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Hannah's Song. (b. c. 1137.)
1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. 2 There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. 3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. 5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. 6 The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. 7 The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. 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: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them. 9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. 10 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; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
We have here Hannah's thanksgiving, dictated, not only by the spirit of prayer, but by the spirit of prophecy. Her petition for the mercy she desired we had before (ch. i. 11), and here we have her return of praise; in both out of the abundance of a heart deeply affected (in the former with her own wants, and in the latter with God's goodness) her mouth spoke. Observe in general, 1. When she had received mercy from God she owned it, with thankfulness to his praise. Not like the nine lepers, Luke xvii. 17. Praise is our rent, our tribute. We are unjust if we do not pay it. 2. The mercy she had received was an answer to prayer, and therefore she thought herself especially obliged to give thanks for it. What we win by prayer we may wear with comfort, and must wear with praise. 3. Her thanksgiving is here called a prayer: Hannah prayed; for thanksgiving is an essential part of prayer. In every address to God we must express a grateful regard to him as our benefactor. Nay, and thanksgiving for mercies received shall be accepted as a petition for further mercy. 4. From this particular mercy which she had received from God she takes occasion, with an elevated and enlarged heart, to speak glorious things of God and of his government of the world for the good of his church. Whatever at any time gives rise to our praises in this manner they should be raised. 5. Her prayer was mental. Her voice was not heard; but in her thanksgiving she spoke, that all might hear her. She made her supplication with groanings that could not be uttered, but now her lips were opened to show forth God's praise. 6. This thanksgiving is here left upon record for the encouragement of those of the weaker sex to attend the throne of grace. God will regard their prayers and praises. The virgin Mary's song has great affinity with this of Hannah, Luke i. 46. Three things we have in this thanksgiving:—
I. Hannah's triumph in God, in his glorious perfections, and the great things he had done for her, v. 1-3. Observe,
1. What great things she says of God. She takes little notice of the particular mercy she was now rejoicing in, does not commend Samuel for the prettiest child, the most toward and sensible for his age that she ever saw, as fond parents are too apt to do. No, she overlooks the gift, and praises the giver; whereas most forget the giver and fasten only on the gift. Every stream should lead us to the fountain; and the favours we receive from God should raise our admiration of the infinite perfections there are in God. There may be other Samuels, but no other Jehovah. There is none beside thee. Note, God is to be praised as a peerless being, and of unparalleled perfection. This glory is due unto his name, to own not only that there is none like him, but that there is none besides him. All others were pretenders, Ps. xviii. 31. Four of God's glorious attributes Hannah here celebrates the glory of:—(1.) His unspotted purity. This is that attribute which is most praised in the upper world, by those that always behold his face, Isa. vi. 3; Rev. iv. 8. When Israel triumphed over the Egyptians God was praised as glorious in holiness, Exod. xv. 11. So here, in Hannah's triumph, There is none holy as the Lord. It is the rectitude of his nature, his infinite agreement with himself, and the equity of his government and judgment in all the administrations of both. At the remembrance of this we ought to give thanks. (2.) His almighty power: Neither is there any rock (or any strength, for so the word is sometimes rendered) like our God. Hannah had experienced a mighty support by staying herself upon him, and therefore speaks as she had found, and seems to refer to that of Moses, Deut. xxxii. 31. (3.) His unsearchable wisdom: The Lord, the Judge of all, is a God of knowledge; he clearly and perfectly sees into the character of every person and the merits of every cause, and he gives knowledge and understanding to those that seek them of him. (4.) His unerring justice: By him actions are weighed. His own are so, in his eternal counsels; the actions of the children of men are so, in the balances of his judgment, so that he will render to every man according to his work, and is not mistaken in what any man is or does.
2. How she solaces herself in these things. What we give God the glory of we may take the comfort of. Hannah does so, (1.) In holy joy: My heart rejoiceth in the Lord; not so much in her son as in her God; he is to be the gladness of our joy (Ps. xliii. 4), and our joy must not terminate in any thing short of him: "I rejoice in thy salvation; not only in this particular favour to me, but in the salvation of thy people Israel, those salvations especially which this child will be an instrument of, and that, above all, by Christ, which those are but the types of." (2.) In holy triumph: "My horn is exalted; not only is my reputation saved by my having a son, but greatly raised by having such a son." We read of some of the singers whom David appointed to lift up the horn, an instrument of music, in praising God (1 Chron. xxv. 5), so that, My horn is exalted means this, "My praises are very much elevated to an unusual strain." Exalted in the Lord; God is to have the honour of all our exaltations, and in him must we triumph. My mouth is enlarged, that is, "Now I have wherewith to answer those that reproached me." He that has his quiver full of arrows, his house full of children, shall not be ashamed to speak with the enemy in the gate, Ps. cxxvii. 5.
3. How she herewith silences those that set up themselves as rivals with God and rebels against him (v. 3): Talk no more so exceedingly proudly. Let not Peninnah and her children upbraid her any more with her confidence in God and praying to him: at length she found it not in vain. See Mic. vii. 10, Then she that is my enemy shall see it, and shame shall cover her that said, Where is thy God? Or perhaps it was below her to take so much notice of Peninnah, and her malice, in this song; but this is intended as a check to the insolence of the Philistines, and other enemies of God and Israel, that set their mouth against the heavens, Ps. lxxiii. 9. "Let this put them to silence and shame; he that has thus judged for me against my adversary will judge for his people against all theirs."
II. The notice she takes of the wisdom and sovereignty of the divine providence, in its disposals of the affairs of the children of men; such are the vicissitudes of them, and such the strange and sudden turns and revolutions of them, that it is often found a very short step between the height of prosperity and the depth of adversity. God has not only set the one over against the other (Eccl. vii. 14), but the one very near the other, and no gulf fixed between them, that we may rejoice as though we rejoiced not and weep as though we wept not.
1. The strong are soon weakened and the weak are soon strengthened, when God pleases, v. 4. On the one hand, if he speak the word, the bows of the mighty men are broken; they are disarmed, disabled to do as they have before done and as they have designed to do. Those have been worsted in battle who seemed upon all accounts to have the advantage on their side, and thought themselves sure of victory. See Ps. xlvi. 9; xxxvii. 15, 17. Particular persons are soon weakened by sickness and age, and they find that the bow does not long abide in strength; many a mighty man who has gloried in his might has found it a deceitful bow, that failed him when he trusted to it. On the other hand, if the Lord speak the word, those who stumble through weakness, who were so feeble that they could not go straight or steady, are girded with strength, in body and mind, and are able to bring great things to pass. Those who were weakened by sickness return to their vigour (Job xxxiii. 25), and those who were brought down by sorrow shall recover their comfort, which will confirm the weak hands and the feeble knees, Isa. xxxv. 3. Victory turns in favour of that side that was given up for gone, and even the lame take the prey, Isa. xxxiii. 23.
2. The rich are soon impoverished and the poor strangely enriched on a sudden, v. 5. Providence sometimes does so blast men's estates and cross their endeavours, and with a fire not blown consume their increase, that those who were full (their barns full, and their bags full, their houses full of good things, Job xxii. 18, and their bellies full of these hidden treasures, Ps. xvii. 14) have been reduced to such straits and extremities as to want the necessary supports of life, and to hire out themselves for bread, and they must dig, since to beg they are ashamed. Riches flee away (Prov. xxiii. 5), and leave those miserable who, when they had them, placed their happiness in them. To those that have been full and free poverty must needs be doubly grievous. But, on the other hand, sometimes Providence so orders it that those who are hungry cease, that is, cease to hire out themselves for bread as they have done. Having, by God's blessing on their industry, got beforehand in the world, and enough to live upon at ease, they shall hunger no more, not thirst any more. This is not to be ascribed to fortune, nor merely to men's wisdom or folly. Riches are not to men of understanding, nor favour to men of skill (Eccl. ix. 11), nor is it always men's own fault that they become poor, but (v. 7) the Lord maketh some poor and maketh others rich; the impoverishing of one is the enriching of another, and it is God's doing. To some he gives power to get wealth, from others he takes away power to keep the wealth they have. Are we poor? God made us poor, which is a good reason why we should be content, and reconcile ourselves to our condition. Are we rich? God made us rich, which is a good reason why we should be thankful, and serve him cheerfully in the abundance of good things he gives us. It may be understood of the same person; those that were rich God makes poor, and after awhile makes rich again, as Job; he gave, he takes away, and then gives again. Let not the rich be proud and secure, for God can soon make them poor; let not the poor despond and despair, for God can in due time enrich them again.
3. Empty families are replenished and numerous families diminished and made few. This is the instance that comes close to the occasion of the thanksgiving: The barren hath borne seven, meaning herself, for, though at present she had but one son, yet that one being a Nazarite, devoted to God and employed in his immediate service, he was to her as good as seven. Or it is the language of her faith. Now that she had one she hoped for more, and was not disappointed; she had five more (v. 21), so that if we reckon Samuel but for two, as we well may, she has the number she promised herself: the barren hath borne seven, while, on the other hand, she that hath many children has waxed feeble, and hath left bearing. She says no more. Peninnah is now mortified and crest-fallen. The tradition of the Jews is that when Hannah bore one child Peninnah buried two. There are many instances both of the increase of families that were inconsiderable and the extinguishing of families that made a figure, Job xxii. 23; Ps. cvii. 38, &c.
4. God is the sovereign Lord of life and death (v. 6): The Lord killeth and maketh alive. Understand it, (1.) Of God's sovereign dominion and universal agency, in the lives and deaths of the children of men. He presides in births and burials. Whenever any die it is God that directs the arrows of death. The Lord killeth. Death is his messenger, strikes whom and when he bids; none are brought to the dust but it is he that brings them down, for in his hand are the keys of death and the grave, Rev. i. 18. Whenever any are born it is he that makes them alive. None knows what is the way of the spirit, but this we know, that it comes from the Father of spirits. Whenever any are recovered from sickness, and delivered from imminent perils, it is God that bringeth up; for to him belong the issues from death. (2.) Of the distinction he makes between some and others: He killeth some, and maketh, that is, keepeth, others alive that were in the same danger (in war, suppose, or pestilence), two in a bed together, it may be, one taken by death and the other left alive. Even so, Father, because it seemed good in thy eyes. Some that were most likely to live are brought down to the grave, and others that were as likely to die are brought up; for living and dying do not go by likelihoods. God's providences towards some are killing, ruining to their comforts, and towards others at the same time reviving. (3.) Of the change he makes with one and the same person: He killeth and bringeth down to the grave, that is, he brings even to death's door, and then revives and raises up, when even life was despaired of and a sentence of death received, 2 Cor. i. 8, 9. He turns to destruction, and then says, Return, Ps. cx. 3. Nothing is too hard for God to do, no, not the quickening of the dead, and putting life into dry bones.
5. Advancement and abasement are both from him. He brings some low and lifts up others (v. 7), humbles the proud and gives grace and honour to the lowly, lays those in the dust that would vie with the God above them and trample upon all about them (Job xl. 12, 13), but lifts up those with his salvation that humble themselves before him, Jam. iv. 10. Or it may be understood of the same persons: those whom he had brought low, when they are sufficiently humbled, he lifteth up. This is enlarged upon, v. 8. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, a low and mean condition, nay, from the dunghill, a base and servile condition, loathed, and despised, to set them among princes. See Ps. cxiii. 7, 8. Promotion comes not by chance, but from the counsel of God, which often prefers those that were very unlikely and that men thought very unworthy. Joseph and Daniel, Moses and David, were thus strangely advanced, from a prison to a palace, from a sheep-hook to a sceptre. The princes they are set among may be tempted to disdain them, but God can establish the honour which he gives thus surprisingly, and make them even to inherit the throne of glory. Let not those whom Providence has thus preferred be upbraided with the dust and dunghill they are raised out of, for the meaner their beginnings were the more they are favoured, and God is glorified, in their advancement, if it be by lawful and honourable means.
6. A reason is given for all these dispensations which obliges us to acquiesce in them, how surprising soever they are: For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's. (1.) If we understand this literally, it intimates God's almighty power, which cannot be controlled. He upholds the whole creation, founded the earth, and still sustains it by the word of his power. What cannot he do in the affairs of families and kingdoms, far beyond our conception and expectation, who hangs the earth upon nothing? Job xxvi. 7. But, (2.) If we understand it figuratively, it intimates his incontestable sovereignty, which cannot be disputed. The princes and great ones of the earth, the directors of states and governments, are the pillars of the earth, Ps. lxxv. 3. On these hinges the affairs of the world seem to turn, but they are the Lord's, Ps. xlvii. 9. From him they have their power, and therefore he may advance whom he pleases; and who may say, What doest thou?
III. A prediction of the preservation and advancement of all God's faithful friends, and the destruction of all his and their enemies. Having testified her joyful triumph in what God had done, and is doing, she concludes with joyful hopes of what he would do, v. 9, 10. Pious affections (says bishop Patrick) in those days rose many times to the height of prophecy, whereby God continued in that nation his true religion, in the midst of their idolatrous inclinations. This prophecy may refer, 1. More immediately to the government of Israel by Samuel, and by David whom he was employed to anoint. The Israelites, God's saints, should be protected and delivered; the Philistines, their enemies, should be conquered and subdued, and particularly by thunder, ch. vii. 10. Their dominions should be enlarged, king David strengthened and greatly exalted, and Israel (that in the time of the judges had made so small a figure and had much ado to subsist) should now shortly become great and considerable, and give law to all its neighbours. An extraordinary change that was; and the birth of Samuel was, as it were, the dawning of that day. But, 2. We have reason to think that this prophecy looks further, to the kingdom of Christ, and the administration of that kingdom of grace, of which she now comes to speak, having spoken so largely of the kingdom of providence. And here is the first time that we meet with the name Messiah, or his Anointed. The ancient expositors, both Jewish and Christian, make it to look beyond David, to the Son of David. Glorious things are here spoken of the kingdom of the Mediator, both before and since his incarnation; for the method of the administration of it, both by the eternal Word and by that Word made flesh, is much the same. Concerning that kingdom we are here assured, (1.) That all the loyal subjects of it shall be carefully and powerfully protected (v. 9): He will keep the feet of his saints. There are a people in the world that are God's saints, his select and sanctified ones; and he will keep their feet, that is, all that belongs to them shall be under his protection, down to their very feet, the lowest part of the body. If he will keep their feet, much more their head and hearts. Or he will keep their feet, that is, he will secure the ground they stand on, and establish their goings; he will set a guard of grace upon their affections and actions, that their feet may neither wander out of the way nor stumble in the way. When their feet are ready to slip (Ps. lxxiii. 2) his mercy holdeth them up (Ps. xciv. 18) and keepeth them from falling, Jude 24. While we keep God's ways he will keep our feet. See Ps. xxxvii. 23, 24. (2.) That all the powers engaged against it shall not be able to effect the ruin of it. By strength shall no man prevail. God's strength is engaged for the church; and, while it is so, man's strength shall not prevail against it. The church seems destitute of strength, her friends few and feeble, but prevalency does not go by human strength, Ps. xxxiii. 16. God neither needs it for him (Ps. cxlvii. 10) nor dreads it against him. (3.) That all the enemies of it will certainly be broken and brought down: The wicked shall be silent in darkness, v. 9. They shall be struck both blind and dumb, not be able to see their way nor have any thing to say for themselves. Damned sinners are sentenced to utter darkness, and in it they will be for ever speechless, Matt. xxii. 12, 13. The wicked are called the adversaries of the Lord, and it is foretold (v. 10) that they shall be broken to pieces. Their designs against his kingdom among men will all be dashed, and they themselves destroyed; how can those speed better that are in arms against Omnipotence? See Luke xix. 27. God has many ways of doing it, and, rather than fail, from heaven shall he thunder upon them, and so, not only put them in terror and consternation, but bring them to destruction. Who can stand before God's thunderbolts? (4.) That the conquests of this kingdom shall extend themselves to distant regions: The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth. David's victories and dominions reached far, but the uttermost parts of the earth are promised to the Messiah for his possession (Ps. ii. 8), to be either reduced to his golden sceptre or ruined by his iron rod. God is Judge of all, and he will judge for his people against his and their enemies, Ps. cx. 5, 6. (5.) That the power and honour of Messiah the prince shall grow and increase more and more: He shall give strength unto his king, for the accomplishing of his great undertaking (Ps. lxxxix. 21, and see Luke xxii. 43), strengthen him to go through the difficulties of his humiliation, and in his exaltation he will lift up the head (Ps. cx. 7), lift up the horn, the power and honour, of his anointed, and make him higher than the kings of the earth, Ps. lxxxix. 27. This crowns the triumph, and is, more than any thing, the matter of her exultation. Her horn is exalted (v. 1) because she foresees the horn of the Messiah will be so. This secures the hope. The subjects of Christ's kingdom will be safe, and the enemies of it will be ruined, for the anointed, the Lord Christ, is girded with strength, and is able to save and destroy unto the uttermost.