From 1 Samuel 1-3
The book of Samuel starts with Samuels parents. Samuel hasn’t even been born yet. There is actually a problem.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2 He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. (1 Sa 1:1–2)
Elkanah had two wives. Hannah who has no children and Peninnah who does. This is a source of grief and embarrassment for Hannah. Men married women so they could further their family line. Whats the point of marrying the woman if she couldn’t bear children? Male heirs. The people of Israel prized having children. Even more than our culture does today. Hannah would have been looked on with pity. Or worse, ridicule.
Grief, sadness and unrealised hopes and dreams are sadly part of this world.
3 Now this man [Elkanah] used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD. 4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. (1 Sa 1:3-5)
Shiloh you may remember from Judges is where the Benjaminites stole wives for themselves (Jdg 21.20-21). Eli we learn is the head priest at Shiloh and he has a two evil sons. But that is another story. When Elkanah sacrificed he divides the appropriate portions between his two wives. You may rightfully think he would prefer Peninnah who had bore him children. This is not the case, Elkanah prefers Hannah. He loves her. Within Hebrew families children were a source of rivalry and competition between wives of the same husband (Gen 29.31-30.13).
6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. (1 Sa 1:6-7)
Hannah has a rival – Peninnah. Peninnah provokes Hannah mercilessly. ‘I have bore children. How many do you have?’ ‘You must deserve this punishment from the LORD!’ This went on year by year.
Ongoing insults and ridicule can drive anyone to tears.
8 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (1 Sa 1:8)
‘You’re barren!’, ‘You’re useless!’ Elkanah loves Hannah and tries to comfort her. He recognises why she grieves and tries to console her. I don’t know how she felt or what, if anything, she resolved she would do.
9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Sa 1:9-11)
Hannah did do something about it. She rose up and went to the temple to pray about it. She didn’t go up to confess her sin and ask for forgiveness. She went to pray. To make a vow.
Prayer is one expression of our dependance on God who can do things we cannot.
Her vow could have been overruled by Elkanah (Nu 30.6-15). But it wasn’t. Knowing what it meant for her to have children he was willing to make the sacrifice if she did indeed bear a child. Elkanah loves Hannah.
12 As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. (1 Sa 1:12-13a)
Hannah prayed. She moved her lips but did not make any sound. She spoke in her heart.
The LORD doesn’t need to hear your prayers. He knows what’s in your heart.
Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” (1 Sa 1:13b-16)
She gets misunderstood of course. It can be fairly easy to misunderstand the grief of another. Eli thinks she is drunk and rebukes her. Perhaps he should be rebuking his own sons instead. Hannah stands up for herself. She is not drunk. She is not worthless. She speaks of her pain, her request for help and her vow. Eli has compassion.
17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. (1 Sa 1:17-18)
Eli assures her the LORD will grant her petition. Hannah is encouraged and asks for his continued favour. Perhaps that he may pray for her.
Her face was no longer sad. Hannah believes what Eli said.
The LORD will enable her to have a child.
19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the LORD.” (1 Sa 1:19–20)
Story of Israel
Since the fall, human beings have suffered in various ways. The Old Testament provides insights into the nature and place of suffering both in the world and in the lives of believers (Gen 48.1; Job 2.7; Ps 42.10). God wants his people to turn to him in prayer, individually and corporately, in times of need or crisis, and to bring requests to him as a Father (Gen 32.9-12; Ps 28.1-9; Je 15.15-18).
One such example of both of these is Hezekiah. Hezekiah became sick, he was about to die. Like Hannah he wept bitterly and prayed. The LORD heard his prayer and answered him. He would live another fifteen years (2 Ki 20:1–7).
Story of Jesus
Jesus hears our prayers. On his first appearance in the gospel he showed compassion on the sick and suffering. He would have shown compassion on Hannah as well. Consider the faith and the silent prayer of this woman.
24 And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mk 5:24–34)
Jesus brings peace to those who believe in Him.
Perhaps it is a little comfort to know the LORD is aware of your hardship and grief. It might help to try and look forward to the time when the LORD will satisfy you. He LORD has good plans in store for us. Either in this life or the next. His love is new every morning. Believe he will and worship him.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.