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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.
Hannah’s story 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.
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, while his other wife, Peninnah, had many.
Hannah’s infertility did not matter to 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.
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).
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 does give a generous portion to Hannah, this gesture still emphasizes the fact 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 poor, unfortunate woman who only desires to bear a child.
Hannah Prays for a Son
At Shiloh, Hannah’s 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.
While, 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.
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.
Hannah took Eli’s words in with faith, and she felt more confident immediately.
Hannah’s Answered Prayer
After returning home from this visit to Shiloh, her prayer is answered the very next day.
When Hannah’s son is born, she chooses a name for him, for women’s authority over children was often expressed by the naming of 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.
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.
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.
Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat
2. Every year Eli prophesied over her, 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.” So then they would return to their home.
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!
Hannah knew it was time to leave the dinner table when Peninnah started ridiculing her again. 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!
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.
3. Hannah had 5 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.
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
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.”