The life and mentions of Hannah in the Bible are found only in the First Book of Samuel, yet her story is anything but insignificant.
"And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation." (1 Samuel 2:1)
Hannah is one of the wives of Elkanah, and according to the Hebrew Bible, she was the mother of Samuel. Hannah’s story deals with infertility, bullying, answered prayer, and arrives prophetically into the New Testament.
Hannah's Marriage and Barrenness
In the Old Testament, it was common for men to have more than one wife. Hannah was one of two women married to a man named Elkanah. In the scriptures, it is unclear which wife he married first, but Hannah had no children, while his other wife, Peninnah, had many.
Having children was an important part of the culture then, yet Hannah’s infertility didn’t matter to Elkanah. The Bible makes it clear how deeply he loved her and the pain she endured from the other wife.
Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:3-8).
Hannah’s pain is deep, yet her honor for God is deeper.
Hannah’s Prayer for a Son
Hannah isn’t the first woman in the Bible to suffer infertility. First, there was Sarah, the wife of Abraham, then Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, and Rachel, the wife of Jacob.
Yet Hannah’s response was profoundly different than theirs. In her pain, Hannah didn’t retaliate against Peninnah or Elkanah. She took her pain to the only one who could alleviate it — the Lord her God.
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (1 Samuel 1:10-11).
Yet even in her sincere petition Hannah is met with more negativity. The priest in the temple accuses her of being drunk and says to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
Once again, Hannah doesn’t get defensive but responds to Eli honorably. She is met with words of hope.
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him” (1 Samuel 1:15-17).
Hannah combined Eli’s words with faith, evidenced by her change in countenance —“her face was no longer downcast.”
God Answers Hannah's Prayer
After returning home from this visit to Shiloh, her prayer is answered the very next day.
Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him” (1 Samuel 1:19-20)
Giving birth to Samuel is just part of Hannah’s amazing story. Remember the vow she made before the Lord in her initial appeal. Hannah had every intention of keeping it. From the time her son was born until he was weaned, Hannah loved Samuel, preparing her heart for the big day.
After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there (1 Samuel 1:24-28).
Being fulfilled as a mother and fulfilling her vow to God brought Hannah much joy.
A Prayer of Thanksgiving: The Song of Hannah
Hannah prayed and said,
"My heart exults in the LORD; my strength is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. "There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and on them he has set the world. "He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed." (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
Prophetic Joy in Hannah's Bible Story
There are four prophetic things to notice in Hannah’s story.
1. After Hannah fulfilled her vow to deliver Samuel to the temple, she worshipped and sang prophetically. The resemblance between her song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 and the song Mary the mother of Jesus, in Luke 1:46-55 sang is profound.
2. Eli prophesied over her every year, and she had five more children after Samuel.
Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord”…She had three more sons and two daughters while Samuel “grew up in the presence of the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:20, 21b, NLT).
3. Hannah gave her firstborn son’s life to God in love and honor. And we see her actions foreshadow God’s. Because of God the Father’s love for us, he gave his first and only son’s life to restore our honor.
4. Hannah’s very name. Hannah means favor or grace. It’s through our Lord Jesus Christ that we have been given favor with God and access to his grace that is able to save our souls.
Hannah’s story takes us from pain to joy, as does God’s plan of salvation.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/kieferpix
Danielle Bernock is an international, award-winning author, coach, and speaker who helps people embrace their value and heal their souls through the power of the love of God. She’s written Emerging With Wings, A Bird Named Payn, Love’s Manifesto, Because You Matter, and hosts the Victorious Souls Podcast. A long-time follower of Christ, Danielle lives with her husband in Michigan near her adult children and grandchildren. For more information or to connect with Danielle https://www.daniellebernock.com/
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