation requiring three different sacrifices, and we have three animals brought from Ramah to Shiloh for the occasion.
Further, we are told that one ephah of flour was brought as the required Minchah offering that was to accompany all animal sacrifices. An ephah is quite a lot of flour; far too much for only one sacrifice. The Law of Moses ordains different amounts of flour depending on the animal that is sacrificed. A bull was always to be accompanied with no less than 3/10ths of an ephah of flour.
So three bulls would require a minimum of 9/10ths of an ephah, and we have it recorded that one full ephah of flour was brought thus we have a good match. It was indeed three bulls and the prescribed amount of flour to go with them to Shiloh, not one 3-year old bull.
What a bittersweet moment that must have been for Hannah as she led little Sh’mu’el by the hand and turned him over to Eli; the child would not have been more than five years old, likely a year less.
But let’s not set aside the real reason for Hannah wanting a child in the first place; it was to erase her humiliation of never bearing a baby. Raising a child to maturity was never the issue for Hannah (though there is also no reason to cynically think that Samuel was little more than a means to an end for her).
As she presents Samuel to Eli, she reminds him of that day around 5-6 years ago that he found her praying at the entrance to the Tabernacle. And she explains something about that day that Eli didn’t know: the subject of her prayer had been a vow to God for this child, and then if God gave Hannah fertility she would return with the boy and give him back to God.
This chapter ends with what appears to be a strange characterization by Hannah that what she was doing was “loaning” Samuel to the Lord. What is fascinating is that the Hebrew word that is usually translated as “loaning” is Sha’ul; the same word as the name of the king that Samuel would anoint as the first king of Israel, Saul.
The better translation is that Hannah “entrusted” Samuel to Eli, not “loaned.” Not only doesn’t loan at all fit the context, but it is also a real stretch to assign the meaning of “loan” to that Hebrew word.
Further, if we more properly use the word “entrust,” we have Hannah saying, “Therefore, I entrust him to Adonai, and as long as he lives I entrust him to Adonai.”
In fact, this is a near perfect Western Semitic vow protocol for that era. Thus it’s hard to find fault with this much better and more literal rendering.
In fact, the use of the word Sha’ul here has caused some consternation because some academics think this means that this entire narrative about the birth and dedication of Samuel was originally the birth story of Saul and somehow the two got mixed up.
But if that is the case we would have Saul spending his youth ministering at the Shiloh sanctuary and not only does the Biblical narrative not support that supposition, neither does any other biblical or non-biblical record.
Let’s get a bit of a start on chapter 2 before we end this week’s lesson.
Read 1 Samuel 2:1-10
These first ten verses of chapter 2 probably better belong as the last ten verses of chapter 1 because they take place at the time of, and in conjunction with, the dedication of Samuel to God and the Priesthood.
In other words, Hannah said the words that end chapter 1 (“Therefore I have entrusted him to Yehoveh, as long as he lives he is entrusted to Yehoveh”), and then followed that up with what we just read; it didn’t happen after some time passed.
These ten verses are so highly regarded as a theological treatise unto itself that it has been given its own title: “Hannah’s Song,” or “Hannah’s Prayer.” And while we will study it at length in our next lesson, we need to take it as the framework for ALL that is going to follow in the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel, and in and even broader sense all Holy Scripture that follows it. It is as foundational as the
And while we will study it at length in our next lesson, we need to take it as the framework for ALL that is going to follow in the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel, and in and even broader sense all Holy Scripture that follows it. It is as foundational as the 7 Noachide Laws, the Shema, and the 10 Commandments. It is factual and it is prophetic. It is profound, and it is practical.
I want to end today’s lesson with some food for thought. The era of Samuel is a time of a wholesale transition from the date of Judges to the time of Kings, and Samuel is God’s catalyst and the earthly tool to facilitate that transition.
But what I want you to be acutely aware of as we go forward is that in no way did this transition involve a negation, change, abolishment or addition to any previous covenant or promise God made with Israel.
Many modern Christian scholars rightly declare that Samuel set the pattern for John the Baptist of the New Testament. And that both Samuel and Yochanon (John The Baptist) would be given the awesome and humbling privilege of ushering the Kingdom of God into the next stage of a series of scenes that will end with the final redemption of humanity. And that right included anointing a king.
Unfortunately, the two great systematic theologies that emerged from the European Enlightenment about three centuries ago and today form the basis for what we call mainstream Christianity. They say that in many ways Yeshua (Jesus) broke away from some of the previous patterns and substantially changed or even abolished all previous covenants and set up an entirely new dynamic.
One of the systematic theologies called Dispensationalism says that we can break bible history down into eras or administrations where God changed how He governed, and along with it, He necessarily changed some of the rules and laws of His governance.
Now I don’t want to paint all denominations that adhere to this systematic theology with the same broad brush because there is a vast variance of just how to view the various Dispensations. Some at one end of the spectrum take it as far as Replacement Theology, and at the other end some rightly deny and denounce Replacement Theology and see Israel and the Church have lots of overlap.
But generally, there is a belief that with every change of human governance (from Moses to the Judges, to Kings for example), that there were significant changes in God’s justice system and even some alteration of His principles. And that with Christ a whole new, never before existing, judicial system and religion was created just for gentiles, while mostly leaving intact the old justice system but only for Jews.
I fervently deny that the Bible, Old or New Testaments, ever envision or brings about such a thing. At no time has the Lord God ever abrogated, destroyed, abolished, or otherwise made substantial changes to ANY covenant He has ever made.
God did not replace Israel with the Church, nor did He create two separate justice systems, one for Jews and the other for gentiles. And it didn’t matter that the form and structure of human government changed over time (and continues to change); God’s laws and principles and covenants remained intact and enforced.
If it was the type of human government that dictated which of God’s laws and commands remained and which were jettisoned, then it ought to be that (in modern days)
- Under Communism, one set of God’s laws apply,
- Under Democracy, another set applies,
- Under a Monarchy it is different again, and
- Under the tribal systems (that still govern much of the world’s population) yet another group of divine commandments are at work.
And further that the Jews have a whole other system of God’s justice they are to operate under, that is different and separate from those I’ve just mentioned. Such a thing is not only unscriptural; it is irrational and illogical on its face. The notion that this is how God operates is nothing but manmade religious philosophy and tradition made to serve an agenda.
Samuel ushered in a new type of human government for Israel, not a new religion operating under revised laws and principles. We’ll continue with 1st Samuel Chapter 2 next time.