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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: P. C. Headley :: Women of the Bible

P. C. Headley :: Hannah

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In a rich valley of Mount Ephraim, a central range of summits in Palestine, Elkanah, a pious shepherd, kept his flocks. As Jacob before him, he married two wives, and had also to bear the curse which attends a violation of the law of marriage as it came from Heaven. (1Sa 1:2.)

Peninnah had sons and daughters, while Hannah, unblest with children, was the most tenderly loved-the Rachel of his heart and home. Otherwise, there was nothing peculiar or remarkable in the quiet life of these dwellers among the mountains. Tracing their history, we seem returning to the patriarchal age-or rather looking in upon some "Cotter's Saturday Night" in the Highlands of Scotland. Every year, he went with his family on a pilgrimage to Shiloh, near Bethel, where the Ark and Tabernacle gathered for sacrifice and worship, the devout Hebrews from all their plains. (1Sa 1:3.) Hannah was a meek and saintly woman, but Peninnah was vain and haughty. Her jealousy was kindled by Elkanah's attention to his more amiable wife, and glorying in her offspring, treated scornfully her childless rival in his affections. (1Sa 1:6-7.) This grieved Hannah's sensitive spirit during their lonely travel to Shiloh, and yearning for the honor and joy of a mother, she would have knelt in her sorrow under the very wings of the Cherubim overshadowing the Mercy‐Seat.

Upon one of these annual visits, tempted and heart‐broken, she wept till Elkanah touched by her tears endeavored to soothe her with assurances of his own deep affection. (1Sa 1:8.) Unlike the petulant Rachel, she uttered no reproach, but restraining her grief, lifted the gloom from his brow with a smile mournful as a gleam of sunshine on a solitary ruin. Then she sought the threshold of Jehovah's Temple, and bowed in silent prayer. (1Sa 1:10.) The depths of her being were stirred, and wrestling with the Merciful One, she breathed a solemn vow that if a son were given her, he should be a consecrated child, and with the stern discipline of a Nazarine prepared for perpetual service in the Lord's House. (1Sa 1:11.) Responsive to her intense emotion, her quivering lips only moved. Eli, who was sitting by the door‐post of the Sanctuary, marked her strange deportment, and hastily misjudging, accused her of drunkenness. (1Sa 1:12-14.) No murmur was heard from this resigned and humble worshipper, but in sad and melting accents, she said, "No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before God." (1Sa 1:15-16.) Eli was affected, and with altered tone replied, "Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition thou hast asked of him." (1Sa 1:17.) Hannah felt that she had prevailed in prayer, and her countenance became tearless and hopeful. When the morning broke on the hills, gilding the gorgeous Tabernacle, the family arose and worshipped once more toward the symbols of the "Upper Sanctuary," and the flaming Law pencilled on the tables of eternity; then striking their tent, journeyed to Mount Ephraim. (1Sa 1:19.)

And a son was born, named by Hannah, Samuel, asked of the Lord. (1Sa 1:20.) I know not of a more sublime manifestation of faith and piety, than her refusal to go up to the yearly festival until he was old enough to be left there, according to her vow, the living sacrifice of an earnest and grateful heart. (1Sa 1:22.) Her religious principle was unbending as Paul's ages after, and the glory of God filled as vividly and constantly the horizon of her thoughts.

She went at length to the Holy Temple, with an oblation from the flocks and fields. (1Sa 1:24.) The priests laid a slain bullock upon the altar, and while the smoke ascended, she took from the bosom that cradled him with unutterable tenderness the wondering babe, and gave him to Eli, saying, we might believe half in reproof, "O 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." (1Sa 1:26-27.) The venerable priest accepted the consecration, and with a solemn benediction devoted Samuel to the service of the Tabernacle.

Then Hannah uttered a prayer, (1Sa 2:1-10) which is rather a lofty ascription of praise to the Almighty, whose sovereignty exalts the beggar, while he shivers the sceptre and sinks the throne of a king. Kindling with rapture she emulates Deborah in celebrating His majesty, till the poetic fire mounts like a seraph's hymn to the unseen "Holy of Holies." Doubtless Eli understood keenly the allusion of that forceful expression, "The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed." (1Sa 2:3.)

This mother, upon whose history it is sweet to linger, is the first woman mentioned in the Bible kneeling in the attitude of prayer-not because others were prayerless, but to fill out the delineation of maternal character and duty, of which Hannah is a model of singular excellence. She had the glow of enthusiasm and the composure under trial, of an intellect finely balanced, and disciplined by much communion with God.

Samuel grew, and bore through all his illustrious career, the most distinguished of judges and honored of prophets, the impress of that moulding influence, continued in kind by the man of God, by whose side he trimmed the temple‐lamps and read the mysterious tablets traced by the finger of the Eternal.

Oh! what power is lodged in a mother's hand-what eloquence in her prayer, and what pathos in her tear! She can lead her child to the very gate of Paradise-and pour into the golden censer waved by the Angel before the Majesty on High, the incense of her petition. Her tear will burn through life on the brow it baptized, and the pressure of her hand be felt when the world itself has become a vanished dream. And many in that day, when Christ shall "come to make up his jewels," will point to the deepening glory that spreads away to the mount of God, and murmur-

"A mother's holy prayer,
A mother's hand and gentle tear
Have led the wanderer there!"
The Queen of Sheba Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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