The Word Made Fresh
1Then Hannah sang:
“My heart gives praise and thanks to the LORD;
I’m stronger now because of God.
My enemies are put down low
Because the LORD has raised me up.
2There is no one else like the LORD,
No one besides you, O my God;
No other Rock comes close to you.
3So, you’ve no reason to exult,
Let arrogance be gone from you.
The LORD our God knows everything,
And everything you do is seen.
4The weapons of the strong are naught,
And strength is given to the weak.
5Those who were full must beg for bread;
But hungry ones are victory fed.
The barren woman now has seven,
And she with many children is quiet.
6It is the LORD who governs life;
Brings some to the grave, then raises up.
7The LORD brings poverty and wealth,
And puts some down while others rise.
8God lifts the poor up from the dirt;
Lifts the needy from the ashes,
Sits them down beside the prince,
And lets them have a place of honor.
God has made the earth’s foundations,
Firmly set the earth thereon.
9God will guard the path of the faithful,
And keep the evil ones in darkness –
Mere human strength cannot hope to win.
10The enemies of the LORD will flee
From the thunder of the LORD in heaven.
The LORD will judge everyone on earth.
The LORD will grant the king success,
And give the anointed one great strength.”
11Then Elkanah and his family returned to Ramah, but the boy stayed to serve the LORD under the priest Eli.
12Now, Eli’s sons were worthless men who did not respect the LORD. 13It was the normal practice that whenever someone brought a sacrifice to the LORD, when the meat was boiled the priest’s assistant would come with a three-pronged fork, 14thrust it into the vessel the meat was boiling in, and give to the priest whatever was on the fork. This was the regular practice for all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. But under Eli’s sons, the servant would say to the one bringing the sacrifice, “Give me some of the meat for the priest to roast. He won’t accept boiled meat from you, only raw meat.” 16And if the man said, “Burn the fat first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would threaten him and say, “Give it to me now, or I’ll take it by force.” 17The behavior of Eli’s young sons was disgraceful to the LORD because they treated the LORD’s offerings so disrespectfully.
18Samuel was a boy then and went about his duties in the temple wearing a linen apron. 19His mother used to bring him linen clothes which she had made for him when she and Elkanah came to offer sacrifices each year. 20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife Hannah, saying, “May the LORD reward you and Hannah with children because of this gift she has made to the LORD.” Then they would return home.
21The LORD did reward Hannah. She gave birth to three more sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel grew up in the LORD’s presence.
22Eli was an old man when he learned what his sons were doing to Israel, and even heard that they violated the women who served at the entrance to the meeting tent. 23He confronted his sons. “Why do you do such things? I am hearing from all these people about the evil things you do. 24It is not good, the things the people of the LORD are saying. 25If one person injures another, someone can ask the LORD to forgive the sinner. But if you sin against the LORD, who can plead your case?” But they wouldn’t listen to their father and the LORD had already decided to put them to death.
26Meanwhile, Samuel was growing up, and growing in favor with the LORD and with the people.
27Then one day a man of God came to Eli and said, “The LORD says, ‘I made myself known to your ancestor’s family in Egypt when they were Pharaoh’s slaves. 28I picked him from among all the Israelites to be my priest, to serve at my altar and offer incense and wear the sacred clothes. I gave his family everything the people of Israel offered by fire. 29Why do you covet the sacrifices and offerings I commanded my people to bring? Why do you honor your sons more than you honor me, letting them get fat on the best parts of every animal my people Israel bring to me?’ 30So, the LORD God of Israel says, ‘I promised that your family, after the family of your ancestor, should attend my altar forever.’ But now the LORD says, ‘How can I continue this? I will honor those who honor me, but those who despise me I will despise. 31So now the time is coming when I will negate your strength, and the strength of your ancestor’s family, and no one in your family will live to old age. 32Sadly, you will look greedily on the good things I give Israel, but no one in your family will live very long. 33Only one of you will be allowed to serve at my altar, and that one will weep uncontrollably and grieve deeply, and every member of your family will die violently. 34The fate of your sons Hophni and Phinehas will be proof that what I am saying is true. They will both die on the same day. 35Then I will choose someone to be my priest who will be faithful and true to me. I will give him a strong heritage, and he will always perform his duties faithfully before the one I shall choose. 36Everyone left in your family will come begging him for a single silver coin or a loaf of bread. They will say, Please, let me serve as a priest so that I will have bread to eat.’”
1-10: The prayer of Hannah is often regarded by scholars as the model prayer that influences Mary the mother of Jesus. It is interesting to compare these 10 verses with Luke 1:46-55, the “Magnificat.” Very likely, Mary would have been familiar with the story of Hannah and her prayer. It is a beautiful expression of praise to God who is especially attentive to the poor and the meek, who lifts up the downtrodden and restores the fallen. (Note, however, that verse five contains a bit of a slap at her rival, Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah.)
11-17: We learn now that little Samuel may have been left in a dangerous place. Eli’s sons, who actually administer the daily offerings at the temple in Shiloh, are dishonest thugs who threaten the people and steal large portions of the sacrifices that are brought.
18-21: Meanwhile, Samuel is learning the ropes of life in the temple. He is given priestly garments to wear when he works there. Hannah and Elkanah come annually as they always have, and Hannah brings Samuel clothes she has made. A relationship has developed between them and Eli, and the old priest blesses them. God grants his benediction; Hannah has five more children besides Samuel.
22-26: Eli is aware of his sons’ behavior. Not only do they steal from the offerings, but they have prostituted the women who serve as greeters at the temple. Eli chides them, but they ignore him. The text says God has already decided to do away with them. God will not be mocked unceasingly. Meanwhile, Samuel grows in “stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people,” just like Mary’s son, Jesus (see Luke 2:40).
27-36: An unnamed “man of God” informs Eli of God’s displeasure with him and his sons. The “ancestor” spoken of is Aaron. Eli is told that his sons will die on the same day, and that a faithful priest will be raised up by God who will serve with integrity. That priest, of course, will be Samuel. Eli’s entire family and all his descendants will suffer the consequences of the evil practiced by Hophni and Phinehas.
Those who are downtrodden in this earthly life will be exalted in the life to come. Those of us who are blessed with plenty need to remember that it really doesn’t belong to us but is given to us as God’s way of helping, even rescuing, those who have not.