Wednesday, August 26, 2009



Hannah - A Woman of Prayer - Historical Background

The first book of Samuel covers a period from the birth of Samuel, last of the judges, to the death of Saul, the first of the kings of Israel.This is a period of about 115 years; from about 1100BC to 1010BC.

The author is unknown except it is believed that a part of the book was written by Samuel.Not all of the book could have been written by him because it records his death (I Samuel 25:1).Also, I Chronicles 29:29 lists who another author of this book could have been.In the beginning of the first book of Samuel we find a woman named Hannah, who is only mentioned in the first two chapters.

Family Background

We do not know who her parents were or what city she was from.Her early life is not recorded only her family life after her marriage.

Chapter 1

1 SAMUEL 1:1-2
1 Now there was a certain man of Ramath-aim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
2 And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Verses 1-2 - Hannah's husband, Elkanah, was a Levite and belonged to a priestly tribe, the Kohathites (1 Chron. 6:33-38).He was a priest who followed the common custom of polygamy.His wife, Peninnah, could have children but his wife, Hannah, was barren.

Levites - God provided in the Law that the Levites would not have an assigned territory but live throughout the land in each of the tribes.

Barren - There were many barren women throughout the Scriptures who later conceived children who became great men:


Rachel-Joseph and Benjamin
Manoah's wife-Samson
Elizabeth-John the Baptist

1 SAMUEL 1:3
3 And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there.

Verse 3 - as was the yearly custom, Elkanah went to sacrifice in Shiloh.

Shiloh - was a small Old Testament village about 20 miles north of Jerusalem. It was important because it served as the religious center for the Hebrew people during the period of judges before the kingdom was united under the leadership of David.

Sacrifice - was a sacrifice based upon the system of sacrifice that was set up for their worship in the Temple.(see Richard Booker's book, The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread).

1 SAMUEL 1:4-5
4 And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
5 But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb.

Verses 4-5 - Elkanah gave his wife, Peninnah, and her sons and daughters their portion of the sacrifice. But to Hannah, the one whom he loved most, he gave more - or possibly the best portion.

1 SAMUEL 1:6
6 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb.

Verse 6 - Elkanah loved Hannah but Hannah was barren. One of the only rights that a woman had at this time was the right to bear children - it was considered God's blessing - the more children, the more you were blessed by God. So many times, when a woman was barren - she was not blessed by God and the blame went to God - for shutting up her womb.Apparently, Peninnah could see how much more Elkanah loved Hannah, and so she began to make remarks toward her.She possibly viewed Hannah as a rival that lived in her house.

1 SAMUEL 1:7
7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.

Verse 7 - The cruel remarks were not just a one time occurrence.Every time that Elkanah went to offer a yearly sacrifice, Peninnah made cruel remarks to Hannah. It is not recorded that Hannah sought revenge or that any kind of conflict happened - only that these remarks hurt Hannah and she wept and did not eat.

1 SAMUEL 1:8
8 Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?

Verse 8 - At this particular time, the remarks which were made by Peninnah caused Hannah to weep and Elkanah noticed.He knew that Hannah, like all women of this time, grieved because she had no children.But apparently, he did not know about the cruel remarks because, even though he saw her weeping, the questions he asked her indicate he assumes that she is grieved because of being barren.

1 SAMUEL 1:9-10
9 So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.
10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.

Verses 9-10 - Hannah was the fourth woman in the Bible who was barren and grieved because of it.
Sarah - (Abraham) laughed when she was told of having a son
Rebekah - (Isaac) her husband prayed for her
Rachel - (Jacob) in her grief, demanded of Jacob Give me children or else I die.
Hannah - (Elkanah) took her problem to God.

Hannah was very prayerful and went to the Temple.The priest, Eli, was sitting at his seat by the Temple door.In the ancient Mid-East it was the custom for certain officials to place a stool or a seat in a courtyard or near the gate of the city where they could sit in judgment. They would sit in these judgment seats and hear cases or complaints.These seats had no backs, which may be why Eli was sitting near a post.

1 SAMUEL 1:11
11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.

Verse 11 - The prayer that Hannah offered to God is recorded in this verse.

In her prayer, she made a vow/covenant with the Lord, If thou wilt remember me...give me a man child...then I will give him razor…upon his head...what is she promising God? Not only to give him back to the Lord but to dedicate him to God.
This type of vow is called The Nazarite vow.The Nazarite vow was an oath taken to abstain from certain worldly influences and to consecrate oneself to God.Among the Jews, the vow was an option for most persons; it could be taken for a short period of time or for life.

Nazarites expressed their dedication to God by:

1. Abstaining from all intoxicating drinks and grape products
2. Refusing to cut their hair
3. Avoiding contact with the dead
4. Refusing to eat food regarded as unclean (Numbers 6:3-7)

When the specified period of time was completed, the Nazarite could appear before the priest for a ceremony of release.Nazarites who broke their vows could be restored only by observing specific restoration rites (Numbers 6).Some of the persons that took this vow in the Old Testament include Samson and Samuel.In the New Testament because of his self-denying life-style, John the Baptist was believed to have been a Nazarite.To be a Nazarite, one had to have a disciplined life and a strong commitment to God.Notice:Hannah made this promise of dedication to God before she was pregnant.

1 SAMUEL 1:12
12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.

Verse 12 - As Hannah prayed to the Lord, Eli watched her and watched her lips. Her prayer was apparently silent - Eli could hear no words.

1 SAMUEL 1:13
13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.

Verse 13 - The Jews were a very festive people - and because Eli heard nothing, he assumed that she was drunk.

1 SAMUEL 1:14
14 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.

Verse 14 - Eli did not ask if she had been drinking, but just assumed because of the celebration all around that she had been.

1 SAMUEL 1:15
15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.

Verse 15 - Hannah replied that she was a woman of a sorrowful spirit because of her circumstances (barren/being reminded by the other wife). But notice in her response to Eli, Hannah took her sorrow to God. She chose not to allow her circumstances to make her a bitter person but turned to God.

1 SAMUEL 1:16
16 Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.

Verse 16 - The daughter of Belial means worthless,has an evil affiliation.

1 SAMUEL 1:17
17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.

Verse 17 - Eli's response was typical of a priest, Go in peace - the Lord will grant your request.

1 SAMUEL 1:18
18 And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.

Verse 18 - Now Hannah felt better - her burden was lifted. She ate, and her countenance changed.

1 SAMUEL 1:19
19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her.

Verse 19 - When the Lord answered her prayers in the Scriptures, the term the Lord remembered her is used.

1 SAMUEL 1:20
20 Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.

Verse 20 - A miracle has occurred to a barren woman named Hannah.She had a son and named him Samuel, asked of the Lord.

1 SAMUEL 1:21-22
21 And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.
22 But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.

Verses 21-22 - The time came to go for the yearly sacrifice at the Temple.The last time Hannah was there she poured her heart out to the Lord but this time she requested that Elkanah go without her.

1 SAMUEL 1:23
23 And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.

Verse 23 - To her request, Elkanah agreed.

1 SAMUEL 1:24
24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the LORD in Shiloh: and the child was young.

Verse 24 - It is recorded in other Jewish writings that Hannah nutured Samuel and weaned him until about three years old (2 Maccabees 7:27).But when the time came Hannah took gifts: three bullocks, 1 ephah of flour (about 65 bushels) and a bottle of wine.

1 SAMUEL 1:25
25 And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.

Verse 25 - As part of her thanksgiving and worship to God, the bullock was sacrificed by Eli (as a priest that was his ordinance to perform).

1 SAMUEL 1:26-28
26 And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.
27 For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
28 Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.

Verses 26-28 - Hannah, a woman of great faith and love, spoke to Eli.
1. She identified herself
2. Reminded him of her prayer and told of God’s answer
3. She repeated her part of the covenant – to lend Samuel to the Lord for as long as he should live.

Chapter 2

1 SAMUEL 2:1-10
1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.
5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.
7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he hath set the world upon them.
9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.
10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.

Verses 1-10 - Hannah's entire prayer is recorded

The horn symbolized like a rock - power, strength, protection. There are many scholars who believe that the term horn used by Hannah in her prayer was a reference to the coming of the Messiah and some believe that because of this Hannah could have been a prophetess.

1 SAMUEL 2:11-17
11 And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest.
12 Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.
13 And the priests' custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand;
14 And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither.
15 Also before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw.
16 And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force.
17 Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.

Verse 11 - Elkanah went to Ramah to his house.He left Samuel to be taught by Eli and minister to the Lord.

1 SAMUEL 2:18-19
18 But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod.
19 Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.

Verses 18-19 - Samuel grew and ministered before the Lord. During his younger years (it's not recorded how long a period of time) while Samuel was living in the Temple, Hannah visited him. She made a coat that she took for him each year.

1 SAMUEL 2:20
20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went unto their own home.

Verse 20 - Eli, the priest, blessed Elkanah and Hannah.

1 SAMUEL 2:21
21 And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

Verse 21 - Because Hannah had been faithful and had lent or given Samuel which was her best and her first the Lord blessed her with more children (3 sons and 2 daughters).The story of Hannah, as found in the Scriptures, now ends.She is not mentioned again in the Old Testament or in the New Testament.

The lessons we can learn by studying the life of Hannah:
1. God sometimes withholds blessings until we are submissive to His will.
2. We can handle all things with God - even cruel and thoughtless remarks.
3. God answers prayers.
4. When we covenant with the Lord, and we honor our part, God will send His blessings.
5. In everything, we should rejoice.

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