Tuesday, December 14, 2004

1 Samuel 2

Chapter 2 has two segments. The first is Hannah's prayer, which is often compared to Mary's Magnificat of Luke 1:46-55. Yet the Magnificat is far more centered on God, while Hannah's prayer is centered on the material advantages of serving Him. Yet though its sentiments are more earthy than the Magnificat, it is also more fervent.

The key element of Hannah's prayer is that it foreshadows the life of David. She says that the Lord is the source of life and death, of poverty and wealth, lifting up the poor (as He lifted David), guarding the feet of His saints (as He guarded David from Saul), and exalting the horn of His anointed (as He did first for Saul, and then when Saul proved unworthy, for David).

The second segment of 1 Sam. 2 provides the perfect contrast to the coming king in the corrupt sons (Phinehas and Hophni) of Eli. They are called "sons of Belial" or Satan (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02408a.htm). It is difficult to convey the full sense of the sacrilege they committed. They appropriated sacrificed meat for themselves and, like animals, demanded even raw meat. Indeed, as the sons have appropriated the sacrifices of the Lord and rejected substitutionary sacrifice, the Lord blinds them to their danger to turn them into living sacrifices.

They sleep with "the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting," possibly a reference to shrine prostitutes, although Jamieson thinks they were ascetics (http://www.blueletterbible.org/tmp_dir/c/1103078418-7310.html). It seems likely that the women were indeed prostitutes, forbidden by Yahweh but common among the Canaanite religions. This would emphasize how corrupt worship at Shiloh had become.

Eli serves to illustrate that being good is not enough. Eli blesses Hannah and reproves his sons for their wrongdoing. Evidently he trained Samuel appropriately. But because he was unwilling to stand up against the wrongs of Phinehas and Hophni. And so a "man of God" comes to Eli-- who should have been a man of God but was not-- and foretells his fate and the fate of his sons and all his descendants. But he also accuses Eli of participating in the wrongdoing of Hophni and Phinehas, saying that both father and sons are fattening themselves on the sacrifices and the text confirms this in 1 Sam. 4:18 (http://www.blueletterbible.org/tmp_dir/c/1103075710-3301.html)

The punishment is very harsh. All descendants are to be "cut off from the altar," and those that are not will beg to be appointed as priests just to be able to eat.

In the midst of this iniquity is young Samuel, who manages to remain completely unsullied. Like a lotus, he blooms from filth.


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