What does 1 Samuel 2:9 mean?
ESV: “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail.
NIV: He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. 'It is not by strength that one prevails;
NASB: He watches over the feet of His godly ones, But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; For not by might shall a person prevail.
CSB: He guards the steps of his faithful ones, but the wicked perish in darkness, for a person does not prevail by his own strength.
NLT: 'He will protect his faithful ones, but the wicked will disappear in darkness. No one will succeed by strength alone.
KJV: He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
NKJV: He will guard the feet of His saints, But the wicked shall be silent in darkness. “For by strength no man shall prevail.
Verse Commentary:
The cornerstone idea of Hannah's song is simple: God controls everything, and no human circumstances are beyond His ability to reverse. After all, Hannah experienced it herself. In great distress, she asked the Lord to change something unchangeable: her ability to have children. He had made what was impossible for her into reality (1 Samuel 1:5, 10–11, 19–20, 24–28).

Now Hannah says this is simply what the Lord does. People don't prevail by being stronger than everyone else; they will never be stronger than the Lord. He can cut off the wicked in darkness, likely meaning death, no matter how strong they appear to be from a human perspective. He can guard the feet of those faithful to Him to keep them from stumbling no matter how steep or rocky the path might be (Psalm 146; Habakkuk 3:19; Zechariah 4:6).
Verse Context:
First Samuel 2:1–11 contains Hannah's poetic prayer of praise to the Lord in response to His gift of a son, Samuel. She offers the prayer after delivering Samuel into Eli's care at the sanctuary in keeping with her vow to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:11, 24–28). The main emphasis of the prayer is that God is holy and sovereign. He can reverse life situations, bringing the rich and powerful down and lifting the poor, hungry, and barren. The one who controls life and death guards those faithful to Him.
Chapter Summary:
After delivering Samuel to the Lord, Hannah offers a poetic prayer of praise. The sons of Eli the priest are evil, depraved men who abuse their power as priests. They coerce worshippers to give them additional meat. They sleep with women who serve at the sanctuary. In contrast, Samuel grows in favor with God and others as he grows up physically. Hannah and Elkanah continue to go to Shiloh yearly; they also have more children. Eli rebukes his sons, but they don't repent. The Lord tells Eli that all his descendants will die young and his two rebellious sons will die on the same day. The Lord will raise up a faithful priest to do His will.
Chapter Context:
The prior chapter explained how Hannah cried out to God for a son, and that her request was granted. First Samuel 2 begins with Hannah's praise to the Lord in response. Samuel remains in Shiloh where he ministers and matures. By contrast, Eli's sons are wicked and abuse their power as priests. A prophet reveals that God will cause all Eli's descendants to die young and his two sons to die on the same day. The Lord will raise up a faithful priest from another part of the family line. This provides background for Samuel's call from God in chapter 3.
Book Summary:
First Samuel introduces the key figures who led Israel after the era of the judges. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally part of a single text, split in certain translations shortly before the birth of Christ. Some of the Bible’s most famous characters are depicted in this book. These including the prophet Samuel, Israel’s first king, Saul, her greatest king, David, and other famous names such as Goliath and Jonathan. By the end of this book, Saul has fallen; the book of 2 Samuel begins with David’s ascension to the throne.
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