1 Samuel 1:1-7
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #008
April 7, 2015
“ Father, it’s a great privilege we have to come before Your throne of grace and to recognize that we have access to You through the death of Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sin; that we come not on the basis of anything we have done or who we are, but solely on the basis of who He is and what He did on the Cross. Father, we pray that as we reflect tonight upon Your Word, and as we study, that we will be reminded of Your grace, and that no matter what problems we face, no matter what difficulties or challenges there are in life, whether they are assaults from the outside or problems or difficulties that we have just in terms of controlling or dealing with our own emotions. We understand from Your Word that Your grace is sufficient for us, and no matter what the challenge is, ultimately the solution is Your Word. We pray that we might come to understand that tonight, in Christ name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Samuel 1. We are actually going to go verse-by-verse in 1 Samuel 1 tonight. After seven weeks of introduction, we will actually get started a little bit tonight. The focus in this chapter is really on grace (slide 2); otherwise known as Hannah, because Hannah is from the root word in the Hebrew meaning “grace.” As God is preparing to bring this massive change into Israel, resolving the problems that face the nation, because they are at a dead end and have rejected God, they’ve rejected His solutions after the rise of the last enemy, the Philistines, and their oppression in the various cycles that we covered in the book of Judges. They don’t ever turn back to God anymore. They don’t cry for deliverance. They are just falling apart internally. Not unlike a number of familiar nations that we know through history.
The emphasis in this chapter is going to be on grace, God’s grace in providing that which is necessary to bring about real change for Israel. They don’t deserve it. They haven’t earned it. They’re not even looking for it; and yet God is going to intervene in history to provide what they need. It doesn’t happen over night. It didn’t change overnight for Israel. It’s not going to change overnight for us. When we’re in a position where we need to go through a transformation due to failure, the solution is always the grace of God and the Word of God, but it never happens quickly. It takes time to grow spiritually. That’s how God works in our lives. Last time we focused on the fact that this is a story of hope. Looking at Lamentations 3:21–24 (slide 3), a lament is an expression of sorrow and grief written in poetic form. Lamentations was written by Jeremiah as he thought; and he grieved profoundly over the loss of Jerusalem after the destruction of Jerusalem.
There is a problem due to a lot of superficiality in Christianity. We look at the Scripture, and the Scriptures teach us that we have hope, that we have peace; that we have joy in Christ and we have all of those things; but so often what has happened in an over simplification, is people think it is one or the other, when what we’ll see tonight, is a lot of times when we’re walking with the Lord, there is difficulty. There’s adversity, and there can be sorrow and heartache even in the midst of joy and the stability that we have that comes from the Lord. We have to understand that. The problem that a lot of people have is when they go through difficulty, and they have gone through situations, and they are grieving in their soul like Hannah does in this chapter, they are grieving in their soul and Christians say, “well you’re just not trusting God.” Is that really a biblical answer? I don’t think so, and we’ll see that tonight as we go through this.
What we recognize is that there is sorrow. This is what Jeremiah talks about as he recalled what had happened to Jerusalem. He recalls the sorrow of soul. That’s the previous verse in Lamentations 3:20. In Lamentations 3:21–24 he said, “This I recall to mind; therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” That’s the sufficiency of grace. “They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him.’” We looked at this principle that (slide 4) History is HIS STORY. It is the outworking of God’s plan, and God’s plan includes adversity as well as prosperity, blessing as well as difficulty.
When you come to 1 Samuel 1, I want to give us an overview just to understand the story, the characters, the things that are happening here. 1 Samuel 1–7, as I’ve emphasized before, serves as an introduction to the rest of the book. By the book I don’t just mean 1 Samuel. 1 & 2 Samuel were originally written as one document, as one book. It was split because it didn’t fit on one scroll. It eventually became known as Samuel part 1 and Samuel part 2 or 1 & 2 Samuel. In these initial chapters, we set the introduction to what comes. It begins with this miraculous birth of Samuel, and it ends when Israel rejects Samuel’s leadership, the leadership of his sons, and demands a king from God like all of the other nations. This sets the stage for the shift to the monarchy. The first king will be Saul, the second king will be David, and the life of Saul covers the rest of 1 Samuel. And even though we are introduced to David in 1 Samuel 17, David doesn’t become king until the beginning of 2 Samuel.
In these chapters in 1 Samuel 1–7, we see God intervene in human history in order to bring judgment upon the priesthood in Israel, specifically the family, the dynasty of the high priest Eli and his sons Hophni and Phinehas. God is also going to work to raise up a new prophet, a voice of integrity, who will represent God and proclaim His truth to the people of Israel. It is through this new word through Samuel that God is going to reverse the tide of the declining fortunes of Israel and will restore them. Fittingly, the story begins with an obscure, rural woman who is under persecution from a second wife in her own house, not unlike Israel, who is under persecution from the Philistines in the land that God has given them. God is going to intervene graciously in her life. Her name Hannah means a “gracious” woman, and this story emphasizes the grace of God.
It opens up with the story of domestic conflict. We see a man Elkanah, of whom nothing negative is said, who has two wives. The first wife was Hannah. The second wife is Peninnah. When we look at the home life, it is not a happy home. There are very few homes that would be happy when you have one man and two women, and one woman is constantly irritating and seeking to push all the buttons she can of the other woman, making it appear that she’s the one that has all the favor and grace from God, even though the other woman is named grace. The whole issue here is that Hannah is without child. She has been incapable of bearing a child and because of that, her husband, in order to preserve the family name and preserve the family inheritance, went out, as was the custom sometimes, and married another woman.
We don’t know how long Hannah and Elkanah have been married, but if we think about it a little bit, it’s been some time, long enough for them to realize that Hannah is barren (she’s not going to have any children) long enough for him to find a second wife and marry her, and for her to get pregnant at least twice, maybe more, because she has had children. Anywhere from 10–20 years have gone by; it can’t be too long because then Hannah would be outside of childbearing age. There is enough time that has gone by where Hannah has year after year gone through this anguish and this torment from Peninnah. Her life has been made miserable by the second wife because when their names are listed in 1 Samuel 1:2, “the name of one was Hannah and name of the other Peninnah.”
It seems that Hannah is the first; Peninnah is the second. Hannah goes through this again and again. She does not have the ability to fulfill herself within Jewish culture. The highest hope of a Jewish wife was that she would be the one who would bear the Seed, the promised Seed, going back to Genesis 3:15, the Seed of the woman. So within the home, the wife, the mother, would find her ultimate fulfillment in that role of being a wife and mother; and yet this is closed to her. Her heart is breaking. I pointed this out the last three times. The language that is used here is, “her heart is grieved” in 1 Samuel 1:8. She is in bitterness of soul in 1 Samuel 1:10; she’s in anguish in verse 10. She expresses this. She weeps before the Lord. This has gone on year after year.
What would the response be in our culture? “If you’re that depressed, then you need to be medicated?” I’ll address that a little later on; that is our “go to” response. If you’re down, and you’re depressed and you’re discouraged over a period of time, then you must have something wrong. It must be some sort of spiritual malfunction. We are told something else about this family. They are unlike most of the families in Israel at the time. Remember, this is the time when Israel is in moral and spiritual relativism. There is no king in the land. Everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. Everyone is pursuing their own agenda, and the whole fabric of the culture is just coming unraveled.
But here we have a picture of Elkanah. We will come to learn from other literature, 1 Chronicles 6, that he is a descendant of Gershom. He is a Levitical priest. He is living in Ephraim, so he is considered an Ephraimite; but he is a Levitical priest, and he is very devout every year. There were six annual feasts. There were three feasts in the fall, three feasts in the spring in the Jewish calendar, and three times a year all the males were required to go up to the central sanctuary to worship. We see differences. There has been a breakdown in the understanding and application of the Law in Israel, and they are only going up to the tabernacle once a year; but most Israelites weren’t going at all because they had rejected God, and they were all into paganism and the fertility religions of the Canaanites surrounding them. Here we have a man who is focused on his family. He is taking them annually to have a great feast and celebration. We are not told which one. It was at the tabernacle, which was about maybe 20 miles from their home, and this was a very important time.
Elkanah would take animals for sacrifices, and after these peace offerings were offered to God, they would sit around and enjoy the banquet and the feast. As the years went by and Peninnah made it more and more painful for Hannah, it came to this particular time when she’s been so tormented by the insults, that she breaks down weeping. She can’t even eat, and as soon as everybody else is done, showing that she has some measure of poise and composure still, then she flees the scene. She goes to the entry to the tabernacle and prostrates herself before God, calling upon Him to be the One to solve her problem. That is a critical thing for us to understand.
Elkanah is pictured as a man who is devout, as a man who’s focused on spiritual things, as a man who loves his wife Hannah deeply; and he seeks to do everything he can to ease her way. But he is incapable of resolving the sorrow in her soul. There’s a principle there for every husband – that ultimately whatever may be going on in the life of your spouse, you can’t be the ultimate solution. It works the other way too, wives; you can’t be the ultimate solution if there’s something going on in the soul of your husband. You can pray for them, but ultimately the resolution is between them and the Lord, and they have to deal with it under biblical principles.
Elkanah loves Hannah; he takes her to the annual feast. She prostrates herself before God at the tabernacle. And that’s when we are introduced to Eli. His name has been mentioned already back in 1 Samuel 1:3. He’s so spiritually dense that when he sees her praying out to God and her lips moving, he thinks she’s drunk. He has no spiritual discernment or sensitivity; and remember, he is described as a corrupt, apostate, and obese high priest. He is a picture of the spiritual density of the people of Israel at this particular time. While she pleads with God, she makes a vow to God that if God would grant her request to give her a son like he has to Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel, the matriarchs of Israel, then she would give that son back to the Lord in service: that he would serve the Lord all the days of his life as a Nazarite. She is going to impose this vow upon her son.
It was then that Eli rudely interrupts her. He has completely misunderstood the situation. He accuses her of being drunk and proceeds to run her off from the tabernacle. She refused. She is a woman of integrity. She refuses to yield her ground, and she rebukes him. She defends her honor and her virtue. She explains her purpose there, which chastens Eli somewhat. We are not told a lot of the details, but he responds by telling her to go in peace – that God would grant her petition. Now as the high priest, apparently he is given some sort of revelation at that point to where he knows that this is true, and he communicates that to her. We are told that she leaves and goes back to the family, that they worship the next morning at the tabernacle, and then they left to go back home.
In due course we are told that God answered her prayer, that she conceived and then gave birth to a son, naming him šə·mū·’êl, which is a play on words. We’ll get into that as we go forward. It’s a name that means that “God has heard,” but that is not exactly what it means. It sort of sounds that way. That’s why it’s a pun. Its pronunciation sounds like the word in Hebrew for asking. There is only one letter difference between šə·mū·’êl and sha’al, and that’s the ‘m’ that is in the middle. This is an interesting little foreshadowing, as Hannah has asked for a son. She names him Samuel because it sounds like the name for asking; and she has requested this from God. And God has heard her and granted her request. She keeps the child at home. The next year comes around. Elkanah is going to take the family up to worship at the tabernacle again, and she doesn’t want to go, refuses to go until she’s weaned the child.
Hannah exhibits wisdom in that because she wants to influence this child as long as she can before she turns the young boy over to Eli. This is going to take time. There’s a lot of debate and discussion as to how long women at that time would keep an infant until they were weaned. Some times it was usually around three years. It could go, I’ve read, as great as five years. But she kept him this way long enough so that she could have as much influence on him as possible, training him and preparing him for service in the tabernacle and the negative influence of Eli and his sons. So during those years she nourishes him both physically and spiritually; and then she takes him to Shiloh and offers a bull for sacrifice. Your text probably reads three bulls, but there’s some issue with how you understand the text. Probably the best reading is a bull of three years of age rather than three bulls. There they sacrificed, Hannah fulfilled her vow to the Lord, and they worshiped the Lord there.
That’s the overview, and when we get to this final statement and she says in 1 Samuel 1:28 “Therefore I also have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord. So they worshiped the Lord there.” That’s the end of the narrative. Then in 1 Samuel 2 Hannah prays. We’ll get into that eventually. The prayer is her expression of her praise and joy because God has answered her prayer. As we get into the opening part here (slide 5), we’re in the first division where God is preparing to deliver the nation Israel from her enemies by grace. Grace is the focal point in this particular section. In the first section (slide 6), 1 Samuel 1:1 to 1 Samuel 2:11, the Lord graciously prepares Israel for deliverance through the birth of a son. This is a pattern we see from the very beginning. In Genesis 3:15–16, what is the promise that God makes to Eve? That it is through the Seed of the woman that God will defeat the seed of the serpent.
Then when we come to Genesis 4:1 and Eve gives birth to her first son, and she names him Cain from a Hebrew word meaning “gotten from God,” she thinks that that son was the answer to that promise. It wasn’t because there’s going to be more and more generations that will come down the line; but that’s the first hint of a promised son that’s fulfilled. Then of course we have the story of Abraham. God promised that he and his wife Sarah would give birth to a son. Of course this didn’t happen right away. It takes time in God’s plan. Everybody in our culture is in such a hurry. We go to McDonalds or you go to Burger King or you go to the grocery store, and you get your meal that you can cook in 10–15 minutes; and you’re done, and you want every thing to happen right now.
But in the spiritual life things take time. In the plan of God things take time. We have to wait on the Lord; and we have to develop spiritually. You can’t hurry up spiritual growth. Some of you are gardeners. Right now is a time here in Texas when everybody is planting their tomato plants and their onions and their peppers and squash and okra and every thing for the summer. No matter what you do, it’s going to take that tomato plant somewhere between 80 and 100 days before it’s going to have ripe fruit. You can fertilize it; you can water it; you can go out there and do an Indian rain dance around it. You can do whatever you want to, but you can’t speed it up. You can’t speed up spiritual growth either. There are things that we all go through in life that seem like they never ever end. They may go on for months or years, or in some cases even decades; but that’s the tool God has established for teaching and training us.
It takes time. And God takes this time period from the birth of Samuel until he is probably close to 60 years of age in preparing Israel for that first king. The first king isn’t the one who is going to be the long-term king because we already know from prophecies in Genesis 49 that the king, the scepter, is going to come from the tribe of Judah. This first king, Sha’al or Saul, is from what tribe? This is the no count apostate tribe of the Benjamites that cause so much trouble at the end of the book of Judges. We know that God is giving them the wrong thing first because they have to learn some lessons; and that is often what happens with us. We have the preparation in these first seven chapters, and then He prepares through the birth of a son in 1 Samuel 1:1–2:11.
What we see in 1 Samuel 1:1–2 (slide 7) is that the Lord is going to open Hannah’s womb. The Lord had closed her womb to prepare for the deliverance of Israel through a gracious miraculous birth. What we see in 1 Samuel 1:1–7, is that God is the One who closed her womb for a purpose. This is another principle we often see in Scripture. It is that God takes us through adversity because He has a greater plan at the end. We don’t see that. We have to learn to trust Him and to wait upon Him and get through that adversity before we ever see what the end result will be. So let’s look at our first couple of verses where we’re introduced to the main characters in this whole episode. Five of the six significant characters in our story in the first seven chapters are introduced in 1 Samuel 1:1–3.
We read in 1 Samuel 1:1–2 (slide 8), “Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. And he had two wives: the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had no children.” 1 Samuel 1:3 says, “This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh.” The first time we see that title in the Scripture. “To the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there.”
In these verses, we’re introduced to Elkanah. We’re introduced to his two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. We’re introduced to the high priest Eli, and his two sons, Hophni, whose name means “tadpole,” and Phinehas, whose name means “dark skinned.” I had to check that one out. The first commentary I saw mentioned the name and said his name means “negro.” I thought that’s not going to preach real well. Let me look it up in the dictionary, “dark skinned.” Lastly, at the end of the chapter, we’re introduced to šə·mū·’êl.
Phinehas just had a dark tan. He was not a negro. You know I don’t know why Hollywood does this. The Jews are Jews. They are not Western Europeans. They’re not Italians. They’re not Renaissance Italians. I watched this show that was generally pretty good the other night. A.D. The Bible Continues. My wife will tell you, I am not the person to watch any type of biblical TV or movie with because I am exceptionally critical, and I’ve found a few things to pick at. But generally I was amazed at what a good job they did – much better than anything else I’ve ever seen. But I don’t understand. We haven’t seen James yet, the brother of John. But John is as African, Ethiopian as he can possibly be, and so is Mary Magdalene. Now John’s brother James better show up looking like he’s a black African, because things like that just drive me nuts. But everything else was pretty good. Why they do that I don’t know. They are Jewish. You know they are not Chinese; they’re not Hispanic; they’re Jewish. Although we do have a Hispanic Jesus. I think he’s from Argentina, but he looked Jewish, at least that.
Here we have Elkanah, his two wives, Eli and his two sons. Elkanah and his wives are from Ramathaim Zophim. Later on in the text this is referred to as Ramah. Ramathaim, that ‘im’ ending indicates a dual. In Hebrew, you have a singular; you have a dual. A dual ending you would use if you were talking about two dogs. For example, you have the Nile split into a couple of rivers, so Egypt is called Mizraim. It has a dual there, a dual ending. Then you have just a regular plural ending. You have Ramathaim Zophim here, which is Ramah of the land of Zuph. In other places it is not an ‘o’; it’s a ‘u’. In Hebrew, there is not a vowel listed there, so the pronunciation of the vowel would shift. In 1 Samuel 9:5, is the story of when Saul loses his asses and he can’t find them, and while he is looking for them he goes to the territory of Zuph, which is near Ramah. Zuph was the ancestor who took this territory at the time of the conquest. So this is what Ramathaim Zophim means.
Here’s a map (slide 9), and here we have the location of Jerusalem right here. Here’s the Dead Sea. This is the Jordon River coming down from the Sea of Galilee. This is where the Israelites crossed. Right here just east of Jericho, Gilgal, where they offered a sacrifice and built an altar. Here’s Jerusalem, Bethlehem is a little bit to the south.
Those of you who have been there know how close things are. That gives you a perspective. Jerusalem is about 6 miles from Bethlehem. Ramah here, notice it is just a little further than Bethlehem, so it’s about 8 miles to the north the way they’ve located it here. This is up in the hill country. You can see on this topographical map the hills in the hill country of Ephraim, which is Samaria. The term Ramathaim means “two heights,” and there is a lot of discussion as to what that means. What it probably refers to is the town. The village was on one hill, and on the next hill they would have had their sacrificial site. That’s why it probably refers to the “two heights.” There is also a lot of discussion as to where this is located exactly. There is one site, Ram Allah. Did you hear that? Ram Allah; say it real fast, and it is Ramallah, which is located 9 miles north of Jerusalem. You know, Ramallah, which is a Palestinian town. Aram, which is 5 miles north of Jerusalem, which is located here. Nabi Samuel (Nabisamwil). I don’t know if any of you saw the big statue they have of Samuel on the horizon from Jerusalem, which is allegedly – it might be the location of his grave. That’s one possibility. Recently there have been a number of people who equated it with Arimathea. Joseph of Arimathea, the ‘rm’ there represents that root Ramah. Several of these are very close in this general vicinity
Elkanah is the first character that we meet. He’s the head of the family, and according to 1 Chronicles 6:22–28 and later in 1 Chronicles 6:33–38, Samuel was born into the family line of Kohath in the tribe of Levi (slide 10). Here we have 1 Chronicles 6:22: the sons of Kohath. This gives the list, and in 1 Chronicles 6:23, you have one of the grandsons of Kohath was also named Elkanah. This is not the Elkanah, not Samuel’s father, this is an ancestor. As for the sons of Elkanah, his sons are Zophai and Nahath, 1 Chronicles 6:26, and in 1 Chronicles 6:27, Eliab his son. That would be Nahath; then Eliab; then Jeroham his son; and Elkanah his son. The next verse, 1 Chronicles 6:28, begins with Samuel. This is the line:
Elkanah, Jeroham is mentioned in both places; Elihu is probably another form of the name Eliab; Tohu maybe a variant of Nahath, or it could be referring to someone else in a line; Zuph is another form of the name Zophai. That shows us that Elkanah was in the Levitical line and was a Levitical priest.
I had no idea how this would show up, so I thought I would give it a little experiment (slide 11). This is a chart they have in Logos Bible Software. Down here we have Samuel (at the bottom of slide) who is the son of Elkanah and Hannah. Then it traces the lineage back: Jeroham, Eliab, Tohu, Zuph back to an Ephrathite. After the conquest we are told that a number of Levites settled in the territory of Ephraim. They would be called Ephraimites because of where they lived, even though they were Levites in terms of their lineage. We’re told that Elkanah had two wives (slide 12). For a lot of people this would not be something that they would understand because we look at the Bible through the lens of the New Testament (NT), which prohibits bigamy and prohibits polygamy. But in the ancient world, sometimes it was necessary for a man (in order to preserve his inheritance, to preserve the family name), that if he is married to one wife and she is unable to conceive and have children, then he would take a concubine or a second wife who could bear children so that the name could go on. This is neither condemned nor commended in Scripture.
Every now and then I run into somebody who tries to make a case that the Old Testament (OT) doesn’t condemn polygamy, so it’s okay. No the OT doesn’t specifically address it, but every picture that we have of either two wives (as in this case), or more wives (polygamy in the case of some of the kings), there is always a problem. The household is never at peace where there’s more than one wife under the roof. So the biblical idea from the beginning is one woman and one man. Not two men, not two women, not one man and multiple women or one man and children. You can figure out where the rest of the perversions go in the illustrations I’m using because once you start changing the definition of marriage in a culture, then why stop at two men or two women? Why not a man and multiple boys, or a woman and multiple girls? Or get into bestiality, or whatever it is. Once the culture starts making up its own rules as to what marriage is, there’s nothing to stop it. It changes everything, and redefines everything, and leads to the total collapse of the culture.
We’re presented here with Elkanah who has two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. The only place where you have a strict prohibition of polygamy in the OT in the Law is in Deuteronomy 17:17, where it’s prohibited of a king. Of course it didn’t take David long before he violated that commandment. What is important here for us to understand is that in the ancient world, there was tremendous emphasis on women to have a male child within Israel. This went back to the messianic prophecies and the messianic promises, that they would maintain the lineage of the family as the inheritance in the land that God had given them. Remember, it was not to be transferred outside of the clan. They were to protect that; and the way that was protected was through giving birth to a male child. When a woman could not fulfill that as part of her mission of her role, then this was a serious source of depression and discouragement for that woman. She was a source of failure within the family. She was unable to fulfill her mission.
There’s another element to this, which I’ll point out a little later, and that is that there is a promise of God that if Israel is obedient, God will make them fruitful, and they will multiply. But if the nation is not obedient, then God is going to bring judgment upon them. And part of that judgment would include barren women: they would not be able to give birth. This is a sign of spiritual failure. When we look at Peninnah and we look at Hannah, we see that these two women also give us a bit of a picture of the conflict between the Philistines and Israel. Hannah represents Israel, who is spiritually barren at this time, spiritually nonproductive, and being ridiculed and oppressed by the Philistines, just as Hannah is being ridiculed and oppressed by Peninnah.
Peninnah, who is almost the illegitimate type wife, the second wife, is the one who is experiencing blessing and productivity, even though she is not the one who technically should receive that, just as the Philistines are experiencing success and military victory and prosperity in everything that they are doing at this particular time. It is sort of a picture in miniature of what is going on in the nation. What we will see is just as God solves Hannah’s problem in the miniature, it is Samuel her son who is going to provide the spiritual solution to the problem for Israel.
As we look at this, we see the second person who is Peninnah. Peninnah’s name means “pearl”. So we have Gracie and Pearlie here. Pearlie is Hannah’s rival. The Hebrew word that translates that is the word tsar, which in one meaning has the idea of a concubine or a second wife. What’s interesting is that the word took on a second meaning. If you look up this one word in the dictionary, it has two meanings: first, a concubine or second wife. You’ll never guess what the second one is – an enemy. Doesn’t that make sense? For those of you who like etymology, that makes wonderful sense. So she is said to be Hannah’s rival. Little is said about her other than she makes Hannah’s life absolutely miserable! She is apparently the second wife, and she has been quite fertile. She has been quite productive, and she has had children.
We don’t know if that’s three or more, but the dual is not used, so it’s probably at least three children, and she takes advantage of every opportunity that she can in order to make Hannah’s life miserable and to let her know that she is pretty worthless as a woman. This went on for years. So Hannah is very much discouraged. We see an example of how Elkanah loves Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:5 (slide 13). Every year when he would make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and daughters. That tells us that there’s at least three, probably quite a few more; “but Hannah he would give a double portion.” There is a lot of debate over this, and I’m not sure I’ve got the skill to analyze this when you realize this. Literally in the Hebrew, it says that he gave Hannah a double nose. There is a lot of discussion to what that means. Some people think it means a double portion; other people say that it just means that he gave her the best of the offering.
In either case, he is giving Hannah preference because of his love for her, because of his care for her; and we are told also at this point that the reason for this is that the Lord had closed her womb. There is a direct statement here that the reason she is barren is because of God’s will. God is at work. He is doing something. This isn’t just something that happens, but there is a spiritual significance behind this; and you can’t extrapolate that to any family, couple, or woman who is having difficulty conceiving. There are, as we’ll see in a minute when I get into the doctrine of the barren woman, that there are six women whose barrenness is made an issue out of in Scripture. But there were many others who were barren, who could not have children. They weren’t the only ones. God is making a point with them though, and when we read here that the Lord has closed her womb, if you are a knowledgeable Jew, a knowledgeable Israelite, and you are reading the Scripture, what is going to come into your mind?
There is a literary reminder here that you ought to think immediately of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel; these were the three matriarchs. Sarah the wife of Abraham; Rebekah the wife of Isaac; and Rachel the wife of Jacob. They each were barren until God intervened. It emphasizes the miraculous nature of the birth of Israel. When God intervened in the lives of the barren matriarchs and brought about the conception of a male child, that was significant because it led to a transformation in the history of God’s chosen people. And so as you read this story, you are sitting down and you are reading that Hannah is barren. Your mind is immediately going to Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel; and then as you read that she gives birth to a son, you think this is what is going to transform the nation. It is a foreshadowing.
In 1 Samuel 1:6 we read, “Her rival” or her enemy, “however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.” A second time the author makes it clear to us that this is the Lord’s doing. This isn’t just something that happens, but this is under the providential direction of God that she’s been unable to have a child, so that God could move in a unique way in providing this deliverance for Israel. The word here that is translated to provoke and also to irritate is from the root word kaas. One place you have a verb, and another place it’s a noun; but it’s used to emphasize the reality of her emotional state. The root meaning of kaas is to be vexed or to be indignant or angry or grieved or provoked to anger. She is in emotional distress. Now how long does this go on?
Look at 1 Samuel 1:7, “So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord.” This is a constant problem in her life. There are a lot of folks that have problems with depression, with discouragement, with difficulties in life; and it seems like they just go on and on and God never hears. We’ll you’re not the first. Hannah went through this same thing. God takes us through these kinds of situations to teach us to focus on Him. What we see in Hannah’s spiritual life is that she has a tenacious faith. She is not going to be like others in her culture and turn to the fertility gods and goddesses to solve her problem. She keeps focused on the fact that it will be God and God alone, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who will solve her problem.
As we look at this and think about it a little more, there is another interesting word that shows up here, and that is the Hebrew word raam, which has the idea that she is brought low. She is treated in such an oppressive manner. What’s interesting is that word is a homophone that shows up: it has two meanings. It is two different words actually. They are spelled the same, but two different meanings. It shows up as “thunder” in 1 Samuel 2:10 where it talks about “the adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces from heaven. He will thunder against them.” There is a play on words between this verse and 1 Samuel 7:10 emphasizing the fact that it is the thunder of God that destroys His enemies that will vanquish her oppression and her anger. That’s 1 Samuel 2:10 (slide 14).
But another thing we need to recognize as we look at this kind of a situation is that this kind of discouragement is not unusual in the Scriptures. We’ll look at that as we look at Hannah. So we’ve looked at Elkanah; we’ve looked at Peninnah; now we’re going to look at Hannah a little bit. Hannah is pictured as a devout woman. She is focused on the Lord. She is spiritually astute, even though she is not schooled or trained in the Scriptures. She is focused though upon the Lord - that He’s the One and the only One who can solve her problems. Notice these things about Hannah:
- Hannah goes up to the tabernacle to seek a solution to the problem. There’s not another women mentioned in the OT that goes up to the tabernacle or the temple for any reason. She is the only one mentioned who does so in the OT.
- Hannah’s also the only woman shown in the Scripture who made and fulfilled a vow to the Lord. So again she stands out in terms of her spiritual relationship to the Lord.
- She’s the only woman in the OT who is specifically said to pray. palal is the Hebrew verb. She is the only one specifically said to pray. Others worship the Lord or they praise the Lord, but she’s the only one who is specifically said to “pray” to the Lord, and her prayer includes the most recorded utterances of the name of Yahweh by a woman; 18 times in the next chapter she mentions the name of God. This is more than any other woman in the OT.
- She’s also shown avoiding the human viewpoint solutions of the fertility gods and goddesses. She’s not going to try to find a concubine to solve her problem like Sarah did. She looks to the Lord and the Lord alone for the solution to her problem.
- She avoids the trap that Jephthah made by not making a rash vow as he did. Remember his vow that whatever comes out of the door of the house to greet him when he comes home he was going to offer that as a burnt offering. She offers her son instead as a living sacrifice, that he will serve the Lord all of his days. So she is tenacious in her focus on the Lord. She’s thought this out. She makes this vow. It is not a rash vow, but it is expressed in the pits of her emotional distress.
We learn that in those situations that we all go through, that we pour our hearts out to the Lord. Just read the Psalms some time. How many times is David lamenting his circumstances, his situation? He talks about how it’s effecting him physically, how his bones ache, his joints ache, his muscles ache, how he is oppressed by his enemies; and he is so distressed and crying out to the Lord, and he sees no hope whatsoever. And often in our superficiality, we think that when somebody’s going through that, that they must be out of fellowship. Look, they’re crying, they’re weeping, they’re all distressed over circumstances in their life. Why don’t you just straighten up and trust the Lord and keep moving?
Well that’s not how the Bible handles it. The Bible recognizes that there are legitimate reasons. There are a lot of illegitimate reasons as well, but there are legitimate reasons for sorrow and discouragement and even despair; and God uses that to turn us toward Him. Now sometimes sorrow and discouragement and despair are the result of having dashed hopes and destroyed dreams because we’re focusing on the wrong thing. That happens with a lot of people. They want certain things in life and then when they don’t get it, they are distraught and depressed and discouraged. We have one example of that in the NT when the rich young ruler comes to Jesus (slide 15). He’s been obedient and wants to know “how can I know that I will inherit eternal life?” He says “I’ve kept all the commandments.”
Then Jesus said well you need to go sell all that you have, and then you’ll have eternal life. The result is that he was sad at this word and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Now he’s sorrowful and depressed and discouraged for the wrong reasons. He wants the wrong thing. He’s putting his hope in finances, his hope in treasures, and Jesus is saying you can’t hold on to that and really have hope, and the man goes away discouraged. He’s grieving. In this case, the cause is sin because he’s got his focus in the wrong direction. But then we have this same word LUPEO used, plus another word in Matthew 26:37 (slide 16).
This is a scene where Jesus is going apart from the rest of His disciples at the Garden of Gethsemane, and He takes Peter and James and John with Him. The text says “He began to be sorrowful.” That’s the verb LUPEO and deeply distressed. This word (ADEMONEO/adēmoneō) means that He’s just overwhelmed, and the pressure from the circumstances are so great that He begins to just sweat blood. Jesus is going through emotional distress. He is sorrowful. He’s going to go to the cross the next day. I would bet that for most of us, if we were to sit down with somebody who is a Christian and they were that emotionally distressed, we would say what? “You’ve just got to claim a few promises, buddy. You know, get right with the Lord, confess your sins, rebound, move forward, get going. That’s what you need to do.”
This is the Lord Jesus Christ who is sinless. These emotions are legitimate. What makes it illegitimate is what you do with them. Now that is a tough thing for a lot of people to think through, but too often what we do when we are talking to somebody, we have a friend or a family member, and sometimes they are distressed for the wrong reasons, and they are out of fellowship. Other times they are distressed because they’ve got the focus right, but the Lord is just taking them through difficult circumstances. Guess what? The whole creation groans. Look at Romans 8:20 (slide 17), “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly.” In other words, everything in creation is under the curse not because it voted for it. It didn’t make a volitional choice to be under the curse.
Romans 8:21–23 “because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” I bet if I ask for a show of hands, everybody’s hand would go up – that sometimes it’s just pretty miserable living in this world. That’s why it is called the veil of tears. It can be pretty horrible dealing with a bunch of rotten sinners who are your next door neighbors, your children, your parents, and your government. It makes life pretty hard. That’s what we’re dealing with here. Not only that, Paul goes on to say, “but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan.” This is a term for expressing your misery over looking at life “groan within ourselves”. We get discouraged. “Eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”
Paul uses the same term in 2 Corinthians 5:2–4 (slide 18), “For in this we groan.” Paul’s not out of fellowship. Paul’s not sinning. “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” What he means is, in this mortal body we groan. Life is tough sometimes. Sometimes it’s discouraging, but that, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily wrong. And then he goes on to say, “if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.”
So just a couple of things I want to point out that people need to think about when they think about this issue of their own emotions and maybe struggling with sorrows and failures in life:
- When we hit difficult times, we have a choice. We can either focus on the sorrow and the failures and the loss; or we can focus on God. Those are the two options. You either focus on the circumstances, or you focus on God. When you’re focusing on God, that doesn’t mean that the difficulty, the pain, the heartache necessarily goes away.
If I walk up to you and kick you in the shin, you can focus on the Lord, but you’re going to limp around a bit, and that shin is going to hurt a little bit and is going to continue to hurt. If your husband or your wife suddenly drops dead, you don’t just suck it up and be stoic and say “well that was God’s will – I don’t have these emotions of sorrow and difficulty and heartache.” But you do! That is part of grieving. Paul didn’t say we don’t grieve because we’re not like those who have no hope. In 1 Thessalonians 4 he said “we grieve.” Same word LUPEO, but not like those who have no hope. He doesn’t say we don’t grieve. He doesn’t say we don’t have sorrow. We have those emotions. But what we have to do is let the heartache of those emotions drive us to God, and not to a frantic search for happiness that ends up producing self-induced misery. We don’t start running looking for happiness or looking for solace in a bottle or pills or pleasure or whatever it is that floats our boat. We have to start trusting in God. That’s what Hannah does. That’s what she is the picture of – she turns and focuses on God.
- When we say that we have these emotions and that we can trust in God, I’m not saying that that’s easy. It takes time to learn to trust in God. It is like it takes time to learn how to walk. We take that wobbly step, and we fall down. We take another wobbly step and we fall down. It takes time to learn how to walk. It’s not easy but we have to keep our eyes focused on the fact that there’s a biblical solution. There are a lot of non-biblical solutions that end up providing short term relief, but some times those short term solutions end up creating even worse problems. A couple of things that we ought to think about when we think about especially depression and discouragement is that the science on this is far from certain. If you read through literature that is out there, and you can go on the Internet; and you can look around and can probably find a couple of articles. There was one I was looking at this afternoon from Johns-Hopkins. It came out last year that depression is over prescribed and over diagnosed.
Americans go to a counselor or a psychiatrist, and the first thing is you’re depressed. Many counselors, many psychiatrists think if you go more than two weeks after the loss of a friend or a loved one in death, then you’re clinically depressed. You realize that there are many people that when they lose a spouse they may feel down and feel lonely and discouraged for years. That’s not wrong if they are dealing with it biblically, because we’ve lost someone who is near to us and dear to us; and we don’t just act like – well that really didn’t matter! That doesn’t mean we don’t have joy. Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane in deep sorrow and profound oppression, and He never looses His joy. See, we want to say you are both joyful and happy, or you are depressed, which has got to be sinful, because if you are a believer, you’ve got to be joyful.
What the Bible depicts is that both are true. Jesus Christ had perfect joy when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and He was facing the Cross; and it wasn’t sinful for Him to be sorrowful, to be grieving and to be under that oppression. It was what He did with it that matters. The same thing that happened happens with us. Sometimes when we go through these situations, it can be profound and be long lasting, but we don’t turn inward and just say woe is me and throw our own little pity party. That’s the wrong way to do it. We claim promises. We keep moving forward. We keep our focus on the Lord; and as time goes by, the Lord is going to provide the healing for those situations. The quick fix that we often hear today in our society is that we need to go on Prozac or Zoloft, or some other antidepressant.
There is a fascinating book that is out of print now that came out in the 90s called Toxic Psychiatry written by a New York psychiatrist.* He presented the case that still needs to be debated and investigated: that the problem when you’re on these antidepressants is it rewires your brain, and after a while, you can’t get off of them because of the effect that they’ve had on your brain. These are the kinds of things that need to be discussed and need to be analyzed. The bottom line from the Scripture is that God is always the solution. Now I’m not making a medical diagnosis here. I’m not a doctor. I am, as they use to call a pastor, they called us a doctor of the soul. See, these are soul problems for the most part. They are not biochemical problems.
You know there is always this debate in modern literature: which came first, the chicken or the egg? What came first the depression or the chemical change? I think what comes first is the depression. It is the sin nature response. You keep living in carnality, and it’s going to have an impact on your biochemical makeup. When you take drugs in a lot of cases, that’s going to change your biochemical structure and make it more difficult. Now that’s dealing with issues related to depression. There are other things where I think the jury is out. I have often consulted and talked with Martin Bobgan, who we had speak here several years ago; and he said in the areas of schizophrenia and the areas of bi-polar, that the jury is still out as to whether or not there is a biochemical root cause, physiological cause, for these conditions. But other conditions that are often treated medically need to be treated in terms of spiritual truth.
We all grieve and sorrow at times. That is not a sin in and of its self. It might be; it might not be. But the issue whenever we have these kinds of emotions is to turn to the Word of God. The Bible is always sufficient, but it is not a magic pill; it’s not a placebo, and it’s not going to solve your problems in five minutes. It may have taken decades for those problems to develop, and it may take decades for those problems to be resolved as you apply the Word. It’s not a quick fix. The Bible portrays many numerous spiritual heroes who had problems with different things. Hannah and David are two whom I’ve mentioned in this particular area. As we see with Hannah, her sorrow, her grieving, her suffering went on year after year, year by year; but God and God alone solved the problem. That’s the way it is for us. It’s the Lord who solves our problem. We have to learn His grace, and we have to cultivate it; and we have to know the Word. And then we will discover that His grace is sufficient.
I’ll come back next time and get into the doctrine of the barren woman. “Father, thank You for this opportunity to think about these things. Help us to understand very clearly that often the distress that we feel in life, while on the one hand, it may be caused because of sin or carnality in our own lives, but it may also be caused simply because we’re living in the devil’s world and this is a natural response. But it should drive us not to seek false solutions, but to learn to walk more closely with You, to depend on You, and to recognize that even as these situations may continue You give us the strength to go forward and to live in the midst of sorrow; but at the same time experiencing the stability, the peace, the joy that our Lord Jesus Christ has given to us. Father, we pray that You would encourage us. Give us hope from what we’ve studied. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
* Toxic Psychiatry, Peter R. Breggin, http://ebook.stepor.com/book/toxic-psychiatry-71755-pdf.html.