Hannah: 1st Wife of Elkanah, Mother of Samuel

Seeds of Promise Series by Shenica Graham

Hannah: 1st Wife of Elkanah, Mother of Samuel

Women of The Bible

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Seeds of Promise Women of the Bible Hannah: 1st Wife of Elkanah, Mother of Samuel
I Samuel 1 Audio
Devotional Reading: I Samuel 1:1-6 AMP
1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill country of Ephraim, named Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, one named Hannah and the other named Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. This man went from his city year by year to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were the Lord’s priests. When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give to Peninnah his wife and all her sons and daughters portions [of the sacrificial meat]. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had given her no children. [This embarrassed and grieved Hannah] and her rival provoked her greatly to vex her, because the Lord had left her childless.
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According to Rabbinical tradition, Hannah was the first wife of Elkanah [1]. She was most beloved by her husband. However, after a decade of marriage, she had not born Elkanah any children. Jewish law provided for the right and requirement of a husband to take a second wife if a ten-year union had produced no offspring [2]. When therefore Elkanah had no heir of Hannah’s womb, he took a second wife – whose name was Peninnah. According to the Jewish Women’s Archive, it may have been Hannah’s idea that he take another wife in order to produce an heir – similar to the stories of Sarah and Hagar and Rachel and Bilhah [3] – the first named in each comparison were the head wives of their husbands, who when they knew themselves to be barren, convinced their husbands to conceive a child with their handmaids.
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Peninnah birthed ten sons and an 2 daughters [4] before Hannah had any children. Peninnah was a thorn in the flesh and a mocker of Hannah. Peninnah would taunt her with embarrassing and depressing statements each day, magnifying the subject of Hannah’s barrenness and the reality of her grief in ways that vexed Hannah’s mind to rob her of any peace. Peninnah was not overtly insulting, but covertly annoying – destroying Hannah’s heart in small pieces from day-to-day, rather than doing something that would bring action against her from her husband. In effect, she was an emotional bully. Peninnah must have used this mode to soothe her own ego, to lessen her own distress at the fact that Hannah was unequivocally more loved by their husband Elkanah – whose preference for Hannah was displayed every time the family traveled to Shiloh to make the yearly sacrifice to God, where Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of the meat whilst Peninnah and her sons and daughters each had one portion.
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After Hannah’s prayer, when God opened her womb, Peninnah was apparently punished for her vexation of Hannah; and each time that Hannah bore children, a child or children of Peninnah’s was buried. According to the Midrash, after Hannah’s fifth child, Peninnah asked Hannah to pray that her last two living sons be spared [5]. Hannah prayed and God changed the names of the sons, for he called them by Hannah’s motherhood as if she had borne them. Thus, ultimately, the one who was barren birthed five sons and was attributed two son as if she were their mother; and the one who bore twelve children was grieved and no child was acknowledged of her body.

Hannah’s Prayer & Vow

Devotional Reading: I Samuel 1:7-10 AMP
So it was year after year; whenever Hannah went up to the Lord’s house, Peninnah provoked her, so she wept and did not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, Hannah, why do you cry? And why do you not eat? And why are you grieving? Am I not more to you than ten sons? So Hannah rose after they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his seat beside a post of the temple (tent) of the Lord. 10 And [Hannah] was in distress of soul, praying to the Lord and weeping bitterly.
What comfort that time might have brought to solace Hannah’s grieving spirit was crushed like the olive by Peninnah’s constant pressing of the issue of Hannah’s bareness. Thankfully for Hannah, she turned to the One who could help. She fasted and prayed to God with a broken and contrite heart.
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Devotional Reading: I Samuel 1:11 AMP

11 She vowed, saying, O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your handmaid and [earnestly] remember, and not forget Your handmaid but will give me a son, I will give him to the Lord all his life; no razor shall touch his head.

Hannah was surely cognizant of the Nazarite vow and its significance. She is giving God something He wants: a dedicated servant. The refrain from cutting of the hair was a sign to all people that a person was in covenant with God. Samson had the same vow on his life, and only became weak when he told of the source of strength and his hair was cut.

Devotional Reading: I Samuel 1:12-18 AMP

12 And as she continued praying before the Lord, Eli noticed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. 14 Eli said to her, How long will you be intoxicated? Put wine away from you. 15 But Hannah answered, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I was pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Regard not your handmaid as a wicked woman; for out of my great complaint and bitter provocation I have been speaking. 17 Then Eli said, Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him. 18 Hannah said, Let your handmaid find grace in your sight. So [she] went her way and ate, her countenance no longer sad.

Hannah must have had bouts of depression while she was tormented by Peninnah, and even before becoming a co-wife with her. However, after many years of not being able to bare children, this time Hannah caught the attention of the Priest; and Eli blessed Hannah after she revealed that she was not in fact drunken, but that she was of a sorrowful heart. After receiving the blessing, Hannah went away with confidence that her prayer would be fulfilled, and she ate and was encouraged so that she put away strong grieving.

Devotional Reading: I Samuel 1:19-28 AMP

19 The family rose early the next morning, worshiped before the Lord, and returned to their home in Ramah. Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.20 Hannah became pregnant and in due time bore a son and named him Samuel [heard of God], Because, she said, I have asked him of the Lord. 21 And Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go, for she said to her husband, I will not go until the child is weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear befo   re the Lord and remain there as long as he lives. 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, Do what seems best to you. Wait until you have weaned him; only may the Lord establish His word. So Hannah remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 When she had [a]weaned him, she took him with her, with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin bottle of wine [to pour over the burnt offering for a sweet odor], and brought Samuel to the Lord’s house in Shiloh. The child was growing. 25 Then they slew the bull, and brought the child to Eli. 26 Hannah said, Oh, my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted my petition made to Him. 28 Therefore I have given him to the Lord; as long as he lives he is given to the Lord. And they worshiped the Lord there.

Not more than a year after Hannah wept bitterly such that she was thought to be drunken in the temple, she bare Samuel, the child of her vow and great petition. She had an opportunity to bond with the child before weaning him. However, she was not unfaithful but honored her vow and brought the young Samuel to the LORD’s house in Shiloh when he was about three years old, where he was likely cared for by the equivalent of Nuns, and also trained in the work of the temple by Eli the Priest. Samuel would live and work and grow at the temple and be visited each year by his family at the yearly sacrifice, when Hannah would also bring him a new robe that she made for him [6].

Devotional Reading: I Samuel 2:17-18 AMP

17 So the sin of the [two] young men was very great before the Lord, for they despised the offering of the Lord. 18 But Samuel ministered before the Lord, a child girded with a linen ephod. 19 Moreover, his mother made him a little robe and brought it to him from year to year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 And Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, May the Lord give you children by this woman for the gift she asked for and gave to the Lord. Then they would go to their own home. 21 And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she bore three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.

Samuel was as a nephew to Eli. He also ministered to the LORD while Eli’s sons Hophni and Phineas did evil in the sight of the LORD. And at each yearly sacrifice, Eli blessed Elkanah and Hannah again; and Hannah bore more children while Samuel was raised at the house of The LORD. And Samuel did what was right in the sight of God.


Footnotes

[1], [3], [4] Kadari, Tamar. “Peninnah: Midrash and Aggadah.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. (Viewed on April 13, 2015) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/peninnah-midrash-and-aggadah&gt;.
[2] Jewish Women’s Archive. “Mishnah.” (Viewed on April 13, 2015) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/glossary/mishnah&gt;.
[5] Jewish Women’s Archive. “Midrash.” (Viewed on April 13, 2015) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/glossary/midrash&gt;.
[6] I Samuel 2:19

About Shenica R. Graham
Web Artist and CSS designer. WordPress enthusiast. Psychology Teacher and Mental Health Coach at mypsychteacher.com. CIO at SherellRaSha.com. Designer at GSyndicates.com. CEO at Haute Midwest Enterprises. Portfolio at shenicargraham.com.

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