May 11, 2017
God’s word is filled with many accounts of men and women who were obedient to God and accomplished great things, people such as Noah, Moses, and Esther. Scripture also gives accounts of people who quietly made a difference. One of those quiet people was Hannah. Her dreams and desires hadn’t quite worked out like she had wanted and she faced torment from a mean-spirited woman. Hannah wasn’t bitter but turned to God. Hannah was married to a man named Elkanah who had two wives. The Bible states facts even when those facts aren’t God’s perfect will. Elkanah’s wife Peninnah had given birth to many sons and daughters and never let Hannah forget this fact. A woman desires to have children with her husband, but Hannah had not been able to have children. “And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. ” 1 Samuel 1:6-7. Elkanah loved Hannah and took care of her, but Peninnah tormented her.
Hannah was hurt deeply and she handled the situation by going to God in prayer. “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.” 1 Samuel 1:10. Poor Hannah. She wanted to be a mother but her understanding of God’s bigger picture was limited to the “here and now” situation with Peninnah. In her heartfelt prayers, Hannah made a vow. “And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” 1 Samuel 1:11. Hannah’s faith in God was strong, and her prayer was passionate. She prayed silently, but as she prayed she mouthed the words to God. Eli was the high priest and judge of Israel and he watched as she prayed, but he thought she was drunk. Once again Hannah was accused of something she was innocent of. “And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.” 1 Samuel 1:14. The gentle-spirited Hannah didn’t answer in anger, but explained to Eli that she had poured out her heart to the LORD. Eli believed her and asked that God grant her desire. Hannah is a wonderful example of a Godly woman. She could have been filled with hatred towards Peninnah, but instead of choosing to be bitter, she prayed. After talking with Eli she ate and was no longer sad. Even before her prayer was answered her outlook changed because she trusted God. Christians should pay attention to this. When we pray do we tell God what He needs to do, or do we seek His will? Do we trust Him to answer our prayers in the way He knows is best? “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thing own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6. God’s ways are always best.
Peninnah probably didn’t change her attitude and Hannah hadn’t prayed for that. It was Hannah’s outlook that had changed. Earnest prayer has a way of doing that. Hannah had prayed for a son, but her reasons weren’t selfish. She wasn’t trying to show Peninnah a thing or two or prove anything to anybody. Her vow was that if God allowed her to have a son she would give that child back to Him. Making a deal with God isn’t always a good idea, but God did answer her prayer and she became pregnant. “Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.” 1 Samuel 1:20.Samuel was an answer to his mother’s prayer, but would she honor her vow to God? Yes, she would.
When Elkanah went for his yearly trip to sacrifice and worship at Shiloh, Hannah stayed behind. The child had to be ready for service to God, just as Hannah had to be ready before her prayer was answered. “But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.” 1 Samuel 1:22. Elkanah agreed. He must have been a godly man, because as her husband he had to agree to the vow she had made. He continued to make his yearly pilgrimage to Shiloh and knew that on one of these trips he would leave his son with Eli. In those days a child wasn’t weaned until he was two or three years old, and Hannah was true to her word. When Samuel was weaned, Hannah did make the pilgrimage to Shiloh with three bullocks, some flour, and wine for sacrifice. It might seem as if “sacrificing” her child would be enough, but Hannah understood that the vow she honored didn’t mean that she had done all she needed to do for God. Too many times we think we have done “enough” for God. We might spend an hour in worship on Sunday morning and think that’s good enough. We are to live our faith every day and give our best to God. After all, God gave His only Son for our salvation and that should encourage us to give Him our best and live for Him.
“And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD. For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.” 1 Samuel 1:25-28. God knew that Hannah would have a son and that Samuel would be a godly man. Hannah honored God and didn’t just give lip-service to her faith. She prayed and God answered. “The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” Proverbs 15:29. Do you feel as if God doesn’t hear your prayers? It might be that you need to get right with Him and seek His will, not your own. Children are blessings and every one of them should be raised with prayer by godly parents. Do you pray for your children with the fervor with which Hannah prayed? Unfortunately children are often the victims of abuse and aren’t taught to love the Lord. Even parents who purport to be Christians neglect to make God first in the lives of their children because He isn’t first in the parent’s lives. Every child should have a mother like Hannah who didn’t let circumstances embitter her but drove her deeper into prayer.
Hannah’s love for the Lord grew and she poured out her soul in a song of praise. “And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.” 1 Samuel 2:1. On the mountain top or in the valley, Hannah knew her strength (horn) was the Lord. Peninnah was an enemy and caused Hannah much heartache, but in this song Peninnah is not referred to by name. “Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” 1 Samuel 2:3. Our true enemy is Satan and he causes all of us no end of sorrow and pain. Is there someone in your life who torments you? What are your actions toward them? God sees how you treat others and weighs your actions. God knows and sees what is going on and will strengthen you to overcome adversity. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord.” Romans 12:19. Leave vengeance to the Lord. Hannah did, and in further reference to Peninnah she sang “They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.” 1 Samuel 2:5.
Peninnah faded into history. She is only named in two verses, but hinted at in Hannah’s song: “… she that hath many children is waxed feeble“. A haughty spirit will destroy a person, and it seems Peninnah paid a price for her biting tongue. On the other hand, Hannah was blessed with more children. Hannah didn’t neglect Samuel and each year she made a coat and took it to him when she and Elkanah went to sacrifice. “And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went to their own home.” 1Samuel 2:20. Peninnah wasn’t mentioned and in light of the song of Hannah she may have died. There is no record of it in Scripture, but a person with her attitude cannot be blessed.
Every person in this account had a choice of how they would behave. Peninnah chose to puff herself up and put down Hannah. Elkanah chose to have two wives, but though he provided for Peninnah his love was for Hannah. Circumstances could have made Hannah bitter, but instead she chose to seek the Lord and pray. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” James 4:10. Even Samuel had a choice. His mother made a vow and followed through in dedicating him to God’s service, but Samuel had to eventually make his own choice. He made the right choice and served God faithfully. He anointed kings and served Israel as a prophet and a judge. Great things were accomplished because one woman chose to seek God rather than seek vengeance.
Like Hannah and Peninnah we also have a choice whether to seek God or reject Him. If you’ve been blessed to have been raised in a home where God is honored, then you have a firm foundation on which to build your life. Your salvation isn’t guaranteed, though, unless you personally choose Christ for salvation. Some parents have their babies baptized in the false belief that the baby will be saved. Salvation is a personal choice and baptism is obedience. A baby cannot make that choice. Hannah vowed that her son would be dedicated to God’s service, but Samuel had to ultimately make his own choice. Eli had two sons of his own who made wrong choices. “And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is not good report that I hear: ye make the LORD’S people to transgress.” 1 Samuel 2:23-24. Ultimately God judged them because they chose to sin.
There is much we can learn from Hannah. Pray fervently and petition God in prayer. Like Samuel’s mother, seek His will and not your own.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.