Samuel’s Childhood

Text: I Samuel 1:1-2:11

Hannah’s Desire for a Son - I Samuel 1:1-18

Elkanah was a descendant of Levi, his lineage being traced in I Chronicles 6:33-38. Elkanah was born in the territory of Ephraim, where his family had lived for several generations. "Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite" (I Samuel 1:1). Notice that this verse states he was from the hills of Ephraim and not the tribe of Ephraim. Though he was a Levite by tribe, he was called an Ephraimite because of where he grew up.

Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah was childless but Peninnah had a number of children and provoked Hannah with her lack of children. The story is reminiscent of Jacob’s wives, Rachel and Leah.

Elkanah was a devote man and he yearly went to Shiloh where the tabernacle was to offer sacrifices. Elkanah gave portions to Peninnah and each of her children but he gave a double portion to Hannah because of his love for her. This situation continued for years. Hannah was so upset about Peninnah’s taunts that she refused to eat. Elkanah, however, told her that her lack of children was not a concern to him. He asked, “Am I not better to you than ten sons?

One year, after the feast, Hannah went to the Tabernacle and poured out her heart to the Lord. God is the One we come to in times of trouble (Psalms 46:1-3; 50:15). He answers prayers (Psalms 91:14-16; Psalms 20).

Hannah made a vow. "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head" (I Samuel 1:11). The vow is particularly notable because, under the Old Law, firstborn children were considered dedicated to God. Before the Levites were picked to serve in the Tabernacle and later in the temple, firstborn children were selected to serve. "Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine, because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am the LORD" (Numbers 3:12-13). Because of the replacement, God had the Israelites redeem (buy back) their firstborn. "Everything that first opens the womb of all flesh, which they bring to the LORD, whether man or beast, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem" (Numbers 18:15). However, a person was not allowed to use a redeemed item for another vow. If it was dedicated to God a second time, it whole belonged to God. All rights to the devoted person, animal, or thing are completely terminated. "Nevertheless no devoted offering that a man may devote to the LORD of all that he has, both man and beast, or the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted offering is most holy to the LORD" (Leviticus 27:28). Since Hannah devoted her firstborn to the Lord, but he was already devoted by God's law and was to be redeemed, Hannah was effectively giving up all rights to her son.

We also see that Hannah continued to pray. God asks that we be persistent in our prayers (Luke 18:1-8). We see others also repeat their prayers (Matthew 26:39,42,44; II Corinthians 12:7-8). Our persistence indicates how badly we want an answer from the Lord.

Hannah’s prayers were not done to impress others. Her deepest desires were spoken between her and God (Matthew 6:5-6). Paul illustrates a similar attitude (Romans 10:1; 9:1-3).

Eli was sitting at the entrance to the Tabernacle and saw Hannah praying. He mistakenly assumed that she was drunk and scolded her. But Hannah denied drinking any alcohol. She told Eli that she was distressed and was bringing her problem to the Lord. Eli then blessed her and told her that he hoped God would grant her petition. Hannah took the High Priest’s statement as an indication that God had granted her request. Eli wasn’t speaking on behalf of the Lord. He didn’t even know what she was praying about. But his assurance bolstered her confidence. Someone else, who believed that God was listening and would answer, told her of his hope for her. Hers became a prayer of faith, without any doubts (James 1:5-8). She didn’t know the answer God would give her, but she was confident that God cared (Matthew 6:8; Romans 8:28; Ephesians 3:20).

The Dedication of Samuel - I Samuel 1:19-28

Hannah received her heart’s desire. She became pregnant and had a son, whom she named Samuel (“God has heard”).

She did not return to Shiloh until after Samuel was weaned. Notice in I Samuel 1:22-23 that Hannah is determined to keep her vow and her husband did not oppose it. When they finally did come to the Tabernacle, they brought a 3-year-old bull to sacrifice – a very expensive offering.
He then became a possession of God. Normally only descendants of Aaron could be priests (Exodus 28:1; 29:9), but Samuel's dedication appears to have put him in a special status.

Hannah’s Thanksgiving - I Samuel 2:1-11

Hannah’s prayer that she made at the dedication of her son is a beautiful thanksgiving to God (Colossians 4:2).

My heart exults in the LORD;
My horn is exalted in the LORD,
My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

The prayer starts with the reasons Hannah is joyful. Her emotions (her heart) and her strength (her horn - Psalms 89:17) exalt in God; thus, her words (her mouth) are bold when facing her enemies. She knows that God saves her (Isaiah 12:1-3; Psalms 20:5; 35:9; 75:10).

There is no one holy like the LORD,
Indeed, there is no one besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.

Nothing compares to God in holiness (Exodus 15:11), no one stands as equal to God (Psalms 89:6-8), and there isn’t a solid foundation for our lives like the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:20-31).

"Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the LORD is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.

People are warned against pride (Psalms 94:4). No one can match God and God knows all things. We must face Him and have our deeds judged.

The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
But she who has many children languishes.

God is able to change things. The things people rely on are suddenly broken while those who seem to have no strength become strong (Psalms 37:12-22). Those who have everything going for them are suddenly in want while the hungry are fed (Psalms 34:10). And women who are barren are suddenly no longer barren (Psalms 113:9; Isaiah 54:1).

The LORD kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The LORD makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.

God is able to change people. He can kill people and He can resurrect them (Deuteronomy 32:39). He can change their financial situation or their popularity (Deuteronomy 8:17-18; Psalms 75:7).

He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S,
And He set the world on them.

God is able to improve a person’s situation. Regardless of how poor a man might be, God can raise him up and place him among nobles (Psalms 113:7-8; Daniel 4:17). He can do this because He established the world, so by implication it is a small matter to God to improve the foundation of His people (Psalms 24:2; 102:25; 104:5).

He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail.

While God protects the righteous (I Peter 1:5), the wicked are silenced and left unseen, not knowing where they are. People think that they can force the outcome that they desire, but what we have is a gift from God.

Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens,
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed.

The Lord removes those who rebel against him (Psalms 2:9). They cannot shout God down. God’s voice will be heard (Psalms 18:13). All the world will be judged (Psalms 96:13; 98:9). His king will be established and the power of His anointed will be exalted. Subtly this prayer of thanksgiving becomes a prophecy about Jesus. When you reread the prayer in light of who it is about, then you realize that most of what Hannah said has a double meaning.

For Discussion:

  1. Go through Hannah’s prayer and look for how her phrases apply to Jesus. Cite verses to back your points.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email