1 Samuel 1
God is always at work; even when times are dark and challenging. Before Samson waged his personal war with the Philistines, there was another judge who was ruling in Shiloh. Eli was a high priest and a judge who would soon encounter the man who would be the last of the judges in Israel. A man named Elkanah annually came to worship and offer peace offerings. Elkanah was a Levite, who had taken two wives and perhaps the comment that Hannah had no children suggests that her infertility had driven him to marry another woman in order to produce an heir. Every year Elkanah took his family to the feast at Shiloh, which is approximately eighteen miles north of Jerusalem. These trips were most painful for Hannah because every year her husband would show his love for her by giving her an extra portion at the sacrificial meal but it only made things worse. Perhaps he wanted Hannah to know that he loved her as if she had given him a son. Things always grew contentious because Elkanah's actions would incite Peninnah, who responded in jealousy and spite making life miserable for Hannah by using her fertility to torment her rival. Every year the scene replayed itself and every year Hannah would become so emotionally upset that she could not eat. Elkanah attempted to comfort his wife, but the words only made this desperate woman her emptiness with greater intensity.
On one occasion, Hannah finished the ritual meal and then wept near the entrance to the temple. She approached God reverently as can be seen in her threefold reference to herself as a handmaid of the Lord. Hannah vowed that if the Lord gave her a son, she would dedicate him all the days of his life as a Nazarite. While she was praying before the Lord, Eli, the high priest observed Hannah from a distance and because she was praying silently and only her lips were moving, Eli thought she was drunk. It was his duty to guard the courts of the sanctuary against desecration, and so Eli scolded Hannah and ordered her to put away her wine. Hannah is embarrassed, and she tells her story to Eli. She explains that she is anxious, vexed, and was pouring out her heart to the Lord. Eli pronounces a blessing on Hannah, and she returns home with her family. She was confident that God heard her petition and her sadness is replaced with faith and hope. The trip to Shiloh ended with worship, and they returned home.
A Son Is Born And A Son Is Given
The Lord did not just hear Hannah; he granted her petition. She conceived and bore a son. This baby was truly an answer to prayer. At the next annual sacrifice, Hannah elected not to go to the sanctuary. She thought it best to wait until she had weaned the child and then she would present him to the Lord. Under the Mosaic law, a woman was not obligated to attend the annual festivals. Elkanah agrees that this is the wisest course, and goes without her. When the child was weaned, Hannah took him and a generous offering to the sanctuary. She then presented the young boy to Eli and reminded the priest of the incident that occurred earlier when he had mistaken her earnest petition as drunken gibberish. God had answered her prayer and Hannah dedicated her son to the Lord for as long as he lived. In gratitude, Eli bowed in worship.
Thing To Consider:
- Why are marriages never perfect?
- What do we learn about consistency in worship?
- How painful do you think it was for Hannah to suffer from infertility?
- Why do you think that Hannah did not respond to Peninnah in anger?
- What does Hannah teach us by her faithfulness in returning each year?
- How should we respond to people when there are some things that we cannot fix?
- Why is it unusual for us to go to the Lord when we are hurting?
- Should we make vows today? Why or why not?
- How should we respond to people who misunderstand us?
- Do you think Hannah was comforted by Eli's words? Why or why not?
- How difficult do you think it was for Hannah to turn Samuel over to Eli?
- How many sacrifices did Hannah make that year?
- Why do you think Eli responded in worship?