How Hannah Found Peace
A FAITHFUL woman raises her voice in a prayer that lauds Jehovah. She feels that God has lifted her out of the dust, replacing her dejection with exultation.
The woman’s name is Hannah. What has caused the remarkable change in how she feels? Why is she now so joyful? How can we benefit from her experience? To find the answers to these questions, let us consider Hannah’s story.
A Family Under Stress
Hannah is one of the two wives of Elkanah, a Levite who lives in the territory of Ephraim. (1 Samuel 1:1, 2a; 1 Chronicles 6:33, 34) Although polygamy was not part of God’s original purpose for mankind, it is permitted and regulated under the Mosaic Law. Elkanah’s family worships Jehovah, but polygamous marriages often produce strife, as illustrated in Elkanah’s domestic affairs.
Hannah is barren, whereas Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, has a number of children. Peninnah is Hannah’s rival.—1 Samuel 1:2b.
Barrenness is considered a reproach among Israelite women and even a sign of unworthiness in God’s sight. But there is no indication that Hannah’s inability to bear children is evidence of divine disfavor. Instead of trying to console Hannah, however, Peninnah uses her own ability to bear children to make her rival miserable.
Journeys to Jehovah’s Sanctuary
Despite these tensions, Elkanah’s family makes an annual journey to offer sacrifices at Jehovah’s sanctuary in Shiloh.* This round-trip of some 40 miles [60 km] is likely made on foot. These occasions must be especially difficult for Hannah because several portions of the communion sacrifice are given to Peninnah and her children, whereas Hannah receives only one portion. Peninnah seizes such opportunities to vex Hannah, making her feel disconcerted because it seems that Jehovah has “closed up her womb.” This torment occurs yearly, with the result that Hannah weeps and will not eat. Trips that should be joyous for her thus become times of anguish. Yet, Hannah makes these journeys to Jehovah’s sanctuary.—1 Samuel 1:3-7.
Do you see how Hannah set a good example for us? When downhearted, how do you react? Do you isolate yourself and withdraw from association with fellow believers? Hannah did not do that. She made it her custom to be among worshippers of Jehovah. Despite trying circumstances, we should do the same.—Psalm 26:12; 122:1; Proverbs 18:1; Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Elkanah tries to comfort Hannah and to draw out her heartfelt feelings. “Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you not eat, and why does your heart feel bad?” he asks. “Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8) Perhaps Elkanah is not aware of Peninnah’s unkindness, and Hannah may prefer to suffer in silence rather than complain. In any event, spiritually-minded Hannah seeks peace by turning to Jehovah in prayer.
Hannah Makes a Vow
Communion sacrifices were eaten at Jehovah’s sanctuary. After leaving the dining chamber, Hannah prays to God. (1 Samuel 1:9, 10) “O Jehovah of armies,” she begs, “if you will without fail look upon the affliction of your slave girl and actually remember me, and you will not forget your slave girl and actually give to your slave girl a male offspring, I will give him to Jehovah all the days of his life, and no razor will come upon his head.”—1 Samuel 1:11.
Hannah’s prayer is specific. She asks for a male child and vows that he will be dedicated to Jehovah as a lifelong Nazirite. (Numbers 6:1-5) Such a vow is subject to the approval of her husband, and Elkanah’s later actions show that he approves of his beloved wife’s promise.—Numbers 30:6-8.
The way Hannah prays causes High Priest Eli to think that she is drunk. Her lips quiver, but he hears no words, for Hannah is speaking in her heart. The prayer is particularly fervent. (1 Samuel 1:12-14) Imagine how Hannah feels when Eli reproaches her, saying that she is drunk! Yet, she respectfully answers the high priest. When Eli realizes that Hannah has been praying “out of the abundance of [her] concern and [her] vexation,” he says: “May the God of Israel grant your petition.” (1 Samuel 1:15-17) At that, Hannah goes on her way and eats, and “her face [becomes] self-concerned no more.”—1 Samuel 1:18.
What can we learn from all of this? When we pray to Jehovah about our concerns, we can let him know how we feel and make heartfelt requests. If we can do no more to resolve the problem, we should leave the matter in his hands. There is no better course to follow.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
After praying fervently, servants of Jehovah are very likely to experience a peace similar to that of Hannah. With respect to prayer, the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) When we throw our burden on Jehovah, we must allow him to take care of it. Then, like Hannah, we no longer need to be self-concerned.—Psalm 55:22.
A Son Lent to Jehovah
God now turns his attention to Hannah; she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son. (1 Samuel 1:19, 20) This is one of the few occasions of Bible record when God assumes responsibility for the birth of one who will be his servant. Elkanah and Hannah’s son Samuel is to become Jehovah’s prophet, one who is to play an important role in the establishment of Israel’s monarchy.
Hannah doubtless begins teaching Samuel from infancy about Jehovah. But does she forget the vow she has made? No, indeed! “As soon as the boy is weaned, I must bring him, and he must appear before Jehovah and dwell there to time indefinite,” she says. When Samuel is weaned, perhaps when he is three years of age or somewhat older, Hannah takes him to live at Jehovah’s sanctuary, just as she vowed.—1 Samuel 1:21-24; 2 Chronicles 31:16.
After a sacrifice is offered to Jehovah, Hannah and her husband lead Samuel to Eli. Hannah very likely holds her little boy’s hand as she says to Eli: “Excuse me, my lord! By the life of your soul, my lord, I am the woman that was standing with you in this place to pray to Jehovah. It was with reference to this boy that I prayed that Jehovah should grant me my petition that I asked of him. And I, in my turn, have lent him to Jehovah. All the days that he does happen to be, he is one requested for Jehovah.” Thus begins Samuel’s lifetime of special service to God.—1 Samuel 1:25-28; 2:11.
As time passes, Hannah certainly does not forget Samuel. The Scriptures state: “A little sleeveless coat his mother would make for him, and she brought it up to him from year to year when she came up with her husband to sacrifice the yearly sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 2:19) Hannah surely keeps praying for Samuel. On her yearly visits, she undoubtedly encourages him to remain faithful in performing his service to God.
On one such occasion, Eli blesses Samuel’s parents and says to Elkanah: “May Jehovah appoint to you an offspring from this wife in place of the thing lent, that was lent to Jehovah.” In accord with those words, Hannah and Elkanah are blessed with three other sons and two daughters.—1 Samuel 2:20, 21.
What fine examples Elkanah and Hannah provide for Christian parents! Many mothers and fathers have been willing to lend sons and daughters to Jehovah, so to speak, by encouraging them to pursue some form of the full-time ministry away from home. Such loving parents are to be commended for the sacrifices they make. And Jehovah will reward them.
Hannah’s Joyous Prayer
How happy once-barren Hannah becomes! Prayers said by women are rarely recorded in the Scriptures. In Hannah’s case, however, we know about two of them. The first contains her sentiments when she was vexed and afflicted, and the second is an exultant prayer of thanksgiving. “My heart does exult in Jehovah,” Hannah begins. She rejoices that “even the barren has given birth,” and she lauds Jehovah as “an Exalter, a Raiser of a lowly one from the dust.” Indeed, “from the ashpit he lifts up a poor one.”—1 Samuel 2:1-10.
The inspired account involving Hannah shows that we can be hurt by the imperfections or the spite of others. Yet, we must not allow such trials to rob us of the joy of serving Jehovah. He is the great Hearer of prayer, who responds to the outcries of his faithful people, delivering them from affliction and giving them abundant peace and other blessings.—Psalm 22:23-26; 34:6-8; 65:2.
The Bible calls this center of true worship Jehovah’s “temple.” In this period of Israel’s history, though, the ark of the covenant still rests in a tent, or tabernacle. The first permanent temple to Jehovah will be built during the reign of King Solomon.—1 Samuel 1:9; 2 Samuel 7:2, 6; 1 Kings 7:51; 8:3, 4.
[Picture on page 17]
Hannah lent Samuel to Jehovah