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Poole on 1 Samuel 2:9: Hannah's Song, Part 9

Verse 9:[1] (Ps. 91:11; 121:3) He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.

[The feet of His saints He will keep] This is the latter part of the Canticle, in which Hannah prophesies concerning future things; just as in the former part hitherto she has honored God for His past blessings (Lapide). Hitherto (as Cajetan rightly observes) Hannah treated of divine providence oriented toward temporal guidance of this life. She now treats of divine providence concerning good and evil men, oriented toward eternal life; in which He keeps the former, and casts off the latter (Mendoza). The conclusion is prophetic, in which she promises divine protection and salvation to those that have cheerfully received it in Christ: but, on the other hand, she denounces wrath and destruction upon His adversaries (Malvenda out of Junius). A great man here understand the foot of the soul, which are our affections: Tostatus, the feet of the body. I, with Cajetan, understand both (Mendoza). Feet here are actions (Drusius, Lapide, Martyr), goings, movements (Lapide), pursuits, efforts, counsels (Martyr). For feet are instruments of actions, thus a lamp to the feet, Psalm 119:105; keep the feet, Ecclesiastes 5:1 (Drusius). It is a figurative expression, in which the feet are put for the whole body (Mendoza). He kept the bodies of the just (Jonathan). But, why are the feet here said to be kept by God? Responses: 1. Feet as the lowest part; therefore, immunity will not desert our noblest parts (Cajetan in Mendoza). 2. Feet, because no part is more likely to be injured than the feet. And because upon them the entire mass of the body is supported (Tostatus). As if, where more danger and labor is discerned, there God applies greater and swifter helps (Mendoza). In journeying the feet especially labor, because by walking itself they are worn and weakened, and sometimes slip, etc. Wherefore, whoever will keep and direct the feet, will keep the whole man. Hence holy men ask of God, that He might direct their goings, Psalm 17:5; 18:6; and by the stumbling of the feet an unhappy state is signified, Lamentations 4:18 (Sanchez). Moreover, God keeps the feet of His saints; that is, in the way, 1. Lest they fall into Gehenna. Thus Jonathan: He kept the bodies of the just from Gehenna. 2. Lest among temptations they fall into sin. 3. When they are drawn back from byways and oblique paths, and are recalled to the way of perfection. 4. When they follow after stability and firmness (so that they might continue immovable), and swiftness to run the way of God’s commandments[2] (Mendoza). God keeps His own from falling, not from every fall, but from deadly falling. As long as God bestows breath, (the saints) endure; but, with that removed, they immediately die (Martyr). He keeps their feet, lest they dash against a stone, according to Psalm 91:12 (Drusius, Lapide). That is, lest they walk toward evil (Munster).

[Of His saints (thus the Arabic, Munster, Vatablus), חֲסִידוֹ[3]] Of the pious (or, good [Tigurinus]) of Him (Syriac, Pagnine, Montanus, Drusius). Of the pious, who serve Him (Vatablus, Drusius). Whence they are called the Hasidim (Drusius). Of His kind ones, who are kind after the example of God, Matthew 5:44, 45 (Piscator). Of those that He benignly receives (Junius and Tremellius).

The feet, that is, the steps or paths, their counsels and actions, he will keep, that is, both uphold, that they may not fall, at least, into mischief or utter ruin; and direct and preserve from wandering, and from those fatal mistakes and errors that wicked men daily run into.

[And the wicked shall be silent in darkness, יִדָּמּוּ[4]] They shall be restrained (Munster, Tigurinus); they shall perish, or be destroyed (Dutch, English, Drusius). Those that walk in darkness, slip or trip more quickly than expected (Drusius). They shall be judged (Jonathan); they shall keep quiet. For they are called רְשָׁעִים/ wicked,[5] because they are of restless spirit (Drusius). They shall fall silent (Syriac, Pagnine, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, English, Dutch, similarly the Arabic). The sense is, either, 1. They will not speak inflated words there, as they have been wont to do here (Sanchez). 2. They will not be able to address and to comfort one another (Lapide). 3. The will be obscure (Lapide, Mendoza). It is a Metaphor taken from the ears and applied to the eyes; thus Pliny calls the moon not shining silent[6] (Mendoza). 4. They shall fall silent; that is, they will be immobile, because of stupefaction, just like the Egyptians, Wisdom of Solomon 17:2-4,[7] 16-19[8] (Lapide). Thus in Exodus 15:16, let them be as immobile as a stone; in the Hebrew, יִדְּמוּ, let them be silent. Thus elsewhere to be silent is put in the place of to rest, to cease, to be idle, Exodus 14:14;[9] 2 Samuel 19:10;[10] Psalm 28:1; Jeremiah 47:6 (Mendoza). 5. They shall fall silent, in confusion and fear; as the mouth of the pious is contrariwise opened wide, 1 Samuel 2:1, 3 (Junius, Piscator). They shall be convinced and confounded; Shame and sorrow shall block their throats. Thus in Isaiah 15:1, Moab fell silent, that is, he, transfixed with anguish, was stupefied; in Jeremiah 8:14, God hath put us to silence; and in Jeremiah 48:2;[11] Lamentations 2:10 (Mendoza). They shall not have any excuse, with which they might cover their guilt and grave (Lapide). See Wisdom of Solomon 3:18;[12] Matthew 22:12. And hence the infernal region is called silent and the place of silence, Psalm 94:17; 31:17 (Mendoza). Thus in Virgil’s Æneid 6:

Chaos[13] and Phlegethon,[14] broad and hushed regions of night.

And Seneca in Hippolytus,[15] he come to the silent house in perpetual night[16] (Lapide). They shall fall silent, or they fall silent, that is, they perish and die. When the impious die, they pass hence into darkness, not into light, as the pious do (Vatablus). The impious have darkness, 1. In the way, darkness of mind, that is, sins (Mendoza); the darkness of the imprudence and blind concupiscence of sinners (Lapide); Darknesses are not only afflictions, but also our reason, the prudence of the flesh, φιλοσοφία/philosophy, and whatever in us is without the grace of God. The impious are left in those things by the just judgment of God; they dash against them and fall. To this darkness is opposed light, both exterior, or of the word; and interior, which illuminates the mind and bends the will, whereby God preserves the pious (Martyr). 2. In the end. They will be cast into outer darkness (Mendoza).

Shall be silent; shall be put to silence: they who used to open their mouths wide against heaven, and against the saints, shall be so confounded with the unexpected disappointment of all their hopes, and with God’s glorious appearance and operations for his people, that they shall have their months quite stopped, and sit down in silent amazement and consternation: see Isaiah 15:1; Jeremiah 8:14; 47:5-7. In darkness; both inward, in their own minds, which are wholly in the dark, perplexed by their own choice and counsels, not knowing what to say or do; and outward, in a state of deepest distress and misery.

[For not in his own strength will a man be strengthened[17]] She renders a reason for both sentences, namely, that the good are preserved by God, and the evil are punished; because the former are not able to be sufficient for themselves (whence all occasion for pride is cut off from them), nor are the latter able to resist God (Mendoza); that is to say, God will keep the feet of His saints; because they, knowing their infirmity, have not relied upon their own strength, but upon God’s, and have suppliantly called upon Him: but He allowed the impious to fall into sin, and to rush on into gehenna, because they, confiding in their own strength, neglected to invoke the help of God (Lapide). The pious are not at all preserved by their strength; and the impious, when they are afflicted, are in no way able to resist (Martyr). No one is able to preserve himself by his own strength (Vatablus). The impious will at length be cast into darkness, where no one will be able to help himself by his own strength, power, or wealth; no one is able to escape the hand of the living God,[18] since He is also the Judge of the ends of the earth[19] (Munster). אִישׁ/man is the same as whoever. The sense: There is not anyone, whose power and strength is able to provide any help against the will and power of God. Wherefore, he will contend in vain, who with God resisting would hold high position; or oppress the righteous and poor, because God stands by these, etc. (Sanchez).

By strength shall no man prevail, to wit, against God, or against his saints, as the wicked were confident they should do, because of their great power, and wealth, and numbers; whereas God’s people were mean, and impotent, and helpless. And particularly, Peninnah shall not prevail against me by that strength which she hath, or thinks to have, from her numerous offspring. But it is to be observed, that although Hannah takes the rise of this song from her own condition, yet she extends her thoughts and words further, even to the usual methods of God’s providence in the government of the world.

[1] Hebrew: רַגְלֵ֤י חֲסִידוֹ֙ יִשְׁמֹ֔ר וּרְשָׁעִ֖ים בַּחֹ֣שֶׁךְ יִדָּ֑מּוּ כִּֽי־לֹ֥א בְכֹ֖חַ יִגְבַּר־אִֽישׁ׃ [2] See Psalm 119:32. [3] חָסַד/chasad signifies to be good, kind, or pious. [4] דָּמַם signifies to be silent or still. [5] רָשַׁע signifies to make a noise, or to be wicked. [6] Natural History 16:190. [7] Wisdom of Solomon 17:2-4: “For when unrighteous men thought to oppress the holy nation; they being shut up in their houses, the prisoners of darkness, and fettered with the bonds of a long night, lay there exiled from the eternal providence. For while they supposed to lie hid in their secret sins, they were scattered under a dark veil of forgetfulness, being horribly astonished, and troubled with strange apparitions. For neither might the corner that held them keep them from fear: but noises as of waters falling down sounded about them, and sad visions appeared unto them with heavy countenances.” [8] Wisdom of Solomon 17:16-19: “So then whosoever there fell down was straitly kept, shut up in a prison without iron bars, for whether he were husbandman, or shepherd, or a labourer in the field, he was overtaken, and endured that necessity, which could not be avoided: for they were all bound with one chain of darkness. Whether it were a whistling wind, or a melodious noise of birds among the spreading branches, or a pleasing fall of water running violently, or a terrible sound of stones cast down, or a running that could not be seen of skipping beasts, or a roaring voice of most savage wild beasts, or a rebounding echo from the hollow mountains; these things made them to swoon for fear.” [9] Exodus 14:14: “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peaceוְאַתֶּ֖ם) תַּחֲרִישֽׁוּן׃, and ye shall be silent).” [10] 2 Samuel 19:10: “And Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why speak ye not a word (לָמָ֥ה אַתֶּ֛ם מַחֲרִשִׁ֖ים, why are ye silent) of bringing the king back?” [11] Jeremiah 48:2: “There shall be no more praise of Moab: in Heshbon they have devised evil against it; come, and let us cut it off from being a nation. Also thou shalt be cut down (תִּדֹּמִּי, thou shalt be silent), O Madmen; the sword shall pursue thee.” [12] Wisdom of Solomon 3:16-19: “As for the children of adulterers, they shall not come to their perfection, and the seed of an unrighteous bed shall be rooted out. For though they live long, yet shall they be nothing regarded: and their last age shall be without honour. Or, if they die quickly, they have no hope, neither comfort in the day of trial. For horrible is the end of the unrighteous generation.” [13] That is, the Underworld. [14] In Greek mythology, Phlegethon is one of the rivers of the Underworld. [15] When the play now known as Phædra was revived during the Renaissance, it was initially called Hippolytus. [16] Phædra 221. [17] Hebrew: כִּֽי־לֹ֥א בְכֹ֖חַ יִגְבַּר־אִֽישׁ׃. [18] See Hebrews 10:31. [19] See 1 Samuel 2:10.

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