Women in the Bible

Women in the Bible - Hannah

This devotional is written by Hannah Fairclough. Hannah knows all of the colours in Joseph's technicolour dream coat. She learnt them all as the narrator in a school play but got tonsillitis on the opening night and never got to recite them.

1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

The birth of Samuel

1 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. 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 favour 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 worshipped 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, 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 fulfil 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.'

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, an ephah 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 shall be given over to the Lord.' And he worshipped the Lord there.

Hannah's prayer

2 Then Hannah prayed and said:

'My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.

2 'There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

3 'Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.

4 'The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. 5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.

6 'The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. 7 The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. 8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and makes them inherit a throne of honour.

'For the foundations of the earth are the Lord's; on them he has set the world. 9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

'It is not by strength that one prevails; 10 those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

'He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.'

11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy ministered before the Lord under Eli the priest.


Reflection

I've always liked the story of Hannah - not least because we share the same name, so when this story came up in Sunday school I always felt quite special! It's also mentioned twice that she eats something and starts to feel better, anyone who knows me will have seen me do this too - hangry is a real thing!

This is a very long passage with so many things that we could talk about, but for the purpose of this, I'll whittle it down to the two bits that strike me the most:

1) When Hannah prays she goes away and is no longer downcast (v18). In the message translation it says 'her face was radiant'. I wonder if you've ever prayed for something, or have been prayed for, but have left feeling no different with the same worries as before? I know I used to think that if I wanted something to happen it meant that I had to pray for it every day otherwise God wouldn't think I was serious about it! And whilst praying repeatedly is also spoken about and recommended in the bible, I hope this encourages you that you can leave things, especially things that are painful to continually pray for with God and know that he has heard you. If you do feel the need to keep praying for something, but you're finding it too painful, ask someone else to pray for you as Hannah does to Eli.

2) The level of obedience in this story is mad! For Hannah, who has wanted a son for so many years, to then be willing to dedicate his life to God and leave him at the temple is another level of following through on something you've said you would do. God's timing in Samuel's birth was crucial, he needed Hannah to be willing to devout her son's life to him and ultimately grow up to be a priest for the sake of Israel. Being obedient to God always has good consequences in the long run. Whilst it may feel painful or hard at the time (maybe it's leaving one job for another, giving money away, stepping out in faith), you can be confident that if God has asked you to do it, it's for a reason and we know that our God is a good father who only ever gives good gifts to his children.


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