1 SAMUEL 1
1 Now there was a certain man of [Ramatayim Tzophim], of [the hill country of Ephrayim], and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham [ben Yerocham], [ ben Elihu, ben Tochu, ben Tzuph] an Ephrathite [from Ephrat]:
Elkanah was descended from Kohath, but he was not of the Aaronic priesthood. He was from a different son. Zuph appears to be the ancestor who came into the land under Joshua and gave the area its name; therefore, Ramathaimzophim, or of the sons of Zuph. He, Zuph, was the seventh from Levi, who corresponds with the entering in of the land.
It is interesting that Elkanah, and therefore also Samuel was descended from Korah, who rebelled against Moses and died in the wilderness, but his sons did not rebel and did not die with him. It is interesting, too, that Samuel's grandson was Heman, the principle of David's three leaders of song for the worship. Heman of the Kohathites and Asaph of the Gershonites on his right hand and Ethan, or Jeduthun, of the Merarites on his left hand for the service of song (I Chronicles 6). *
Elkanah and his family lineage in Israel
Elkanah was a man of faith, whose forebears, a distinguished and respected familyof Levites, had long lived in Mount Ephraim. His genealogy gave proof of his descent, not just from the tribe of Levi, but from the line of Kohath, Levi's second son. [7 ]
The Levites were granted cities and suburbs among the other tribes, and so were counted as belonging to that tribe by location. Kohath
received cities in Ephraim, Dan and Manasseh,  besides those already granted to the children of Aaron. Elkanah's family had settled in Mount Ephraim, and he was therefore an Ephraimite  by settlement, but a Levite by descent.
Many towns in ancient Israel were named because of the physical attributes of their location, whether it was on a fertile plain, within a sheltered valley, or atop a commanding elevation. 
In the case of Ramathaim, it was distinguished by two adjacent hills which afforded expansive views of the region, and perhaps fortified watchtowers for the guardianship of the town. No doubt, its suitable terrain permitted its early settlement, and there may have already been an established town in that place when the children of Israel settled the land under Joshua.
But Ramathaim was not one of the cities in Ephraim allotted to Kohath, when they first took their place among that tribe. Evidently, a family of Kohath had moved there subsequently, either as pioneers or settlers, and no doubt for good reason. And its more complete name of Ramathaim-zophim suggested that the key to its growth and importance lay in the vigorous labours of Elkanah's great-great grandfather.
Zophai,  whose name was lent to the town,  must have migrated from one of the main Kohathite cities in Ephraim to establish a new centre from which the voice of the 'teaching priest' might be heard. He had chosen carefully, for the town which he established, or in which he settled, was close enough for regular pilgrimage to Shiloh, and yet was still in an area which did not encroach on existing Kohathite towns. 
His proselytising had reached beyond the city's own environs  until the whole area came to be known as the land of Zuph 
Ever since, the presence of Levite influence in Ramathaim was so marked that its role as a priestly city continued throughout many, many generations, reaching to the time of Christ himself.  Elkanah certainly came from an illustrious line, and as a member of the most prominent and influential family in that place, he was a notable man of his times.
Even his name was a celebration of the unique relationship that his tribe held before the God of Israel, a name that was common in his own family.  His was a special lineage for he belonged to the Kohathites, the family of the Levites with responsibility for the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, including the guardianship of the ark of God.
7 Elkanah's genealogy (1 Samuel 1:1), traced to his great-great grandfather, Zuph, establishes his link to Kohath (1 Chronicles 6: 33-38).
8 Ten cities in all, four from Ephraim, four from Dan, two from Manasseh (Joshua 21:2.0-26).
9 The phrase "an Ephrathite" (ephrathiy -1 Samuel 1:1) could mean either 'of Ephrath' or 'of Ephraim', as determined by context. It is rendered here as "an Ephraimite" by ASV; Rotherham, RSV and others, and this is correct, since Elkanah lived in Ephraim not Benjamin. There are other instances where the word ephrathiy also means 'an Ephraimite' (Judges 12:5, 1 Kings 11:26).
10 Such towns as Ramah, Geba, Gibeah, Gibeon, Mizpeh and close derivatives were so named to reflect the physical aspects of the land around them.
11 His name is given as both Zophai and Zuph (1 Chronicles 6:26,35). 12 Ramathaim-zophim referring to 'the twin heights of the Zophites'.
13 Those towns in Ephraim were Shechem, Gezer, Jokmeam, Beth-horon, Aijalon,
and Gath-rimmon (1 Chronicles 6:66-69). Ramathaim-zophim was situated almost equidistant between several of these, suggesting its choice by Zophai as a suitable place in which to extend Levitical influence.
14 A similar view of Zophai's activity is suggested by Michael Ashton (Samuel the Seer,
15 Given that both town (1 Samuel 1:1) and territory (1 Samuel 9:5) carried his name,
Zophai was clearly a man of great spiritual influence indeed.
16 Significantly, only Luke's Gospel will record that Arimathaea, where Joseph came from, was "a city of the Jews" (Luke 23:51), the phrase here indicating that even then, it was known as a priestly city.
17 Elkanah means 'God has possessed' (from qanah to acquire or purchase). His name celebrated the unique role of the Levites whom God counted as belonging to Him (Numbers 3:6-12,45). The name was found several times in his own family
Bro Roger Lewis: Hannah - Handmaid of the highest
From the beginning of this family's history then, to be a Kohathite was to be focused upon the ark of the presence, to be aware of a calling to guardianship, and to be devoted to the holiness of God's sanctuary. By Elkanah's time, that rich legacy of spiritual excellence was already imbedded in the family. As a Kohathite, Elkanah may well have felt the fulness of this heritage, and yet there was no indication, no sign that he held any special duty in the tabernacle service.
His family was well known, but his only contribution was to visit the house of the LORD, since attendance there for worship was also enjoined upon the Levites. It was perhaps, strange that such a man did not hold some office. But then Elkanah, despite his background was not to be at the centre of this story. That honour would belong to his wife, and the details which placed Elkanah in his home town and his own tribe would but serve as an introduction to the true heroine of the story - Hannah.
Married to a Levite, and probably a Levite herself, she entered fully into the legacy of her tribe, as later events would show. The place where God dwelt among His people, the ark of the covenant where He inhabited the cherubim, was the place where Hannah found her focal point and the centre of her spiritual life.
This was her calling, and her passion for things divine was real, personal and individual. Ramah might have been her home town, but Hannah in her spirit belonged to the house of God.
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest
2 And he had two wives; the name of the one was [ Channah], and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah [ Channah] had no children.
It is possible that this was a case like Abraham - a second wife taken, because the first one, the preferred one, was barren. And, as in Abraham's case, the less preferred wife, who was not barren, constantly provoked and humiliated the one that was (v6). *
The phrase "the name of the other", in describing Peninnah means literally, 'the name of the second', making Hannah his first wife (1 Samuel 1:2).
...In the case of both Sarah (Genesis 16:1,2), and Rachel (Genesis 30:1-3), the suggestion of taking another wife was at their prompting. But the record is silent here as to any such suggestion on Hannah's part, inferring* that this was Elkanah's initiative.
...Hannah was evidently Elkanah's first wife, his companion and the wife of his covenant. He did not take a second out of dissatisfaction with the first, for he loved her dearly, as she did him. But Hannah was barren. She had no children.
Elkanah would have been better to wait upon his God, for there were other examples of faithful but barren couples who had gone before and who had eventually experienced God's blessing of a family But, so strong was the need for children in those times, both for the continuation of the family, and to preserve its God appointed inheritance, 32 that it was felt with an urgency and a force which other generations have not known.
Elkanah, deciding not to wait upon God, took him another wife. 33 Hannah, already caught in the turmoil of love for her husband and grief for her barrenness, was placed in a situation made infinitely more complex by the addition of another. Others looking on, saw in Hannah's grief the understandable feelings of sorrow and loss which every barren woman in Israel felt, for to be barren was to experience the reproach of others. 34
They sympathised with Hannah entirely, for in an age when the blessing of children was the very mark of womanhood, their absence chafed the soul and wounded the heart. What they did not see however, was a woman whose sorrow was immeasurably greater than they could have known. Hannah's reason for wanting a child lay beyond the yearning of maternal instinct that is God's endowment to womankind. She felt that as well, but in her case, there was something more.
Her mind was focused on higher things that transcended self and exalted God, and her desire for a child related to His purpose and not her own. And because the purpose of the Lord was at work in the life of this woman who walked with Him, that most mysterious of all mysteries, would be set forth in blessing Hannah with the fruit of the womb. It would require the power of the Highest to overshadow her.
But His strength would be made perfect in her weakness, and her weakness would become the basis for her triumph. How that triumph occurred, and to what end, is the burden of the story which follows.
32 Even Levites, within their allocated cities, had houses, suburbs, fields and flocks which represented "the inheritance of their possession" (Leviticus 25:32-34; Numbers 35:1-5).
33 In the case of both Sarah (Genesis 16:1,2), and Rachel (Genesis 30:1-3), the suggestion of taking another wife was at their prompting. But the record is silent here as to any such suggestion on Hannah's part, inferring that this was Elkanah's initiative.
34 This was a far more powerful reality in Biblical times, than our own age permits us fully to comprehend. A wife who could not bear felt the shame of her inadequacy in a society where the fruit of the womb was counted as God's blessing (Genesis 30:23; Isaiah 4:1; Luke 1:25).
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest
3 And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto Yahweh of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of Yahweh, were there.
The yearly worship of a faithful family
At a time when most of the nation had forgotten what true worship was all about, this man and woman came every year to the sanctuary in Shiloh. 35 Elkanah and Hannah were. consistent in their cycle of worship, so much so, that their annual pilgrimage became the very measurement by which the seasons of their life were marked off as complete.
Most of the nation did not visit the tabernacle at all, and those who did made their appearance less frequently than the law had required. 36 By the time of Hannah, the established practice was to make a yearly visitation, 37 and hers was one of the families in Israel that upheld this annual routine.
Even so, it took commitment to make such a journey each year, despite the promise of divine protection for their homes and possessions whilst they were absent from them. 38 Work was needed to organise the provisions of food and raiment required for the journey and return. Suitable animals and produce needed to be gathered for their offerings at the sanctuary. To worship at God's altar meant planning and preparation. It always has.
Hannah's influence was one of the key reasons why they went. She wanted to draw near to God in a spirit of purity and dedication. She desired to worship the Lord of hosts in spirit and in truth. She yearned for the joy of being at peace with God in the place of His sanctuary. She was a driving force behind this annual journey northwards to the temple, such was her need for that spiritual exaltation.
For Hannah especially, this passage year by year was truly an ascent, 39 a going up in heart and mind to the place where the Lord dwelt among His people. And every year the ritual of the offerings would be the same: First the sin offering, that confession of sin might be made as the prerequisite of all mercy that might follow.
Then the burnt offering, that a fresh vow of dedication might be made to serve the Lord with all the heart and mind and strength.
Finally, the peace offering, that the offerer might know the joy of fellowship with their God. This is what Hannah wanted. This is what she came for. She came to find fellowship with God, and to eat her thanksgiving offering with Him. But in coming to the sanctuary, Hannah found that the very place where the tabernacle, and the altar, and the ark of God were to be found, was the last place where fellowship could be had.
Eli was already too old to attend to the offering of the sacrifices, 40 and so his two sons had now assumed that responsibility, as officiating priests. They were not just present at the tabernacle. Hophni and Phinehas were in control. 41 Their very names were indicative of their attitudes, for the one concerned - the spirit of pugilism, and the other the spirit of arrogance.
These two were aggressive in their deeds (Hophni - the man of the clenched fist), 42 and arrogant in their words (Phinehas-the man of the brazen mouth). 43 Here at the place of God's sanctuary were two men who debased the role of priesthood, who defiled the principle of holiness, and who destroyed the joy of fellowship with God. Hophni and Phinehas disgraced the place of worship, and lived scandalous lives in Shiloh, in contempt of both God and the nation.
35 The record is pronounced in marking this yearly cycle in their lives (1 Samuel 1:3,7,21; 2:19), and it is evident that their annual pilgrimage involved Hannah every bit as much as Elkanah.
36 The law prescribed the attendance of all males three times a year (Exodus 34:23), and later identified those occasions as relating to the three great feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:16).
37 The only references to assembling for worship in the epoch of the Judges suggest this (Judges 11:40; 21:19).
38 Exodus 34:24.
39 The word 'went up' (1 Samuel 1:3) is alah - to ascend, with all the spiritual overtones that such a word suggests.
40 Even his being seated (1 Samuel 1:9; 4:18) is suggestive of the idea that he no longer had the physical capacity to complete the demanding labours of the priest in attending to the sacrificial offerings.
41 Cp. Rotherham - "And there, the two sons of EIi, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the LORD". The force of the verse is not just that they were present, but that they were in charge.
42 Hophni means 'pugilist', but is derived from chophen _ the fist.
43 Phinehas means 'mouth of brass', and is derived from peh - the mouth, and a variation of nachash - serpent (not unlike nehushatan - a thing of brass).
5 But unto [Channah] he gave a worthy [double] portion; for he loved [Channah]: but Yahweh had shut up her womb.
It was not just an accident of nature. It was a deliberate act by God for His own wise purpose. And that was that Samuel should be a very special God-given child, not just an ordinary normal birth. So what seemed like a liability was an asset. It often is. *
Alone among the altar sacrifices, the peace offering was unique in granting a portion to the offerer. Although the law specified an offering for an individual, Elkanah's offering did not pertain to himself alone, but to his family who were all bound with him in its partaking.
After both God and the priests had received their parts, that which remained was his to divide severally as he willed. Elkanah, a just man in all his dealings, was equitable in distributing the portions of the peace offering. He was anxious for all his household to partake, and since Peninnah had several children he ensured that both she and they all had their rightful part.
There would be no deprivation here, for after all, they were his children as well. Each one was given a share, and the very task of these apportionments, and the sight of several children. all gathered around their mother, only emphasised Hannah's solitary state. How could it do otherwise?
Peninnah's family being provided for, Elkanah turned his attention to Hannah's part. Although she had no children, he still gave her a portion that reflected his love for her, and her honoured status in his eyes. 47
Perhaps a larger share than usual, it was placed in front of her as the mark of Elkanah's unchanging esteem. He loved her, and wanted her to know that her state of barrenness would never change that. But to Hannah, already distressed by her situation, this yearly bestowal from Elkanah only made her condition worse.
How could she explain that this special share, this extra portion was more painful than she could bear? Its generosity only emphasized the absence of children beside her, and the very gift that Elkanah gave to comfort only added to her pain. The table was filled with a father, a mother and their numerous children each one with their portions, and finally with Hannah. She no doubt was seated close to Elkanah but the setting of the table told its own story.
All Elkanah's liberality and kindness could not disguise the sad reality. Hannah had no children, and all her household knew it. She had lived with the pain of being childless for years, and knew the affect it had upon her life. Yet there was a reason why she remained in a state of barrenness. The truth was that the Lord had closed her womb, 48 but He could also open it.
That there was deliberate intention here on God's part was evident, but it was the nature of His intention that Hannah needed to understand. The Lord was directly at work in her life, and in control of the very thing that was dearest to her heart, her ability to bear children. The closing of her womb was not a punishment, but neither was it a mistake. For some reason, the Lord Himself had prevented her from bearing.
Until now His purpose in doing so had not been disclosed, but it was about to be, and in its revelation Hannah would learn a powerful truth. What is seen on earth is often not the view of heaven. What she construed as the pain of delay, God considered to be the wisdom of sequence and timing.
She needed to learn that God would graciously open her womb, but not until her petition was coincident with His purpose. When those two met, His answer would be heard, and His power would be seen. Even now, the Lord was at work to arrange the convergence of circumstance and people that were needed for the accomplishment of His plan.
Hannah's role was but a part, and she would yet marvel at how , her part would intersect with others. She would bear a child at the exact moment of God's choosing, but only time would reveal how perfect that moment was.
It is a lesson which all the faithful must learn in their dealings with God, for the same principle is at work in our lives. Our belief in the work of providence must extend to accepting that God's timetable is paramount, and not our own.
How vital it is then, that the focus of our prayers should be on the performance of His will and on the accomplishment of His purpose, rather than the mere fulfilment of our requests.
It was to her credit that Hannah's urgency in prayer sprang not from selfish interest, but from a burning sense of the injustice being done to God. Rarely had a woman of faith been afflicted to the degree of anguish that Hannah felt. Her overwhelming desire was to right that wrong, and her adversity was related to that great cause.
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest
47 The phrase - yitten manah achath appayim is unusual, and (despite the KJV margin) is not the same expression for the "double portion" of the firstborn (Deuteronomy 21:17). It has been translated - "one portion of two faces or two nostrils". It may suggest a portion sufficient for two persons, but it might indicate a larger, but still single portion only, given Hannah's lack of children.
In either case, the record is clear however that it reflected her husband's love, despite her barren state. The KJV has endeavoured to express the Hebrew term by translating it as "a worthy portion".
48 The phrase - "the LORD had shut up her womb" was repeated for emphasis (1 Samuel 1:5,6). The primary meaning of the term cagar (to shut doors or dam streams) suggests something more than barrenness, since other women were described as being barren, but without any suggestion that the Lord had specifically closed their wombs to prevent bearing (Genesis 25:21; Judges 13:3; Luke 1:7).
It does however mention it of Hannah. But He who could fast close wombs, could also certainly open them (Genesis 20:17,18). A moment of miracle was to occur in Hannah's life, for to enable the birth of her firstborn son, the Lord would need to open her womb. Samuel was to be a special child, born by divine intervention
The matter of Hannah's adversity
Hannah and her spirit in the Truth
For what Elkanah stood related to in principle, Hannah was bound to in practice. She would never minister in the sanctuary as a temple servant, but in her heart she entered its gates and came into its courts.
The ark which betokened the presence of the Lord among His people, and the temple where one might meet with Him were never far from her mind. Her vow of dedication was uttered at the temple. Her child of promise was given at the temple. Her song of thanksgiving was offered at the temple. Her stand for purity was taken at the temple. This was where her calling was.
In an age so given over to the expression of the individual, Hannah stood out as uniquely different for her unwavering focus on higher things which stood beyond herself. She was so aware of God and so mindful of Him each day, that to draw near to Him was a conscious act of regular occurrence.
Coming into the "presence of God was not reserved for a visit to the sanctuary", But was an attitude that permeated her daily experience. The substance of her prayers, whether in petition or praise, revealed a woman who walked with God.
But, for one whose disposition was so finely attuned to His supremacy, to come and eat her peace offering in the place where He met with His people, was truly a spiritual climax. To partake of a meal that had been shared with God brought a sense of fellowship so special, a feeling of honour so high, that it was a privilege beyond compare.
Perhaps her attachment to the temple had been formed at an early age, when visiting with her parents. It would certainly seem that her visits with Elkanah had commenced at the start of their marriage. However it had begun, there was no doubt that Hannah loved the sanctuary and all that it spoke of.
Her heart was in that place, for the great milestones of her life were to be measured in the moments when she stood at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 28
Whatever her own family line might have been, Hannah was a Levite in spirit, and a Kohathite in fervour. It was through her that this story would be unfolded, and in her that this story would have meaning. 29
28 The idea, once noticed, is marked (1 Samuel 1:7,9,24; 2:1,19). Her life revolved around incidents at the 'temple', the door of the tabernacle being the closest she could usually come.
29 That the story of 1 Samuel 1,2 is centred on Hannah is evident from the record itself. A survey of all references to Elkanah and Hannah by name or personal pronoun in 1 Samuel 1,2 reveals almost four times the number of references to Hannah (approximately eighty), compared to Elkanah (approximately twenty). Hannah is undoubtedly the focus of the narrative.
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest
6 And her adversary [tzarah - Ges. a female rival - adversity YLT] also provoked her sore [greatly], for to make her fret, because Yahweh had shut up her womb.
The matter of Hannah's adversity
Hannah's affliction related not to another person but to her own condition, and it was clear that the condition related in some way to the barren state of her womb. so For any married woman in Israel, to be barren was a bitterness indeed, but to one who sought a child for the redemption of the nation, it was a trial almost past bearing.
For Hannah, her barrenness was an inadequacy that could never be satisfied. 51 But childless though she was, her condition although related to her distress, was not the primary basis for it. Her bitterness of heart was not directed against Peninnah, for she was neither obsessed with retaliation, nor consumed with self-pity.
This was no brooding spirit in a woman obsessed with desire for a child, that she might vaunt herself above a rival. If that were so, then there was no explanation as to why or how she could possibly rejoice to give away her son to one who had failed miserably to raise his own offspring.
There was a deeper reason at work, a reason which was entirely consistent with who Hannah was. To receive her son and then to give him away, while singing a song of joy at doing so, was incomprehensible to the natural mind, but in perfect harmony with the spiritual mind that governed this woman of grace and faith.
What then was Hannah's tribulation, that aggravated her so completely as to make her fret? There was nothing vague about Hannah's adversity, for it lay so heavy upon her that she was provoked by it to anger.
But, her strength of feeling was driven by something more powerful and spiritual than a personal sense of injury or the unkindness of another. Neither of these were the true cause of Hannah's adversity, nor of the displeasure which she felt. The condition which moved her to such anger was prompted by far higher principles.
Her reason for such deep vexation of heart lay in the fact that she shared the spirit of her God, and felt His righteous indignation at the evil within His sanctuary. Her anger was the same as God's, and her provocation was brought about by the same circumstance.
God was provoked to anger by the corruption of His people, 52 and the wicked setting aside of His principles by
Hophni and Phinehas vexed His Handmaid likewise to the very core of her being. 53 She was provoked so deeply, as to make her tremble with despair. 54
Grief can be felt in different ways. In Ramah, she felt the dull ache of being bereft. At Shiloh, she felt the sharp pain of urgent need. For it was at the sanctuary that the matter was thrown into sharp relief, and every time they came, the same bitterness afflicted Hannah.
This was not a singular event, but a regular one, occasioned in some way by attendance at the sanctuary itself. Hannah's grief was not at home, where Peninnah might have had opportunity to engender strife with her words and deeds.
Whatever the state of her home life in Ramah was, it was clear that her adversity, her pain, her grief was related to the matters of the sanctuary and the work of the priesthood.
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest
"and her ADVERSITY hath also provoked her greatly, so as to make her tremble, for Jehovah hath shut up her womb" [YLT].
(YLT is the only translation I can find [around 40 translations checked] translating v6 adversity instead of adversary- Rotherham and RV agree with KJV)
Ges says "a female rival"... "tzarah: adversary, adversity (Str).
However, tzarah is only translated adversary once. In other instances it is translated adversity, distress, grief. Therefore adversary is not a consistent application of the word Tzarah.
So there is reason for accepting the rendering offered by Bro Roger and YLT, given also the context that her distress was most keen at the House of Yahweh (because of the corruption of the priests) ...which then leaves us with nothing in the text suggesting Peninnah was a provactive rival as is commonly accepted from a plain reading of most translations!
50 The immediate context of her adversity related to the fact of her barrenness. Note the juxtaposition _ "But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah, but the LORD had shut up her womb. And her adversity also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb" (1 Samuel 1:5,6).
51 "There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: the grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough" (Proverbs 30:15,16).
52 The phrase "provoked her sore" uses a doubled form of ka'ac for emphasis. The word tka'ac) means to be angry, to be vexed, to be indignant. In every previous occurrence, it refers to God being vexed or grieved by rebellion or sin in Israel
53 Hannah's troubled spirit was of the same character as Lot's who was "vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked", and who, in dwelling among them, "vexed his righteous soul from day to day" (2 Peter 2:7,8). Both he and Hannah were righteous persons amidst great wickedness.
54 The word "to make her fret" (ra'am) means to thunder, and relates almost always to God who thunders upon His people. It is the very word used by Hannah in her subsequent prayer - "The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder against them" (1 Samuel 2:10). The sense is captured by GLT - "so as to make her tremble". The word is a further indication that Hannah's feelings were the mirror of her God's. It was His trembling that she felt.
7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house [Bais] of Yahweh, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
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 10 sons?
It distressed Elkanah to see Hannah so filled with anguish, and he wished that he could smooth away the hurt. This sacrificial meal they shared together was supposed to bring spiritual refreshment to them all, and yet it was painfully obvious that it had the very opposite effect upon his wife. Worst of all was the :act that she wept at the very meal itself.
Hannah was not of a spirit deliberately to destroy the happiness of others, and so her weeping on this occasion was unusual in the extreme. Moreover, he was genuinely puzzled by the depth of Hannah's sorrow in this place of all places, and at this time of all times, for all three of his questions were set at the table.
...And the focus of his questions told all. The issue of query for Elkanah was how she could possibly feel this way, at this moment of all moments. Gladly would he help to remove the cause of her pain, but he knew not what it was.
He would never have asked if it was obviously a situation brought about by Peninnah and her behaviour at the table. The very nature of his questions were an indication that Hannah's grief of mind and vexation of spirit were on a higher plane than Elkanah had realised.
Anxiously, he sought to assure her of his affection, believing that her adversity sprang from the feeling of inadequacy brought about by her barrenness. And his declaration of devotion,
"Am not I better to thee than ten sons?" was not intended to vaunt himself above the joy of having children from his wife's perspective, but to comfort Hannah that he loved her no less than if she had many sons. 56
That was the message contained in his special portion to her, and it saddened him to know that despite his care, he could not stem the tears which she shed at this meal - tears, he was aware, that flowed from her upon every visit to this place.
His words were well intended, for Elkanah was genuinly upset to see his wife in such a state of sorrow and distress. But his comments could not help or heal her, for the cause of her grief was not related to the lack of a large family. Nor was her despair centred on bearing many children to reach equality with Peninnah.
It remained for Elkanah a matter of mystery as to how different Hannah was at the tabernacle, to the companion he knew at home. In Ramah, she was the settled and loyal wife he loved and knew. At Shiloh, she was a distraught and tearful woman, who seemed beyond him.
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest
56 The phrase was a Hebraism indicating depth of love. Ruth's deep affection for Naomi, her mother-in-law, was described by Naorni's friends in the same way _ "thy daughter-in-law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons" (Ruth 4:15).
Literally, Ruth was not better to Naomi than seven sons, but the phrase was expressive of the marvellous degree of love which she did feel. Elkanah uses the expression in this sense.
9 So [Channah] rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest [HaKohen] sat upon a seat by a post of the temple [mezuzat Heikhal] of Yahweh.
This word seat should be translated throne. It is the basic and only word for throne all through the Old Testament. It is translated throne 130 times and seat only seven. For Eli was the head of the nation. He was both judge and high priest, and this seat was his position of rulership, where people would come to him for judgment. It would be raised up so as to be prominent and impressive. This makes it clearer how he could fall from it and be killed, as we learn in chapter 4, when he had the news of the Ark being taken. *
10 And she was in bitterness of soul [nefesh], and prayed [davened] unto Yahweh, and wept sore [greatly].
Hannah's answer to Elkanah's anxious questions was not recorded, for there was none she could give. It was difficult for her to explain her grief, for it sprang from her very being. Her capacity to be touched by the holiness of the truth left her oppressed by the blatant wickedness of its inverse. In one whose mind yearned towards the spiritual and the sacred, the horror of seeing the vulgar and the profane thrusting its way into the sanctuary left her feeling devastated.
To know what is possible, and to witness its extinguishing does more than to upset. It wounds the soul and breaks the heart. Hannah found that to seek holiness was to know loneliness. Why was it that others seemed not to notice or not to care? How could others accept the setting aside of divine principles when coming before the Lord of Hosts?
She was bewildered and hurt by the seeming ease with which others shrugged off the common and the base as if they were of no moment, settling down to the enjoyment of their sacrificial meal as if oblivious of its significance and unaware of its defilement.
And how much worse it was to know that this spirit perrvaded the sanctuary because evil priests ruled there. When the wicked are in the ascendancy and the righteous are unable to remove them, and unable to confront them, there is a deep sense of powerlessness. 57 To experience it is to know the bitter tumult it awakes within the heart. To visit at the time of the yearly sacrifice, only to witness that decline becoming more and more defiant, only served to deepen Hannah's pain.
Here was a woman of God who desired with all her heart to challenge this spirit. Yet her womanhood would not extend to the one provision by which her challenge might be made. For Hannah, her barrenness was a double blow. This woman, whose yearning to bear stood related to higher things, was unable to bear, despite repeated prayers. Her state of barrenness was but the symbol of her emptiness, for that is how she felt: empty of feeling, empty of joy, empty of hope.
She saw her state as an emblem of the nation's spiritual barrenness, and her own ruptured fellowship as the symbol of the nation's estrangement from God. Her deepest wish was to bring forth a faithful priest to restore her people's fellowship with God, and her deepest grief was that she could not. Hannah's sorrow was not for loss, but for lack, and it was a grief so strong that it consumed her. This was an emptiness that brought exhaustion, and Hannah came to know that it was possible to be filled with a grief so deep, that it could not even be expressed.
There is a sorrow so overwhelming, that the sufferer knows only that all the waves and billows have passed over them. There is a weariness so enfeebling, that the afflicted feels unable to move and unable to escape. There is a sadness so encompassing that the mourner weeps until they can weep no more. At such a time, the world is drained of all its colour, and daily life is trapped in the dull grey of deep despair.
The appetite fails, for food tastes of nothing save misery. The daughters of music are brought low because the voice of singing is stilled. The vigour of life is lost to a listless void, where the bones ache and the feet drag. Only the dark silence remains, and in that fearful place there is no light. No light at all. Grief casts its pall upon the sufferer, and Hannaz had felt its touch.
But this grief was Hannah's private desolation, to be kept within her own heart. Neither Elkanahr nor Peninnah knew anything about this agony. Her desire to come into the presence of God was so earnest, and her sorrow at the evil of the sanctuary so intense, that no one had any idea where she was in her mind.
It was something deeper within Hannah alone, a grief based upon a vision of the truth and what was possible, that others had not seen. Best then that she bear it alone, because it lay beyond explanation, and beyond Elkanah's full understanding. Yet even in her lowest moments, Hannah's mind was on higher things. Events would soon reveal just how high her thinking was, as she turned towards the light.
Bro Roger Lewis
DESPITE her sorrow, Hannah remained with the household while they concluded their meal. Her distress prevented her from participating, 1 but she waited until they had finished. It was not in her spirit to disturb the fellowship feast of others, despite her own pain.
Nor was it her way to interrupt the worship of others by drawing attention to ner own needs as if they were paramount. Such a display of selfseeking was the last thing Hannah wished to show. Her heart and mind cried out in tumult, but she stilled her soul until the meal was ended.
Only then, before they left the immediate vicinity of the tabernacle, did Hannah arise to commune with: God in private prayer.
She went back to the sanctuary which was close by, while the rest of the family returned to their place of lodging, since they would not leave until the morrow. In keeping with her character, she left quietly and discreetly.
"I will just offer a final prayer to God, and then return",
she said, and Elkanah nodded in sympathy as she arose. She walked alone, but she walked with purpose, for she needed to be by herself, but with her God.
It was not a long walk, but she felt a sense of trembling relief on entering the place of the sanctuary. She did not draw near to the place of offering, for she brought no sacrifice, other than her broken spirit and contrite heart. And, vulnerable and weak as she was, she sought no contact with others, least of all with those who distressed her so.
She needed to be at the house of God, but she stood afar off in a place apart, where unnoticed, her mourning could be in private. How desperately she needed this moment in this place. The unbearable burden of her adversity had finally prostrated Hannah to the dust.
There are moments in life so filled with tragedy, so imbued with agony, that the emotions of the heart are difficult to describe. Hannah however felt hers, so sharp and acrid, that they were as the bitterness of myrrh. 2 But now, safe in this moment of seclusion she gave way to the demand of mind and body which cried out for relief from her pain.
The tears came first, engulfing her body with their sobbing urgency, as alone at last she poured out her soul in an abandonment of grief and sorrow that needed to be released before it overwhelmed her. 3 The words would come later when that first wave had passed, its fury spent.
Grief can bring us to our knees. It brought Hannah to hers. But in doing so, it brought her again to prayer. Prayer is the answer to bitterness of soul, for it holds within its purview the gift of healing balm. For every man and woman of God, prayer is the pathway to peace.
1 The record is not specific as to who it was when stating "after they had eaten", "and after they had drunk" (1 Samuel 1:9). But given the clear statement concerning Hannah that "she wept, and did not eat" (1 Samuel 1:7) the reference must apply to everyone in the family apart from Hannah. The passage will itself later corroborate this conclusion, when it records, "So the woman went her way and did eat" (1 Samuel 1:18), marking thus the change from her previous abstinence.
2 The Hebrews expressed the emotion of tragic and unpleasant circumstances as a sense of taste - the bitter. Although brought about by different circumstances, it was the common experience of Job (Job 7:11), Naomi (Ruth 1:20), Hannah (1 Samuel 1:10), Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:15) and others. The word (marar) is the base for the word myrrh (mowr).
3 The words "wept sore" are a doubling of the Hebrew word (bakah). In this intense form, it is translated "wept bitterly" (RSV), and "wept copiously" (GLT).
Bro Roger Lewis
The heart knoweth its own bitterness
She did not seek this time away from Elkanah because she wished to conceal her feelings, but rather because the experiences of both sorrow and joy can be so intensely personal that no one else ever fully knows what we think or how we feel.
Even within the sacred bond of marriage, our deepest emotions are sometimes incommunicable to others. It is not because we will not share, but because the full dimensions of our feelings are unique, and are, in that sense unable to be shared. 4
But there was a lesson here which Hannah already understood. For when there is no one else, we can come before God. That which cannot be shared with others, can be shared with God, for He does know how we feel, which is of the greatest comfort. Even in the face of extreme adversity that is what the faithful do.
Our trials can either separate us from God, or draw us closer to Him. Divine providence brings us into circumstances where we must choose between trust in ourselves or trust in Him. Those times when we realise that we are quite unable to deliver ourselves are a vital step towards our learning that God can. He can save us out of the most difficult and distressing of circumstances, but He requires first that we have learned to trust in Him, and surrender to His will.
It is easy, when in the grip of sorrow and bitterness of soul, to be so focused on self as to have lost sight of our place before God. Hannah had every reason to feel a measure of personal grief, for her affliction was very personal in its bearings. But the prayer which burst forth from her was not focused on self at all.
That which we pray in private, and in our deepest distress is a window to our soul. Those words uttered before our God which none hears but He, are an index to our genuine character, for with no witness to our complaint we unconsciously reveal our true heart, and our real spirit.
Hannah's heart was in despair, but her despair related to the honour of her God, and the sanctity of His purpose with Israel, as the vow she was about to make would reveal. Whenever she prayed, whether in deep grief, or great joy, her prayers were always centred on the purpose of God whose will transcended her own.
Bro Roger Lewis
4 This does not for a moment mean that husbands and wives ought not to share their real feelings. But scripture itself testifies that some things are neither felt nor known in an identical way by others even after explanation. Hence -
"Whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by any man ... each knowing the affliction ofhis own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house ... and render to each whose heart thou knowest, according to all his ways (for thou, thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men)" (1 Kings 8:38,39, RSV).
"The heart knoweth its own bitterness, and, in its joy, no stranger shareth" (Proverbs 14:10, Rotherham).
"For what person knows a man's thoughts, except the spirit of the man which is in him?" (1 Corinthians 2:11, RSV).
11 And she vowed a vow [ neder], and said, O Yahweh hosts [Tzva'os], if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction [misery] of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child [zera anashim], then I will give him unto Yahweh all the days [kol yamei] of his life [chayyah], and there shall no razor come upon his head.
The making of a vow brought with it a solemn obligation for its payment. So serious was that responsibility, that God would brook no delay for the full performance of its terms, nor accept anything less than the joyful meeting of its demands. 5
Guilty was the one who vowed, but did not pay, for commitments to God could never be entered lightly. 6 To vow rashly or unwisely was censured, and therefore a vow needed to be made with calm intent and deliberate purpose, in full awareness of its final cost.
Hannah, gripped by emotions so strong that they reduced her to tears, might seem to have been in no position to make such a considered pledge. But her vow was neither rash nor hasty, for this prayer was but the culmination of many such pleadings which Hannah had offered. She knew exactly what the full measure of her vow would cost, 7 but even here, at the house of God she was still determined to make it.
Hers was a singular 8 vow, for it involved the giving of a person. To vow someone in dedication, was only undertaken by one who yearned to give something more than the offering of praise to God. The law provided for such vows, under which the person would be given to the priests, either for service at the tabernacle or to work on Levitical lands.
The right to pledge a person in such a way, only extended to members of one's own household, as these were the only individuals over which jurisdiction and authority could be held by the person making the vow.
At the same time however, the law provided a means to calculate the worth of the person so pledged, and then permitted their immediate redemption by the payment of this sum. 9
The price of redemption however was high, and in setting such values, the cost acted as a deterrent against making unwise vows. For most, the vowing of a person followed this rule. It permitted the return of the one pledged, but with the monetary value for their redemption accepted as the sign of the dedication of the offerer to the Lord.
By such vows, the system of the tabernacle was sustained, but without the difficulties arising from large numbers of persons being allocated to the tribe of Levi with a consequent obligation for their maintenance.
In certain exceptional cases however, the law also provided for the dedication of a person without the right of redemption, and if so devoted, then their life belonged to the Lord completely. 10
To offer a person in such a way, was to make an extraordinary vow, and was brought forth only by extraordinary circumstances. Because they were devoted by an unredeemable grant, their lives were forfeit to God. 11 Given up to Him entirely by irrevocable surrender, they became His servants, and du:bound to a lifetime of service. 12
All such devoted persons with Israel belonged to the High Priest and his family, 13 and it was this vow that Hannah intended to make in the dedication of her son. To give such a person to the priests, was in effect to give them to the Lord Himself, since the priests went His representatives. 14
Nor was she without precedent, for in the nation's recent history, and in Hannah's living memory, a man had made such a vow, a difficult vow in dedicating a person. 15 Jephthah had promised God that he would devote a person out of his household in such a way, should the Lord grant him victory. His vow was intended from the moment it proceeded from his mouth to be an offering without redemption.
To make such a vow was unusual in the extreme, but Jephthah was driven by the exigencies of his situation, for he faced a battle on which the future of the nation rested.
But Hannah felt that she also was in a battle, and that the nation's destiny was at stake in its outcome. 16 The one vow became the model for the other. His, as it transpired, was the dedication of an only daughter. Hers, as she intended, would be the dedication of an only son.
But whereas Jephthah intended to pledge a person in response to victory, she would offer her child as the means of victory. But that victory depended on the power of the God to whom her vow was made. Hannah was ready to vow, and knew exactly upon whom she would call to witness it.
5 The law taught, "That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth" (Deuteronomy 23:21-23). Given that Hannah quotes extensively from the law, it is very likely she was aware of this teaching concerning vows and the importance of fulfilling them.
6 A later passage gave counsel about the special need to be cautious when making vows at the house of God itself, as God would not accept vows made, but then broken - "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay" (Ecclesiastes 5:1-6).
7 1 Chronicles 21:24.
8 As in the phrase, "When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the LORD by thy estimation" (Leviticus 27:2). Here the word "singular" (pala) means - wonderful, extraordinary, difficult. Significantly, this was the term also used of Nazarite commitment - "When either man or woman shall separate (pala) themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite" (Numbers 6:2).
9 This was the vow of neder (Leviticus 27:1-8).
10 This was the vow of cherem (Leviticus 27:28,29).
11 "The basic meaning [of chereml is the exclusion of an object from the use of man and its irrevocable surrender to God ... Surrendering something to God meant devoting it to the service of God or putting it under a ban for utter destruction" (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, volume 1, page 324). Context of course, would always determine which of these two applied.
12 It was important to distinguish between those devoted (cherem) to the Lord out
of Israel, and those devoted (cherem) of men from the nations. In both instances their lives belonged to God without recall, but their destinies were very different. The former (Leviticus 27:28) were given as a gift to the High Priest (Numbers 18:14) and their lives forfeit to service. The latter (Leviticus 27:29) were given to destruction, and their lives forfeit in death (Joshua 6:17-21). No one in Israel could devote another Israelite to death, for that would be murder (Exodus 20:13). In the cases of both Jephthah and Hannah, their vows were to devote one from their own household to lifetime service.
13 Numbers 18:14.
14 The devoted person (cherem) was described as "most holy" (qodesh qodesh) to the Lord (Leviticus 27:28). Every other use of this expression in the book of Leviticus related to things given to the priests for their exclusive use (Leviticus 2:3,10; 6:17,25,29; 7:1,6; 10:12,17; 14:13; 21:22; 24:9). It is logical to assume that persons devoted as "most holy" also belonged to the priests.
Bro Roger Lewis
Did Hannah desire a son for herself or for God? That is, for her own gratification and justification, or for God's work? There is reason to think that the latter was a major aspect. That is why she becomes so prominent.
Israel was in very deep trouble-oppressed and leaderless. Her song in chapter 2, which was obviously Spirit-inspired, shows a vastly wider range of thought than mere personal interest. It ranks with the sublimest prophecy and introduces new factors of the Divine purpose not previously mentioned.
Not long before this time, a barren mother had given birth to a special child who was dedicated to God as a life-long Nazarite, and who mightily delivered Israel, though only temporarily, because of their apathy and his weakness. That was Samson. This would be fresh in Hannah's memory. She saw the need for total dedication. If God would give her a son (verse 11), he should be given totally to the LORD, and he should be a life-long Nazarite, like Samson was.
There were three life-long Nazarites in the Scriptures-Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. But only Samuel was voluntarily so dedicated. The other two were so-commanded by God, before they were born. *
Bro Growcott - Samuel a special child
The Lord of hosts that inhabiteth the cherubim
In listing the items to be made for the tabernacle, the law began with the ark of the testimony, mentioned first because it was the most important. And if for the Levites the ark was the focal point of the tabernacle, it was even more so for the Kohathites, whose charge included its carriage.
Housed in the Most Holy, the promise of God was that there He would meet with His people, and commune with them from above the mercy seat, as He :nhabited the cherubim, 17 which were over the ark. 18
Here dwelt the Shekinah glory of the Lord's presence among His people, chambered in the Most Holy as His secret abode, but represented as His shining upon them in the exhibition of His mercy and His favour. 19
It was this promise that thrilled Hannah so, the promise of fellowship with the One whose glory inhabited the cherubim. To this woman of Kohathite zeal, the ark was the centre of their spiritual life, and the place where the God of Israel dwelt. 20
It was to this God who dwelt among them, that Hannah prayed as she appealed to Him in the extremity of her grief. She besought in prayer the God she believed in, who alone co uld gran t her victory. "O LORD of hosts", she cried, addressing Him in a manner that had never been used before. 21
It was an arresting expression, her choice of title being not only original, but a mark of how unique she was. Hannah, as always, had thought deeply about the crisis she faced and knew that the Lord of hosts could answer it.
Who then were the hosts Hannah had in mind? It was true that God was in control of the hosts of heaven, those angelic armies that could be marshalled by God for the execution of His purpose. 22 But Hannah's thought was more direct, more personal as she called upon the God of her people and her tribe.
She knew that her people were the hosts of the Lord, marked out as such from the moment of their deliverance from Egypt. 23 And He who inhabited the cherubim went forth at their head and on their behalf, since the ark preceded them and the battle cry was heard - "Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered". 24
If Israel were God's hosts in general, then the Levites were God's hosts in particular. Theirs was the spiritual warfare of the tabernacle, and their focus was also centred upon the ark of the covenant and the Lord who inhabited the cherubim. 25
Hannah addressed her vow to the Lord of hosts that fought for Israel in their wars, and to the Lord of hosts in whose warfare the Levites fought, as she pleaded His assistance for the battle which she now embarked upon.
She did not invoke God in the name of "He who will be armies" in order to win some personal victory in a feud against Peninnah. Hannah would never have demeaned her God by calling upon Him in such a special way for such an unseemly cause. The Lord of hosts she called upon fought for Israel and the Levites because their battles were His, and she believed with all her heart that her battle was His also, that her controversy was the controversy of the Lord Himself.
If, moreover her conflict had merely been with Peninnah, she would not have asked for one child, but for an entire family that might eclipse the many children Peninnah already had. Even if the presence of Peninnah's children added to her hurt, Hannah's mind had long been fixed on much higher things. Her battle was against an evil priesthood, and for that battle she needed but one child.
A female however would not be sufficient. A man child was needed for a priest to be established, and this was what she prayed for.
The Lord of hosts whom Hannah called upon was the God of that people and of those priests whom He dwelt amongst. He would be manifested in them, as they marched forth in battle, and victory would be theirs because of His presence among them. How desperately did Hannah desire such victory in her own quest on His behalf. And, given that her
mind was never far from the ark of her God, her form of address was a remarkable declaration of her deepest belief. 26
16 Note the close similarity of the two vows (Judges 11:30,31; 1 Samuel 1:11).
17 In references to He that "dwellest between the cherubim" (e.g., 2 Kings 19:15; Psalm 99:1) the word "between" is invariably in italics. A better translation is "inhabiting the cherubim" as followed by YLT, Rotherham, etc.
18 Exodus 25:21,22.
19 The following are examples of Biblical allusion to this Shekinah glory
"Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined" (Psalm 50:2), "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth" (Psalm 80:1).
The priestly blessing at the tabernacle was also a reference to this Shekinah shining - "The LORD make his face shine upon thee" (Numbers 6:25).
20 "Finally, beyond, lay the innermost of the three sanctuaries. There stood the Ark only, with the Mercy Seat over it, overshadowed by the Cherubim ... It was this sacred place that beckoned Israel forward and stood as the goal of its priestly calling: here was the very heart of the Sanctuary, the Presence of Yahweh Himself, that condition of perfect and permanent fellowship with Him who redeemed Israel specifically to manifest His glory in and through them" (Law and Grace, pages 63,64, W. F. Barling).
21 Remarkably, the title (Yahweh Tsabaoth) did not appear in the Pentateuch, or in the other books written before Hannah - Joshua, Judges, Job. The title was found in the narrative of 1 Samuel 1:3 concerning the family coming to Shiloh to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts. This was significant as it indicated that the title stood related to the worship of the One who resided at the sanctuary. But Hannah was the first person recorded as having used the title, and her prayer was offered at the sanctuary to the One who had promised to meet with His people there.
22 Joshua met the captain of this host (Joshua 5:13-15), and Micaiah saw it arrayed around the throne of God (1 Kings 22:19). These hosts of angels were always intent on performing God's word, and doing His pleasure (Psalm 103:20,21).
23 The law described Israel as the hosts (tsaba) of God (Exodus 6:26; 12:17,41,51; Numbers 1:3; 2:32).24 Numbers 10:33-36.
Bro Roger Lewis
Look on the affliction of thine handmaid
Strong though her vow was, and strong the spirit that uttered it, there was nothing of self-importance or self-seeking in Hannah's words. Instead, her spirit was the very reverse, as she prefaced her vow by declaring her position of deference before God.
"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"
she cried. It was certainly an expression of service and of duty, of humility and resignation to His will.
But Hannah's threefold use of the word was so intense that it revealed her deepest wish. She wanted nothing more than to be the instrument of God for salvation, and she would gladly subordinate her own will for the doing of His.
This was no empty expression in Hannah's mouth, but a vow of deepest dedication to His purpose. If the Lord of hosts answered her prayer, then the one to be born would truly be "the son of the handmaid", the one in whom God's purpose would be wrought. 27
Hannah had thought deeply about the problems of her nation, and its spiritual condition. The godly of every generation have done the same, in contemplating the challenges of ecclesial life and how they might be faced. Frequently those difficulties bring heartache to the faithful, as they did for Hannah.
But the lesson of Hannah's life was not to be consumed with expressions of self-pity or personal woe, but rather to be available to what the Lord of hosts could accomplish through those who honoured Him. It was this spirit of service that dominated Hannah's thinking, and her vow was centred upon making herself the expression of the divine purpose.
How many times had God "raised up a saviour" in the days of the judges? Was not this His way with His people during those dark years? 28
And given that the darkness still prevailed, 29 why could she not help to raise up the saviour that her people needed so badly now?
Hannah knew the history of her times, and was aware how often the Lord had intervened to send such a deliverer to His people. In desiring to' he the Handmaid of the Highest, she offered herself to be the bearer of one through whom God might save His people again, but this time from the darkness of spiritual apostasy.
Bro Roger Lewis
27 This unusual phrase - "the son of thine handmaid" is found in two highly Messianic psalms which focus on the work of God in His servant (Psalm 86:16; 116:16). Hannah's words (1 Samuel 1:11), may have formed part of the scriptural background which led to this expression.
28 The epoch of the judges was marked by the raising up of those described as the saviours or deliverers (yasha) of the nation (Judges 3:9,15,31; 6:14; 10:1; 13:5).
29 1 Samuel 3: 1-3.
Then I will give him unto the Lord
It was very evident in the spirit of her vow, that Hannah was not motivated by selfishness but by love. She was not a woman consumed with desperation for her own need, but she did know that the nation was desperate for the saviour she had thought about.
From the beginning, Hannah did not want a child for the sake of having a child. She asked for a son, only to pledge that she would return him. Her words were so clear and strong -
"if ... thou wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life".
If all she had wanted was a son, why would she vow to make him a Nazarite in separation, and a devoted one in dedication to God all his life?
The child would already be a Levite, and would belong to God for twenty-five years from the time he was twenty-five. 30 But Hannah promised to give him to the Lord all the days of his life.
The Nazarite was made separate for just the duration of their vow, which was generally for a limited span of time, 31. but Hannah sought to extend it to the end of life itself. Her son, should she be blessed with one, would belong to God completely.
It was one thing to dedicate her son. But to give him to the Lord all the days of his life was extraordinary. It meant that Hannah's gift was so final, so binding, as to be irreversible. 32 There could be no turning back from this vow once it had proceeded out of her mouth. If it was unalterable, then she must be absolutely committed to the work her son would perform.
A vow so singular, so striking, was beyond the capacity of me even to contemplate. But Hannah had not only thought abc-, the child, she knew exactly what He must achieve for the good of his people. She vowed him for life, and events proved that she was right, for Samuel's work in Israel would indeed embrace a lifetime of service. 33
He laboured amidst the nation, but his return was always to his beloved Ramah, 34 made special by its association with his mother. Samuel's work never ceased, for he died in office and was buried in his house in Ramah. 35 None of this was known to Hannah at the time she made her vow. But her faith and her far sightedness would be vindicated by the outcome.
There could be no mistake that it was Nazarite dedication which she intended, since in offering her son to the Lord all the days of his life, she also promised that "no razor would come upon his head". Hannah's words were an indication that she knew the story of Samson and his mother, whose child was similarly pledged to Nazarite separation from the womb. 36
But Hannah knew full well the words of the Nazarite vow itself, and used them in her own, knowing that the Lord before whom she prayed would recognise the depth of her intent. No razor was to come upon the head of the Nazarite all the days of his separation, as a mark that he was holy unto the Lord. 37
But for one vowed for life, the crown of his separation in the flowing locks of his Nazariteship would be Samuel's sign that he was permanently consecrated in holiness unto the Lord, before whom he would minister. She asked, so that she might give, and she gave without reserve. There could be no finer vow than that.
30 Numbers 8:24,25.
31 Numbers 6:8,13.
32 Yet Hannah's spirit was the same as her Lord's - "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29, RSV).
33 Compare Hannah's vow - "I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life" (1 Samuel 1:11) with the final summary of Samuel's labours _ "And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life" (1 Samuel 7:15).
34 1 Samuel 7:17.
35 The record refers to Samuel's house in Ramah several times (1 Samuel 7:17; 9:25; 25:1). Given the references to Hannah's house in Ramah (1 Samuel 1:19; 2:11), it may be (as firstborn) that the house which was the centre of Samuel's work was his mother's. How wonderful if it was so!
36 In fact, the word Hannah uses for razor (mowrah) is only used by herself, and in relation to Samson (Judges 13:5; 16:17).
Bro Roger Lewis
Because the Nazarite vow was voluntary, no provision was made for wilful infringement. An unintentional breach however was possible, and the law prescribed the offerings required to acknowledge failure, and renew the vow. As part of the restitution that God required, the days of separation previously observed were forfeited, and the entire term of the vow recommitted to.
The Nazarite for life however, stood in a different relation to the matter. A breach of the Nazarite terms, whether intentional or inadvertent did not nullify his vow. There was no reason to forfeit the past, when there was no date for completion in the future. The Nazarite for life was a perpetual illustration of priesthood, and in this state also imitated the High Priest, since both were appointments for life. 61
Only the thoughtful in Israel understood the true spirit of Nazarite separation. Only those with the deepest appreciation perceived that the Law of the Nazarite lifted the separated one to the holiness of priesthood, and to the spirit of the High Priest anointed among his people.
But Hannah knew, and this was what Hannah wished for. She didn't seek for a man child to be dedicated merely as a Levite. She desired her Levite to be devoted as a Nazarite. This vow was not about a child for Hannah. It was about a priest for Israel.
She could not offer a man from the priestly family, but she could offer one from the priestly tribe. And her decision to offer her son under Nazari te terms was even more daring. She was asking God to take and use her son as if he was a priest, and to use him in place of the priests of that age who although of the right family and the right tribe, were not of the right spirit.
Her vow was breathtaking in its intensity and in its grasp of her nation's need. As the Handmaid of the Highest, she begged for the privilege of providing one who might bring her people back to God. The implications of her vow were unmistakable. She was offering a man for priesthood. 62
62 The Nazarite however, because of the voluntary nature of their vow, stood related to a higher spirit of priesthood than those of the Aaronic family, who were obliged to perform their duties by virtue of their fleshly descent.
12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before Yahweh, that Eli marked her mouth.
The abiding power of personal prayer
There is something intense about the experience of personal prayer. It is an engagement at the deepest level of heart and soul and mind. Only those who have practised long in prayer, can continue long in its offering. The very demand of what prayer entails requires such a concentration of thought and word, that our powers of focus are rapidly depleted.
To prepare our mind, to confess our need, to express our hope, to ask His help, to declare His right, to plead His work, to accept His will is an exercise of such proportions that the saint can be left exhausted.
But to continue in prayer was rare indeed, so rare, that but a handful of the faithful were recorded as doing so. Hannah was among them, for she multiplied to pray. 38 Her prayer was not short, but neither was it filled with vain repetition. When the faithful pray, time stands still as they come before He who is timeless.
In the state of despair which Hannah felt, her prayer brought her into the presence of God, where no one else could come, and where all else no longer mattered. In prayer, her heart could be opened before Him, to find solace in expressing the inexpressible. This was what it meant to be the Handmaid of the Highest. She would place her burdens at His feet, and seek His help to fulfil His purpose.
Continual prayer is the secret of those who have learned that God's timetable does not always match their own. The daily incense which burned every evening and morning was a continual offering in the sanctuary, 39 and Hannah, a faithful Levite, lived a sanctuary life in her personal standards. Her ability to offer continual prayer was the result of faithful practice, and in her was seen the mark of the true saint of God, that they ought always to pray and not to faint. 40
This was not the first time that Hannah had offered this prayer in this place. Each year, her visit to the sanctuary sharpened the bitterness of her adversity, 41 as she faced the same ungodliness which only grew worse. It was no doubt true that the prayer of this visit was the most intense, as her bitter grief culminated in this prayer of the afflicted when overwhelmed.
But, in truth, Hannah had prayed about this matter for year after year, and in doing so manifested the spirit of the Handmaid. Having begun, she would pray without ceasing, until the answer of God, whether in favour of her pleading or against it, was made plain. Continual prayer was not the evidence of her doubt; but of her unfailing belief.
38 This is the essential meaning of the word "continued" (rabah), as correctly noted in the margin; GLT - "when she prayed long".
39 The daily incense was called "a perpetual incense" (Exodus 30:8), the term meaning 'continual' as used also of the daily lambs (Exodus 29:38,42).
40 Luke 18:1; Acts 1:13,14; 2:42; 6:4; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2.
41 The wording suggests this. Note - "and when the time was that Elkanah offered" (1 Samuel 1:4) is not a comment on a single event, but on their annual practice. Likewise - "And as he did so year by year, when she went up into the house of the LORD" (1 Samuel 1:7) was her annual experience in that place.
Bro Roger Lewis
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.
The mistaken observation of Eli
She had stood by herself, but she was not as alone as she imagined, for the priest of God 42 sat nearby, upon his seat at the porch of the tabernacle. 43 It was true that he was an old man, but his place near the post ought not to have been there. There was no seat for man permitted in the tabernacle.
The footstool of the Almighty was there, but in deference to Him, it was required of priests that they stood whilst ministering in the place of His presence. 44 Whatever reason Eli might have had, it was a departure from the divine order, and an indication that his weakness lay in accommodating requirements of the law to suit his own preferences.
The one who was seated watched the one who stood, and he did so with a doubtful and disapproving eye, for he was close enough to see the woman's movements as she moved in unconscious harmony with her words.
He noticed, because the sight of a person in prolonged prayer was unusual at the sanctuary. But what he noticed especially was that her lips moved, yet not a sound was heard. Her prayer was intense, but it was also private. Not for Hannah the ostentatious display of learned recitation, or dramatic grief out loud for all to hear. Her prayer, although offered in grief, was heard only by her God, for she spoke in her heart. 45
Eli was quick to rebuke what he took to be the signs of inebriation. Her swaying form and mouthed words were the evidence, to his eyes, of one who had tarried long at the wine. It was a sad testimony to the state of worship at the tabernacle that he should assume such a condition in one of the worshippers who attended.
No doubt he had seen it before, as the intemperate behaviour of his sons was copied by the unspiritual and the unholy.
"How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee", he said, as he abruptly advised her to go away and sleep her wine off before returning. 46
But Eli was wrong. Grievously wrong. There may have been reason for his assessment, but the woman who stood before him was so holy of heart, that his judgment was unrighteous. Eli rebuked one whose spirit before God was purer than his own.
If ever there was an indication that Hannah was all alone, it was here. She was at the sanctuary of her God, and yet God's priest had absolutely failed her in her time of need. There was no grace to help here. But Eli's inadequacy, and his sons' iniquity were the very reasons she was here praying at all. She sought to replace their priesthood which had become corrupt through the weakness of this man, and this exchange gave proof of her cause.
47 The principle of honouring those in authority is enjoined upon the saints, whether of obedience to those who guide the ecclesia (1 Timothy 5:17-19; Hebrews 13:7,17,24), or of due submission to those who rule the world (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1,2; 1 Peter 2:13-17),
48 Numbers 6: 2,3
Bro Roger Lewis
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 Yahweh.
THE closing episode of the book of Judges, and the opening event of the book of Samuel would start with strangely similar cameos. The first would begin with a certain man of Zorah, whose name was Manoah, and whose wife was barren, that she bare not - 2 Judges 13:2. There must have been sadness in his household owing to the childless state of his wife, rendered the more painful by the fact that as a woman of spiritual discernment, her capacity for motherhood was so real, yet so unfulfilled.
The beginning of the book of Samuel, portrayed in almost identical tones, would be so like its antecedent as to strike the reader with the sense of having seen the picture before. Yet again there was a certain man, this time of Ramathaim-zophim, whose name was Elkanah, and whose wife had no children, since the Lord had closed her womb - 1 Samuel 1:1,2,5. There would be sadness in this household as well, the sadness of a couple without children, and the sadness of another woman whose spiritual ability to nurture godly offspring was undoubted.
It was evident that the Spirit intended to draw a parallel between the two. A certain man and a barren wife. Not only would the women be compared, but the subsequent history of their respective sons would be linked, both in time and significance. Scripture thereby advanced from one epoch in the divine purpose to the next, with a sense of continuity that every age rested under the hand of God, who would accomplish His will through those whom He chose. But this time, the woman of His choosing would be identified. Her name was Hannah, and her life and times would be the focus of the first narrative recorded in the book that would bear her son's name.
Long before Hannah was born, Moses had spoken the word of the Lord that every man should keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers - Numbers 36:7-9. Elkanah in observing this rule, sought a woman of Levi in marriage, and found her in Hannah, whose own parents were Levites. She stood related to the things of the house of God, which the Levites attended upon.
[The law was occasioned by the petition of the daughters of Zelopheliad concerning their father's inheritance. It was granted to them, but on condition that they must marry within their tribe. This they did, as all five daughters married men of the tribe of Manasseh that the tribe's inheritance not be lost (Numbers 36:10-12). The same provision would make it customary for Levites to marry within their own tribe. Given that Elkanah was a Levite, it is most likely that he married a woman of Levi, and hence this suggestion of Hannah's own Levitical origin. ]
Her earliest memory at the sanctuary had been of the priesthood of Eli, who had presided in Shiloh since she was a babe.
[Estimating Hannah's age at thirty at the birth of Samuel, and Samuel's age at twelve - fifteen at the death of Eli, would mean that Hannah was approximately two when Eli assumed the role of priest and judge].
Hannah's early years were shaped by the influence of a priest, under whose lax control the sanctity of the Truth had steadily declined in Israel. As a member of the priestly tribe, it was this circumstance, coupled with the increasing evil of her times, that fanned the flame of yearning within her for a spiritual leader in the nation.
I t was a difficult time in which to live a godly life. In an age where every man did that which was right in his own eyes, the spirit of the Truth was first compromised and then abandoned.
In most generations, the Truth was not lost through wholesale apostasy. Instead it declined through a thousand small changes, each so small, so incremental, so gradual, that no one protested. The spirit of gradualism proceeded in its work of spiritual erosion, until in the end the Truth was unrecognisable.
The challenge for every generation is to distinguish between changes which arise, but which will not compromise the ways of God, and those alterations of thinking and conduct which will undermine the foundations of the Truth.
Most are insensibly affected by the passage of time and change, and gradually adjust to new realities, accepting the decline in spiritual standards that come with them. A few see far enough ahead to discern that certain trends will bring spiritual catastrophe that could extinguish the Truth.
Part of the uniqueness of Hannah's spirit, was that she saw those trends and recognised their danger. What made her distinctive however, was her readiness to uphold the right, and to eschew the wrong, in an age when it was easier to tolerate it.
Bro Roger Lewis
She openeth her mouth with wisdom
But this was not an expression of a Nazarite dedication which would rest upon her son, if he was born. Such was her spirit, even in distress, that she pledged herself to a higher standard of commitment in her own life. She had already pledged her son's life, should God graciously grant him, but this vow was for herself. And there was a recent example in the history of the nation, which furnished Hannah with the basis for her own pledge of Nazarite abstention.
Samson's mother, although barren, had been visited by an angel who promised her the conception of a son. Her child however, was to be dedicated unto the Lord, a dedication that would be from the womb to the day of his death. For this lifetime pledge of separation to be fulfilled however, the woman was advised that a vow of abstention must apply to her. So important was the matter that she was commanded three times to "drink no wine nor strong drink". 49
Samson's Nazariteship began before his birth, because his mother lived as a Nazarite during the entire time of his bearing. That commitment of the mother linked her with her son's future work. Hannah was determined to do the same. And, so real was the prospect of this son she had prayed for, that she bound her own soul in a prohibition of Nazarite commitment. Her decision not to partake of wine or strong drink was a vow that she would prepare herself to the uttermost for the bearing of this child.
But Hannah needed no instruction from an angel to abstain from wine and strong drink. She made that commitment in the voluntary spirit which lay at the very heart of the Nazarite vow. Her decision, made without compulsion and of her own free will was a testimony to her faith, that even in barrenness she, likewise, would prepare her body for the bearing of a special son.
This pure and holy woman, whose mind was so focused on how she might offer herself to be the Handmaid of the Lord, was the one who spoke with Eli. As he listened to her answer, so gracious and sincere, he knew immediately that he had badly misread her actions and her motives.
"I have poured out my soul before the LORD",
she said, and looking upon her earnest countenance, he believed her completely. And where else should such a prayer be made, but here at the place where God dwelt with His people, and promised to commune with them.
"Count not thy handmaid for a daughter of Belial", 50
said Hannah, as she pleaded for Eli to understand the depth of her sorrow. She humbled herself in seeking to revise his estimation of her, and she was even prepared to bare her grief before him so that he might understand. The one who stood before him was of sober mind and serious intent.
But the depth of her grief was so real, that her body shook with the force of her feeling,
"for out of the abundance of my complaint 51 and grief have I spoken hitherto".
To have an abundance of grief was to be overwhelmed by it, and Hannah was overcome by hers. But her grief related to her adversity, 52 and her adversity to the sons of the man whom she stood before. Enough then, that she share the scope of her sorrow. She could not tell him its source.
Why should Hannah have been concerned with what type of woman Eli might have thought her to be? Because the purpose which burned so brightly within her depended on the giving of a child to God at the sanctuary, and this man would be the one to whom she gave him. Her foresight was clear enough for her to know that this man must be under no misunderstanding as to who she was.
49 Judges 13: 4, 7, 14.
50 It does not seem that Hannah intended it, but her words became a rebuke to Eli. She was most certainly not a "daughter of Belial", but his boys were "sons of Belial", and that by the estimation of God Himself (1 Samuel 2:12). Eli, quick to judge Hannah, had failed utterly to recognise and judge his sons correctly, whose sins were, to Hannah's, as the darkness was to the light.
51 The basic meaning of the word "complaint" (siyach) is to go over a matter in one's mind. It is used to describe the state of suffering and lamentation which Job felt (Job 7:11,13; 9:27; 10:1; 21:4; 23:2). Hannah may have found in Job's expression for his sorrow the word for her own .
52 The word "grief" here, is the same as "provoked sore" (1 Samuel 1:6). But that provocation in Hannah's life was centred on the spiritual wickedness of Eli's sons.
Bro Roger Lewis
Hannah and her vow
Hannah could have vowed to dedicate her son under the law of devoted persons. Had she done so, he would have immediately come under the control of the High Priest, and been permanently dedicated for service. His life would have belonged to God, who would have used the child for whatever purpose He had in mind. But Hannah decided to dedicate her child in an additional way, that also invoked a different law.
She offered her son without the right of redemption under the Law of the Devoted, but she also pledged him for perpetual service under the Law or Nazarite. 56 In doing so, Hannah revealed the depth and insight of her spiritual mind, for she discerned in the Nazarite vow a higher truth in which was hidden the real reason for her pledge.
The Nazarite was separated to God for the duration of their vow. Because that vow was normally for a limited time, it made possible a pledge of dedication from either man or woman that was realistic to the normal circumstances of their daily life. Such a vow permitted a level of commitment above the ordinary, for a designated period, when a person could experience a heightened awareness of coming before their God in service and praise.
But it enabled something more. The Israelite who vowed a Nazarite vow ascended to the spirit of priestly service in their lives. Whatever the extent of their vow might be, God commanded certain actions as the minimum required by Himself. The Nazarite learned thereby that even a voluntary vow carried with it obligations to heaven that He alone could determine. But the purpose of God's statutory rules carried with them an enormous gift. In keeping them, they were lifted to the standard and to the spirit not just of priesthood, but of the High Priest himself.
There were three such provisions that God enjoined upon the Nazarite. The first was an abstention from the drinking of wine. 57 That abstention related to holiness of mind, and taught the principle of mental separation. The second was an arrangement to hallow the head. 58 That arrangement related to holiness of life, and taught the principle of moral separation. The third was an avoidance of contact with death. 59 That avoidance related to holiness of body, and taught the principle of physical separation. In each, the Nazarite imitated the High Priest, ascending to his standard and drawing near to God thereby. 60
55 As indicated by the phrase - "I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life" (1 Samuel 1:11; cp. Leviticus 27:28,29).
56 As indicated by the phrase - "and there shall no razor come upon his head"
(1 Samuel 1:11; cp. Numbers 6:1-8).
57 Cp. The Nazarite (Numbers 6:3,4), and the High Priest (Leviticus 10:9).
58 Cp. The Nazarite (Numbers 6:5), and the High Priest (Leviticus 21:5,10). 59 Cp. The Nazarite (Numbers 6:6,7), and the High Priest (Leviticus 21:10,11).
17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in shalom; and Elohei Yisroel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him.
A priestly blessing of fellowship peace
"Go in peace" Eli said, and at least he was quick to affirm his acceptance of her explanation, and to make amends for his hasty judgment. But he said more,
"And the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him".
Eli's wish that God would answer her prayer was more than mere commonplace. It was a prophetic assurance that her prayer was heard, as subsequent events would prove. But although Hannah had mentioned her grief to Eli, she had not disclosed the detail of her petition.
He would have been shocked had he known it, for he had no idea at this moment how revolutionary Hannah would be in the nation over which he presided as High Priest. He had no awareness of the changes she would set in motion, in a succession of events that would finally reach out to overthrow his own household. But Hannah did. And yet her reply was to plead his favour, and to recognise herself as his handmaid.
How could she do otherwise? She had already pledged herself as the Handmaid of the Lord. This man was the representative of God, despite his weakness, and she bowed before him in humility because of it.
That response, so filled with humility and respect, gave insight into Hannah's true spirit.
"Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight"
was her reply to Eli, as she thanked him for his blessing. The woman named grace, sought for grace, and would soon become its glad recipient. 53 How was it so, that the one who came in the bitterness of her grief would depart in the gentleness of her peace? Surely, it was the outcome of her prayer and its effect upon her.
Prayer, earnest and fervent, settles the heart and the mind. Although she had not yet received an answer fromGod, she had committed the matter to Him, and rested in that.
Although outwardly her circumstances had not changed, she was now joyous and resolute, full of assurance that her prayer would be answered.
It was a different Hannah who returned to her family, a woman made tranquil and prepared in heart to eat in peace, in fellowship with God, and made whole in the partaking of her portion "Go in peace", Eli had said, and, receiving this as the blessing of heaven, she did go back, and ate the bread of her peace offering with joy.
She did not however drink. 54 It was a conscious. It was a conscious abstention. Her vow of Nazariteship for her son extended to a vow upon herself, that not only in his life, but even in his conception and his bearing in her womb, he would be a holy child. Even in her newly found peace and happiness, that vow, that stand, must stand, as she awaited the day of the Lord's visitation in her life.
53 Note the wonderful words of Gabriel to Mary, which alluded to the meaning of Hannah's name (Luke 1:28),
54 The record is careful to distinguish between the rest of her family who ate and drank (1 Samuel 1:9), and Hannah, who only ate (1 Samuel 1:18),
Bro Roger Lewis
19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before Yahweh, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and Yahweh remembered her.
ALTHOUGH the family made an early start, they still made a point of attending the sanctuary for a final act of worship before returning home. In an age of overwhelming wickedness, this household showed an outstanding spirit of dedication to the Truth, and Elkanah was a man of faith indeed to lead his family in that way.
Despite their renewed attendance at the temple however, there would be no new offerings presented by the family that morning. All that they had brought from Ramah had been presented at the feast. But there was time enough to see the sacrifice of the morning lamb, to mingle their own prayer with the morning incense, and to hear the priestly blessing before they left.
And on that early sunlit morn, Hannah herself was a joyful participant. At last, she had partaken of the peace offering with her God. There at the sanctuary, immersed in holy thought, she recalled the vow she had made and remembered the words of the old priest - "Go in peace". 1 And this day, she had heard again the benediction beloved of all Israel-
"Yahweh lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace". 2
She felt it now, as she hugged herself in private reflection: the peace of fellowship with her God. There was a strange but powerful sense of calm, that by her prayer she had set in motion the great cause of her heart. If the Lord answered, then her calling as His Handmaid would change her destiny, and she was ready for that possibility.
So often in life, the only thing that prevents us from moving forward is our inability to believe in the possibility, and to place it before our God. Hannah would never regret her prayer of pleading, in pouring out her heart to heaven, nor her prayer of thankfulness this next morning. And somehow, in its giving, even before heaven's reply, she felt the lifting of the darkness, and the warmth of the light.
It was as if, when she prayed, that the "fashion of her countenance was altered", for this would be a day of transformation in her life. She was thankful for this one last moment at the house of God, for it brought a sense of completion to a journey which had begun in despair. She would return to her own house in peace, but was unaware that several years would pass before she would stand again in this place.
When the family finally left, even the journey back to Ramah was different. This time, Hannah, in going home was stepping toward the future, not walking into the past. There was hope now. Hope and possibility. How wonderful that prayer can change us so. The same issues remain, the same problems obtrude, and yet our attitude alters in the light of the divine perspective which only prayer can bring.
Prayer helps to lift our view upwards, beyond the narrow focus of our own life, to the light of God's own work. We begin to frame our requests that they might be harmonious with His purpose, 3 and in doing so, we learn to distinguish between the important and the mundane, the transient and the eternal, and are the better for it.
As they took the road that travelled south-west through Gilgal, and then due west across the hills of Ephraim, the sun travelled with them on their journey, warming them from behind, and finally passing beyond them in its march across the sky to traverse the far horizon of the uttermost sea. It was as if God's blessing went with them, and it lit up the face of Hannah who shone with new found tranquillity. Elkanah noticed the altered expression, subtle yet distinct that had softened Hannah's countenance. 4
The sign of tears, and the anxiety of care were serene, and he marvelled at the change. There would be private conversation back home in Ramah between these two, for he was curious to know the reason.
1. Eli's words - "Go in Peace" carried more significance for Hannah than he realised.
2. The priestly blessing (Num 6: 24-27) was customarily offered at the morning and evening sacrifice.
3. 1 Jhn 5: 144 The expression "and her countenance was no more sad" (1 Samuel 1:18) would have occasioned the attention of a caring husband, who likewise noticed his wife's moments of distress (1 Samuel 1:8) .
A matter of mutual consent
Hannah was also preparing for their conversation, for she had :nuch to share with him. She had made a vow, but not, as yet, with her husband's knowledge. There was no impediment to the making of such a vow on Hannah's part. The law of God authorised any man or woman to offer a peace offering, it allowed any man or woman to undertake a Nazarite pledge, it permitted any man or woman to bind their soul with a vow.
Men and women are equal in their capacity to love the Truth, to worship God in the spirit of holiness, to draw near before Him in fervent prayer, to ascend into the holiest to find fellowship with Him. In that sense, there is no constraint upon a sister, that prevents her from exercising her highest spiritual faculties in the Truth.
But there are mutual responsibilities within the marriage bond, and Hannah knew that she must talk with Elkanah, to share her vow and seek his endorsement. 5 And it was vital that she speak with him as soon as possible after returning home.
She could not come together with her husband without telling everything. After all, there were huge implications. The child, should there be one, was promised to God. Yet he would be Elkanah's son as well, and he had claim to the child as much as Hannah did.
How essential it was then that they be in harmony on the matter, for even the child's conception needed to Occur within the sacred unity of their'mutual understanding, They must be committed in their intention about what would happen if a son was born. There was no way she could share her vow with Elkanah after conception. Such a deceit would rupture their trust and destroy her vow.
The journey to Ramah gave Hannah opportunity to review her thoughts, as she tried to sort the tangled threads of her emotion and belief into a tapestry of reason and calm. How might Elkanah react to such an unusual request? What if he disallowed her vow, and made it void? What if he rejected it as being quite unthinkable?
What if he refused it on the basis that he felt Hannah would regret it later? What if he repudiated it because he could not himself bear the thought of giving away their son, should one be born? How easy it would have been to magnify the difficult into the insuperable.
In her earlier state of grief, Hannah might have been distressed as she pondered the problem of how to speak with Elkanah on this matter. And yet she remained at peace. She knew with certainty, that if God could hear her, and grant her a son, then He could also work a work with Elkanah to convince, him of the spirit and importance of her vow.
How it might be achieved was no longer the largest issue. In the despair of our most anguished prayers, we finally discover the secret blessing of surrender to God, and learn to cast all our cares upon Him. When matters in life lie beyond our power to control, we finally experience what it means to cast our burdens on the Lord, in the certainty that He will sustain us.
He would show the way, and Hannah knew that if her purpose in seeking a man child was consistent with the divine will, then all else would follow. Being God's Handmaid began here, even before conception. It meant being ready to release her own fears. It meant being prepared to follow God's direction whenever He .. showed the way. It meant having confidence in God's power to work His own work.
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest Ch 3
How Hannah shared her vow
The moment of conversation did come. When Elkanah sought her out, to ask what she had been thinking of as they journeyed home, her upturned face fixed upon his, heart aflutter with the importance of it all. How much she wanted, how badly she needed him to understand. So, taking a deep breath, she told him all her heart. 6
Out poured the story of her sorrow at Shiloh, the grief she felt when the peace of fellowship was shattered by spiritual wickedness in high places, her yearning to overthrow a priesthood that robbed the nation of its spiritual heritage, her wish for a faithful priest in their place, her determination to ask the Lord to intervene by her hand, her pain that led to make her vow then and there to be His Handmaid.
And most compelling of all was the truth with which she finished her words. If she was wrong, if she was at fault, if she was not to be God's means to resolve the problem, then her barrenness would remain and she would need to bear it. But if, at this moment, after this visit, given this vow, she did conceive a child, then what could it be but the answer of heaven to prayer. Surely, it was given her what to speak in that hour! In her earnestness, she shone with the certainty of it all.
As Hannah spoke, the changing expressions on her husband's face displayed the passage of her story, and she saw in sequence the signs of surprise, then doubt, and finally thoughtfulness as her words came to an end.
Elkanah, who had listened with growing astonishment, was greatly moved by Hannah's speech. How unaware he had been of the true nature of her burden. He was humbled by the realisation that what he had imagined were simply a woman's yearnings for a family, masked something far deeper. He had not known until now that her barrenness was, for Hannah, but the emptiness of her people.
He had not felt, as sharply as she had, how fellowship with God at the sanctuary had been made impossible by a priesthood that disgraced the principle of holiness to the Lord. He had certainly not understood that she wanted a child for the nation, that she yearned for a man child to deliver Israel from such a sinful state, that she desired a son to defeat the terrible wickedness of Hophni and Phinehas.
What sort of daring was this, for a woman to be ready to confront this evil at the sanctuary? Yet he had known of the ungodly behaviour for which these men were notorious. Why then had he not been disturbed enough to seek a solution? Was he not a Levite himself, called to the guardianship of holy 7 things? Why was it instead that his faithful wife had vexed her righteous soul 8 with their unlawful deeds?
There was deep respect here, tinged with not a little awe at the blazing purity of his wife's conviction. He had always known of her fervency, but this promise, this pledge, was so intense that it amazed him. And there was wonder too, that despite all her passion, she had, in the fulness of her trust, left the matter of her pledge in his hands.
His role as husband had not been set aside. The future of her vow rested entirely with him. He could hold his peace and cause it to stand, or disallow it and make it void. The power of that choice was his, and she would yield to whatever his decision might be. But he was uneasily aware of the burden of that responsibility, for it was not a simple matter.
If he agreed, how would they explain their intentions to others? If she conceived, how would they fulfil the obligations it brought? And yet her eloquent truth had inspired and convinced him. After all that she had shared with him on this day of revelation, how could he not establish her vow and allow it to stand?
For the possibility of this conception to be blessed, their union would need to be sanctified by a vow that was shared, and by prayer offered together for the Lord's blessing to rest upon them. In fact, the more he thought upon the matter, the more convinced he became that he could not just permit Hannah's vow to stand. He needed to join it.
He must make her vow, his also. The initiative might have been hers, but he would add his vow to it, and so fully enter this compact with Hannah. Husband and wife would bind their souls together in this bond, their vow made final in a prayer that sealed their purpose before the Lord.
It was a highly unusual circumstance. How often would a couple pray for a son to be conceived, in order that they might give him away? Elkanah was certainly aware of the effect this could have upon his household, and with the wider circle of their family and friends. It says much for his spirit that he concurred. It says as much for Hannah's that she submitted, as the blessing of their mutual understanding triumphed.
6 It is evident that this conversation must have taken place. Hannah could not have made her vow in defiance of her husband's role to approve it. The law was clear, that once he had heard, he then had responsibility to confirm and establish, or to disallow and make void her vow (Numbers 30:13-15).
Hannah knew that the final decision still rested with her husband, and that her vow was subject to his approval. There are at least two pieces of corroborative evidence in this record which confirm that Hannah did share her vow with Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:21,23). And given that it was so, the matters suggested here would surely be amongst the things Hannah wished to discuss with him.
7 The Levites as well as the priests were related to the holiness of the sanctuary and its activities (2 Chronicles 5:5; 23:6; 29:5; 30:27; 35:3).
8 The vexation of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:6, Rotherham - "to cause her great vexation") may be compared with the vexation of Lot at the wickedness of Sodom (2 Peter 2:8). In both cases the vexation sprang from the despair of the righteous at the evil of the wicked.
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest Ch 3
20 Wherefore it came to pass [ in due time], after [Channah] had conceived, that she bare a son [ ben], and called his name Samuel [Shmuel - Heard of El], saying, Because I have asked him of Yahweh
Hannah asked, Yahweh heard. Bro Roger states Samuel means "heard of El", not "asked" as KJV margin. It is not Hannah's asking, but Yahweh's hearing and granting of her petition which she sought to commemorate when naming him Samuel
She brought forth her firstborn son
And the Lord did remember His handmaid. 9 He responded not only to her vow, but to the absolute conviction with which it had been made. He had never forgotten her, but simply awaited that moment of opportunity that was consistent with His own sovereign purpose.
Learning that God always moves according to His own majestic timetable is hard for earthly time bound humans to understand. Whereas He can declare
"the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done",
we lie caught in the reality of the present, and do not always perfectly understand the circumstances that have led to the moment, nor the events that will unfold beyond it. God however does, and all His arrangements are planned with infinite discernment.
It is only when we look back that we appreciate the many events in our life which were not only for our good, but which were ordered according to
"the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God".
Only later would Hannah realise the exquisite timing of the Almighty. Her child would be brought forth at the precise moment needed for the part he would eventually play, and she would marvel at the prescience of the Lord, who in His timeless wisdom knows all.
There was pure joy for Hannah when she conceived. From the outset, her determination was to offer to the Lord one who would not only be a Nazarite for life, but whose Nazarite holiness would begin at conception. She would never forget the day when she became aware of those first sensations of change, that heralded the answer of God, as her body began its work to provide a little sanctuary for the precious life that had begun within her.
The "way of the spirit, and how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child" was a mystery which Hannah could not fathom. And as for the babe, she did not know how the Almighty would "possess his reins, nor how he was covered in his mother's womb", but she gave herself entirely to being the instrument for his bringing forth.
This was what it meant to be the Handmaid of the Highest. Hannah herself was pledged in a vow of dedication that began at Shiloh, and would not end until the vow was fulfilled. Conceiving, bearing, and nursing the child would all take place within the care of a mother whose own life was kept holy for the duration, that her firstborn might be a Nazarite from the womb. 10
No wonder she had needed to share her vow with her husband. It wasn't just the child who was dedicated to God. His mother was also separated unto Him, and it would be some time before her vow could be completely fulfilled. Only a truly united couple could share this experience.
Finally, the year came full circle, and Hannah was delivered of her child on the anniversary of their yearly visit to Shiloh. 11 How blessed that the circuit of life which marked their annual pilgrimage should this time be crowned with the birth of the child for which she had petitioned a year before.
The sorrow of childbearing that has been the peculiar burden of womankind from the foundation of the world, was surpassed by the joy that a man child was born into the world. As Hannah held her firstborn son close to her heart, she felt a surge of such indescribable happiness, such tumultuous joy, that her whole being was aglow with the wonder of it all. In this little babe, so perfect in his smallness, lay all her hope. His very birth was a sign that his mother could not mistake.
The purpose of God was at work in this child, and she, as Handmaid of the Highest had been blessed to be part of that work. There was yet more for her to do, but for now she was content to rest in her son's safe arrival.
9 The phrase is an echo of an earlier occasion - "And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. And she conceived, and bare a son" (Genesis 30:22,23). Hannah was no doubt aware of the birth of Rachel's firstborn, conceived in response to her prayers to God, for this was the force of the phrase "and God hearkened to her". She would also have known that Rachel's son, Joseph, was similarly ordained by divine purpose for the deliverance of his people, as her son would be.
10 Her vow would follow the same constraints which the angel had strictly enjoined upon Samson's mother (Judges 13:4,5,7,13,14). But Hannah rose higher, in voluntarily imposing them upon herself.
11 The expression "when the time was come about" (1 Samuel 1:20) refers here to a circuit of time (Exodus 34:22). Although the word time (yowm) is the common word for day (hence margin, the revolution of days), it was also used for years (Exodus 13:10; Leviticus 25:29; Judges 21:19). It is not certain whether the reference here is to the circuit of gestation, or the circuit of their yearly pilgrimage.
The writer has adopted the latter view, based upon the fact that this family measured their spiritual lives by their circuit to the yearly sacrifice, and that the term yowm is used to describe this cycle in the whole story of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:3,21; 2:19 x3). If this were the case, then they were home for three months before Hannah conceived. This was more than sufficient time to discuss the matter over with Elkanah, and to reach perfect accord before conception ever took place.
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest cH 3
21 And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto Yahweh the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.
And she called his name Samuel
It was Hannah who made the choice of his name. 12 It was not because Elkanah was unwilling or indifferent. He was fully involved with their vow. But just as Hannah had trusted him enough to leave to him the approval of her pledge, so he loved his wife well enough to leave to her the naming of their son.
She justified his confidence, for the name she selected, Samuel, was chosen with wisdom and special care. It did not commemorate his mother's asking him of the Lord, though of course she had, but that the Lord had responded to her request. It was not so much the offering of prayer, but the answering of prayer that Hannah was so thankful for. Samuel was conceived and born because of answered prayer, and his special name celebrated that truth. 13
But this was not the chief reason for the name she chose, for this, after all, was Hannah. She always thought beyond the measure of her own life, and even beyond her own joy. A far deeper purpose ran behind the name. It was true that her prayer had secured the response of heaven, but Samuel was not a name to celebrate her role, but the child's. She desired him to be Heard of God, for he was marked out for a priestly part, to be the spiritual intercessor the nation sorely needed.
The essence of that work lay in a man whose prayers would be heard by God. And her faith in naming him thus was vindicated, as the work of Samuel amidst his people was revealed. This "son of her womb", this "son of her vow", would become famous for his prayers of petition on behalf of the nation and for the fact that God heard him. 14
Never had a child been better named in anticipation of his destiny. Never had a mother been more deeply aware of that destiny than Hannah. The
divine guidance would rest upon this woman and her son from the beginning, as the babe lay nestled in his mother's arms. Already the foreshadowing of another mother and child could be seen in this house at Ramah.
The fulness of that foreshadowing was yet to be unfolded, but when it was revealed, the picture and the pattern would be so exact that only the Spirit of God could have drawn it.
...The time for their annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary had come again. Elkanah had begun the arrangements for the journey they knew now so well. But there was something more purposeful this time in his preparations. A special peace offering was to be taken to the sanctuary, and so another animal was added. It signified the completion of his vow, and he was anxious to make the offering at this time of Samuel's birth, since the vow 15 related to the child.
As the father, he also was involved in the decision to lend Samuel without redemption to the Lord's service, and he was ready to pledge his commitment to that course. He would do so without reserve, for this would be his personal offering of thanksgiving. Hannah was certainly with her husband in spirit, and dearly wished to be with him at this special moment.
Yet despite the significance of the occasion, Hannah decided not to join him. She did not make demand, for there was no need. She knew already that Elkanah would understand her thinking.
12 It was not altogether unusual for a woman to name a child (Genesis 29:32-35; 30:6; 38:4; 1 Chronicles 4:9; 7:16), but the role of Hannah in this story is so pronounced that her involvement in choosing the name is to be noticed.
13 Samuel does not mean 'asked of God', but 'heard of God', from shama - to hear, to understand, to obey. The force of the passage lies in the idea that Hannah had asked, and God had heard.
14 Hannah's choice of the name Samuel was prophetic of his office. Her son would indeed be "Heard of God", as time and time again he offered intercession for his people after the manner of Moses of old (1 Samuel 7:9; 12:18; Psalm 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1).
15. Why now are we informed (for the first time) of the existence of a vow which Elkanah had made, and of his intention to symbolise its completion? Why does his vow deliberately occur in the narrative only after the making of Hannah's vow? Why does it follow hard on, the heels of the announcement of Samuel's birth? The implication of the narrative is strongly suggestive of the view that Elkanah had added his vow to Hannah's, and that both vows related to the conception, birth and dedication of their firstborn son.
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest cH 3
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 Yahweh, and there abide for ever.
The woman abode, and gave her son suck
Hannah had always shared her husband's earnestness in following the yearly cycle of their family visits to Shiloh. It was no doubt her dedication as much as his that took them to that place every year, so her determination not to attend on this occasion was a departure from her normal and desired routine. It was, as always, driven by careful thinking on her part. The child Samuel was but new born, and too little to make the journey just now. And, much as she might have wished to attend, there was a wider issue that reached beyond this next pilgrimage.
Her decision not to visit the sanctuary until Samuel was weaned might have been construed as a means to delay the fulfilment of her vow. Certainly, by settling the moment of his weaning as the date, she extended the time she might have with Samuel. Yet her resolve not to bring him up until he had been weaned was not an endeavour to avoid her obligation, but a striking confirmation of her determination to fulfil it.
She knew, as only a mother could, that until the child was independent of her, he could never be the Lord's in the absolute sense. But, the Lord's he would be, and Hannah was certain in her mind who her son belonged to, and what her son's purpose in life was to be.
Of all those who "appeared before the LORD", the priests pre-eminently were those who were chosen to "come near", and it was this work of priesthood that Hannah had in mind for her child. It had never been otherwise from the moment she sought the divine assistance as His Handmaid.
And her decision was final and irrevocable that the child, once presented, would continue to appear before the Lord, remaining in that role for ever. This was no temporary commitment, but the offering of a lifetime. The child was destined for the sanctuary and everything she did now was to prepare him for that moment, for his earliest visit to that place would mark the beginning of his new life.
But, she could not bring him up until she could end his dependence upon her, and she could walk away and leave him there. The break must be complete and final at that moment, for there would be no turning back. She knew, even then, how desperately hard that moment would be.
And as much for the child as for herself, Hannah did not want to accustom Samuel to going and returning from Shiloh, only to experience the burden of a visit, all too soon, when he would be left behind there for good. His first journey to that place must be his final one. She nodded to herself, as she decided that this indeed was the wisest course.
She would not visit Shiloh until she could complete her vow. But everything she did now, in their house in Ramah, was designed to prepare her son for that moment, and her work of preparation was not yet fulfilled. As a married woman, she was not free to make a lifelong vow. Her obligations as a wife would limit her ability to be dedicated in the way that an unmarried woman might.
But for this crucial period, she might extend her vow, so that everything from his conception to his weaning was related to the spirit of separation and holiness. Elkanah did understand. He knew that Hannah was seeking the most prudent way for her vow to be fulfilled, and readily agreed with her decision to remain behind. He was, as always, confident that his wife's motives were pure, and her thinking clear as to how best to accomplish this.
Although he would travel to offer his offering of thanksgiving on this visit to Shiloh, he was prepared for Hannah to do what she thought appropriate. And although he could not enter fully into the depths of her feelings, he did realise that the completion of her vow would be far more difficult than the fulfilment of his vow which he was about to accomplish at the sanctuary.
Gracious in allowing Hannah to find the right way, he wisely framed his permission with the wish that God might thereby establish that which had gone forth out of her mouth. 16 Elkanah saw the entire matter as divinely orchestrated by God who was at work in their lives, and he encouraged his wife to complete her part.
When therefore Elkanah gathered his household together, they set out for Shiloh without Hannah and Samuel in the company. There was the customary bustle, as children and baggage, offerings and provision's were counted, and then the journey began. Suddenly, the family was gone, and Hannah was alone with her firstborn son.
She drew a deep breath as the silence settled softly around her. Time at last to think and to pray. And most of all, time to plan. She would use these days of solitude to begin the nursing of her child through to his weaning. She knew that even then he would still be small, but these first few years would give her the opportunity she needed to imbue him with a love of God that would never leave him.
Even from the earliest age, a child can be touched by scriptural ideals and values, 17 and these can be imbedded so deeply at the outset, that they affect an infant for their entire future. 18 From the beginning, Hannah intended to nurse her child in such a way that her son's direction would be set for life. 19
16 The KJV renders this, "only the LORD establish his word". The sense would be that the Lord might bless the child towards the purpose for which he had been brought forth. However, the LXX renders the phrase - "May the LORD establish that which is gone forth out of thy mouth". There is something to commend this translation, since there was no recorded specific word of God for Hannah (or God Himself) to establish.
But Elkanah's wish was that God would give Hannah the strength to fulfil' that which had gone forth out of her mouth, and thereby enable her to complete her vow. This rendering highlights the fact that the word "establish" is an allusion to the role of a husband in contlrming a vow (Numbers 30:13,14), and the phrase "gone forth out of thy mouth" is an allusion to making a vow (Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:23). Elkanah asked for God's help, that Hannah might complete the promise of her own word uttered in vow (1 Samuel 1:11).
17 The apostolic comment, "from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures" - 2 Timothy 3:15, is remarkable for its use of the term brephos - meaning a newborn child or even an unborn one!
18 The admonition to "train up a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6) means literally to train up a boy at the mouth (peh) of his way. Although the word 'mouth' no doubt is used to mean the opening or beginning of his life, it is reminiscent of the earliest moment a child suckles its mother (1 Peter 2:2).
19 Hannah no doubt knew also of the example of Jochebed, who performed her crucial work in nursing her own child (presumably until he was weaned) before giving him to Pharaoh's daughter (Exodus 2:7-10).
Aware (as Hannah was) that hers was a special child (Acts 7:20; Hebrews 11:23), she didn't just suckle him, she nursed him into the ways of God. Ever after, although he might be called 'the son of Pharaoh's daughter', he was, in truth, Jochebed's son. And was not this special child, Moses, also set to be the deliverer of his people, as Hannah desired Samuel to be? **
23 And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only Yahweh establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.
Time alone would tell the depth and quality of her nurture, but it would later be seen that "the child was father to the man". 20 The power for good that lies in the early formative years should never be underestimated. A mother deeply influences her child in the first years of their life, for they are open to the receiving of godly impressions, which, gently but firmly pressed upon the tables of their heart, make a mark which rarely alters.
Every mother sustains a special relationship with the little one who depends upon her for every need, and a wise woman knows that in this mysterious and magical time they do far more than feed their babe. They nourish its very spirit, as tiny hands clutch tight, and little eyes and ears begin to look and listen to the world that their mother opens to their gaze.
Their first sense of security comes from her voice, and their first experience of love from her touch.
In the case of Hannah, the influence upon her son was profound. Fed on a rich diet of his mother's milk, and his mother's mind, he absorbed it all. That charge of motherhood was, for Hannah, made more urgent by the fact that her time wIth her son was to be so limited, that every moment must be made to count.
These early years would form Samuel's entire outlook, and shape his whole perspective. She needed to capture those moments, and fill his mind with all that was holy and sacred concerning the Lord of Hosts who inhabited the cherubim. And capture them she did.
Instruction by repetition is a divinely wise principle, 21 and Hannah was no doubt committed to it from the moment her son arose each day, until the moment he lay down to sleep each night. She taught him so diligently that his first words, his first rhymes, his first tunes, were all stored deep within him, locked from infancy into a spiritual code. His earliest memories centred on the sound of her voice, offering prayers and singing songs.
He had heard them both from the womb, and knew the sounds by heart. By the time he went to Shiloh, the ideas of prayer and praise were already woven into the fabric of his life.22 This was his mother's birthright, a special portion bequeathed to her firstborn son. He received the imprint of his mother's own spirit, and it would remain upon him for a lifetime. 23
20 A line taken from the poem - "My Heart Leaps Up" by William Wordsworth.
21 Deuteronomy 6:7. The word 'teach' (shinnantam) appears to be derived from shanan - to repeat, to iterate, to do a thing again and again, hence to whet or sharpen which is done by repeated friction.
22 Matthew 21:16.
23 The prayers of Samuel were marked by a peculiar and urgent cry (1 Samuel 7:9; 15:11). It is most likely that he first heard that cry in his mother's prayers, which were given with such passion that the priest imagined (in her fervency) that she must be inebriated (1 Samuel 1:12,13). Samuel learned his manner of prayer from his mother!
**Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest
24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks [a bullock 3 years old in other versions], and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of Yahweh in Shiloh: and the child was young [possibly 3 years old according the age of the bullock].
1 bullock seems correct
And when thou preparest a bullock for a burnt offering, or for a sacrifice in performing a vow, or peace offerings unto the Lord - Num 15: 8.
From all indications and authorities, this could not be much after he was three years old-an extremely young age to be taken from his family and put into the care and service of the aged high priest. Samuel, obviously, was a very special child, who was, like Christ, of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD.*
A child weaned of his mother
And it was not just a question of instruction in spiritual principles. It was vital that she prepare his mind for the time of his dedication in such a way that Samuel felt its pull. It was a matter of choice. She could either fill his mind with the sadness of their coming separation, how hard it would all be, and how much she would miss him. Or she could fill his heart with the thought that to be given to the Lord was so high a privilege, so precious a calling, that it was an honour to have such an opportunity.
She would determine the spirit of the child when he came to Shiloh to commence his new life. She could either make the occasion one of sorrow and loss, or one of wonder and joy. She could either give him a burden of duty that distressed him, or a sense of destiny that enthralled him.
And in painting for him the picture of his calling to priestly things, it was crucial to his spirit that he did not see her pain, or feel her sorrow, that he did not sense the price that she would pay. Instead, he only ever saw her warm courage, her positive spirit, and her bright smile, that filled him with comfort and certainty that his future must be blessed indeed.
Another woman might have indulged in sufficient self-pity to have clouded his certainty. But that was something Hannah would never do. And because she would do what was right before God, and what was best for the Truth, He chose her to be His instrument. This was what it meant to be the Handmaid of the Highest. For Hannah, God-centred at her very core, there was only one way. The child belonged to God, and would be returned to Him. Nothing would divert her from that work.
"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 Yahweh in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli" (1 Samuel 1:24,25)
Three years is not long. Filled as they were with her love, nurture and care, the seasons sped past, and so did the years. In all too short a time, the moment for the weaning of her child came. It was a significant milestone in his life, for it marked the first stage of his physical independence, as he relinquished his claim upon his mother's nourishment.
But it was also the first stage of his moral development, since this first step towards individual responsibility lay in yielding to a higher authority. He had learned to submit to the will of his mother, in the moment of his weaning. 24 Now the next step was to occur. At the house of God, he would learn to submit to the will of his Father.
It was a special day when Samuel reached this moment, and his weaning feast 25 was held. For with his weaning, the next stage of his spiritual education could commence. Not only would he progress in his physical diet from milk to meat, but in his spiritual growth to the discernment of good and evil. 26
For Hannah, the day was bitter-sweet. The joy of seeing this first step in her son's journey to manhood was balanced by the sorrow of the loss of her sucking child, and a painful awareness of his coming departure. The next stages of his growth would not be hers to see and share, apart from a meeting once each year, which would be painful in its brevity.
24 Psalm 131:2.
25 Evidently, from earliest times, weaning was already considered a special moment for celebration because of its significance (Genesis 21:8). It wisely imbued the child with a positive sense about this development in their life, as they were encouraged to continue in their growth. It turned the occasion of weaning into a memory of family happiness and support.
26 Isaiah 28:9; Hebrews 5:12-14.
25 And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.
The dedication of Hannah's firstborn son
Arriving at the sanctuary, the family made their way to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, for this was the place where those who had offerings were to gather. 31 How well had Hannah chosen. She presented a bullock, the most valuable of all burnt offerings, because this was not the dedication of any child.
This was the child of promise, and the child of purpose, and her offering called attention to that fact. A bullock was the burnt offering which would be made by an anointed priest, 32 and in choosing one, Hannah associated the dedication of her son with the priestly role.
But now the moment of reality had arrived, and as Hannah placed her hand 33 upon the head of the bullock, her eyes filled with tears. The simple act of touching the creature, still alive in its warmth, was intended as an act of identification, and Hannah understood only too fully the outworking of the symbol.
The time had come for her son to be committed to the Lord's service. It would be all consuming in its effect, because his whole life would be given to ministering before the Lord in a spirit of dedication, just as completely as this bullock would now be given as a whole burnt offering unto God.
There was a pause, and then the thing was done, as Hannah, in concert with Elkanah slew the bullock, 34 and then brought the child to Eli. Even the sequence of the moment gave witness to the symbol. 35
These were not separate deeds, but exact counterparts of each other. To slay the bullock, and to dedicate the child were complementary actions, and in recognition of that significance, Hannah moved swiftly from the one to the other.
"And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto Yahweh. For this child I prayed; and Yahweh hath given me my petition which I asked of him: therefore also I have lent him to Yahweh; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to Yahweh. And he worshipped Yahweh there." (1 Samuel 1:26-28)
Moving from the altar which was near the door, she brought Samuel to the very spot before Eli's seat, where she had come previously. It was a special moment to stand again in that very place, made holy now by the remembrance of her prayer. She took a deep breath as she approached, for she would need to live that prayer again now in all its earnestness, and remember all that she had promised her God on that tear-filled day.
As Hannah came close, with her son beside her, the old man looked up, and the flicker of recognition broadened into a dawning sense of wonder as the woman began to speak. "Oh my lord" she said, and Eli at once recognised the greeting and the voice. Her respect for the anointed of God still caused her to address him with the dignity his office deserved, and before she spoke again, he knew what she would say, or at least he thought he did.
For the little boy standing so close by her, nudging into the skirts of her robe, with the imprint of his mother so fresh upon his countenance, was obviously the child for which she had prayed. The words came. "I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto Yahweh. How could he ever forget! He had seen nothing like it before she came, and had certainly seen nothing like it in the four years since.
For all the throngs of the faithful whom he had met in their pilgrimages to the sanctuary, the day of their meeting still stood out vivid in his mind.
"For this child I prayed; and Yahweh hath given me the petition which I asked of him."
There was something very gracious about Hannah's words to Eli. For these were his words, which Hannah now quoted so joyfully back to him. 36 "This is what you said. And this is what our God has done." She invited him to recall the wonder of that mutual moment, and remember it he did. It was kind of her to include him in the matter, for with her comment Eli felt the blessing of his own involvement.
He recalled the day so clearly, but he had not until now remembered what he had said to comfort the woman, in fulfilling his priestly part. But it was something more than kindness that prompted Hannah to remind him that they had been joined in this matter before heaven, there was also wisdom in her words. She needed to prepare him for the climax of her speech, for whatever part he had played thus far, his involvement was about to increase dramatically.
31 Leviticus 1:3.
32 The size of the offering indicated the status and importance of the person offering.
For this reason, the sin offering for a priest was the highest value animal, which was a bullock (Leviticus 4:3). The schedule of burnt offerings, although voluntary, provided a similar graduation of sacrifices from a bullock to a pigeon. A priest, again guided by that principle, would have offered a bullock as their burnt offering (Leviticus 1:3), since it represented the pinnacle of what an individual could offer.
33 The prescription of the law expressly required the offerer to slay their own sacrifice (Leviticus 1:4,5). Given Hannah's complete involvement in this vow of dedication, it is reasonable to infer that she was directly involved in identifying with the the sacrifice, no doubt cooperating with Elkanah in the action. That inference is supported by the force of the phrase - "And they slew" (1 Samuel 1:24).
34 The phrase in the Hebrew is actually - "they slew the bullock [eth happar]" (1 Samuel 1:25), indicating that there was only one bullock, as previously suggested.
35 The two expressions "slew the bullock" - "brought the child" exactly matched each other in spirit and meaning.
36 "Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thy petition that thou hast asked him" (1 Samuel 1:17),
Bro Graeham Mansfield - The Christadelphian Expositor
28 Therefore also I have lent him to Yahweh; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to Yahweh. And he worshipped Yahweh there.
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
And she was a widow of about 84 years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day Lk 2: 36,37;
Three or four years old-even in the natural, apart from the influence of the Spirit, such is not unknown. The musician Mozart composed music before he was four years old and at seven was writing symphonies that were played by orchestras.
As soon as there is understanding, it is not too soon to worship and serve the LORD. It is striking in natural things, but how much better when youthful ability and zeal is applied to eternal things and not the passing rubbish of the world.
The worship of a small child can be very important in God's purpose, as we see here..
Bro Growcott - Samuel a special child
Hannah and her loan
"Therefore also" she said, looking earnestly and directly at the old man, "I have lent him to Yahweh."
It took a moment for Eli to realise what she must mean. He had known of her desire for this child, but he had no idea that she intended to offer him to God, and he was astonished at her words, and amazed at their implication. Struggling to confirm their import, he looked again at Hannah whose gentle resolution in the nodding of her head told him all. In answer to the question in his face, she confirmed the impossible,
"as long as he liveth he shall be lent to Yahweh".
Here then was the completion of her vow, and in her, words Hannah rose above herself. She had never asked for herself, but that she might devote the child to the Lord's service. Her petition had always been about the fulfilment of God's purpose, and this loan was the proof of it. He was loaned to the Lord, but it was a loan for life in the spirit of joyful surrender, for Hannah's "as long as he liveth" was her conscious and deliberate recollection of her own vow. 37
The one thing she could not tell the old man was her deepest reason for the loan of the child. She did not believe in the likelihood of the repentance of Hophni and Phinehas, for her prayer from the outset was a plea for God to reverse their evil. Her son, born in response, was therefore set on a course, which, if prospered by God, would result in the eventual overthrow of Eli's own household.
But it was not for her to make such comment. Let God Himself work His own work with the child. Her part was met in the completion of her loan. But how enormous was its cost, when this day for its payment finally came.
A firstborn son represented the future of his family, for in him was vested the right of inheritance, the right of priesthood, and the right of rulership. 38 A firstborn son was the beginning of his father's strength, and the opening of his mother's hope. A sense of commitment to things divine already encircled the child, as upon him was laid from the earliest of times the mantle of responsibility within the household. 39
Who could doubt then, that the greatest grief imaginable was the bitterness of the loss of a firstborn son. 40 When the time came for Hannah to complete her loan, a measure of this grief came upon her soul, like a piercing sword, and there was bitterness indeed. True she was not losing her child completely, but the wrench of the parting was so sharp, the reality of the loss so deep, that she knew a pain that few could ever know.
It is one thing to make a vow. It is another to perform it.
Hannah had not been hasty to vow, for hers had been long in the making, but the fulness of its cost could never have been known until now. She had prepared for this moment for the last three years, completely aware of its time. But when the day had come, when she stood there at Shiloh with Samuel by her side, his tiny hand clutching hers, so forlorn in his littleness, who could stay the feelings of motherhood which came coursing through her body, like the advancing of the tide?
All the warmth of her maternal love to protect, all the depth of her desire to nurture, all the yearning of her instinct to keep and to hold were so powerful, that only the strongest resolution enabled her to continue. 41
How could she leave her only son here in Shiloh, at the very centre of wickedness in the land? How could she leave such a small child with Eli whose own lack of fatherly discipline had brought about this crisis in the nation? How would the needs of such a little one be understood, and properly met? How could she permit him to stay in this place, when all her heart cried out that the risks and the dangers were too great?
But this child had not been brought to Shiloh to be with his mother. He had been brought to Shiloh to be with his Father. And Hannah was not loaning Samuel to Eli. She was loaning him to God. Her very act in leaving him there was not evidence that she was irresponsible or negligent or foolhardy, although others no doubt thought it so. Her act was driven by her absolute belief that if the logic of his gracious birth made necessary the logic of his joyful return, then his joyful return made possible the logic of his providential care.
She gave to God the firstfruits of her womb, knowing that she gave to Him what was already His own, received by her as a blessing of trust. But only until this time. Nothing other than her passionate belief in this truth could make sense of this dramatic moment. Her conviction that Samuel belonged to God gave her the emotional strength to surrender.
She brought him from their house in Ramah, to the house of the Lord in Shiloh, and there, in his Father's house, the little child would grow in wisdom and favour with God who would overshadow his every moment. And all would be well when she left, for in that place Samuel 42 would come to know and worship God, just as she had believed. So there 43 now he was, and in Shiloh Samuel would grow into the Lord's minister exactly as the Lord intended, and exactly as Hannah desired.
42 Most Biblical commentators suggest that it cannot be Samuel, since he was too little, and that therefore the phrase either refers to Eli on receiving the child, or to Elkanah on joining with Hannah in giving the child.
But the context favours the idea that the 'he' of this phrase is Samuel himself, since all the other pronouns in the verse refer to him. He obviously did not worship God in full at that moment, but the phrase is indicating that in this place the little boy began to develop that special relationship with God that would mark him out as a faithful priest. This passage begins a series of such descriptions concerning the child (1 Samuel 2:11,18,26).
37 Her earlier prayer had stated - "if thou wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life" (1 Samuel 1:11).
38 Genesis 49:3.
39 Exodus 13:12,13.
40 Jeremiah 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zechariah 12:10.
41 The courage and love of Hannah in this action was not unlike those Jewish mothers who gave up their children for the Kindertransport in World War Two, in a desperate attempt to provide a safe future for their offspring, some no doubt as young as Samuel. But whereas they gave up their children to save them, Hannah gave up her child to save the nation.