Poole on 1 Samuel 1:21-23: The Rearing and Weaning of Samuel

Verse 21:[1] And the man Elkanah, and all his house, (1 Sam. 1:3) went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.


[And all his house] That is, his domestics (Drusius, Mendoza). All in the place of the greater part, as in Hebrews 11:13, these all died; yet Enoch did not die, Genesis 5:24[2](Mendoza).


All his house, that is, his wife Peninnah, and his children, which are ofttimes called a man’s house in Scripture, Hannah only and her child excepted, as it here follows.


[A solemn sacrifice, אֶת־זֶ֥בַח הַיָּמִ֖ים] The victim or sacrifice of days(Septuagint, Montanus, Tigurinus), or of the solemn days (Munster); the sacrifice of the solemnity (Jonathan); the yearly victim (Pagnine, Vatablus, Drusius, Junius and Tremellius, similarly Vatablus), which they were wont to offer in the three solemnities of the year[3] (Lapide).


The yearly sacrifice; that solemn sacrifice which was offered up once every year; probably the paschal lamb, which is oft called a sacrifice, as Exodus 12:27; 34:25.


[And his vow (thus Munster, Tigurinus)] Understanding, to offer (Tigurinus Notes, Mendoza), or to pay (Junius and Tremellius). An ellipsis of a word signifying an answerable thing; thus in Psalm 25:14, the secret of Jehovah to them that fear Him, that is, is revealed.[4] And in verse 15, mine eyes toward Jehovah, that is, look[5] (Piscator). And to pay his vows (Jonathan). [Some join it with what precedes, to cleanse sacrifices of the days of his vow to the Lord (Syriac); so that he might offer to the Lord sacrifices in the days of his vow (Arabic).] What then is this vow? Responses: 1. The vow common to him and his wife concerning the dedication of Samuel to God (Junius). But how was he able to pay the vow at that time, whence Samuel was yet an infant, and not yet fit to be employed in the sacred ministry (Piscator)? 2. He had made this vow, if the Lord should give to him offspring from Hannah (Munster, similarly Sanchez, Mendoza); in which case perhaps he vowed that he would bring some gift to the Tabernacle (Sanchez). Perhaps he had vowed peace offerings in this case (Malvenda). And, although no mention is made above of such a vow; nevertheless, from this passage it is sufficiently clear that one was taken. For, Scripture is wont to pass by some circumstances of a matter that it narrates, and afterwards to insert them in passing (Mendoza). 3. I understand this vow concerning the redemption of Samuel, whereby he was wanting to redeem him from the priest, according to the law in Leviticus 27:5, 6 (Piscator).


And his vow; by which it appears, though it was not expressed before, that he heard and consented to her vow, which was necessary to make it obligatory, Numbers 30, and that he added a vow of his own, of some singular sacrifice to be offered, if God answered his prayers.


Verse 22:[6] But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will (Luke 2:22) bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there (1 Sam. 1:11, 28; 2:11, 18; 3:1) abide (Ex. 21:6) for ever.



[And Hannah went not up] That is, after that time when she had gone up to the Tabernacle (Piscator). She did not sin by remaining at home; because the law was imposed upon the males alone, Exodus 34:23 (Mendoza). Although it is able to be seen that, by what law the uncircumcised are excluded (from the celebration of the Passover,[7] etc.), women are also excluded; especially since in the law males alone are commanded to have recourse to the three feasts, Exodus 23:17; 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16; etc.: Nevertheless, in Exodus 12:6, 47, all the congregation of Israel is commanded to celebrate the Passover. And so, that women celebrated these solemn feasts together with the men, is evident from the example of Hannah in this chapter, and of the holy Virgin, Luke 2:41. And it is not doubtful that all the pious women of those times attended the same; and hence they had a part in the sacred feasts. Why should we not then believe that women also participated in the Passover, which was a sort of Eucharistic sacrifice (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 1:2:50:578)?


Hannah went not up, to wit, at that sacred anniversary feast, to which she went up before but now did not, because she could not with satisfaction to her mind and conscience appear before the Lord empty, or without paying her vow; nor bring her child thither to God, and then carry him away from God to her own house. Nor did she sin by not going up; for the women were not obliged go up at the solemn feasts, but the men only, Exodus 23:17.


[For she said to her husband] That is, she sought from her husband the opportunity to remain; previously she had cleaved to him when he was going up (Mendoza).


[I will not go up until the child be weaned, עַ֣ד יִגָּמֵ֤ל הַנַּ֙עַר֙] They understand something before those Hebrew words;[8] namely, I will not go up (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, Malvenda), or, I will remain(Munster, Arabic). They translate it, Until the child or infant be weaned (Pagnine, Montanus, similarly the Septuagint, Jonathan, etc.). Now, the time of lactation, or in which an infant commonly nurses, they think to be two years (Kimchi and Avicenna[9] in Drusius). Others think three, or five years (Drusius). That it was a period of three years is evident from 2 Maccabees 7:27;[10] that this period of time is suitable for nursing children, Valesius,[11] in Of Sacred Philosophy 83, teaches out of Galen[12] (Sanchez). Now, since this infantile age seems to be soft and tender, and the child is not to be separated from the bosom and embrace of the mother; some contrive certain metaphorical weanings (Sanchez). Weaning is twofold: 1. from the milk of the breast, about the beginning of the third year; 2. from the milk of childhood, when he begins to make use of common foods; and this happens about the tenth year. Of the latter the Scripture here speaks (Lyra). Others thus: Weaning is, 1. proper, from the breast, etc.; 2. another, which in the seventh year frees the grown child from his pedagogue; 3. Another, which in the tenth or twelfth year removes from the child his tutor. They understand this, not of the first weaning, but of the following ones. For, an infant (say they) would be of more trouble to the priest, than use (certain interpreters in Sanchez). Nevertheless, I understand this rather of the first weaning (Mendoza, Sanchez, Tostatus, likewise Theodoret, Procopius, Hugo,[13] Cajetan, and others in Mendoza). For, thus it is expressed in the following verse, until she removed him from milk. Then, in verse 24, it is said that he was carried, that is, in her arms (Mendoza). Neither does the reason alleged to the contrary have any strength. For, since others, as it is likely, not a few were consecrated from infancy (for Hannah does not appear to have done this without example), it was seen to by the Priests, that there were some in the Tabernacle that might nourish and care for that tender age (Sanchez). It was not fitting that the child, consecrated to God before conception, delay in his father’s house. Samuel was not only offered so that he might work, but principally that he might be sanctified (Menodoza). [Others translate יִגָּמֵל differently.] Until he was reared (Junius and Tremellius), that is, advanced to such a point that he could minister. For, גָּמַל is not only to separate from the breast, but also to raise, Numbers 17:8;[14] 1 Kings 11:20[15] (Junius, Piscator). But גָּמַל in Numbers 17 is taken Metaphorically; it does not signify to raise, but to produce, or to bring to maturity. The passage in 1 Kings 11 also has its difficulty; for there the verb is feminine, תִּגְמְלֵהוּ, she weaned him; which is not able to be taken of תַּחְפְּנֵיס/Tahpenes, except by an enallage of gender. But more concerning this, when we will have arrived at that passage (Drusius). You could render it here, until he be matured, or the boy became mature for ministry and Nazarite status. Otherwise: until the boy be formed, that is, so that he might be sufficiently formed in members and strength for ministering in the Tabernacle (Malvenda). It seems more probable to me that Samuel was not brought before his sixth or seventh year. For, 1. immediately after his coming he was ministering to the Lord, 1 Samuel 2:11. 2. She, who gave birth to no son previously, would not wean this one so quickly. For which reason Sarah is also believed to have weaned Isaac only after the fifth year, when, at the time of the weaning, Ishmael mocked him.[16] 3. Those younger would have been a burden to the Tabernacle. 4. She did not in this manner defer the payment of her vow; seeing that she offered him, just as soon as he was fit for ministry (Willet[17]). Question: Did Hannah sin? She appears not to have observed the law of purification on the fortieth day after childbirth, Leviticus 12:2-4, when the parents were redeeming the firstborn with five shekels, Exodus 13:2.[18] Response: The Levites were not obligated by this law; because those offerings fell to their use (Lapide, Mendoza). At that age, Samuel was infirm; therefore, she was unwilling to expose him to danger; nor was she able to depart and to leave the child at home. Now, it was right that that law give way to the duties of charity (Martyr). [Others thus:] I think that Hannah visited the Tabernacle, and fulfilled these laws, then returned home, etc. Objection: But we do not find this in the sacred records. Responses: 1. The sacred history does not record all that happened. 2. What things are common to all, and contain nothing peculiar that ought to be noted, are not wont to be committed to the records (Sanchez). What is said here, she went not up, understand to that solemn annual feast (Malvenda).


Until the child be weaned; not only from the breast and the milk, which was done within two or three years at most, but also from the mother’s knee and care, and from childish food; till the child be something grown up, and fit to do some service in the tabernacle for it seems, that as soon as he was brought up, he worshipped God, 1 Samuel 1:28, and presently after ministered to Eli, 1 Samuel 2:11. And this may further appear from the very nature of the vow, which must needs design a service and an advantage to the tabernacle, and not a burden and encumbrance, as it would have been if a young child had been brought up to it, and left upon it.


[That he might appear before the sight of Jehovah, וְנִרְאָה֙ אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה] So that he might be seen, or appear(and he will appear [Syriac, Septuagint]; and let him appear[Jonathan]) before Jehovah (Pagnine, Arabic), before the face of the Lord(Munster), namely, according to the law, Exodus 23:17 (Drusius). And let him appear, that is, let him be set (Vatablus). She does not say, so that he might serve, labor, etc. (for his infantile age was not apt for that), but so that he might appear or be seen, for the edification of men; so that they might be moved by his example to repudiate human affairs, and to stick to divine things (Mendoza).


[And that he might remain there continually, וְיָ֥שַׁב שָׁ֖ם עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃] And let him remain (or he will sit [Septuagint]) there perpetually (Tigurinus), forever(Munster, Pagnine, Montanus, Septuagint), unto eternity (Syriac), for the entire space of his lifetime (Arabic). As long as he may live (Vatablus, Hebrews in Munster, Drusius, Junius, Piscator), as in Exodus 21:6[19] (Junius); or, age here is taken for the period of service of the Levites, which takes in fifty years[20] (Hebrews in Munster). Hence that opinion that Samuel lived fifty-two years. For an age contains fifty years, to which they add two years of weaning. But to this opinion it is opposed that afterwards it is said זָקַנְתִּי, I am old.[21] But old age first begins at sixty years (Drusius). Let him remain there, etc., that is, let it not be needful to me that he return to be educated; but let him remain forever emancipated from me: For otherwise afterwards the dwelling of Samuel was at Ramah, while he was discharging his legitimate administration, 1 Samuel 7:16, 17 (Junius). And so they maintain that by her vow Hannah did not fix Samuel perpetually to the Tabernacle; but that she perpetually emancipated him from herself. See 1 Samuel 1:28 (Malvenda).


That he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever; that when once he is presented to the Lord, he may continue in his service as long as he liveth, as is said 1 Samuel 1:28.


Verse 23:[22] And (Num. 30:7) Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; (2 Sam. 7:25) only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.



[And tarry thou] Hebrew: sit.[23] To sitin the place of to remain, as in Genesis 22:5;[24]34:10;[25] 49:24;[26] and elsewhere. Thus Livy,[27] for the Carthaginians sitting near the Trebia[28] (Drusius).

[And I pray that the Lord will fulfill His word, אַ֛ךְ יָקֵ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה אֶת־דְּבָר֑וֹ] Even so, let the Lord confirm Him word (Montanus). [Similarly almost all interpreters.] Question: What then was this word? Response 1: What He promised through Eli (Vatablus, Drusius, Lyra, Piscator), that is, that He might consider that promse ratified. Here, the account of the entire prayer of Hannah is to be considered (Vatablus). This does not satisfy; For the word of Eli was already fulfilled, namely, concerning the birth of Samuel; therefore, he does not ask that it might be fulfilled (Mendoza). Response 2: Hence it appears that some revelation concerning Samuel preceded, which is not here expressed. For, the Scripture is wont to pass over many things in silence, which afterwards it furnishes and supplies (Lapide out of Cajetan). Response 3: [Others translate it otherwise.] May He confirm thy word in the event (Syriac, Arabic). Let God confirm what went forth from thy mouth (Septuagint) [as if in the place of דְּבָרוֹ, His word, they had read דְּבָרֵךְ, thy word]. Response 4: Here, wordis taken for thing (Menochius, Mendoza, Sanchez). As often elsewhere, Exodus 2:14;[29]4:8; 9:5,[30]and here and there elsewhere (Mendoza). Therefore, the sense is, Let the Lord fulfill and perfect what has been begun. The child is born; let him grow up and be confirmed, so that our joy, already begun, might be able to be complete (Menochius, similarly Mendoza, Sanchez).


The Lord establish his word; either, first, The word of God made known to them by Eli, above, verse 17, which being delivered by God’s high priest, and that in answer to his and his wife’s prayers, he took to be a kind of oracle sent from God. But that word was already fulfilled in the birth of a son. Or, secondly, Some other word or message from God to Elkanah or his wife concerning Samuel; for such revelations were frequent in those ages of the church, and were oft vouchsafed by God, concerning such children as were extraordinary persons, or in a special manner devoted to God; as concerning Isaac, Genesis 18, and Samson, Judges 13:3, 4, and John Baptist, Luke1:13, 14, etc., and others. And so it might be here, though it were not mentioned before, there being many such things in Scripture omitted in their proper places, which afterwards are expressed or implied upon other occasions. Or rather, thirdly, It may be rendered his matter, or thing, that is, the business concerning the child, that which thou hast promised or vowed concerning him, that he may grow up, and be accepted and employed by God in his service; and that he, when he is fully grown, may not break thy vow, but confirm it.


[1]Hebrew: וַיַּ֛עַל הָאִ֥ישׁ אֶלְקָנָ֖ה וְכָל־בֵּית֑וֹ לִזְבֹּ֧חַ לַֽיהוָ֛ה אֶת־זֶ֥בַח הַיָּמִ֖ים וְאֶת־נִדְרֽוֹ׃ [2]Compare Hebrews 11:5. [3]See Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16. [4]Psalm 25:14: “The secret of the Lord to them that fear him (ס֣וֹד יְ֭הוָה לִירֵאָ֑יו); and he will shew them his covenant.” [5]Psalm 25:15: “Mine eyes ever toward the Lord (עֵינַ֣י תָּ֭מִיד אֶל־יְהוָ֑ה); for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.” [6]Hebrew: וְחַנָּ֖ה לֹ֣א עָלָ֑תָה כִּֽי־אָמְרָ֣ה לְאִישָׁ֗הּ עַ֣ד יִגָּמֵ֤ל הַנַּ֙עַר֙ וַהֲבִאֹתִ֗יו וְנִרְאָה֙ אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה וְיָ֥שַׁב שָׁ֖ם עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ [7]See Exodus 12:48. [8]1 Samuel 1:22: “But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, Until the child be weaned (עַ֣ד יִגָּמֵ֤ל הַנַּ֙עַר֙; something appears necessary to complete the sense), and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever.” [9]Avicenna, or Ibn Sina (980-1037), was a Muslim philosopher and physician. He is remembered for his critical interaction with Aristotle and his groundbreaking work in medicine. [10]2 Maccabees 7:27: “But she bowing herself toward him, laughing the cruel tyrant to scorn, spake in her country language on this manner; O my son, have pity upon me that bare thee nine months in my womb, and gave thee such three years, and nourished thee, and brought thee up unto this age, and endured the troubles of education.” [11]Franciscus Valesius (1524-1592) was a Spanish Renaissance physician. [12]Claudius Galenus of Pergamum(129-200 AD) was an innovative Greek physician. [13]Hugh of St. Cher, also known as Hugo Cardinalis because he was the first Dominican to achieve the office of cardinal (c. 1200-1263), was a French Dominican Biblical scholar. His exegetical works, covering the entire canon, have been gathered into eight substantial volumes. [14]Numbers 17:8: “And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded (וַיִּגְמֹל) almonds.” [15]1 Kings 11:20: “And the sister of Tahpenes bare him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned (וַתִּגְמְלֵ֣הוּ תַחְפְּנֵ֔ס) in Pharaoh’s house: and Genubath was in Pharaoh’s household among the sons of Pharaoh.” [16]Genesis 21:8, 9. See what things are written on Genesis 21:8, 9. [17]Andrew Willet (1562-1621) was a product of Christ’s College, and he went on to serve the Anglican Church in various ministerial posts. He is noteable for his abilities in Greek and Hebrew, and his familiarity with the literature necessary for the right interpretation of Scripture. He wrote large commentaries on several books of the Bible, including 1 Samuel. [18]See also Leviticus 27:6. [19]Exodus 21:6: “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever (לְעֹלָם).” [20]See, for example, Numbers 4:3. [21]1 Samuel 12:2. [22]Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהּ֩ אֶלְקָנָ֙ה אִישָׁ֜הּ עֲשִׂ֧י הַטּ֣וֹב בְּעֵינַ֗יִךְ שְׁבִי֙ עַד־גָּמְלֵ֣ךְ אֹת֔וֹ אַ֛ךְ יָקֵ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה אֶת־דְּבָר֑וֹ וַתֵּ֤שֶׁב הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ וַתֵּ֣ינֶק אֶת־בְּנָ֔הּ עַד־גָמְלָ֖הּ אֹתֽוֹ׃ [23]Hebrew: שְׁבִי. [24]Genesis 22:5: “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye (שְׁבוּ־לָכֶם) here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” [25]Genesis 34:10: “And ye shall dwell with us (וְאִתָּ֖נוּ תֵּשֵׁ֑בוּ): and the land shall be before you; dwell (שְׁבוּ) and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.” [26]Genesis 49:24a: “But his bow abode in strength (וַתֵּ֤שֶׁב בְּאֵיתָן֙ קַשְׁתּ֔וֹ), and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob…” [27]Titus Livius (c. 59 BC-17 AD) wrote a history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita, from its founding to the time of Augustus. [28] History of Rome 21:48. The Trebia flows into the Po near Placentia. [29]Exodus 2:14: “And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing (הַדָּבָר) is known.” [30]Exodus 9:5: “And the Lord appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the Lord shall do this thing (הַדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּ֖ה) in the land.”

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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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