1 Samuel 2:1
At that time Hannah prayed: "My heart rejoices in the LORD in whom my horn is exalted. My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, for I rejoice in Your salvation.
Hannah's SongA. F. Kirkpatrick, D. D.1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hannah's Song of ThanksgivingW. G. Blaikie.1 Samuel 2:1-10
Rejoicing in the LordB. Dale 1 Samuel 2:1-10
Spiritual GladnessManton, Thomas1 Samuel 2:1-10
The Prayer Song of HannahD. Fraser 1 Samuel 2:1-10

1 Samuel 2:1-10. (SHILOH)
My heart rejoiceth in the Lord. The song of Hannah, "the Magnificat of the Old Testament Church," was the outburst of her deep and holy joy in the Lord. Whilst watching over the infant Samuel at Ramah, she had silently pondered the ways of God, and the condition and prospects of his people and kingdom. After several years of absence from the central sanctuary at Shiloh, she appears once more at its entrance; and, standing on the well remembered spot where she had prayed in her distress, she fulfils her vow, and gives back to God the sacred treasure intrusted to her care. The trouble of former years recalled, provocations and inward conflicts ended, the sunshine of Divine favour experienced, cause her full heart to "bubble up like a fountain," and pour itself out in lofty poetic strains (ver. 1). What a contrast does this language indicate between her condition at the time of the previous visit and her condition now!

1. Then her heart was full of grief; now it "rejoiceth in the Lord."

2. Then her "horn" (strength, a figure taken from animals whose strength is in their horns, and here first employed. 2 Samuel 22:3; Luke 1:69) was trampled in the dust; now it is "exalted," and she is endued with strength and honour "by the Lord."

3. Then her mouth was shut, in silent endurance, beneath the provocation of her adversary (1 Samuel 1:6); now it is "enlarged," or opened in holy exultation, "above her enemies."

4. Then she was petitioning for the help of the Lord now she "rejoices in his salvation," or the deliverance which he has wrought on her behalf; and it is "because" of this that she utters aloud her thanksgiving and praise. Her soul with all its powers, like a harp of many strings, touched by the Divine Spirit, gives forth exquisite music. "The Divinely inspired song of Hannah is like a golden key for the interpretation of the whole book" (Wordsworth's 'Com.'). Compare this song with the song of Miriam and of Deborah. "Those compositions are grand, indeed, and elevated, and worthy of that inspiration which produced them; but they have not that tenderness of spirit, that personality of devotion, and that eucharistic anticipation of good things to come which characterise the hymn of Hannah" (Jebb, 'Sac. Lit.,' p. 395). It is the model after which the song of the Virgin Mary was formed, though there are notable points of difference between them. Considered in relation to the circumstances, and in its general nature, her song was a song of -

1. Gratitude. Her prayer had been answered in the gift of a son; and, unlike those who look no further than the blessings bestowed upon them, she looked from the gift to the Giver, and praised him with joyful lips. Her heart rejoiced not in Samuel, but in the Lord.

2. Dedication. She had given back her child to God, and with him herself afresh. The more we give to God, the more our heart is enlarged, by the shedding abroad of his love therein, and filled with exceeding joy.

3. Triumph; remembering how she had been delivered from her adversaries in the past.

4. Faith in his continued help.

5. Patriotism. She sympathised with her people in their oppression by the Philistines; and, identifying herself with them, she almost lost sight of what God had done for her in the contemplation of what he would do for them. "From this particular mercy she had received from God she takes occasion, with an elevated and enlarged heart, to speak of the glorious things of God, and of his government of the world for the good of the Church." "She discerned in her own individual experience the general laws of the Divine economy, and its signification in relation to the whole history of the kingdom of God" (Anberlen).

6. Prophetic hope. She beheld the dawn of a new day, and was glad. In all and above all -

7. Joy in the Lord. "My heart rejoiceth in the Lord;" not merely before him (Deuteronomy 12:12); but in him, as the Object and Source of its joy; in communion with and contemplation of him, and in the admiration, affection, and delight thereby excited. "My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord" (Psalm 104:34). "When I think of God," said Haydn (on being asked the reason why the style of his music was so cheerful), "my soul is so full of joy that the notes come leaping and dancing from my pen." More especially observe that Hannah rejoiced in -

I. THE PERFECTIONS OF HIS CHARACTER (vers. 2, 3). Such perfections must not, indeed, be thought of as existing in God separate and distinct from each other; they are essential attributes of his living personality, and are all really present in his every purpose and act. What is here declared of God is, that -

1. He alone is "holy."

(1) Supremely excellent; whatever excellence exists in any other being falls infinitely short of his (Isaiah 6:3).

(2) Morally perfect; invariably willing what is right and good; transcendently glorious in the view of conscience (Leviticus 11:44).

(3) Absolutely existent, which is the ground of his excellence and perfection. "For there is none except thee." "God is the most perfect Being, and the cause of all other beings." His moral perfection is a peculiar distinction of the revelation which he made to his chosen people, needs to be specially magnified in times of corruption, and can only be rejoiced in by his saints. The conception which men form of God is an evidence of their own character, and exerts a powerful influence upon it (Luke 1:49).

2. He alone is strong. "A Rock."

(1) Firm, unchanging, enduring; a sure foundation for confidence.

(2) None can be compared unto him. They may not be trusted in, and they need not be feared.

(3) Happy are those who can say, He is "our God." That which is a terror to others is a consolation to them. "The children of a king do not fear what their father has in his arsenal." "Let the inhabitant of the rock sing." But men often speak proudly and arrogantly (ver. 3), as if they were independent of him, and could do whatever they pleased. Let them not boast any more; for -

3. He is the All-wise; a "God of knowledge" (lit., knowledges) of all knowledge. "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity" (Psalm 94:11; Psalm 138:6). His knowledge is

(1) immediate,

(2) perfect, and

(3) universal. And,

4. He is the Judge of human actions. He determines how far they may go before they are effectually checked by the manifestation of his power and wisdom (Thenius). "By strength shall no man prevail." He also forms a just estimate of their moral worth, and gives to every man his due reward. His righteousness and justice, as well as his strength and wisdom, when contemplated by the good, fill them with great joy.

II. THE OPERATIONS OF HIS PROVIDENCE (vers. 4-8). The operations of Providence are the operations of God in the natural world, the laws of which are the uniform methods of his activity, and more especially in human affairs; wherein, whilst there is room for human freedom and prudence, and the use of means, his will encircles and overrules all things, and his hand moves in and through those events which are commonly attributed to chance or accident, and directs and controls them for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). In and by these operations -

1. He manifests the perfections of his character: his holiness, power, wisdom, and justice. "The Lord is righteous in all his ways (Psalm 97:2 145:17).

2. He apportions the different conditions of men, and accomplishes the varied changes of their condition.

(1) Makes the strong weak and the weak strong (ver. 4).

(2) The full empty and the empty full (ver. 5).

(3) Increases the lonely and diminishes the numerous family.

(4) Brings into great distress, even to the verge of the grave, and again restores to health and prosperity (ver. 6).

(5) Makes poor and makes rich.

(6) Brings low and raises up. Prosperity and adversity alike, when received from the hand of God and used aright, become occasions of joy; and the changes of life are morally beneficial (Psalm 55:19; Jeremiah 48:11; James 1:9, 10).

3. He does great things, especially for the lowly (ver. 8). Stooping to them in their utmost need and shame (Psalm 113:7, 8), and raising them to the highest honour and glory. "God does nothing else," said an ancient philosopher, "but humble the proud and exalt the lowly." "Set thyself in the lowest place, and the highest shall be given thee; for the more elevated the building is designed to be, the deeper must the foundations be laid. The greatest saints in the sight of God are the least in their own esteem; and the height of their glory is always in proportion to the depth of their humility" (Thomas a Kempis).

4. He supports the earth and all that is upon it. His dominion is supreme; and he has therefore the power, as he has the right, to do whatever may please him. An unfaltering trust in Providence is a cure of undue anxiety and a cause of abounding peace and joy. "Certainly it is heaven on earth to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in Providence, and turn upon the poles of truth" (Bacon). "The prophets of the Old Testament inculcate with a remarkable perspicuity and decision the overruling agency of God's providence in the affairs of the world. Their whole prophecy is more or less a commentary on this doctrine What a basis is laid by it of peace and tranquillity to every thoughtful and most feeling mind; and how different the aspect of the world becomes when we have reason to know that all things in it, and every combination of them, whether in the fortunes of kingdoms or in a more private state, are under the control of an intelligent and gracious Ruler. Were we in the chains of chance, how gloomy would our case be. Were we in the hands of men, too often how fearful, how humiliating, how conflicting. But the impression of the scene is changed when we admit into it the direction of an all-wise and perfect Being, in whose rectitude and goodness we may acquiesce through the whole course of his providential dispensation" (Davison 'on Prophecy,' p. 59).

"One adequate support
For the calamities of mortal life
Exists, one only; - an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, howe'er
Sad or disturb'd, is order'd by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power,
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good"


III. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF HIS KINGDOM (vers. 9, 10). God is a moral governor, and directs his providential operations with a view to the setting up of a kingdom of righteousness upon earth. This kingdom existed from the first, was more fully exhibited in the theocracy of Israel, and culminated in the rule of Christ, who "must reign until he hath put all enemies under his feet." In every stage of development it involves conflict. But -

1. He will protect, its subjects; his saints (lit., pious, those who love God), against whom the wicked will contend in vain (ver. 9).

2. He will overthrow its adversaries (ver. 10); their overthrow being

(1) certain,

(2) unexpected,

(3) complete - "broken to pieces," - and

(4) signally indicative of the interposition of heaven (1 Samuel 7:10).

3. He will extend its borders to the ends of the earth.

4. And he will clothe with strength, honour, and majesty the king whom he appoints and anoints for the accomplishment of his purposes. Hannah commenced her song with rejoicing on account of the strength and honour conferred upon herself, and she closes it with rejoicing on account of the strength and honour which would be conferred on him who should be "higher than the kings of the earth." "Let the children of Zion be joyful in their king." "The anointed of the Lord, of whom Hannah prophesies in the spirit, is not one single king in Israel, either David or Christ, but an ideal king, though not a mere personification of the throne about to be established, but the actual king whom Israel received in David and the race, which culminated in the Messiah. The exaltation of the horn of the anointed of Jehovah commenced with the victorious and splendid expansion of the power of David, was repeated with every victory over the enemies of God and his kingdom gained by the successive kings of David's house, goes on in the advancing spread of the kingdom of Christ, and will eventually attain to its eternal consummation in the judgment of the last day, through which all the enemies of Christ will be made his footstool" (Keil). - D.

And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord.
Modern criticism has decided, to its own satisfaction, that the noble hymn here attributed to Hannah, cannot possibly have been uttered by her lips as a thanksgiving for the birth of Samuel. It breaks the obvious connexion of the narrative: its real theme is the rout of the nation's enemies, and the triumph of the national armies: above all, the concluding words, which speak of Jehovah's King, and pray that He may exalt the horn of His anointed, unmistakably stamp it as a product of the regal period, when the kingdom was already established. Some critics, of no mean reputation, go so far as to name David as the true author, and assign the slaughter of Goliath, and subsequent defeat of the Philistines, as the real occasion. Let us examine the hymn in detail. It is called a prayer; yet, with the exception of the concluding words, which should be rendered as a petition, it is wholly occupied with praise and thanksgiving. Prayer is not limited to supplication. It embraces all address of the human soul to the Most High: it includes all forms of worship. Praise and thanksgiving are true and necessary parts of prayer. And what are the thoughts which fill Hannah's heart, and will not be repressed? A deep and holy joy for the salvation which Jehovah has wrought for her. Her reproach of barrenness is taken away. She is now a mother in Israel: and mother of what a child! She is exultant; yet in the midst of triumph there is no vindictiveness, no uncharitable recollection of the taunts and unkindness which she had had to endure. Her heart is full, not of herself, but of God. He alone is holy: He alone is self-existent: He alone is the Rock of Israel, secure, unchanging, faithful in His covenant. From contemplating the character of Jehovah she passes to a survey of His dealings with men. In her own individual experience she sees an illustration of the laws which regulate the Divine economy. The most casual observer cannot fail to notice sudden vicissitudes of fortune in the lives of individuals and the history of nations. Whence these sharp contrasts? It is Jehovah who is "the God of life and death and all things thereto pertaining"; poverty and wealth, promotion and degradation, proceed from Him. The vicissitudes of humanity are not fortuitous; Jehovah created the world; Jehovah sustains the world; Jehovah governs the world and all that is therein in righteousness. He defends His saints: He silences the wicked: and who can resist His will? "By strength shall no man prevail." Her prophetic vision grows clearer as she proceeds. We are now in a better position to estimate the worth of the hostile criticisms.

I. Can it be seriously maintained for a moment that this hymn interrupts the narrative and is obviously out of place? What could be more natural than that Hannah should join in her husband's worship, and pour out her full heart in the energy of a prophetic inspiration? What place could be more fitting for this than the tabernacle where Jehovah had fixed His visible dwelling place? What moment more appropriate than that of which she restored to Jehovah the gift she had received from His hands for His service?

II. Nor, secondly, can we agree with the assertion that the tone and contents of the hymn mark it to be an old war song, a thanksgiving for victory over enemies. There is no direct mention of an Israelite victory: the defeat of the mighty warriors is but an incidental illustration: it is but one of the contrasts introduced to show how Jehovah's government is exercised in the world.

III. The third objection is at first sight more forcible. The mention of a king might seem to argue a later date. But even this difficulty is only superficial. Why should not Hannah have spoken of a king, the anointed of Jehovah? The promises made to Abraham pointed to the eventual establishment of a kingdom for the chosen people. "I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee." "I will bless Sarah, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her." And at this period the desire for a king was manifestly stirring in the national mind. Already the men of Israel bad proposed a hereditary monarchy when they said to Gideon, "Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son;" and though he refused, saying, "The Lord shall rule over you," it must have been felt that the establishment of a monarchy could not be far distant. A monarchy, indeed, was not the ideal form of government for the chosen people. In demanding it they were actuated by unbelief and mistrust of Jehovah, and therefore it was displeasing to Him, for it was a "rejection of Him." Yet it bore its part in the preparation for Messiah's coming; it was incorporated as an element in the evolution of the divine purposes. And why should not Hannah be inspired with a prophetic foresight to see that at length the king was inevitable, and to pray that Jehovah would make his rule effectual? The review of the Divine character, and the Divine government of the world is a theme which would most naturally suggest itself to one who felt that she had just experienced a manifestation of those principles in her own case. Let us turn to a consideration of the leading idea of the hymn. The problem of the mysterious and incalculable vicissitudes of fortune is one which has presented itself to all ages. What is the cause of them? It is Φθόνος the Νέμεσις, said the Greek. The Envy of the Gods, drags the over-prosperous down to the abyss of ruin, and smites down the pride of man in middle course. He counted the Gods to be beings of like passions with himself, slaves of jealousy and spitefulness. Some, in the spirit of a truer creed, denied such a degrading hypothesis: and saw Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, dogging the footsteps of the sinner, and exacting from him to the utmost the penalty of his transgression. It is Necessity, answered the ancient Roman, stern, inexorable, heartless Necessity, before whose fiat we must bow, whose decisions we cannot investigate. It is Fortune, laughed the sceptical Horace: "Fortune exulting in her cruel task, And bent on playing out her heartless game." But centuries before Greek or Roman faced the problem, its solution had been revealed to the Hebrew mind. The Hebrew prophetess sees no angry, spiteful deity, jealous of man's prosperity: no stern and pitiless fate: no fickle and capricious Fortune at the helm of the universe; but a personal Ruler, holy, just, omniscient, almighty, governing in truth and righteousness. It was a truth which had an especial value for the Israelite of that age. He had no clear revelation of a future life: and without the knowledge of a future life the mystery of human existence is a thousandfold more perplexing. His faith was often sorely tried, because "he saw the wicked in such prosperity." The unmerited chastisement of righteous men like Job seemed almost like a flaw in the justice of the Almighty: and he had need to brace his moral consciousness by recourse to a confession such as this, declaring in no equivocal terms the universal rule of Jehovah, founded in righteousness and truth. For us the reiteration of this truth is valuable for a widely different reason. The study of second causes, the formation of laws, physical, social, moral, tend to obscure our view of the Great First Cause, and to obliterate our conception of the direct personal control exercised by the ruler of the universe. "Jehovah bringeth low and lifteth up. By strength shall no man prevail." There is a personal and a national lesson in this. We are forced, all of us, some time in our lives, to learn our own impotence, our littleness, our dependence on a power not our own. There is a lesson for nations here too. It is God who lifteth up, it is God who gives national prosperity; the continuance of that prosperity is surely conditional upon the observance of His laws, and those laws will be best observed when the national conscience acknowledges that its prosperity springs ultimately from a higher source than its own genius or industry. Pride and self-confidence have ever been the parents of corruption and degeneracy.

(A. F. Kirkpatrick, D. D.)

The emotion that filled Hannah's breast after she had granted Samuel to the Lord, and left him settled at Shiloh, was one of triumphant joy. In her song we see no trace of depression, like that of a bereaved and desolate mother. Some may be disposed to think less of Hannah on this account; they may think she would have been more of a true mother if something of human regret had been apparent in her song. But surely we ought not to blame her if the Divine emotion that so completely filled her soul excluded for the time every ordinary feeling. This was Hannah's feeling, as it afterwards was that of Elizabeth, and still more of the Virgin Mary, and it is no wonder that their songs, which bear a close resemblance to each other, should have been used by the Christian Church to express the very highest degree of thankfulness. Hannah's heart was enlarged as she thought how many lowly souls that brought their burden to Him were to be relieved; and how many empty and hungry hearts, pining for food and rest, were to find how He "satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." But it would seem that her thoughts took a still wider sweep. Looking on herself as representing the nation of Israel, she seems to have felt that what had happened to her on a small scale was to happen to the nation on a large. May not the Holy Spirit have given her a glimpse of the great truth — "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given?" And may not this high theme have been the cause of that utter absence of human regret, that apparent want of motherly heart stoking, which we mark in the song? When we examine the substance of the song more carefully, we find that Hannah derives her joy from four things about God: —

I. HIS NATURE (vv. 2-3). In the second and third verses we find comfort derived from

(1)God's holiness,

(2)His unity,

(3)His strength,

(4)His knowledge, and

(5)His justice.(1) The holiness, the spotlessness of God is a source of comfort, "There is none holy as the Lord." To the wicked this attribute is no comfort, but only a terror. Left to themselves, men take away this attribute, and, like the Greeks and Romans and other pagans, ascribe to their gods the lusts and passions of poor human creatures. Yet to those who can appreciate it, how blessed a thing is the holiness of God!(2) His unity gives comfort — "There is none beside Thee."(3) His strength gives comfort — "Neither is there any rock like our God."(4) His knowledge gives comforts — "The Lord is a God of knowledge." He sees all secret wickedness, and knows how to deal with it. His eye is on every plot hatched in the darkness. He knows His faithful servants, what they aim at, what they suffer, what a strain is often put on their fidelity(5) His justice gives comfort. "By Him actions are weighed." Their true quality is ascertained; what is done for mean, selfish ends stands out before Him in all its native ugliness, and draws down the retribution that is meet.

II. GOD'S HOLY GOVERNMENT (vers. 3-8). The main feature of God's providence dwelt on here is the changes that occur in the lot of certain classes. And these changes are the doing of God. If nothing were taught here but that there are great vicissitudes of fortune among men, then a lesson would come from it alike to high and low — let the high beware lest they glory in their fortune, let the low not sink into dejection and despair. If it be further borne in mind that these changes of fortune are all in the hands of God, a further lesson arises, to beware how we offend God, and to live in the earnest desire to enjoy His favour. But there is a further lesson. The class of qualities that are here marked as offensive to God are pride, self-seeking, self-sufficiency both in ordinary matters and in their spiritual development.


IV. Hannah rejoices in that dispensation of mercy that was coming in connection with God's "king, His anointed" (1 Samuel 2:10). Guided by the Spirit, she sees that a king is coming, that a kingdom is to be set up, and ruled over by the Lord's anointed. Did she catch a glimpse of what was to happen under such kings as David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah? Did she see in prophetic vision the loving care of such kings for the welfare of the people, their holy zeal for God, their activity and earnestness in doing good? And did the glimpse of these coming benefits suggest to her the thought of what was to be achieved by Him who was to be the anointed one, the Messiah in a higher sense? We can hardly avoid giving this scope to her song. What is the great lesson of this song? That for the answer to prayer, for deliverance from trial, for the fulfilment of hopes, for the glorious things yet spoken of the city of our God, our most cordial thanksgivings are due to God.

(W. G. Blaikie.)

As the odours and sweet smells of Arabia are carried by the winds and air into the neighbouring provinces, so that before travellers come thither they have the scent of that aromatic country; so the joys of heaven are by the sweet breathings and gales of the Holy Ghost blown into the hearts of believers, and the sweet smells of the upper paradise are conveyed into the gardens of the churches. Those joys which are stirred up in us by the Spirit before we get to heaven are a pledge of what we may expect hereafter.

( T. Manton, D. D..)

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