Chapter 2 HANNAHS PRAISE
The glory of God (vv.2-10- cont)
We note, second, in this section the activities of God (vv.4-8).
There are six contrasts or, better, six reversals. God reverses weakness and strength (v.4); hunger and plenty (v.5); barrenness and fruitfulness (v.5); death and life (v.6); poverty and wealth (v.7); and depth and height (vv.7-8).
a) Weakness and strength. "The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength" (v.4). Once again, Hannah is not making it up as she goes along! Hebrews 11.32-34 refers to the period of the Judges (plus David, Samuel, and the prophets) with the comment, "Who through faith...out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens". Hannah would have been well aware of events like these. Some of them would have been, in her day, still in living memory! Now read 1 Corinthians 1.26-29. Notice, amongst other things, that God "hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty". Human weakness is no problem to God, as long as we acknowledge it, and trust in Him. His "strength is made perfect in weakness", and Paul adds, paradoxically, " when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor 12.9-10).
b) Hunger and plenty. "They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased" (v.5). Possibly Hannah alludes here to the situation in Egypt centuries before. "Josephs brethren were full the day they put him in the pit, but later they fell at his feet craving for bread, for they had become hungry" (A. McShane). Notice too that the hungry Egyptians became "servants unto Pharaoh" in exchange for seed, whilst "Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his fathers household, with bread, according to their families" (Gen 47.19,12). The story of Ruth may also have been in her mind. But there is another type of hunger. The Lord Jesus said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Mt 5.6).
c) Barrenness and fruitfulness. "The barren hath borne seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble" (v.5). Whilst Hannah may have been alluding to Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, it seems more likely that she was referring to her own experience here. To quote Ellicotts Commentary: "Here the thought of the inspired singer (the commentator evidently believed that Hannah sang these words) reverts to herself, and the imagery is drawn from the story of her own life. Seven children are mentioned as the full number of the divine blessing in children (Ruth 4.15; Jer 15.9)". We know that whilst Hannah became the mother of five more children, there is no record of further children born to Peninnah. It does seem, however, that the words, "she that hath many children is waxed feeble", are more than a statement of fact. Peninnah was obviously proud of her achievements, and took every opportunity to remind Hannah of her superiority. God hates pride. There are lessons here for us all. For example, if God is blessing our work and service for Him we must not despise those who, seemingly, are not enjoying such prosperity. Pride will rob us of divine help, and bring spiritual weakness. On the other hand, if we do not seem to be making progress, we must pray about it. Hannah did this, and proved that God hears and answers prayer.
d) Death and life. "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave (sheol, often translated hell), and bringeth up" (v.6). Once again, Hannah proves her acquaintance with Deuteronomy. "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand" (32.39). Perhaps this is an extension of thought. The God who can reverse the course of military affairs (v.4), social affairs (v.5), and family affairs (v.5), can do anything. He is in control of death and life. Abraham believed that God was "able to raise him (Isaac) up, even from the dead" (Heb 11.19).
e) Poverty and wealth. "The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich" (v.7). A. McShane suggests that Hannah could be alluding here to Abraham and Lot. "Lot, who had much wealth, was left destitute, and his uncle Abraham increased in riches." It is, of course, possible to be poor and rich at the same time, and rich and poor at the same time (see Rev 2.9; 3.17). The Lord Jesus became poor, that we might be rich (2 Cor 8.9).
f) Depth and height. "He bringeth low, and lifteth up" (v.7). This is amplified and expanded in v.8. "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory." This is quoted, almost verbatim, in Psalm 113.7-8. Notice, too, the reference there to "the barren woman" (v.9). "Dust and the dunghill are figures used to denote the deepest degradation and ignominy" (Keil and Delitzsch). As A. McShane observes, "No better example of the exaltation of the lowly could be cited than that of Joseph, for was he not taken from prison to share the glory of the throne?" Quite obviously, Hannah had carefully watched God at work! The New Testament goes even further. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom 8.16-17; read also Eph 2.1-7). What would Hannah have made of these passages?
The concluding words, "For the pillars of the earth (see also Ps 75.3) are the Lords, and he hath set the world upon them", emphasise that as Creator God is quite able to elevate the lowest to the highest! After all, the existence of the earth depends on His power!
The third point to note is the assurance of God (vv.9-10). Hannah now turns to the future. She becomes a prophetess. Centuries later, another godly woman of the same name, Anna, was also a prophetess (Lk 2.36). The divine programme is assured. Notice "He will" in v.9, and "shall" in v.9 and v.10 (four times). These verses assure the following.
a) The preservation of the saints. "He will keep the feet of his saints" (v.9). Whilst we happily, and rightly, apply this to ourselves (see, for example, 1 Pet 1.5), there can be no doubt that it refers, in the first place, to Israel. We can trace a faithful remnant, preserved by God, throughout the Scriptures (see, for example, 1 Kings 19.18; Mal 3.16-17; Lk 2.38). At this "present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace", of which Paul was part (see Rom 11.1-5). In the future, during the dark days of the "great tribulation", God will have His "elect" - "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elects sake those days shall be shortened" (Mt 24.22).
b) The condemnation of sinners. "The wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth" (vv.9-10). God "thundered with a great thunder...upon the Philistines" (1 Sam 7.10), but He will thunder universally at the end-time (Rev 10.3-4). "Broken to pieces" takes us to Psalm 2.9, and Revelation 2.27. "The ends of the earth" reminds us that none can escape divine judgment.
c) The exaltation of the Son. "He shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed" (v.10). The judgment of the wicked will be followed by the reign of the King. Whilst this was partly fulfilled in David, its ultimate fulfilment awaits the coming of "great Davids greater Son". Ellicotts Commentary puts it nicely. "The words received a partial fulfilment in the splendid reigns of David and Solomon: but the pious Jew looked on the golden halo which surrounded these great reigns as but a pale reflection of the glory which would accompany King Messiah when He should appear." Then the proclamation will be made, "The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev 11.15, RV). The psalm begins with Hannahs exaltation ("mine horn is exalted in the Lord"), and ends with the exaltation of Christ ("exalt the horn of his anointed").
On that happy note, Elkanah returned to Ramah, leaving Samuel at Shiloh. "And the child did minister unto the Lord before Eli the priest" (v.11). This introduces our next study.
To be continued.