1 Samuel 1:2
He had two wives, one named Hannah and the other Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
A Hebrew FamilyB. Dale 1 Samuel 1:1-8
Anomalies of ProvidenceW. G. Blaikie, D. D.1 Samuel 1:2-7
Childless ParentsA. Whyte, D. D.1 Samuel 1:2-7
Hannah the MatronT. Guthrie, D. D.1 Samuel 1:2-7
Polygamy not PrimevalArgyll, Unity of Nature.1 Samuel 1:2-7
The Folly of PolygamyT. E. Redwar, M. A.1 Samuel 1:2-7

1 Samuel 1:1-8. (RAMAH.) -
The family is a Divine institution. It is the most ancient, most needful, and most enduring form of society; and, in proportion as it accords with the plan of its original constitution, it is productive of most beneficent effects, both temporal and spiritual, to the individual and the community. In times of general laxity and anarchy it has been, in many instances, a little sacred islet of purity, order, and peace, and nurtured the elements out of which a better age has grown. The real strength of a nation lies in its domestic life, and Israel was in this respect eminent above all other ancient nations. Even in the days of the judges, when "there was no king in Israel," and "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25), there were many godly families scattered through the land. One of these was that which gave birth to SAMUEL, the last of the series of the judges, the first of the order of the prophets, and the founder of the Hebrew monarchy. This family is introduced with a brief description (vers. 1, 2). The residence of the family was Ramah (the Height), or, more fully described, Ramathaim (the Two Heights). Here Samuel was born and nurtured; had his permanent abode during the latter portion of his life; died, and was buried. There is not a more sacred spot on earth than the home which is endeared by tender association and religious communion.

"A spot of earth supremely blest;
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest." Things are not to be valued on account of places, but places for the good things which they contain (Bede). "God chooses any common spot for a mighty incident or the home of a mighty spirit." Consider the family as -

I. ORDERED BY A GODLY HEAD (ver. 3). His piety was shown -

1. By his regular attendance on Divine ordinances. He worshipped "the Lord of hosts," not Baalim and Ashtaroth (1 Samuel 7:4); in the way of his appointment, at the tabernacle in Shiloh, at the proper season, and with the prescribed sacrifices; not according to his own reason or inclination merely, a will worship which is not acceptable to God.

2. By his sincere and spiritual service, in contrast to the formal, worthless, and hypocritical service of others, especially the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas (1 Samuel 2:12), and undeterred by their evil conduct in the priestly office.

3. By his faithful performance of his vows (ver. 21).

4. By his conversation and prayer in his own house (ver. 23).

5. By his conducting all the members of his family to "the house of the Lord (ver. 7), in the exercise of his parental authority, accompanied by instruction and example. The words of the Law of Moses were evidently familiar to him (Deuteronomy 6:6-9), and happy is the family in which they are obeyed.

II. UNITING IN SOCIAL FESTIVITY (vers. 4, 5). Once a year he took his journey, in company with his family, from Ramah to the central sanctuary of the Divine King of Israel, for the twofold purpose of worshipping (lit., bowing down) and sacrificing before Jehovah. The sacrifice he offered was a peace offering (Deuteronomy 27:7), in which, when the animal was killed, the priest received its breast and right shoulder as his lawful portion, whilst the rest was given back to the worshipper that he and his family might feast on it before the Lord. Their festivity was -

1. Religious. It was the festivity of those who were received into communion with God. They were guests at his table, and overshadowed by his presence. It is said of the elders of Israel that they saw God, and did eat and drink" (Exodus 24:11). And if no such visible sign of his glory now appeared, yet their consciousness of his presence (according to his promise, and symbolised by the ark of the covenant) would give solemnity to their repast, and prevent improper indulgence and revelry, which were but too common in this corrupt time (ver. 14; Judges 21:19, 21). It should ever be the same when Christians join in social festivity.

2. Joyous (Deuteronomy 12:12; Deuteronomy 16:11). Its religiousness did not detract from its gladness, but made it pure, elevating, and refreshing. "The joy of the Lord is your strength."

3. Participated in by the whole family, children as well as adults. As the fathers the women and the children took part in idol feasts (Jeremiah 6:18), so they should take part in "feasting before the Lord."

4. It also called forth expressions of affection (ver. 4). The kindness of God to all should lead to kindness one toward another, and the example of kindness set by the head of the family should be followed by all its members. Even the ordinary family meal may and ought to be such a scene of sacred festivity, but the highest realisation of it on earth is in "the Lord's Supper" (1 Corinthians 11:20). And how great is the blessing which rests upon the family, all the members of which partake together of the "cup of blessing," and are "all partakers of that one Bread."

III. DISQUIETED BY DOMESTIC TROUBLE (vers. 5-8). It was natural that Hannah should feel disappointed at being childless. Her condition was deemed a reproach, and a sign of Divine displeasure. But her grief arose chiefly from the conduct of her rival, Peninnah. There was thus an element of discord and trouble in the family. This trouble -

1. Existed where it might have been least expected. The family was distinguished by earthly prosperity and genuine piety. But what home is there on earth wholly free from trouble? Beneath the fairest appearances there is seldom wanting a cause of disquiet, to check self-complacency and teach the soul its true rest.

2. Was occasioned by want of conformity to a Divine ordinance. The introduction of a second wife by Elkanah was not according to the Divine appointment "in the beginning" (Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 19:4). The violation of that appointment had taken place at an early period (Genesis 4:19); it was sanctioned by long usage; and it was permitted under the Law "for the hardness of their hearts," and until they should be educated up to a higher moral condition. But it was followed by pernicious consequences (Genesis 4:23; Genesis 30:8), as it always is in those families and nations where it obtains. Ignorance of the laws of God may mitigate or exempt from guilt; but it does not do away with all the evil consequences of their violation; for those laws are rooted in the fixed relations and tendencies of things.

3. Was immediately caused by the indulgence of improper feeling and unseemly speech. Peninnah may have been jealous of the special love shown to Hannah by her husband (ver. 5). She was proud and haughty on account of her own sons and daughters, and, instead of sympathising with her who had none, she made her defect a ground of insult; and trials ordained by Divine providence are peculiarly severe when they become an occasion of human reproach. Finally, she gave free play to "an unruly evil" (James 3:8), especially at those seasons when it should have been held under restraint. Such things are the bane of domestic life.

4. Disturbed the proper performance of sacred duties. Peninnah could have little peace in her own breast, and be little prepared for Divine worship or sacred festivity. As for Hannah, although she did not angrily retaliate, but patiently endured the reproaches cast upon her (affording an admirable example of meekness), yet "she wept and did not eat" (ver. 7), and her joy was turned into mourning. Domestic disturbances tend greatly to hinder prayers (1 Peter 3:7).

5. Was alleviated by affectionate expostulation (ver. 8). "In Elkanah we have an example of a most excellent husband, who patiently tolerated the insulting humour of Peninnah, and comforted dejected Hannah with words full of tender affection, which was truly, in St. Peter's words, to dwell with them according to knowledge" (Patrick). Let each member of the family endeavour to soothe and alleviate the sorrows of the rest, and all learn to find their own happiness in promoting the happiness of others.

6. Was over ruled by Divine providence for great good. In her trouble Hannah was led to pray fervently, and her prayer was answered; sorrowing gave place to rejoicing; the family was benefited; and the people of God were greatly blessed. So, in his wonderful working, God "turned the curse into a blessing" (Nehemiah 13:2). - D.

And he had two wives.
Abraham's domestic peace was embittered, so that he was at length compelled to dismiss Hagar; and Jacob saw much strife arise amongst his household whose interest polygamy had divided. It is probable that the same feeling which operated with Abraham for taking Hagar influenced Elkanah in taking Peninneh, for Hannah seems to have been the first wife. There was doubtless an impatient desire of children; but in this case, as in those already alluded to, Elkanah's deviation from the original law of marriage, though in a manner then tolerated, conduced not at all to his domestic peace and comfort.

(T. E. Redwar, M. A.)

There can have been no polygamy when as yet there was only a single pair, or when there were several single pairs widely separated from each other. The presumption, if not the certainty, therefore, is that primeval man must have been monogamous. It is a presumption supported by the general equality of the sexes in respect to the numbers born, with only just such an excess of the male sex as tends to maintain that equality against the greater risks to life arising out of manly pursuits and duties. Thus the facts of Nature point to polygamy as in all probability a departure from the habits of primeval times.

(Argyll, Unity of Nature.)

The name of the one was Hannah.
Outraged and disgraced by the crimes of its ministers, religion sank into public contempt, and, almost mortally "wounded in the house of its friends," seemed ready to expire. At first indignant, and in the end demoralised, the people deserted the house of God. and abandoned the profession of a religion which the crimes of its priests had made to stink in their nostrils. "Wherefore," alluding to Hophni and Phinehas, it is said, "Wherefore the sin of the young men was great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord." But even in those days God did not leave himself without a witness. There were some who felt that His, like other good causes, has never more need of support than when it is betrayed by its supporters. Such an act closed the life of Colonel Gardener, the grand old Christian soldier, who, deserted by his own regiment on the fatal field of Prestonpans, and seeing a handful of men without an officer bravely maintaining the fight, spurred his horse through a shower of bullets to place himself at their head, and fall a sacrifice to truth and loyalty. Such an act also was the women's who openly followed our Lord with tears when no disciple had the courage to show his face in the streets. We cannot perhaps apply to the father of Samuel and husband of Hannah the saying, "Faithful among the faithless only he"; yet to Elkanah certainly belongs the honour of resisting the current of popular opinion, and, in an age of all but universal defection, clinging to the cause and the house of God. When its ministers had brought dishonour on the service of God, and their crimes had made the people abhor it, he felt that there was the more need for him to stand by it. He was not the man to desert the ship. To divine grace, his steadfastness to duly against the popular influence and amid almost universal defection was mainly due. Yet I cannot doubt, that in the bold and faithful part he acted, Elkanah owed much to Hannah. When adherence to principle involved painful sacrifices, men have found such support in gentle women as I have seen the green and pliant ivy lend the wall it clothed and clung to, when that, undermined or shaken, was ready to fall. Such was the spirit of Hannah.

I. HER PATIENCE — "There is a skeleton in every house!" The grim monitor that stands in every house to teach us that unmingled pleasures are to be sought in heaven, Hannah found in here. Happier than some that have been unequally yoked with unbelievers, she had a pious husband. Never was wife more prized and more loved than she. In what esteem Elkanah held her, how fondly he cherished her, and how kind he was to her, appears in the very strong and tender terms with which he essays to soothe her grief, saying, "Why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? Am not I better to thee than ten sons?" As is indicated by that question, her great trial was to be childless. But her trial, like a wound into which cruel hands rub salt, or some other smarting thing, turning ordinary pain into intolerable torture, wan greatly aggravated by the happier fortune and insolent reproaches of a rival. Elkanah was a polygamist. To his own misfortune, not less than to Hannah's, he had another wife besides her. In some kind and gentle women Hannah's misfortune would have excited feelings of sympathy. But the other wife, who had children — a rude, coarse, proud, and vulgar woman — turned it into an occasion for triumphing over her, and embittering all the springs of her life. In these circumstances — circumstances to which the adage, so generally true, applies with peculiar force, "Speech is silvern, but silence is golden" — Hannah teaches us how to bear our trials, whatever their nature be; and how to seek, and where to find relief.

II. HER MEEKNESS — A singular phenomenon has sometimes been noticed at sea. In a gale, when the storm, increasing in violence, has at length risen into a hurricane, the force of the wind has been observed to actually beat down the waves, producing a temporary and comparative calm; and similar is the effect occasionally produced by overwhelming trials — these, by their very power and pressure on the heart, abating both the violence and the expression of its feelings. But what is equally remarkable and still more observable in trials is, that we can more easily bear a heavy blow from God's hand than a light one from man's. Smarting under the cruel reproaches of her rival, to use the very words of Scripture, "in bitterness of soul," she lingers in the temple behind the rest, and there alone, as she supposed, pours out her tears and prayers before the Lord. His eyes dim as well as his head grey with years — Eli — too much accustomed in these evil times to see abandoned women — thought she was drunk; and more ready, like other indulgent fathers, to reprove sin in others than in his own sons, he addresses her sharply, saying, "How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee:" A very offensive accusation! Under such a charge, and in the rapid alternation with which the mind passes from one passion to another, who would have been astonished had her grief suddenly changed to anger? The meekness of Moses has become a proverb; and justly so. But did he, did any man or woman, ever show a milder, gentler, lovelier spirit, a more magnanimous example of how to suffer wrong, than Hannah? No wonder that Eli, perceiving the wrong he had done, should have turned his reproaches on himself; and touched with Hannah's grief, answered and said, "Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him."

III. HER FAITH — I know an island that stands crowned by its ancient fortalice in the middle of a lake, some good bow shots from the shore With the walls of the old ruin mantled in ivy, and its tower rising grim and grey above the foliage of hoary elms, it serves no purpose now but to recall old times and ornament a lovely landscape. But once that island and its stronghold were the refuge and life of those whose ordinary residence was the castle that, with gates, and bulwarks, and many a tower, and floating banner rose in baronial pride on the shore. When in the troublous times of old that wait beleaguered, and its defenders could hold out no longer against the force and fury of the siege, they sought their boats, and, escaping by the postern gate over waters too deep to wade and too broad to swim, threw themselves on the island — within the walls of the stout old keep to enjoy peace in the midst of war, and safe beyond the shot of cross bow, to laugh their enemies to scorn. In their hardest plight, and against the greatest numbers, this refuge never failed them. Such a refuge and relief his people find in God. Hence the confidence and bold language of the Psalmist, "Truly my soul waiteth upon God; from Him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my salvation: I shall not be greatly moved." Hence, also, in allusion to the security such strongholds offered in the East, as well as here, in olden times, the Bible says, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, into which the righteous runneth, and is safe." And thus, as prayer is our way of access to God, and the means by which we place ourselves under His protection, it is a resource that never fails. There is no burden too heavy for the back of prayer to carry, nor wound too deep for its balm to heal. Hannah sought her comfort in prayer. Let her case teach us that the way to get anything is first to get faith — "all things are possible to him that believeth." There are people, who claim to be philosophers, that laugh such hopes to scorn. According to them God leaves all events to the operation of what they call "the ordinary laws of nature," without guiding, controlling, or interfering with them in any way whatever. No wonder that with such views the Divine Being is to them neither an object of reverential worship nor of filial affection. How should they fear, or love God? Their God is a Sovereign, who, parting with his sceptre though he retains his crown, is denuded of all authority — a Father who, careless of their fate, casts his children out on the world, like the poor babe a guilty mother exposes, which, though it may perchance be pitied and protected by others, is cruelly forsaken by the author of its being. How dark and dreary such a philosophy! All nature, and every religion, Pagan as well as Christian, revolts against it. Someone has said of prayer, It moves the hand that moves the world. A grand truth! to a poor conscience-stricken sinner, to an alarmed soul, to an anxious, weary, trembling spirit, a truth more precious than all science and philosophy. Hannah behaved it.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

But Hannah had no children.
Inside Elkanah's house we see two strange arrangements of Providence, of a kind that often moves our astonishment elsewhere. First, we see a woman eminently fitted to bring up children, but having none to bring up. On the other hand, we see another woman, whose temper and ways are fitted to ruin children, entrusted with the rearing of a family. In the one case a God-fearing woman does not receive the gifts of Providence; in the other case a woman of a selfish and cruel nature seems loaded with His benefits. In looking round us, we often see a similar arrangement of other gifts; we see riches, for example, in the very worst of hands; while those who from their principles and character are fitted to make the best use of them have often difficulty in securing the bare necessaries of life. How it this? Does God really govern, or do time and chance regulate all? If it were God's purpose to distribute His gifts exactly as men are able to estimate and use them aright, we should doubtless see a very different distribution; but God's aim in this world is much more to try and to train than to reward and fulfil. All these anomalies of Providence point to a future state. What God does we know not now, but we shall know hereafter. In many cases home affords a refuge from our trials, but in this case home was the very scene of the trial. There is another refuge from trial, which is very grateful to devout hearts — the house of God and the exercises of public worship.

(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

Abraham and Sarah had no children. Isaac and Rebekah had no children. Jacob and Rachel had no children. Manoah had no children. Hannah had no children. The Shunamite had no children. Zacharias and Elizabeth had no children. Till it came to be nothing short of a mark of a special election, and a high calling, and a great coming service of God in Israel to have no children. Time after time, till it became nothing short of a special Providence, those husbands and wives whose future children were predestinated to be patriarchs, and prophets, and judges, and forerunners of Jesus Christ in the house of Israel, began their married life having no children. Now, why was that? Well, we may make guesses, and we may propose reasons for that perplexing dispensation, but they are only guesses and proposed reasons. All the more — Why is it? Is it to spare and shield them from the preoccupation and the dispersion of affection, and from the coldness and the rudeness and the neglect of one another that so many of their neighbours suffer from? And is it to teach them a far finer tenderness, and a far rarer honour, and a far sweeter solicitude for one another? Or, on the other hand, is it out of pure jealousy on God's part? Is it that He may be able to say to them, Am I not better to thee than ten sons? Or again, is it in order to make them meet, long before His other sons and daughters around them are made meet, for that life in which they shall neither marry nor be given in marriage? Which of all these reasons, or what other reason, has their God for what He does with so many of His best saints? But all this time we have been intruding into those things of which He says to us — What is that to thee? And, then, those whose concern this is, and those who are deepest down in God's counsels, they are just the men and the women, they are just the husbands and the wives, who will not once open their mouths to publish abroad to a world that fears not God what all this time God is doing for their souls.

(A. Whyte, D. D.)

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