Only a parent who yearns for a child and cannot bear one can fully understand Hannah. Hannah was married to a kind man named Elkanah, but she suffered the disgrace of sterility. This was a huge disgrace in a society in which family propagation and genealogy were all-important. What made the situation even more heartbreaking was the fact that Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, bore children and she constantly mocked and ridiculed Hannah’s childlessness.
Every year Elkanah and his family traveled to the tabernacle in Shiloh to offer sacrifices to Yahweh. Hannah was especially depressed during this time of year. While many Hebrews were happily bringing thanksgiving offerings to the tabernacle, Hannah felt as if God had forsaken her. She sobbed in solitude and wouldn’t eat. One afternoon she went into the tabernacle and knelt in prayer. “Please God,” she begged, “if you will remember me and grant me a male child, I will dedicate him to you as a Nazirite for life.”
Hannah was praying so fervently and silently, Eli, the high priest, thought maybe she was drunk. “No, my lord,” Hannah answered. “I am only deeply hurt and troubled. I am pouring out my soul before the Lord.”
Eli said, “Go in peace. May God grant your petition.”
Within a year, Hannah bore a son and named him Samuel. Several years later, when Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to Shiloh. She was determined to keep her promise to dedicate her child to His service. It must have torn her heart in half to leave her little boy behind to serve in the tabernacle. But she kept her promise.
Every year she painstakingly sewed a new robe for Samuel and traveled excitedly to Shiloh and gave it to him. We can only imagine how much Samuel and his mother enjoyed these yearly visits. Though Hannah was only able to spend a few brief days with her son each year, there is no sign of anger or bitterness in her attitude. In fact, when she first left Samuel to serve God in Shiloh, in place of heartbreak she prayed a prayer of rejoicing:
My heart exults in the Lord;
My strength is exalted in my God…
He raises 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…
What can we learn from Hannah?
Instead of being greedy or possessive, Hannah was willing to consecrate to God even that which she treasured most. It is very difficult for us to dedicate to God’s keeping those possessions and relationships we value most. Perhaps we imagine that God will deprive us or destroy that which is precious to us. What we fail to realize is that the center of God’s palm is the safest and best place of all.
Bible Verses about Hannah
1 Samuel chaps. 1-2
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Hannah in the Bible?
- Does God answer prayer?
- How long does it take for God to answer prayer?
- Does God care about my prayers?
- How to cope with infertility
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis