Lord, Give Me the Spirit of Hannah
Many people know something about Hannah whose story is in the Bible in 1 Samuel 1:2–2:21. They might know that she was specific when she prayed for a male child. However, Hannah's story goes much deeper than that.
Hannah was dismayed and very perplexed. Those close to her did not recognize, understand and do something about her need. Instead, they criticized her, made fun of her, mocked her and offered her substitutes.
See how determined Hannah was and the different ways others responded to her need.
Hannah lived at a time when it was heartbreaking for a wife not to bear a son for her husband. Hannah was barren, but that did not stop her from wanting to produce a male child for her husband. It was especially troubling for Hannah because her husband's other wife was the one giving him sons and daughters.
Hannah prayed to God for what she wanted. Her prayer's list was very short. She prayed for only one thing and nothing else. According to 1 Samuel 1:11, “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."
Elkanah had two wives. Hannah was his first wife, but she was barren and could not produce children for him. Elkanah took Peninnah as his second wife so she could give him children. At that time, a man and his wife's standard in the community depended on how many children they had.
Year after year, Elkanah took his family to worship and sacrifice to the Lord at Shiloh. Whenever Elkanah was in charge of giving out the sacrifice, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. However, he would give Hannah a double portion of meat because he loved her and thought that would make her happy, but it was a poor substitute for what Hannah really wanted. A double portion of meat once a year was no substitute for the son Hannah desired.
Elkanah failed miserably when he tried to comfort Hannah. He neglected to give her his full support. Instead, he asked her questions which made her feel even worse, according to 1 Samuel 1:8.
- "Hannah, why are you weeping?"
- "Why don't you eat?"
- "Why are you downhearted?"
- "Don't I mean more to you than ten sons?"
In just one verse, Hannah's husband asked her four questions. She answered none of them. She kept on weeping and praying.
Hannah's Rival, the Other Wife
While Hannah had no children, Peninnah had sons and daughters. She became Hannah's rival because she provoked her severely. Peninnah went out of her way to make Hannah more miserable than she already was. According to 1 Samuel 1:6, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.
Hannah was suffering because God had closed up her womb, and the other wife teased and taunted her. Peninnah poked fun at Hannah by reminding her that she was the fertile wife.
Eli, the priest at Shiloh should have understood, but he didn't recognize Hannah's suffering year after year. When Eli saw that her lips were moving and no sound was coming out, he accused her of being drunk. Like Elkanah, Eli had a question and advice for her, according to 1 Samuel 1:12-14.
- "How long will you keep on getting drunk?"
- "Get rid of your wine."
Eli, the priest should have had some discernment about Hannah's predicament instead of thinking the worst of her.
After Hannah had been accused of being drunk, she told the priest. “Not so, my lord. 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."
Then the priest answered her, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
Hannah felt much better after her conversation with the priest. When the family went home, Elkanah made love to Hannah. God remembered Hannah's prayer. He opened up her womb and she gave birth to a son she named Samuel.
Samuel went to work in the temple after he was weaned. At that time, weaning was much longer than it is today. Some children were not weaned until they were between 6-12 years old. When Samuel was old enough, he went to work in the temple with Eli. It was the same place where Hannah had prayed for him to be born.
Because Hannah was faithful and kept her promise to dedicate her son to Him, God kept her womb open and gave her five more children. She conceived and had three more sons and two daughters. Hannah had a total of six children after she prayed for one son.
Overlooking the Needs of Others
From this biblical account of Hannah's story, we see a good example of how the needs of others are overlooked.
- Hannah's own husband thought he could make her happy with extra food. There was no substitute for what Hannah really wanted.
- Peninnah, the other wife, ridiculed Hannah instead of comforting her.
- Eli the priest accused Hannah of being drunk when she was praying with her heart. He should have been more understanding.
Only God understood Hannah and blessed her. He did not overlook her need. So many times family members, friends, and even religious leader miss the signs. In recent years, there have been suicides, church shootings, and school shootings. After the tragedies, those close to the people relate that there were signs along the way. Know what is going on with the people close to you. Like Hannah, they are crying out for help and comfort instead of criticisms and accusations.