31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Hannah
Bearing children. Becoming a mother. It is a time-old concern, dream, and expectation for women. As we have already seen when we looked at Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah – the having of a child, especially a son, could be a real concern for a woman. In this regard, women are still the same today. Most women can understand the longing to have a child and the agony when it proves difficult to have one. One thing we can be certain of, God understands this longing that we have – so much so that He provided us quite a few examples of women throughout scripture who faced this trouble. We should take heart that He has shown His awareness and His concern by giving us these women and their stories.
Let’s learn about Hannah.
Hannah’s story can be found in 1 Samuel 1 – 2:20.
Elkanah had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had given him children, but Hannah had not.
The Bible tells us that Elkanah was devoted to observing the yearly worship in Shiloh (Judges 21:19; Jer. 7:12) during the time when Eli was priest (1 Sam. 1:3). He provided portions for everyone, but for Hannah he provided a double portion because he loved her (1 Sam. 1:5).
Hannah was barren and Peninnah would provoke her about it. Every year this would happen, to the point that Hannah would cry and would not be able to eat. Elkanah loved Hannah dearly and longed for her to think him enough to make her happy (1 Sam. 1:8).
On this occasion of coming to worship, after having eaten, Hannah took her cares to the Lord. She “prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly” (1 Sam. 1:10). She made a vow to the Lord that if He would give her a son then she would give her son back and dedicate Him to the Lord all the days of his life (1 Sam. 1:11).
Eli the priest, was watching her pray and he thought that she was drunk. She was “speaking in her heart” and her lips were moving but she was not talking out loud. Eli reprimands her. But Hannah explains herself. She tells him that she has “poured out” her “soul before the Lord.” Eli comforts her and Hannah is able to eat and to no longer be sad. Hannah, Elkanah, and the rest of the family go back home to Ramah.
Once home, Hannah conceives and gives birth to a son! She named him Samuel “because I have asked him of the Lord”. Samuel means “heard of God” or “name of God”.
The next year Elkanah prepares to go up for worship, but Hannah stays home with Samuel. She says that she will wait and take the boy when he is weaned and she must leave him there forever (1 Sam. 1:22). Elkanah agrees but remind’s her of God’s recognition of her vow. So Hannah stayed home and cared for her son until he was weaned.
When Samuel was weaned she took him up with her, taking a three-year old bull, an ephah of flour, and a jug of wine and brought him to the house of the Lord in Shiloh – even though her son was still young (1 Sam. 1:24). They made their sacrifice and then brought Samuel to Eli and left him there.
Hannah introduces herself as the woman Eli had encountered and she says, “For this boy I prayed, and the Lord has given my petition which I asked of Him.” She explains that she has dedicated Samuel to the Lord for all of his life (1 Sam. 1:28). We see in 1 Samuel 2:19 that Hannah would make him a robe every year and bring it to him when they came to sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and Hannah, praying they might have many children to fill the space left empty by the one she had dedicated to the Lord (1 Sam. 2:20). God did bless Hannah, because she conceived five more times, giving Elkanah three more sons and two daughters!
My heart just breaks when I read the words “even though the child was young” in 1 Samuel 1:24. Hannah had longed for this child and the note shows how soon she gave him up. She gave him up readily, but God knew the sacrifice she was making because He inspired those words to be written. What a powerful, strong faith Hannah had! Look at what she said in her prayer after giving Samuel to Eli:
My heart exults in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
There is no one holy like the Lord,
Indeed, there is no one besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the Lord is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
But she who has many children languishes.
The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He set the world on them.
He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail.
Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens,
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed.”
She walked away from her son, knowing that if she does see him again it will not be for another year. Yet THIS prayer is what she was able to give to God! She praises God because He has provided for her. There is no one like our God! She sees His hand in all things because everything is His because He is the Creator. The Lord will judge every one by the things they do and the godly ones will prevail. She talks of the coming of Christ as a known thing – she looks toward that day. We can see the fulfillment of 1 Samuel 2:10 in Luke 1:69 and Acts 10:38.
Hannah’s story shows us, like Sarah, Rachel and Leah, that a marriage with more than one wife brings trouble. The false narrative today of happy sister wives is never born out in scripture. Hannah would have still had her anguish over her lack of children, but she would only have had to bear it with Elkanah’s comforting arms. Instead, Peninnah was a regular grievance on top of the hurt she already bore. Despite the abuses, Hannah did not retaliate. In this way her behavior is different than that of Rachel and Leah. Hannah shows that faith will get you through and that you NEVER give up talking to God about your hurts.