1 Samuel 1:9-20
SS Lesson for 09/08/2019
Devotional Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-7
Many well-known and well-loved hymns celebrate God's faithfulness and provide a sense of comfort and peace to the grieving. In many cases, the hymns themselves were produced in the aftermath of great sorrow on the part of the writer. One of these is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Joseph Scriven (1819-1886) wrote the words that were later set to music. He was living a very contented life in his native Ireland. Then, on the night before his wedding was to take place, his fiancée drowned. Not long after this, Scriven moved to Port Hope, Canada, determined to devote his life to helping others in need. When his mother became ill in Ireland, he wrote a letter to comfort her and included in it the words to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Sometime later, when Scriven himself fell ill, a friend who came to visit him happened to see a copy of the words scribbled on a piece of paper near his bed. The friend asked who wrote them. Scriven replied, “The Lord and I did it between us.” Through the years, the Lord has provided comfort to the disheartened and the grieving. He has done so sometimes through words of hymns or poems, sometimes through the words of Scripture, sometimes through the simple caring presence of concerned Christian friends, and through other means at other times. And while we often associate grieving with death, in a world broken by the curse of sin there are many other circumstances in which genuine grief can occur. One of these is seen in our Scripture text for today. A childless woman became so distraught over her condition that she determined she would “take it to the Lord in prayer.”
The events in the early chapters of 1 Samuel occur toward the end of the period when the judges provided leadership for the nation of Israel. The book of Judges is filled with turmoil and chaos due to Israel's pattern of disobedience and rebellion against God. This trend continues into 1 Samuel with a misbehaving priestly family (see commentary on 1 Samuel 1:14). Hannah's turmoil is of a different kind: the strife that exists within a family and the heartbreak of a barren woman in that family. Hers was the grief of a hope unfulfilled, a desire for the joys of motherhood that she could see other women experiencing but which had been denied her. Hannah felt cruelly separated from those women and in some cases was likely ostracized by them. In a society in which a woman's primary vocation was to be a mother, infertility was often taken as a sign of God's displeasure and resulted in a loss of status. Hannah experienced the disdain of society and likely wondered whether the Lord saw her in a similar light. Aside from the societal stigma attached to barrenness in biblical times, the surroundings in Hannah's home made her condition even more excruciating. Elkanah, Hannah's husband, had another wife besides Hannah, named Peninnah. Not only did Peninnah have children, but she taunted Hannah mercilessly for her inability to bear children (1 Samuel 1:6, 7). Peninnah was downright cruel in reminding Hannah of her barren condition. It is hard to imagine how deeply Hannah was hurt by such malicious words from a woman she could not simply cut out of her life. Elkanah was a well-intentioned man and sympathetic toward Hannah, but he did not grasp fully the extent of her anguish. When Hannah would become so upset during their annual sacrifice that she refused to eat (1 Samuel 1:3, 7),
Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him."
1:4-8. Because a Hebrew man’s posterity was bound up in his having a son to perpetuate his name, his wife’s inability to conceive a son was regarded as a curse from God. (According to Deut. 7:13-14 having children was a sign of God’s blessing. Conversely the Israelites considered the inability to bear children as a curse.) But Hannah’s barrenness did not diminish Elkanah’s love for her. In fact he gave her twice what he gave Peninnah, his second wife, when they took their offerings to the Lord at Shiloh, the place some 15 miles north of Ramah where Joshua had located the tabernacle (Josh. 18:1). This antagonized Peninnah, so she belittled her rival Hannah (1 Sam. 1:6-7). One thinks of the jealousy which Jacob’s bigamy wrought in Rachel’s heart (Gen. 30:1). None of Elkanah’s assurances of devotion had any beneficial effect upon Hannah and her sorrow (1 Sam. 1:8). Her only resort was to cast herself entirely on the mercies of God.
1:9-18. The Law required all adult Hebrew males to appear at the tabernacle or temple of the Lord for the three major religious festivals of the year (Ex. 23:14-17). At this period of history the tabernacle was at Shiloh about 15 miles north of Ramah. Elkanah regularly attended the festivals with his wives, and Hannah there poured out her soul to God in petition for a son. On one such occasion Hannah made a vow that if God would grant her request she would give her son to the Lord for as long as he lived. This dedication of her son was a commitment to the Nazirite vow, described in Numbers 6:1-8. It was the same vow undertaken by the parents of Samson whom they dedicated to the Lord under nearly identical circumstances (Judges 13:2-5). So intense was Hannah’s silent prayer that Eli, the high priest who was seated nearby, noted the movement of her lips and assumed she was intoxicated. When the priest learned about her true plight, he assured her that God would answer her prayer.
1:19-20. Shortly after Hannah’s return to Ramah, she conceived and in due course bore a son whom she named... Samuel. Though the name technically means “his name is God” or something similar, Hannah may, by assonance, have understood the name to mean “asked of God.” She had “asked” (šāʾal) God for a son, and He had “heard” (šāmaʿ) her. “Samuel,” then, would be associated with šămūaʿēl, “heard of God,” because she had asked the Lord for him.
1:21-23. At the next annual festival Elkanah went to Shiloh to offer sacrifice to the Lord (cf. v. 3), but this time he also paid his vow to the Lord. This payment of the vow must have consisted of the offering of Samuel himself whom Elkanah (and Hannah) had promised to give if the Lord would answer their prayers for a son (cf. Lev. 27:1-8; Num. 30:1-8). Hannah and Samuel did not accompany Elkanah, for Samuel was not yet weaned and was therefore totally dependent on his mother. Elkanah saw the wisdom in this and agreed that Hannah and Samuel might remain at home. However, he was perhaps fearful that the temporary withholding of Samuel from the service of the Lord might jeopardize the Lord’s favor (in giving them a son who would survive and mature) and so Elkanah prayed that the Lord might make good His word.
1:24-28. After Hannah had weaned her son, she fulfilled her pledge and took him to Shiloh to offer him to the Lord as a lifelong Nazirite. Since it was customary for a child to be nursed until he was about three years of age (see the apocryphal 2 Maccabees 7:27), the lad Samuel would be no unusual burden for Eli and the priestly staff at Shiloh. Also Samuel would be old enough to learn the rudiments of tabernacle service.
9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord.
10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.
11 Then she made a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head."
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,
5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon — from Mount Mizar.
1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. 2 From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
2 I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. 3 When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me. 4 Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. 5 I cry to you, O Lord; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living."
33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.
21 If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.
2 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart 3 and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, 4 who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
25 It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows.
1 Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: "This is what the Lord commands: 2 When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.
12 And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth.
13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk.
14 So Eli said to her, "How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!"
15 But Hannah answered and said, "No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.
16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now."
17 Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him."
18 And she said, "Let your maidservant find favor in your sight." So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' 13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' 14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
47 They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.
29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? 30 Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. 31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! 32 In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. 33 Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. 34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. 35 "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?"
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, 21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.
15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;
24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.
20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, "Because I have asked for him from the Lord."
12 Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God.
8 Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?
12 The Lord remembers us and will bless us: He will bless the house of Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron,
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented.
16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. 17 "They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
3 Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. 5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord.
18 Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.
6 Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.
13 But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.
21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
Our text reveals the godliness of both Hannah and Elkanah as a backdrop against the poor parenting of Eli and the worthlessness of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Elkanah is a godly husband who is sensitive to his wife’s agony of soul. He seeks to encourage her in deed (he gives her a double portion of the sacrificial meat and speaks kind and gentle words of encouragement to her, assuring her of his love for her, regardless of whether she bears any children). He gently reminds her that her spirit of sadness is inappropriate to her worship. He grants her freedom to worship without smothering her or dictating her every action. He lets her go to worship alone, where she makes a vow. While he could have nullified her vow, he does not. He allows her the freedom to decide when she will go up to Shiloh with Samuel.
Elkanah is also a godly man in his relationship with God. He is concerned that his wife does the right thing before God. He is faithful to make the annual trek to Shiloh, even though there are good excuses for not doing so. He could say that he doesn’t have the time or that it is too expensive. More to the point, he could point to the corruption of the priesthood, especially Hophni and Phinehas, saying that he doesn’t want to expose his family to their hypocrisy, immorality, or brutality. He knows full well that at this time of annual worship Peninnah makes things especially difficult for Hannah and for him. In spite of all these reasons for not worshipping God at Shiloh, one could expect to see him there year after year.
Hannah is an example of a godly woman and wife. She endures years of silent suffering because of her barrenness and cruel harassment at the hand of her rival, Peninnah. She accompanies her husband and family (including Peninnah) to Shiloh, knowing how painful it always is. Largely she suffers silently, with no indication that she retaliates against her counterpart, Peninnah. She faithfully worships God, pouring out her tears and petitions. And when God answers her prayers, she not only keeps her vow, she praises God in a way that continues to inspire and encourage saints throughout the centuries. As surely as Eli’s parental failures played a part in the shameful conduct of his sons as priests, so the godliness of Hannah and her husband positively influence Samuel’s priesthood. And they positively influence us as examples of godly faith and action today.
Our text lays the foundation for the unfolding of the events depicted in 1 and 2 Samuel. The last verse of the Book of Judges speaks once again of the fact that Israel has no king at this time. Hannah’s prophetic psalm speaks of the coming of a king. Hannah and Elkanah, like their New Testament counterparts, Zacharias and Elizabeth (see Luke 1), are childless. Both barren wives become the mother of a prophet, who designates the coming king. As Samuel designates both Saul and David, so John the Baptist designates Jesus the Nazarene as God’s Messiah and King.
Hannah’s worship provides great insight into the role of women in worship in the Old Testament times. Her role is not a public or official one, yet she continues to have great spiritual impact on saints down through the ages. Conversely, Eli’s official status and public visibility does nothing for his spiritual life or the spiritual lives of his sons. Hannah, in her silent suffering, and in her quiet and unseen ministry to Samuel, has a great and lasting impact on her times and ours as well. Hannah’s prayer of petition, which expresses her vow to God, is silent, but the result of her prayer has national significance. Her prayer of praise is a part of Holy Scripture and the source of great instruction, comfort, and encouragement. While she had no official leadership position and her ministry was private, she still had great spiritual impact. Let those men or women who wish prominence, visibility, position, and status learn from the way God used Hannah and her ministry.
Hannah’s suffering and her psalm is a paradigm of the way God reveals Himself through the Scriptures. Hannah’s psalm, like all the rest of the Scriptures, is the product of human effort, superintended and divinely empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is both the product of human effort and the expression of a human personality, shaped by the things Hannah experienced. She could not have written this portion of Scripture without having suffered as she did at the hand of Peninnah, due to her barrenness. Neither could Hannah have written what she did about the future without divine inspiration. Her words which have been recorded for us are also the word of God.
Hannah’s psalm, like every other portion of Scripture, is the writing of a person which reflects her education, her personality, and her background of experiences. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit, which conveys the “mind of God” to us. Just as our Lord was both undiminished deity and perfect humanity in one Person, so the Scriptures are the product of man and the work of God in one work.
Hannah’s psalm could not have been written without the suffering which precedes it. It is God who closes Hannah’s womb. It is God who purposes for her to suffer at the hand of her cruel counterpart, Peninnah. It is God who orchestrates all of the painful and pleasant events in Hannah’s life, so that the resulting psalm could become the masterpiece it is. This is the way God employs the human and the divine in the writing of all the Scriptures. While you and I do not write Scripture today, I believe God orchestrates our background and our lives in a way which uniquely prepares and equips us for the ministry He has for us. Let us refuse to see our past difficulties as hindrances to the present or the future. As we look back upon the painful memories of our past, let us look upon them as the foundation stones for our present and future ministry, and then let us rejoice in our tribulations and trials in light of the way God purposes to use them for our good and for His glory.
Our text is a picture of the way God brings about His blessings and manifests His grace in the midst of sorrow, suffering, and human weakness. Having just concluded a study of 1 and 2 Corinthians, I cannot help but see the parallels between Hannah’s experiences and psalm and Paul’s experiences and epistles. Think about these words from the pen of Paul in light of Hannah’s suffering and her resulting psalm:
7b . . .there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me-- to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7b-10).
As Paul makes so clear in his epistles, God’s power is demonstrated at the point of our weaknesses. That is grace. God’s grace does not seek out our strong points and enhance them, so much as His grace seeks out our weakest points so that it may be absolutely clear to all that it is God who accomplishes great things through us. Those things which cause Hannah the greatest sorrow, the greatest pain, are the very things God uses to produce her greatest joys. For those who trust in Him, it will always be this way:
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).
Do you love God? Are you one of His children by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in your place? This is the good news of the gospel. The gospel is not good news for those who think they are righteous. It is an offense. Such people think God owes them eternal life, and they despise God’s saving grace in Christ as “charity.” It is charity! Those who joyfully embrace the good news of the gospel know they are helplessly and hopelessly lost in their sins, worthy only of God’s eternal wrath. They rejoice in the fact that what they cannot do to earn God’s salvation, Christ has done for them by His death, burial, and resurrection. They gratefully receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of righteousness as divine charity. And they come to learn that the same principle of divine grace, by which they are saved, is the principle by which God continues to work in their lives. I pray that you have received the grace of God through the gift of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. If not, I pray that you will receive it and Him this very hour.
(Adapted from URL: https://bible.org/seriespage/son-and-psalm-hannah-1-samuel-11-210)
Women today have different means available for dealing with matters of infertility, means not known in Hannah's time. Still, infertility is not always within the financial means of the would-be mother or even within the possibilities of medicine. The sorrow of infertility remains a particularly burdensome form of grief. A woman's heart is broken; her despair is immeasurable. She can relate to the words in today's Scripture such as “bitterness of soul,” “affliction,” “sorrowful spirit,” and “complaint and grief.” She feels she has been denied one of life's most precious experiences. Why? she asks repeatedly. Why me? Hannah's barrenness became so excruciating for her that she finally vowed to the Lord that if He gave her a son, she would then give him right back to the Lord. The making of vows is something more in keeping with Old Testament law and practice than with New Testament practice (contrast Matthew 5:37). Prayer, however, continues to provide a means for anyone with a bitter soul or a sorrowful spirit to lay bare their grievance before the Lord as Hannah did. The God to whom Hannah poured out her soul in her anguish is the God who hears our prayers today. He remains our rock, our fortress, our deliverer (Psalm 18:2), our strength and shield (28:7), our hiding place (32:7), our shepherd (23:1; John 10:11). He is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), and the God who will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). What Paul advises in Philippians 4:6 still applies, and he was under arrest when he wrote it: “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Hannah demonstrated her faithfulness long before Paul wrote. She did so by taking her deepest hurt to the Lord. He, in turn, demonstrated His faithfulness by taking away her pain by providing the blessing she desired. We keep in mind, however, that we are not guaranteed to receive what we ask of God. And His answer of yes, no, or wait always is in line with His bigger plans. In Hannah's case, her son became a pivotal figure in being the last of the judges and the first of the prophets (Acts 3:24; 13:20). We don't know the future and neither did Hannah. But with her we can say, “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord . . . There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:1, 2).
Hannah's Grief - Hannah, the mother of the prophet and last judge in Israel, teaches us a valuable lesson about God's response to a troubled heart. Hannah desperately wanted a child, but the Lord had closed her womb. Since the culture allowed a husband to take another spouse if the first wife produced no offspring, Hannah's husband Elkanah married Peninnah, and God blessed their union with several sons and daughters. Elkanah still loved and favored Hannah, so Peninnah envied Hannah and constantly sought to irritate Hannah with insults, which heightened Hannah's bitterness.
Hannah's Prayer and Eli's Response - One year while the family was celebrating a feast at God's tabernacle in Shiloh, Hannah hurt so badly she left the celebration table and walked to the tabernacle. She needed comfort in her distress, the kind only God supplies. Hannah's lips moved as she prayed, but she uttered no sound. She addressed herself to the Lord as His handmaiden. Hannah begged God for a son, promising to give him back to the Lord. In God's providential plan, EU the priest was there at the same time Hannah prayed. He accused her of being drunk, and she quickly defended herself. Her heart was broken, she explained, and she was pouring it all out before the Lord. On God's behalf, Eli told her to go and be happy and at peace. Her petition would be answered.
God Answered - Hannah returned to her family a new woman. She'd left her anguish at the tabernacle and now moved forward in confidence, trusting God, and filled with joy. God honored His word. She and Elkanah conceived, and nine months later she held Samuel in her arms.
God's Ministry in Times of Suffering - Like Hannah, at various times God's children feel He is not answering our prayers. All alone and suffering, we begin to think the Father has forgotten all about us. This is never true. God may choose to be silent or delay answering a prayer, but this is always according to His wisdom. Rest assured He's aware of each person's grief, heartbreak, and pain. He will answer at the right time and in the right way.