The Word Made Fresh
1A man named Elkanah (son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph), an Ephraimite from Ramathaim-Zuphim in the hill country of Ephraim 2had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
3Every year Elkanah went to Shiloh to sacrifice to the LORD of All. Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were priests to the LORD. 4Whenever it was his turn to offer the sacrifice Elkanah would give some of the meat to Peninnah and her children, 5but as much as he loved Hannah, he could give her but one portion because God had not given her children. 6Peninnah would taunt her mercilessly because God had not favored her with a pregnancy. 7This went on year after year. Every time they went to the LORD’s house Peninnah would tease Hannah, and Hannah would cry, and refuse to eat.
8“Hannah, why are you crying?” Elkanah would ask her. “Why won’t you eat? Why be so sad? Aren’t I more important to you than ten sons?”
9One year, after they had their food and drink at Shiloh, Hannah excused herself. Eli the priest was sitting at the door of the temple and 10Hannah, tormented and weeping, came and prayed to the LORD, 11saying, “O LORD of All, please look on my suffering, and don’t continue to cast me aside, but let me have a son! I promise I will raise him up as one separated and consecrated to you, and no razor will ever shave his hair as long as he lives.”
12Eli was watching her while she prayed. 13She prayed silently, but her lips were moving. Eli thought she must be drunk, 14so he said to her, “How long will you embarrass yourself? Stop drinking so much wine.”
15Hannah said, “Oh, no, sir. I am very upset, but I have not tasted wine or any other strong drink. I have been pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16Please don’t think I’m some worthless woman. I have been pouring out my grief and worries.”
17Eli said, “Then go in peace, and may the God of Israel answer your prayers.”
18“Oh, may the LORD do as you have said!” she answered. Then she retired for the night and was not sad any longer.
19They got up early the next morning, worshiped the LORD, and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah and the LORD remembered her prayer. 20It wasn’t long before Hannah knew she was pregnant, and she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “I asked the LORD for him.”
21Elkanah continued to go with his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and honor his promises, 22but Hannah remained at home. She said, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him and present him to the LORD, and he will remain there all his life because I have offered him as one who is separated for the LORD.”
23Elkanah said, “Do whatever you think best. Keep him here until he is weaned and may the LORD honor your promise.”
So, she stayed home and nursed her son Samuel until he was weaned 24When she had weaned him, she took him with her along with a young bull, a basket of flour and a skin of wine to the LORD’s house in Shiloh. 25They slaughtered the bull, then brought the child to Eli. 26Hannah said, “Sir, you may remember that I am the woman who was here praying to the LORD. 27I was praying for the LORD to give me a child, and here is that child! 28I have dedicated him to the LORD his whole life long.” And Eli bowed down before the LORD.
1-2: We meet Elkanah and his wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah is barren. We have seen this scenario many times: God chooses a barren woman through whom to bring into the world some character the world just could not do without. Hannah is in a long and honorable line, with Sara, Rachel, Rebekah, and the unnamed mother of Samson. The story of Jacob readily comes to mind, with his two wives Rachel and Leah, one who has children, the other who at first cannot.
3-8: As in the story of Jacob and his wives, Elkanah loves the barren wife more than the other, and the relationship between Hannah and Peninnah echoes the rivalry between Rachel and Leah. We learn that Elkanah is a very religious man, that the prescribed place of worship in Israel is presently at Shiloh, that Eli is the head priest, and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas are subordinate priests there.
9-11: Hannah promises that if God gives her a child, she will dedicate him as a Nazarite from birth. In the case of Samson, his mother does not pray for a child, but an angel announces to her that she will have a child whose hair must never be cut (Judges 13). So, both Samson and Samuel are dedicated to God from birth, but that is where the similarities end. Thank goodness.
12-18: Hannah goes to the temple to pray. It is a simple and specific prayer that she will become pregnant and have a son. Old Eli sees her praying and accuses her of being inebriated, but when Hannah explains her distress, he blesses her and adds his prayer to hers. Hannah goes home in peace because she has placed her future in God’s hands and is confident that God regards the meek and lowly with special care.
19-20: They return home, and in due time she conceives. A son is born and given the name Samuel.
21-28: Hannah does not accompany Elkanah on his annual trips to Shiloh while Samuel is an infant and toddler. She has promised to give the child to God, but of course cannot expect the priests at the temple to agree to care for a child still being nursed. So, several years pass before she again accompanies her husband. It was common in that culture to nurse a child to the age of three or sometimes older. When Samuel is weaned, she takes him with her to Shiloh. Elkanah seems curiously detached, but according to the Law of Moses, if his wife makes a vow and he does not negate the vow within a certain time, she must keep the vow. There is another tradition that Elkanah, though living in Ephraim, is actually a Levite (I Chronicles 6:27). That would help explain his religious sincerity and his deep regard for her vow, as well as Samuel’s status later as a spiritual leader in Israel.
Hannah presents Samuel to Eli and leaves him there. We are left to wonder whether such arrangements are common. In any case, we must feel for Hannah, for she has made a tremendous sacrifice. Ramah, her hometown, is about 20 miles from Shiloh, and in those day 20 miles was a long journey.
Can you imagine longing for something for so long, and then when finally receiving what you had been praying for, voluntarily giving that long awaited blessing away? Could you do it? Hannah has to be one of the most faithful people in the scriptures!