c. Dedication of Samuel (1:20–28)
20 A year later, 111
Hannah conceived and bore a son; and she called his name Samuel, because (she said) “From the Lord I have requested him.” 112
21 And her husband Elkanah and all his house went up to carry out the yearly sacrifice and his vow 113 to the Lord.
22 But Hannah did not go up,
for she had said to her husband,
“[Not] until the child is weaned and I bring him
and he appears 114 before the Lord
and stays there for ever.” 115
23 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her,
“Do what is good in your eyes!
Stay until you wean him!
Only 116 may the Lord establish his word!”
And the wife stayed and nursed her son until she weaned him;
24 she brought him up with her, when she had weaned him 117 ,
with three younglings 118
and one ephah of flour 119
and a jar of wine
and brought him to the House of the Lord in Shiloh.
And the boy was young 120 .
25 And the younglings were slaughtered and the boy was brought to Eli. 121
26 And she said,
“Pardon me, my lord!
As your soul lives, my lord,
I am the woman who stood here with you
to pray to the Lord.
27 For this boy I prayed!
And the Lord granted me the request I had made of him.
28 And I also entrust him to the Lord all his life, 122
since 123 he was entrusted to the Lord (all his life)!”
And they worshipped the Lord there.
20 Here begins the third section (EVENT 2), as indicated by wayhî (see also vv. 1 and 4). Their “knowing” (v. 19) eventually produced happy results — conception and birth. In the series of three wayqtl, that is, “and she conceived,” “and she bore,” and “and she called,” the second one (“and she bore”) is a direct sequel to the first, forming a word pair, “conceived and bore”; the MT punctuation sets a pause (atnaḥ) after a son. In such a construction, emphasis is given on the final action “she called”; see “Introduction.” In this case, the mother named the child, as with the cases of Ichabod (1 Sam. 4:21) and Solomon (2 Sam. 12:24).
The name Samuel and the narrator’s reason, that is, because (she said) from the Lord I have requested him, do not match etymologically, for it is impossible to explain the etymology of the name Samuel (šemû’ēl) as being from the root *š’l (“to ask, request”) and thus to mean something like šā’ûl mē’ēl “Asked-of-God” (Qimhi). As S. R. Driver 124 notes, the association of the two is probably meant to be conveyed by assonance, not by etymology.
The name Samuel itself has been explained etymologically in various ways: (1) *šemû‘ă’ēl “Heard-of-God”; (2) *šemē’ēl, “He-who-is-from-God”; (3) *šimuhū-’il-, “His-name-is-El” (McCarter, p. 62); (4) šemû’ēl “Name-of-God” (Gesenius, Driver). 125 But the last view is most natural and does not require emendation. R. P. Gordon accepts the last view and translates “Name of El” or “El is exalted,” though he takes El as a divine name “in vogue in pre-Israelite Canaan.” 126 Mettinger explains that the name “Samuel” contains a reference to the hypostatized name of YHWH-EL. 127 Another possible way to explain its etymology is “The Name is God,” like the royal names in the First Dynasty of Babylon: Sumu-la-ilu “The Name is verily God” and Sumu-Abu “The Name is Father” (cf. Eliab in 1 Sam. 16:6). 128
However, the context has something to do with the meaning of the name, even if not etymologically. One might surmise that Samuel, the “child” (lit., “seed of men”; v. 11 and fn.) whom God gave Hannah as the requested gift, would bear the name, that is, the essence, of God, who gave Samuel. Though she conceived by her human husband Elkanah (v. 19), not by Yahweh, Samuel was given to the childless woman Hannah by God’s grace. 129 Hence, the name Samuel (“name” or “offspring” 130 of God) would signify the God-given child. 131 Though it is often said that the name Samuel displays archaic features and may already have been an ancient name in the time when the present story is set, there is no evidence for McCarter’s claim that “Samuel’s birth narrative has absorbed elements from another account describing Saul’s birth.” 132
22 This year Hannah decided not to accompany Elkanah to Shiloh. She preferred to wait until the time came for her to present Samuel to God. The expression [Not] until (i.e., “I will not go until …”) is a case of aposiopesis, the device of suddenly breaking off in the middle of a sentence as if unwilling to continue. 133 McCarter explains this as “an elliptical expression with ‘ad” which is “unusual but not unexampled elsewhere,” and he cites Judg. 16:2 as another example. A similar case is attested in ‘ad-bêt lāḥem (“ (up) to Bethlehem”) in 1 Sam. 20:28, where some movement verb is to be understood: thus, [to go] to Bethlehem. Compare lārûṣ bêt-leḥem ‘îrô “in order to run to Bethlehem his city” (v. 6). An aposiopesis is also attested in 2 Sam. 13:16, where no particle ‘ad appears. See also Ps. 6:4.
A child might not be weaned until three or four years old (2 Macc. 7:27); breastfeeding for three years is mentioned in the Egyptian “Instruction of Any.” 134 As for appears before the Lord, R. P. Gordon notes that the text may have originally read, “that we (or possibly ‘he’) may see the face of the Lord,” as it was apparently a very early scribal practice to de-anthropomorphize phrases like this that were originally acceptable. 135 On the phrase for ever, see above (v. 11).
23 In Num. 30:13 it is the husband’s responsibility to decide whether he should “confirm” his wife’s oath or “annul” it; here it is the husband who wants the vow to be confirmed. It should be noted that when God is the subject of the verb “to establish,” its object is usually either his word or promise or the words of his prophets: for example, God is to fulfill his promise (Deut. 9:5; 2 Sam. 7:25; etc). The only two passages where hēqîm with God as subject and human dābār occur are “may the LORD confirm your words which you have prophesied” (Jer. 28:6) — in Jeremiah’s ironical word against Hananiah — and Isa. 44:26. 136
For his word, NEB translates “your vow,” since the MT reading appears to be strange, considering that God has already fulfilled Hannah’s wish. Hence, McCarter reads it as “what you have said” (lit., “that which goes forth from your mouth”), following LXX (to ekselthon ek tou stomatos sou) and 4QSama (hywṣ’ mpyk). However, what Elkanah is saying is that his wife may do whatever she thinks best, as long as the Lord does his own will (lit., “his word”). Here word refers to the will of God in general rather than a specific divine promise to her. Birch sees here the beginning of “the story of God’s Word working through Samuel in Israel”; see 15:11. 137 The particle ’ak (only) functions here restrictively. Hence, McCarter’s comment, “as yet there has been no word from Yahweh,” is not appropriate in this context.
The Hebrew phrase pārîm šelōšāh (MT) is normally translated as “three bulls” (JPS; also Caquot and de Robert) or emended to mean “a three-year-old bull” (NRSV; NASB; NIV). Since three bulls seem to be too much for the occasion of dedicating a little boy, almost all scholars, following LXX, 4QSama, and the Peshitta, accept “a three-year-old bull.” R. P. Gordon thinks, “As in Genesis 15:9, it is a question of maturity and, therefore, of cultic acceptability.” 139
However, why should the MT be considered problematic? C. Meyer lists three reasons: (1) the word order, (2) the inconsistency with the mention in v. 25 of a single animal, and (3) its economic extremity, that is, the representation of “a sacrificial element disproportionately larger and more costly than the other two items.” 140
The word order should be no problem, for countable items in a list are often followed by numerals, sometimes as opposed to measured items. Compare this list
and 1 ephah of flour
and “jar” of wine
with 1 Sam. 16:20:
An “ass” 141 of bread
and “skin” of wine
and kid of she-goats 1
These examples are not formal lists, but in one of the ancient Near Eastern formal list-types, the lines consist of the type of item followed by the numeral. 142 See also 1 Sam. 6:17; 2 Sam. 10:6; cf. 1 Sam. 25:18; 2 Sam. 6:19; 10:18 for lists.
As for the next objection, a singular noun is often used collectively.
For “economic extremity,” at first glance, three animals does seem disproportionate. However, not only the animal offering but also the flour offering is substantial; see below. It is reasonable to think that Hannah made a generous sacrifice to the Lord for the lifelong consecration of her son, who may have been three years old by then (see above, v. 22). As R. L. Hubbard, Jr. personally suggested, the gift might seek to offset the added expenses of Samuel’s joining the staff. Or, as Walters suggests, three animals were presented, “one for each person,” as in 1 Sam. 10:3, “where three men on a pilgrimage to Bethel have three kids with them.” 143
Moreover the term pārîm probably means “younglings.” As Judg. 6:25 par-haššôr (lit., “par of the bull”) suggests, pār originally meant “young (one)” (adj./n.), like na‘ar in 1 Sam. 2:13, and refers to any kind of young animal (cf. Akk. parru “lamb, young sheep”). 144 In fact, in Ugaritic, the terms pr and prt in KTU 1.86:3–4 probably mean “young bull” and “heifer,” respectively. 145 So, the animals which Hannah brought to Shiloh were not necessarily adult “bulls,” but the younglings of cows or sheep; see also on calves (1 Sam. 8:16). Then, in the present list-like expression, it may be that the term pārîm is used with an older meaning “young sheep”; see another list-like expression in 1 Sam. 16:20.
One ephah of flour is a tenth of a homer, probably about 3/5 bushel (about 22 liters). The flour represents a substantial offering. The priestly regulations regarding accompanying grain offerings specify 1/10 ephah for each lamb sacrificed (Lev. 14:10; 14:21; Num. 15:4; 28:4–9, 13; Lev. 23:13 states 2/10 ephah), 2/10 for each ram (Num. 15:6; 28:20, 28), and 3/10 for each bull (Num. 15:9; 28:12, 20, 28). So with three bulls, one would expect an offering of 9/10 ephah, just a little less than what Hannah offered. Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, was presumably a well-to-do person who was capable of a substantial offering on the special occasion of the life-long dedication of the first son of his beloved first wife.
The word for “jar,” which is also translated as “skin,” may refer to a large vessel for holding wine, oil, grain, etc. The nbl-jar could be quite large, holding a bath, a measure apparently equal to an ephah. For “a skin” (n’d), see 1 Sam. 16:20. Against Meyers, nothing is strange or “aberrant” in offering only two items of agricultural products, grain and grapes without oil, for bread and wine were the basic food-and-drink in ancient Canaan. 146
The boy was young or “the child was young” (NASB; RSV). McCarter considers the phrase whn‘r n‘r as “unintelligible” and translates the MT as “and the child was a child (?).” Thenius’s proposal in 1842 to posit a haplography in the MT, based on LXX’s longer text, now appears to be supported by 4QSama and is followed by many scholars (e.g., R. P. Gordon). But the MT makes sense. For one thing, the first word, the noun na‘ar, can mean “servant, steward” (1 Sam. 9:3; 2 Sam. 9:9; 13:17; 16:1; 19:18) as well as “boy, child.” The second word is most naturally the adjective “young” as in 1 Sam. 2:13, 15, 17, 18. 147
Therefore, the phrase “the na‘ar was young” is perfectly legitimate, since the noun na‘ar could refer to an older person such as Ziba, Saul’s na‘ar, who had fifteen sons (2 Sam. 19:17). Thus, the term na‘ar indicates someone, of whatever age, who was under the authority of another person and not free, legally, to act as an independent individual. 148 Furthermore, the clause is a key expression, denoting “the boy” Samuel’s early stage of growth; in other words, Samuel began his dedicated life in his extreme youth. The reference to the “boy” anticipates those in 1 Sam. 2:11, 18, 21, 26, thus connecting two narrative sections interrupted by the insertion of Hannah’s prayer (1 Sam. 2:1–10); see the commentary on 9:3.
25 The verbs were slaughtered and was brought are impersonal passives, as they are often in the context of slaughtering animals: for example, Lev. 1:11; 3:2, 8, 13; etc. — in this flow of discourse the agent is defocused, that is, the emphasis is on what was done, rather than on who did it. In the narrative discourse this is transitional and a little “off-the-story-line.” 149
As for the younglings, the singular adjective with a definite article (happār; lit., “the young [one]”) is used as a collective (see above 1 Sam. 1:24).
26–27 With And she said, the spotlight goes back to the main actor. Hannah invokes an oath to remind Eli of who she was — the woman he saw praying desperately to God for a son. For the oath formula, As your soul lives, my lord, see 1 Sam. 14:39 (“as the Lord lives”). On pray to, see on 1 Sam. 1:10; compare “pray before” in 1 Sam. 1:12. And the Lord granted me the request I had made of him is almost verbatim the repetition of Eli’s blessing in 1 Sam. 1:17. Joyously, Hannah points to this boy as the answer to that prayer.
28 I also entrust … to … : The verb (Hi. pf. 1 c.s) is a performative perfect: that is, by uttering these words Hannah performed the act of dedication; see on 17:10. Hannah entrusts her requested son to the Lord, giving him back to the Giver in a true act of worship.
Walters 150 translates “was asked for/by YHWH,” taking the preposition le as polysemous, that is, as having multiple meanings. According to him, the boy was “asked for YHWH” by Hannah as well as “asked by YHWH”; Samuel was “asked — by both Hannah and YHWH — and both requests are now satisfied.” However, note that the prepositions connected with the verbal root *š’l are different:
The semantic structure of these two stems may be explained as follows:
Qal = A requests X (to B and expects response) from B
Hi. = A causes X to be requested to B = A entrusted X to B.
Thus, in vv. 27–28 there is certainly a wordplay on the root *š’l. Hannah here says, I entrust (*š’l: Hi.) Samuel to the Lord, for the Lord granted her the request she “requested from” (*š’l: Qal + min) him.
The form šā’ūl (was entrusted 151 ) in this verse is exactly the same as the name Saul. There is also a formal similarity between the introductory verse of this story (1:1) and that of the tale of the lost asses of Kish, Saul’s father (9:1). Hence, some suspect that the narrative about Samuel’s birth originally concerned Saul. 152 Walters holds that while it is possible that the wordplay in vv. 27–28 was originally connected with Saul, in the present context it was not a king, but a prophet, who was “asked” by God. 153 If so, Gordon is right: “the logic of the section that culminates in 1:28 would require that Saul spent his youth in the service of the Shiloh sanctuary.” 154 Such an association between Saul and Shiloh cannot be supported by the biblical text. He aptly notes that many scholars assume the original existence of a birth narrative of Saul here “when no one in biblical antiquity seems to have thought to devise one for David.” 155 This kind of similarity does not necessarily support literary interdependence. The verbal form certainly reminds readers of the person Saul, but the name seems to be a common NW Semitic name. 156
The verbal phrase wayyištaḥû (they worshipped) is traditionally taken as singular (so KJV; NASB; NIV; JPS note). 157 If this is so, “[Elkanah] worshipped” will be followed by 1 Sam. 2:11 (“And Elkanah went back to Ramah, to his house”), just interrupted by Hannah’s “prayer.” Walters takes Samuel as the subject and translates: “he bowed low there to YHWH,” though he agrees that Elkanah was probably with Hannah “all along” since “the mother and the child would probably not travel alone.” 158 However, the plural subjects are expected for this act of worshipping from the context (so “they …” in JPS; RSV; NEB; REB), for not only Elkanah (see also 1 Sam. 2:11) but also Hannah must have worshipped the Lord. As Hannah and Samuel and Elkanah (1 Sam. 2:11) were all there and would have worshipped, we would expect a plural verb. Also, from a discourse-grammatical point of view, a 3 m.pl. form they worshipped would certainly serve as transitional in the narrative, with agent defocusing, that is, with emphasis on what was done rather than who did it, as in v. 25 (also wayyištaḥăwû 3 m.pl. in 1:19). The term wayyištaḥû then might possibly be explained as a shortened form of the original 3 m.pl., with the accent on the penultimate syllable:
wayyištáḥwû → wayyištáḥūû → wayyištáḥû
This variant form could be another example of “phonetic spellings,” which the MT of Samuel occasionally exhibits and preserves; see “Introduction” (Section II, B, 4).
In this initial chapter of the books of Samuel, the future mother of the kingmaker, Samuel, is introduced. The reader learns who she was, why and how she requested a son from the Lord, and how, after the request was granted her, she entrusted him to the Lord. Like Hannah, believers too are called to approach God through prayer and worship, to ask him to grant his gift to us, and to dedicate that gift to his service. God certainly guides the life of worship according to his plan and purpose. Though the world becomes darker and darker, God in Christ is surely still working through the lives of individuals who fear and honor him.
111 Lit., “at the circuits of the days”; cf. Ug. nqpt “year(s)” (//šnt); see KTU 1.23:66–67. More accurately it refers to a full cycle of the calendar.
115 Unlike MT and LXX, 4QSama has an additional line (see Josephus, Ant. v. 10, 3). McCarter takes the shorter text in MT and LXX as having lost the original phrase “and I will dedicate him as a Nazirite forever,” while he takes the phrase “all the days of his life” in 4QSama as secondary (p. 56). However, expansion is typical of 4QSama, so MT is preferred as the more original.
116 This is a clause “adverb” with emphatic meaning; see Andersen, p. 177.
118 par is often explained as ben-bāqār, lit., “son of cattle” (Exod. 29:1; Lev. 4:3; Num. 7:15; Ezek. 43:19; 2 Chr. 13:9; etc), though the expression does not necessarily refer to a youngling; see R. Péter, “pr et šwr: Note de Lexicographie hébraïque,” VT 25 (1975) 491–92.
119 The MT reading should be retained as lectio difficilior, while McCarter, who takes MT as “a simple corruption,” has to delete “one” as an expansion. Ephah (’yph) is an Egyptian loanword; see Muchiki, Egyptian Proper Names and Loanwords, pp. 239–40. For flour, see Meyers, “An Ethnoarchaeological Analysis of Hannah’s Sacrifice,” in Pomegranates and Golden Bells, p. 84, referring to O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1987), pp. 88–90; also in 1 Sam. 28:24; 2 Sam. 17:28; see RlA 8 (1993) 22–31 on “Mehl”: “[in Sumero-Akkadian religious practice].”
120 According to McCarter, all witnesses “point to a reading similar to that of the Vorlage of LXX”: “and the boy was with them. And they came before the Lord, and his father killed the sacrifice as he did year by year before the Lord, and she brought the boy…” (translation by R. P. Gordon, p. 78). But he thinks that “this long, repetitious text is manifestly a conflation of two shorter variants”; see Walters, “Hannah and Anna,” pp. 403–4 for detailed discussion. Walters holds that the MT is “deliberate” since “the arguments of both text criticism and narrative coherence are against this suggestion”; he sees in the expression “paronomasia in the noun clause” and translates “lad though he was,” since it is a disjunctive clause (p. 404).
121 LXX and probably also 4QSama have a long addition; see S. Pisano, Additions or Omissions in the Books of Samuel: The Significant Pluses and Minuses in the Massoretic, LXX and Qumran Texts (OBO 57; Freiburg: Universitätsverlag, 1984), pp. 157–63.
123 ’ăšer = ka’ăšer; see BDB, p. 83, 8c.
125 See Driver, pp. 16–19. Note in Phoenician Sidon the goddess Ashtart had an epithet “Name of Baal” (see CS, II, p. 183).
128 See C. H. Gordon, “Eblaitica,” Eblaitica: Essays on the Ebla Archives and Eblaite Language 1 (1987) 25–26. Also S. C. Layton, Archaic Features of Canaanite Personal Names in the Hebrew Bible (HSS 47; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990), pp. 78–87.
129 On the theological issue of “childlessness,” see K. T. Magnuson in NDBT, pp. 404–7.
130 Note that Akkadian šumu sometimes means “offspring” and is paired with aplu “heir” (CH, Epilogue); see W. G. E. Watson, “Some Additional Word Pairs,” in Ascribe to the Lord: Biblical and Other Studies in Memory of Peter C. Craigie, ed. L. Eslinger and G. Taylor (JSOTSS 67; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1988), pp. 192–93. It appears in personal names such as Šumumliṣi “May-a-Son-Come-Out”; see CAD, Š/iii, p. 295.
131 See 1 Sam. 2:20 (“grant… offspring”) for a similar expression. Note also dSin nādin NUMUN nišī rapšāti (CAD, Z, p. 93). “Sin gives numerous ‘seeds of men’ ” (?); in another text, it is said, “without you (Sin) the childless woman cannot conceive (from) semen and become pregnant” (CAD, Z, p. 93). In Mesopotamia the god Sin was believed to be the deity who gave offspring to a childless woman. On the word pair “seed” and “name” in the ancient Near East, see on 1 Sam. 24:22.
132 McCarter, p. 62. See also on vv. 27–28 below.
133 GKC, §167a defines aposiopesis as “the concealment or suppression of entire sentences or clauses, which are of themselves necessary to complete the sense, and therefore must be supplied from the context.”
134 See CS, I, p. 113.
138 G. L. Archer, “Reassessment of the Value of the Septuagint of 1 Samuel for Textual Emendation, in the Light of the Qumran Fragments,” in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), pp. 223–40; McCarter, p. 56.
139 On “legal maturity for sacrifice,” see E. A. Speiser, “The Nuzi Tablets Solve a Puzzle in the Books of Samuel,” BASOR 72 (1938) 15–17; McCarter, p. 63.
141 Here, the term “ass” is a dry measure, see below on 1 Sam. 16:20.
142 See D. T. Tsumura, “List and Narrative in I Samuel 6,17–18a in the Light of Ugaritic Economic Texts,” ZAW (2001) 353–69.
143 Walters, “Hannah and Anna,” p. 401; see also on v. 28 below.
145 Pardee, in CS, I, p. 293, n. 2.
146 Cf. Meyers, “An Ethnoarchaeological Analysis of Hannah’s Sacrifice,” in Pomegranates and Golden Bells, p. 85. In Ugaritic, lḥm and yn are the basic food and drink; see KTU 1.23:6; Tsumura, The Ugaritic Drama of the Good Gods, pp. 28–29.
147 See D. T. Tsumura, “Poetic Nature of the Hebrew Narrative Prose in I Samuel 2:12–17,” in Verse in Ancient Near Eastern Prose, ed. J. C. de Moor and W. G. E. Watson (AOAT 42; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1993), pp. 293–304 and below. Caquot and de Robert take the second term as a denominative verb and translate the clause as “the boy became servant” (p. 34).
149 See also 1 Sam. 2:20. R. E. Longacre uses “goal oriented” in contrast with “agent oriented”; see “Building for the Worship of God: Exodus 25:1–30:10,” in Discourse Analysis of Biblical Literature: What It Is and What It Offers (SBL Semeia Studies; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), p. 23; see Endo, The Verbal System of Classical Hebrew in the Joseph Story, p. 247. See also on 2 Sam. 13:32.
151 Qal, pass. ptc., here functioning as the participle of Hi. “to entrust… to.” For a case that Qal, ptc. functions as the participle of Pi. stem, see dōbēr for *dbr (Pi) “to speak.” Note that a PN š’l appears on several Hebrew seals; see N. Avigad and B. Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1997), nos. 56, 383, 1175. They explain the name to be related to the meaning, “lent to (God).”
152 McCarter, pp. 63, 65–66; M. Brettler, “The Composition of 1 Samuel 1–2,” JBL 116 (1997) 602; see also D. G. Schley, Shiloh: A Biblical City in Tradition and History (JSOTSS 63; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989), pp. 152–53; J. S. Ackerman, “Who Can Stand Before YHWH, This Holy God? A Reading of 1 Samuel 1–15,” Prooftexts 11 (1991) 3–4.
156 E.g., F. Gröndahl, PTU, p. 191.
157 Based on 4QSama, McCarter translated “Then she left him there and worshipped Yahweh” (p. 50). Also “She left him there for the Lord” (NRSV).