1 Samuel 2
In this chapter we have,
I. Hannah's song of thanksgiving to God for his favour to her in giving
1 Samuel 2:1-10.
II. Their return to their family, with Eli's blessing,
1 Samuel 2:11,20.
The increase of their family,
1 Samuel 2:21.
Samuel's growth and improvement
(1 Samuel 2:11,18,21,26),
and the care Hannah took to clothe him,
1 Samuel 2:19.
III. The great wickedness of Eli's sons,
1 Samuel 2:12-17,22.
IV. The over-mild reproof that Eli gave them for it,
1 Samuel 2:23-25.
V. The justly dreadful message God sent him by a prophet, threatening
the ruin of his family for the wickedness of his sons,
1 Samuel 2:27-36.
||B. C. 1137.|
1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD,
mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine
enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside
thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come
out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by
him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that
stumbled are girded with strength.
5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread;
and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born
seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the
grave, and bringeth up.
7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and
8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the
beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to
make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the
earth are the LORD's, and he hath set the world upon them.
9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be
silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out
of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the
ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and
exalt the horn of his anointed.
We have here Hannah's thanksgiving, dictated, not only by the spirit of
prayer, but by the spirit of prophecy. Her petition for the mercy she
desired we had before
(1 Samuel 1:11),
and here we have her return of praise; in both out of the abundance
of a heart deeply affected (in the former with her own wants, and
in the latter with God's goodness) her mouth spoke. Observe in
1. When she had received mercy from God she owned it, with thankfulness
to his praise. Not like the nine lepers,
Praise is our rent, our tribute. We are unjust if we do not pay it.
2. The mercy she had received was an answer to prayer, and therefore
she thought herself especially obliged to give thanks for it. What we
win by prayer we may wear with comfort, and must wear with praise.
3. Her thanksgiving is here called a prayer: Hannah prayed; for
thanksgiving is an essential part of prayer. In every address to God
we must express a grateful regard to him as our benefactor. Nay, and
thanksgiving for mercies received shall be accepted as a petition for
4. From this particular mercy which she had received from God she takes
occasion, with an elevated and enlarged heart, to speak glorious things
of God and of his government of the world for the good of his church.
Whatever at any time gives rise to our praises in this manner they
should be raised.
5. Her prayer was mental. Her voice was not heard; but in her
thanksgiving she spoke, that all might hear her. She made her
supplication with groanings that could not be uttered, but now
her lips were opened to show forth God's praise.
6. This thanksgiving is here left upon record for the encouragement of
those of the weaker sex to attend the throne of grace. God will regard
their prayers and praises. The virgin Mary's song has great affinity
with this of Hannah,
Three things we have in this thanksgiving:--
I. Hannah's triumph in God, in his glorious perfections, and the great
things he had done for her,
1 Samuel 2:1-3.
1. What great things she says of God. She takes little notice of the
particular mercy she was now rejoicing in, does not commend Samuel for
the prettiest child, the most toward and sensible for his age that she
ever saw, as fond parents are too apt to do. No, she overlooks the
gift, and praises the giver; whereas most forget the giver and fasten
only on the gift. Every stream should lead us to the fountain; and the
favours we receive from God should raise our admiration of the infinite
perfections there are in God. There may be other Samuels, but no other
Jehovah. There is none beside thee. Note, God is to be praised
as a peerless being, and of unparalleled perfection. This glory is due
unto his name, to own not only that there is none like him, but that
there is none besides him. All others were pretenders,
Four of God's glorious attributes Hannah here celebrates the glory
(1.) His unspotted purity. This is that attribute which is most praised
in the upper world, by those that always behold his face,
When Israel triumphed over the Egyptians God was praised as glorious
So here, in Hannah's triumph, There is none holy as the Lord. It
is the rectitude of his nature, his infinite agreement with himself,
and the equity of his government and judgment in all the
administrations of both. At the remembrance of this we ought to give
(2.) His almighty power: Neither is there any rock (or any
strength, for so the word is sometimes rendered) like our
God. Hannah had experienced a mighty support by staying herself
upon him, and therefore speaks as she had found, and seems to refer to
that of Moses,
(3.) His unsearchable wisdom: The Lord, the Judge of all, is
a God of knowledge; he clearly and perfectly sees into the
character of every person and the merits of every cause, and he gives
knowledge and understanding to those that seek them of him.
(4.) His unerring justice: By him actions are weighed. His own
are so, in his eternal counsels; the actions of the children of men are
so, in the balances of his judgment, so that he will render to every
man according to his work, and is not mistaken in what any man is
2. How she solaces herself in these things. What we give God the glory
of we may take the comfort of. Hannah does so,
(1.) In holy joy: My heart rejoiceth in the Lord; not so much in
her son as in her God; he is to be the gladness of our joy
and our joy must not terminate in any thing short of him: "I rejoice
in thy salvation; not only in this particular favour to me, but in
the salvation of thy people Israel, those salvations especially which
this child will be an instrument of, and that, above all, by Christ,
which those are but the types of."
(2.) In holy triumph: "My horn is exalted; not only is my
reputation saved by my having a son, but greatly raised by having such
a son." We read of some of the singers whom David appointed to lift up
the horn, an instrument of music, in praising God
(1 Chronicles 25:5),
so that, My horn is exalted means this, "My praises are very
much elevated to an unusual strain." Exalted in the Lord; God is
to have the honour of all our exaltations, and in him must we triumph.
My mouth is enlarged, that is, "Now I have wherewith to answer
those that reproached me." He that has his quiver full of arrows, his
house full of children, shall not be ashamed to speak with the enemy
in the gate,
3. How she herewith silences those that set up themselves as rivals
with God and rebels against him
(1 Samuel 2:3):
Talk no more so exceedingly proudly. Let not Peninnah and her
children upbraid her any more with her confidence in God and praying to
him: at length she found it not in vain. See
Then she that is my enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her
that said, Where is thy God? Or perhaps it was below her to take so
much notice of Peninnah, and her malice, in this song; but this is
intended as a check to the insolence of the Philistines, and other
enemies of God and Israel, that set their mouth against the
"Let this put them to silence and shame; he that has thus judged for me
against my adversary will judge for his people against all theirs."
II. The notice she takes of the wisdom and sovereignty of the divine
providence, in its disposals of the affairs of the children of men;
such are the vicissitudes of them, and such the strange and sudden
turns and revolutions of them, that it is often found a very short step
between the height of prosperity and the depth of adversity. God
has not only set the one over against the other
but the one very near the other, and no gulf fixed between them, that
we may rejoice as though we rejoiced not and weep as though
we wept not.
1. The strong are soon weakened and the weak are soon strengthened,
when God pleases,
1 Samuel 2:4.
On the one hand, if he speak the word, the bows of the mighty men
are broken; they are disarmed, disabled to do as they have before
done and as they have designed to do. Those have been worsted in battle
who seemed upon all accounts to have the advantage on their side, and
thought themselves sure of victory. See
Particular persons are soon weakened by sickness and age, and they find
that the bow does not long abide in strength; many a mighty man who has
gloried in his might has found it a deceitful bow, that failed him when
he trusted to it. On the other hand, if the Lord speak the word, those
who stumble through weakness, who were so feeble that they could not go
straight or steady, are girded with strength, in body and mind,
and are able to bring great things to pass. Those who were weakened by
sickness return to their vigour
and those who were brought down by sorrow shall recover their comfort,
which will confirm the weak hands and the feeble knees,
Victory turns in favour of that side that was given up for gone, and
even the lame take the prey,
2. The rich are soon impoverished and the poor strangely enriched on a
1 Samuel 2:5.
Providence sometimes does so blast men's estates and cross their
endeavours, and with a fire not blown consume their increase, that
those who were full (their barns full, and their bags full, their
houses full of good things,
and their bellies full of these hidden treasures,
have been reduced to such straits and extremities as to want the
necessary supports of life, and to hire out themselves for
bread, and they must dig, since to beg they are ashamed. Riches
and leave those miserable who, when they had them, placed their
happiness in them. To those that have been full and free poverty must
needs be doubly grievous. But, on the other hand, sometimes Providence
so orders it that those who are hungry cease, that is, cease to
hire out themselves for bread as they have done. Having, by God's
blessing on their industry, got beforehand in the world, and enough to
live upon at ease, they shall hunger no more, not thirst any
more. This is not to be ascribed to fortune, nor merely to men's
wisdom or folly. Riches are not to men of understanding, nor favour
to men of skill
nor is it always men's own fault that they become poor, but
(1 Samuel 2:7)
the Lord maketh some poor and maketh others rich; the
impoverishing of one is the enriching of another, and it is God's
doing. To some he gives power to get wealth, from others he takes away
power to keep the wealth they have. Are we poor? God made us poor,
which is a good reason why we should be content, and reconcile
ourselves to our condition. Are we rich? God made us rich, which is a
good reason why we should be thankful, and serve him cheerfully in the
abundance of good things he gives us. It may be understood of the same
person; those that were rich God makes poor, and after awhile makes
rich again, as Job; he gave, he takes away, and then gives again. Let
not the rich be proud and secure, for God can soon make them poor; let
not the poor despond and despair, for God can in due time enrich them
3. Empty families are replenished and numerous families diminished and
made few. This is the instance that comes close to the occasion of the
thanksgiving: The barren hath borne seven, meaning herself, for,
though at present she had but one son, yet that one being a Nazarite,
devoted to God and employed in his immediate service, he was to her as
good as seven. Or it is the language of her faith. Now that she had one
she hoped for more, and was not disappointed; she had five more
(1 Samuel 2:21),
so that if we reckon Samuel but for two, as we well may, she has the
number she promised herself: the barren hath borne seven, while,
on the other hand, she that hath many children has waxed feeble,
and hath left bearing. She says no more. Peninnah is now mortified and
crest-fallen. The tradition of the Jews is that when Hannah bore one
child Peninnah buried two. There are many instances both of the
increase of families that were inconsiderable and the extinguishing of
families that made a figure,
4. God is the sovereign Lord of life and death
(1 Samuel 2:6):
The Lord killeth and maketh alive. Understand it,
(1.) Of God's sovereign dominion and universal agency, in the lives and
deaths of the children of men. He presides in births and burials.
Whenever any die it is God that directs the arrows of death. The
Lord killeth. Death is his messenger, strikes whom and when he
bids; none are brought to the dust but it is he that brings them down,
for in his hand are the keys of death and the grave,
Whenever any are born it is he that makes them alive. None knows
what is the way of the spirit, but this we know, that it comes from
the Father of spirits. Whenever any are recovered from sickness,
and delivered from imminent perils, it is God that bringeth up; for
to him belong the issues from death.
(2.) Of the distinction he makes between some and others: He
killeth some, and maketh, that is, keepeth, others
alive that were in the same danger (in war, suppose, or
pestilence), two in a bed together, it may be, one taken by death and
the other left alive. Even so, Father, because it seemed good in thy
eyes. Some that were most likely to live are brought down to the
grave, and others that were as likely to die are brought up; for living
and dying do not go by likelihoods. God's providences towards some are
killing, ruining to their comforts, and towards others at the same time
(3.) Of the change he makes with one and the same person: He killeth
and bringeth down to the grave, that is, he brings even to death's
door, and then revives and raises up, when even life was despaired of
and a sentence of death received,
2 Corinthians 1:8,9.
He turns to destruction, and then says, Return,
Nothing is too hard for God to do, no, not the quickening of the dead,
and putting life into dry bones.
5. Advancement and abasement are both from him. He brings some low and
lifts up others
(1 Samuel 2:7),
humbles the proud and gives grace and honour to the lowly, lays those
in the dust that would vie with the God above them and trample upon all
but lifts up those with his salvation that humble themselves before
Or it may be understood of the same persons: those whom he had brought
low, when they are sufficiently humbled, he lifteth up. This is
1 Samuel 2:8.
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, a low and mean
condition, nay, from the dunghill, a base and servile condition,
loathed, and despised, to set them among princes. See
Promotion comes not by chance, but from the counsel of God, which often
prefers those that were very unlikely and that men thought very
unworthy. Joseph and Daniel, Moses and David, were thus strangely
advanced, from a prison to a palace, from a sheep-hook to a sceptre.
The princes they are set among may be tempted to disdain them, but God
can establish the honour which he gives thus surprisingly, and make
them even to inherit the throne of glory. Let not those whom
Providence has thus preferred be upbraided with the dust and dunghill
they are raised out of, for the meaner their beginnings were the more
they are favoured, and God is glorified, in their advancement, if it be
by lawful and honourable means.
6. A reason is given for all these dispensations which obliges us to
acquiesce in them, how surprising soever they are: For the pillars
of the earth are the Lord's.
(1.) If we understand this literally, it intimates God's almighty
power, which cannot be controlled. He upholds the whole creation,
founded the earth, and still sustains it by the word of his power. What
cannot he do in the affairs of families and kingdoms, far beyond our
conception and expectation, who hangs the earth upon nothing?
(2.) If we understand it figuratively, it intimates his incontestable
sovereignty, which cannot be disputed. The princes and great ones of
the earth, the directors of states and governments, are the pillars
of the earth,
On these hinges the affairs of the world seem to turn, but they are the
From him they have their power, and therefore he may advance whom he
pleases; and who may say, What doest thou?
III. A prediction of the preservation and advancement of all God's
faithful friends, and the destruction of all his and their enemies.
Having testified her joyful triumph in what God had done, and is doing,
she concludes with joyful hopes of what he would do,
1 Samuel 2:9,10.
Pious affections (says bishop Patrick) in those days rose many times to
the height of prophecy, whereby God continued in that nation his true
religion, in the midst of their idolatrous inclinations. This prophecy
1. More immediately to the government of Israel by Samuel, and by David
whom he was employed to anoint. The Israelites, God's saints, should be
protected and delivered; the Philistines, their enemies, should be
conquered and subdued, and particularly by thunder,
1 Samuel 7:10.
Their dominions should be enlarged, king David strengthened and greatly
exalted, and Israel (that in the time of the judges had made so small a
figure and had much ado to subsist) should now shortly become great and
considerable, and give law to all its neighbours. An extraordinary
change that was; and the birth of Samuel was, as it were, the dawning
of that day. But,
2. We have reason to think that this prophecy looks further, to the
kingdom of Christ, and the administration of that kingdom of grace, of
which she now comes to speak, having spoken so largely of the kingdom
of providence. And here is the first time that we meet with the name
Messiah, or his Anointed. The ancient expositors, both
Jewish and Christian, make it to look beyond David, to the Son of
David. Glorious things are here spoken of the kingdom of the Mediator,
both before and since his incarnation; for the method of the
administration of it, both by the eternal Word and by that Word made
flesh, is much the same. Concerning that kingdom we are here assured,
(1.) That all the loyal subjects of it shall be carefully and
(1 Samuel 2:9):
He will keep the feet of his saints. There are a people in the
world that are God's saints, his select and sanctified ones; and he
will keep their feet, that is, all that belongs to them shall be under
his protection, down to their very feet, the lowest part of the body.
If he will keep their feet, much more their head and hearts. Or he will
keep their feet, that is, he will secure the ground they stand on, and
establish their goings; he will set a guard of grace upon their
affections and actions, that their feet may neither wander out of the
way nor stumble in the way. When their feet are ready to slip
his mercy holdeth them up
and keepeth them from falling,
While we keep God's ways he will keep our feet. See
(2.) That all the powers engaged against it shall not be able to effect
the ruin of it. By strength shall no man prevail. God's strength is
engaged for the church; and, while it is so, man's strength shall not
prevail against it. The church seems destitute of strength, her friends
few and feeble, but prevalency does not go by human strength,
God neither needs it for him
nor dreads it against him.
(3.) That all the enemies of it will certainly be broken and brought
down: The wicked shall be silent in darkness,
1 Samuel 2:9.
They shall be struck both blind and dumb, not be able to see their way
nor have any thing to say for themselves. Damned sinners are sentenced
to utter darkness, and in it they will be for ever speechless,
The wicked are called the adversaries of the Lord, and it is
(1 Samuel 2:10)
that they shall be broken to pieces. Their designs against his
kingdom among men will all be dashed, and they themselves destroyed;
how can those speed better that are in arms against Omnipotence? See
God has many ways of doing it, and, rather than fail, from heaven
shall he thunder upon them, and so, not only put them in terror and
consternation, but bring them to destruction. Who can stand before
(4.) That the conquests of this kingdom shall extend themselves to
distant regions: The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth.
David's victories and dominions reached far, but the uttermost parts
of the earth are promised to the Messiah for his possession
to be either reduced to his golden sceptre or ruined by his iron rod.
God is Judge of all, and he will judge for his people against his and
(5.) That the power and honour of Messiah the prince shall grow and
increase more and more: He shall give strength unto his king,
for the accomplishing of his great undertaking
strengthen him to go through the difficulties of his humiliation, and
in his exaltation he will lift up the head
lift up the horn, the power and honour, of his anointed, and
make him higher than the kings of the earth,
This crowns the triumph, and is, more than any thing, the matter of her
exultation. Her horn is exalted
(1 Samuel 2:1)
because she foresees the horn of the Messiah will be so. This secures
the hope. The subjects of Christ's kingdom will be safe, and the
enemies of it will be ruined, for the anointed, the Lord Christ, is
girded with strength, and is able to save and destroy unto the
|Samuel in the Sanctuary; The Wickedness of Eli's Sons.
||B. C. 1130.|
11 And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did
minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest.
12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the
13 And the priests' custom with the people was, that, when
any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the
flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his
14 And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or
pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for
himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came
15 Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came,
and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the
priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.
16 And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn
the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul
desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give
it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the
LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.
18 But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child,
girded with a linen ephod.
19 Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it
to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to
offer the yearly sacrifice.
20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD
give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the
LORD. And they went unto their own home.
21 And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare
three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before
22 Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto
all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at
the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of
your evil dealings by all this people.
24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye
make the LORD's people to transgress.
25 If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him:
but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him?
Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their
father, because the LORD would slay them.
26 And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with
the LORD, and also with men.
In these verses we have the good character and posture of Elkanah's
family, and the bad character and posture of Eli's family. The account
of these two is observably interwoven throughout this whole paragraph,
as if the historian intended to set the one over against the other,
that they might set off one another. The devotion and good order of
Elkanah's family aggravated the iniquity of Eli's house; while the
wickedness of Eli's sons made Samuel's early piety appear the more
bright and illustrious.
I. Let us see how well things went in Elkanah's family and how much
better than formerly.
1. Eli dismissed them from the house of the Lord, when they had entered
their little son there, with a blessing,
1 Samuel 2:20.
He blessed as one having authority: The Lord give thee more
children of this woman, for the loan that is lent to the Lord.
If Hannah had then had many children, it would not have been such a
generous piece of piety to part with one out of many for the service of
the tabernacle; but when she had but one, an only one whom she loved,
her Isaac, to present him to the Lord was such an act of heroic piety
as should by no means lose its reward. As when Abraham had offered
Isaac he received the promise of a numerous issue
so did Hannah, when she had presented Samuel unto the Lord a living
sacrifice. Note, What is lent to the Lord will certainly be repaid with
interest, to our unspeakable advantage, and oftentimes in kind. Hannah
resigns one child to God, and is recompensed with five; for Eli's
blessing took effect
(1 Samuel 2:21):
She bore three sons and two daughters. There is nothing lost by
lending to God or losing for him; it shall be repaid a
2. They returned to their own habitation. This is twice mentioned,
1 Samuel 2:11,
1 Samuel 2:20.
It was very pleasant to attend at God's house, to bless him, and to be
blessed of him. But they have a family at home that must be looked
after, and thither they return, cheerfully leaving the dear little one
behind them, knowing they left him in a good place; and it does not
appear that he cried after them, but was as willing to stay as they
were to leave him, so soon did he put away childish things and
behave like a man.
3. They kept up their constant attendance at the house of God with
their yearly sacrifice,
1 Samuel 2:19.
They did not think that their son's ministering there would excuse
them, or that that offering must serve instead of other offerings; but,
having found the benefit of drawing near to God, they would omit no
appointed season for it, and now they had one loadstone more in Shiloh
to draw them thither. We may suppose they went thither to see their
child oftener than once a year, for it was not ten miles from Ramah;
but their annual visit is taken notice of because then they brought
their yearly sacrifice, and then Hannah fitted up her son (and some
think oftener than once a year) with a new suit of clothes, a little
(1 Samuel 2:19)
and every thing belonging to it. She undertook to find him with clothes
during his apprenticeship at the tabernacle, and took care he should be
well provided, that he might appear the more decent and sightly in his
ministration, and to encourage him in his towardly beginnings. Parents
must take care that their children want nothing that is fit for them,
whether they are with them or from them; but those that are dutiful and
hopeful, and minister to the Lord, must be thought worthy of double
care and kindness.
4. The child Samuel did very well. Four separate times he is mentioned
in these verses, and two things we are told of:--
(1.) The service he did to the Lord. He did well indeed, for he
ministered to the Lord
(1 Samuel 2:11,18)
according as his capacity was. He learned his catechism and was
constant to his devotions, soon learned to read, and took a pleasure in
the book of the law, and thus he ministered to the Lord. He
ministered before Eli, that is, under his inspection, and as he ordered
him, not before Eli's sons; all parties were agreed that they were
unfit to be his tutors. Perhaps he attended immediately on Eli's
person, was ready to him to fetch and bring as he had occasion, and
that is called ministering to the Lord. Some little services
perhaps he was employed in about the altar, though much under the age
appointed by the law for the Levites' ministration. He could light a
candle, or hold a dish, or run on an errand, or shut a door; and,
because he did this with a pious disposition of mind it is called
ministering to the Lord, and great notice is taken of it. After
awhile he did his work so well that Eli appointed that he should
minister with a linen ephod as the priests did (though he was no
priest), because he saw that God was with him. Note, Little children
must learn betimes to minister to the Lord. Parents must train
them up to it, and God will accept them. Particularly let them learn to
pay respect to their teachers, as Samuel to Eli. None can begin too
soon to be religious. See
(2.) The blessing he received from the Lord: He grew before the
Lord, as a tender plant
(1 Samuel 2:21),
(1 Samuel 2:26)
in strength and stature, and especially in wisdom and understanding and
fitness for business. Note, Those young people that serve God as well
as they can will obtain grace to improve, that they may serve him
better. Those that are planted in God's house shall flourish,
He was in favour with the Lord and with man. Note, It is a great
encouragement to children to be tractable, and virtuous, and good
betimes, that if they be both God and man will love them. Such children
are the darlings both of heaven and earth. What is here said of Samuel
is said of our blessed Saviour, that great example,
II. Let us now see how ill things went in Eli's family, though seated
at the very door of the tabernacle. The nearer the church the further
1. The abominable wickedness of Eli's sons
(1 Samuel 2:12):
The sons of Eli were sons of Belial. It is emphatically
expressed. Nothing appears to the contrary but that Eli himself was a
very good man, and no doubt had educated his sons well, giving them
good instructions, setting them good examples, and putting up many a
good prayer for them; and yet, when they grew up, they proved sons
of Belial, profane wicked men, and arrant rakes: They knew not
the Lord. They could not but have a notional knowledge of God and
his law, a form of knowledge
yet, because their practice was not conformable to it, they are spoken
of as wholly ignorant of God; they lived as if they knew nothing at all
of God. Note, Parents cannot give grace to their children, nor does it
run in the blood. Many that are sincerely pious themselves live to see
those that come from them notoriously impious and profane; for the
race is not to the swift. Eli was high priest and judge in Israel.
His sons were priests by their birth. Their character was sacred and
honourable, and obliged them, for their reputation-sake, to observe
decorum. They were resident at the fountain-head both of magistracy and
ministry, and yet they were sons of Belial, and their honour,
power, and learning, made them so much the worse. They did not go to
serve other gods, as those did that lived at a distance from the
altar, for from the house of God they had their wealth and dignity;
but, which was worse, they managed the service of God as if he had been
one of the dunghill deities of the heathen. It is hard to say which
dishonours God more, idolatry or profaneness, especially the
profaneness of the priests. Let us see the wickedness of Eli's sons;
and it is a sad sight.
(1.) They profaned the offerings of the Lord, and made a gain to
themselves, or rather a gratification of their own luxury, out of them.
God had provided competently for them out of the sacrifices. The
offerings of the Lord made by fire were a considerable branch of
their revenue, but not enough to please them; they served not the God
of Israel, but their own bellies
being such as the prophet calls greedy dogs that can never have
[1.] They robbed the offerers, and seized for themselves some of their
part of the sacrifice of the peace-offerings. The priests had for
their share the wave-breast and the heave shoulder
but these did not content them; when the flesh was boiling for the
offerer to feast upon religiously with his friends, they sent a servant
with a flesh-hook of three teeth, a trident, and that must be stuck
into the pot, and whatever that brought up the priest must have
(1 Samuel 2:13,14),
and the people, out of their great veneration, suffered this to grow
into a custom, so that after awhile prescription was pleaded for this
[2.] They stepped in before God himself, and encroached upon his right
too. As if it were a small thing to weary men, they wearied my God
Be it observed, to the honour of Israel, that though the people tamely
yielded to their unwarrantable demands from them, yet they were very
solicitous that God should not be robbed: Let them not fail to burn
the fat presently,
1 Samuel 2:16.
Let the altar have its due, for that is the main matter. Unless God
have the fat, they can feast with little comfort upon the flesh. It was
a shame that the priests should need to be thus admonished by the
people of their duty; but they regarded not the admonition. The priest
will be served first, and will take what he thinks fit of the fat too,
for he is weary of boiled meat, he must have roast, and, in order to
that, they must give it to him raw; and if the offerer dispute it,
though not in his own favour (let the priest take what he pleases of
his part) but in favour of the altar (let them be sure to burn the
fat first), even the priest's servant had grown so very imperious
that he would either have it now or take it by force, than which there
could not be a greater affront to God nor a greater abuse to the
people. The effect was, First, That God was displeased: The
sin of the young men was very great before the Lord,
1 Samuel 2:17.
Nothing is more provoking to God than the profanation of sacred things,
and men serving their lusts with the offerings of the Lord.
Secondly, That religion suffered by it: Men abhorred the
offerings of the Lord. All good men abhorred their management of
the offerings, and too many insensibly fell into a contempt of the
offerings themselves for their sakes. It was the people's sin to think
the worse of God's institutions, but it was the much greater sin of the
priests that gave them occasion to do so. Nothing brings a greater
reproach upon religion than ministers' covetousness, sensuality, and
imperiousness. In the midst of this sad story comes in the repeated
mention of Samuel's devotion. But Samuel ministered before the
Lord, as an instance of the power of God's grace, in preserving him
pure and pious in the midst of this wicked crew; and this helped to
keep up the sinking credit of the sanctuary in the minds of the people,
who, when they had said all they could against Eli's sons, could not
but admire Samuel's seriousness, and speak well of religion for his
(2.) They debauched the women that came to worship at the door of the
1 Samuel 2:22.
They had wives of their own, but were like fed horses,
To have gone to the harlots' houses, the common prostitutes, would have
been abominable wickedness, but to use the interest which as priests
they had in those women that had devout dispositions and were
religiously inclined, and to bring them to commit their wickedness, was
such horrid impiety as one can scarcely think it possible that men who
called themselves priests should ever be guilty of. Be astonished, O
heavens! at this, and tremble, O earth! No words can sufficiently
express the villany of such practices as these.
2. The reproof which Eli gave his sons for this their wickedness:
Eli was very old
(1 Samuel 2:22)
and could not himself inspect the service of the tabernacle as he had
done, but left all to his sons, who, because of the infirmities of his
age, slighted him, and did what they would. However, he was told of the
wickedness of his sons, and we may well imagine what a heart-breaking
it was to him, and how much it added to the burdens of his age; but it
should seem he did not so much as reprove them till he heard of their
debauching the women, and then he thought fit to give them a check. Had
he rebuked them for their greediness and luxury, this might have been
prevented. Young people should be told of their faults as soon as it is
perceived that they begin to be extravagant, lest their hearts be
hardened. Now concerning the reproof he gave them observe,
(1.) That it was very just and rational. That which he said was very
[1.] He tells them that the matter of fact was too plain to be denied
and too public to be concealed: "I hear of your evil dealings by all
1 Samuel 2:23.
It is not the surmise of one or two, but the avowed testimony of many;
all your neighbours cry out shame on you, and bring their complaints to
me, expecting that I should redress the grievance."
[2.] He shows them the bad consequences of it, that they not only
sinned, but made Israel to sin, and would have the people's sin to
answer for as well as their own: "You that should turn men from
you make the Lord's people to transgress, and corrupt the nation
instead of reforming it; you tempt people to go and serve other gods
when they see the God of Israel so ill served."
[3.] He warns them of the danger they brought themselves into by it,
1 Samuel 2:25.
He intimates to them what God afterwards told him, that the
iniquity would not be purged with sacrifice nor offering,
1 Samuel 3:14.
If one man sin against another, the judge (that is, the priest,
who was appointed to be the judge in many cases,
shall judge him, shall undertake his cause, arbitrate the
matter, and make atonement for the offender; but if a man sin
against the Lord (that is, if a priest profane the holy things of
the Lord, if a man that deals with God for others do himself affront
him) who shall entreat for him? Eli was himself a judge, and had
often made intercession for transgressors, but, says he, "You that
sin against the Lord," that is, "against the law and honour of
God, in those very things which immediately pertain to him, and by
which reconciliation is to be made, how can I entreat for you?" Their
condition was deplorable indeed when their own father could not speak a
good word for them, nor could have the face to appear as their
advocate. Sins against the remedy, the atonement itself, are most
dangerous, treading under foot the blood of the covenant, for
then there remains no more sacrifice,
(2.) It was too mild and gentle. He should have rebuked them sharply.
Their crimes deserved sharpness; their temper needed it; the softness
of his dealing with them would but harden them the more. The
animadversion was too easy when he said, It is no good report.
he should have said, "It is a shameful scandalous thing, and not to be
suffered!" Whether it was because he loved them or because he feared
them that he dealt thus tenderly with them, it was certainly an
evidence of his want of zeal for the honour of God and his sanctuary.
He bound them over to God's judgment, but he should have taken
cognizance of their crimes himself, as high priest and judge, and have
restrained and punished them. What he said was right, but it was not
enough. Note, It is sometimes necessary that we put an edge upon the
reproofs we give. There are those that must be saved with fear,
3. Their obstinacy against this reproof. His lenity did not at
all work upon them: They hearkened not to their father, though
he was also a judge. They had no regard either to his authority or to
his affection, which was to them an evident token of perdition;
it was because the Lord would slay them. They had long hardened
their hearts, and now God, in a way of righteous judgment, hardened
their hearts, and seared their consciences, and withheld from them the
grace they had resisted and forfeited. Note, Those that are deaf to the
reproofs of wisdom are manifestly marked for ruin. The Lord has
determined to destroy them,
2 Chronicles 25:16.
Immediately upon this, Samuel's tractableness is again mentioned
(1 Samuel 2:26),
to shame their obstinacy: The child Samuel grew. God's grace is
his own; he denied it to the sons of the high priest and gave it to the
child of an obscure country Levite.
|Eli and His House Threatened.
||B. C. 1128.|
27 And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him,
Thus saith the LORD, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy
father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house?
28 And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be
my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an
ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all
the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?
29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering,
which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons
above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the
offerings of Israel my people?
30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that
thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for
ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that
honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be
31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and
the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man
in thine house.
32 And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the
wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an
old man in thine house for ever.
33 And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine
altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine
heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the
flower of their age.
34 And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon
thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die
both of them.
35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do
according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and
I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine
anointed for ever.
36 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in
thine house shall come and crouch to him for a piece of silver
and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into
one of the priests' offices, that I may eat a piece of bread.
Eli reproved his sons too gently, and did not threaten them as he
should, and therefore God sent a prophet to him to reprove him sharply,
and to threaten him, because, by his indulgence of them, he had
strengthened their hands in their wickedness. If good men be wanting in
their duty, and by their carelessness and remissness contribute any
thing to the sin of sinners, they must expect both to hear of it and to
smart for it. Eli's family was now nearer to God than all the
families of the earth, and therefore he will punish them,
The message is sent to Eli himself, because God would bring him to
repentance and save him; not to his sons, whom he had determined to
destroy. And it might have been a means of awakening him to do his duty
at last, and so to have prevented the judgment, but we do not find it
had any great effect upon him. The message this prophet delivers from
God is very close.
I. He reminds him of the great things God had done for the house of his
fathers and for his family. He appeared to Aaron in Egypt
in the house of bondage, as a token of further favour which he designed
1 Samuel 2:27.
He advanced him to the priesthood, entailed it upon his family, and
thereby dignified it above any of the families of Israel. He entrusted
him with honourable work, to offer on God's altar, to burn
incense, and to wear that ephod in which was the breast-plate of
judgment. He settled upon him an honourable maintenance, a share out of
all the offerings made by fire,
1 Samuel 2:28.
What could he have done more for them, to engage them to be faithful to
him? Note, The distinguishing favours we have received from God,
especially those of the spiritual priesthood, are great aggravations of
sin, and will be remembered against us in the day of account, if we
profane our crown and betray our trusts,
II. He exhibits a high charge against him and his family. His children
did wickedly, and he connived at it, and thereby involved himself in
the guilt; the indictment therefore runs against them all,
1 Samuel 2:29.
1. His sons had impiously profaned the holy things of God: "You
kick at my sacrifice which I have commanded; not only trample upon
the institution as a mean thing, but spurn at it as a thing you hate to
be tied up to." They did the utmost despite imaginable to the offerings
of the Lord when they committed all that outrage and rapine about them
that we read of, and violently plundered the pots on which, in effect,
Holiness to the Lord was written
and took that fat to themselves which God had appointed to be burnt on
2. Eli had bolstered them up in it, by not punishing their insolence
and impiety: "Thou for thy part honourest thy sons above me,"
that is, "thou hadst rather see my offerings disgraced by their
profanation of them than see thy sons disgraced by a legal censure upon
them for so doing, which ought to have been inflicted, even to
suspension and deprivation ab officio et beneficio--of their office
and its emoluments." Those that allow and countenance their
children in any evil way, and do not use their authority to restrain
and punish them, do in effect honour them more than God, being
more tender of their reputation than of his glory and more desirous to
humour them than to honour him.
3. They had all shared in the gains of the sacrilege. It is to be
feared that Eli himself, though he disliked and reproved the abuses
they committed, yet did not forbear to eat of the roast meat they
1 Samuel 2:15.
He was a fat heavy man
(1 Samuel 4:18),
and therefore it is charged upon the whole family (though Hophni and
Phinehas were principally guilty), You make yourselves fat with the
chief of all the offerings. God gave them sufficient to feed them,
but that would not suffice; they made themselves fat, and served their
lusts with that which God was to be served with. See
III. He declares the cutting off of the entail of the high priesthood
from his family
(1 Samuel 2:30):
"The Lord God of Israel, who is jealous for his own honour and
Israel's, says, and lets thee know it, that thy commission is revoked
and superseded." I said, indeed, that thy house, and the house of
thy father Ithamar (for from that younger son of Aaron Eli
descended), should walk before me for ever. Upon what occasion
the dignity of the high priesthood was transferred from the family of
Eleazar to that of Ithamar does not appear; but it seems this had been
done, and Eli stood fair to have that honour perpetuated to his
posterity. But observe, the promise carried its own condition along
with it: They shall walk before me forever, that is, "they shall
have the honour, provided they faithfully do the service." Walking
before God is the great condition of the covenant,
Let them set me before their face, and I will set them before my face
otherwise not. But now the Lord says, Be it far from me. "Now
that you cast me off you can expect no other than that I should cast
you off; you will not walk before me as you should, and therefore you
shall not." Such wicked and abusive servants God will discard, and turn
out of his service. Some think there is a further reach in this recall
of the grant, and that it was not only to be fulfilled shortly in the
deposing of the posterity of Eli, when Zadok, who descended from
Eleazar, was put in Abiathar's room, but it was to have its complete
accomplishment at length in the total abolition of the Levitical
priesthood by the priesthood of Christ.
IV. He gives a good reason for this revocation, taken from a settled
and standing rule of God's government, according to which all must
expect to be dealt with (like that by which Cain was tried,
Those that honour me I will honour, and those that despise me shall
be lightly esteemed.
1. Observe in general,
(1.) That God is the fountain of honour and dishonour; he can exalt the
meanest and put contempt upon the greatest.
(2.) As we deal with God we must expect to be dealt with by him, and
yet more favourably than we deserve. See
(1.) Be it spoken, to the everlasting reputation of religion or of
serious godliness, that it gives honour to God and puts honour upon
men. By it we seek and serve the glory of God, and he will be
behind-hand with none that do so, but here and hereafter will secure
their glory. The way to be truly great is to be truly good. If we
humble and deny ourselves in any thing to honour God, and have a single
eye to him in it, we may depend upon this promise, he will put the best
honour upon us. See
(2.) Be it spoken, to the everlasting reproach of impiety or
profaneness, that this does dishonour to God (despises the greatest and
best of beings, whom angels adore) and will bring dishonour upon men,
for those that do so shall be lightly esteemed; not only God will
lightly esteem them (that perhaps they will not regard, as those that
honour him value his honour, of whom therefore it is said, I will
honour them), but they shall be lightly esteemed by all the world;
the very honour they are proud of shall be laid in the dust; they shall
see themselves despised by all mankind, their names a reproach; when
they are gone, their memory shall rot, and, when they rise again, it
shall be to everlasting shame and contempt. The dishonour which their
impotent malice puts upon God and his omnipotent justice will return
upon their own heads,
V. He foretels the particular judgments which should come upon his
family, to its perpetual ignominy. A curse should be entailed upon his
posterity, and a terrible curse it is, and shows how jealous God is in
the matters of his worship and how ill he takes it when those who are
bound by their character and profession to preserve and advance the
interests of his glory are false to their trust, and betray them. If
God's ministers be vicious and profane, of how much sorer punishment
will they be thought worthy, here and for ever, than other sinners!
Let such read the doom here passed on Eli's house, and tremble. It is
1. That their power should be broken
(1 Samuel 2:31):
I will cut off thy arm, and the arm of thy father's house. They
should be stripped of all their authority, should be deposed, and have
no influence upon the people as they had had. God would make them
contemptible and base. See
The sons had abused their power to oppress the people and encroach upon
their rights, and the father had not used his power, as he ought to
have done, to restrain and punish them, and therefore it was justly
threatened that the arm should be cut off which was not stretched out
as it should have been.
2. That their lives should be shortened. He was himself an old man; but
instead of using the wisdom, gravity, experience, and authority of his
age, for the service of God and the support of religion, he had
suffered the infirmities of age to make him more cool and remiss in his
duty, and therefore it is here threatened that none of his posterity
should live to be old,
1 Samuel 2:31,32.
It is twice spoken: "There shall not be an old man in thy house for
ever;" and again
(1 Samuel 2:33),
"All the increase of thy house, from generation to generation,
shall die in the flower of their age, when they are in the midst
of the years of their service," so that though the family should not be
extinct, yet it should never be considerable, nor should any member of
it come to be eminent in his day. Bishop Patrick relates, out of some
of the Jewish writers, that long after this, there being a family in
Jerusalem none of which commonly lived above eighteen years, upon
search it was found that they descended from the house of Eli, on which
this sentence was passed.
3. That all their comforts should be embittered.
(1.) The comfort they had in the sanctuary, in its wealth and
prosperity: Thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation. This was
fulfilled in the Philistines' invasions and the mischiefs they did to
Israel, by which the country was impoverished
(1 Samuel 13:19),
and no doubt the priests' incomes were thereby very much impaired. The
captivity of the ark was such an act of hostility committed upon God's
habitation as broke Eli's heart. As it is a blessing to a family to see
peace upon Israel
so the contrary is a sore judgment upon a family, especially a family
(2.) The comfort of their children: "The man of thine whom I shall
not cut off by an untimely death shall live to be a blot and burden
to the family, a scandal and vexation to his relations; he shall be to
consume thy eyes and grieve thy heart, for his
foolishness or his sickliness, his wickedness or his poverty." Grief
for a dead child is great, but for a bad child often greater.
4. That their substance should be wasted and they should be reduced to
(1 Samuel 2:36):
"He that is left alive in thy house shall have little joy
of his life, for want of a livelihood; he shall come and crouch to the
succeeding family for a subsistence."
(1.) He shall beg for the smallest alms--a piece of silver (and
the word signifies the least piece) and a morsel of
bread. See how this answered the sin. Eli's sons must have the best
pieces of flesh, but their sons will be glad of a morsel of
bread. Note, Want is the just punishment of wantonness. Those who
could not be content without dainties and varieties are brought, they
or theirs, to want necessaries, and the Lord is righteous in thus
(2.) He shall beg for the meanest office: Put me into somewhat
belonging to the priesthood (as it is in the original); make me
as one of the hired servants, the fittest place for a prodigal.
Plenty and power are forfeited when they are abused. They should not be
able to pretend to any good preferment, not to any place at the altar,
but should petition for some poor employment, be the work ever so hard
and the wages ever so small, so they might but get bread. This, it is
probable, was fully accomplished when Abiathar, who was of Eli's race,
was deposed by Solomon for treason, and he and his turned out of office
in the temple
(1 Kings 2:26,27),
by which it is easy to think his posterity were reduced to the
extremities here described.
5. That God would shortly begin to execute these judgments in the death
of Hophni and Phinehas, the sad tidings of which Eli himself should
live to hear: This shall be a sign to thee,
1 Samuel 2:34.
When thou hearest it, say, "Now the word of God begins to operate; here
is one threatening fulfilled, from which I infer that all the rest will
be fulfilled in their order." Hophni and Phinehas had many a time
sinned together, and it is here foretold that they should die together
both in one day. Bind these tares in a bundle for the fire. This was
1 Samuel 4:11.
VI. In the midst of all these threatenings against the house of Eli,
here is mercy promised to Israel
(1 Samuel 2:35):
I will raise me up a faithful priest.
1. This was fulfilled in Zadoc, of the family of Eleazar, who came into
Abiathar's place in the beginning of Solomon's reign, and was faithful
to his trust; and the high priests were of his posterity as long as the
Levitical priesthood continued. Note, The wickedness of ministers,
though it destroy themselves, yet it shall not destroy the ministry.
How bad soever the officers are, the office shall continue always to
the end of the world. If some betray their trust, yet others shall be
raised up that will be true to it. God's work shall never fall to the
ground for want of hands to carry it on. The high priest is here said
to walk before God's anointed (that is, David and his seed)
because he wore the breast-plate of judgment, which he was to consult,
not in common cases, but for the king, in the affairs of state. Note,
Notwithstanding the degeneracy we see and lament in many families, God
will secure to himself a succession. If some grow worse than their
ancestors, others, to balance that, shall grow better.
2. It has its full accomplishment in the priesthood of Christ, that
merciful and faithful high priest whom God raised up when the Levitical
priesthood was thrown off, who in all things did his father's mind, and
for whom God will build a sure house, build it on a rock, so that the
gates of hell cannot prevail against it.