1 Samuel 2 – Hannah’s Prayer, Eli’s Evil Sons
A. Hannah’s prayer.
1. (1-2) Thanksgiving and praise.
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.
No one is holy like the LORD,
For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
a. Hannah prayed and said: 1 Samuel 1:28 ended, So they worshipped the LORD there. This song records the worship Hannah offered on the very day she left her little boy – her only child – at the tabernacle, never for him to live in her home again.
b. My heart rejoices in the LORD: Hannah showed a depth of commitment and love for God that may humble us. On the day she made the biggest sacrifice of her life she rejoices in the LORD.
i. Notice though, that she rejoices in the LORD. She could not rejoice in leaving her son, but she could rejoice in the LORD. In the most desperate situations, when we have nothing else to rejoice in, we can rejoice in the LORD.
c. My horn is exalted in the LORD: The horn is used often as a picture of strength in the Bible (Psalms 75:4-5 and 92:10). This is because the strength of an ox or a steer could be expressed in its horn. Hannah spoke of strength and power being exalted in the LORD.
i. “We have often seen that horn signifies power, might, and dominion. It is thus constantly used in the Bible, and was so used among the heathens.” (Clarke)
d. I smile at my enemies: Hannah had a strong sense of vindication over her rival, Elkanah’s other wife named Peninnah. Peninnah cruelly brought Hannah low (1 Samuel 1:6-7), but now Hannah rejoiced because the LORD lifted her up.
e. No one is holy like the LORD: This shows a classic form of Hebrew poetry – repetitive parallelism. To say the LORD is holy is to say He is completely set apart; that He is unique, and not like any other. When she continued in the same verse and said, “For there is none besides You,” she said the same thing as “No one is holy like the LORD,” only saying it in different words. When she said, “Nor is there any rock like our God,” she again says the same thing in different words.
i. In this, Hebrew poetry does not rhyme words by sound as much as it rhymes ideas. The ideas of the three lines of 1 Samuel 2:2 all rhyme together, having different words yet “sounding” the same.
2. (3) A warning to the arrogant and proud.
“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.
a. Talk no more so very proudly: Hannah certainly had her rival in mind but she also saw Peninnah as a representative of all the proud and arrogant people in the world. Hannah wisely told the proud to talk no more and to let no arrogance come from your mouth. Pride can be expressed in many ways, but it usually is expressed by our words. It would be better if proud people just did not talk so much.
b. For the LORD is the God of knowledge: This, of course, is the best reason to forsake our pride. Next to God, we know nothing. He knows us, and by Him actions are weighed.
3. (4-8a) Hannah’s glory to God, who humbles the strong and exalts the weak.
“The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And those who stumbled are girded with strength.
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.
The LORD kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.
“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.
a. The bows of the mighty men are broken:We should be humble before God because He knows how to humble the strong. Those who were full are now begging and she who has many children has become feeble. If we are strong or exalted now, we should keep humble because the LORD can change our place quickly.
b. Those who stumbled are girded with strength…. the hungry have ceased to hunger…. Even the barren has borne seven: We should be humble before God because He knows how to exalt the weak. If we are weak or in a low place now we should wait humbly before God and let Him lift us up (Luke 14:7-11).
c. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up: Hannah knew she was barren because the LORD had closed her womb (1 Samuel 1:6). She knew God first set her low and then brought her high. She could see the hand of the LORD in it all.
4. (8b-10) Hannah’s confidence in the future is confidence in the LORD.
“For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,
And He has set the world upon them.
He will guard the feet of His saints,
But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.
For by strength no man shall prevail.
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.”
a. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s: Hannah was confident in God’s ability to humble the strong and exalt the weak because God is in control. If God were not in control, then perhaps the strong could do what they wanted, and God couldn’t stop them. Hannah knew that the foundation of the earth itself (the pillars of the earth) belonged to the LORD.
b. For by strength no man shall prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces: God uses His power to set things right. It isn’t enough for us to believe God has this power. We must know He will use it for His glory and righteousness.
c. He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed: At this time Israel did not have a king and didn’t seem to want one. So when Hannah spoke of His king she looked ahead to the Messiah, who will finally set all wrongs right. He is His anointed.
i. This is the first place in the Bible where Jesus is referred to as the Messiah. “She first applied to him the remarkable epithet MESSIAH in Hebrew, CHRIST in Greek, and ANOINTED in English, which was adopted by David, Nathan, Ethan, Isaiah, Daniel, and the succeeding prophets of the Old Testament; and by the apostles and inspired writers of the New.” (Hales, cited in Clarke)
ii. Zecharias, the father of John the Baptist, quoted Hannah in Luke 1:69 when he prophetically called Jesus a horn of salvation, quoting from 1 Samuel 2:10. Mary the mother of Jesus quoted Hannah’s song often (Luke 1:46-55).
5. (11) Samuel ministers to the LORD.
Then Elkanah went to his house at Ramah. But the child ministered to the LORD before Eli the priest.
a. Then Elkanah went: They did it. It was hard to do, to leave this little son behind, but they did it because they promised God they would do it.
b. But the child ministered to LORD before Eli the priest: Young as he was, Samuel had a ministry to the LORD. Our young people can praise and please God and it is often a breakthrough in their walk with the Lord when they experience God in worship.
i. The Living Bible translates it well: And the child became the Lord’s helper. There are ways that even children can serve God and minister to Him.
B. The wicked sons of Eli, the high priest.
1. (12) The evil character of Eli’s sons.
Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD.
a. The sons of Eli were corrupt: Literally, the ancient Hebrew calls them sons of Belial. Belial was a pagan god and the phrase sons of Belial refers to worthless and wicked men. This was a significant problem because the sons of Eli were in line to succeed him as high priest and they already functioned in the priesthood.
b. They did not know the LORD: Even though their father Eli knew the LORD that knowledge was not passed on genetically to his sons. They had to personally know the LORD for themselves.
2. (13-17) Their first offense: stealing what was offered to God.
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. 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. 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.” 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.” Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
a. The priests’ custom with the people: With many of the sacrifices brought to the tabernacle, a portion was given to God, a portion was given to the priest, and a portion was kept by the one who brought the offering. According to other passages in the Old Testament, the priest received a portion of the breast and the shoulder. But now, some 400 years after the Law of Moses came, the priestly custom changed – they did not take the prescribed portion of the breast and shoulder but took whatever the fork (fleshhook) brought up out of the pot.
b. Before they burned the fat: God’s portion was always given first, so it was wrong to take the priest’s portion before they burned the fat.
i. The fat was thought to be the most luxurious, best part of the animal, so they gave it to God. The idea was that God should always get the best, and God should get His portion first. But in their pride the sons of Eli took their portion before they burned the fat.
c. He will not take boiled meat from you, but raw: Why did the sons of Eli want raw meat? Perhaps it was so they could prepare it in any way they pleased; or more likely, it was because raw meat was easier to sell and they sold the meat and pocketed the money.
d. No, but you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force: The greed of Eli’s sons was so bad that they did not hesitate to use violence and the threat of violence to get what they wanted.
e. For men abhorred the offering of the LORD: The greatness of the sin of Eli’s sons was clear because through their greed, violence, and intimidation they made others not want to come and bring offerings to the LORD. It was bad enough what they themselves did, but the greater sin of Eli’s sons was in how they hurt other people.
3. (18-21) The purity and service of Samuel is a contrast to the evil character of Eli’s sons.
But Samuel ministered before the LORD, even as a child, wearing a linen ephod. Moreover his mother used to make him a little robe, and bring it to him year by year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “The LORD give you descendants from this woman for the loan that was given to the LORD.” Then they would go to their own home. And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile the child Samuel grew before the LORD.
a. But Samuel: As bad as Eli’s sons were, Samuel was different. We can say that this is why God raised up Samuel, because of the corruption of Eli’s sons. God knew how bad Eli’s sons were, so He guided the whole series of events that resulted in Samuel’s service at the tabernacle. If Eli’s sons were not worthy successors, then God would raise up someone else.
i. Ultimately, corrupt ministers do not stop – or even hinder – the work of God. It may look like it, but every time there are men like Eli’s sons, God raises up someone like Samuel. God’s work does not stop when God’s ministers become corrupt.
b. Wearing a linen ephod: Even as a child Samuel distinguished himself in his service to the LORD. His service was exceptional enough that he received a linen ephod, a priestly garment (Exodus 39:27-29).
i. What did Samuel do? “He did small charges, as setting up lights, laying up vestments, learning music, or the like.” (Trapp)
c. Even as a child: Though a child, Samuel served the LORD better and in a greater way than the sons of Eli did. What man looks at in the service of God is often not what the LORD looks at.
d. His mother used to make him a little robe: Only someone who was really there would describe such a small detail. Though Hannah gave her little boy to the LORD, she never stopped loving him.
e. The LORD visited Hannah: He certainly did – three more sons, and two daughters. God will never be a debtor to anyone. Hannah could never say to the LORD, “I gave you my son, but what did you give me?” because God gave her much more in return.
4. (22) The second offense of Eli’s sons: sexual immorality.
Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
a. Now Eli was very old: This passage is not focused on Eli’s sons as much as it is on Eli himself. He was old and in no condition to lead Israel as high priest. He heard everything his sons did but Eli only rebuked them about it.
b. They lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting: This means the sons of Eli were committing sexual immorality with the women who came to worship at the tabernacle. This was an ancient version of the modern sex scandals among pastors or preachers.
i. It is possible that the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle were in some way workers at the house of the LORD. Exodus 38:8 refers to the serving women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
5. (23-26) The vain, ineffective rebuke of Eli to his sons.
So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. “No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD’s people transgress. “If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them. And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men.
a. Why do you do such things? It is an understandable question, but a needless one. It doesn’t matter why because there could be no good reason. They can’t excuse their sin; they had to be responsible for it instead.
i. Eli did about the worst thing a parent can do in trying to correct their children: just talk. All he did was whine about what they did wrong, but he never took the necessary actions to correct the problem. Parents would be better off to yell less, lecture less, and to take sensible action more often, letting the children see the consequences for their disobedience.
ii. Writing from the 17th century, John Trapp advises Eli on what he should have said: “Draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore…ye degenerate brood and sons of Belial, and not of Eli; ye brats of fathomless perdition…. It is stark stinking naught that I hear, and woe is me that I yet live to hear it; it had been better that I had died long since, or that you had been buried alive, than thus to live and stink above the ground.”
b. You make the LORD’s people to transgress: Again, this was the great sin of Eli’s sons. It was bad enough that they stole and indulged their own lusts, but they also, by their corrupt behavior, made people hate worshiping God with their offerings at the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:17), and they led women worshippers into sexual immorality.
c. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him? Fortunately, 1 John 2:1 answers Eli’s question: And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. We thank God that there is someone to intercede for us when we sin against the LORD.
d. Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them: This striking statement may seem unfair to some. They picture Eli’s sons wanting to repent and listen to their father, but God prevented them. This is not the case at all. God judged Eli’s sons this way: He gave them exactly what they wanted. They did not want to repent, and God did not work repentance in their hearts.
i. God saw they were corrupt men and wanted to judge them. When the LORD desired to kill them, it simply meant that God desired that Eli’s sons be brought to justice.
e. And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men: What a contrast to the wickedness of Eli’s sons! This shows that although Eli was far from a perfect father, he was not a chronically bad father, because he essentially fathered Samuel and he grew up to be a godly man.
C. The announcement of God’s judgment against Eli’s house.
1. (27-33) An unknown man of God pronounces judgment to Eli: his family will be cut off from the office of high priest.
Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’ Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever. But any of your men whom I do not cut off from My altar shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart. And all the descendants of your house shall die in the flower of their age.’”
a. Then a man of God: We don’t know who this was; this man of God is one of the wonderful anonymous characters of the Bible. But it doesn’t matter who he was. He was a man of God, and God raised him up to speak to Eli and Eli’s whole family at this important time.
b. Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father: The father referred to is Aaron, who was the first high priest. Since the high priesthood was a hereditary office, Eli was a descendant of Aaron, whom God had revealed Himself to.
c. 1 Samuel 2:28 is a wonderful summary of some of the duties of the priesthood in Israel.
· To be My priest: First and foremost, the job of the high priest was to minister to the LORD. Before he served the people, he was a servant of God. He was not first the people’s priest, he was first the priest of God.
· To offer upon My altar: The priest brought sacrifices for atonement and worship.
· To burn incense: Burning incense was a picture of prayer because the smoke and the scent of the incense ascends up to the heavens. The priest was to lead the nation in prayer, and to pray for the nation.
· To wear an ephod before Me: The priest was clothed in specific garments, for glory and for beauty (Exodus 28:2). He was to represent the majesty, dignity, glory, and beauty of God to the people.
· All the offerings: The priest was also charged with the responsibility to receive the offerings of God’s people and to make good use of them.
d. Why do you kick at My sacrifice: It would have been easy for Eli to say, “I’m not doing it! My sons are!” But Eli had a double accountability for his sons, both as a father (though this was diminished because the sons were adults), and as the high priest. His sons “worked” for him as priests, and Eli was a bad “boss.”
e. And honor your sons more than Me: Since Eli did not correct his sons the way he should, he essentially preferred them to the LORD. If Eli were more afraid of offending God and less afraid of offending his sons he would have corrected them as he should have.
i. Eric Liddell was one of Britain’s great athletes, and later he gave his life for Jesus on the mission field. In 1924 he was to run for Britain in the Olympics when it was discovered that the preliminary heats of his best event – the 100 meters – would be run on a Sunday. Quietly but firmly, Liddell refused to run. The day of the 400 meters race came, and as Liddell went to the starting blocks, an unknown man slipped a piece of paper in his hand with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30: Those who honor Me I will honor. That day Eric Liddell set a world’s record in the 400 meters.
f. I will cut off your arm: Not literally, but since the arm was a picture of strength and might in Hebrew thinking (Psalms 10:15, 77:15, and 89:10), this said the house of Eli would be left powerless and without strength.
g. “I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.” But now the LORD says: God promised that the priestly line would not stay with Eli and his descendants but would pass to another line of descendants from Aaron. This was fulfilled many years later, in Solomon’s day. Abiathar (from Eli’s family) was deposed as high priest and replaced with Zadok (who was from another family).
i. 1 Kings 2:27 reads, So Solomon removed Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, that he might fulfill the word of the LORD which He spoke concerning the house of Eli at Shiloh.
ii. “I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.” But now the LORD says: This was a promise to Aaron in passages like Exodus 29:9. God did not remove the priesthood from the line of Aaron, but He did remove it from the line of Eli.
h. There shall not be an old man in your house forever…. And all the descendants of your house shall die in the flower of their age: This idea is repeated twice in these few verses. God wanted to emphasize that He would not bless the descendants of Eli with a long life.
i. Shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart: The descendants of Eli who did live a little longer would not live blessed lives. Their end would be painful to see.
2. (34-36) The sign and the promise: both sons will die on the same day.
“Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of them. Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever. And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and say, ‘Please, put me in one of the priestly positions, that I may eat a piece of bread.’”
a. Now this shall be a sign to you: Since the fulfillment of the judgment would be many years away (in the days of Solomon), God gave Eli an immediate sign to demonstrate His truthfulness. Eli’s sons will die in one day; Eli will see this and know the judgment of God has come against his house.
b. Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest: Who is the faithful priest predicted here? He was a great priest, because he did according to what is in [God’s] heart and in [God’s] mind. He was a blessed priest because God said of him, I will build him a sure house, and he will walk before My anointed forever.
· This promise was partially fulfilled in Samuel because he functioned as a godly priest, effectively replacing the ungodly sons of Eli.
· The promise was partially fulfilled in Zadok, in the days of Solomon, because he replaced Eli’s family line in the priesthood.
· The promise was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ because He is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:12-17).
c. Everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver: This is a fitting judgment since much of the sin of Eli’s sons was greed and stealing from God’s people. Instead of receiving the priestly portions that were rightfully theirs, Eli’s family would one day be reduced to begging.