Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 1, ESV
You’ve likely read the names of Elkanah and Hannah as you’ve moved through the first few chapters of 1 Samuel. If you’re like many people, though, you may have raced on to all of the other amazing things that take place in this incredible book, and not stopped to think about the huge role that these two unsung heroes of the Bible played in the spiritual fabric of Israel.
More than anything, Hannah desperately wanted a son. However, the Bible says that God closed her womb so she was unable to conceive.
Chapter one of 1 Samuel drips with the pain that Hannah endured due to her situation. Not only was she barren, but Elkanah’s other wife mocked and tormented her because of her inability to have a child.
Further, as she was crying out to God in the temple, the chief priest Eli verbally attacked Hannah, accusing her of being drunk and a daughter of Satan.
Hannah was in a rough place. Her heart yearned so desperately for a son. As she prayed in the temple, she promised that if only God would grant her a boy, she would “give him to the LORD all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11, ESV).
God heard her prayer, and—when the time was right for both Hannah and Israel—God allowed Hannah to become pregnant and give birth to a boy that she named Samuel.
This was as good as it gets! Hannah had the son that she’d always wanted, and Elkanah was excited that his wife—whom he loved dearly—was happy.
Of course, amid the joy hung the oath that Hannah had made to God. She had the baby boy in her arms, but she knew he was not hers to keep. She had already promised that he would serve God all the days of his life. That meant that he would grow up in the temple.
Now, Elkanah, who wasn’t there when Hannah made the oath to God, could have stopped this. Per the customs of the day, as the man and the husband, he could have either passively or actively rejected Hannah’s oath and kept the boy.
Likewise, Hannah could have hypothetically changed her mind. After all, how many of us have made a promise to God while in a dire situation which we conveniently forgot at a later time?
Hannah and Elkanah, however, did not forget or deny the oath. Instead, when the baby boy had been weaned, they gave him to God as a living sacrifice. They willingly brought their child to the temple to serve God.
It’s easy to gloss over this, but as a parent it’s hard to comprehend. First of all, this boy was their son, and the emotional turmoil of giving up your own child must be excruciatingly difficult as it is.
Second, not only was Samuel their only son, but also their whole world. He was all Hannah ever wanted, and now she must give him up.
Finally, they were bringing him to the chief priest Eli, the same man who accused Hannah of being drunk in the temple. In fact, Eli already had two sons who were wicked men. He was not “Father of the Year” material, and, in a worldly view of things, Hannah and Elkanah had every right to be concerned about their child’s well-being.
Regardless, Hannah had made her oath, Elkanah supported her oath, and so once he was weaned the boy Samuel went to the temple.
What was the result of this incredible living sacrifice by Hannah and Elkanah?
We’re told that “Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:19-20, ESV).
Israel, which had been spiritually parched and had not heard from God in years (1 Samuel 3:1), suddenly came alive to the reality of the Lord as the young boy Samuel grew into a prophet who spoke the words of God to the entire nation!
What about you and me? We see Elkanah and Hannah make the greatest of living sacrifices so Israel may hear the word of the Lord, but often we’re too busy or too comfortable to make the simplest of gestures to share Christ with our friends or neighbors.
God’s not calling you to give up your child, but He is calling you to cross the street and share the hope that can only be found in a relationship with Jesus. Heed that call, be a living sacrifice, and watch Him work in and through you!
Scripture Reference: 1 Samuel 1
1 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.
2 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.
3 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.
4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters.
5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.
6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.
7 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.
8 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?”
9 After 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.
10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.
11 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.”
12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.
13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.
14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.”
15 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.
16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”
17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.”
18 And 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.
19 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.
20 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.”
21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow.
22 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.”
23 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.
24 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.
25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli.
26 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.
27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.
28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”
And he worshiped the Lord there.