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Follow the link for The literary structure of 1 Samuel 2:1-10

We are finishing up the stories about Hannah in 1 Samuel today. We have covered her prayer for a son, her gift to God of her son and now today we cover her praise to God.

I said when we began this series, that Hannah was a strong and godly woman and I want to take note of this briefly before we get to our passage today in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

Hannah was a strong woman

  • She endured a great deal of testing – her rival wife’s taunting and a husband who didn’t really get it. She put up with a lot.
  • She prayed boldly at the tabernacle by herself, which must have been unusual in that day.
  • She made a vow to give up her child to God, without talking to her husband first.
  • She placed her child under a Nazarite vow, without talking to her husband first.
  • She defended her character before the High priest and ruler of the land, when he thought she was drunk. She stood up for herself; she spoke up.
  • She named her son, not her husband.
  • She decided when to take Samuel to give to the Lord, 3 or more years later, after he was weaned.
  • She brought Samuel to Eli and offered him up. Even though both she and her husband were there she is the one who says, “I have lent him to the Lord” – 1 Samuel 1:28.

We already know from the story that her Elkanah loved her, but we can see here that he respected her. Her strength was not a threat to him. He accepted her vow to give up the child who was his son as well; he accepted that the child would be a Nazarite; and he accepted that Hannah would fulfill her vow after Samuel was weaned, saying, “do what seems best to you” -1 Samuel 1:23.

She was a strong woman, but also –

Hannah was a godly woman

  • She did not return evil for evil, harm for harm to Peninnah.
  • She took her problem to the Lord, she didn’t scheme; she didn’t fight with Peninnah; she didn’t rely on the flesh.
  • She knew how to pray boldly and persistently
  • She had great faith in God to answer her prayer
  • She kept her word, the vow that she made to God.
  • She was very generous in her offerings to the Lord
  • She gave the gift of her son to serve God forever
  • She publicly worshiped and praised God for his goodness to her.

Well, not only was she strong and godly, as we will see, she was a prophet as well. This leads us to our verses for today.

Hannah’s praise to God

I want to point out four things from these verses. And the first is found in vs. 1-2. 1. Hannah thanked God for answered prayer.

1And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. 2There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.”

She was reviled for not being able to have a child. She was looked down on. Some would have said that God was punishing her. But God heard her prayer and lifted her up. And in response, she not only brought an offering, and gave her son – she also spoke out words of praise to God, publicly, for all to hear. And notice how wholehearted and personal it is – “my heart . . . I rejoice.”

The phrase “my horn is exalted” is not something we go around saying, but it was a way of talking about one’s strength or victory, like an animal that wins a battle and lifts up its head. It can also refer to having a progeny (1 Chronicles 25:5) which she gained through Samuel.

She confesses her strong faith in a God who is beyond compare:

  1. there is none holy like the Lord
  2. there is no God besides God, that is, the one true God
  3. there is no rock like God

And this should remind us that we should also thank God for answered prayer. We might be quick to ask for prayer, but we need to be just as quick to give praise to God when he acts to save and bless us, and to do so publicly. This is only right and it also encourages and strengthens others when they hear what God is doing.

This is a real theme in the book of Psalms. Here is just one example. Psalm 40:10 says, “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” God had helped him and he told others about it. And likewise, we need to make it known how great God is through our public praises before the congregation. Just like Hannah did.

2. God knows about and judges the arrogant. The focus of verses 3-5 is found in verse three.

3Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth”

The enemies of the faithful are the proud and the arrogant. And these are always boasting and talking it up. They lift themselves up over God’s people. This certainly applies to Peninnah, but also more broadly to the Philistines who were dominating and oppressing Israel at this time.

Next we learn something about God that relates to this.

“for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.”

What she is saying is that God knows and hears all that the arrogant say and do and God will weigh, or judge all their words and actions.

And then we have three examples of how God judges by means of reversal, putting down the arrogant and raising up the lowly who look to him.

4The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength. 5Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.”

  • The militarily strong and the weak change places
  • The well fed and the hungry change places
  • The woman who can’t have children and the one who can change places.

In each of these cases the arrogant who are lifted up are put down and the lowly who look to God are raised up by the hand of God.

Who are your enemies? Do you have any; those who oppose and deride you? Hannah’s message is clear know that God hears the boasts of your enemies and will act. You can trust God to take care of things.

In verses 6-9 we learn that 3. God is able to judge the powerful. The focus here is found in v. 9 and works its way backwards (in parallel to the material above – see the literary structure), so we will go through these verses in reverse order.

9for not by might shall a man prevail.”

The enemies of the faithful are powerful in this world’s eyes. But they depend on mere human strength – whether military, social or political. They rely on their own wisdom and resources.

Next we learn something about God that relates to this –

8For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. 9He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness”

V. 8 is talking about creation and how God has established the dry land on the waters by means of pillars, as it were. And so she’s saying, God is more than able to take care of his own and judge the wicked, no matter how powerful they may seem to be, because he is the same God who created the world and all that is in it.

And then we have another set of three of examples of God’s judgment that reverses the order of things.

6The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. 7The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. 8He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.”

God holds the power of life and death. He can raise up and he can put down. Indeed, God can reverse any situation and set things right. The same power that God used to create the world is more than enough to reorder things and bring about justice and righteousness.

Do your enemies seem powerful? Hannah’s message to us is this – God is more powerful than any enemy we have, and he can take care of us.

4. God will use his anointed to bring victory. In v. 10 Hannah looks ahead with regard to her son Samuel and beyond.

10The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

She sees prophetically that her son will be a judge whom God uses to bring about victory over the Philistines. God will thunder from heaven to defeat the Philistines, just as he does in 1 Samuel 7:10. He is God’s anointed being a prophet, priest and judge.

Not only has God given her a victory over her arrogant and powerful enemies, God will act for all Israel through Samuel.

God will “exalt the horn” of her son and give him victory to lift up the Israelites and to put down the Philistines.

(Samuel was not a “king” or called “anointed.” Israel didn’t technically have a king at this time. This language should be taken like the “prince” and “throne” language of v. 8 in a more generic sense. Israel’s leaders could be called princes, as in Judges 5:15, and a judge ruled – Ruth 1:1 – they decided legal cases and they led in battle. But they weren’t a king like the nations around them had, who had total control of a nation state.)

But her prophetic voice doesn’t just address Samuel. It looks forward to king David, God’s anointed and how God will use him to bless Israel. (The titles of “king” and “anointed” fit David better. God also thunders for David  – 2 Samuel 22:14.) And this is where 1 and 2 Samuel is going – the stories of David.

And ultimately her prophetic vision looks forward to the Son of David – Jesus the Christ, or the anointed one.

  • For it is only with Jesus that resurrection comes as v. 6 says, “he brings down to Sheol and raises up”, that is from the dead.
  • And it is only with Jesus that lasting reversal comes, as he talks about in the beatitudes, when the hungry will be well fed, and the well fed will be hungry – Luke 6.
  • And it is only with Jesus that all the earth will be judged as v. 10 says, he will “judge the ends of the earth,” that, is the whole world.

Hannah as a prophet gives us a picture of the future, from Samuel’s adult life all the way to when Jesus returns and rules over the world.

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Follow the link for The literary structure of 1 Samuel 1:21-2:11a

Last week we began the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. We saw how she was in a difficult situation – she couldn’t have children. And so her husband Elkanah married another woman who did have children. And then this rival wife tormented Hannah over this. We heard how Hannah became so troubled and overwhelmed that she couldn’t eat. So she poured out her heart to God at the tabernacle in prayer. And that she made a vow that if God would give her a son, she would give that son back to serve God forever.

She prayed boldly and persistently until she felt that God had heard her prayer – and then she went away in faith and at peace. And sure enough, not long after, God answered her cry and gave her a son, Samuel.

Which leads us to our story today –

Hannah’s gift of Samuel to God 

21The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow.

There are two things here that point to Elkanah devotion. 1) He went up each year to worship at Shiloh at the tent of meeting, which seems to be a voluntary pilgrimage beyond what is required. And 2) he paid his vow. As we saw last week vows are voluntary commitments or acts of devotion to God, beyond what is required. They often had a deal quality to them – God if you do this, then I will do this.

We don’t know what this vow was about, but perhaps it was a prayer for good crops and then an extra sacrifice to God because of good crops. Deuteronomy 23:21 says of vows – “If you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.”

The notation in our story of him paying his vow shows us that he was a person of integrity, who kept his commitments to God.

22But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.”

 Immediately it is clarified that Hannah and Samuel did not go up to worship. She had vowed to give Samuel to serve God under a Nazarite vow for his whole life. (v. 22 – some versions include a phrase from other ancient manuscripts which says, “I will offer him as a Nazarite for all time.”)

And so there is the question of her delay. Now that she has the child; now that she is a new mom, will she have second thoughts? Lest anyone think that she would not come through on her commitment, the reasoning is explained. Samuel was probably around three months old at this time, and he would need to be weaned first. In her thinking, once the child was given, he could not come back and forth to their household and weaning was required for this kind of permanent separation.

23Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him.

 Elkanah agrees that this is fine. He has already accepted her vow to give up their son, which he could have canceled according to Numbers 30:6-8, but didn’t.

It’s unclear what Elkanah means when he says, “may the Lord establish his word.” One possibility is that God may have told them that their child would be a great prophet, and so the sense is that he is praying that God will speak through him and that Samuel’s prophetic words will be established by God, or come to pass.

This matches what is said later in 1 Samuel 3:19-20 – “the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground . . . Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.” (his words/established). And this also seems to refer to Deuteronomy 18:15-18 that speaks of God sending another prophet like Moses, whose words will come true.

In the ancient world children were weaned after 3 years or even longer.  (2 Maccabees 7:27). This is different than what we are used to, but this is the time frame we are working with.

24And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli.

So when Samuel was a toddler, she took him to give him to the Lord. And as they brought him they gave a very generous offering, according to Numbers 15:8-10 and what is required for fulfilling a vow.

  • They gave a 3 year old bull, instead of a 1 year old, which was more valuable. (If the alternative reading of 3 bulls is used, the same point is made)
  • They gave an ephah of flower, about a bushel, instead of 3/10 of an ephah
  • They gave a full skin of wine, instead of a half hin of wine (which was just over half a gallon). So they gave perhaps a gallon or two.

26And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

After three or more years she has now come back to Eli and she reminds him of who she is. (“As you live” is a testimonial oath. He couldn’t see well (1 Samuel 3:2), so perhaps a testimonial oath was needed to confirm her identity). And she tells him that her prayer was indeed answered.

She even quotes Eli’s word to her from their previous encounter in 1:17, the Lord “has granted me my petition that I made to him.” Here next to her is her son Samuel.

Just as she named him Samuel because of a wordplay with the word for ask, this continues here. The word for “ask” can also mean lend. And so just as he came to her by asking God, so now she gives him to God as a loan forever.

Now let’s stop for a moment and think about Hannah’s gift to God:

  • This was a first born son and in that day this was the most valuable child
  • This was her only child
  •  And she didn’t know if she could have others, this one was the product of a miracle
  •  And he was given while still a small child, which must have been terribly difficult

This was an extraordinary gift and act of devotion to God!

And then our story ends –

 1:28And he (most likely Elkanah) worshiped the Lord there . . .. And then after Hannah’s praise to God, which we will come back to . . . in 2:11a it says, Then Elkanah (and presumably also Hannah) went home to Ramah.

Lessons for us

1. We should keep our commitments to God also . . . Just as Elkanah kept his vow, and especially just as Hannah kept her vow, so we are to keep our commitments that we make to God.

Whether we are talking about baptismal vows, marital vows or the kind of vows we see in this story, where we ask God to help us and if he does we commit to do something for God. Once again, Deuteronomy 23:21 says, “If you make a vow/commitment to the Lord your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin.” If you tell God you will do something, then you need to do it.

2. We should give generously even sacrificially to God as well . . . This shows up in the offering they brought to the tabernacle of God, which went well beyond what was required. And this certainly shows up in giving Samuel to be the Lord’s forever.

How does your giving compare to theirs?

  • Is it thoughtless and haphazard, so that we just give whatever, usually a little bit here or there. Maybe whatever might be in your wallet or purse when you show up to church? Maybe the smallest bill you have?
  • Or is it straight by the rules? You are supposed to give this much so you give that much.
  • Or is it abundant and generous, beyond what is required as an expression of love and devotion to God?

Let me end by noting that you can’t out-give God. If we look ahead in the story in 1 Samuel 2:21 we see that God gave Hannah five other children after this. Now, we don’t always get back the same thing we give, but you will never be more generous than God is. And he blesses those who give generously and sacrificially to him. Are you generous with God?

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(I am working through this material again to get to the rest of the book)

Follow the link for The literary structure of 1 Samuel 1:1-20

This morning we are starting into the story of Hannah found in 1 Samuel, and today we are in chapter 1. She is a strong and godly woman, as we will see, and we can learn much from  her.

Today we begin with –

Hannah’s prayer for a child

What I want to say is that she is an example to us of what to do when you have a really heavy burden. Do you have a heavy burden this morning? Is something weighing on your heart? Keep this in mind as we go through this story and let’s see what we can learn about how to handle these.

By way of orientation, the story centers around two places Ramathaim (Ramah), where Hannah and her husband are from and Shiloh, where the tabernacle of the Lord is at this time (Joshua 18:1). Remember this is before there was a permanent temple building in Jerusalem. These two cities were about 15 miles apart, or a journey of two days by foot with family.

Hannah’s difficult situation

1There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

In v. 1 we get some background on Elkanah. (Based on the larger story of Samuel and other Scriptures [1 Chronicles 6:26-27, 33-34; Numbers 3:33] perhaps he was of Levite descent but lived in the area of the tribe of Ephraim.)

And then v. 2 gets to the heart of the issue – “he had two wives.” Polygamy was not forbidden in Israel, even though the Genesis teaching is one man and one woman. It wasn’t too common because a man had to be well off to support more than one wife.

In Hebrew it’s clearer that Hannah was the first wife. In this case Elkanah most likely married Peninnah to carry on the family lineage, since Hannah couldn’t have children. That’s why he has two wives.

If you look at the stories in the Bible that talk about polygamy, they certainly don’t glorify it. It caused problems and this is what we turn to now in our story.

3Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord.

Here we see that Elkanah is a devout man, coming to the tabernacle at Shiloh each year to worship. This appears to be a voluntary pilgrimage beyond what was required by the Law (three visits a year for men on major festivals). So this was a yearly family event, like a “family vacation,” where everyone is together in close proximity. And it caused problems. (That never happens with us, right?) 

4On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.

Now meat was not too common for meals in the ancient world. But when sacrifices were made some of the meat and other items were given to the family for a feast (Deuteronomy 12:17-18). And how this was divided up highlights Hannah’s predicament.  Peninnah got more for “all her sons and daughters.” But she got less.

Elkanah did give her a double portion, because he loved her, which most likely means more than Peninnah got for just herself. But it reminded Hannah that she couldn’t have children.

The phrase, “though the Lord had closed her womb” (also v. 6) doesn’t mean that if you can’t have children God is specifically causing this. God allows much to happen in this world that is not his direct or preferred will. Although God may specifically be behind this in Hannah’s life, even here it might simply mean that God has allowed this to happen.

6And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her.

So you can see the family dysfunction – Hannah is beloved but unable to have children. Peninnah has children but is feeling slighted by Elkanah, and so she torments Hannah. A vicious circle. Peninnah is Hannah’s “rival,” an enemy who is very cruel to her. (See the language of “rival wife” in Leviticus 18:18)

Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

This was supposed to be a festive time of celebration, but it became a yearly time of suffering for Hannah.

This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a husband tried to console his wife, without really understanding what she was upset about. In that day it was a real social stigma for a wife to produce no children. Others looked down on her. And who would take care of her in her old age? [The mention of ten sons is possibly a reference to the story of Jacob and Rachel, where he loved her more, but Leah, his other wife, had ten sons, with help from her servant (Genesis 29:31-30:22) (Bergen).]

Hannah’s prayer

9After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.

Different translations render it differently, but it appears that the rest of the family feasted, and when the party was over Hannah, too distressed to eat or drink (v. 7, 8, 15), slipped off to the tabernacle to pray.

The condition of her soul is emphasized, “she was deeply distressed” “and wept bitterly” as she prayed.

11And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

Vows are voluntary commitments made to God. They are acts of devotion that go beyond what God requires. They often have a deal quality to them. God if you do this, then I will do this, and you can see that here.

Her vow is that if God gives her a son, then she will give that son right back to him to serve the Lord forever. And in fact, she places the son under a Nazarite vow for his whole life – a special state of consecration to the Lord, so that he can’t cut his hair as well as other restrictions (Numbers 6:5).

Notice the awareness of her lowliness. She is “afflicted” and she calls herself a servant three times. She knows that God listens to the lowly (Psalm 138:6). And she calls on the Lord to remember her in her lowliness.

12As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

So she is involved in some really intense silent prayer. But Eli, who is overseeing the tabernacle, mistakes what’s going on. Since alcohol was a part of such festive celebrations (e.g. Exodus 29:40, Leviticus 23:13 and in our own story 1:24) he thinks that she is drunk.

Hannah is quick to correct him, for she did not partake in the family feast. Rather she is praying desperately to God for help. (Notice the contrast – her condition is not from pouring out wine, it is from pouring out her soul.) (Notice the irony – while she is offering up her possible son to be a Nazarite, who cannot touch wine, she is accused of being drunk.)

Hannah’s faith

17Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

Eli speaks out pastorally – go in peace. And he prays that God will answer her. And this is enough for her. She comes to a place of faith and trust in God and so she can put away her sadness and finally eat. She has “prayed through” as the old phrases goes. Even though her circumstances have not yet changed, she has put her burden in God’s hands and has peace and hope.

This brings us to the end of our story –

Hannah’s prayer is answered

19They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”

God did indeed remember Hannah and gave her a son. She names him Samuel, which involves a word play  with the word for “ask” – which is how she got her son from the Lord.

This was a true miracle and it marked the child as special, someone from who great things will be expected. And as we know, Samuel doesn’t disappoint.

Encouragement for us

1. Hannah was in a very difficult situation . . . She wasn’t able to have children which caused others to look down on her and put her in a place of weakness socially. And on top of this her rival tormented her about this year after year. It was so bad that she wept bitterly and was deeply distressed and couldn’t eat. She felt afflicted and forgotten by God. She was troubled, anxious and vexed.

. . . what is your situation? We all go through deep waters that push us to the limit and more; where we feel forgotten and overwhelmed. What is on your heart this morning? What burden are you carrying?

2. Hannah took her problem to the Lord in prayer . . . She poured out her heart to God. She acknowledged her weakness and lowliness and dependence on God. She prayed boldly, even making a vow before God. She prayed so intensely that Eli thought she was drunk. She prayed and prayed until, through the words of Eli, she came to a place of faith and peace – that God would take care of her. She “prayed through.” She connected with God and was able to leave her burden with him and move forward in faith.

. . . we should too! Take your burden to the Lord, cast your care on him for he cares for you. Pour out your heart to God. Pray intensely. Pray boldly. And pray until you connect with God and come to a place of peace and trust, knowing that God has heard you and will take care of you.

3. God took care of Hannah . . . He did remember her, he did help her, he did save her from her situation by giving her a son. She gained a new future, full of hope and life.

. . . and God will take care of us. I can’t say how specifically. It’s not always what we think it will be. For instance, not every godly man or woman who has prayed for a child has received one. But we can say with full confidence that God will hear and act, and be faithful to us as well.

4. God brought something good out of her trial for others . . . God not only answered her prayer, but through her God acted for all of Israel by giving Samuel who will lead the people back to God and new life. It was through her difficulties and her faith that God accomplished this.

. . . God can use our trials to bless others. God can transform our suffering into something that will bless many, many people beyond us. God can bring much good out of our struggles. So don’t give up! Trust God and wait for him to act. He will not only take care of you, he will use your trials to bless others.

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