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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: H. Hastings Weld :: The Women of the Scriptures

H. Hastings Weld :: Hannah

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Picture of Hannah



The history of the mother of Samuel, as given by the sacred writers, is very brief, but it is a history fraught with instruction. It exhibits a vivid picture of woman in her twofold character of a wife and a mother. It shows how this character is modified by the social and religious institutions under which she lives, and it displays the benign and all‐powerful influence of religious faith in sanctifying and exalting the deepest affections of her heart.

The character of Hannah is eminently feminine. She is a wife, but for a long time childless; and this to an eastern female, where the desire for offspring seems to have been intense, must have proved a fruitful source of grief and humiliation. What is still worse, however, she is not an only wife. Owing to a practice among the Israelites, which God tolerated, though he never approved it, there was another wife, who, though less beloved by her husband, was still blessed with offspring. This was enough to spread discord through the household. Peninnah was made insolent by her prosperity; Hannah impatient by her adversity. "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 sore and did not eat" (1Sa 1:6-7.)

Their yearly journeys to Shiloh to worship and to make offerings before God, served to exasperate these heart‐burnings; for it was then that Elkanah testified his greater affection for Hannah by a "worthy" or double portion; (1Sa 1:5) and it was then that Peninnah had the best opportunity of manifesting the jealousy and exulting scorn with which she regarded her rival. Here, as everywhere, he who was the principal transgressor was also a principal sufferer. The life of the bigamist was embittered by these domestic broils. "Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?" (1Sa 1:8.) But God does not fail to vindicate the sacredness and supremacy of the original law of marriage by suffering every departure from it to draw down corresponding evil on the parties. Polygamy, like divorce, was endured among the Jews, but it was only "because of the hardness of their hearts;" (Mat 19:18) and with them, as among every other people who have made the experiment, the institution proved a perpetual and abundant cause of misery to parents and their children, as well as a prolific source of mischief to the state.

Hannah, however, does not forget that she has an Almighty friend. At the remonstrance of her husband, she rises up, and in the bitterness of her heart prays unto the Lord. "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 thy 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." (1Sa 1:11.) She thus consecrates in advance to the Divine service, and to all the austerities of a Nazarite's life, the child that might be born. Such prayers and vows are not powerless. It is when bereft of all human resource, that we turn to God as our only hope, and it is then too that our hearts fill with that humility and implicit trust which make us proper recipients, because good and faithful stewards, of the manifold grace of God.

It was thus with Hannah. Her petition is granted; yet in the fulness of her first transports she is not for a moment unmindful whence the blessing came. Samuel, or asked of God, is the name she bestows on the child, thus transmitting to all generations the evidence of her overflowing thankfulness, and expressing her deep consciousness that the son in whom she delights is the child of prayer. And so with all his early training. He is nursed most carefully, but he is nursed for God. As soon as he is weaned, which the Jews say was not till he was three years old, he is taken up, with offerings of bullocks and flour and wine, to the house of the Lord in Shiloh; and bringing the child to Eli, his mother says, "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. And she worshipped the Lord there." (1Sa 1:26-28.)

What a bright and auspicious dawn! and how did all the glorious day which it ushered in, correspond! "The child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord and also with men." (1Sa 2:26) Full of meekness and pious zeal, he was ever ready for the service both of his earthly superior and of his heavenly Master. "Here am I"-"Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," (1Sa 3:9-10) was the language alike of his earlier and his latter years. No wonder then that he was chosen to be among the most illustrious of the champions of God's people. The last of her judges, the first of a long line of prophets, eminent as well for wisdom in the cabinet as for valour in the field, uncorrupted and incorruptible in the midst of temptation, his name stands distinguished not only in the annals of Israel, but in the annals of all our race. Grotius has compared him to Aristides, others to Alcibiades, and all have celebrated his lofty and patriotic character. With generous ardour and consummate wisdom he seems to have devoted all his powers to the interests of piety and to the promotion of his country's independence abroad, and of her peace and welfare at home. Yet what was all this but the appropriate sequel to a parent's faithful prayers and efforts, and to God's blessing as well on these as on his own early piety? It is thus that He honours those who honour Him, and it is thus that they who seek Him early are sure to find Him. Would that Christian parents, enjoying the aids and urged by the authority of a better dispensation, might, in the same spirit of fervent and abounding faith, lay a Divine foundation for the virtue and the glory of their children!

Queen Vashti's Fall ← Prior 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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