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Poole on 1 Samuel 1:12-14: Eli's Unjust Accusation of Hanna

Verse 12:[1] And it came to pass, as she continued praying (Heb. multiplied to pray[2]) before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.

[While she was multiplying prayers] It signifies that she rendered many more words than are here related. Just as the Evangelists relate few words from that prayer of Christ, although he is said to have prayed more prolixly, Luke 22:44;[3] and from those words, Matthew 26:40, could ye not watch with me one hour?, some gather that He continued in prayer a whole hour. Then, out of the fervor of His spirit, He was repeating the same words (Mendoza). Christ does indeed condemn in prayers loquaciousness, namely, that of the Gentiles, which was vain and empty (Mendoza, Drusius). At the same time, not mere prolixity, but also the perpetuity of prayer, is commended, Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (Mendoza). Here, Hannah was heard in much praying; whence the Rabbis in Dras, all that multiply prayers are heard. Yet there are other Rabbis that say that Hannah was punished on account of this loquaciousness in prayer. Namely, the years of Samuel were for that reason curtailed (Drusius).

As she continued praying; Hebrew, multiplied to pray. By which it appears that she said much more than is here expressed. And the like you are to judge of the prayers and sermons of other holy persons recorded in Scripture, which gives us only the sum and substance of them; which consideration may help us much in the understanding of some passages of the Bible.

[Before the Lord] Before the Holy of Holies, in which was the Ark; or in any event before the Ark. For those praying were facing the Ark, the symbol of the Divine presence (Drusius). She was praying for a long time in that direction, in which the Lord was exhibiting Himself as present (Vatablus). She was praying before the Lord, that is, with great attention and devotion. But that Pharisee in Luke 18 was praying, not before God, but before men, whose favor he sought (Mendoza).

[That Eli was observing her mouth[4] (thus Junius and Tremellius, similarly the Septuagint, Syriac, Munster, Pagnine, Montanus, Drusius)] That is, her speech, or words (Drusius). Her mouth, that is, her praying (Vatablus). He was listening privily so that he might hear her words (Arabic). He waited for her until she was finished (Jonathan). שָׁמַר sometimes signifies to wait, as שְׁמוֹר אֶת־הַדָּבָר, to await a matter,[5] and elsewhere, לִשְׁמוֹר עַל־חַטָּאתִי, thou shalt not delay because of my sin[6] (Drusius). Eli was not so curiously exerting his eyes that he might see, as extending his ears that he might hear (Mendoza).

Her mouth, that is, the motion of her lips, as it follows.

Verse 13:[7] Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.

[She was speaking in her heart (thus the Septuagint, Jonathan, Symmachus,[8] Pagnine), מְדַבֶּ֣רֶת עַל־לִבָּ֔הּ] She was speaking with her heart, or soul (Drusius, Junius and Tremellius), upon, or to her heart (Piscator). She was directing her heart to her prayers (Drusius).

[Only her lips were moving[9] (thus the Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Montanus)] The Jews teach to do so, because they think prayer in the mind alone to be too frigid (Grotius).

[And her voice was not heard] She was praying with such a quiet voice, either, 1. Becaue she was seeking a blessing private and temporal, and she was in a certain measure embarrassed to be heard. 2. So that she might not be mocked by her rival, Peninnah. 3. So that she might avoid ostentation. 4. So that she might not hinder others praying. 5. And especially because she knew that, not so much the clamor of the voice, as the fervor of the mind, was necessary so that God might hear (Mendoza).

Her voice was not heard; partly, to avoid the suspicion of vainglory; partly, because she would not have others acquainted with her barrenness, which was matter of reproach; and partly, because she would not disturb others, who at this solemn feast were probably employed there in the same work.

[Eli thought her drunken, וַיַּחְשְׁבֶ֥הָ עֵלִ֖י לְשִׁכֹּרָֽה׃] And Eli reputed, or esteemed, her inebriated (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Arabic), for an inebriated woman (Septuagint, Montanus, Piscator), as inebriated (Syriac, Jonathan). For it was not the custom thus to pray בלחש/silently (Rabbi Salomon in Drusius). Eli gathered this, 1. From her uncouth and indecorous gestures, because she, after the likeness of one inebriated, was twisting her mouth this way and that (Lapide, similarly Mendoza). Now, it is natural that by those that are of an agitated soul, whether by anger, or fear, or sorrow, their lips are moved and tremble, as it were (Menochius, similarly Lapide). 2. From the multiplication of her prayers. For wine supplies an abundance of speech, as it is well known. 3. From the circumstance of the time, for it was after lunch. Compare Acts 2:15 (Mendoza). She had come immediately from a feast, at which they are wont to drink more liberally. See 1 Corinthians 11 (Martyr).

Eli thought she had been drunken, because of the multitude of her words, and those uncouth gestures and motions of her face and body, which the vehemency of her passion and her fervency in prayer, caused in her, as it doth frequently in others; and because she was but newly come from a feast, wherein the manner was to eat and drink liberally, (though not to excess,) which he knew very well, both from the general custom of that season, and from the time of the day.

Verse 14:[10] And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.

[Until when wilt thou be drunken?, עַד־מָתַ֖י תִּשְׁתַּכָּרִ֑ין] They translate the future/imperfect of the Hithpael in diverse ways (Malvenda); how long wilt thou be drunken? (Septuagint, Montanus, Syriac, Arabic), or, wilt thou act drunken? (Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus, Drusius). The Hithpael sometimes denotes pretense, not the truth of a matter (Drusius). Thou displayest drunkenness! (Pagnine). Thou wilt conduct, or show, thyself, as if thou wert drunken (Drusius). How long wilt thou rave? (Jonathan).

[Disperse thy wine, הָסִ֥ירִי אֶת־יֵינֵ֖ךְ מֵעָלָֽיִךְ׃[11]] Remove (put away [Tigurinus], temper [Syriac]) thy wine from thee (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus Munster): that is to say, Shake off this drunkenness from thee (Vatablus). Disperse thy wine, or wait, until by digestion the wine consumed will have receded from thee (Munster). Indeed, see rather that thou sleep off thy wine, than that thou noisily discharge before the Lord (Junius, Piscator). Repent now of thy drunkenness (Arabic). Remove thy wine, that is, the perturbation of thy mind occasioned by the drinking of wine (Piscator).

How long wilt thou be drunken? etc.: Come not before the Lord in thy drunkenness, but go and sleep it out, and repent of this thy sin.

[1] Hebrew: וְהָיָה֙ כִּ֣י הִרְבְּתָ֔ה לְהִתְפַּלֵּ֖ל לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וְעֵלִ֖י שֹׁמֵ֥ר אֶת־פִּֽיהָ׃

[2] Hebrew: הִרְבְּתָ֔ה לְהִתְפַּלֵּ֖ל.

[3] Luke 22:44: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly (ἐκτενέστερον; prolixius, at greater length, in the Vulgate): and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

[4] Hebrew: וְעֵלִ֖י שֹׁמֵ֥ר אֶת־פִּֽיהָ׃.

[5] Genesis 37:11: “And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying (שָׁמַ֥ר אֶת־הַדָּבָֽר׃).”

[6] Job 14:16: “For now thou numberest my steps: dost thou not watch over my sin (לֹֽא־תִ֜שְׁמ֗וֹר עַל־חַטָּאתִֽי׃)?”

[7] Hebrew: וְחַנָּ֗ה הִ֚יא מְדַבֶּ֣רֶת עַל־לִבָּ֔הּ רַ֚ק שְׂפָתֶ֣יהָ נָּע֔וֹת וְקוֹלָ֖הּ לֹ֣א יִשָּׁמֵ֑עַ וַיַּחְשְׁבֶ֥הָ עֵלִ֖י לְשִׁכֹּרָֽה׃

[8] Symmachus (second century) produced a Greek translation of the Old Testament, which survives only in fragments. Symmachus’ work is characterized by an apparent concern to render faithfully the Hebrew original, to provide a rendering consistent with the rabbinic exegesis of his time, and to set forth the translation in simple, pure, and elegant Septuagint-style Greek.

[9] Hebrew: רַ֚ק שְׂפָתֶ֣יהָ נָּע֔וֹת .

[10] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלֶ֙יהָ֙ עֵלִ֔י עַד־מָתַ֖י תִּשְׁתַּכָּרִ֑ין הָסִ֥ירִי אֶת־יֵינֵ֖ךְ מֵעָלָֽיִךְ׃

[11] סוּר in the Hiphil signifies to cause to turn aside.

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