In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. Psalm 18:6
“Now there was a certain man of Ramathiam Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah . . .” (1 Samuel 1:1). And so begins our story of Hannah, a woman who many can relate to, who have also longed to have a child of their own. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. We can see trouble brewing already, can’t we? Apparently polygamy was ethical during this period our world’s history and God allowed it. Of course it was not the ideal as we shall soon see.
Peninnah had children and Hannah could not get pregnant. Seeing her nieces and nephews running around reminded her of her barrenness and caused her great pain. If that were not enough, her sister-wife taunted her at every opportunity. Elkanah tried to comfort Hannah and gave her extra attention which did not go unnoticed by Peninnah and just like Satan in heaven, “jealousy over attentions offered another, whether in the home or elsewhere, breeds a taunting, exasperating malice that finds expression in the icicle drippings of ridicule” (SDA Bible Commentary).
Hannah did not retaliate, but instead gave way to quiet tears, especially at the temple. While there for worship and annual feasting, she would find a quiet place and pour out her heart to God. She was sad, lonely and desperate for a child. Just one, God! Then Hannah did the unthinkable, to this modern mother’s way of thinking anyway, she told God that if He answered her prayer and granted her a son that she would give him back to God as her gift for answering her prayer!
Sidebar: I can picture the scenario here. It’s much more serious than my bargain prayers with God. It is embarrassing to admit that I have gone back on my promises time after time. Would I have been able to keep this promise? Would I have been able to give my son to Eli, the sanctuary guardian, and let him raise him for me? I don’t know about you, but this gives me pause. And then . . . NO!
God heard Hannah’s prayer and she conceived and delivered a healthy boy. They named him, Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:20). There are times when I wish Bible stories had more details and this is one of those times. I am sure there was much rejoicing in Elkhanah’s household except for his other wife, but the Bible does not say. It just says that Hannah told her husband of her plan. She would take Samuel to the temple after he was weaned and leave him there, forever.
Hannah did not go back on her word. She did take Samuel to the temple and he lived there with the priest, Eli, and did chores, all the while, learning more about God, who already was working His plan for Samuel who would one day do a great work as God’s prophet. There is so much to unpack in this story that you may wish to read it for yourself. Perhaps another blog, we can delve into Samuel’s life a bit more.
But this entry is focused on Hannah. One who could not become pregnant. One who was despised by her sister-wife. And one who trusted fully in God and put her petitions before Him, trusting in Him to answer in His perfect timing. She kept her promise. Her husband agreed with her plan which must have been difficult too, as the father of this little tyke.
Like I said before, I don’t think I could do what Hannah did. I don’t think I could take my toddler to church and leave him there for the pastor to take care of. We do things differently now, but just the sound of those words are impossible to think about. But here’s the clincher: Hannah totally surrendered. She held nothing back. She honored God with her promise and it was God’s privilege to grant the miracle she so desired.
“It is part of Heaven’s plan that man [woman] voluntarily surrender as fully to the infilling and outworking of the Holy Spirit as did Christ when He was here on earth. So far as God was concerned it was not necessary for Abraham [another story] to wait 25 years for the fulfilling of the divine covenant. When the patriarch came to the place where he could enter fully into Heaven’s plan for him, God was able to turn all past failures into steppingstones of blessing. [And] so it was with Hannah” (SDA Bible Commentary).