The Talmud (Berachot 31b) records the following statement:

ותדר נדר ותאמר ה' צבאות אמר רבי אלעזר מיום שברא הקב"ה את עולמו לא היה אדם שקראו להקב"ה צבאות עד שבאתה חנה וקראתו צבאות אמרה חנה לפני הקב"ה רבש"ע מכל צבאי צבאות שבראת בעולמך קשה בעיניך שתתן לי בן אחד משל למה הדבר דומה למלך בשר ודם שעשה סעודה לעבדיו בא עני אחד ועמד על הפתח אמר להם תנו לי פרוסה אחת ולא השגיחו עליו דחק ונכנס אצל המלך א"ל אדוני המלך מכל סעודה שעשית קשה בעיניך ליתן לי פרוסה אחת

And she vowed a vow and said, O Lord of Zebaoth [Hosts]. R. Eleazar said: From the day that God created His world there was no man called the Holy One, blessed be He, Zeboath [hosts] until Hannah came and called Him Zebaoth. Said Hannah before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, of all the hosts and hosts that Thou hast created in Thy world, is it so hard in Thy eyes to give me one son? A parable: To what is this matter like? To a king who made a feast for his servants, and a poor man came and stood by the door and said to them, Give me a bite, and no one took any notice of him, so he forced his way into the presence of the king and said to him, Your Majesty, out of all the feast which thou hast made, is it so hard in thine eyes to give me one bite?

(Soncino translation)

R. Samuel Eidels in his commentary there writes as follows:

מקודם זה מצינו שקראו הכתוב כן דכתיב ועלה האיש וגו' לזבוח לה' צבאות בשילה וגו' אלא דאדם שקראו כן לא מצינו עד שבאת חנה

He seems to be bothered by the fact that an earlier verse in this very chapter refers to God with the term that the Talmud claims Hannah was the first to use. His answer is that the Talmud only meant that she was the first person to say it, but not necessarily that it hadn't been ever used in this way before.

This implied question and its answer seem puzzling. The Book of Samuel was presumably written after the events that it describes took place. Indeed, the Talmud elsewhere (Bava Batra 14b) states that Samuel himself was the author of the Book of Samuel. As Samuel was not yet born at the time of Hannah's prayer, surely he hadn't already written his book. Why then would the earlier verse be troubling? Chronologically it comes after Hannah's prayer, and the Talmud's claim can therefore be upheld with no difficulty.

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    The idea is that Shmuel would not have written a term unless it had been used at the time he was referring to. That is, if the term had not been used until Chana prayed using it, he would not have written it even if it was now common when he wrote his sefer. Feb 4, 2020 at 0:59
  • @sabbahillel But we see in the answer that he did use a term that hadn’t been used at the time.
    – Alex
    Feb 4, 2020 at 1:03
  • My point was that the answer says that the term had existed before but had not been used out loud in a prayer. Chana did not invent the term, it was just not part of the prayers. Feb 4, 2020 at 2:56
  • @sabbahillel I don't see anything about being part of prayers in the Gemara or the Maharsha. They both say that she was the first person to call God "tzeva'os".
    – Alex
    Feb 4, 2020 at 3:04
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    Tangentially related, but why does erasing צבאות violate a biblical prohibition if it's a later addition to God's names?
    – Double AA
    Mar 6, 2020 at 5:45

3 Answers 3


I believe the answer is that historically, Chanah was the first to use the term. The book of Shmuel was written later, and used the term coined by Chanah. The Maharsha wants to clarify this point, by saying Chanah was the first person to use the phrase.


He asks your question on the maharsha and discusses it. It is too long to quote the lot. enter image description here

  • Maybe summarise rather than saying this person answers - it will boost your reputation.
    – Dov
    Sep 1, 2020 at 12:09
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    @dov I am sure alex who is the biggest talmid chochom here is more pleased to see his kashe asked in a sefer than any points he gets here.
    – interested
    Sep 1, 2020 at 19:46
  • of course. I am only saying so that others can benefit
    – Dov
    Sep 1, 2020 at 21:58

One lazy answer would be to say that the same way Moshe Rabbenu knew about the creation account, is the same way Shmuel Ha Navi knew about events prior to his birth. Until I get a better answer I'm taking comfort on this one.

  • Can you clarify how this would resolve the question? However Shmuel knew about the events he was writing about, they still took place before he wrote about them.
    – Alex
    Sep 1, 2020 at 23:36
  • Shalom Alex, i think i might have missed the point. I was hoping to see an answer which speaks directly to the question "Did Samuel write his book before he was born?
    – Papi
    Sep 2, 2020 at 17:25

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