Since today the Twitter bible study (#tbs1sam) has moved on to 1 Sam. 3, I’ll catch up today’s discussion with 2 chapters in one post. Ok, here goes…
Hannah has been gifted with a son, whom she is dedicating to the service of the Lord at the Tabernacle in Shiloh, yet her song here contains imagery of kingship. She sings in her concluding lines “he will give strength to his king, he will elevate the horn of his anointed one.” There is no king at this time. Is the author putting words in Hannah’s mouth for the sake of the audience to tip them off or is Hannah a prophetess? Also, this king she envisions here, does she assume that it’s Samuel? Is God’s intent to use Samuel to lead Israel? Samuel becomes a Judge- a de facto leader in military leader, and basically a king without a dynasty to follow. Samuel becomes the last in the line of Judges who began as situational and prophetic leaders of the tribes of Israel. However, Eli, the High Priest has placed himself in that role. His spiritual blindness and laziness makes it clear he has no resemblance to Joshua, Deborah, Ehud, Gideon, etc. Samuel however looks framed to take up that role, but will this be a repeat of Gideon where kingship is offered to the Judge?
The sons of Eli are “sons of Belial” among the worst insults available in Hebrew culture. Recall Hannah’s response to Eli’s accusations: “Do not count me as a daughter of Belial” (1:16).
The practice of the Priests at Shiloh is odd. This boiling of the meat in a cauldron, using a fork to grab their portion is found nowhere in the Law. Deut. 18:1-8 tells us of the portion allotted to the Priests and Levites. They are to offer the best cuts on the altar, and take shoulder, jowels, and inner parts. No luck of the draw. Now, Hophni and Phineas are rejecting an already corrupted system and taking choice meat for themselves. This is showing disdain for God by stealing from him, and extorting the people. They are told to live on blade roast, their predecessors took pot roast, but now they want prime rib.
Samuel, however, in ministering in a robe made by his mother. Who wears robes? A Temple assistant? Nope. Again, hinting kingship. Hannah has three more sons, and two daughters, totalling 6 children. Wait, 6? Go back to verse 5- “she who was barren has borne seven children.” Oops.
Eli is old, and failing in health, and can’t handle his sons. He tries to rebuke them. Perhaps Eli has some redeeming qualities. But the sons reject his call to reform their lives. One interesting point; Hophni and Phineas are not Hebrew names, but appear to be of Egyptian origin. Has the priestly family incorporated Egyptian women as wives/mothers?
Another linguistic irony, YHWH of Hosts (Armies) features in chapter 1, now the sons of Eli are committing sexual indiscretions in the Tabernacle with the “hostesses” (NIV “women who served”, but the word is the feminine form of host).
Anonymous prophets are always fun. This guy, simply “a man of God” comes with a big message. Shouldn’t we get some insight into who he is? Maybe check his credentials?
“In those days, the word of the LORD was rare” is worth noting. Is God pulling back, or are the people simply ignoring him hence a shortage of prophetic word? Hard to say exactly. The priesthood seems to have lost touch with YHWH. But Israel is not facing calamity yet. The four-fold cycle of Judges (sin, calamity, prophetic leadership to repentance, deliverance) is still in early steps. Things are undoubtedly about to go wrong. Military oppression is forthcoming, and the prophetic leader stage is set already.
Wish we got details about Samuel’s age. The noun used can have a range. Can means a young boy, or a servant lad. So we could have an 10ish-18ish range. Perhaps 12 to mirror Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41ff)? But that could be reading parallels which aren’t there.
“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD”. Now, he was serving in the Tabernacle, without knowing the LORD is my initial reaction. But wait, Hophni and Phineas seem to be in the same boat.
If Eli can’t recognize prayer, surely he won’t recognize YHWH calling to Samuel. Interesting that Eli gets it eventually. Hophni and Phineas likely wouldn’t have gotten it at all.
Eli’s response to the word which comes to Samuel is fun. “What is good in his eyes, let him do.” Remember how Judges ends? “In those days there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was good in his eyes.” Not a coincidence certainly.
All Israel knows he’s a prophet of YHWH? That assumes all Israel has a basic knowledge of YHWH. Given the spiritual leadership, I find that astounding. The High Priest doesn’t get prayer and prophecy, yet all Israel knows Samuel speaks the word of YHWH? Is the nation faithful in spite of their leaders incompetence, disregard, and disdain for YHWH?