The last post was an overview of the book of 1 Samuel. Now we’ll get into the meat of the scriptures. Read 1 Samuel chapter 1.
Elkana was a Levite but it does not appear that he held any type of position in the temple. (The Levites were set apart by God to be priests and tend to His temple.) He went up yearly to worship and offer sacrifices just as a common Israelite. The fact that he went was commendable because the society was in such decay. We talked about how the Israelites worshipped other gods and generally neglected what they were supposed to do. But yet you have Elkanah, who remained faithful to what the Lord commanded. He knew his lineage as a Levite and took it seriously. Even though we probably aren’t Levites, we need to remember our lineage as children of Christ. Remember what He calls us to do. Thankfully we don’t have to sacrifice animals and make yearly pilgrimages from our home to a far off town just to worship. What are we to do with our lives? Two simple things- love God and love our neighbors. We can do that anywhere. Just like Elkanah was being an example to those around him, we need to make sure we’re being a good example to those around us.
Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Probably Hannah was the first wife because she was mentioned first and verse 5 says he loved her. When she couldn’t have children, that’s when he married Peninnah. Back then having children was a REALLY big deal. The wives were expected to produce sons and the women that produced the most sons were highly esteemed. (Thank goodness we now know how it all works!)
If you’re familiar with the stories of Abraham and Jacob, you’ll remember that more than one wife spelled trouble for them. I love this quote by Matthew Henry “Men are often beaten with rods of their own making.” How true is that? For example, how many times are we beaten with the rod of worry and then the thing we fear never comes to fruition? How many times are we beaten by the rod of stress, only to have everything turn out ok? How do we stop those self-inflicted beatings? Remember Joshua 1:9- “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” And if you need a little extra oomph, Judges 6:12 says “The Lord is with you, MIGHTY WARRIOR.” (Emphasis mine.) The Bible wasn’t written as pretty words for us to read. It was written for us to learn from, to soak up, to feel in our bones. These words weren’t just for Joshua and Gideon. They are for everyone. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Who is the man of God? Us! It’s there to correct and train us to stop beating ourselves with our rods. If we will read His word and apply it!
Back to Elkanah and his wives….
Every year when they would go to offer sacrifices, Peninnah would taunt and pick on Hannah because she couldn’t have children. She was a mean girl, for sure. It would upset Hannah so much, that she would weep and not eat. Poor Elkanah tried to console her, he asked her “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” Sorry, Elkanah, you don’t. When you want a baby so bad, nothing eases the want. Your whole being just yearns for a little one. After a particular cruel encounter with Peninnah, Hannah went to the temple and prayed. She went to the One that she knew could give her her heart’s desire. She cried and prayed, not speaking out loud, but moving her lips. Eli, who was the high priest of the temple, had never encountered anyone praying in such a manner. He accused her of being drunk! She assured him she wasn’t but was praying because of her great anguish and grief. Without even asking what the trouble was, he replied, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” So what did she ask for? A son. A son that she would give back for God to use in His service. Once Eli blessed her, she felt better, joined her party and ate. Don’t you just love how we can pour our heart out to God and sometimes that’s all it takes to feel better?
God did grant Hannah’s request. She gave birth to a son and named him Samuel, which roughly translates “heard of God.” She knew God heard her and she acknowledged it with his name. After he was weaned, she took little Samuel to the temple and presented him to Eli. She explained to Eli that she was the woman who prayed in the temple and God had granted her desire. She was now there to present Samuel back to the Lord. Eli took Samuel and raised him in the temple, under his instruction.