Commentary on 1 Samuel 1
1 Samuel 1 narrates a tale of hope amidst despair, centered on Hannah, a woman grappling with the pain of childlessness.
In a time where a woman’s worth was often measured by her ability to bear children, Hannah’s barrenness is a source of significant distress, compounded by societal pressures and rivalry within her own family.
This chapter unfolds her emotional plea at Shiloh’s temple, her encounter with Eli the priest, and the eventual fulfillment of her fervent prayers while setting the stage for the birth of Samuel, a significant figure in Israel’s history – showcasing the power of faith and dedication in the face of adversity.
1 Samuel 1:1-8, Elkanah’s Family and Hannah’s Distress
In these verses, we are introduced to Elkanah and his two wives, Peninnah and Hannah.
Elkanah is depicted as a devout man who annually visits the temple in Shiloh to offer sacrifices to the Lord.
The narrative here highlights the familial and social dynamics of the time. Hannah, one of Elkanah’s wives, is distressed due to her inability to bear children. This is a crucial point, as in their culture, a woman’s value was often measured by her ability to have children.
Despite Elkanah’s love and preference for Hannah (1 Samuel 1:5), her barrenness causes her great sorrow, especially because Peninnah, the other wife, has children and provokes Hannah, intensifying her distress.
1 Samuel 1:9-18, Hannah’s Prayer at Shiloh and Eli’s Blessing
Hannah’s deep longing for a child leads her to earnest prayer at the temple in Shiloh.
Her prayer is a poignant expression of her anguish and hope. It’s important to note that she makes a vow to God, promising that if He grants her a son, she will dedicate the child to the Lord’s service for life (1 Samuel 1:11).
This moment is significant as it reflects Hannah’s deep faith and desperation. Eli the priest, initially mistaking her silent prayer for drunkenness, eventually understands her plight and blesses her (1 Samuel 1:17). This interaction underlines the importance of not making hasty judgments about others.
1 Samuel 1:19-20, Hannah’s Conception and Birth of Samuel
These verses narrate the fulfillment of Hannah’s prayer.
After returning home, Hannah conceives and gives birth to a son, whom she names Samuel. The name “Samuel” is meaningful, as it sounds like Hebrew for “heard of God”, symbolizing that God has heard and answered her prayers. This part of the story is a testament to faith and perseverance in the face of adversity.
1 Samuel 1:21-28, Hannah Dedicates Samuel to the Lord at Shiloh
In this final segment, Hannah fulfills her vow to God. Once Samuel is weaned, she takes him to Shiloh and dedicates him to the Lord’s service, leaving him under the care of Eli the priest.
This action reflects a significant sacrifice and profound faith on Hannah’s part. It also sets the stage for Samuel’s future role as a prophet and judge in Israel.
This segment teaches about the importance of keeping promises and the virtue of selflessness.
Throughout these segments, the narrative conveys themes of faith, perseverance, and the fulfillment of God’s promises. The story of Hannah and Samuel begins with personal distress and culminates in a selfless dedication, setting a foundational tone for the rest of Samuel’s life and his impact on Israel.