1 Kings ii.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Rejoiced. Septuagint and Chaldean, “been strengthened.” Anna composed this canticle at the nativity of her son; or rather at his presentation in the tabernacle. She foretells the reign and glory of the Messias, and of his church. (St. Augustine, de C.[City of God?] xvii. 4.) — Horn. The horn in the Scripture signifies strength, power, and glory: so the horn is said to be exalted, when a person receives an increase of strength or glory. (Challoner) — So Horace (3 Ode, 21.) says, addis cornua pauperi. — Enlarged. Chaldean, “I have opened my mouth, to speak great things against my enemies.” She has Phenenna principally in view, and compares her present glory with her former distress. (Calmet) — I may boast more on account of Samuel, than my rival can of her numerous offspring. (Menochius)
Ver. 2. Holy. This is frequently a title of God, the holy one of Israel, Isaias i. 4., and v. 19. He is essentially holy. — Strong. Hebrew, “no rock like,” &c. The rocks of Palestine were the common fortresses of the nation, having caverns to which the people fled for refuge. Hence God is often called a rock, (Calmet) as none can afford such protection. (Haydock) (Psalm xvii. 2., and Deuteronomy xxxii. 15.)
Ver. 3. Old. Hebrew hathak means also, “hard things.” (Du Hamel) — “Let arrogance come out of your mouth,” to return no more. Yet most people supply the negation from the former member; “Let not arrogance or hard things.” Chaldean, “blasphemy,” &c. (Calmet) — Cease to praise idols, as you have done. (Worthington) — Use not the malevolent language to which you have been accustomed. — Knowledge. The secrets of hearts are open to him. — And to him. Hebrew, “and by him actions are weighed,” as in scales; (Haydock) or, “thoughts (and actions) are not established.” (Symmachus) The Syriac and Arabic also read the negation, “there are not pretexts before him;” or, “are not actions founded upon him?” Will he not execute what he has wisely designed, in spite of opposition? (Haydock) — Septuagint, “and God prepares his thought;” (Calmet) (epitedeumata autou) or, “what is convenient for him.” (Haydock) — They have read lu, “of him,” instead of la, “not,” as they are authorized to do by the Keri, (or various readings in the margin) and by several Hebrew manuscripts. The Protestants think rightly, and suppose that la, “not,” has been omitted, “Let not arrogancy;” because we find it in Chaldean, Septuagint, Syriac and Arabic versions. Lu is substituted for la, ver. 16. When some have been pressed with the argument of variations, called Keri, they have said that they were rather explanations of obscure words in the text: but is there any obscurity in lu, “to him,” and la, “not;” or can they explain each other? Leusden answers in the affirmative, ver. 16! (Kennicott)
Ver. 4. Overcome. Hebrew, “broken.” Septuagint, “he has weakened the bow,” having deprived it of its elasticity.
Ver. 5. Many. Hebrew, “seven,” which is often used in the same sense. Anna had never more than six children; (Calmet) whereas Phenenna had perhaps ten, chap. i. 8., and iii. 21. (Haydock) — The Rabbins pretend that she lost one every time that Anna brought forth. But the text says nothing of the kind. It only insinuates at most, that she had no more. This admirably represents the state of the Synagogue, compared to the Christian Church. (St. Augustine, sup.) (Calmet; Worthington) — The blessed Virgin conveys the same idea in other words, Luke i. (Menochius)
Ver. 6. Hell, (infernos,) “the lower regions.” God calls us out of this world, or restores the dead to life, as he thinks proper. (Haydock) — He easily makes the greatest prosperity succeed extreme distress, which is often denoted by death, hell, &c. So Seneca says, Mortis habet vices—Lentis cum trahitur vita gemitibus. The prodigal son is said to have come to life again, when his father received him, contrary to his expectations, Luke xv. 24., and Psalm xxix. 4., &c. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. Exalteth. The same instances of God’s power and providence are related, Psalm cxii. 7., and Luke i. 52. (Menochius) — Hesiod (op.) says, “Jupiter easily gives or takes away power,” &c.
Ver. 8. World. The Hebrews represented the earth as resting on a firm basis, or on pillars, or turning on poles, Psalm ciii. 5., and Proverbs viii. 25., &c. The magistrates of the earth may be also thus designated, as the world is entrusted to their care. God compares Jeremias to an iron pillar, Jeremias i. 18., and Apocalypse iii. 12. (Calmet) — The last sentence is omitted in the Septuagint.
Ver. 9. Saints. Hebrew, “kind, merciful, pious ones;” (Calmet) those to whom he shews mercy, and who comply with his will in assisting others. Septuagint, “Granting their petition to those who ask him, and he has blessed the years of the just, because man is not strong by his own strength.” (Haydock) — Silent: condemned to death. Mox etiam Lemures animas dixere silentes. (Ovid, Fast. v.) Loca nocte silentia late. (Virgil, [Æneid?] vi.) Unable to act as they had done, and ashamed of themselves, (Calmet) they seek for the most obscure retreat, where they may not behold the glory of those whom they have despised. They will pray that the hills would fall upon them, and hide them from the indignation of the Lamb. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Him. Septuagint, “The Lord will render his adversary weak. The holy Lord. Let not the prudent boast of his prudence,” &c. (Haydock; which seems to be added from Jeremias ix. 23., Calmet) “The Lord has mounted the heavens, and thundered. He judges the ends of the earth, and gives power to those who rule, as kings, over us,” &c. (Haydock) — Heavens. This prediction against the Philistines was exactly verified, chap. vii. 10. It denotes the protection which God grants to his servants, Psalm xvii. 8, 14. — Christ. Chaldean, and the best interpreters, understand this of the Messias: “He will multiply the kingdom of his Messias.” (Jonathan) — Anna might also have David in view, who was one of his most express figures. (Calmet) — But neither he, nor Solomon, ever ruled over all the earth, as Christ will, Psalm ii. 18. (Worthington) — Zachary seems to allude to this text, Luke i. 69. (Calmet) — The empire of Christ rose from the smallest beginnings. (Menochius)
Ver. 11. Ramatha. Hebrew Rama. Septuagint Alexandrian, “and they left him there before the Lord, and went away to Armathaim.” (Haydock)
Ver. 12. The Lord, whom they denied by their works, Titus i. 16.
Ver. 13. Nor the office. The Vulgate repeats the negation from the preceding sentence. Others translate, “The priests’ custom with the people was,” &c., or, “the pretended right of the priests,” &c. They neither performed their duty towards God, (Calmet) nor were they content with what the law authorized them to receive from the people. (Haydock) — Servant, or son; perhaps Ophni or Phinees. — Boiling. In the heroic times, the meat was never boiled, but roasted. (Athen. i. 10.; and Servius; though Hesiod asserts the contrary, ver. 748. (Calmet) — Abulensis (q. 8.) observes that the person who offered the victim, boiled the parts which belonged to himself, as well as the priest’s share. But, whereas in the peace-offerings, only the breast and the right shoulder fell to the priest, these rapacious men took whatever they pleased. (Menochius)
Ver. 14. Pan. Hebrew has also four terms, but their precise meaning cannot be determined. The vessels were of different forms, or intended for various uses.
Ver. 15. Raw. Here are two other abuses. The fat ought first to have been burnt, in honour of the Lord; and the meat should have been boiled, in order that the priest might not be taken off from his sacred functions; as custom, it seems, had determined, though the law be silent on this head.
Ver. 16. Desireth. The Laic gives an example of moderation and zeal, to which the priest might well have paid some deference. The former is willing to abandon his goods, provided the honour of God be not neglected. (Haydock)
Ver. 17. Lord. People, seeing that the law was not observed, refrained from presenting victims. (Menochius) — They are but too apt to follow the bad example of their teachers. (Haydock) — Hence God punishes the smallest faults of his ministers, with great severity, since they withdraw people from his service, by their scandalous behaviour, and are guilty of a more horrid sacrilege than those who laid violent hands on the Lord of majesty. (St. Bernard, ser. i.) Nothing brings a greater discredit on religion. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Ephod. It was not, therefore, peculiar to priests, 2 Kings vi. 14.
Ver. 19. Coat. Hebrew mehil, the outer garment. Hence it appears that the parents of the people consecrated to the Lord, furnished them with clothes, till they were able to serve the tabernacle, otherwise they would have been a burden to it. (Calmet)
Ver. 20. Lent. This was in reply to what Anna had said, chap. i. 28. (Haydock) — God always gives back with interest. (Menochius)
Ver. 21. Lord. He behaved well in the tabernacle, (Calmet) notwithstanding the ill example of Heli’s own sons. (Haydock)
Ver. 22. Waited, like an army of guards, Exodus xxxviii. 8. The Rabbins pretend that these priests only sent away these women who came to be purified, and allowed them to return to their husbands before the appointed time, and thus caused the latter to offend. These authors are generally very fertile in discoveries. (Calmet) — The virgins or widows gave themselves up to work for the tabernacle. (Menochius) — The sons of Heli found an opportunity in the sacred practices of religion to gratify their passions. Perhaps some false pastors in the Church of Christ may have imitated their perversity. A man of the character of Mr. Crowley, a late deserter of the Catholic faith, judging of others by the corruption of his own heart, would hence insinuate that they all take these liberties, or at least that it is “a miracle,” if they can admit females to confession, without yielding to such base temptations. If this be a miracle, we may confidently hope that wonders have not ceased, otherwise among his other malicious remarks, he would surely have adduced some proofs of his assertion, from the records of past ages. But in reality he seems to be little acquainted (though he pretends to have been converted by it, &c., and falsely asserts it is kept from laymen) either with history or with the Bible, having read perhaps little more than what his Catechism set before him; and this he boldly contradicts, as if he supposed that his “Thoughts” would have more weight than the decisions of the Fathers and of the whole Church. If he can find a professor of Maynooth, and another or two Irish priests, disposed to follow his example, (which we need not believe on his assertion) what would this prove? Yet Mr. Slack lays great stress on this man’s authority, in his late defence of Wesley. (Letters to R. Campion, Esq. Whitby, 1811.) So ready are the enemies of the Catholic faith to scrape together every idle remark that may tend to defame the mother Church! So eager are infidels to reject the faith, on account of the misconduct of some of its degenerate professors! (Haydock) — The best of fathers have often very profligate children, as the latter take pride in the honours of their family, and expect to obtain the same without trouble. (Grotius)
Ver. 23. People. They could not refrain from complaining of the iniquity of his children, how much soever they might revere him. Though he was not a witness himself of their abominations, such an uproar must have convinced him that they were guilty. (Haydock) — The Fathers in general blame the lenity of the high priest, who ought not only to have rebuked, but also to have put a stop to the crying sins of his sons, by the utmost severity. (Calmet)
Ver. 25. Who shall pray for him. By these words Heli would have his sons understand, that by their wicked abuse of sacred things, and of the very sacrifices which were appointed to appease the Lord, they deprived themselves of the ordinary means of reconciliation with God; which was by sacrifices. The more, because as they were the chief priests, whose business it was to intercede for all others, they had no other to offer sacrifice and make atonement for them. (Challoner) — We need not, however, consider the words of Heli as an oracle of God. (Sanchez) — In human transactions, a person would find more difficulty in obtaining pardon, when the judge himself had received the injury. Septuagint, instead of appeased, have “and they shall pray for him.” (Menochius) — Some may be found to plead his cause, but if he have offended the judge, who will undertake to be his advocate? What medicines shall be used, when those, which God has appointed, are trodden under foot? (Haydock) — By persevering in such wickedness, no redress can be expected: and indeed, the infinite distance between God and man, would place an insuperable obstacle to a reconciliation, if Jesus Christ had not undertaken the cause even of the most desperate sinner. (Calmet) — Because the Lord would slay them. In consequence of their manifold sacrileges, he would not soften their hearts with his efficacious grace, but was determined to destroy them. (Challoner) — They had filled up the measure of their crimes; and, though God wills not the death of a sinner, they had treasured up to themselves wrath, which he will now display. We might also translate ci, “therefore,” (Noldius; Osee ix. 15, &c.) or “that.” They would not be convinced that the threat of their father would be executed. (Schmid) (Calmet) — Sins directly against God, and which hinder his service, are remitted with greater difficulty, though to all true penitents pardon is promised, Ezechiel xxxiii. God did not take away the free will of Ophni and Phinees, but left them to their own obstinacy, and justly punished them. See St. Augustine, contra Jul. v. 3. (Worthington) — They had already rendered themselves unworthy of extraordinary graces. (Tirinus) (St. Thomas Aquinas, 1 p. q. 23, n. 3.)
Ver. 26. And men. Thus he is, in some degree, compared with our Saviour, Luke ii. 52. When one minister prevaricates, God presently raises up another, so that he never abandons his Church. (Haydock)
Ver. 27. A man. His name is unknown. Some say it was Elcana, Samuel or an angel, &c. The Rabbins suppose that Phinees performed this office. But he was long ago dead, (Calmet) or he would still have enjoyed the high priesthood instead of Heli. — Father’s. Aaron was the chief both of the house of Eleazar and of Ithamar, and was selected by God to be his ambassador and priest. (Haydock) — His posterity held the high priesthood till after the reign of Herod. (Tirinus)
Ver. 28. Ephod, and all the pontifical attire. (Haydock) — The high priest wore a different sort of ephod from that of other people. (Calmet) — All the, &c. Even of the holocausts, the priests received the skin. (Menochius)
Ver. 29. Away, by scandalizing the people, and causing them to neglect offering the appointed victims. (Haydock) — To eat. Heli seems to have refrained from divesting his sons of their high office, that the riches of his family might not be impaired. (Calmet) — Avarice is the root of many evils, and those who seek to become rich fall into many snares. Poverty soon overtook the descendants of Heli, while the immediate perpetrators of the wickedness were punished with death. (Haydock)
Ver. 30. Ever. God had promised the priesthood to Aaron’s seed (Calmet) as long as the Jewish religion should subsist. (Haydock) — He had also selected the branch of Eleazar, to recompense the zeal of Phinees; (Numbers xxv. 13,) and yet we find that the house of Ithamar had possession for a time of the high priesthood. We know not when or by what means by obtained it. The promises of God to them were surely only conditional; and some think that they only meant, that as He had permitted them to acquire this high dignity, so it was an earnest that he would not deprive them of it, unless they proved unworthy. But it is generally supposed that God had expressed his determination of this head. Heli, Achitob, Achias, Achimelech, and Abiathar, (Calmet) were the only pontiffs of the family of Ithamar. The last was obliged to resign to (Haydock) Sadoc, under the reign of Solomon, 3 Kings ii. 27. Some suppose that Heli usurped this dignity, (Capel) when he entered upon the civil administration, as the people thought none more fit for the office, in a time of trouble. (Bertram.) — Others think that the descendants of Eleazar forfeited this honour by their crimes or indolence, or because they were not of sufficient age. But this reason would not have excluded them for ever. The Scripture, therefore, insinuates that Heli was appointed by God, and that his descendants would have enjoyed his office, if they had not offended. (Calmet) — These promises were of a conditional nature both to Phinees and to Heli, and Sadoc, ver. 35. See Numbers xxv., &c. (Haydock) — God never changes. (Menochius)
Ver. 31. Arm, strength or children. I will slay some; others I will reduce to extreme want. Some explain it of the ark, which was the protection of Israel. (Calmet) — Old man, to govern. (Du Hamel) — It is often a title of dignity. But the four succeeding pontiffs did not live long. In the course of little more than 100 years, the last was deposed. (Calmet)
Ver. 32. Thy rival. A priest of another race. This was partly filled when Abiathar, of the race of Heli, was removed from the priesthood, and Sadoc, who was of another line, was substituted in his place. But it was more fully accomplished in the New Testament, when the priesthood of Aaron gave place to that of Christ. (Challoner) — Some suppose that this rival was Samuel, in whom this prediction was partly fulfilled, though more completely in Christ. (Ven. Bede, q.) (Menochius) — Heli saw not in person the exaltation of Eleazar’s family. Hebrew and other version are very much embarrassed here. (Calmet) — Protestants, “and thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel.” (Haydock)
Ver. 33. Spent. Hence we may learn to adore the depth of God’s judgments, who knows how to punish both in life and death. — Part. Septuagint, “the most exalted of thy house shall fall by the sword of men.”
Ver. 35. Faithful often denotes what shall continue a long time, Isaias xxxiii. 16., and lv. 3. (Calmet) — But in the conduct of Sadoc, we find nothing reprehensible. (Menochius) — This faithful priest pointed out the Christian priesthood, as the sequel shews. (Calmet) — All days. He shall perform his office. (Haydock) — Anointed, king Solomon. (Menochius) — The priests of the new law ought always to have Christ in view. (Calmet)
Ver. 36. Bread; like the poorest sort of people. (Menochius) — Being degraded, they shall ask the other priests to offer sacrifice for them. Hebrew, “shall bend before him for a piece of silver, and for a morsel of bread.” He shall humbly intreat to be employed as a priest, in order to get a livelihood. — The piece of silver. Hebrew agorath, probably denotes the gerah, the smallest coin, or what was given for a day’s wages. Agor means to hire, in Chaldean, Syriac, &c. Hence the Greek, agorazo, “I purchase.” — Office. The priests served in their turns; (1 Paralipomenon xxiv.) so that the descendants of Heli must have been entitled to a subsistence. But whether God punished them, by requiring that they should ask the high priest for this, as for a favour, or this was required of all the inferior priests before they could be employed, or whether, in fine, the descendants of Abiathar were reduced to the condition of Levites, or wholly degraded, we know not. See 4 Kings xxiii. 9., and Ezechiel xliv. 10. (Calmet) — They may petition for a part of the victims which fell to the share of the priests, (Menochius) and might be eaten by any that was not defiled. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The canticle of Anna. The wickedness of the sons of Heli: for which they are not duly corrected by their father. A prophecy against the house of Heli.
1 My heart hath rejoiced in the Lord, and my horn is exalted in my God: my mouth is enlarged over my enemies: because I have joyed in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the Lord is: for there is no other beside thee, and there is none strong like our God.
3 Do not multiply to speak lofty things, boasting: let old matters depart from your mouth: for the Lord is a God of all knowledge, and to him are thoughts prepared.
4 The bow of the mighty is overcome, and the weak are girt with strength.
5 They that were full before, have hired out themselves for bread: and the hungry are filled, so that the barren hath borne many: and she that had many children is weakened.
6 *The Lord killeth and maketh alive, he bringeth down to hell, and bringeth back again.
7 The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich, he humbleth and he exalteth:
8 He raiseth up the needy from the dust, and lifteth up the poor from the dunghill: that he may sit with princes, and hold the throne of glory. For the poles of the earth are the Lord’s, and upon them he hath set the world.
9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; because no man shall prevail by his own strength.
10 The adversaries of the Lord shall fear him: and upon them shall he thunder in the heavens: The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth, and he shall give empire to his king, and shall exalt the horn of his Christ.
11 And Elcana went to Ramatha, to his house: but the child ministered in the sight of the Lord before the face of Heli the priest.
12 Now the sons of Heli were children of Belial, not knowing the Lord,
13 Nor the office of the priests to the people: but whosoever had offered a sacrifice, the servant of the priest came, while the flesh was in boiling, with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand,
14 And thrust it into the kettle, or into the cauldron, or into the pot, or into the pan: and all that the flesh-hook brought up, the priest took to himself. Thus did they to all Israel that came to Silo.
15 Also before they burnt the fat, the servant of the priest came, and said to the man that sacrificed: Give me flesh to boil for the priest: for I will not take of thee sodden flesh, but raw.
16 And he that sacrificed said to him: Let the fat first be burnt to-day, according to the custom, and then take to thee as much as thy soul desireth. But he answered, and said to him: Not so: but thou shalt give it me now, or else I will take it by force.
17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was exceeding great before the Lord: because they withdrew men from the sacrifice of the Lord.
18 But Samuel ministered before the face of the Lord: being a child girded with a linen ephod.
19 And his mother made him a little coat, which she brought to him on the appointed days, when she went up with her husband, to offer the solemn sacrifice.
20 And Heli blessed Elcana and his wife: and he said to him: The Lord give thee seed of this woman, for the loan thou hast lent to the Lord. And they went to their own home.
21 And the Lord visited Anna, and she conceived, and bore three sons, and two daughters: and the child Samuel became great before the Lord.
22 Now Heli was very old, and he heard all that his sons did to all Israel: and how they lay with the women that waited at the door of the tabernacle:
23 And he said to them: Why do ye these kinds of things, which I hear, very wicked things, from all the people?
24 Do not so, my sons: for it is no good report that I hear, that you make the people of the Lord to transgress.
25 If one man shall sin against another, God may be appeased in his behalf: but if a man shall sin against the Lord, who shall pray for him? And they hearkened not to the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.
26 But the child Samuel advanced, and grew on, and pleased both the Lord and men.
27 And there came a man of God to Heli, and said to him: Thus saith the Lord: Did I not plainly appear to thy father’s house, when they were in Egypt in the house of Pharao?
28 And I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my sitar, and burn incense to me, and to wear the ephod before me: and I gave to thy father’s house of all the sacrifices of the children of Israel.
29 Why have you kicked away my victims, and my gifts which I commanded to be offered in the temple: and thou hast rather honoured thy sons than me, to eat the first-fruits of every sacrifice of my people Israel?
30 Wherefore thus saith the Lord the God of Israel: *I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should minister in my sight, for ever. But now saith the Lord: Far be this from me: but whosoever shall glorify me, him will I glorify: but they that despise me, shall be despised.
31 Behold the days come: and I will cut off thy arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thy house.
32 And thou shalt see thy rival in the temple, in all the prosperity of Israel, and there shall not be an old man in thy house for ever.
33 However, I will not altogether take away a man of thee from my altar: but that thy eyes may faint, and thy soul be spent: and a great part of thy house shall die, when they come to man’s estate.
34 And this shall be a sign to thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, Ophni and Phinees: in one day they shall both of them die.
35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, who shall do according to my heart, and my soul: and I will build him a faithful house, and he shall walk all days before my anointed.
36 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall remain in thy house shall come that he may be prayed for, and shall offer a piece of silver, and a roll of bread, and shall say: Put me, I beseech thee, to somewhat of the priestly office, that I may eat a morsel of bread.
6: Deuteronomy xxxii. 39.; Tobias xiii. 2.; Wisdom xvi. 13.
30: 3 Kings ii. 27.