1 Samuel 1: Formation and Filling

Ruth ended on a teaser – a firstfruit of what is to come, as we see the enjoining of the once cursed race of the Moabites enjoin herself under the tent banners of the children of Shem as represented by Boaz.  In this mixed heritage will come David, the typological son of God as emphasised in Ruth 4:22.

Yet, despite God’s plan being explained in the narrative for David to be the true and favored king, why then does 1 Samuel focus not firstly on Samuel, nor firstly on David?  Instead, we see a pattern – a pattern of Peninnah against Hannah; of Eli against Samuel; of Saul against David – the pattern of the office of the old being redeemed by the new, renewing all that was initially just a formation (like the first three days of creation), but needs to be filled (akin to the latter three).  Like the body which was made of dust, but needed to be filled with the Spirit of Christ to be renewed and partake of that divine glory which Peter spoke about in 2 Peter 1:4.

Thus, the office of the true wife, the true church of Christ is to be fulfilled not by the laughing prostitute but by the one wife who is truly loved by Elkanah, who prays in tongues even against the accusation of the compromised high priest Eli.  Thus, the office of the true spiritual Levitical priest and prophet is not fulfilled by Eli whose sons are unworthy men who do not believe in Christ, but is fulfilled by Samuel the type of John the Baptist – a forerunner to David.  The promised son of the promised and loved spiritual church, Hannah.  Thus, the office of the King has been established in Ruth before 1 Samuel – that is David, who clings onto the two Lords, the Father and the Son, in the Spirit Whom he begs the LORD to let him keep (Psalm 51:11).  Saul, Peninnah, and Eli are pushed into the shadows where they belong – and the narrative of 1 Samuel 1 teach us how the first order of things (in Israel) but never meant to be; but that the true first order of things is established in Abraham when he was part of no nation, but was of the mobile international church before the physical limitation of Israel as a national and ethnic identity in Christ.  We are not David’s children, nor Moses’ children – but we are the children of Abraham who rejoiced at the thought of seeing Christ’s day which he already saw and was made glad by (John 8:39, 8:56).  This is the essence of the gospel – to yearn and to cling onto Christ Jesus, as Abraham, Hannah, Samuel and David did and will do – to perform the true Spirit of the Law which is but an empty framework, both functioning as a curse for unbelievers but a blessing for believers, just as the office of the wife, priest, king function as an empty shell of a curse for Peninnah, Eli and Saul.

In the story of Elkanah, what we see is a retelling of the creation story with different figures representing the same truth through the meaning of their names and through the details of the narrative in this chapter.  Elkanah comes from the land of the double height of watchers, Ramathaimzophim, and hails from the line of Jeroham, Elihu, Tohu, Zuph – each bearing the fruit of the Spirit akin to the list in Galatians 5 – a line of compassionate, humble, godly men tasting of the honey comb of new creation.  They are all from Ephraim, the land of double-fruit.

From Elkanah comes two wives – the churches of two categorised ages – the age of Israel and the age of the international global community; the age of Peninnah, though seen and called as a jewel, was however not the favoured one.  Like Esau, whose physical might was indeed treasured in Isaac’s eyes, it was Jacob who was truly the one favoured (Romans 9:13) through whom the line of David would be established.  Indeed, this physically beautiful church, Israel, was in fact rotting within.  She would laugh at those around her, like Jonah with the Ninevites, and fail to love Hannah whose womb was closed.  It would appear that only through Peninnah, who had many sons and daughters (v.4), would Elkanah’s righteous line continue.  However, it is through Hannah that the shaming of physical Israel is truly manifested; that Hannah, the typological spiritual church, is the true apple of Elkanah, the Creator God’s eyes.  It is in Hannah that the true line of prophethood and priesthood would continue.  Though Hannah’s womb was closed, it was eventually opened to bear fruit to new creation within her; that this global international community should be the truly favoured church bearing new creation fruit as opposed to the sting and poison of the old, rotting Israel for all her physical glory in the height of David and Solomon’s day.

Thus is the formation of creation – the sky, the waters and finally the land; so also the office of the prophet, the priest, and the overarching church in which both prophet and priest operate.  Yet, they are but an empty infantile shell, just like the created Adam before he ate of either the true of good or evil, or the tree of wisdom.  Instead, Adam needed to cling onto the true vine to experience true communion with the Trinity, yet we are from the fallen Adamic line.  But, Elkanah is from the redeemed Adamic line, where the formation is filled with new life – just as Hannah is about to birth a new child who is to announce the true king of Israel, that the formed and filled creation testifies to Christ.  So this child is also to testify to the fallenness of Saul to emphasise the true kingship of David.  Such is the great responsibility of Samuel that he who is “lent to the LORD” as a Nazirite (v.11, 28) worshipped the LORD in his youth (v.28), just as John the Baptist was filled with joy when he leapt in Elizabeth’s womb upon hearing the greeting of Mary whose son was not yet born (Luke 1:41).  Just as Elizabeth had enjoyed great mercy from God (Luke 1:58) whereupon her son John spoke with a loosed tongue blessing God, so also Hannah spoke with a loosed tongue in hope that her child would follow the ways of the true living LORD Jesus Christ.

So although the book of Judges ended on a sour note as Shiloh is heavily neglected, here the purpose of Shiloh is truly reflected in Hannah when she utters in tongues words which she cannot speak – like the Jews and Gentiles in Acts 2 who were considered drunk for speaking in each others’ languages, so also Eli the priest accused Hannah similarly, though she was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.  Such a large contrast of faith!  Eli the High Priest with his two worthless sons Hophni and Phinehas (to be described in Samuel 2) being oblivious to the voice of God (chapter 3), yet the line of Samuel through Hannah shaming the High Priest and his sons.  Both Elkanah and Hannah couple-handedly brought the attention back to Shiloh.  Indeed, the office of priesthood and prophethood is truly restored to its true purpose in the spiritual church like Elkanah, Hannah and Samuel – for Hannah had “asked for him from the LORD” (v.20) unlike Peninnah who failed to worship.  For all of Peninnah’s glory in receiving gifts on the day of the annual sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, she is not mentioned once more in Scripture.  Yet, Hannah is placed in the annals of those who devoted all to the LORD – though, unlike Peninnah, she is found throughout the entire chapter weeping, in distress, but prayerful to Him persistently (v.7-8, 10, 15-16).  She is fully confident in the everlasting Christ (Habbakuk 1:12) that her son would dwell in His presence forever, and though he is of an extremely young age, he was able to worship the LORD immediately after being weaned.  None of this could have possibly been achieved without the filling of the Spirit Who teaches man to proclaim Christ crucified and worship him with a circumcised heart (Deuteronomy 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4, 1 Corinthians 2).

And so, chapter 1 ends with a beautiful imagery of the community-based family, with Elkanah, Hannah and Samuel being pushed into the forefront of the picture of the spiritual assembly and body of Christ, worshipping the LORD of hosts (Exodus 7:4; Jude 1:5) who brought the Israelites out of Egypt.  Yet, the bringing of Israel out of Egypt is but a formation and type of redemption – the Israelites still needed to have circumcised hearts like Samuel;  the Israelites still needed to be filled with the Spirit to truly worship God in their hearts.  Unfortunately, they favoured and prioritised the physical beauty of other nations above the beauty of the Trinity in Whom they could have dwelt forever, yet not all hope is lost as a strand of the promised line of the promised Messiah has been maintained from Genesis to 1 Samuel, and the famous prophet Samuel is to be the filled and formed creation witness to Christ.

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1 Samuel 1: Formation and Filling

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