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Hannah in the Bible: 5 Lessons We Can Learn

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Are you familiar with Hannah in the Bible? While she may not have an entire book written about her story, such as Ruth or Esther, in fact, her story is found only in Samuel 1, but her story is not insignificant. She is an important and interesting study of women of the Bible.

Hannah’s life includes infertility, bullying, prayer and answered prayer and even prophecy.

Hannah in the Bible, the second and barren yet preferred wife of Elkanah prays continually for a child. She suffers silently in this circumstance but eventually goes to the temple, where she fervently pours out her heart before God.

In her prayers, she promises if she has a son, she will offer him to God.

image of Hannah in the Bible with Samuel and Eli

When Hannah is praying to God, her actions are interpreted by Eli the priest, negatively. But she eventually finds favor with him and is granted a son, Samuel, through prayer!

Her story is one of independence and resourcefulness, where we see the emphasis on the importance of fertility in Israeli culture.

The Story of Hannah in the Bible

Hannah was Loved but Infertile and Bullied

In biblical times, it was common for men to marry more than one wife. Hannah was one of two wives married to a man named Elkanah.  It is not clear in scripture which wife he married first, but Hannah had been unable to bear children; it seemed her womb was barren, while his other wife, Peninnah, had many.

Hannah’s infertility did not matter to Hannah’s husband Elkanah. The Bible makes it clear how deeply he loved her, and the pain she endured from his other wife reflects a love so great it could withstand any wound dealt its way.

Now 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. On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 

So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.And 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?”

1 Samuel 1:3-8 (ESV)

Hannah’s pain is deep, yet her faith and reverence for God are deeper.

The significance of the women lies in their relationship to Elkanah and in their childbearing capacity: “The name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children” (1:2).

There 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. He 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.

1 Samuel 1:1-2 (ESV)

Hannah is the primary wife, yet Peninnah was the one able to bear children. Scripture also reflects the tension in the relationship between the women, Hannah’s status as primary wife, and her barrenness parallel with the stories of Sarah and Rebekah.

The matriarchs of old sought a way to be recognized as mothers through surrogate females, but this solution only brought them grief.

Hannah has a loving but tactless husband and a bitter, jealous rival wife. She keeps both of these things to herself, only pouring her heart out to God and the prophet Eli.

Hannah’s pain is intensified when her husband’s allocation of sacrifices at the major shrine of Shiloh shines a light on her lack of children.

Though he gives a generous portion to Hannah, this gesture still emphasizes that she has borne no children and thus cannot comfort her.

When she cries and does not eat, Elkanah tries to “comfort” her with several questions, finishing with “Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

(1 Samuel 1:8 ESV)

Whether or not the Elkanah’s consoling is a touching gesture, it could also be seen as an insensitive man who does not realize how desperately his wife wants to bear children.

Elkanah’s several rhetorical questions do not allow Hannah an opportunity to answer, and she wisely remains silent. Not granted the dignity her suffering deserves – Elkanah’s “comforting” only makes it worse for a poor, unfortunate woman who only desires to bear a child.

Hannah Prays for a Son

At Shiloh, Hannah experiences a terrible time of isolation and taunting by Peninnah.  She goes to the temple, and turns to God, vowing that if he will grant her a son, she’ll give him back to the Lord after weaning.

The desperation of Hannah’s vow demonstrates that merely bearing a male child would establish her in the community. She was willing to give up the joy of raising him.

Hannah silently prays to God, moving her lips during prayer.  Eli, the priest, sees her doing this and wrongly assumes she is drunk. Hannah is then wrongly accosted, as well as wrongly judged, by a second male at the temple.

At a time when prayer was said aloud, Hannah’s personal and private petition —a new idea in ancient Judaism, may have represented the “muted” position that women had been placed in. Unable to share their thoughts or feelings with others without being judged. Her lowered voice may represent a woman who feels she has no control over her own life.

Praying silently, Hannah in the Bible assumes that God can hear and respond to a woman’s prayer. Hannah answers Eli humbly and poignantly. In response, the priest offers no apology—merely trite phrases.

As mentioned above, Hannah isn’t the first woman in the Bible to suffer from infertility.

Yet Hannah’s response was significantly different from that of Rebekah or Sarah. Despite her anguish, Hannah didn’t retaliate against Peninnah or Elkanah. She took her pain to the only one who could heal it — the Lord her God.

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And 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.”

1 Samuel 1:10-11 (ESV)

Yet even in her sincere petition, Hannah is met with more negativity. Eli accuses her of being drunk and says to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.”

Once again, Hannah doesn’t get defensive but responds to Eli honorably. She is met with words of hope.

But 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. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.”1 Samuel 1:15-17 (ESV)

Hannah took Eli’s words in with faith and immediately felt more confident.

Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

1 Samuel 1:18 (ESV)
image of Hannah in the Bible with Samuel, Elkanah and Eli

Hannah’s Answered Prayer

After returning home from this visit to Shiloh, her prayer is answered the very next day.

They 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. And 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.”

1 Samuel 1:19-20 (ESV)

When Hannah’s son is born, she chooses a name for him, for women’s authority over children was often expressed by naming their offspring. She calls him Samuel because she asked God (El) for him.

Elkanah is not mentioned in the naming of their son. When the time for the next pilgrimage to Shiloh, Hannah chooses to remain at home until Samuel is weaned.

Hannah’s words to her husband on this occasion take a much different tone than what we earlier heard. She is the one who initiates dialogue and establishes conditions under which she will resume travel (once their son has been weaned), while Elkanah offers only confirmation of these statements with no argument or resistance from him at all.

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

1 Samuel 1:21-23 (ESV)

When Hannah finally does relinquish her son to the Lord, she brings him to Eli, with significant sacrifices to God, and she reminds the priest of her earlier prayer. In the Hebrew text, Hannah presents the child and also the sacrifices.

The Lord answering Hannah’s prayer is just one part of her amazing story. She remembered the vow she made to the Lord and had every intention of keeping it. From the time her son was born until he was weaned, Hannah loved Samuel, preparing her heart for the day she would give him back to God.

And 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. Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And 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. 

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

1 Samuel 1:24-28 (ESV)

Being fulfilled as a mother and fulfilling her vow to God brought Hannah much joy.

Prophesies Related to Anna in the Bible

There are four prophesies to take note of in Hannah’s story.

1. The comparison between the songs Hannah sang after she fulfilled her vow to deliver Samuel into the temple and Mary’s song when she was pregnant with Jesus is profound.

Hannah’s Prayer

And 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.

“There is none holy like the Lord:
    for there is none besides you;
    there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble bind on strength.

Those 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 Lord kills and brings to life;
    he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;

    he brings low and he exalts.
 He 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.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
    and on them he has set the world.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
    but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
    for not by might shall a man prevail.
The 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.”

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (ESV)

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

1 Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

2. Eli prophesied over her every year, and she had five more children after Samuel.

Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the Lord give you children by this woman for the petition she asked of the Lord.” Then they would return to their home.

Indeed the Lord visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.

1 Samuel 2:20-21 (ESV)

3. Hannah gave her firstborn son’s life to God in love and honor. And we see her actions foreshadow God’s actions to come. Because of God’s love for us, he gave his one and only son’s life to deliver us from sin.

4. Hannah’s name means favor or grace.  It is through our Lord Jesus Christ that we have been given favor with God and access to his grace that is able to save us.

Hannah’s story takes us from pain to joy, as does God’s plan of salvation.

Hannah’s story ends with the fulfillment of God’s blessing in the form of three additional sons and two daughters.

Hannah’s legacy is secure; she is recognized as the mother of Samuel—who becomes a prophet, judge, and king-maker—and as a good woman. She proves herself independent and resourceful, never abandoning her goals or demeaning others as a means to achieve them; she demonstrates women’s activity in family ritual practices; she discloses social responsibility by making a vow that is upheld by her husband, and she links the realms of private and public religious life by vowing dedication of her son and by bringing her own sacrifice to the Lord in fulfillment of that vow.

5 Lessons We Can Learn From Hannah in the Bible

1. Hannah demonstrated grace and humility.

Hannah showed exceptional patience and understanding with her words. She not only knew what to say but also when it was best for her not to speak at all – even if this meant enduring years of Peninnah’s taunting before finally responding in prayer instead!

When Peninnah started ridiculing her again, Hannah knew it was time to leave the dinner table. She went straight to God’s presence with prayer, but Eli accused her of being drunk. Again, her character was tested. And, again, Hannah had shown great grace in humility!

Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

1 Samuel 1:16 (ESV)

Her words and actions showed that she acknowledged Eli’s position of authority. She could have easily mouthed back at him but instead chose to display proper respect for him by calling herself his servant.

2. Eli, the priest, continued to ask God to bless Hannah

Once Hannah explained herself to Eli, his heart softened. He then reassured her of God’s intention to answer her prayer for a son. But that was just the first time Eli went to God on Hannah’s behalf.

Hannah’s prayer was answered, but the story didn’t end there. She gave birth to Samuel at the temple, and each year, Eli blessed them again with more children because of her faith and sacrifice.

“Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord give you children by this woman for the petition she asked of the Lord.” So then they would return to their home.”

1 Samuel 2:20 (ESV)

3. Hannah had five more children after Samuel.

God is always answering our prayers. Hannah had three more sons and two daughters after being blessed with Samuel, while Samuel “grew in the presence of the Lord.”. (1 Samuel 2:21b ESV)

Hannah prayed fervently for her children before and after God granted her the blessing of having them.

4. Hannah was the fourth woman in biblical history to suffer through infertility.

Before the story of Hannah in the Bible, three other women endured the despair of not being able to conceive. Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel. However, Hannah accepted God’s promise with unwavering faith. The other three did not. 

Sarah laughed at the angel’s proclamation that God would give her a child at her advanced age.

Genesis 18:12  (ESV)

Rebekah questioned, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me??” as her twins struggled in the womb.

Genesis 25:22  (ESV)

Rachel gave the responsibility to her husband.

Genesis 30:1  (ESV)

Hannah had a fear of the Lord that perfectly aligned with her godly character.

5. Hannah’s noted prayer may have prophesied the coming Messiah.

By dedicating Samuel to the Lord, Hannah fulfilled her commitment. I can only imagine how difficult that must be for her as a mother! Hannah praised God for her blessing. She thanked Him for His sovereignty. And at the end of her prayer, we find evidence of God’s plan for the salvation of all mankind.

The 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.”

1 Samuel 2:10 (ESV)

This passage has been perceived by many scholars to be about King David and his eventual anointing as king, but according to the Matthew Henry Commentary, the verse could also be referring back to Jesus’ birth.

The commentary states, “We have reason to think that this prophecy looks further, to the kingdom of Christ, and the administration of that kingdom of grace… The ancient expositors, both Jewish and Christian, make it to look beyond David to the Son of David.”

You may enjoy this brief video about Hannah in the Bible:

Or one of these recommended resources:

The Hannah Anointing: Becoming a Woman of Resilience, Fulfillment, and Fruitfulness by Michelle McClain-Walters

Hannah’s Hope: Seeking God’s Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss by Jennifer Saake

Life Lessons from Women in the Bible by Rhonda Kelley

The story of Hannah in the Bible is one that is full of hope and promise. She was a woman who had great faith and trusted in God to fulfill His promises for her. As we look at the prophecies that were spoken over her life, there are five lessons we can learn from Hannah that will help us live our lives with purpose and expectation. What are some of the things you’ve been struggling with lately? Let Hannah be your example of how to overcome trials through faith and trust in God. He has good plans for your future, too!

ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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