Categories: Women in the Old Testament
- The book of Samuel begins with the story of
Hannah, the childless wife of Elkanah, an Ephraimite.
- The story of Hannah and Peninnah echoes that
of Sarah and Hagar as well as Rachel and Leah.
- Peninnah mocked Hannah's barrenness.
- Elkanah was probably a man of means to be
able to support two wives.
- Elkanah said those amazing words to Hannah:
"Why are you sad?
Am I not more to
you than ten sons? (Commentators are divided
in their assessment of them. Some think Elkanah
was saying that love is more important than
childbearing. Others think because he already
had sons by Peninnah, he was insensitive to
Hannah's unhappiness, along the lines of his
needs were met; hers were of no consequence.)
- In that society, a woman's prestige depended
upon her ability to produce sons.
- Not having offspring was oftentimes thought
to be divine punishment. Indeed, the text says,
"Yahweh closed Hannah's womb."
- Hannah decided to take her case directly to
- She prayed earnestly [i.e. women prayed].
- Most prayer involved sacrifice and ritual;
silent prayer without benefit of clergy was
so unusual, Eli thought her to be drunk and
scolded her for violating the sacredness of
the place of worship.
- It would be a long time before Rabbis would
ratify Hannah's prayer of the heart as authentic
prayer, thereby foregoing sacrifice and ritual.
- Hannah was not intimidated, nor deterred,
by Eli's religious authority.
- Hannah asserts her right to pray and gives
voice to her need.
- Hannah made a vow [i.e. women could make vows]
that if Yahweh gave her a son, she would give
him back to Yahweh.
- Having a son would change her societal position
even if she didn't have the pleasure of raising
- Hannah's loss was Israel's gain.
- Upon hearing her need, Eli was able to bless
her and add his prayers to hers. Hannah accepted
this without recrimination and went home feeling
that her prayers had been answered.
- Some scholars also think that giving her first
son to the temple was much like offering the
firstfruits of harvest - the goal is to get
- Indeed, Hannah had three more sons and two
- Hannah's story begins with weeping; it will
end with singing.
- Hannah keeps her vow, bringing Samuel to the
temple once he was weaned.
- No one knew of her oath, except Hannah - even
so, she kept it.
- Hannah's highest sense involved giving her
beloved child to the Lord.
- The song of Hannah is a song of praise for
her good fortune.
- Hannah's song puts childbirth on the same
plane as winning wars.
- Hannah's song anticipates the "anointed
- Hannah's song was the basis of the Magnificat,
sung by Mary when she was a witness to the child
in her womb.
- Through Hannah, God used a very insignificant
woman to accomplish a very significant work.
Alter, Robert and Frank Kermode. The Literary Guide to the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. 1987.
Brueggeman, Walter. "1 & 2 Samuel." Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1990.
Evans, Mary. "1 and 2 Samuel." New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000.
Mills, Watson and Richard Wilson. Mercer Commentary on the Bible. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995
Newsom, Carol and Sharon Ringe. The Women's Bible Commentary. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.
Payne, David. "I & II Samuel." The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1982.
Peterson, Eugene. "First and Second Samuel." The Westminster Bible Companion. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.
Robinson, Gnana. "1 & 2 Samuel, Let Us Be Like the Nations." The International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans, 1993.