Heavenly Father, I praise you because you are just in all your ways. I come now to learn more about your ways as I read your Word.
Read 1 Samuel 1
The Birth of Samuel
1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite[a] 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. 2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
3 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. 4 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. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 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. 8 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?”
9 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. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 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.”
12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
15 “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. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
18 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.
19 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. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”
Hannah Dedicates Samuel
21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”[c]
23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his[d] word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull,[e] an ephah[f] of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 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. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 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.
- 1 Samuel 1:1 See Septuagint and 1 Chron. 6:26-27,33-35; or from Ramathaim Zuphim.
- 1 Samuel 1:20 Samuel sounds like the Hebrew for heard by God.
- 1 Samuel 1:22 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls always. I have dedicated him as a Nazirite—all the days of his life.”
- 1 Samuel 1:23 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint and Syriac your
- 1 Samuel 1:24 Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint and Syriac; Masoretic Text with three bulls
- 1 Samuel 1:24 That is, probably about 36 pounds or about 16 kilograms
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘What a friend we have in Jesus, all our … griefs to bear.’1
At different points in our lives, most of us face painful issues about which we plead with God. Sometimes, as for Hannah, it’s childlessness. For me it was singleness and deafness. This chapter speaks to all of us, whether or not God answers our prayers as we would like. It also reminds us that sometimes God’s answers can be costly.
We can sympathize with Hannah, facing not only her rival’s taunts (very understandable if she was a second wife, to ensure some children), but also her husband’s obtuseness! Perhaps if Elkanah had made more effort to understand, perhaps if he’d asked, ‘Don’t you mean more to me than…?’ instead of the other way round, Hannah might have been comforted. As it was, however unintentionally, he merely rubbed salt in the wound, because to be his wife without children certainly hadn’t been enough! It’s a challenge to us: to try to get beyond our own perspective, to see through the other person’s eyes and to take that person seriously.
Hannah prayed, she wept and she was willing to go further, should God answer her prayer – a vow she carried through faithfully a few years later (weaning in the ancient Near East took at least three years, often over five).2 It must have cost her to leave her young son behind, but she had been serious when she offered that prayer and God was going to honor that, using Samuel in a big way. What, though, if our prayers never seem to be answered? Will we turn bitter towards God? Will we try to force things and make mistakes in the process? Or will we, like Paul,3 accept God’s answer of ‘no’ and trust him? His purposes are far greater than ours and if we are serious in our praying he can use our circumstances to fulfill those purposes.
Pray for anyone you know who is struggling with unanswered prayer.
Thank you Lord that you are an understanding God. I can come confidently before you to share my concerns.
1 Joseph Scriven, 1819–86 2 Mary Evans, The Message of Samuel, IVP, 2004, p29 3 2 Cor 12:7–9
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