University Bible Fellowship of
Toronto
           
 
           
 
 
Bible Search 

HANNAH, A WOMAN OF PRAYER

1 Samuel 1:1-2:11
Key Verse: 1:10-11

Thank God for helping us to study the epistle Galatians from start to finish. We should always remember that we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus who loved us and gave his life for our sins. Indeed what a grace it is that we have God’s approval for eternity. In this grace of justification we may live by faith in the Son of God, keeping in step with the Spirit and sowing to please the Spirit each day. Thank God for granting us an opportunity to study 1 Samuel. 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book. The author is unknown since the death Samuel is written in 1 Samuel 25:1. Definitely, the author must have faithfully used the records of Samuel and the records of the prophets Nathan and Gad, according to 1 Chronicles 29:29. Through this study of 1 Samuel may we grow as spiritual leaders with solid faith in God’s sovereignty. May God raise up young spiritual leaders from U of T students in our generation. The book of 1 Samuel is mainly the story of Samuel, Saul and David. Samuel was a prophet and a judge, the last judge. He was a shepherd for Saul and then David, the first two kings of Israel. So without Samuel there would have been no Saul and no David. Samuel was born through Hannah’s prayer. Behind Samuel was his mother Hannah. So 1 Samuel begins with the story of Hannah. In this first lesson let’s think about Hannah, a woman of prayer.

First, Hannah’s prayer for a son. There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah (meaning “God has created”). He was from the Kohathite branch of the tribe of Levi (1 Chro. 6:25,27). The Levites lived among the other tribes (Josh. 21:20-22). Ephraim was the tribal area where this Levite lived. Elkanah had two wives. Although polygamy was not God’s intention for mankind (Gen 2:24), it was tolerated, but never endorsed in Israel (see Deut. 21:1-17). Elkanah probably married Hannah (meaning ‘grace’) first, and then married Peninah (meaning ‘ruby’) because Hannah was barren. And Peninah was the bearer of his first children.

Then what kind of man was Elkanah? Look at verse 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.” It is notable that the words “the LORD Almighty”, or in other translations, “the LORD of hosts”, appear here for the first time, among more than 250 occurrences in the Bible. “The LORD Almighty” is written 5 times in 1 Samuel. This title emphasizes the LORD as sovereign over all of the powers in heaven and on earth, especially over the armies of Israel. So David said in his fighting against Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled” (17:45). In 1:11 Hannah prayed calling “O LORD Almighty.” The time of Judges was the time when everyone did as he saw fit” (Judg. 17:6; 21:12). There was no fear of God in people’s hearts. Yet there was still a family of Elkanah who every year went up to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where there was the house of the LORD (Dt 6:16). The offering of this was a peace (or fellowship) offering since the worshipers ate a portion of the offering (see Lev. 7:11-18).

Look at verses 4 and 5. “Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb.” In those days, a woman’s worth was measured by her children. However, Elkanah did not treat Hannah with contempt because she had no children. Rather, he was considerate to her, as Peter said 1 Peter 3:7, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives.” Elkanah loved Hannah faithfully. The author wrote, “and the LORD had closed her womb.” Elkanah knew this and tried to comfort Hannah. Hannah’s barrenness was more than a biological problem. Fundamentally it was a spiritual problem, a problem related to God. God intentionally closed her womb. This is written again in verse 6, “And because the LORD had closed her womb…” assuring it as the act of the LORD for a special purpose.

Verse 6 continues, “And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.” Likely, from the perspective of Hannah’s rival and most other people, the LORD closing Hannah’s womb meant no blessing from God. They could not think more than that. The rival was happy with this superiority to Hannah. The rival’s provoking and irritating Hannah went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. So the rival’s provoking in her barrenness affected Hannah deeply. Knowing all the situations Elkanah did his best to comfort and encourage Hannah, saying, “Hannah, why are weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” Although Elkanah was a nice husband, he had a limitation in helping Hannah. In fact no one knew the meaning of the LORD closing Hannah’s womb, why the LORD closed her womb. No ordinary human mind could perceive it.

As for Hannah, although she was deeply affected by her rival’s provoking due to her barren state, she was not fatalistic or fought a human battle with her rival. We don’t know how profoundly Hannah knew God’s purpose for her in closing her womb. Yet, one thing is sure that she took the matter before God. Then through her serious life problem she go over shallowness in life. If she had children like others, her life could have been just ordinary on a shallow level. But with her critical life problem, when she had a godly perspective, her attitude toward life was not superficial but sincere and deepened. More than that she could probe into the heart and mind of God, who alone could solve her life problem and who had a clear purpose upon her life.

No suffering in life is meaningless or purposeless in God. This is a very important and consistent teaching of the Bible that we should have a godly view of life, especially over incomprehensive sufferings in life. There are numerous examples of this. First of all is Joseph in the Old Testament. Obviously because of his brother’s hatred, he became a slave in Egypt. And obviously because of a woman’s false accusation, he became a prisoner. Such hardships came to him in what should have been the prime of his life. So people might think, “What a loss! What a pity!” It seemed that such things happened on account of bad people and his life was an unfortunate one because he could not meet good people. But Joseph did not have such a humanistic view. He had a godly view over his life. God was always the subject in life. It was God who made all those events happen, because he had a great purpose upon Joseph’s life. When Joseph had such a view, his inner person could grow strong at each tough time, taking a root in God. Finally, God fulfilled his purpose upon Joseph’s life.

Our U of T campus pioneering work has not been easy at all for the last over 25 years. I can think of many human problems including my poorness in serving God’s people. But I can testify that God has led us thus far despite our human weaknesses. May I continually learn godly view over each event and dealing with each person so that God may fulfill his purpose upon God’s ministry as well as in my life. We remember the words in Galatians 6:8-9, “…the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let’s us do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” We can sow to please the Spirit and do good when we have godly view. And we cannot give up because God’s ultimate purpose is good (Ge 50:20).

When Hannah recognized that the LORD had closed her womb and had a godly persepective over her harrowing hardship, finally she could come to the Lord and pray. Look at verse 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.” While all others were in a joyful mood after eating and drinking, Hannah was not in such a mood. She rose and entered the temple of the LORD and stood beside the priest who was sitting by the doorpost of the temple. Then in verse 10, “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD.” In this chapter the expression “Hannah prayed…” is written 6 times: in verse 12, “As she kept on praying to the LORD”, in verse 13, “Hannah was praying n her heart”, in verse 16, “Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief,” in verse 26, “…I am the woman who stood beside you praying to the LORD”, and in verse 27, “I prayed for this child…” While all others did not pray, Hannah prayed. Only Hannah prayed. At first Eli the priest misunderstood praying Hannah as drunk Hannah, for no one prayed like her. It seemed that drunk women were common at that time. Hannah prayed, for she knew her misery. She prayed because she was a woman who was deeply troubled. She prayed out of great anguish and grief. She prayed pouring out her soul to the LORD. Through her serious life problem, Hannah became a woman of prayer. Beautiful Hannah! Graceful Hannah, just as her name!

Abraham was a man of prayer. Isaac was a man of prayer. Moses was a man of prayer. Samuel was a man of prayer surely influenced by Hannah. David was a man of prayer, but Saul was not. Even our Lord Jesus was a man of prayer while on earth. Through all life problems God wants to mould us as men and women of prayer.

In her prayer Hannah had a clear request. Look at verse 11. “And she made a vow, saying, ‘O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son…” Here “your servant” is a humble submissive way of referring to herself in the presence of her sovereign God. At that time no one knew her misery. No one could truly remember her, showing her special concern. She was forgotten by all in a true sense. And she knew that the LORD Almighty could give her a son. So she prayed like this. She prayed that the LORD Almighty would give her son, looking upon her misery and not forgetting but remembering her. Hannah had a clear request. She knew what she asked for. She asked the LORD for a son. Even Eli the pries knew she had a clear request. So he said, “May the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him” (17). When God heard her prayer and she gave birth to a son, she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” The name Samuel literally meant “name of God,” sounded like “heard by God.” For Hannah, the assonance was most important, because she asked God for a son and God had heard her prayer. To her the practical meaning, was more important than literal meaning. So to Hannah Samuel meant, “Because I asked the LORD for him.” She knew that the LORD gave her a son, because she asked the LORD for him. Later on she also said, “I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him” (1:27).

Not many people have a clear prayer topic. When they are asked, “What do you pray for?” the respond, “I don’t know; I just pray.” Then even when God answered their prayers, they were not sure whether what they received came from God or just happened. God wants to have a clear prayer topic and be able to admit it when God answers the prayer. God said to Solomon who offered a thousand burnt offerings on an altar, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5). Then Solomon responded, “Give you servant a discerning heart to govern your people.” The LORD gave what he had asked for. Jesus asked a blind beggar, “What do you want me to do for you?” he replied, “Lord, I want to see” (Lk 18:41). And he received his sight, and he followed Jesus. May I keep one prayer topic, “ministry of God’s word through the work of Holy Spirit” in our Toronto UBF and Canada. It is good to remember that Hannah named her son Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.”

And her prayer included her vow. She said, “…not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

Here the description “all the days of his life and no razor will be ever used on his head” is a contrast to the normal Nazirite vow, which was done during a certain period of separation (see Num. 6:4,5,8). The non-shaving of the hair on one’s head is one of the three requirements of the vow (Num. 6:4-6). Her making a vow showed that she did not want to solve her life problem just for her own sake. She saw beyond her own misery and her own life situation. She must have known the times of Judges, when everyone did as he saw it and God’s chosen people were led astray. We can surmise that she perceived the need of a man of God whom God could use to lead his people and the nation back to the LORD. So she made such a vow despite her strong human desire to possess her own son she believed God was going to give. We can pray for one Samuel after another among from U of T student until God establishes 12 house churches for the spiritual formation of our nation, as we engage in 1:1 and disciple-raising, according to the Lord’s prayer, “Your kingdom come” (Lk 11:2).

Second, Hannah’s keeping her vow. Look at verse 21. “When the man Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow, 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.’” A married woman’s vow could be confirmed or nullified by her husband according to Numbers 30:6-15. Here we see that Elkanah confirmed Hannah’s vow and so her vow became his vow. He thought it was the time to go up to offer the annual sacrifice and to fulfill the vow. But Hannah told her husband that she had to wean the boy. Although she vowed to give her son to the LORD, how long she would keep the son was her freedom. As for her she needed at least some time for the boy to be weaned, probably around three years. It was not because she was reluctant to give her son to the LORD. To her understanding she needed such a time not just for the boy’s physical health. Much more than that she needed such a time to pour out her prayers on him, teaching him the ways of the LORD, which would be so crucial in the boy’s character forming. Elkanah was again considerate and told her, “Do what seems best to you. Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the LORD make good his word.” Then verse 23b says, “So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.” This chapter ends with the words, “And he worshipped the LORD there.” Surprisingly, the young boy worshipped the LORD. Definitely this was a result of Hannah’s spiritual schooling. Hannah was not only a woman of prayer, but also a good mother.

When the time came, Hannah did not hesitate. 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. According to Numbers 15:8-10, a bull, flour, and wine were to be sacrificed in fulfillment of a vow. Hannah brought all three in lager measure than required. And she brought him to the house of the LORD.

When they slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli. She said to him, “As surely as you live, my, lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.” There is an emphasis of her giving the son, “now I give him to the LORD” and “he will be given to the LORD.” In this way Hannah kept her vow to the LORD completely.

Most people’s hearts change after receiving God’s blessing. Before receiving the blessing of God they are desperate. However, afterwards they have a second thought and change. Ten lepers were desperate to be healed when they saw Jesus from a distance. So they shouted together, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us” (Lk 17:13). But when they were healed, they forgot Jesus and went on their way, even without saying, “Thank you.” This is a fallen men’s tendency. We need much struggle to know how to thank God and those who helped us and to keep our vow and decisions before God.

After receiving God’s blessing, people’s spiritual condition can be deteriorated. But it was not the case of Hannah, Her eyes were opened more and more to see God who is holy and sovereign and even to see the coming Messiah. She came to clearly know God’s way of working in history. Let’s see her pray her.

In verse 1, “So Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.’” Her source of joy and strength was God himself. Then she described who God is: “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Do not keep talking so proudly or let you mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.”

And then she expressed God’s way of working: “The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children (which is a general reference to women whom God blesses), but she who has had many sons pines away. The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.” In these verses, 4-7, seven contrasts are found in these four verses: (1) mighty and weak; (2) full and hungry; (3) barren and fertile; (4) dead and alive; (5) sick and well; (6) poor and rich; and (7) humble and exalted. The key message is he humbles the proud and exalts the humble. The truly humble pray. Then she said, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honour.”

And she said further, “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; upon them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.” He is the sovereign Lord and a righteous judge. The Lord will impose His righteous rule on all then nations and peoples.

Finally, she said, “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” Here Hannah anticipated the future, victorious king, whom Moses had already predicted and who would exercise God’s rule over all the nations of the earth (Ge 49:8-12; Num 24:7-9, 17-19). From this point on in the OT, it is usually the king who is referred as “the anointed” (of the Lord) (12:3; 24:6; 26:9, 11, 16; 2 Sam 1:14, 16; 19:21). The kings of Israel, particularly David, foreshadowed the Lord’s ultimate anointed king. The English word Messiah represents the Hebrew word used here meaning “anointed.” Thus, this ultimate King who would rule over the nations of the earth came to be refered to as “the Messiah,” as here and 2:35; cf. 2 Samuel 22:51).

The last verse of chapter 2 is “Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy ministered before the LORD under Eli the priest.” This is also a meaningful description, as the fruit of Hannah’s nursing and faith. We will think of this more in the next lesson.

May God help us to have godly view of life, particularly when our own human understanding reaches a limitation and come to the LORD Almighty and pray pouring our soul to him with a clear prayer topic so that God’s purpose for each of us be fulfilled in this generation. May God raise up mothers of prayer like Hannah.

UBF headquarters | Chicago UBF | UBF TV | Northwestern UBF | Washington UBF | New York UBF | Europe UBF  | Email Us | Site Admin
Home