: Word of the LORD … visions are means of prophetic revelation.
: The lamp in the temple burned at night (see Ex 27.21
). The lamp of God had not yet gone out, hence it was just before dawn. Samuel's bed was inside the temple near the inner sanctuary where the ark of God was kept. The ark was a portable shrine or chest representing God's presence; see 4.5n
: Samuel did not yet know the LORD
, Samuel's role as a prophet had not yet been established since the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him. In this story Samuel comes to “know” the LORD by learning to recognize God's revelations.
: Your servant, a polite way of referring to oneself.
: Eli's sons profaned the sacrifices that might otherwise have expiated or atoned for their sins (
: May God do so to you and more also, a typical oath formula. Eli adjures Samuel, forcing him to reveal his conversation with the LORD.
: All of Samuel's prophecies come true (none fall to the ground).
: Dan to Beer‐sheba, the traditional northern and southern limits of Israel.
In the ancient Near East, wars between nations were interpreted as contests between their respective gods. This story explains
that although the Philistines defeated Israel, the LORD was superior to Dagon, a Philistine god.
: Ashdod, one of five principal Philistine cities along with Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza.
: Beside Dagon means beside the statue of Dagon in his temple. Dagon was a Canaanite god of grain whom the Philistines adopted as a major
: There was Dagon, fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD
, bowing prostrate was a sign of subservience.
: This is an etiology (a story that explains a custom, name, etc.) for the practice of jumping over thresholds in order to
avoid offending the spirits of a particular building or space (see Zeph 1.9
: The tumors and mice (in the next chapter) suggest that this outbreak was bubonic plague, which was common in coastlands.
According to this story, however, the plague is the LORD's doing.
The lords of the Philistines are the rulers of the Philistine pentapolis. The word “lord” (“seren”) is Philistine and cognate with the Greek word “tyrannos,”
: Guilt offering, not a sacrifice but compensation for taking the ark and appeasement of the LORD in hopes of avoiding further punishment.
: There is one gold tumor and one gold mouse for each of the five Philistine rulers (vv. 4,17–18
). The images serve as substitutes for the rulers and their cities in order to carry the plague away by magic.
: Cf. Ex 8.19,32
. A creative enhancement by the author, since the Philistines would not have known the story of the Exodus.
: A new cart is ritually pure. The two cows have never been yoked and are therefore fit to be sacrificed (cf. Num 19.2; Deut 21.3
). Milch cows means that they have young calves.
: Unaccustomed to pulling a cart, these two cows would be expected to wander aimlessly in search of their calves. If instead
they headed for Israelite territory, the Philistines would know that their sufferings had indeed been sent by the LORD.
: The cows take the most direct route into Israelite territory.
: This verse is likely a later addition by an editor concerned to have the Levites, the priestly tribe, handle the ark.
: It was seventy of the people of Beth‐shemesh, not seventy of the descendants of Jeconiah, who were killed. The reason is uncertain, since nothing else is known about Jeconiah or his family.
: To stand before the LORD
is a technical expression for priestly service, suggesting that the people are asking for a priest to handle the ark. It
remains unclear how the absence of a priest relates to Jeconiah.
: Abinadab is the father of several important priests (2 Sam 6.3–4,6–8; 1 Chr 13.7,9–11
The story of a barren woman who bears a child as a favor from God appears several other times in the Bible: Sarah (Gen 17.16–19
), Rebekah (Gen 25.21–26
), Rachel (Gen 29.31; 30.22–24
), the mother of Samson (Judg 13.2–5
), and Elizabeth (Lk 1.5–17
). Such a child is designated by God for a special purpose.
Ramathaim, a town in Ephraim, is called Ramah later in this chapter (v. 19
). But in later chapters the Ramah that was Samuel's home seems to be located in Benjamin (
: Peninnah is “the second” (translated the other in the NRSV) wife; Hannah is obviously the favored one. Elkanah probably married Peninnah because of Hannah's failure to produce an heir (see Gen16.1–2
). Elkanah, therefore, was probably prosperous.
: Elkanah's annual pilgrimage to worship in Shiloh shows him to be a righteous man. The Lord of hosts or “armies” (Heb “tseba\ot”) is a title describing Yahweh's leadership in war on Israel's behalf. Hophni and Phinehas are Egyptian names.
: The house of the LORD
usually refers to a temple (Jer 7.12
). But Josh 18.1; Ps 78.60
mention a tent of meeting or tabernacle in Shiloh, and 2 Sam 7.6–7
denies that the LORD dwelt in a “house” before Solomon's Temple. see 2.22
: Eli's seat beside the doorpost of the temple (or “sanctuary,” Heb “hekal”) allowed him to see Hannah praying outside of the temple proper (see also 4.18
: Nazirites were “devoted” to the LORD for a set period of time and were prohibited from drinking alcohol or eating grapes, cutting their hair or beards, and approaching
a dead body (Num 6.1–21
). Intoxicants, probably distilled wine or beer.
: Eli thought she was drunk because prayers were not usually silent.
: The petition you have made, the first of several word plays in this chapter on the name of Saul, which sounds like the Hebrew verb for “ask, petition.”
: The Elkanah knew his wife, an idiom for sexual relations.
: The I have asked him of the LORD. “Asked” (Heb “sha\al”) is another pun on the name Saul.
: Weaned, taken off breast milk. Samuel's age is not given, but he is older than an infant or toddler. An ephah of flour (v. 24
), about half a bushel.
: The petition that I made, another pun on Saul's name.
: Given in both occurrences in this verse is yet another pun on Saul's name. He is given is exactly the same as Saul's name in Hebrew (“sha\ul”) and could be translated, “he is Saul to the LORD.” Some scholars believe, based on these puns, that this story was originally about Saul's birth rather than Samuel's. Or,
they may be allusions to Saul as Israel's first king.
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