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Deeper Commentary

 

1Sa 2:1 Hannah prayed, and said: My heart exults in Yahweh!-
Prayer is largely carried out in the mind – how we ‘speak in the heart’ is effectively read as our prayer to God. We find the phrase used about how Abraham’s servant prayed, ‘speaking in his heart’ (Gen. 24:45). Thus our self-talk merges into prayer; Hannah’s “prayer” appears to have been the same (1 Sam. 2:1). Solomon’s prayer for wisdom is described by God as “in your heart” (2 Chron. 1:11). This close link between thought and prayer is developed in the Lord’s teaching in Mk. 11:23,24: “Truly I say unto you, Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that what he says comes to pass; he shall have it. Therefore I say unto you, All things you pray and ask for, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them”. Our self-talk is to be fantasy about the fulfillment of our prayers. Yet how often do we hit ‘send’ on our requests to God, like scribbling off a postcard, and hardly think again about them?

My horn is exalted in Yahweh-
The allusion may be to the way women wore a protruding head dress which was lifted higher the more children they had. But it is righteousness which exalts the horn, and not the biological experience of childbearing; for the wicked also have horns (Ps. 75:10; Lam. 2:17). She may have had in view the idea that her child was to be the anointed Messianic seed (the term is used about Him in :10; Ps. 89:24). But her proud assurance of this was misplaced, for it was Samuel who was chosen not to be anointed, but to anoint David.

My mouth boasts over my enemies because I rejoice in Your salvation-
Hannah had remarkable faith, as noted throughout 1 Sam. 1. But like all of us, she had weaknesses, and those weaknesses were elicited by the situation she now suddenly found herself in. Instead of rejoicing in her blessings and new stage of life, she becomes boastful and distinctly vengeful in her attitude to Peninnah. There is no appeal to the other woman to repent, no forgiveness, only an eager desire for the direct judgments upon her, now that Hannah considered herself justified by God through her having had a child. "Enemies" may be an intensive plural for her one great enemy, Peninnah. Or it may be that she felt mocked for her infertility by a whole set of people, over whom she felt she could legitimately boast in the song she is now composing and singing.

1Sa 2:2 There is none as holy as Yahweh, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God-
David in his Psalms repeatedly alludes to the song of his ancestor Hannah. He effectively quotes this verse in 2 Sam. 22:32; although I argue throughout 1 Sam. 2 that Hannah's was apparently lifted up with pride and the vengeance of the underling who has overcome the oppressor. And there is reason to think that David had elements of this weakness too. He thought it was acceptable to be like this because Hannah had been. And that is the problem with setting bad examples. See on :5.

I explained on 1 Sam. 1:18 the detailed points of contact between Mary's magnificat, and Hannah's song of praise. But Mary was spiritually discerning enough to avoid the sense of pride and vengeance which fills Hannah's song in places. The points of connection between the songs of Hannah and Mary's Magnificat are really quite detailed:
1 Sam. 1:3 = Lk. 1:7; 1 Sam. 1:18 = Lk. 1:38, 30; 1 Sam. 2:1 = Lk. 1:46; 1 Sam. 1:11 = Lk. 1:48; 1 Sam. 2:2 = Lk. 1:49; 1 Sam. 2:4 = Lk. 1:51; 1 Sam. 2:3 = Lk. 1:51; 1 Sam. 2:4 = Lk. 1:52; 1 Sam. 2:8 = Lk. 1:52; 1 Sam. 2:5 = Lk. 1:53; 1 Sam. 2:10 = Lk. 1:69; 1 Sam. 2:26 = Lk. 2:52.

The evident allusions Mary makes back to Hannah’s song could be read as reflecting what had actually been wrought in Mary’s own person and experience by some kind of persecution in her childhood. And it drove her within herself. It seems that she had been deeply humbled in order for her to be highly exalted. One wonders if she had been sexually abused. If Joseph was indeed much older than her, then we can understand how it happened that this girl, mature as she was beyond her years, got attracted to an older and spiritual man. Her spirituality and intelligence [for her allusions to Scripture indicate a fine appreciation of so much] would have been enough to spark plenty of village jealousy.
 

1Sa 2:3 Talk no more so exceedingly proudly-
Hannah comes over as hypocritical as she has just announced that she will be speaking proudly and hardly against her "enemies" now that she has had a child.

Don’t let hardness come out of your mouth, for Yahweh is a God of knowledge, though actions be not weighed-
Hannah had reflected upon God’s omniscience; and on this basis she tells Peninnah not to be proud and not to use hard words against her, exactly because of this: “Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not hardness [AVmg.] come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed” here and now, because He sees and knows all things (1 Sam. 2:3 AV); even though it appears that they are not being weighed, because His judgments aren't immediately apparent (so NEV, RVmg.). The word is used of how God weighs thoughts (Prov. 16:2; 21:2; 24:12), but here of actions. We could conclude that therefore the thought is the action, as the Lord Jesus taught; or that Hannah was over emphasizing the external rather than seeing that it is the thoughts of the heart which are the essential issue.


1Sa 2:4 The bows of the mighty men are broken-
Seeing children are as arrows (Ps. 127:4,5), the bow may refer to the womb, in Hannah's mind. And she is now wishing her barrenness upon her enemies who had once mocked her. This is hardly the right attitude, and she repeats it in :5. But as noted on :2, this is an idea alluded to by David in his victory song of 2 Sam. 22:35.

Those who stumbled are armed with strength-
"Stumbled" is a word mostly used about spiritual stumbling. And yet Hannah is revealed as a woman of great faith in 1 Sam. 1. But she seems now to see that part of her life as stumbling, and her arrogant boasting as spiritual strength.

1Sa 2:5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread-
This is an idiom for prostitution. It's as if Hannah wishes Peninnah to be divorced by Elkanah and left on the street starving and needing to sell her body for food. The past tense may simply express Hannah's intention and desire for how things would be in the future, expressed in the past tense because of her confidence and strong desire that this would happen. Yet in line with the second half of the verse, hunger is understood as the hunger of the womb. So Hannah could be saying that she wishes Peninnah to now hunger, to become desperately barren, willing to prostitute herself to get conception. This is as Hannah also wished in :4.

Those who were hungry are satisfied. Yes, the barren has borne seven-
Again we see how past tenses are used in order to express intention and an assured future. Hannah was confident she would go on to have seven children. She didn't; including Samuel she had six. She had only asked for a single child, but now she had Samuel she assumed she was going to be totally fertile. This was a presumption upon God's grace, and yet He still kindly gave her further conception. But not up to the "seven" she here confidently boasts of.

She who has many children languishes-
The languishing could be in the sense of being unable to have more children; see on :4,5. But it is also a word used of mourning the dead, which would then lead on to :6 if this is the context. It is as if Hannah wishes Peninnah's children to die, for Elkanah to divorce her and for her to become a prostitute selling her body for bread (:5). The bitterness is terrible, and sadly recalls Sarah's bitterness with Hagar. Without doubt, Sarah was wrong. And yet Hannah follows her example here, just as David will later follow Hannah's wrong example. See on :2.


1Sa 2:6 Yahweh kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up-
Hannah feels that she has been dead [useless and non existent in society without children, cp. "the deadness of Sarah's womb", Rom. 4:19], and now made alive. But she seems to want the converse to happen; she wants Peninnah to now be made 'dead', perhaps in becoming barren as Hannah had been. . But she may literally have in view a desire for Peninnah and her children to die; for Sarah, whose wrong example she was unconsciously following, wanted Hagar and Ishmael dead and therefore cast them out into the desert to die.


1Sa 2:7 Yahweh makes poor and makes rich. He brings low and He also lifts up-
Instead of simply exalting that she had been lifted up (s.w. :1 "exalted"), she wishes to see Peninnah brought down. This is a classic psychological reaction of the downtrodden who are now exalted; but it is not the way of the Spirit. Hannah lacked grace. However we see in these statements that the negative side of life, the bringing down, the making poor, is attributed solely to Yahweh as in Is. 45:5-7. Clearly Hannah didn't believe the good comes from God and the evil from some cosmic Satan figure. See on :32.

1Sa 2:8 He raises up the poor out of the dust. He lifts up the needy from the dunghill-
Despite being apparently middle class, Hannah felt as a desperate beggar at the bottom of society. Perhaps she had Job in mind, for the story of Job would have been well known to her. But he was lifted up through recognizing his pride, and Hannah doesn't appear to have done that.

To make them sit with princes and inherit the throne of glory-
This and Hannah's song and experiences are alluded to in Ps. 113:7-9. She is presented there as representative of Israel, particularly the exiles in Babylon. Her hope was that Samuel, whose destiny she saw as tied u[ with herself, would be not only a priest [although he was not strictly a Levite] but also a prince / king reigning upon a throne of glory, a term which clearly has Messianic Kingdom overtones. This is all similar to the idea of Ps. 110:4, where the Messiah was to be a king-priest, not a Levite, but a priest "after the order of Melchizedek". "He settles the barren woman in her home, as a joyful mother of children" (Ps. 113:9) continues the allusion to Hannah continues; but she was representative to the "barren woman" of Israel in exile (Is. 54:1), who was to be blessed with many children (Is. 49:12,18,20; 54:2,3; 60:5; Gal. 4:27). But Samuel didn't do this; instead it was he who set up another man [David] and his family to do so.

For the pillars of the earth are Yahweh’s; He has set the world upon them-
1 Sam. 2:8; 2 Sam. 22:8 speak as if Heaven / the sky rests on the mountains, from where earth seems to touch the heavens (Is. 13:5), with the stars stretched out in the north (Job 26:7). This reflected the geo-centric view held by people at the time. The point surely was that however people understood creation to have happened, God had done it, and in wisdom. Likewise the technically incorrect view of demons as causing mental illness is reflected in the language of the New Testament.


1Sa 2:9 He will keep the feet of His holy ones, but the wicked shall be put to silence in darkness; for no man shall prevail by strength-
The experience of Divine grace and answered prayer led her to over simplistically conclude that she was a "holy one" and Peninnah the wicked. She thinks that her pregnancy somehow empowered her to condemn Hannah to condemnation at the last day. What she says is true, but the way she expresses these Divine truths smacks of pride and inappropriate personal condemnation of others. And we who likewise hold Divine truth and experience His grace must take the lesson.


1Sa 2:10 Those who strive with Yahweh shall be broken to pieces. He will thunder against them in the sky-
Peninnah made Hannah "fret" (1 Sam. 1:6), and yet when she has Samuel she asks God to "thunder", s.w. "fret", against her enemies, clearly having Peninnah in view. Hannah imagines He will do this when His "anointed king" is reigning, and clearly she understood Samuel to be that. He didn't become that; and the fact he anointed David to be king rather than himself being anointed is pointed poof of the fact that her bitter expectations and hopes didn't come true as she intended. There seems no forgiveness, just a desire for judgment and to make Peninnah feel the same way as she had been made to feel; and a desire for the manifestation of the anointed King in order for her to see her enemy made to feel how she had felt, and worse.

Yahweh will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His king and exalt the horn of His anointed-
She considers Samuel as becoming the anointed [the first occurrence of the word 'Messiah'] king. But her dogmatic statement here was not to come true. Samuel didn't want Israel to have a human king and Hannah appears not to appreciate this as she ought to have done. And it was his duty to anoint David to become king. 


1Sa 2:11 Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the child served Yahweh before Eli the priest-
Again we note how a child can acceptably serve Yahweh. The mention of Elkanah returning leads us to wonder whether Hannah initially remained there with the three year old Samuel; see on 1 Sam. 1:24.

1Sa 2:12 Now the sons of Eli were men of Belial; they didn’t know Yahweh-
Even in the Old Testament, sin was personified as ‘Belial’. The personification of sin was known throughout the Bible. And so it is in the New Testament, as the great enemy / satan of believers. It really has to be accepted that ‘Devil’ and ‘Satan’ are used to personify sin, because if we read these words as always meaning a literal being, then we have serious contradictions. We note that it's quite possible to do religious duties as did Eli's sons, without knowing / having relationship with Yahweh.


1Sa 2:13 The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand-
God was and still is intensely aware of every detail of what they did apparently in secret. He noticed that the fork had three prongs. The style of the record is as if there is a video camera trained upon the servant. And the recording is kept until today; see on :13.


1Sa 2:14 He thrust it into the pan, kettle, cauldron or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there-
We notice the zoomed in focus of the camera, as it were. The fork was thrust in, and it brought up meat which the priest's took away for themselves rather than offered to Yahweh. See on :13.


1Sa 2:15 Moreover, before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came and said to the man who sacrificed, Give meat to roast for the priest, for he will not accept boiled meat from you, but raw-
The order given in Lev. 3:3-5; 7:29-34 was that the fat must be burnt to Yahweh first, before the breast and shoulder were waved or 'heaved' before Yahweh, symbolically given to Him, and only then could the priests take it. But Eli's sons were too impatient for this and just grabbed what they wanted as soon as they saw it, exactly the spirit of our age. There was no recognition that whatever they had was really God's, and given to them only as His representatives. The habit of thanking God for our meals ought to be strongly established amongst all true Christian believers. 


1Sa 2:16 If the man said to him, Let the fat be burned first, and then take as much as you want; he would say, No, give it to me now, and if you don’t, I will take it by force-
Their sin was in how they saw the meat and wanted it immediately, as did Esau. They were unwilling to experience delayed gratification through firstly giving to God, however symbolically.


1Sa 2:17 The sin of the young men was very great before Yahweh, for they despised the offering of Yahweh-
The word for "offering" here is minchah, that used specifically of the bloodless offerings of flour etc. The idea may be that when people saw the larger sacrifices being abused, they didn't want to offer anything at all to God, no matter how tokenistic. They failed to perceive the difference between God and church. Disillusion with the visible people of God, especially their leadership, led to not serving God. Elkanah, as noted on 1 Sam. 1, overcame this- and he needs to be the example to many. "Despised" is the word for "blasphemed". We blaspheme God by not offering to Him, even if we blame the church. We note too that the greatest sin is to make others turn away from God.


1Sa 2:18 But Samuel ministered before Yahweh, being a child, clothed with a linen ephod-
The "but" places the child Samuel in contrast to the sons of Eli. The phrase "minister before Yahweh" is only used of the priests ministering in the holy place, where incense was offered (2 Chron. 29:11). We wonder how a child, who was not of the tribe of Levi, could do this, and wear a linen ephod whilst doing so. The remarkable truth seems to be that because Eli's family didn't do even the most basic work at the sanctuary, the young Samuel did it. The connection between the ephod and the robe made for him each year (:19) would suggest that his mother had the spiritual vision to realize this and try to make the appropriate priestly clothing for him. Truly this was a family who saw beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of it. See on :19.


1Sa 2:19 Moreover his mother made him a little robe and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice-
I suggested on :18 that the child Samuel, a non Levite, was doing the priestly work because Eli's family refused to do it, or perhaps just told him to do it. The Hebrew words for "robe" and "ephod" in :18 only occur together in the descriptions of the "robe of the ephod" worn by none other than the High Priest (Ex. 28:4,31; 29:5; 39:22). The young Samuel apparently did the work of the High Priest. His example and spiritual ambition inspired David, who he was to anoint, to likewise wear such a robe and ephod (1 Chron. 15:27).


1Sa 2:20 Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife and said, Yahweh give you children by this woman for the petition which was asked of Yahweh. They went to their own home-
Eli is somewhat male centred. He is really addressing Elkanah, and implying that he would be blessed with more children because "this woman", his wife, had prayed and dedicated the resulting child to Yahweh. Eli tacitly recognizes that he had been wrong in assuming Hannah had been drunk; he realizes now that she had indeed been praying with a paradigm of intensity unknown to him. Eli comes over so often as genuine enough; but it was his weakness in allowing his sons to blaspheme and cause others to stumble which led to his condemnation. The challenge to us is that major weakness in one area of life is not as it were compensated for, at least it wasn't in Eli's case, by an otherwise generally reasonable and spiritual service of God.


1Sa 2:21 Yahweh visited Hannah and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. The child Samuel grew before Yahweh-
This blessing- possibly implying quintuplets conceived at the same time- is directly connected to the blessing uttered by Eli in :20. Although Eli was condemned, Yahweh worked through him. The similarities with Sarah noted earlier in this chapter continued; for again Yahweh "visits" to grant conception. See on Gen. 18:10.


1Sa 2:22 Now Eli was very old, and he heard all that his sons did to all Israel, how they lay with the women who served at the door of the Tent of Meeting-
His great age is perhaps mentioned to imply that he had for decades heard of what his sons were doing, and had only rather lamely rebuked them rather than insisting that the abuses end. These women are the supporting women of Ex. 38:8 who looked ahead typically to those women who were to support the Lord Jesus, the true tabernacle which the Lord God pitched. Again, as in :17, the greatest dimension to sin is in making others stumble. "Served" is literally 'assembled in bands', as if their ministry was quite highly organized. See on 1 Sam. 3:11.


1Sa 2:23 He said to them, Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil deeds from all the people-
Being blind, he only "heard" of these things rather than saw them. Consistently, the Biblical record has the ring of internal consistency and credibility to it. People complained to him, but he is condemned for not disciplining his sons. So we can conclude that his words here were said as a formality and half heartedly. He would only have been condemned so strongly if it had indeed been within his power to change things.

Samuel was in his 50s or 60s at the time of 1 Sam. 8:1 when he made his corrupt sons judges over Israel. Eli had become judged of Israel at age 58 (1 Sam. 4:15,18). It seems that Samuel's later life had unfortunate parallels with that of Eli. Eli may well have had his sons Hophni and Phinehas in his 50s, because his daughter in law was pregnant at the time of his death at 98. It would seem that when Samuel was about the same age as Eli, he also had sons, who turned away from God just as had Eli's sons. And the people likewise complained (1 Sam. 8:4 = 1 Sam. 2:23). The fact Samuel made them judges despite their immorality would suggest he had gone the way of Eli in turning a blind eye to them. So although Eli's bad example to Samuel was apparently ignored by him and Samuel's spirituality was commendable, finally in later life it seems that example did rub off upon him. 


1Sa 2:24 No my sons, it is no good report that I hear; you make Yahweh’s people disobey-
We can make others sin (Ex. 23:33; 1 Sam. 2:24; 1 Kings 16:19). There is an urgent imperative here, to really watch our behaviour; e.g. to not drink alcohol in the presence of a brother whose conscience is weak. The making of others to stumble is the repeated reason given for God's wrath with this family.

Eli did rebuke his sons; but in God’s eyes he didn’t (1 Sam. 2:24 cp. 3:13). He said words for the sake of saying words, but in his heart he didn’t frown upon them. Eli appeared to discipline his sons. But he couldn’t have really done this from his heart, or he wouldn’t have been condemned for not controlling them. He honoured his sons above God, to make himself “fat with the chiefest of all the offerings”.

1 Sam. 1:21 LXX adds  that Elkanah brought "his tithes". It was surely clear that the tithes were being abused by Eli's family, but Elkanah still brought them. Their abuses led to men sinning against Yahweh by not bringing tithes and offerings. But Elkanah is commended for not being amongst those made to stumble in this way. 


1Sa 2:25 If one man sins against another, God will judge him; but if a man sins against Yahweh, who shall entreat for him?-
To sin against God's people is to sin against Yahweh, just as Saul's persecution of Christians was effectively done to the Lord Jesus. The Father and Son are so closely identified with their people, they feel all that is done to us as done to them. Man is not alone, even in the most painful sufferings at the hands of others.

We see here in this verse a hint towards the lack of the Lord's mediation available at that time. But sinners against Yahweh, such as Israel, had had a mediator- Moses. But these men had no such mediator. And yet the question is perhaps rhetorical; although Eli didn't quite understand that. The answer was: the child Samuel, who points ahead to the future mediator, the Lord Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). For Eli as the high priest ought to have been the mediator, but he was precluded from doing so by his own unspirituality.

However, they didn’t listen to their father, because Yahweh intended to kill them-
And yet Eli was condemned for this. The situation was therefore of his making, but Yahweh confirmed that situation. He works in the same way today. There are a number of other passages which mention how "it was of the Lord" that certain attitudes were adopted by men, resulting in the sequence of events which He desired (Dt. 2:39; Josh. 11:20; 1 Sam. 2:25; 1 Kings 12:15; 2 Chron. 10:15; 22:7; 25:20). It is tempting to read Jud. 14:4 in this context, meaning that God somehow made Samson desire that woman in order to bring about His purpose of freeing Israel from Philistine domination. The fact a man does something "of the Lord" doesn't mean that he is guiltless. In the same context of God's deliverance of Israel from the Philistines, men who did things "of the Lord" were punished for what they did (Dt. 2:30; 1 Sam. 2:25; 2 Chron. 22:7; 25:20).  God through His Spirit works to confirm men in the path they wish to go. And this is the huge significance of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives today.


1Sa 2:26 The child Samuel grew and increased in favour with Yahweh and with men-
As noted on :25, Samuel is being set up as a type of the Lord Jesus, the mediator whom Eli should have been (Lk. 2:52 quotes this about the Lord).


1Sa 2:27 A man of God came to Eli and said to him-
The visit of the man of God to condemn Eli was the more remarkable because there "was no frequent vision" at that time (1 Sam. 3:1). God was making a special effort to appeal to Eli.

Thus says Yahweh, ‘Did I not reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt, in bondage to Pharaoh’s house?-
The reference is to the calling of the tribe of Levi "out of all the tribes of Israel" (:28). "Revealed" in 1 Sam. 3:7,21; 9:15 is the word used of how Yahweh had revealed Himself to the tribe of Levi and called them to be His priests (1 Sam. 2:27), and Eli as it were was in the loins of his father Levi, according to the principle of Heb. 7:10. But the line of Levi and Eli had potentially been rejected because of Eli's apostasy. The Divine intention was to replace them with Samuel as a prophet-priest and perhaps king (1 Sam. 2:10). But this potential was only partially fulfilled by Samuel, and despite possibilities in David and Solomon, it only came to full term in the person and work of the Lord Jesus. It seems that some unrecorded appearance of God to call the tribe of Levi is being referred to.   


1Sa 2:28 Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before Me? Did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire?-
I have suggested that already, the non Levite child Samuel was doing these things. And he was wearing an ephod, which I suggested on :18 was one with religious significance. Eli and his sons had passed off the work of the high priesthood to the child Samuel. And their attitude was now being confirmed, in that this meant that the calling of them and their tribe was going to be abrogated. And this is indeed the nature of condemnation; it is a giving of a person what they themselves have wanted and according to their own desires.


1Sa 2:29 Why then do you despise My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded for My dwelling, and honour your sons above Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’-
The danger of materialism is the assumption that we are ultimate owners of what we 'have'. When Eli and his sons kept part of God's sacrifices for themselves, he was condemned: "You trample upon My sacrifice and My offering" (1 Sam. 2:29 RVmg.). This is what we are doing by considering that anything that is God's is in fact ours- we are trampling upon that which is His. And this verse is alluded to in Heb. 10:29,30- we can indeed trample upon God's sacrifice today.

Eli honoured his sons above God, to make himself “fat with the chiefest of all the offerings”. The description of Eli as being fat surely reflects his guilt (1 Sam. 2:29; 4:18). And yet he appeared on the surface to run his family life on a spiritual footing. His merely surface level rebuke of his sons is revealed as having a motivation in the fact he was himself benefitting from their misbehaviour.

Eli, although apparently righteous himself in many ways, was rejected specifically because "he frowned not" upon his sons' apostasy; he personally was counted as 'kicking' at God and profiteering from His sacrifices, even though he himself seems to have truly loved God (1 Sam. 2:29; 4:18). Because Eli wouldn't exercise discipline, he was somehow seen as committing those very things which he failed to rebuke. The man who wouldn’t discipline his wayward ox was to be treated like as if he had committed the crime the ox did, and therefore must die if the ox killed a man (Ex. 21:29).


1Sa 2:30 Therefore Yahweh the God of Israel says, ‘I said indeed that your house, and the house of your father, should walk before Me forever’. But now Yahweh says, ‘Far be it from Me. Those who honour Me I will honour, and those who despise Me shall be despised-
The idea is, despised by God. To be despised by the God of all grace... is indeed a fearsome thing. "Despised" is the word used for the sin of presumption (Num. 15:31), and this is what Eli had committed. But having been told this, he could still repent; for Judah despised God's word until there was no remedy, the implication being that each time they were told what they were doing, they could have repented (s.w. 2 Chron. 36:16). And it is the word used by Nathan to David of what he had done (2 Sam. 12:9,10), and he repented in response to the prophetic word of rebuke. But Eli didn't. We see here how God can make an "eternal" statement, but it is in fact conditional upon preconditions which He may not at the time specifically express. He speaks His purpose, but He can change it according to human action (Jer. 18).

Because of His capacity to imagine, to see possible futures, we can better sense the poignancy behind His words in places like Is. 48:18: "O that you had hearkened to my commandments!", "Oh that they would have a mind such as this always" (Dt. 5:29), "O Israel, if you would but listen to me" (Ps. 81:8,13). It's as if He could see the potentially happy future which they could've had stretching out before Him. And so we can better understand the sadness with which God had to tell Hophni and Phinehas: "I thought this, that your house, and the house of your father, would eternally serve Me: But now, the Lord, says, Be it far from Me; for them that honour Me I will honour, and they that despise Me shall be despised" (1 Sam. 2:30). He as it were limited His omniscience in order to enter into real time relationship with Eli and his family. Note how God opened His heart to those who had so hurt Him, at the very time they had hurt Him- just as Paul did to Corinth. Such sharing of dashed hopes with those who have dashed them seems to be part of what condemnation is all about; and, given Paul's doing this to the Corinthians, it is perhaps even a useful tool for we who cannot condemn others, but may need to walk separately from them in this life.


1Sa 2:31 The days are coming when I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house so that there shall not be an old man in your house-
The father's house in view was that of Levi, who is the "father" referred to in :27,28. To cut off the arm was an idiom for removing from power. Eli was an old man and had therefore been High Priest a long time (see on :22). But this would not happen again. The implication seems to be that the cutting off of Eli and his sons (which happened at the same time) would be the point at which the house of Levi would be cut off from the priesthood. But this potential plan didn't happen, although it seems at the time that Samuel was intended to take over effectively as High Priest. But the Levitical High Priesthood did continue; it seems that Samuel didn't live up to his potential, although he does act as a priest as does David. The power of tradition trumped his potential calling, as happens so often with those called to new paradigms of service. 


1Sa 2:32 In distress you would look with envy upon the wealth which I would have given Israel, but there shall not be an old man in your house forever-
Eli was told of “all the wealth which God would have given Israel”, which his behaviour had now disallowed. Knowing this, women like Hannah clearly hoped and prayed that their sons would be Messiah (1 Sam. 2:10 = Ps. 89:24); for they perceived that the outworking of God’s purpose was open to change. The wealth of Israel is paralleled with there being an old man in the house / tribe of Levi; the blessing of the people would have been parallel with the blessing of Israel. But their apostasy was the poverty of Israel. And yet Hannah has spoken of the rich becoming poor and the poor rich, with her having in view how Samuel and herself were the poor who would be made rich (:7). Again we see that the priesthood of Eli could have been replaced by that of the non-Levite Samuel.   


1Sa 2:33 Any man of yours whom I shall not cut off from My altar, will only blind your eyes with tears and grieve your heart; all the increase of your house shall die in the prime of life-
The original is unclear as to whether Eli's eyes would be blinded with tears, or whether any who were not cut off in violent death would be blinded. But there is also the possibility as in GNB: "Yet I will keep one of your descendants alive, and he will serve me as priest. But he will become blind and lose all hope, and all your other descendants will die a violent death". Whichever option we take, it speaks of a future which was only a potential possibility. For Eli and his sons died at the same time. I suggest that all these potential pathways of cursing upon Eli didn't quite come about as was potentially possible, just as Samuel didn't become the anointed Messianic king-priest which he might have been (:10). The unclarity of the text is purposeful because it reflects the various possible paths of judgment; the very existence of them all reflects God's extreme sensitivity to human behaviour and the various outcomes He finds appropriate to them all. 


1Sa 2:34 This will be the sign to you which will come on your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall both die-
The idea of a sign to Eli was surely that he was to take note of it and then repent. But it seems the die the sons died, he also died. It was as if he refused to respond to it, and therefore was slain the same day. And so the idea of the "sign" was that it was to be immediately responded to. Eli died at a great age; God had been so patient with him, giving him so many opportunities to repent, and then at the very end of his life , on the very last day of it, he was given the fulfilment of this sign to urge him personally towards repentance. And still he refused, being concerned merely about the loss of the ark as a religious symbol.


1Sa 2:35 I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall minister before My anointed one forever-
Again we see various potential fulfillments here. A faithful priest was to be raised up to minister before the anointed one, the Messianic king, who apparently was potentially Samuel (see on :10). But no such faithful priest was raised up in Samuel's time, nor did he become a king. These words were reapplied therefore to Saul and David whom Samuel would anoint, although neither of them had a specific priest ministering before them. And it is David who is presented as the man after God's own heart and mind (1 Sam. 13:14); yet he was the anointed one and not the priest. The promise of a "sure house" could have had fulfilment in Solomon (1 Kings 11:38), in contrast to God's destruction of Eli's household; and yet that also failed. So we see that none of the potential fulfillments fully came about, because of various human failures in living up to the potentials. And so these words are reapplied and reinterpreted towards fulfilment in the Lord Jesus. For all others, for whatever reason, had let the baton drop. 


1Sa 2:36 Each one who is left in your house shall come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread, and shall say, ‘Please put me into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a morsel of bread’
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The Lord's parable of the prodigal seems to gave this in mind. The son asks to return to the family home not with the rights of a blood descendant, but just as a labourer and servant in order to eat bread. If indeed the Lord had this verse in mind, He would be hinting that even in this case, repentance was possible. This bowing down to the faithful priest of :35 never apparently happened, and so again [as noted throughout this section] we are left with the impression that there were various potential pathways for fulfilment, different possible scenarios, which didn't all come strictly true to the letter.