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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 19–28
Verses 19–28

Here is, I. The return of Elkanah and his family to their own habitation, when the days appointed for the feast were over, 1 Sam. 1:19. Observe how they improved their time at the tabernacle. Every day they were there, even that which was fixed for their journey home, they worshipped God; and they rose up early to do it. It is good to begin the day with God. Let him that is the first have the first. They had a journey before them, and a family of children to take with them, and yet they would not stir till they had worshipped God together. Prayer and provender do not hinder a journey. They had spent several days now in religious worship, and yet they attended once more. We should not be weary of well-doing.

II. The birth and name of this desired son. At length the Lord remembered Hannah, the very thing she desired (1 Sam. 1:11), and more she needed not desire, that was enough, for then she conceived and bore a son. Though God seem long to forget his people’s burdens, troubles, cares, and prayers, yet he will at length make it to appear that they are not out of his mind. This son the mother called Samuel, 1 Sam. 1:20. Some make the etymology of this name to be much the same with that of Ishmael—heard of God, because the mother’s prayers were remarkably heard, and he was an answer to them. Others, because of the reason she gives for the name, make it to signify asked of God. It comes nearly to the same; she designed by it to perpetuate the remembrance of God’s favour to her in answering her prayers. Thus she designed, upon every mention of his name, to take the comfort to herself and to give God the glory of that gracious condescension. Note, Mercies in answer to prayer are to be remembered with peculiar expressions of thankfulness, as Ps. 116:1, 2. How many seasonable deliverances and supplies may we call Samuels, asked of God; and whatever is so we are in a special manner engaged to devote to him. Hannah intended by this name to put her son in mind of the obligation he was under to be the Lord’s, in consideration of this, that he was asked of God and was at the same time dedicated to him. A child of prayer is in a special manner bound to be a good child. Lemuel’s mother reminds him that he was the son of her vows, Prov. 31:2.

III. The close attendance Hannah gave to the nursing of him, not only because he was dear to her, but because he was devoted to God, and for him she nursed him herself, and did not hang him on another’s breast. We ought to take care of our children, not only with an eye to the law of nature as they are ours, but with an eye to the covenant of grace as they are given up to God. See Ezek. 16:20, 21. This sanctifies the nursing of them, when it is done as unto the Lord. Elkanah went up every year to worship at the tabernacle, and particularly to perform his vow, perhaps some vow he had made distinct from Hannah’s if God would give him a son by her, 1 Sam. 1:21. But Hannah, though she felt a warm regard for the courts of God’s house, begged leave of her husband to stay at home; for the women were not under any obligation to go up to the three yearly feasts, as the men were. However Hannah had been accustomed to go, but now desired to be excused, 1. Because she would not be so long absent from her nursery. Can a woman forget her sucking child? We may suppose she kept constantly at home, for, if she had gone any where, she would have gone to Shiloh. Note, God will have mercy and not sacrifice. Those that are detained from public ordinances by the nursing and tending of little children may take comfort from this instance, and believe that, if they do that with an eye to God, he will graciously accept them therein, and though they tarry at home they shall divide the spoil. 2. Because she would not go up to Shiloh till her son was big enough, not only to be taken thither, but to be left there; for, if once she took him thither, she thought she could never find in her heart to bring him back again. Note, Those who are stedfastly resolved to pay their vows may yet see good cause to defer the payment of them. Every thing is beautiful in its season. No animal was accepted in sacrifice till it had been for some time under the dam, Lev. 22:27. Fruit is best when it is ripe. Elkanah agrees to what she proposes (1 Sam. 1:23): Do what seemeth thee good. So far was he from delighting to cross her that he referred it entirely to her. Behold how good and pleasant a thing it is, when yoke-fellows thus draw even in the yoke, and accommodate themselves to one another, each thinking well of what the other does, especially in works of piety and charity. He adds a prayer: Only the Lord establish his word, that is, “God preserve the child through the perils of his infancy, that the solemn vow which God signified his acceptance of, by giving us the child, may be performed in its season, and so the whole matter may be accomplished.” Note, Those that have in sincerity devoted their children to God may with comfort pray for them, that God will establish the word sealed to them at the same time that they were sealed for him.

IV. The solemn entering of this child into the service of the sanctuary. We may take it for granted that he was presented to the Lord at forty days old, as all the first-born were (Luke 2:22, 23): but this is not mentioned, because there was nothing in it singular; but now that he was weaned he was presented, not to be redeemed. Some think it was as soon as he was weaned from the breast, which, the Jews say, was not till he was three years old; it is said she gave him suck till she had weaned him, 1 Sam. 1:23. Others think it was not till he was weaned from childish things, at eight or ten years old. But I see no inconvenience in admitting such an extraordinary child as this into the tabernacle at three years old, to be educated among the children of the priests. It is said (1 Sam. 1:24), The child was young, but, being intelligent above his years, he was no trouble. None can begin too soon to be religious. The child was a child, so the Hebrew reads it, in his learning-age. For whom shall he teach knowledge but those that are newly weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts? Isa. 28:9. Observe how she presented her child, 1. With a sacrifice; no less than three bullocks, with a meat-offering for each, 1 Sam. 1:24. A bullock, perhaps, for each year of the child’s life. Or one for a burnt-offering, another for a sin-offering, and the third of a peace-offering. So far was she from thinking that, by presenting her son to God, she made God her debtor, that she thought it requisite by these slain offerings to seek God’s acceptance of her living sacrifice. All our covenants with God for ourselves and ours must be made by sacrifice, the great sacrifice. 2. With a grateful acknowledgement of God’s goodness in answer to prayer. This she makes to Eli, because he had encouraged her to hope for an answer of peace (1 Sam. 1:26, 27): “For this child I prayed. Here it was obtained by prayer, and here it is resigned to the prayer-hearing God. You have forgotten me, my lord, but I who now appear so cheerful am the woman, the very same, that three years ago stood by thee here weeping and praying, and this was the child I prayed for.” Answers of prayer may thus be humbly triumphed in, to the glory of God. Here is a living testimony for God. “I am his witness that he is gracious (see Ps. 66:16-19); for this mercy, this comfort, I prayed, and the Lord has given me my petition.” See Ps. 34:2, 4, 6. Hannah does not remind Eli of it by adverting to the suspicion he had formerly expressed; she does not say, “I am the woman whom you passed that severe censure upon; what do you think of me now?” Good men ought not to be upbraided with their infirmities and oversights. They have themselves repented of them; let them hear no more of them. 3. With a full surrender of all her interest in this child unto the Lord (1 Sam. 1:28): I have lent him to the Lord as long as he liveth. And she repeats it, because she will never revoke it: He shall be (a deodand) lent or given to the Lord. Not that she designed to call for him back, as we do what we lend, but she uses this word Shaol, lent, because it is the same word that she had used before (1 Sam. 1:20; I asked him of the Lord), only in another conjugation. And (1 Sam. 1:27) the Lord gave me the petition which I asked (Shaalti, in Kal), therefore I have lent him (Hishilti, the same word in Hiphil), and so it gives another etymology of his name Samuel, not only asked of God, but lent to God. And observe, (1.) Whatever we give to God, it is what we have first asked and received from him. All our gifts to him were first his gifts to us. Of thy own, Lord, have we given thee, 1 Chron. 29:14, 16. (2.) Whatever we give to God may upon this account be said to be lent to him, that though we may not recall it, as a thing lent, yet he will certainly repay it, with interest, to our unspeakable advantage, particularly what is given to his poor, Prov. 19:17. When by baptism we dedicate our children to God, let us remember that they were his before by a sovereign right, and that they are ours still so much the more to our comfort. Hannah resigns him to the Lord, not for a certain term of years, as children are sent apprentices, but durante vita—as long as he liveth, he shall be lent unto the Lord, a Nazarite for life. Such must our covenant with God be, a marriage-covenant; as long as live we must be his, and never forsake him.

Lastly, The child Samuel did his part beyond what could have been expected from one of his years; for of him that seems to be spoken, He worshipped the Lord there, that is he said his prayers. He was no doubt extraordinarily forward (we have known children that have discovered some sense of religion very young), and his mother, designing him for the sanctuary, took particular care to train him up to that which was to be his work in the sanctuary. Note, Little children should learn betimes to worship God. Their parents should instruct them in his worship and bring them to it, put them upon engaging in it as well as they can, and God will graciously accept them and teach them to do better.