1 Samuel 2 – “Hannah’s Thanksgiving Song; A Corrupt Priesthood”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Hannah thanks God by reciting a thanksgiving hymn. Eli’s sons corrupt the priesthood by stealing meat and sleeping with women who visit the temple. An angel appears to Eli and tells him his family will be punished accordingly.

II. Photo
The priests abuse their privileges: “And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling. Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.” (vv. 13-14)

III. Important Verses
5: Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, And the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, And she who has many children has become feeble.
8: He raises the poor from the dust, And lifts the beggar from the ash heap, To set them among princes And make them inherit the throne of glory. “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, And He has set the world upon them.
12-14: Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD. And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling. Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.
22-25: Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD’S people transgress. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.
26: And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the LORD and men.
31-32: Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever.

IV. Outline
1-10. Hannah’s thanksgiving hymn
11. Elkanah returns home
12-17. Priestly corruption
18-20. Samuel’s piety
21. Hannah gives birth to five more children
22-25. Eli’s protest; the priests obstinance
26. Samuel’s rise
27-36. An angel predicts the fall of the house of Eli and the rise of a new priest

V. Comment
Chapter 2 begins with Hannah’s song, a thanksgiving hymn that has similarities in content and structure with many of the psalms. According to Gerstenberger, “a Thanksgiving song was promised by the suppliant at the height of distress and delivered when salvation had occurred or was in sight. Occasionally this toda (originally ‘sacrifice offered in gratitude’ and then ‘song of praise’ that used to accompany such offering….), or prayer of adoration, praise, and gratitude, is compared favorably to bloody sacrifice (see Ps 51:17-18 [RSV 15-16]). The genre breathes joy and exuberance, festive gratitude in the midst of a crowd of invited guests (Ps 22:23, 26 [RSV 22, 25]).) The dark background of danger and misery is now left behind.” (15)

The main elements of the thanksgiving genre are the following:

  • Invitation to give thanks or praise
  • Account of trouble or salvation
  • Praise of God / Acknowledgement of his saving work
  • Offertory formula at the presentation of sacrifice
  • Blessings over participants in the ceremony
  • Exhortation

While Hannah’s thanksgiving contains many of these elements, Collins points out that it is not complete: “The song is a psalm, such as we find in the Psalter, and was probably not composed specifically for this context. As we shall see, there is in the Psalter a genre of Thanksgiving Psalms (e.g., Psalms 18, 30, 118), which would be appropriate for a context like this. These typically include a description of the distress from which the psalmist was delivered, and often contain indications of a ceremonial context (e.g., a call to the other participants to join in the thanksgiving). Hannah’s Song does not have these distinctive features of the thanksgiving psalm of the individual. It is a more general hymn of praise, which refers to God’s typical ways of dealing with humanity rather than to a specific act of deliverance.” (219) The reason that this particular thanksgiving was chosen is probably the mention of a barren woman giving birth in v. 5: “Even the barren has borne seven.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 15 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Gerstenberger, Erhard. “Psalms Part 1 With an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 14 (Michigan: Eeerdmans, 1988).
McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. “1 Samuel,” Anchor Bible vol. 8 (New York: Doubleday, 1980)
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