1 Samuel 1:1
(1) Now there was a certain man.--Literally, And there was, &c. These introductory words do not signify that this history is the continuation of the Book of Judges or of any preceding writing. It is a common historical introductory formula. We find it at the commencement of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Kings, Esther, Ezra, Ezekiel, &c. The circumstances under which this record was probably compiled are discussed elsewhere.

Of Ramathaim-zophim.--The name Ramathaim--literally, The Two Ramahs--is the dual of the well-known Ramah, the appellation by which this city is usually known. The old city was, no doubt, built on two hills, which looked one on the other: hence perhaps the name Zophim, the watchers. Possibly at an early date watch-towers or outlooks, to enable the citizens to guard against surprise, were built on the summit of these hills. Either of these suppositions would account for the suggestive name by which Ramah was once known, the "Ramahs of the Watchers."

Others would connect the appellation "Zophim" with the family of Zuph, from whom Elkanah descended. (See 1Chronicles 6:35, and 1Samuel 9:5, where the land of Zuph is mentioned.) An interesting. though fanciful, derivation refers Zophim, watchers, to the "prophet-watchmen" of the house of Israel, as Ramah in after years was a school of the prophets.

On the whole, the simplest and least strained explanation is the one given above, which refers the name to the hills so placed that they watched one another, or better still, to the watch-towers built at an early date on the two summits.

Ramah lay among the mountains of Ephraim, which extended into the territory of Benjamin, in which tribe the city of Ramah lay.

His name was Elkanah.--Elkanah, the father of the future prophet-judge, was a Levite of the family of Kohath (compare the genealogy given here with 1Chronicles 6:22). He is here termed an Ephrathite: that is, an Ephraimite, because, as far as his civil standing was concerned, he belonged to the tribe of Ephraim.

Some have found a difficulty in reconciling the Levitical descent of Samuel with his dedication to the Lord by his mother, supposing that in the case of a Levite this would be unnecessary; but the dedication of Samuel, it should be remembered, was a life-long one, whereas the Levitical service only began when the Levite was twenty-five years old; and even then the service was not continuous.

Verse 1. - There was a certain man of Ramathaim-Zophim. Though Samuel belonged to the tribe of Levi, yet no special mention is made of the fact, because he owed his importance and rank as a judge not to his Levitical origin, but to the gift of prophecy, which was independent of the accidents of birth and station. In the First Book of Chronicles, ch. 6, his parentage is twice given, that in vers. 22-28 being apparently the family genealogy, while that in vers. 33-38 was probably taken from the records of the temple singers, sprung from Heman, Samuel's grandson (1 Chronicles 6:33). His name there appears as Shemuel, our translators not having perceived that it is the same as that for which elsewhere they give the familiar rendering, Samuel. The variations Elkanah, Jeroham, Elihu, Tohu, Zuph (1 Samuel 1:1); Elkanah, Jeroham, Eliab, Nahath, Zophai (1 Chronicles 6:26, 27); Elkanah, Jeroham, Eliel, Toah, Zuph (ibid. vers. 34, 35), are interesting as showing that the genealogies in Chronicles. were compiled from family documents, in which, as was usual in the case of proper names, there was much diversity of spelling, or possibly of interpreting the cumbrous signs used for letters in those early days. The variations, however, in Elihu (God is he), Eliab (God is Father), and Eliel (God is God) were probably intentional, as were certainly other changes in names, such as that of Ishbaal into Ishbosheth. The name of Samuel's father, Elkanah (God is owner), is a common one among the Kohathites, to which division of the sons of Levi Samuel belonged. The prophet's birthplace was Ramathaim-Zophim, no doubt the Ramah which was Samuel s own head-quarters (1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 15:34; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Samuel 19:18-23; 1 Samuel 25:1); the place where he dwelt, wrought, died, and was buried, and the Arimathsea of the Gospels. The Septuagint generally gives the name in full, but this is the only place where it is so written in the Hebrew. Ramah signifies a height, and the dual Ramathaim the double height, the town being situated on a hill ending in two peaks. But which it was of the many Ramahs, or hill towns, in the Holy Land, is hotly contested; probably it was the Ramah in Benjamin, about two hours' journey northwest of Jerusalem. Its second name, Zophim, is taken from Zuph, Samuel's remote ancestor, with whom the genealogy here begins. Zuph had apparently emigrated from Ephraim, one of the three tribes (Ephraim, Manasseh, Dan) to which the Kohathites were attached, and was a person of sufficient power and energy to give his name to the whole district; called the land of Zuph in 1 Samuel 9:5. His descendants, the Zophim, had Ramah as their centre, and Elkanah, as their head, would be a man of wealth and influence. Though actually belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, Ramah is said to be upon Mount Ephraim, because this limestone range extended to and kept its name almost up to Jerusalem (see Judges 4:5, and 2 Chronicles 13:4; 2 Chronicles 15:8, compared with 2 Chronicles 13:19). Elkanah too is called an Ephrathite, i.e. an Ephraimite, no doubt because before Zuph emigrated the family had belonged to Ephraim, it being apparently the practice to reckon Levites as pertaining to the tribes to which they were attached (Judges 17:7). The Hebrews Ephrathite is rightly rendered Ephraimite in Judges 12:5, and should be so translated here, and in 1 Kings 11:26. In Ruth 1:2; 1 Samuel 17:12 it means Bethlehemite, that town being also called Ephratah, the fruitful; Ephraim has the same meaning, but being a dual, no adjective can be formed from it.

1:1-8 Elkanah kept up his attendance at God's altar, notwithstanding the unhappy differences in his family. If the devotions of a family prevail not to put an end to its divisions, yet let not the divisions put a stop to the devotions. To abate our just love to any relation for the sake of any infirmity which they cannot help, and which is their affliction, is to make God's providence quarrel with his precept, and very unkindly to add affliction to the afflicted. It is evidence of a base disposition, to delight in grieving those who are of a sorrowful spirit, and in putting those out of humour who are apt to fret and be uneasy. We ought to bear one another's burdens, not add to them. Hannah could not bear the provocation. Those who are of a fretful spirit, and are apt to lay provocations too much to heart, are enemies to themselves, and strip themselves of many comforts both of life and godliness. We ought to notice comforts, to keep us from grieving for crosses. We should look at that which is for us, as well as what is against us.Now there was a man of Ramathaimzophim, of Mount Ephraim,.... Ramathaim is a word of the dual number, and signifies two Ramahs; the city consisted of two parts, being built perhaps on two hills, and were called Zophim; because, as the Rabbins say, they looked one to another; or rather, because situated on eminences, there were watchtowers in them, where watchmen were placed; or because they were inhabited by prophets, who were sometimes called watchmen, Ezekiel 3:17 and here is thought to be a school of the prophets, see 1 Samuel 19:19 and which seems to be countenanced by the Targum, in which the words are paraphrased thus, "and there was one" man of Ramatha, of the disciples of the prophets; or, as others think, the sense is this, this man was one of the Ramathites, the inhabitants of Ramah, and of the family of Zuph, or the Zuphites, which gave the name to the land of Zuph, and the grand ancestor of Elkanah is in this verse called Zuph, see 1 Samuel 9:5. According to Jerom (e), this is the same with Arimathaea, of which Joseph was, Matthew 27:57 for thus he writes,"Armatha Sophim, the city of Helcanah and Samuel, in the Thamnitic region near Diospolis (or Lydda), from whence was Joseph, who in the Gospels is said to be of Arimathaea;''but Reland (f) thinks it cannot be the same that was about Lydda, which was all a champaign country; whereas this was in the mountains of Ephraim, which must be sought to the north of Jerusalem, and not the west, and so it follows:

of Mount Ephraim: which is added to distinguish it from other Ramahs in several tribes, as in Benjamin, Naphtali, &c. though this may refer not to the situation of Ramathaim, but to the country of this man, who was originally of Mount Ephraim, as was the Levite in Judges 19:1 who was the cause of much evil to Israel, as this was of great good, as Kimchi observes:

and his name was Elkanah; which signifies "God hath possessed"; that is, possessed him, or he was in possession of God; he had an ancestor of the same name, 1 Chronicles 6:23. This man was a Levite, one of the Kohathites, and a descendant of Korah; so that the famous prophet Samuel was of the sons of Korah:

the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph; the three last of these names are somewhat differently read in 1 Chronicles 6:26, where they are Eliab, Nahath, Zophai; and in 1 Chronicles 6:34. Eliel, Toah, Zuph:

an Ephrathite; which appellation is to be connected, according to Kimchi, not with Elkanah, but with Zuph; though neither of them were so called from Bethlehemjudah, the inhabitants of which were indeed called Ephrathites from Ephratah, another name of it; so Elimelech, and his sons Mahlon and Chilion, being of that city, were so called, Ruth 1:2 not from their being of the tribe of Ephraim, as Jeroboam of that tribe is called an Ephrathite, 1 Kings 11:26, see Judges 12:5 for these were Levites, the descendants of Kohath, in the line of Korah; but because they sojourned in Mount Ephraim, or dwelt there, as Elkanah did; and it is well known that the Kohathites had cities given them in the tribe of Ephraim, Joshua 21:5.

(e) De loc. Heb. fol. 88. K. (f) Palestin. Illustrat. tom. 2. p. 581.

Ruth 4:22
Top of Page
Top of Page