1:1 There was [context: during the time of the judges (at this particular time characterized by anarchy and immorality as per Judg. 21:25)] a certain man from Ramathaim [or Ramah (cf. 1 Sam. 1:19; 2:11)], a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah [a religious man as per v. 3] son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.
1:2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah [possibly the first wife; name means grace] and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none [childlessness viewed as a sign of divine disapproval; possible reason why Elkanah had also married Peninnah].
• only woman in OT shown going up to the Lord’s house
• only woman shown making and fulfilling a vow to the Lord
• only woman who is specifically said to pray (her prayer among the longest in OT)
1:3 Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD.
1:4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice [see v. 3], he would give [indicates offering where worshipers would eat part of the animal offered in sacrifice] portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters.
1:5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb.
Hannah, Samuel’s mother, was a remarkable woman. She was the first of Elkanah’s two wives (1:2). Elkanah, Samuel’s father, was a devout man who led his family on an annual pilgrimage “to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord” (1:3) at Shiloh. Elkanah likely married Peninnah, his second wife, because Hannah was unable to bear children. Children, especially sons, were important to the welfare and survival of the family. However, in spite of the fact that she had borne him no children, Elkanah loved Hannah (1:5). Perhaps motivated by jealousy, Peninnah taunted and provoked Hannah severely year after year.
1:6 And because the LORD had closed her womb [afflictions call for endurance], her rival [Heb. “sara” which means adversary or “one who inflicts or troubles someone else”] kept provoking [Heb. kaas means “to provoke to anger”] her in order to irritate [hurts inflicted by others call for forbearance] her.
Note: In what areas of life do you face opposition? In what ways can perseverance during difficult times strengthen our faith?
1:7 This [provocation] went on year after year [prolonged ridicule indicates Peninnah was either jealous of Hannah (cf. 1:5a) or that she had a mean spirit (or both)]. Whenever Hannah [continued to worship God despite ridicule/verbal abuse from Peninnah] went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked [read Prov. 18:21 re: the power of words to hurt or to help] her till she wept and would not eat.
Deeply hurt by Peninnah’s taunting, Hannah went to the Lord’s tabernacle at Shiloh where she wept and prayed. Prayer is always a right response when we are experiencing difficult situations. The Lord invites us to cast our concerns upon Him because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).
When I was a child I sometimes had to stand on tip-toes to be able to see things that were out of my reach. As an adult, I have found that the best way to gain perspective about the things out of my reach and beyond my understanding is by getting on my knees (Ps. 73:16-17). I have learned that I can see God clearly and hear him best when I am on my knees. Q: In what ways are you able to gain perspective in difficult times?
1:8 Elkanah her husband would say [his words indicate that he failed to understand the depth of Hannah’s misery] to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
1:9 Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD’S temple.
1:10 In bitterness [Heb. mara; cf. Ruth 1:13,19-20; Job 3:20] of soul Hannah wept [v. 8 seems to indicate that Elkanah was insensitive to Hannah’s pain] much and prayed to the LORD.
Note: Hannah turned to the Lord in her time of need. Who do you turn to when you face difficulties? Why do you think we sometimes turn to God as a “last resort” instead of as a “first choice”?
1:11 And she made a vow [not an attempt to bargain with God; rather a promise of what she would do if God gave her a son], saying, “O LORD Almighty [or Lord of hosts; a recognition of and appeal to God’s power], if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then  I will give him to the LORD [Hannah fulfilled this vow after Samuel was weaned (1 Sam. 1:24-28)] for all the days of his life, and  no razor will ever be used on his head [implied her son would be a Nazirite (from Heb. “nazar” meaning “to separate” or “to consecrate”)].”
Elements of a Nazirite vow (read Num. 6:1-8)
• avoiding a razor
• abstaining from wine and other products of the grapevine
• avoiding contact with the dead
1:12 As she kept on [persistence in prayer (cf. Lk. 18:1)] praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth.
1:13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard [Hannah was praying silently]. Eli thought [misjudged Hannah’s behavior/jumped to conclusions] she was drunk
1:14 and said to her [Eli should have spoken these words to his evil sons instead (cf. 1 Sam. 2:12-17)], “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.”
Driven to her knees out of desperation, Hannah pleaded with God for a son. She was so overcome with emotion that she failed to notice that anyone else was in the tabernacle. As Eli the priest watched her praying silently from a distance, he mistakenly concluded that she was drunk and scolded her.
Hannah explained that she was not drunk but instead had been pouring out her heart before the Lord. Every word that she had prayed had seeped out of the depths of her anguish and resentment. Hannah was desperate for a child. While this passage does not imply that childless individuals and couples can bargain with God, it does teach that prayer is very appropriate.
1:15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah [Eli’s hasty words to Hannah show that sometimes even church people have bad experiences] replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul [indicates earnestness] to the LORD.
Note: How can we know that God cares for us even when our prayers are not answered in the way we want? How do you respond when your prayers are not answered in the way you want? How long do you pray for something before you get discouraged and give up?
1:16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
1:17 Eli [recognized his mistake] answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” [cf. 1:18 re: impact of Eli’s words of blessing]
Eli affirmed the sincerity of Hannah’s faith by adding his own priestly prayer that God grant her petition. Encouraged by Eli’s words, Hannah returned home a different woman.
Although she was still childless, she felt assured that God had heard and would answer her petition for a son. And, she was prepared to fulfill her vow to give the son that she so desperately wanted back to God (1:11) to live as a Nazirite — one separated and consecrated to the Lord (see Num. 6:1-21; Judg. 13:5-7).
1:18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
1:19 Early the next morning they [Elkanah and his family] arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered [cf. 1:11] her.
1:20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel [Heb. name sounds like word for “heard of God”], saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.”
After an unspecified period of time, Hannah gave birth to a son and named him Samuel, whose name served as a reminder that she had requested him from the Lord.
• key figure in transition period between the judges and the kings
• the last judge
• a priest and a prophet
• anointed Israel’s first two kings, Saul and David
1:21 When the man Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow,
1:22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.”
1:23 “Do what seems best to you,” Elkanah her husband told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the LORD make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.
1:24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh.
1:25 When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli,
1:26 and she said to him, “As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD.
1:27 I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.
1:28 So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.
Hannah did not forget the promise she had made when she poured out her heart before the Lord. When we make a promise to the Lord He expects us to keep it (Ecc. 5:5). After the birth of Samuel, Hannah was determined to follow through on her promise to give the boy to the Lord — essentially to dedicate him to God for a lifetime of service.
Although Hannah later gave birth to other children (1 Samuel 2:21), at this point in time Samuel was her only son. And yet, Hannah did not hesitate to give God what she had wanted and treasured most — the son that God had given to her in answer to prayer.
Elkanah supported Hannah’s decision to fulfill her promise. Like Hannah and Elkanah, many parents dedicate their children to God as babies. However, it is not enough to go through a ceremony and receive a certificate for having dedicated a child to God. It takes more than that to bring up a child “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Parents must prayerfully and intentionally embrace their responsibility to serve as the primary faith-trainers in the lives of their children. They must teach their own children by word and example, day in and day out. With so many world-views competing for the hearts and minds of our children, parents cannot afford to be slack in their responsibility to guide their children to love and serve God.
My Mom told me that when she and Dad took me home from the hospital after I was born, they stopped by the church and dedicated me to God. No ceremony — just Mom, Dad, their first-born son, and God.
As new parents, Mom and Dad had the wisdom to ask God for help. They understood that they could not raise me, and later my siblings, apart from divine help. They were right. Apart from trusting and hoping in God, we can easily become disoriented, distracted, and discouraged.
I’m grateful for my mother’s example of trusting God through all of life’s challenges. By so doing she left our family a legacy grounded in hope.
Challenges and difficulties can easily cause us to lose perspective, to lose hope, or to place our hope in the wrong things. Those who place their hope in anything or anyone other than God will be disappointed. Here are four things to consider that can help us to leave a legacy grounded in hope.
H = Look to heaven first when hard times comes. Our culture tempts us to look to everything but God for hope. However, God Himself invites us to cast our cares upon Him and to approach His throne for timely help. We should make God our first rather than our last resort.
O = Look for opportunities to teach your children about trusting God. Parents should teach their children about God’s faithfulness that they might put their confidence in God (Ps. 78:7). We must not leave this important lesson to chance but instead intentionally teach it to our children.
P = Remember that prayer and hope go hand in hand. It is often despair that drives us to our knees but hope that helps us to get up again. Always allow prayer to tether your heart to hope.
E = Those who hope in God should watch expectantly (Ps. 5:3). Expectant faith honors God and God honors expectant faith.
Regardless of whether you are a parent or an empty nester, married or single, male or female, we can each leave a legacy grounded in hope that will continue to bless those in our respective spheres of influence. Hope in God first and then trust him to the last.