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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

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Commentary on The First Book of Samuel

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1.1–4.1a : Samuel at Shiloh.

This section establishes Samuel's legitimacy in Israel's history. Two themes are interwoven: the positive role of Samuel, and, negatively, the condemnation of the priestly family of Eli. Two narratives (Samuel's birth, ch. 1 , and his first prophetic word, ch. 3 ), form the core of the section. Other materials are present to supplement the section which foreshadows Samuel's later activity as kingmaker.

1.1–28 : Samuel's birth story.

Birth stories are a response to curiosity about important historical figures, as may be seen in the cases of Moses (Exod. 2.1–10 ), Samson (Judg. 13.2–25 ), and Jesus (Matt. 1.18–2.23; Lk. chs. 1–2 ). The barrenness of a favored wife is a repeated motif of such stories (Gen. 18.1–15; 29.29–32; Judg. 13.2–5; Lk. 1.5–17 ). The birth story here is regarded by some as originally being about Saul rather than about Samuel; in v. 28 the Heb. word for lent is the same word as Saul, whose name is derived from the same Heb. roots in asked ( 1.20 ) and make over ( 1.28 ).

1 :

Ramathaim is a variant of the Ramah mentioned as Samuel's home village at 1.19 .

3 :

Lord of Hosts occurs here for the first time in the OT; the “hosts” may be either heavenly powers or the forces of the Israelites (see 17.45 ). This phrase apparently arose in Shiloh, an important center before the monarchic period, but little is known about Shiloh from the monarchy on (see Josh. 18.1; Judg. 21.19; 1 Kgs. 11.29; 14.2; Jer. 7.12; Ps. 78.60 ). Phinehas, a name of Egyptian origin, was probably a descendant of the zealous priest of Num. 25.6–15 .

9–10 :

Before the LORD is a ritual position in front of the temple.

11 :

Not cutting the hair is a mark of consecration to the LORD, combined in Nazirite vows with abstinence from wine (see Num. 6.1–21 and Judg. 13.3–5 ).

20 :

Samuel means “he who is from God”; curiously, the verse explains the name “Saul”; see 1.1–28 n.

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