This morning we move into the book of 1 Samuel. The first 7 chapters of 1 Samuel describe the lives and ministries of Israel's final 2 judges - Eli and Samuel. Both of these men were priests who served in the tabernacle at Shiloh. They will be the topic of our discussion over the next 4 weeks, as our sermon series over Israel’s conquest and judicial era winds to an end.
Based upon most of the relevant timelines I’ve seen and studied, it seems most probable that the events described in today’s message actually took place a few years prior to the judgeship of Samson. In other words, 1 Samuel does not begin exactly where Judges ends, but rather backtracks a few decades causing the 2 books to overlap each other somewhat. With this setting in mind, let’s get started…
I. ELKANAH AND HIS WIVES (1 Samuel 1:1-18)
Elkanah was an Ephraimite from the town of Ramathaim-zophim. He had 2 wives: Hannah, who had no children, and Peninnah, who did have children. Peninnah spitefully teased and provoked Hannah because she was unable to bear children, so that the pair became rivals.
Each year, Elkanah and his wives would make the pilgrimage to Shilioh in order to worship the LORD and offer sacrifices at the tabernacle. At this time, Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas were serving as priests there. Elkanah apparently offered a peace offering on behalf of his family because portions of the sacrifice were returned to them in order to be eaten (Leviticus 7). Elkanah would divide these portions between his wives later during the meal. He would give Hannah a double share, because he loved her and she was barren. Despite his generosity and kindness, Hannah was overcome with sorrow and Elkanah was unable to console her.
After eating, Hannah went to the tabernacle to pray. She was in great distress and swore to God that if He’d allow her to have a son she would give him to the LORD all the days of his life. Now Eli the priest was watching Hannah as she prayed silently, and based on her mannerisms he thought she was drunk. Eli approached her and began to question her, to which Hannah explained that she wasn’t drunk but rather in anguish of spirit. Eli blessed her and asked the LORD to grant her petition. So Hannah returned to her family filled with hope and expectation.
Centuries earlier, during the days of the patriarchs, there was a similar situation. Jacob had 2 wives also - Leah, who had given birth to several children and Rachel who was unable to have any. However, in due time God blessed Rachel and opened her womb. She ended up having 2 sons - Joseph and Benjamin. Perhaps Hannah looked to Rachel as a source of strength and inspiration. Hannah knew that with God anything is possible and she trusted in His provision. Therefore, she turned to Him in prayer. May we learn from and follow Hannah’s example.
II. SAMUEL IS BORN AND DEDICATED (1 Samuel 1:19-28)
Elkanah and his wives left Shiloh and returned home the next morning. Not long afterward, the LORD remembered Hannah and she became pregnant with Elkanah’s child. 9 months later she gave birth to a son and named him Samuel, which means in Hebrew, “God has heard”.
It was time once again for Elkanah and his family to make their yearly trip to Shiloh. However, on this occasion, Hannah stayed home with the newborn baby who was still just an infant. Hannah convinced Elkanah that they should wait until the child was weaned before dedicating him to the LORD. Weaning usually took place between the ages of 18 months and 5 years old. Thus, a few years passed. Once Samuel was weaned they took him to the tabernacle, along with some items to be sacrificed, intent on giving him to God. They made their offerings and dedicated young Samuel to the LORD. Hannah told Eli the priest about the promise she’d made during her last visit to the tabernacle and how God had answered her. Even Samuel, though just a small boy, worshiped the LORD.
God always hears and answers the sincere prayers of His people. Unfortunately, sometimes our prayers are selfish and/or misguided so the LORD says “No”. On occasion, the timing of our petitions isn’t right so the LORD says “Wait”. But whenever we ask God to do something that is in line with His will for our lives right now, He answers “Yes”. In Hannah’s case, He miraculously allowed her to have a son. The key to an effective prayer life is to align our will with God’s and to identify and pray for the very things that He already desires to give us.
III. HANNAH REJOICES AND IS BLESSED (1 Samuel 2:1-11, 18-21)
Hannah burst into an expression of praise and thanksgiving to God. In it she exalted the LORD and declared that there is none like Him. She described how God humbles the proud and shatters the mighty, while raising up the poor and the weak. She emphasized that God can make even the barren give birth, as He’d done for her. She declared that the LORD watches over and protects His own, while judging those who contend against Him. When she finished singing, Hannah and Elkanah returned home to Ramah. However, they left young Samuel with Eli the priest in fulfillment of the vow they’d made.
Eli raised and trained Samuel. As a boy, he lived and ministered in the tabernacle at Shiloh. He even wore priestly garments as a child. Each year, when his parents would come to make their annual sacrifices to the LORD, Hannah would bring Samuel a robe that she’d made for him. If he was like most kids, he had already outgrown the previous one! Also, Eli would bless both Elkanah and his wife for dedicating their son Samuel to the LORD. God permitted Hannah to have several more children - 3 sons and 2 daughters. Meanwhile, Samuel continued to grow.
Hannah’s song is 1 of many found in the Bible. According to an article I read, there are at least 185 psalms, or songs, recorded in Scripture. 150 of them are included in the book of Psalms, 5 make up Lamentations, and the Song of Solomon is itself a song. The others are scattered out across the Old and New Testaments. There are battle and victory songs, prophetic songs, dirges and lamentations, and even songs of rejoicing and praise. Music is an important part of our faith, and it always has been.
In conclusion, both Elkanah and Hannah serve as tremendous role models for us. He led his family well, faithfully offering sacrifices each year, and joined with his wife in dedicating Samuel fully to God. As for Hannah, she took her sorrow and burden directly to the LORD and asked Him to give her a son. She trusted in His power and provision. When God answered, she worshiped Him and sang praises of thanksgiving. Elkanah and Hannah were a godly couple, who acted in righteousness and obedience.
Next week we will continue the story of Samuel, and contrast him with Eli’s 2 older, biological sons Hophni and Phinehas. We will also read about the LORD’s prophetic calling of Samuel. Until then, let your light shine so that others might see Jesus in you.