1 Samuel 1:3 MEANING

1 Samuel 1:3
(3) Went up out of his city yearly.--The He brew expression rendered yearly, is found in Exodus 13:10, and there refers to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover. There is little doubt but that this great national festival is here referred to. It was the Passover that the whole family were accustomed to keep at the sanctuary of the Eternal. The writer places in strong contrast the piety and devotion which evidently still existed in the family life of many in Israel with the fearful disorders and crime which disfigured the priestly life in those days. There were not a few, doubtless, in Israel who, like Elkanah and his house, honoured the name of the Lord, while the recognised rulers and religious guides of the people, like the sons of Eli the high priest, too often lived in open and notorious sin.

Unto the Lord of hosts.--This is the first time in the Old Testament Book that we find the well-known appellation of the Eternal "Jehovah Sabaoth," Lord of hosts.

It is computed that this title of God occurs 260 times in the Old Testament, but it is not found in any of the books written or compiled before this time. In the New Testament it is only once used (see James 5:4).

The glorious title, with which Isaiah, who uses it some sixty times, and Jeremiah some eighty times, have especially made us familiar, represented Jehovah, the Eternal One, as ruler over the heavenly hosts: that is, over the angels and the stars; the stars being conceived to be the dwelling-places of these deathless beings.

The idea of their invisible God-Friend being the sovereign Master of a host of those innumerable glorious beings usually known as angels, or messengers, was no strange one to Hebrew thought. For instance, already in the story of Jacob we find the patriarch calling the angels who appeared to him the "camp of God"(Genesis 32:1-2).

In the blessing of Moses in the magnificent description of the giving of the law on Sinai (Deuteronomy 33:2), we read of "ten thousands of saints" (Kodesh). The glorious Angel who allowed Joshua to worship him under the towers of Jericho (Joshua 5:14) speaks of himself as "captain or prince of the host of the Lord." It is especially noteworthy that here in these Books of Samuel, which tell of the establishment of an earthly sovereignty over the tribes, this stately title of the real King in Israel, which afterwards became so general, first appears. It was the solemn protest of Samuel and his school against any eclipsing of the mighty but invisible sovereignty of the Eternal by the passing splendours and the outward pomp of an earthly monarchy set up over the people.

It told also the strange and the alien peoples that the God who loved Israel was, too, the star ruler, the Lord of the whole universe, visible and invisible.

In Shiloh.--That is, rest. This sacred city was situated in Ephraim. It became the sanctuary of Israel in the time of Joshua, who pitched the tent of the Tabernacle there. Shiloh, as the permanent seat of the Ark and the Tabernacle, was the religious centre of Israel during the whole period of the judges. On rare occasions the sacred tent, and all or part of the holy furniture, seems to have been temporarily moved to such places as Mizpah and Bethel, but its regular home was Shiloh. At the time of the birth of Samuel, and during his younger days, the high priest resided there, and the religious families of the people were in the habit of making an annual pilgrimage to this, the central sanctuary of the worship of Jehovah.

The priests of the Lord.--The mention of these two priests of the Lord by no means suggests that the ritual of the Tabernacle had become so meagre and deficient as only to require the services of two or three ministers: indeed, the contrary is signified by the description of one portion only of the ceremonies given in the next chapter. These two, Hophni and Phinehas, are here alluded to specially by name. First, on account of their rank and connection with the high priest Eli, to whose high dignity one of the brothers would probably succeed. Secondly, because these unhappy men figured in one of the great historical disasters of the people. Thirdly, the writer, out of many servants of the sanctuary, chose two prominent figures to illustrate the terrible state of corruption into which the priesthood had fallen. Bishop Wordsworth here draws a curious but suggestive lesson. "Although Hophni and Phinehas were among the priests, yet Elkanah and Hannah did not separate themselves from the service of the sanctuary when they ministered--a lesson against schism."

Verse 3. - This man went up out of his city yearly. Once in the year Elkanah went up to offer sacrifice before the ark. The original command had required this thrice a year of all Israelites; but though a Levite and a religious man, Elkanah went up but once; and such apparently was the rule in our Lord's time (Luke 2:41), the season preferred being naturally the passover, while the other feasts gave opportunities for the performance of this duty to those unable to leave their homes at so early a period of the year. The ark was now at Shiloh, a town in Ephraim, about ten miles south of Shechem; for Joshua had removed it from Gilgal (Joshua 18:1), not merely because Shiloh occupied a more central position, but as marking the primary rank of his own tribe (1 Chronicles 5:1, 2). Its destruction by the Philistines after the capture of the ark (1 Samuel 5:1) was so complete, and attended apparently by such barbarous cruelties (Psalm 78:60-64), that it never recovered its importance, and Jeroboam passed it by when seeking for places where to set up his calves. To sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts. This title of the Deity, "LORD (in capitals, i.e. Jehovah) of Hosts," is a remarkable one. Fully it would be "Jehovah God of Hosts," and the omission of the word God shows that the phrase was one of long standing shortened down by constant use. And yet, though found 260 times in the Bible, this is the first place where it occurs. "Lord of Hosts" (Lord not in capitals, and meaning master ruler) occurs only once, in Isaiah 10:16. "God of Hosts," Elohim-Sabaoth, though rare, occurs four times in Psalm 80:4, 7, 14, 19. The word Sabaoth, hosts, does not mean armies, inasmuch as it refers to numbers, and not to order and arrangement.. It is usually employed of the heavenly bodies (Genesis 2:1; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3), which seem countless in multitude as they are spread over the vast expanse of an Oriental sky (Genesis 15:5); and as their worship was one of the oldest and most natural forms of idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:19; Job 31:26-28), so this title is a protest against it, and claims for the one God dominion over the world of stars as well as in this lower sphere. Its origin then is to be sought at some time when there was a struggle between the worship of the sun and stars and the pure monotheism of the Hebrews. Occasionally the angels are called "the host of heaven" (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 103:21; Psalm 148:2), whenever the allusion is to their number, but when the idea is that of orderly arrangement they are called God's armies (Genesis 32:2). The two sons of Eli... were there. The right translation of the Hebrew is, "And there (at Shiloh) the two sons of Eli... were priests." Eli apparently had devolved upon his sons his priestly functions, while he discharged the duties only of a judge. His position is remarkable. In the Book of Judges we find a state of anarchy. The people are rude, untutored, doing much as they pleased, committing often atrocious crimes, yet withal full of generous impulses, brave, and even heroic. There is little regular government among them, but whenever a great man stands forth, the people in his district submit themselves to him. The last judge, Samson, a man of pungent wit and vast personal prowess, seems to have been entirely destitute of all those qualities which make a man fit to be a ruler, but he kept the patriotism of the people alive and nerved them to resistance by the fame of his exploits. In Eli we find a ruler possessed of statesmanlike qualities. The country under him is prosperous; the Philistines, no longer dominant as in Samson's time, have so felt his power that when they gain a victory the Israelites are astonished at it (1 Samuel 4:3). Moreover, he is not only judge, he is also high priest; but instead of belonging to the family of Phinehas, the dominant house in the time of the Judges, he belongs to that of Ithamar. When, to solve the problem, we turn to the genealogies in the Chronicles, we find Eli's house omitted, though, even after the massacres at Shiloh and Nob, his grandson Ahimelech was still powerful (1 Chronicles 24:3), and one of his descendants returned from Babylon as jointly high priest with a descendant of Phinehas (Ezra 8:2). How long a space of time elapsed between the rude heroism of Samson's days and Eli's orderly government in Church and State we do not know, but the difference in the condition of things is vast. Igor do we know the steps by which Eli rose to power, but he must have been a man of no common ability. Warrior as well as statesman, he had delivered the people from the danger of becoming enslaved to the Philistines. In his own family alone he failed. His sons, allowed to riot in licentiousness, ruined the stately edifice of the father's fortunes, and the Philistines, taking advantage of the general discontent caused by their vices, succeeded in once again putting the yoke on Israel's neck.

1:1-8 Elkanah kept up his attendance at God's altar, notwithstanding the unhappy differences in his family. If the devotions of a family prevail not to put an end to its divisions, yet let not the divisions put a stop to the devotions. To abate our just love to any relation for the sake of any infirmity which they cannot help, and which is their affliction, is to make God's providence quarrel with his precept, and very unkindly to add affliction to the afflicted. It is evidence of a base disposition, to delight in grieving those who are of a sorrowful spirit, and in putting those out of humour who are apt to fret and be uneasy. We ought to bear one another's burdens, not add to them. Hannah could not bear the provocation. Those who are of a fretful spirit, and are apt to lay provocations too much to heart, are enemies to themselves, and strip themselves of many comforts both of life and godliness. We ought to notice comforts, to keep us from grieving for crosses. We should look at that which is for us, as well as what is against us.This man went up out of his city yearly,.... From year to year; or, as the Targum, from the time of the solemn appointed feast to the solemn appointed feast, from one to another; there were three of them in the year, at which all the males in Israel were to appear at the tabernacle; and being a Levite, this man was the more careful to observe this rule. He is said to "go up" out of his city, which was Ramathaim or Ramah; for though it was built on an eminence, from whence it had its name, yet Shiloh, whither he went, was higher; that being, as Adrichomius says (a), on the highest mountain of all round about Jerusalem, and the highest of all the mountains of the holy land. So that as he first went down the hill from Ramah, he went up an high ascent to Shiloh, which is the place he went up to as follows:

to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh; where the tabernacle was, the place of worship, and the altar of burnt offerings, on which sacrifices were offered. This place, according to Bunting (b), was twelve miles from Ramah, though others say it was not more than seven miles from it; hither he went to worship, or bow before the Lord; to pray unto him, as it is commonly interpreted; and being put before sacrifice, is said to be preferable to that, and more acceptable to God, and more eligible to be done in the tabernacle or temple than at home; see Luke 18:10 and though he is said to go up to sacrifice, it is not to be understood of his performing it himself, but by others, by the priest; for he himself was a Levite and could not offer sacrifices. This is the first time that mention is made of this title of Jehovah, Lord of hosts, of all the hosts and armies in heaven and in earth, the Lord of Sabaoth, as in James 5:4 from an "host", or army; and from hence the Heathens called some of their deities by the name of Sabazius, as Jupiter Sabazius (c); and the Phrygians and Thracians used to call Bacchus Sabazius, and other Grecians following them did the same (d):

and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas the priests of the Lord, were there; Eli was the next judge of Israel after Samson, and who also was the high priest, as is generally supposed; but when and how the high priesthood came into his family is nowhere said, who was a descendant of Ithamar, the younger son of Aaron, in whose line it continued to the time of Solomon; and Josephus (e) places three between Phinehas and Eli, who were all of the line of Eleazar, whom he calls Abiezer, Bouci, and Ozis; but their Scripture names are Abishua, Bukki, and Uzzi, 1 Chronicles 6:50. And according to him, after Uzzi came Eli to be high priest, and therefore must be the first of the line of Ithamar that was in that office. His two sons are mentioned as officiating as priests in Shiloh, at the time Elkanah used to go yearly thither to worship and sacrifice; who were very wicked men, as appears by an after account of them; and it is generally thought that this is observed here, to show that the wickedness of these priests did not hinder this good man from doing his duty; nor did he make use of it as an excuse for not attending the worship of the sanctuary.

(a) Theatrum Terrae Sanct. p. 30. So Sandys's Travels, l. 3. p. 157. (b) Travels of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 122. (c) Valer. Maxim. l. 1. c. 3. Vid. D. Herbert de Cherbury de Relig. Gent. c. 3. p. 22. (d) Diodor. Sicul. Bibliothec. l. 3. p. 212. Harpocration in voce Lucian. Concil. deor. sect. 4. Cicero de legibus. l. 2. Aristophan vespae, v. 9, 10. Aves, 582. & Scholia in ib. Lysistrate, p. 860. & Scholia in ib. (e) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 11. sect. 5.

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