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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Introduction to Samuel
The double name of these Books, the first and second book of samuel , as they are called in the printed Hebrew Bible, and the first and second book of kings, as they are called in the Vulgate, well marks the two principal features which characterize them. They contain the record of the life and ministry of samuel, the great prophet and judge of Israel, and they also contain the record of the rise of the kingdom of Israel. If again the Books of Samuel are taken as forming one history with the Books of Kings (the present line of division between 2 Samuel nd 1 Kings eing an arbitrary one), then the division into four Books of Kings is a natural one. But if these books are looked upon rather as an isolated history, then the name of Samuel is properly affixed to them, not only because he stands out as the great figure of that age, but because his administration of the affairs of Israel was the connecting link, the transitional passage, from the rule of the judges to the reign of the kings, distinct from each, but binding the two together.
The important place to be filled by Samuel in the ensuing history is seen at once in the opening chapters of the book which bears his name. Further, the fact that Samuel's birth of her that had been barren is represented in Hannah's song as typical of the triumphs of the Church and of the Kingdom of Christ, is another indication of the very distinguished place assigned to Samuel in the economy of the Old Testament, borne out by the mention of him in such passages as Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1; Acts 3:24. Though however, Samuel's personal greatness is thus apparent, it is no less clearly marked that his place is one not of absolute but of relative importance. When we view the history as a whole, the eye does not rest upon Samuel, and stop there, but is led on to the throne and person of David as typical of the Kingdom and Person of Christ. An incidental mark of this subordination may be seen in the fact that the Books of Samuel are really a continuation of the Book of Ruth; a Book which derived its significance from its containing a history of David's ancestors and genealogy. Clearly, therefore, in the mind of the sacred historian, the personal history of Samuel was only a link to connect DAVID with the Patriarchs, just as the subsequent history connects David himself with our Lord JESUS CHRIST.
But a still more remarkable and conclusive proof of the same subordination may be found in the circumstance, that it is only the closing years of Saul's reign of which any account whatever is given in this Book. For after having related a few facts connected with the beginning of Saul's reign, the historian passes over some 20 or 30 years Acts 13:21 to relate an occurrence in the last quarter of Saul's reign, God's rejection of Saul from the kingdom, and His choice of "a man after His own heart" to be king in Saul's room 1 Samuel 13:13-14.
The contents of the Books of Samuel consist mainly of three portions,
(1) the history of Samuel's life and judgeship from 1 Samuel 1-12: inclusive;
(2) the history of Saul's reign from 1 Samuel 13:1-15:35;
(3) the history of David from 1 Samuel 16:1 to the end of the second Book; this latter portion not being completed until 1 Kings 2:11.
The sources from which the narrative is derived, were probably:
(1) the Book of Jasher 2 Samuel 1:18;
(2) David's Psalm 2 Sam. 22; 23;
(3) the Chronicles of king David 1 Chronicles 27:24;
(4) the Book of Samuel the Seer;
(5) the Book of Nathan the Prophet;
(6) the Book of Gad the Seer 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29;
(7) the national collection of genealogies.
Those sections which give full details of the sayings and doings of Samuel, are conjectured to be extracted from "the Book of Samuel the seer" (e. g. i-- xii). Those sections which contain narratives in which Nathan bears a part 2 Samuel 7; 11; 12; 1 Kings 1; 2 may be referred to the "Book of Nathan the seer." Such passages as 2 Samuel 21; 2 Samuel 22:5; 24; etc., are pretty certainly from the Book of Gad the Seer. We seem to see extracts from the Chronicles of the kingdom in such passages as 1 Samuel 13:1; 1 Samuel 11:1-11, 1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 14:47-52; 2 Samuel 2:8-11; 2 Samuel 3:1-5; 2 Samuel 5:4-16; 8; 2 Samuel 20:23-26; 2 Samuel 21:15-22; 2 Samuel 23:8-39; while the song of Hannah 1 Samuel 2:1-10, the elegy on the death of Abner 2 Samuel 3:33-34, and the two Psalm 2 Sam. 22; 2 Samuel 23:1-7, may as well as the elegy on Saul and Jonathan, be taken from the Book of Jasher.
It is difficult to decide when the final arrangement of the Books of Samuel, in their present shape, was made. The series of historical books from Judges to the end of 2 Kings formed on one plan, so that each book is a part of a connected whole. This would point to the time of Jeremiah the prophet, as that when the whole historical series from judges to kings inclusive was woven into one work. In his use of the work of contemporary writers, the final compiler left out large portions of the materials before him.
The chief quotations and resemblances from the Books of Samuel in the New Testament are found in the writings of Luke and Paul. The title THE CHRIST ("the anointed"), given to the Lord Jesus Matthew 1:16; Matthew 2:4; Matthew 16:16; Luke 2:26; John 1:20, John 1:41; John 20:31; Acts 2:30, is first found in 1 Samuel 2:10; and the other designation of the Saviour as the SON OF DAVID Matthew 9:27; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 21:9, Matthew 21:15; Matthew 22:42, is derived from 2 Samuel 7:12-16. In these books are passages which occur in duplicate elsewhere, chiefly in the Books of Chronicles and Psalms; and a careful comparison of these duplicate passages throws great light upon the manner in which the sacred historians used existing materials, incorporating them word for word, or slightly altering them for the sake of explanation, as seemed most expedient to them. It illustrates also the errors and fluctuations of scribes in transcribing manuscripts, especially in regard to proper names.
For these duplicate passages, and also on the chief quotations from other books in the Old Testament, consult the marginal references. The style of the Books of Samuel is clear, simple, and forcible, and the Hebrew remarkably pure and free from Chaldaisms. The chief difficulties are the geographical statements of 1 Samuel 9; 10; the very difficult poem in 2 Samuel 23:1-7; and the account of the mighty men which follows it, 2 Samuel 23:8-39. There are also some manifest corruptions of the text; but contradictions or disagreements of any kind in the statements of the Books of Samuel, as compared with each other, or with the Books of Chronicles, do not exist.
The time included in the history of these books cannot be exactly defined, from the lack of any systematic chronology in them. But it may be estimated roughly at about 130 years, made up of the following subdivisions, the precise length of the first of which is a matter of conjecture:
Events Years The life of Samuel up to Saul's election to be king 1 Samuel 8:1, 1 Samuel 8:5 50 Saul's reign Acts 13:21 40 David's reign 2 Samuel 5:4 40 Total 130
1Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
Ramathaim-zophim may signify "the two hills 1 Samuel 9:11-13 of the watchmen," so called from its being a post from which the watchmen looked out. But since Zuph is the name of the head of the family, it is more probable that Zophin means the Zuphites, the sons of Zuph (see Zophai, 1 Chronicles 6:26), from whom the land about Ramah was called "the land of Zuph," 1 Samuel 9:5.
There is reason to believe that Elkanah - an Ephrathite, or inhabitant of Bethlehem 1 Samuel 17:12; Ruth 1:2 and of the territory of the tribe of Ephraim 1 Kings 11:26 - the father of Samuel, represents the fifth generation of settlers in Canaan, and therefore that Samuel was born about 130 years after the entrance into Canaan - four complete generations, or 132 years - and about 40 years before David.
2And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
He had two wives - Compare Genesis 4:19. This was permitted by the law Deuteronomy 21:15, and sanctioned by the practice of Jacob Genesis 29, Ashur 1 Chronicles 4:5, Shaharaim 1 Chronicles 8:8, David 1 Samuel 25:43, Joash 2 Chronicles 24:3, and others.
Hannah - i. e. "Beauty or charm," is the same as "Anna" Luke 2:36.
Peninnah - i. e. "a Pearl," is the same name in signification as "Marqaret."
The frequent recurrence of the mention of barrenness in those women who were afterward famous through their progeny (as Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel) coupled with the prophetic language of Hannah's song in 1 Samuel 2, justifies us in seeking a mystical sense. Besides the apparent purpose of marking the children so born as raised up for special purposes by divine Providence, the weakness and comparative barrenness of the Church of God, to be followed at the set time by her glorious triumph and immense increase, is probably intended to be foreshadowed.
3And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.
It is likely that during the unsettled times of the Judges Jdg 21:25 the attendance of Israelites at the three Festivals Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16 fell into desuetude or great irregularity, and this one feast (see the marginal reference), which may have coincided with the Feast of Pentecost or tabernacles, may have been substituted for them.
The Lord of Hosts - This title of Yahweh which, with some variations, is found upward of 260 times in the Old Testament, occurs here for the first time. The meaning of the word "hosts" is doubtless the same as that of "army" Daniel 4:35 and includes all the myriads of holy Angels who people the celestial spheres 1 Kings 22:19. It is probably with reference to the idolatrous worship of the Host of heaven that the title the "Lord of Hosts" was given to the true God, as asserting His universal supremacy (see Nehemiah 9:6). In the New Testament the phrase only occurs once James 5:4.
And the two sons ... - It should be, "and there the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the Lord," i. e. performed the functions of priests, in the old age of Eli 1 Samuel 4:18, who is represented 1 Samuel 1:9 as sitting on a seat in the temple. The reading of the Greek Version "Eli was there, and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, priests of the Lord," is quite unnecessary, and indeed destroys the sense. The information here given concerning the sons of Eli is followed up in 1 Samuel 2:12 ff.
4And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
5But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.
A worthy portion - Probably as in the margin. Naturally she would have had a single portion of the sacrifice (compare 1 Samuel 9:23), but because of his love to her he gave her a double portion, enough for two people (compare Genesis 43:34).
6And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.
7And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
And as he did so ... - It should rather be "And so she did year by year, as often as she went up to the House of the Lord, so she provoked her." Though the verb is masculine, Peninnah must be the subject, because as often as SHE went up follows. The Vulgate has "they went up."
8Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?
9So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.
After they had eaten ... - Rather, "after she had eaten and after she had drunk," which is obviously right. Hannah, in the bitterness of her spirit, could not enjoy her feast, and so, after eating and drinking a little, she arose and went to the temple, leaving her husband and Peninnah and her children at table, where she still found them on her return 1 Samuel 1:18.
Upon a seat ... - Rather, "upon the throne," the pontifical chair of state 1 Samuel 4:13, which was probably set at the gate leading into the inner court of the tabernacle.
The temple of the Lord - The application of the word temple to the tabernacle is found only here, 1 Samuel 3:3; and Psalm 5:7; and the use of this word here is thought by some an indication of the late date of the composition of this passage.
10And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.
11And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head.
vows are characteristic of this particular age of the Judges. (Compare Judges 11:30; Judges 21:5; 1 Samuel 14:24.) For the law of vows in the case of married women, see Numbers 30:6-16; and for the nature of the vow, see the marginal references.
12And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.
13Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
14And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.
15And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.
See 1 Samuel 1:2 and note. She means that wine was not the cause of her present discomposure, but grief of heart.
16Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
17Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.
18And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.
A beautiful example of the composing influence of prayer. Hannah had cast her burden upon the Lord, and so her own spirit was relieved of its load. She now returned to the family feast, and ate her portion with a cheerful heart. Acts 2:46-47.
The word "sad" is not in the Hebrew text, but it fairly supplies the meaning intended.
19And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her.
20Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.
Samuel - i. e. heard of God, because given in answer to prayer. The names "Ishmael" and "Elishama" have the same etymology.
21And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.
22But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.
Until the child be weaned - Hebrew mothers, as elsewhere in the East, usually suckled their children until the age of two complete years, sometimes until the age of three.
23And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.
24And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young.
25And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.
26And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.
As thy soul liveth - This oath is unique to the Books of Samuel, in which it occurs six times, and to the Books of Kings, in which however, it is found only once. See the note to 1 Samuel 1:11.
27For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
28Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.