In our study of 1 Samuel chapter one, we will look at the cry of a Godly woman and its effects on a nation. We will see how the heartfelt prayers of a hurting woman were used by God to set up a kingdom.
There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
We are introduced to a man named Elkanah who was from a town called Ramathaim which is thought to be the town of Arimathea during the time of Jesus' ministry. We are also introduced to his wives one of which was Hannah. Hannah would have been miserable and full of shame at the fact that she had not produced any children.
Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord.
We see that Elkanah was a faithful Jew and went to Shiloh each year as required. The occasion described here was probably the Feats of Tabernacles which was a time of joy and feasting. We are also introduced to a corrupt pair of priests who served there under their father Eli.
Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb.
Elkanah would distribute the meat for the sacrifices and would give Hannah a double portion. He evidently wanted to cheer her up for her lack of a child. This was a celebration of great joy and yet Hannah would have felt pain and rejection as she had no family to bring to the celebration.
Because the Lord had closed Hannah's womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.
Each year, Peninnah would make Hannah feel the shame and guilt of her barrenness. Her sadness would get to the point of tears and not eating at the celebration.
Her husband Elkanah would say to her, 'Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don't you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?' Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord's house. In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.
Elkanah did not seem to understand what Hannah was going through. Finally, she could not hold it in any longer and cried out to God.
And she made a vow, saying, 'Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.
Long hair was one of the characteristics of the Nazirite vow and a Nazarite was one who was set apart for God. Hannah promised the Lord that, if He gave her a son, she would give him back to God in service. We see her humility in this promise as it could not be easy for any woman to give up her only child. But, by humbling herself, her shame at not having a son would be removed. She would, in fact, be honored as it was quite an honor to have a son that was a priest.
As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, 'How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.
As she prayed, Eli the priest was watching and accused her of being drunk because he did not understand what was happening. Evidently, he was more used to seeing drunks at the House of the Lord than seeing people actually praying to God. He was quick to make a judgment about her and we can fall into that as well. For a modern parable on this topic, check out Simon's Tears.
'Not so, my lord,' Hannah replied, 'I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.'
Hannah was quick to correct Eli and explain that she was not drunk but was, in fact pouring out her heart to God. It is sad to think that Eli was more used to seeing drunks than people praying in the House of God. We should ask ourselves whether our houses of worship are known more for prayer or dens of sin.
Eli answered, 'Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.'
At least Eli acknowledged that he was wrong in jumping to conclusions. We too, should learn that jumping to conclusions about others is judging them which is the place of God. He even asked God to grant her request.
She said, 'May your servant find favor in your eyes.' Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
Hannah demonstrates her faith in the fact that, after she prayed, she no longer was sad. She simply believed that God heard and answered her prayers. If we have that same faith, then, we too do not have to walk around all sad. We can take our concerns to God knowing that He hears and answers.
Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, 'Because I asked the Lord for him.'
Hannah's cries to God were answered and she gave birth to Samuel (Shemu'el in Hebrew) which means heard by God. We are reminded by this that God always rewards a display of faith.
When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, 'After the boy is weaned, I will take and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.'
Hannah and Samuel did not go up to Shiloh until he was weaned which could have been up to three years.
'Do what seems best to you, ' her husband Elkanah told her.' Stay here until you have weened him; only may the Lord make good his word.' So the woman stayed home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
Elkanah must have really trusted Hannah to listen to the Lord. He did not argue with her but instead only asked for the Lord to keep His word
After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, 'Pardon me, my lord, As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.' And he worshiped the Lord there.
We see that Hannah kept her oath to God and are reminded that God takes oaths very seriously. We are not required to take an oath but, if we do so, God expects us to keep it. Many times, people will promise God something during the tough times and forget about it when the storm passes. Here, we see the example of a Godly woman that was obedient and, by doing so, God would be glorified.