Chapter 1 - The Birth of Samuel (cont)
Hannahs Solemn Promise (vv.9-19)
Hannah arose "after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk...And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore" (vv.9-10). The woman who wept in the family circle, certainly before her husband (v.8), now wept before the Lord. She brought her sorrow to Him. Let us remember, "we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Heb 4.15). As we shall see, an earthly priest was present when Hannah prayed, but he was not touched by her "infirmities". He didnt even perceive her distress!
The prayer of Hannah
Her prayer, in which she solemnly promised to give her son to God "all the days of his life" (v.11), is a striking example to us all. We must notice:
Hannah "wept sore" (v.10; see also vv.15-16). She reminds us of Rachel, who cried, "Give me children, or else I die" (Gen 30.1). Both women were deeply distressed over their barrenness. In Bible times, it was a reproach to be childless. But we are often unmoved by our spiritual barrenness. Every assembly should cry, "Give me children, or else I die". Paul was able to say, "In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (1 Cor 4.15, see also Philem v.10). Sadly, we almost regard it as normal when no one is saved.
Hannah addressed the Lord as, "O Lord of hosts" (v.11). We have already briefly discussed this title. Hannah was fully aware that God was able to help her. In fact, she realised that only God could help her. We must approach Him with same confidence. "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think..." (Eph 3.20). Where else can we look for help?
There was not an ounce of selfishness in Hannahs petition. She did not pray for a son to silence Peninnah. She did not pray for a son that she could display to her friends and neighbours. She did not pray for a son to keep her in old age. She prayed for a son whom she could give back to the Lord "all the days of his life". With that in mind, she was willing to part with him at a very early age. She was prepared to give back to God the very gift she wanted more than anything else in the world. More than that, she wanted God to have him perpetually. "I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head". He was to be a Nazarite. But in this case, "all the days of his separation he is holy unto the Lord" (Num 6.8; see Rom 15.16), meant his entire life. Hannah gave her best to God. How much are we prepared to give Him?
She describes herself three times as "thine handmaid" (v.11). She had no inflated thoughts about herself. Hannah placed herself completely at Gods disposal.
"And it came to pass as she continued praying before the Lord" (v.12). There was nothing perfunctory about Hannahs prayer. Her earnestness drove her to pray at length.
"Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard" (v.13; see Mt 15.7-8). How real are our prayers? We must remember, "the Lord looketh on the heart" (16.7). It has been said that Hannah was a good New Testament sister - "her voice was not heard" (1 Tim 2.11-12)! But let us look at this positively. Hannahs voice was silent, but she was certainly praying, which reminds us that in the assembly prayer meeting we all pray, both brothers and sisters! We dont just listen to other people praying! The brother who prays expresses the desire of everyone present. That is one reason why we should say, "Amen!".
The priesthood of Eli
His name is mentioned five times in the passage (vv.9,12,13,14,17), and each reference is thought-provoking. However, we will concentrate on the following.
We are not accustomed to a seated priest in the Tabernacle! See Hebrews 10.11-12 which contrasts the Levitical priests standing, because their work was never finished, and the Lord Jesus, our Great High Priest, who is seated "on the right hand of God" because His redeeming work is eternally complete. According to Gesenius, the word "seat" means "throne", and if this was the case Eli had an unwarranted position. He was elevated above the people he was called to represent. Compare this with Hebrews 5.1-4. The Lord Jesus is the only Priest with the right to sit upon a throne.
Eli evidently sat where he could see what was happening. However, whilst he could see some things (Hannahs mouth, for example), he could not, or would not, see everything (2.12-17). In any case, when he did find out, all he did was reprove his sons. He did nothing to retrieve the situation, and failed to implement the word of God.
"Eli thought" (v.13)
"Eli thought she had been drunken." He could not distinguish between a drunken woman and a distressed woman. As A. McShane puts it, "His sharp rebuke to this exercised soul was in sad contrast to his mild treatment of his wicked sons. Apparently he knew more about the motions of the drunken than the behaviour of the devoted". Eli evidently counted her "a daughter of Belial" (v.16), but failed to count his infamous sons as "sons of Belial" (2.12). Eli came to the wrong conclusion about Hannah, but the Lord Jesus is perfectly aware of our circumstances!
"Eli answered" (v.17)
"Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him." At last Eli appears in a better light. He functions as a man in touch with God, and assures Hannah that her prayers would be answered. Hannahs changed countenance and restored appetite prove that, like Abraham, she believed that "what he (God) had promised, he was able also to perform" (Rom 4.21). Her "bitterness of soul" and "sorrowful spirit" disappeared, and she was "no more sad". Hannah had cast her "burden upon the Lord" (Ps 55.22), and had no intention of retrieving it! She is not named in Hebrews 11, but she triumphed by faith. "She lived in the good of the answer before it was granted" (A. McShane).
The family worship the following morning must have been infused with great joy. Faith brought Hannah "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Is 61.3). Her joy was soon justified for "the Lord remembered her" (v.19).
Hannahs Son (vv.20-23)
"She bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord." Samuel actually means "heard of God", and his name commemorates the fact that God had heard Hannahs prayer. It reminds us that "if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us" (1 Jn 5.14).
We should notice, first, that during the next annual visit to Shiloh Elkanah offered "unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and his vow" (v.21). This suggests that Elkanah shared Hannahs vow to God (see v.11). Husband and wife were of one mind in their devotion to God. Second, Hannah had no intention of revoking her vow (v.22). She did not say, "It was an error". (Read carefully Ecclesiastes 5.1-7). Keil and Delitzsch quote 2 Maccabees 7.28 (an Apocryphal book) which indicates that "Hebrew mothers were in the habit of suckling their children for three years". Hannah intended that Samuel should "appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever". Her devotion to God was stronger than the strongest human instincts. Third, Elkanah expected God to "establish his word". This evidently refers to the promise made by Eli, "Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him" (v.17). That is, that Samuel would be devoted to God "all the days of his life".
Hannahs Selflessness (vv.24-28)
Hannah was as good as her word, but at what a cost! "And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her...and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they brought the child to Eli." The reference to the bullocks, flour, and wine takes us to Numbers 15 which refers, amongst other things to "a sacrifice in performing a vow" (v.8). This specifies one bullock; the other two were, presumably, connected with the annual sacrifice made by Elkanah and his family.
No further comment is really necessary. We can only listen with wonder to Hannah herself (vv.26-28). It was a permanent loan! But God is no mans debtor, and in due course we shall find that He pays the highest interest rates in the world, five hundred per cent!
To be continued.