1 Samuel 1:1-20
Great Commission Church
Intro: There are different categories of listeners to today’s sermon. We acknowledge that at the start. Some very happy, content mothers are here. There are also wounded and fearful mothers. There are godly women who have yet to conceive a child. There are aging ladies who perhaps never will. There are women of the world who have chosen other things over having children. I believe there is a helpful word from heaven for anyone in that list and for those who help make other lists. Biblical motherhood affects everyone.
The Hebrew Bible (OT) has a slightly different order of the books than our English Bibles. There are fascinating reasons behind the different order. For example, the book of Ruth comes immediately after Proverbs in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here’s why: the last chapter of Proverbs ends with the profile of the ideal, godly wife in Proverbs 31. The question, then, would be, “Who is such a wife?” Ruth is introduced directly after the Proverbs 31 wife. She is such a wife. In the same way, 1 Samuel is placed after the book of Judges in the Jewish Bible. Here are the final words of Judges:
Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
In the book of Judges, Israel was characterized by lawlessness. There was no king, no godly man in authority, to lead the nation to be loyal to God. Judges ends ominously. How does 1 Samuel begin?
1 Sam 1:1 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.
1 Sam 1:2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
Elkanah is shown to be a man who submits to the Torah. He also leads his family well. He is the polar opposite of Eli the priest, another member of the tribe of Levi, who failed to provide proper leadership in either religious or family matters.
Eli was a neglectful father. Lazy, neglectful fathers often produced rebellious and corrupt sons. Israel had a leadership vacuum.
Is Elkanah a godly man who can lead God’s people? If not, will one of his sons become that man?
The answer in this situation depends on the mother.
Profiles of Biblical Motherhood:
(1) She trusts God especially when her support system lets her down
At the major holidays/festivals of worship, as Elkanah led his family, he celebrated by giving each member some of the sacrificial meat to eat before the Lord.
Peninnah had “sons and daughters” at the table, but the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb.
Imagine how the laughter and joy of Peninnah’s children eating and celebrating stung Hannah’s heart. Elkanah observed this, “for he loved Hannah.” He tried in vain to comfort her.
By the time we get to 1 Samuel and read about a man whose beloved wife cannot have children, it is a positive signal. We should immediately place Elkanah in the company of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Samson’s father Manoah.
All these had wives who could not conceive unless the LORD God intervened in their barrenness.
So, what should we expect for Elkanah’s wife? We should expect God to give her a child of great spiritual significance.
1 Sam 1:6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb.
1 Sam 1:7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.
1 Sam 1:8 Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
provoked by her rival
“and her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable…”
The book of Judges tells of the abuse of women, so there is no surprise that 1 Samuel begins with Hannah suffering under the cruelty of a rival wife.
Polygamy has always been lawless and without a warrant in the Scriptures. Its practice in Israel before they had a godly king is yet more evidence of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes.
Rivalry and resentment always result from plural marriages. No one wants to share a spouse.
patronized by her husband
“Hannah, why do you weep…am I not better to you than ten sons?”
Elkanah is a godly man who leads his family fairly well, but empathy is not his spiritual gift.
How would the world tell Hannah to respond to her troubles? It would ask her: “Who are you going to blame? You’re a victim. Who will feel your wrath? You need to cancel your husband, his other wife, their children, the priests, the patriarchy in general…”
(2) She shows us how to respond to overwhelming disappointment
1 Sam 1:9 So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD.
1 Sam 1:10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.
1 Sam 1:11 Then she made a vow and said, “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.”
She prays, holding nothing back
“And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish.”
She tests her own faith by making a vow to the LORD
“O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me…give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life…”
The vow she made was to make sure her secret promise to God became public enough to hold her to it.
Hannah to God: “I want to give you something worthy of You. But I don’t have anything like that. If You give me a child, I will give the child back to You in tribute. You are my treasure and my highest priority.”
Her heart’s desire to be a mother seemed hopeless. But her barrenness was the stimulus God used to build her faith!
If Hannah were to ever conceive a child, she was officially marking it as primarily an answer to a specific prayer, not natural causes.
When life is out of control, do you go to the One who can control it?
She cares about how her reputation reflects on her LORD
As she was praying in the sanctuary, pouring out her soul to the LORD, Eli the priest noticed her travail. Except he didn’t recognize her actions as devout or virtuous at first. He assumed that her lips moving rapidly without sound meant that she was drunk.
Eli reproved her for being irreverent in the house of God. Hannah’s surprised conscience spoke for her…
1 Sam 1:15 But Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD.
1 Sam 1:16 Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”
Eli had at least one faith-oriented priestly blessing left in his old age before his ministry failed for good.
1 Sam 1:17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”
Following her fervent prayers and Eli’s priestly blessing, Hannah returned home with her husband. They exercised their faith by being intimate together trusting that the LORD could still make them conceive a child.
1 Sam 1:19 Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her.
1 Sam 1:20 So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the LORD.”
“And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her” are two significant phrases from Genesis that signal success.
When Adam knew his wife Eve they conceived Seth (Gen 4:25). When the Lord remembered Noah and the patriarchs and their wives, blessing and salvation followed (Gen 8:1; Ex 2:24; Gen 30:22).
Gen 30:22 Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.
Gen 30:23 And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach.”
This passage teaches that true power is to be found not in your position in society but in your posture before God.
Eli, who possessed “spiritual competence” because of his office as priest, was in fact a spiritual lightweight.
The spiritual powerhouse in this narrative was a socially impotent woman from the rural regions of Ephraim. Hannah alone understood the true power of undivided faith in the Lord.
The next time the feast came around to go up to the tabernacle to worship, Hannah stayed back with the baby Samuel who was still nursing. Hannah announced that she would remain at home until the boy was weaned.
Then she would go up to worship and take Samuel to present Him to the LORD. She would fulfill her vow. This arrangement was agreed to by both father and mother. Elkanah even declared in faith that God would establish His Word in their son.
The evidence suggests that Jewish children nursed until they were at least 3 years old, so the child would not be completely helpless or dependent when he was given to the LORD at the temple. He would learn the priesthood quickly.
In this passage of Scripture, the Lord demonstrates his absolute power over all human institutions by changing the course of Israel’s history through one of Israel’s weakest and least significant individuals—a rural, barren woman named Hannah.
God’s action is triggered by Hannah’s remarkable faith in the very One who engineered the circumstances of her humiliation.
Her trust in the Lord brings rewards that surpass the pain she experienced earlier in life and makes her an object lesson demonstrating the Lord’s awesome power to bless anyone who possesses tenacious, risk-taking faith in him.
How did Hannah impact her culture? She did it through the gentle forces of faith and motherhood.
In this Bible text faith in God expresses its supreme paradox and boldest affirmation: the LORD may create social and natural tragedies in order to accomplish his purposes that far outweigh the calamity.
The Lord sometimes engineers social tragedies to display His goodness and grace and glory all at once.
John 9:1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.
John 9:2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
John 9:3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
We cannot even properly evaluate or appreciate our difficulties and tragedies without considering the ultimate purposes for them brought about by God.
Hannah has shown us the remarkable qualities of a biblical mother. Did the mom make the man?
No, God made Samuel to be a prophet like Moses. But the influence and values of Samuel’s mother played a major role in Samuel’s circumstances in the providence of God.
What might God be doing with the trials we are currently facing? What impact might they have on the future? We think “now.” God thinks “generations.”