Poole on 1 Samuel 1:20: The Birth of Samuel

[circa 1171 BC] Verse 20:[1] Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about (Heb. in the revolution of days[2]) after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel (that is, Asked of God[3]), saying, Because I have asked him[4] of the LORD.


[And it happened after the cycle of days, וַיְהִי֙ לִתְקֻפ֣וֹת הַיָּמִ֔ים] And it was in the revolutions (or after the revolutions [Piscator, Munster, English], after the expiration [Dutch]) of days (Montanus, Pagnine, Septuagint); with some days having revolved (Tigurinus); after the revolutions of time (Junius and Tremellius), that is, with the ordinary time of pregnancy accomplished (Junius, similarly Mendoza). The revolution of days is taken for the days of pregnancy (Munster). A learned exposition indeed, but which the order of words in the Hebrew does not appear to admit: in which it is signified that Hannah conceived after the revolutions of days; but not that, after she had conceived, the days revolved. And so after the revolutions of days appears to signify here nothing other than after a number of days had passed, from the time when Elkanah had begun again to lie with Hannah: so that it might be signified that she did not immediately conceive in that first lying together (Piscator). Others: in the time (or after the time [Syriac]) of days (Septuagint), or, of the perfection of days (Jonathan). And while she continued some days (Arabic); conceived in the changing of the times, she gave birth to a son (Castalio). With almost a year having passed, that is, with ten months having elapsed, she conceived (more rightly, had conceived) and gave birth to a son (Osiander). Days in the plural denote a year (Drusius). After a cycle of days signifies that some legitimate time passed, within which neither law nor custom allowed attention to be given to wifely interest. Which sort perhaps it was, when in Shiloh they were free for prayer. See 1 Corinthians 7:5, or, from the departure from their home unto their return (Sanchez). And this was a custom of the Jews; and so, when they were going to Jerusalem, the men were going in one group, and the women in another. See Luke 2:44 (Lyra, Drusius). While they were free from sacred rites, it appears that he did not know her; not because intercourse with his wife was a sin, but because he was diverting his soul by more weighty matters. See 1 Corinthians 7; Exodus 19 (Martyr). Or, she is said to have conceived, when a sign of conception was discovered; just as Bathsheba speaks, 2 Samuel 11:5, and she says, I have conceived. Often in Scripture something is said to happen, when it is known to have happened. Thus that is the cycle of days, which nature requires for the formation of a fetus; namely, forty days (Sanchez). In (understanding, a number) of circuits of days. Jerome: now, with a number of months having passed (Vatablus).



[Hannah conceived and gave birth (thus Jonathan, Montanus, Arabic),וַתַּ֥הַר חַנָּ֖ה וַתֵּ֣לֶד] That she conceived and gave birth (Piscator, Syriac, Munster, Tigurinus). After which Hannah conceived so that she might give birth (Junius and Tremellius). Or, after Hannah had conceived (Pagnine, Drusius). Similarly, thou wast angry, and we had sinned, that is, after we had sinned[5] (Drusius). A ὕστερον πρότερον, hysteron proteron,[6] is to be noted here. Indeed, it ought to have been said, she conceived, and after revolutions of days she gave birth. But formulæ of this sort occur elsewhere, as in Exodus 14:21, He made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided; seeing that the waters were divided before they were dried. And in Isaiah 64:5, thou art wroth, and we sinned; seeing that the Jews sinned before God was angry (Martyr).


When the time was come about after Hannah had conceived: So the sense is, When the usual time from the conception to the birth was past, she brought forth her son. Hebrew: in or after the revolution, or expiration of some days, Hannah conceived, and in due time bare a son. So the meaning is, That although her husband knew her conjugally at his return, and God was minded of her, and intended in his time to give her his blessing, yet she did not conceive at first, but after some days or time afterwards.


[And she called] Namely, Hannah (Drusius). Question: Whether it belonged to the father or to the mother to place names upon their children? Responses: 1. To the mother (Montanus’ Commentary in Mendoza), as it is evident from Genesis 4:1; 19:37, 38; 25:26; 29:30-35; 38:29, 30, and elsewhere (Mendoza). 2. To the father (Pineda[7] in Mendoza). Examples are not wanting, Genesis 4:26; 5:29; 21:3; 41:51; Exodus 2:22. The function of imposing names pertains to the master (Mendoza). 3. I do not think that there was any law concerning this among the Hebrews; but that this function pertained to either parent without any discrimination. For, almost equal testimonies of Scripture are related for each position. There is no natural right, neither is there any apparent positive right (Mendoza).


And called, that is, she called, not doubting of her husband’s consent to the name. The names of children were given to them sometimes by their fathers, and sometime by the mothers. See Genesis 4:1, 26; 5:29; 21:3; 19:37, 38, etc.


[Samuel, שְׁמוּאֵל] Etymologies are not always to be weighed according to Grammatical rules. But they are composed in one way by the Hebrews, another way by the Latins. For, sometimes in Hebrew compounds are discerned only the first letters of the words, from which the word is compounded; as it is evident from this name Samuel, which was imposed by his mother, not by a learned man; and it retains only the first letter of the word שָׁאַל, which means to ask. He is called שְׁמוּאֵל/Samuel, שָׁאַלְתִּי אוֹתוֹ מֵאֵל (that is, I have asked him from God), as it were (Vatablus). It is translated one asked or requested from God by Jonathan, Theodotion, Procopius and Suidas[8] in Malvenda, Munster, Mendoza. This name is compounded from two corrupted words and one whole (Junius). Two words are corrupted, שָׁאַל, to ask, and מִן/from; אֵל/ God is whole. And the subjoined words appear to favor this etymology,כִּ֥י מֵיְהוָ֖ה שְׁאִלְתִּֽיו׃, for from Jehovah I asked him (Piscator). He is named שָׁאוּל מֵאֵל, Shaul Meel, one asked of God, with the ל/l elided, as בָּבֶל/Babel is in the place of בַּלְבֵּל/ Balbel[9] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals[10] 1:3:34:1017). Here, two letters are missing (Drusius); and only one radical of שָׁאֻל, Shaul, one asked appears here. Therefore, I would prefer to render it otherwise (Sanchez). Therefore, others thus, שְׁמוֹ אֵל, his name is God (thus Jerome and Ibn Ezra and Gregory in Malvenda). Just as Moses had been made by God a god to Pharaoh, Exodus 7:1, so also Samuel to Saul and to Israel (Lapide). Or, his name from God (Sanchez, Mendoza). Others: God appointed[11] him (Drusius, Philo[12] and Friar Georgius in Lapide, Sanchez). He appointed, that is, He gave. Such is the etymology of the name Seth, Genesis 4.[13] God appointed him in the nature of things, and begat him, as it were; Samuel was the son, not so much of Elkanah, but of God; because he was the son of prayer (Sanchez). I would prefer, heard by God, from שָׁמוּעַ/heard, and אֵל/God: that is, whose mother was heard by God, when she asked him of Him (Piscator). The pious mother was intending this, that Samuel, as often as he might hear this his name, would remember that he was obliged to God as his principal parent, for his being and his life; and thus he might more willingly sustain the perpetual annoyances of the Nazarite state (Tirinus out of Sanchez). The lad was advised of his duty by his name. It is to be observed that the ancients did not impose names upon their children without reason, but from some notable event; lest the blessings of God should ever be lost from memory, or lest they should bring up their children more negligently. And certainly rightly. Thus they were imitating God, who, when He calls someone to a new work, frequently changed his name. But today name are often imposed without meaning; which in addition are sometimes Pagan, the reason of which is scarecely able to be rendered (Martyr).

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִי֙ לִתְקֻפ֣וֹת הַיָּמִ֔ים וַתַּ֥הַר חַנָּ֖ה וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן וַתִּקְרָ֤א אֶת־שְׁמוֹ֙ שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל כִּ֥י מֵיְהוָ֖ה שְׁאִלְתִּֽיו׃


[2] Hebrew: לִתְקֻפ֣וֹת הַיָּמִ֔ים.


[3] Hebrew: שְׁמוּאֵל.


[4] Hebrew: שְׁאִלְתִּיו.


[5] Isaiah 64:5: “Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinnedהֵן־אַתָּ֤ה קָצַ֙פְתָּ֙) וַֽנֶּחֱטָ֔א): in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.”


[6] Hysteron proteron is a rhetorical device which presents ideas in an order other than their logical or chronological.


[7] John de Pineda (1558-1637) was a Spanish Jesuit. He was an exegete of some repute in both Catholic and Protestant circles. As Counsellor to the Inquisition, he had the opportunity to visit the greatest libraries in Spain.


[8] Suidas was the compiler of the Suda, an encyclopedia containing more than thirty thousand entries concerning the ancient Mediterranean world. It was probably composed in tenth-century Byzantium.


[9] Thus the Chaldean.


[10] Samuel Bochart (1599-1667) was a French Protestant pastor and scholar with a wide variety of interests, including philology, theology, geography, and zoology. Indeed his works on Biblical geography (Geographia Sacra) and zoology (Hierozoicon, sive Bipertitum Opus de Animalibus Scripturæ) became standard reference works for generations. He was on familiar terms with many of the greatest men of his age.


[11] שִׂים means to put or place.


[12] See De Somniis 1:254. Philo was a first century Jewish scholar of Alexandria, Egypt. He is noted for his synthesis of Greek philosophy and Jewish theology. With respect to exegesis, Philo indulges freely in allegorization.


[13] Genesis 4:25: “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth (שֵׁת): For God hath appointed me (שָׁת־לִי) another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.”

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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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