1 Samuel 1:1: Introducing Elkanah, Father of Samuel

[circa 1171 BC] Verse 1:[1] Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was (1 Chron. 6:27, 34) Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, (Ruth 1:2) an Ephrathite…



[There was one man[2]] That is, a certain man (thus Drusius[3]). Hebrew: and there was, etc. Here, the ו/and does not act as a copula, but only converts the future/imperfect into the perfect (Vatablus).


[Of Ramathaim-zophim (thus the Septuagint, Pagnine,[4] Montanus,[5] Tigurinus[6]), מִן־הָרָמָתַ֛יִם צוֹפִ֖ים[7]] Of Ramatha, of the disciples of the prophets (Jonathan[8]); from the hill of watch-towers (Syriac), or, of reconnaissance (Arabic). From the double Ramah of the Tzophim (Junius[9] and Tremellius[10]), that is, of the inhabitants of the region of Zuph, concerning which see 1 Samuel 9:5 (Junius). But the latter word does not cohere with the former by the syntax of government, but of agreement. Whence it appears that there is an ellipsis here of the word בְּאֶרֶץ, in the land, which is expressed in 1 Samuel 9:5. Now, the same is named the region both of Zuph and of the Zophim: the former of which appears to have been have been the progenitor of the latter (Piscator[11]). From one of the two Ramahs, of the family of the Zophim (Munster[12]). There are those that repeat the preposition מִן/of/from, reading, from Ramathaim, and from the Zophim, that is, the watchmen; that is to say, of the family of the Zophim, that is, of the Prophets (the Hebrews in Vatablus). רָמָתַיִם/Ramathaim is in the dual number. 1. Because there were two Ramahs (Vatablus, Munster, Drusius, Sanchez), one in Benjamin, the other in Ephraim, of which latter here (Sanchez); as if you might translate it, of the other Ramah (Vatablus, similarly Kimchi[13] in Drusius), which was called Ramath Zophim (Vatablus). The plural number is often used by the Hebrews in the place of one particular of those things that the Plural termination includes (Sanchez). Thus, in Genesis 23:6, in our choice sepulchers bury thy dead.[14] In Judges 12:7, he was buried in the cities of Gilead.[15] In 1 Samuel 18:21, in twain thou shalt be my son-in-law, that is, in the one of the twain[16] (Mendoza, Sanchez, Drusius). But, since there were five Ramahs, four in Joshua 15:52;[17] 18:25;[18] 19:29,[19] 36,[20] and a fifth in this place,[21] to which might this dual number here have regard (Malvenda[22])? 2. רָמָתַיִם/ Ramathaim is used (just as in the case of יְרוּשָׁלַיִם/Jerusalaim) because this city was divied into two partes (certain interpreters in Drusius, Malvenda): that is to say, from twofold or bipartite Ramah. But what is Zophim? Response: Most take it appellatively (Malvenda). Some translate it, looking toward; in this manner, of the other of the towns of Ramah, which look toward one another (Vatablus, Drusius). Others: of Ramah of the watchmen; that is, in which watchmen dwell, that is, prophets, or men devoted to the sacred books. The Prophet is called a watchman, Ezekiel 3:17[23] (Malvenda out of the Hebrew, Drusius out of the Chaldean). This city was called Zophim, because it was in a high place: or because there was a tower there, from which widespread places were observed (Menochius).



[Of mount Ephraim[24]] So that it might be distinguished from the other Ramahs (Piscator, Lapide); that is, who was dwelling in the tribe of Ephraim (Vatablus); or, it is referred to the town Ramathaim, which was of mount Ephraim, that is, was situated on mount Ephraim; so that the מִן/from/of in מֵהַר, from mount Ephraim, might be in the place of ב/in/on/at (Hebrews in Vatablus). The Tribe of Ephraim was dwelling in a high and mountainous place (Lapide).


Ramathaim-zophim, called Ramah, verse 19, and here is the dual number Ramathaim, that is, double Ramah, probably because it consisted of two parts, whereof the one might be called the old city, the other the new, both being united into one; and the additional title of Zophim, which signifies watch-towers, or watchmen, may note either the height of its situation, which made it fit for that use; or that the prophets, who are called watchmen, as Ezekiel 3:17, had a school or college there.


Ramathaim-Zophim?

[The son of Zuph,[25] and Ephrathite,[26] בֶן־צ֖וּף אֶפְרָתִֽי׃] The son of Zuph the Ephrathite (Syriac, Arabic, Montanus, Pagnine); they refer it to Zuph; that is to say, which Zuph was also dwelling on mount Ephraim, as also were his ancestors (Hebrews in Vatablus, Drusius). Others: an Ephrathite (Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus, Pagnine, Piscator), so that it might be referred to Elkanah (certain interpreters in Vatablus). But why is he called an Ephrathite? Responses: 1. Not, as in Ruth 1:2, as if he were from Ephratah, that is, Beth-lehem (Piscator, Mendoza). 2. Not appellatively, as Cajetan maintains; that is to say, a man august, wealthy, etc.[27] For the י at the end of אֶפְרָתִי/Ephrathite according to the Hebrews forms patronymic and gentilic names (Mendoza). 3. Not because he derives his lineage from Ephraim; for he was of the tribe of Levi, 1 Chronicles 6:34 (Tirinus[28] out of Sanchez). Neither was he a Ephrathite of his mother, and a Levite of his father, as Jerome maintains, because a son is not able to take his name from his mother, unless perhaps she had been heiress, which did not have any place here (Martyr). 4. But because he was born and raised in the tribe of Ephraim (Sanchez, Tirinus, Serarius, Lyra). He was an Ephrathite, dwelling on mount Ephraim, not of the tribe of Ephraim (Vatablus, similarly Drusius). So also that other Levite, Judges 17:7 (Malvenda). The Levites had been scattered throughout all the tribes, and so they were having their towns in the midst of them, among which was Ramah (Lapide). Ephrathite is taken in this sense, Judges 12:5[29] (Sanchez, Piscator). Thus the Jews are called Medes, Persians, Arabs, etc., in Acts 2, because they were born and raised in those places (Tirinus out of Lapide).


An Ephrathite, that is, one of Bethlehem-judah, Ruth 1:2, to wit, by his birth and habitation, though by his original a Levite. Thus divers Jews by nation are called Medes, Elamites, Cretians, etc., Acts 2:9-11, because they were born and bred there.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִי֩ אִ֙ישׁ אֶחָ֜ד מִן־הָרָמָתַ֛יִם צוֹפִ֖ים מֵהַ֣ר אֶפְרָ֑יִם וּשְׁמ֡וֹ אֶ֠לְקָנָה בֶּן־יְרֹחָ֧ם בֶּן־אֱלִיה֛וּא בֶּן־תֹּ֥חוּ בֶן־צ֖וּף אֶפְרָתִֽי׃


[2] Hebrew: וַיְהִי֩ אִ֙ישׁ אֶחָ֜ד.


[3] John Drusius (1550-1616) was a Protestant scholar; he excelled in Oriental studies, Biblical exegesis, and critical interpretation, as is evident from his Annotationes in Pentateuchum, Josuam, Judices, Ruth, Samuelem, Estheram, Jobum, Coheleth, seu Ecclesiasten, Prophetas Minores, Ecclesiasticum, Tobit, 1 Librum Machabæorum and Notæ Majores in Genesin, Exodum, Leviticum, et Priora 18 Capita Numerorum. He served as Professor of Oriental Languages at Oxford (1572), at Leiden (1577), and at Franeker (1585).


[4] Pagnine (1466-1541) was an Italian Dominican. He was gifted as a Hebraist, exegete, and preacher. He was commissioned by Pope Leo X to produce a new Latin translation of the Scripture.


[5] Benedict Arias Montanus (1527-1598) was a Spanish Benedictine monk. He attended the Council of Trent, and he was heavily involved in the production of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible. Montanus also commented on a number of Biblical books, including Joshua, Judges, Isaiah, the Minor Prophets, and the New Testament.


[6] Leo Jud (1482-1542) was a co-laborer of Ulrich Zwingli during the time of the Swiss Reformation. His translation work might be his most important contribution to the reformation of Zurich. He labored with other divines to produce a vernacular version for the Swiss people, and he produced a Latin version of the Old Testament, usually known as “Tigurinus”, which would be translated, “of Zurich”.


[7] רָמָה/Ramah signifies a height (note the dual ending [ַיִם]); צוֹפִים/zophim, watch-towers or watchmen.


[8] Jonathan ben Uzziel (first century) was one of the great pupils of Hillel. It is a matter of some doubt whether Jonathan ben Uzziel is actually responsible for the translation of this portion of the Chaldean Version. For the most part, Targum Jonathan tends to be more paraphrastic and expansive than Targum Onkelos.


[9] Francis Junius (1545-1602) was a Huguenot divine of great learning. He suffered the varied fortunes of his people; but he had the opportunity to study in Geneva, and he was eventually appointed Professor of Divinity at Leiden (1592). Junius’ De Vera Theologia was massively important in the development of the Dogmatic structure of Reformed Scholasticism. He also labored with Tremellius in the production of their famous Latin Version of the Old Testament. After the death of Tremellius in 1580, Junius produced four corrected editions of their translation and annotations until his death in 1603.


[10] John Immanuel Tremellius (1510-1580) converted from Judaism to Christianity and quickly embraced the principles of the Reformation. He taught Hebrew at Strasburg (1541) and at Cambridge (succeeding Paul Fagius in 1549), and served as Professor of Old Testament at Heidelberg (1561).


[11] John Piscator (1546-1626) was a learned Protestant divine. He held the position of Professor of Divinity at Herborn (1584). His German version was the first, complete and independent, since that of Martin Luther. Through the course of his career, his views changed from those of the Lutherans to those of the Calvinists, and from those of the Calvinists to those of the Arminians. He remains widely regarded for his abilities as a commentator.


[12] Sebastian Munster (1489-1552) was a German scholar of great talent in the fields of mathematics, Oriental studies, and divinity. He left the Franciscans to join the Lutherans, became Professor of Hebrew at Basil (1529-1552), and produced an edition of the Hebrew Bible with a Latin translation and important early Reformation annotations (Annotationes in Vetus Testamentum).


[13] David Kimchi (c. 1160-1235) was a famous Spanish Rabbi. He wrote a commentary on the entire Old Testament and a Hebrew grammar, as a result of which he has long been respected for his profound scholarship.


[14] Genesis 23:6: “Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres (בְּמִבְחַ֣ר קְבָרֵ֔ינוּ) bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.”


[15] Judges 12:7: “And Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then died Jephthah the Gileadite, and was buried in the cities of Gilead (וַיִּקָּבֵ֖ר בְּעָרֵ֥י גִלְעָֽד׃).”


[16] 1 Samuel 18:21: “And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the twain (בִּשְׁתַּ֛יִם תִּתְחַתֵּ֥ן בִּ֖י הַיּֽוֹם׃).”


[17] Joshua 15:52: “Arab, and Dumah (וְרוּמָה, and Rumah), and Eshean…” In Judah.


[18] In Benjamin.


[19] In Asher.


[20] In Naphtali.


[21] In Ephraim.


[22] Thomas Malvenda (1566-1628) was a Spanish Dominican. Within his order, he was widely regarded for his abilities in philosophy and divinity.


[23] Ezekiel 3:17: “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman (צֹפֶה) unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.”


[24] Hebrew: מֵהַ֣ר אֶפְרָ֑יִם.


[25] Referring to Tohu.


[26] Referring to Elkanah.


[27] It appears that אֶפְרָתִי/Ephrathite is here being related to פָּרָה, to be fruitful.


[28] James Tirinus (1580-1636) was a Flemish Jesuit priest. His abilities as a commentator are displayed in his Commentaria in Sacram Scripturam.


[29] Judges 12:5: “And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites (לְאֶפְרָיִם): and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped (פְּלִיטֵ֤י אֶפְרַ֙יִם֙) said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite (הַאֶפְרָתִי)? If he said, Nay…”

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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