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Studies on the Women of the Bible
Davis W. Huckabee
“Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son Zuph, an Ephrathite: And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children,” (1 Sam. 1:1-2).Here is introduced to us the godly mother of Samuel the prophet who was herself a prophetess as is proven by her prayer where we have the first mention of the Messiah under His title as the Lord’s anointed—the Lord’s coming King, (1 Sam. 2:10). She had the misfortune to be married to a man that was a polygamist—for Elkanah had two wives, contrary to God’s original institution of marriage—although this man was a godly man and loved Hannah. We know not how he came to be in this unscriptural relationship, although it had become common long before this for men, in their lusts and pride to marry more than one wife.
Which [polygamy—DWH], though connived at in those times, was contrary to the original law of marriage; and for which, though a good man, he was chastised, and had a great deal of vexation and trouble, the two wives not agreeing with each other; perhaps not having children by the one so soon as he hoped and wished for, he took another. —John Gill, Commentary On The Bible, Vol. 2, p. 108.
Polygamy had been first introduced by the ungodly Cain line of Adam’s descendents, as we read in Genesis 4:19: “And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.” This was not the Lamech that was the father of Noah, and of the Seth line, but was a sixth generation descendent of Cain. And while even today there are still many that follow “the way of Cain,” (Jude 11), no actual descendents of Cain have existed since the flood.
Another important matter to note is that the generations of Adam in this section are limited to the line of Seth. This is because all descendents of Cain perished in the deluge. While millions on earth today follow in “the way of Cain” no man on earth is lineally descended from Cain. The population of the whole earth today are lineal descendents of Seth and consists of two classes only: (1) the regenerate, spiritual descendents of the Second Adam, and (2) the unregenerate descendents in the flesh and spirit of the first Adam. —B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation Of The English Bible, Vol. 1, p. 136.
Now this original polygamist was also apparently a man of violence and one that tried to justify his actions by those of Cain his ancestor, for he made a poem to excuse his violence, (Gen. 4:23-24). And yet, sadly, this corruption of the institution of marriage was not confined to just wicked people, but even genuinely saved people sometimes practiced it even though it finds no approval in Scripture. The reason why there could be no approval of polygamy in Scripture is that it is, like all other wrong forms of sex, a violation of the original “one flesh” concept of the marriage relation. And practically there could be no approval because polygamous marriages always were and always will be fraught with jealousy and envy and their attendant problems. In such an intimate relation as sex, there must be a total committal to each other by both partners, such as is not possible where more than one partner of either gender is involved. Such would involve, at best, a half-hearted response to one or the other of the partners of the same gender, as is always seen toward the betrayed mate in adulterous relations. The reader is referred to chapter two of the author’s “Biblical Studies on Sex,” etc. for further thoughts on this matter.
As we indicated by the heading of this study, Hannah, or sometimes simply “Anna,” (Luke 2:36), means “Grace,” but we have no Biblical information as to how she came to be called this. It may have been the name given her at her birth, or it might have been bestowed later on in life as was the case with Sarah. If it was given at her birth it was certainly prophetic, and it was most certainly appropriate for her, for throughout her life the Biblical record shows her to have been a most gracious person.
But it must be remembered that grace is God’s supply for problems that cannot be otherwise handled by humans, and this woman of grace certainly had many and great problems to trouble her life. The foremost problem in her mind was her inability to bear children, and however her husband tried to discount this, (1 Sam. 1:8), it had no solace for this woman, and the second wife in the family was mean-spirited about it all.
One husband, two wives, one enjoying the privileges and blessing of motherhood, the other suffering the anguish, the heartache of a barren womb, brought great sadness and pain into Elkanah’s family There are some authorities who believe that Elkanah took Peninnah as a second wife, because Hannah was barren. Though Elkanah expressed a great love for his wife Hannah, the constant reminder of her inability to give her husband children was just too much to bear Hannah’s heart was broken. Tearfully, for she “wept sore,” Hannah took her broken heart to the Lord. —Wendy Gale Barkman, Women of the Bible Compared and Contrasted, p. 31.
We live in a time and set of circumstances that is radically different from those in which Hannah lived. Most people today are not only totally self-absorbed, but generally mostly irreligious, and even the common religions of the day are mostly humanistic and therefore unscriptural, (2 Tim. 3:1-2a, 5). Hence, most of modern mankind is happy to have no children to hinder their “happiness,” and they have no desire to have an intimate relationship with God such as that which both controlled and blessed godly people such as Hannah in Bible times.
- CONSIDER HER PROVOCATIONS.
“And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion (marg. A double portion); for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb. 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 Sam. 1:4-7).
It was recognized by Inspiration here, as in the case of Sarah, (Gen. 16:2), that the Lord was the cause of her barrenness. This was not just some physical infirmity but was because God had a purpose in it. One of the hardest things for people to realize is that God is in control of all things from the least to the greatest, and no condition ever exists “just accidentally.” Everything that happens to a child of God tests that one as to how he or she will respond to it, and so, is part of His plan for that one.
The marginal reading of verse 7 seems to imply that this provocation by Peninnah was especially at the time of the annual visit to the house of God. Did Peninnah stress her own acceptance before God because of her several children, and imply that the barren woman could surely not find acceptance before God because He had given her no children? To many in Israel childlessness was considered a curse from God, and this seems to have been the point of Peninnah’s provocative words to Hannah.
This circumstance is noted, first, As the occasion of the contention, because at such times they were forced to more society with one another by the way, and in their lodgings; whereas at home they had distinct apartments, where they might be asunder. And then her husband’s extraordinary love and kindness was showed to Hannah, whereby Peninnah was the more exasperated. Then also Hannah prayed earnestly for a child, which hitherto she had done in vain; and this possibly she reproached her with. Secondly, As the aggravation of her sin, that when she came to worship God, and to offer sacrifices, when she should have been reconciled even to her enemies, (Matt. 5:23, 24), she did quarrel with so near a relation. —Matthew Poole, Commentary On The Holy Bible, Vol. 1, p. 514.
In any case, this was an ongoing hurt to this godly woman for several reasons besides her innate motherly desire for children with her husband. Subsequently it is evidenced that Hannah had a great concern for the cause of God in the nation, for at this time the national leadership was in a fearfully corrupt state, (1 Sam. 2:12-17, 22-25). Eli the priest was aged and infirm, and his sons that had succeeded him as priests were utterly selfish men and thoroughly wicked Hannah’s first son that would be given her would be a godly man and would lead the nation better.
However at this time Hannah could not know all that God was going to do, using her and her husband’s son to turn the nation back to a more godly way. All she knew was that she was barren and the second wife in the family never let her forget that she apparently was not in favor with God. There is a practical lesson in all this, for often the darkest of times come about just before God gives great enlightenment, and those that feel the darkness the most may be His chosen instruments to bring about good.
But there was another provocation, albeit a momentary one, for after the festive meal, Hannah retires to pray and she is in great bitterness of soul as she prays and makes a solemn vow before the Lord. She is praying silently so that her words are not heard but as her lips moved, the elderly High Priest attributes her actions to drunkenness and he reproaches her for this. What a provocation! To have one’s devotions to God accounted to be drunkenness! One may recall that this was exactly what those of the Jerusalem church were accused of on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension, (Acts 2:7-15). It is so easy for a devoted worshipper to be misunderstood.
Hannah immediately denies that she is a “daughter of Belial,” a phrase that is often used to describe a person that is utterly worthless, reckless and lawless. The word means without a yoke, and so, refers to those that have cast off all the restraints of God’s Law, morality, and decent living. In its first appearance in Scripture, (Deut. 13:12-18), it is associated with idolatry, and the death penalty is decreed for all that are such, though it be a whole village, for they are under the Divine curse for their rebellion against God. In its last and only appearance in the New Testament it is contrasted with being a Christian, (2 Cor. 6:15). Hannah explains that she is of great sorrow and was praying concerning this matter, (1 Sam. 1:15-17). And though she does not identify what her desire is, Eli pronounces a blessing on her and assures her that she will receive her petition. This gives her great peace and comfort so that her sadness is alleviated, she rejoins the family and now eats and enjoys the festivities, (1 Sam. 1:17-18).
- CONSIDER HER PIETY.
From her first introduction to us Hannah is seen as a pious woman, and one with a great love for God. Her vow that she makes in 1 Samuel 1:11 is phenomenal, not only for its content, but because she fulfilled it literally at the appropriate time. “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.” This seems like a self-defeating prayer, for she prays for a son, but then promises that once she has one, she will give him back to the Lord to be a Nazarite all his days, (Num. 6:1ff).
Many a person in her position would have played the fool as described in Ecclesiastes 5 and would have afterward tried to excuse not paying the vow. They might plead, “Sorry, Lord, I made a mistake in my vow, now I will not keep it, so please excuse me for my foolish vow,” and so, would bring down God’s displeasure on themselves. Notice what is here declared. “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few... When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: Pay that which thou has vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?” (vv. 2, 4-6). Concerning vows it is well said as follows.
Vows are free and indifferent things, which persons may make or not. There is no precept for them in the word of God. Instances and examples there are, and they may be lawfully made, when they are in the power of man to perform, and are not inconsistent with the will and word of God. They have been made by good men, and were frequent in former times; but they seem not so agreeable to the Gospel dispensation, having a tendency to ensnare the mind, to entangle men, and bring on them a spirit of bondage, contrary to that liberty wherewith Christ has made them free... However, when a vow is made that is lawful to be done, defer not to pay it; that is, to God, to whom it is made, who expects it, and that speedily, as Hannah paid hers; no excuses nor delays should be made.—John Gill, Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 630.
But often one’s intense feelings of love to God will move one to want to express that love, as was the case with Hannah, and her innate godliness would not let her do otherwise than perform her vow that she had made to God. In her peaceful and confident return to their home in Ramah we see being lived out the truth of 1 John 5:45. “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” Faith does not give us the victory, rather faith itself is the victory, and he that believes the Lord already has the victory whether all the details are yet worked out and brought to pass or not. Hannah believed the promise of Eli implied that she would receive her petition that she had asked, (1 Sam. 1:17). She makes the grace of God her petition, (v. 18), trusting that the High Priest’s word would be done.
And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; cohabited with her as a man with his wife; it is a modest expression of the conjugal act; see Genesis 4:1. And is observed to show that the conception and birth of Samuel were not in a supernatural way, but in the ordinary way and manner of generation.—John Gill, Commentary On The Bible, Vol. 2, p. 111.
Shortly after the arrival of this family back at home Hannah conceives the child that she has so long desired, because “the Lord remembered her,” (1 Sam. 1:19), and when this child is born, she honors the Lord by giving an appropriate name to him. Samuel means asked of God, for he was given in response to her petition to the Lord of hosts. As was then common, a name was given that was significant of the situation.
At the time of the next annual feast, when all of Elkanah’s family goes, Hannah remains at home to tend to the child. This seemed to have worried Elkanah as if he thought that perhaps his wife was about to renege on her vow, (1 Sam. 1:21-23), and he reminds >her that the Word of the Lord must be established, which shows his own conscientiousness. But she assures him that she is not trying to get out of fulfilling her vow. Behold the godliness of this woman! Finally, after years of barrenness she now has the desired child, and can no more be provoked by the slanders of Peninnah. Yet she is willing when Samuel is weaned, to take him to the Tabernacle to become the protégé of Eli, to be trained for service to the Lord. And she would get to see her child only once or twice a year when she would bring him new clothes, (1 Sam. 2:18-19).
Hannah was blessed with a beautiful baby boy, naming him Samuel, because she had “asked him of the Lord.” Time passed, and the child was weaned. Hannah kept her vow to the Lord. Just as she had promised the Lord, she took Samuel to the house of the Lord, the tabernacle. Samuel would serve and worship the Lord under the loving care and guidance of Eli the priest. Just like any other child, Samuel quickly outgrew his clothes, and so Hannah, each year, would make a little coat, taking it to her son, when the family would travel to the tabernacle to offer their sacrifices to the Lord. —Wendy Gale Barkman, Women of the Bible Compared and Contrasted, pp. 31-32.
When Hannah brought Samuel to Eli with offerings, she fully explained that she was that same formerly woeful woman that had prayed before him almost three years before, (1 Sam. 1:26). She added, “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 Sam. 1:27-28). This whole matter moved the heart of Eli so that he could see the Lord’s workings clearly.
But as we have so often had occasion to remark, God will be no one’s debtor, and He richly rewarded this godly woman so that she and Elkanah had five more children, (1 Sam. 2:20-21). She loaned her firstborn to the Lord, and the Lord gave her five more children because of this. Hannah’s name means “grace,” and five is the number of grace, and the faith that she displayed was the product of grace, (Rom. 4:16), so that in her we see the constant working and communication of God’s grace.
- CONSIDER HER PRAYER.
This is recorded in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, and the deep themes set forth here evidence Hannah to have been a prophetess, for her words are certainly such as will edify, exhort and comfort those that read them, and these are the things that constitute a Biblical prophet, according to 1 Corinthians 14:3. No, she had no public ministry over men, which is forbidden to women in both Testaments, but she was a spokesman for God, and her very life and testimony bears witness to her deep faith in the Lord.
She is first and foremost outspoken in her praise of the Lord, and she gives Him all the praise for every good thing in her life, but especially for her salvation, (v. 1). Sometimes it is not God’s will for those that are saved to receive some cherished desire, but this should not be allowed to embitter one. Salvation is our ultimately good gift and we ought to continually praise God for that whether we obtain our other desires or not. The language that she uses here is similar to much of the language that David uses later on in many places in the Psalms, particularly in her usage of the phrases “mine horn,” “thy salvation,” the references to the holiness of God, God being a God of knowledge, etc. God proves by His workings that He is all that we need for here or for hereafter, and that is deserving of our highest praises.
We do not have the time to spend in expounding all the elements of this prayer that Hannah prayed on this occasion. It is sufficient to observe what a godly picture it gives us of this faithful woman and how the Lord blessed her and her husband for their mutual faith. Truly they were equally yoked together in their love and worship for the Lord, something that could not be said of Elkanah and his mean-tempered and bitter-spirited wife Peninnah. For all her attempts to glorify herself, she comes across as not worthy of any real praise, which is often the result of human attempts to glorify self.
But one thing that does stand out in Hannah’s prayer that needs to be stressed is her reference in verse 10 to “His king...His Anointed.” This is the first mention of the Promised Seed by His title “The Anointed” in Scripture which is prominent later on in such texts as Psalm 2:2 (Cf. Acts 4:24-26); Luke 4:18-19; Acts 10:37-38; Hebrews 1:8-9, et. al. Heretofore men had been anointed as high priests, as prophets, as kings, but this had to do with One—the promised “Seed of the Woman”—“The Coming One”—that would be anointed to all three of these offices, something true of no other one but Jesus of Nazareth. Thus once again, as in past references, here was an almost passing reference to the Lord’s promised Redeemer, yet one that continued to add to our knowledge of all that would characterize Him when He arrived on the scene.
It is used metaphorically in connection with “the oil of gladness.” The title Christ signifies “The Anointed One.” The word (Christos) is rendered “(His) Anointed” in Acts 4:26, R V. Once it is said of believers, (2 Cor. 1:21). Chrio is very frequent in the Septuagint, and is used of kings, (1 Sam. 10:1), and priests, (Ex. 28:41), and prophets, (1 Kings 19:16). Among the Greeks it was used in other senses than the ceremonial, but in the Scriptures it is not found in connection with secular matters. —W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words, On “Anoint.”
This Coming One—the Lord’s Anointed—was first foretold to be the coming “Seed of the Woman,” then as a latter day “Seed of Abraham,” and now a godly woman is the first one to refer to Him by the title of “The Anointed.” But all along there was a progressive revelation of all that this One was to be and to do, and with each new prophecy of Him, the revelation becomes more and more precise. Even the Jewish commentators recognized, (1 Sam 2:10) as a reference to the Messiah.
And so the Targum paraphrases the words, “he shall give strength to his king, and enlarge the kingdom of his Messiah.” With which Kimchi agrees, and says, the thing is doubled or repeated, for the King is the Messiah; and to him the words are applied by other Jewish writers, ancient and modem. Christ is King over all, angels and men, particularly he is King of saints; he is Jehovah’s king, set up and anointed by him from everlasting; was in time promised as such, and in the fullness of time came in that character, and at his ascension to heaven was made and declared Lord and Christ. —John Gill, Commentary On The Bible, Vol. 2, p. 116.
Unbelievers have sometimes tried to make it appear that these were all just “general references” that were “accommodated” to Jesus of Nazareth so as to make Him appear to fit the profile of this “Coming One,” but this is not so. The language in almost every case is too precise to be a mere accommodation, and the fact that there were no less than thirty-three precise prophecies fulfilled on the day of the crucifixion stretches the idea of accidental application beyond credibility. Pity the poor religious fool whose god is so weak and ignorant and ineffectual as to not be able to inspire His people to foretell the coming of His only begotten Son into a specially prepared human nature.
When speaking publicly the child of God is often too influenced by knowing that others are listening to his words. But when one is praying to God, there is a greater likelihood that one will be concerned only with truth, and so, will speak what God has put into the heart. And so it was with Hannah in her prayer. God moved her to give us a further revelation regarding that “Coming One” that had been in the hearts and minds of so many of the people of God up to this time. He would be a great King, and would be anointed to this office as well as to others.
With this prayer the Biblical account of Hannah closes except for the postscript in 1 Samuel 2:20-21 that reveals Eli’s blessing upon Elkanah and Hannah. Because she had loaned her firstborn son to the Lord all his days, God granted three more sons and two daughters to this godly couple. This exemplifies again the old truth that God will be no one’s debtor, but will abundantly reward anything that is done for Him if it be but done for proper reasons. And again it may be observed what was stated by an old Puritan writer, who said that, Many prayers become unraveled for lack of hemming them up with praise. Hannah hemmed up her prayer with praise for it being so graciously answered, and she was not only blessed with a godly son that served God all his days, but she was also blessed with five other children that filled her home with happiness.
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