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I have been studying the various offerings outlined in Leviticus chapters 1 - 6 (and elsewhere), including the peace offering.

In researching the significance of the peace offering I saw a couple of online articles refer to Hannah's offering in 1 Samuel 1:24 as a peace offering. For example, here and here

What I don't understand, is how would the authors of these online articles have concluded that the offering was a peace offering? It's certainly not explicitly stated in the text. We are only told that:

24 Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with a three-year-old bull, one ephah of flour, and a jug of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh, although the child was young. 25 Then they [k]slaughtered the bull, and brought the boy to Eli.

When I look at the requirements for the various offerings in Leviticus chapters 1 - 6, I see that the offering of a bull could fulfil the requirements for either a burnt offering, a peace offering, a sin offering, or a guilt offering.

Maybe the extra explanation of peace offerings in Leviticus 7 is the justification of asserting that Hannah's offering was a peace offering, because she included one ephah of flour and in Leviticus 7:12 we read that unleavened cakes mixed with oil could be included with the peace offering if it was offered by way of thanksgiving:

11 ‘Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the Lord. 12 If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers [g]spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil.

However, in Hannah's offering there is no mention of oil. Plus, Hannah also included a jug of wine which I don't see stated as an acceptable item in any of the offerings?

3 Answers 3

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Hannah's offering may refer to Numbers 15:1-10. In the NIV translation, this section is titled "Supplementary Offerings". These offerings include;

  • special vows or freewill offerings
  • food offering
  • grain offering
  • burnt offering
  • drink offering

1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘After you enter the land I am giving you as a home 3 and you present to the Lord food offerings from the herd or the flock, as an aroma pleasing to the Lord—whether burnt offerings or sacrifices, for special vows or freewill offerings or festival offerings— 4 then the person who brings an offering shall present to the Lord a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah[a] of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin[b] of olive oil. 5 With each lamb for the burnt offering or the sacrifice, prepare a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. 6 “‘With a ram prepare a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah[c] of the finest flour mixed with a third of a hin[d] of olive oil, 7 and a third of a hin of wine as a drink offering. Offer it as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. 8 “‘When you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering or sacrifice, for a special vow or a fellowship offering to the Lord, 9 bring with the bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with half a hin of olive oil, 10 and also bring half a hin of wine as a drink offering. This will be a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

In Numbers 15:8-10, Hannah made a specific freewill offering, dedicating her son Samuel as a Nazirite. This offering included a young bull as a burnt offering, flour for a grain offering and wine for a drink offering.

According to Number 15:8, this offering is recognized as a peace offering, specifically a fellowship offering to the Lord. Peace offerings were a distinct category of sacrifices, the term "peace" refers to the sense of well-being and communion with God. Individuals brought peace offerings to express fellowship with God.

Regarding to the number of bulls, 1 Samuel 1:25 mentions that only one bull was sacrificed. If there were original three bulls, the text does not specify what happened to the other two. This detail is left open to individual interpretation.

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  • Ah, very good @Vincent Wong! I had not been aware of Numbers 15:8-10. Certainly the description there lines up pretty well with what Hannah offered. However, if it says these items could be used "for a special vow or a fellowship offering", isn't it clear that Hannah was offering a sacrifice for a "special vow" and not a "fellowship offering"? Or is the sacrifice for a special vow, known as a fellowship offering as well? Then why the distinction in this verse?
    – Luke
    Commented May 14 at 2:22
  • As for the mention of three bulls in some of the other comments here, that is because in some English versions it mentions "three bulls" instead of "three year old bull" like in the NASB which I am using.
    – Luke
    Commented May 14 at 2:24
  • @Luke - For sure Hannah offered for her vow to God made three years ago. Since it is a kind of freewill offering, perhaps this is the reason most scholars classified it as peace offering, which covers various offerings above. Some commentaries interpret that three bulls were involved in three different offerings. But if 1 Samuel 1:25 is singular, that only one bull was burnt, then a doubt still remain. However, this is a minor detail and will not change the course of the whole story. Commented May 14 at 14:50
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There are a number of unusual facts in this episode. First, for a woman to offer a sacrifice of these proportions was unprecedented. One is at pains to cite another occasion where a woman is described as doing such a thing. For another, as the OP mentions, why did she include a jug of wine? Finally, did she offer three bullocks (as the Hebrew says) or one, which was three years old (as the LXX has it)? Some suggest that the LXX has corrected the text in light of requirements in Leviticus. This leads to a chicken-and-egg question concerning the text of Samuel in relation to Leviticus and Numbers.

Indeed, distinctions among types of offerings may miss the point here. Should we presume that Hannah, or even Eli, was well-versed in the various types of offerings required in the Levitical code? Modern commentators often take the view that the so-called "priestly source" that governed such matters was not even written yet.

Its main concern is to establish the central cult around which post-exilic Judaism will be organized. Thus these scribes are responsible for the account of the rules for and construction of the wilderness sanctuary in Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 (set in the past but about their present), the entire book of Leviticus which spells out the ritual law, and the censuses, lineages and purity rules that will govern the personnel and practices in the sacred space (Numbers 1–10).

If this hypothesis is correct, Hannah may not have known exactly what type of offering she was making, because the rules for making them did not exist yet, at least not in the form we now have them. She wanted to express her gratitude to God and the priest for blessing her and enabling the birth of her son. Supposing her ignorance of the Levitical laws also explains why there is no mention of oil, why Hannah included a jug of wine and even why the Hebrew and the LXX differ as to whether she offered one bullock or three. (The Hebrew described the historical fact, while the LXX corrected this in light of the [later] Law.) Even if we presume that Leviticus was written by Moses, we need not think that Hannah was well studied, or that the priest (Eli) was particularly concerned with sticking to the letter of the Law, especially if he and his corrupt sons (1 Samuel 2:12) benefitted from a bonus jug of wine and an extra bullock to two. Hannah was grateful, and the priest was only too glad to accept her generous offering.

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  • Thanks @Dan Fefferman. I now understand that some English translations refer to "three bulls". I am using the NASB, which refers to "a three year old bull". Based on your explanation, the NASB must use the LXX version. As for whether the offering was a peace offering or not, see Vincent Wong's answer, which helpfully refers to Numbers 15:8-10 which I hadn't seen before. Although I'm still not sure if the sacrifice is a peace offering, a special vow offering, or whether they are both one and the same.
    – Luke
    Commented May 14 at 2:29
  • @Luke... I don't see any other place where a woman offers a bull (let along three bulls) as a sacrifice. It doesn't seem to fit with the system either in Numbers or Leviticus. I begin to wonder if there might to be a hint about some wrongdoing by Eli or his sons, for which Hannah was making a sin-offering based on Leviticus 4. Did he sin by misjudging Hannah earlier? Commented May 15 at 0:10
  • You don't agree that it seems to fulfil the criteria for a special vow offering or peace offering as stated in Numbers 15:8-10? A bull is included in the criteria for that offering, as well as a grain offering mixed with oil, and a drink offering of wine. Hannah was certainly fulfilling a vow that she had made, in giving her son Samual to the Lord to serve in the tabernacle, right? @Dan Fefferman
    – Luke
    Commented May 15 at 5:32
  • I don't deny that it could be vow offering. However I do not think that the people of the time were well versed in these regulations. How would they learn of them? Commented May 17 at 13:50
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Short Answer: The text does not explicitly identify Hannah’s offering as a peace offering.

Let me summarize what some of the commentators say on 1 Samuel 1:24:

  • Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible: Gill suggests that the three bullocks could be for three types of offerings: burnt offering, sin offering, and peace offering. Alternatively, one might be for sacrifice, and the other two could be for food or as a gift to the high priest. The ephah of flour and the bottle of wine might be used for the meat offering and drink offering, respectively.
  • Matthew Poole’s Commentary: Poole proposes two possibilities for the three bullocks: one to be offered at that time and the other two presented to the priest for his use or future offerings. Or, one each for a burnt offering, a sin offering, and a peace offering. The ephah of flour and the bottle of wine are for the meat offerings and drink offerings, respectively.
  • Benson Commentary: Benson believes that one of the bullocks was wholly offered to God as a burnt offering, and the other two were peace offerings, or possibly one a sin offering and the other a peace offering. The ephah of flour and the wine are for the meat or meal offerings and drink offerings, respectively.
  • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: The conjecture here is that one bullock was intended for a burnt offering, one for the “sacrifice in performing a vow,” and one for a peace offering. The ephah of flour was for the meat offering, and the bottle of wine was for the drink offering. In this case, the quantities for the flour and wine offerings make sense when taking into consideration the prescriptions in Numbers 15:9-10.

What exactly can we conclude from this? Well, while it’s not explicitly stated in the text, the consensus is that the three bullocks, the ephah of flour, and the bottle of wine were used for various offerings. These could include burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings, and possibly even offerings in fulfillment of a vow.

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  • Thanks @Jason_. Vincent Wong pointed out Numbers 15:8-10 and that seems to be a pretty good description of Hannah's offering. I'm just not sure yet whether it is a "special vow" offering, or a peace offering, or if they are somehow one and the same.
    – Luke
    Commented May 14 at 2:26

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