v1-10: Hannah's prayer when she left Samuel at the tabernacle.
The themes are similar to those in Mary's song, Luke 1.46-53: in praise to God (v1; Luke 1.46); declaring God as Saviour (v1; Luke 1.47); seeing human strength broken (v4; Luke 1.51); and seeing the hungry filled (v5,7; Luke 1.53).
v1: Hannah had joy and confidence in God, for He had answered her prayers.
v2: There is satisfaction in God alone, and He is unique. Hannah's prayer brings the theme that God's ways are not man's ways.
We accept that God is holy, and there are many scriptures to that effect; but the wording here is much stronger; His holiness is beyond the grasp and comprehension of the holiest of His creatures; and His holiness far exceeds that of any other. And His holiness is unchangeable, while we ebb and flow at best.
v3: Pride and arrogance are wrong; we must be submissive to God, and we are answerable to Him. The Lord is “a God of knowledge,” or, in the Hebrew, “knowledges.” His knowledge is not restricted to facts, but to attitudes and desires; His weighing of actions reflects this deeper knowledge.
v4-5: Human circumstances are turned upside down by God's power and intervention. The way things appear is not always the reality. Circumstances must not be allowed to drag us down; rather faith looks up to God who is omnipotent.
v6-8: God has power to order men's lives. He brings death and makes alive; He sends both poverty and wealth; He humbles and exalts. We are wise to see that all things are from His hand, and submit to His power. He challenges the human attitude that ‘might is right,’ by raising up the poor into positions of honour and authority.
v9: God is not capricious nor random; He will always guard those who belong to Him, for He knows those who are His. We do not prevail through human strength, but through faith in God. Hannah testified of personal weakness, but found her strength in God.
God is utterly sovereign; and God is totally good. We hold both together.
v10: Those who oppose and defy God will be judged.
v11: Samuel remained before the Lord in a difficult situation. Although Eli was the priest of the Lord, his sons Hophni and Phinehas were wicked, and Eli had failed to restrain them (3.13).
v12-17: Eli's sons were corrupt. They abused their privileges as priests (see below). Like Nadab and Abihu, they abused the holy things of God; they sought personal gain, and treated the offerings with contempt. They were sinning against God (v25), and there was no remedy (3.14).
The priests were provided for by the offerings of the people; although a burnt offering was totally consumed, other offerings included a portion for the priests; see Lev 2.10; 6.16-18, 26; 7.6,28-34. In Lev 7.36 the principle was laid down that the priests receive from the offerings of the people.
The attitude of Eli's sons contrasted with Hannah's devotion, and with Samuel's growth (v26).
v18-19: Samuel began to minister before the Lord, and each year his mother visited him.
v20-21: Eli blessed Elkanah, clearly grateful for the service of Samuel. God blessed Hannah with more children. She had given her first born, and had received more in return. We are confident that God honours those who honour Him.
v22-25: Eli had heard about his sons' behaviour, and he rebuked them. But this seemed too late; they had served as priests, and he had not removed them. Their sins were well-known, as the bad report spread amongst "the Lord's people"; we can only guess at the bad influence that this had upon the people.
God gave them up to sinful desires, see Rom 1.24,26. Hophni and Phinehas were defiant against God, had rejected their father's rebuke; soon they would be judged directly by God.
v26: Samuel grew, like the Lord Jesus, Luke 2.40, 52. He had to endure weak Eli, and the wicked sons.
v27-29: God was not silent. The message was to Eli, the priest and father. The words for Eli are clear; he was not without blame, see 3.13. He honoured his sons more than God, and he was implicated in their wrong-doing.
v30-33: The gift of the priesthood had been by family line, see also v27; but that privilege was lost where there was such serious sin. Eli had failed to honour the Lord, and would therefore miss out on God's blessing.
There is a danger of formalism, where men hold religious authority or position with maintaining a personal trust in God. See 3 John 9-10, where Diotrephes held on to authority in a church, and could not easily be removed. There is a clear responsibility upon leaders to maintain godliness in life.
The family of Eli would not be wiped out, but would be cursed, and therefore would remain as a testimony to their disobedience; in particular there would not be the blessing of older men.
v34-36: Eli would not stand down as priest, but God would deal with him and with his sons. Later there were two lines of priests; Zadok, son of Ahitub; and Ahimelech, son of Abiathar, 2 Sam 8.17. These words were fulfilled, as first Samuel, then Zadok, became faithful priests, 1 Kings 2.26-27. Abiathar was in the line of Eli.