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Poole on 1 Samuel 1:10, 11: Hannah's Prayer and Vow

Verse 10:[1] (Job 7:11; 10:1) And she was in bitterness of soul (Heb. bitter of soul;[2] 2 Sam. 17:8[3]), and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.

[While she was of a bitter soul (thus the Syriac, Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius)] Of a sad soul (Tigurinus, Septuagint). Bitterness of soul denotes sadness, which by the Hebrews is expressed מַר נֶפֶשׁ, bitterness of soul, Job 7:11;[4] 10:1;[5] Ruth 1:20, call me מָרָא/Mara; Exodus 1:14, bitter life,[6] that is, harsh. מַ֣ר מִמָּ֗וֶת, more bitter than death, Ecclesiastes 7:26. Sometimes it denotes irascibility, as in Job 21:25[7] (Drusius).

She was in bitterness of soul, that is, oppressed with grief, as that phrase is used, Job 7:11; 10:1; Ruth 1:20.

[She prayed to the Lord (thus the Septuagint, Osiander)] That is, after the meal, verse 9. What all make a time of recreation, says Chrysostom, she makes a time of prayer (Serarius, Lapide). Hannah did not have recourse to any external pleasure; false is this alleviation of sadness; but she flees to the Lord; because she was suffering a disease curable by the divine hand alone (Mendoza).

[וַתִּתְפַּלֵּ֥ל עַל־יְהוָ֖ה] And she prayed the Lord (Pagnine, Tigurinus, similarly Junius and Tremellius), understanding, in the courtyard before the tabernacle of the covenant (Vatablus). She prayed before (or, upon [Montanus]) the Lord (Piscator), or, in the presence of the Lord (Syriac, Arabic, Jonathan). The verb in the Hithpael and the preposition עַל/upon have great force; that is, she supplicated most ardently, with her whole soul falling, or depending, upon Jehovah: or casting herself upon Jehovah (Malvenda).

Verse 11:[8] And she (Gen. 28:20; Num. 30:3; Judg. 11:30) vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed (Gen. 29:32; Ex. 4:31; 2 Sam. 16:12; Ps. 25:18) look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and (Gen. 8:1; 30:22) remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child (Heb. seed of men[9]), then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and (Num. 6:5; Judg. 13:5) there shall no razor come upon his head.

[And she vowed a vow, etc.] Question: Was Hannah able to vow this? It appears not. For, 1. the obligation of a vow appear to be able to arise only from one’s own will. Response: Either parent is able to dedicate their children, as long as they are small, to God, since children at that stage are reckoned, not so much their own, as belong to their parents, according to the Philosopher, Ethics 6. 2. A mother, with the father objecting, was not able to vow their son. For the father is the head of the wife, and of the whole family (Mendoza). Response: She vowed, either conditionally, if her husband should approve; or having previously heard his consent. See the law in Numbers 30 (Piscator out of Junius). She first promises that which was in her power, that is, to bring up her son according to the rite of the Nazarites: Then she was confident that she could persuade her husband to confirm her vow. And she actually succeeded in this way (Martyr). It is believed that Elkanah either vowed, or consented to his wife’s vow, because of the great concord between this man and his wife (Mendoza).

She vowed a vow; knowing that her husband would willingly consent to it, otherwise she had not power to do it.

[O Lord of hosts, יְהוָ֙ה צְבָא֜וֹת] But there appears to have been more in other codices: for the Septuagint translates it, Κύριε/Kurios (Chrysostom, ἀδωναὶ/Adonai) Ἐλωὲ σαβαὼθ, Lord God Sabaoth: ἀδωναὶ/Adonai is the pronunciation of יְהוָה/Jehovah; but Κύριε/Kurios/Lord is its interpretation (Grotius). Adonai Sabaoth, that is, of armies, both above and below. They note that this is not found previously in Scripture (Drusius).

[If thou, looking on, wilt have seen the affliction, etc.] Hebrew: if in regarding thou wilt have regarded, or in seeing thou wilt have seen,[10] that is, if thou deignest to regard (Vatablus). God’s regard is His favor and blessing, Genesis 4:4; Exodus 33:13; Deuteronomy 26:15 (Mendoza, similarly Drusius).

If thou wilt indeed look on, to wit, favourably, so as to remove it. The affliction, that is, the barrenness and reproach which attends it.

[Of thy famulæ/maid-servant] She next calls herself ancillam/handmaid, and then servam/servant;[11] as if there were no sort of servitude that she would not most freely undertake for God. Note her humility (Mendoza).

[And wilt have remembered, and not forgotten, thine handmaid] That doubling carries emphasis, and raises the vehemence of the petition; as elsewhere, remember what Amalek did to thee…and do not forget.[12] Similarly, he confessed, and denied not[13] (Drusius).

[And thou wilt have given to thy servant the virile sex, זֶ֣רַע אֲנָשִׁ֑ים] Seed of men (Vatablus, Montanus, Drusius, Septuagint, Piscator), that is, a seed of the virile sex, that is, male (Vatablus, similarly Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius), a son (Tigurinus), human seed (Syriac), an offspring among men (Arabic, similarly Jonathan). אֲנָשִׁים/men, that is, זְכָרִים/males (Kimchi in Drusius). Thus אִישׁ/ man appears to be put in the place of זָכָר/male, Genesis 4:1;[14] 7:2,[15] for, when he had said, a man and his wife, afterwards he says male and female[16] (Drusius). Note that the language of seed is understood of one offspring against the error of the Jews (Piscator). There is not a word here about female offspring; not because she would not receive such, but because she was thinking of the consecration of the child; but a female was not fit for the ministry of the Temple (Sanchez). She asked for a manchild, because the name and family of the parents was propagated through the male, not through the female. Hence so great happiness and rejoicing over the twelve sons, Genesis 29; 30, but not likewise over Dinah, Genesis 30:21 (Mendoza). In this vow she shows that she is not seeking her own advantage, or pleasure, which parents take from the sight of their children (since she determined to send him off to the tabernacle); but she asks for a son, who might ever attend to the worship of God, and this ought to be the end of all our affairs, namely, that they might magnify the name and glory of God (Martyr).

[I will give to the Lord] That is, that he might serve Him (Vatablus, Grotius), in the temple (Grotius), as a perpetual Nazarite (Piscator). But it is not the vow of a Nazarite, but it imitates it to some degree, as we said on Numbers 6; see also Judges 13. Moreover, this vow of the mother began to be binding, only after the father approved it, Numbers 30:7; 1 Samuel 1:21, 23 (Grotius). She says, I will give to the Lord, in the place of, I will give to thee, after the manner of the Hebrews, who make use of names/nouns in the place of pronouns, Genesis 33:8; 44:16; Deuteronomy 9:10 (Mendoza). Question 1: But, what if there were some defect or blemish in her son, whereby he might be prohibited from ministering in the tabernacle? What if he were of an infirm constitution, so that he might not be able to abstain from wine? What if God had willed to make use of him for other things? Response: Vows are always to be interpreted with the divine right wholly intact. If God had designed the lad for other things, the vow of the mother ought not to hinder that. Moreover, God willed mercy, and not sacrifice[17] (Martyr). Question 2: To what end does she promise this, since he, as a Levite, belongs by right to the Lord? Responses: 1. Levites were indeed attached by right to the ministry of the Lord (Tirinus); but not all were obliged, or were able, actually to serve in the tabernacle (Estius). 2. The Levites were only ministering from the twenty-fifth or thirtieth year to the fiftieth, Numbers 4:2, 3; 8:24. But Hannah devotes her son all the days of his life (Tirinus, Menochius, Serarius, Sanchez); from the first years of childhood, and throughout his whole life (Estius). 3. She vows a Nazarite vow, which was conjoined in its own nature neither with primogeniture, nor with the Levitical ministry (Martyr). Moreover, Hannah by her vow imposed a necessity upon herself, of never recalling her son from the service of the Temple: but she was not able to compel her son, that he might not be able, when he came to the full use of his reason, to decide otherwise concerning himself and his manner of life, if he should so choose. For, children are not bound to fulfill parents’ vows, that are called personal. Whence the prudent mother in 1 Samuel 1:28 says that she entrusted, or gave, him to the Lord all the days during which he was lent; that is, as long as his life and will would endure (Tirinus).

Give him unto the Lord, that is, consecrate him to God’s service in his temple, as far as in me lies; for if he had any blemish, she might not do it. All the days of his life; not only from his twenty-fifth to his fiftieth year, as all the Levites, and so he himself, were obliged by God, Numbers 4:3; 8:24, but for his whole time; which is still to be understood with a reservation of God’s right, which her vow must give place to, as indeed it did; for God called him to be a prophet, and a general of the army, and a judge.

[No razor shall go up upon his head (thus nearly all), וּמוֹרָ֖ה לֹא־יַעֲלֶ֥ה וגו״] A razor shall not be brought near to his head (Junius and Tremellius), that is, he shall be a Nazarite by vow (Piscator out of Junius, Vatablus). The Chaldean, instead of razor, translates it terror. But then it would have been מוֹרָא. No terror shall go up, etc., that is, government of man; for government is terror to man; that is, he will never serve anyone but God. Nevertheless, you would more rightly translate it razor (Vatablus). There is a disagreement among the learned, whether מוֹרָה here is razor: some deny it (Drusius). The Septuagint here has σίδηρος οὐκ ἀναβήσεται, that is, iron shall not go up, etc. (Drusius, Mendoza). Not without reason do they thus translate it, because not only was shaving prohibited, but also clipping. Moreover, under the principal ceremony of the Nazarites, which pertained to the hair, the others are here understood; just as under the law of circumcision the whole Mosaic law is often signified (Mendoza out of Tostatus). Therefore, the Septuagint here adds, οἶνον καὶ μέθυσμα οὐ πίεται, wine and intoxicating drink he shall not drink, which Theodoret appears to recognize (Drusius, Mendoza), together with Chrysostom, Basil,[18] and Jerome (Mendoza). Nevertheless, this is wanting in the Complutensian edition[19] (Drusius).

There shall no razor come upon his head, that is, he shall be a perpetual Nazarite; for under this one rule, as the chief, all the rest are contained; as elsewhere the whole Mosaical law is understood, under the title of circumcision.

[1] Hebrew: וְהִ֖יא מָ֣רַת נָ֑פֶשׁ וַתִּתְפַּלֵּ֥ל עַל־יְהוָ֖ה וּבָכֹ֥ה תִבְכֶּֽה׃

[2] Hebrew: מָ֣רַת נָ֑פֶשׁ.

[3] 2 Samuel 17:8: “For, said Hushai, thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be mighty men, and they be chafed in their minds (וּמָרֵ֥י נֶ֙פֶשׁ֙ הֵ֔מָּה, and they are bitter of soul), as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field: and thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge with the people.”

[4] Job 7:11: “Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul (בְּמַ֣ר נַפְשִֽׁי׃).”

[5] Job 10:1: “My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul (בְּמַ֣ר נַפְשִֽׁי׃).”

[6] Exodus 1:14: “And they made their lives bitter (וַיְמָרְר֙וּ אֶת־חַיֵּיהֶ֜ם) with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.”

[7] Job 21:25: “And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul (בְּנֶ֣פֶשׁ מָרָ֑ה), and never eateth with pleasure.”

[8] Hebrew: ַתִּדֹּ֙ר נֶ֜דֶר וַתֹּאמַ֗ר יְהוָ֙ה צְבָא֜וֹת אִם־רָאֹ֥ה תִרְאֶ֣ה׀ בָּעֳנִ֣י אֲמָתֶ֗ךָ וּזְכַרְתַּ֙נִי֙ וְלֹֽא־תִשְׁכַּ֣ח אֶת־אֲמָתֶ֔ךָ וְנָתַתָּ֥ה לַאֲמָתְךָ֖ זֶ֣רַע אֲנָשִׁ֑ים וּנְתַתִּ֤יו לַֽיהוָה֙ כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֔יו וּמוֹרָ֖ה לֹא־יַעֲלֶ֥ה עַל־רֹאשֽׁוֹ׃

[9] Hebrew: זֶ֣רַע אֲנָשִׁ֑ים.

[10] Hebrew: אִם־רָאֹ֥ה תִרְאֶ֣ה׀.

[11] 1 Samuel 1:11b: “…O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid (אֲמָתֶךָ; famulæ tuæ, in the Vulgate), and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid (אֲמָתֶךָ; ancillæ tuæ, in the Vulgate), but wilt give unto thine handmaid (לַאֲמָתְךָ; servæ tuæ) a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life…”

[12] Deuteronomy 25:17, 19.

[13] John 1:20.

[14] Genesis 4:1: “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man (אִישׁ) from the Lord.”

[15] Genesis 7:2: “Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female (אִ֣ישׁ וְאִשְׁתּ֑וֹ): and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female (אִ֥ישׁ וְאִשְׁתּֽוֹ׃).”

[16] Genesis 7:2, 3: “Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female (אִ֣ישׁ וְאִשְׁתּ֑וֹ, a man and his wife): and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female (אִ֥ישׁ וְאִשְׁתּֽוֹ׃, a man and his wife). Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the femaleזָכָ֣ר) וּנְקֵבָ֑ה); to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.”

[17] Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 12:7. See also 1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11.

[18] Basil the Great was a fourth century Church Father and stalwart defender of Nicean Trinitarianism.

[19] The Complutensian Polyglot (taking its name from the university in Alcalá [Complutum, in Latin]; 1514) contained the first printed edition of the Septuagint, Jerome’s Vulgate, the Hebrew Text, Targum Onkelos with a Latin translation, and the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament. The labor of the scholars was superintended by Cardinal Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros.

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