Lesson 21: 1 Samuel 2-3, 8
One can reasonably argue that the book of Judges shows us the decline of Israel to a situation in which they have to have a king to lead them, and that the treatment of women that we see in Judges is a sign of that decline. One can also argue that Ruth is a response to that theme in Judges. How does the story of Hannah fit into that theme?
Verses 1-10: Note the parts of this song: thanksgiving (1-2), a warning to the arrogant (3), the reversal of fortune (the high are brought down, the low are exaltedâ€”4-8), and an expression of confidence (9-10). (The song is, roughly, chiastic.) What is the overall theme of the poem? How does this song fit Hannah’s situation? How might it also be important to us? Are there parts that seem not to be relevant to Hannah’s situation? If so, what do you make of that?
Verse 1: Most commentators suggest that the metaphor, “mine horn is exalted in the Lord,” is that of a proud animal carrying its head high? (Compare Psalm 92:10 and 89:18.) Does that make sense to you? Do you have an alternative interpretation?
Verse 3: Against what does the Lord warn here? How does the poem explain that warning?
Verses 4-5: In verse 4 and the first half of 5, we have examples of God knowing how to weigh actions and respond. In both cases, the strong become weak and the weak become strong. However at the end of verse 5, the order is reversed: the weak become strong and the strong become weak. Can you see any reason for that change?
Verse 5: This verse clearly applies to Hannah’s situation, but why does her song also include so many things that do not apply to it?
Verse 6: Some doubt that this verse refers to actual death and resurrection. Why might they doubt? What alternative understanding is possible?
Verse 10: How do you explain the reference to a king at the end of this verse when Israel didn’t have a king at this time?
Verse 11: Notice the simplicity with which the narrator tells how Hannah kept her promise. Notice, too, the contrast of this verse, with the song that came immediately before it. What is the effect of that difference?
Verses 12-17: Why do we have so much detail about the sins of Eli’s sons? Compare verses 13-15 to Leviticus 7:23-36 and 17:6, and Deuteronomy 18:3. What specific sin do we see here? At the end of verse 14 we read, “So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither,” after a description of how the priest in Shiloh chose meat for the priests. What is the point of that clause?
Verse 18: Once again, we have one short verse describing Samuel’s service, in contrast to the many verses that describe the “service” of Hophni and Phinehas. Once again, that contrast lends emphasis to this verse. The literary structure here is interesting and, I think, informative: Verses 1-10 are parallel to verses 12-17, and verse 11 is parallel to verse 18. It’s as if the writer is saying: Hannah praisedâ€”and Samuel served; Eli’s sons blasphemedâ€”and Samuel served. What is the effect of that parallel? What does it say to us?
Verse 23: What sin do Eli’s sons commit? Why is it such a serious sin. (Most traditional Jewish commentators have found the sin so repugnant that, rather than believing that the verse means what it says, they have assumed that it means something else, such as that, somehow, the sons delayed the women who worked in the temple.)
Verse 27: Who is this “man of God”? Is he a prophet? If he is, why do we not know his name? If he is not, how do we explain what he says to Eli? What is the status and place of the prophets during the time of the Judges?
Verse 29: How has Eli honored his sons more than the Lord? How might we do that?
Verse 30: Does this verse show us the Lord changing his mind? If so, how do you explain that. If not, why not?
Verse 1: The word translated “precious” could also be translated “rare.” What are the different meanings that “rare” might have in this context? Why might the word of the Lord have been rare in those days? Why is important to the story we are reading for us to know that the word of the Lord was rare then?
Verses 2-4: Why might Samuel have been sleeping near the ark? In addition to the practical reasons for doing so, is there any symbolic significance to the fact that he was? (Where was the ark kept?)
Samuel’s answer to the Lord means “Behold, here I am,” or even, “See me here.” In Arabic, one answers a call even today with something similarâ€””Ready”â€”and that is part of the import of this response. In scriptures we find this phrase commonly used when prophets respond to a call. For other examples of the phrase, see verse eleven of this chapter, Genesis 22:1; 27:1 and 18; 31:11; and 46:2; Exodus 3:4; Isaiah 6:8; and 2 Nephi 16:8. We also see it in Moses 4:1 and Abraham 3:27, in the calling of the Savior and in Satan’s rebellion. Compare what happens here to what happens in Genesis 22, where we see the same kind of language in another case, and Genesis 3:9-10 and Exodus 20:18-21, where we see cases in which people don’t respond to a call from the Lord in this way. What might it tell us that Samuel and other prophets respond this way? In other words, what kinds of things are implied by the answer, “Here I am” or “Behold me here”? Do our covenants imply that this should be our response to the Lord’s call? Is everything we are asked to do by someone with Church authority a call from the Lord? If not, how do we decide what is and what isn’t? Might a person reasonable accept every call extended even if she doesn’t believe that every call is a call from the Lord? Why?
Why does the Lord call Samuel over and over? Why not just tell him who it is that calls?
Verse 11: What is the “thing” that the Lord is going to do? Is he referring to the capture of the ark, or to that and all of the events surrounding that capture, the defeat of Israel, the death of Eli and his sons, etc?
Verse 13: The Lord says that Eli didn’t restrain (literally “rebuke”) his sons, but we saw him doing so in 1 Samuel 2:23-25. How do you explain this seeming contradiction?
Verse 14: Does this verse mean that there could be no way of expiating Eli and his family? What way might there be?
Samuel was judge of the people. Was he also a prophet? How would you justify the answer you give?
Compare chapters 7 and 8. What does chapter 7 show Israel doing? What are they asking for? What is Israel doing in eight? What are they asking for? What is the narrator trying to show with this contrast? Compare Israel’s attitudes in these two chapters with Hannah’s attitude in her song. What are the parallels? The differences?
Verse 1: Does Samuel step down as judge or appoint his sons as assistants?
Verses 3-5: Is the elders’ request reasonable? What reasons do they give for their need of a king? (See also verse 20.)
Verse 6: Why is Samuel displeased?
Verse 7: How is the request for a king a rejection of God? Is there anything parallel in our own lives or circumstances?
Verses 10-18: What are the problems with having a king?
Verse 20: Is this an afterthought or is it one of the people’s sincere reasons for wanting a king? If the latter, what is wrong with the request?