1 Samuel 1:26-2:11
Every year at the feast in Shiloh, Peninnah watched Elkanah give Hannah more meat than anyone else. And each year she made sure she said something cruel to Hannah.
Year after year, Peninnah would lean across the table and whisper to Hannah, “Meat is better than nothing, I suppose. You’re nobody special .Elkanah just feels sorry for you because you have no children.”
Each year Peninnah’s insults became worse. Finally one year, Peninnah’s teasing was crueler than ever. “You’re getting old, Hannah. Look, my eldest is nearly a grown man now. And you have no one. What will you do when you’re no longer pretty? Then Elkanah will stop giving you extra meat. You won’t even have one son to show for your youth.”
Hannah could not take it anymore. She covered her ears and burst into tears. She wanted a baby so badly.”Why, oh why don’t I have a child?”She cried out in her heart.
Elkanah saw his favorite wife crying. He guessed what Peninnah had said. He told Hannah, “Hannah, don’t be upset about not having a child. That’s all right, it doesn’t matter.”
But it was not all right and it did matter. Hannah ran away from the table.
Hannah walked to the tent where the priest made offerings to God. She did not know what to do. She knelt down and put her face in her hands. Her lips moved as she prayed. The tears streamed down her face.
“Oh Lord,” she prayed quietly. “I want a baby so badly. Please, God, if you would give me a little child, I would give him back to you. I would bring it here to be raised by your priest. The child would be yours.” As Hannah prayed, Eli the priest watched her. He saw her lips moving. He heard no sound. Hannah’s eyes were red from crying.
In those days, there were not many people of Israel who went to Eli’s tent to pray. Those who did prayed out loud. Some who came to Shiloh had come just to eat and drink. The priest saw Hannah’s red eyes and her lips which moved. He thought she had had too much wine to drink.
“You there!” he yelled at her. “You shouldn’t come here if you’re drunk.”- “No, my lord,” Hannah gasped.”I’m not one of those drunken people who stumble in here during the feast! I’m just very, very sad.”
As Eli came closer to Hannah, he saw that she spoke the truth. “Go in peace. I hope God gives you what you’ve asked for.”
Hannah bowed her head. “Thank you for your blessing sir.” As Hannah walked away, she felt the weight of worry and shame lift off her heart. Whether or not she ever did get a baby was up to the Lord. She knew now whatever he decided would be the best for her and Elkanah.
Hannah went home with Elkanah. A few months later she found out she was going to have a baby. Oh, that was a happy day for Hannah! She thanked God over and over again. Nearly a year later, Hannah gave birth to a lovely baby boy. She named him Samuel, which meant “Heard of God.” Hannah said, “because I asked the Lord for him and He heard.”
Now when Peninnah teased Hannah, it did not hurt at all. If Peninnah said, “Hannah, I have many more sons than you,” Hannah did not mind. “Yes, but my Samuel is worth ten sons,” Hannah answered.
For the next three years Hannah took care of Samuel. She played with him and prayed with him. She taught him how to count. She sang songs and danced with him. They often laughed together.
After Samuel turned three, Hannah knew the time had come for her to bring him back to Eli. Samuel had been a gift from God. She had trusted God to decide whether or not she should have a baby. Now she was trusting God to take care of her son.
Hannah held Samuel’s hand. They stood at the door of the tent in Shiloh where the Lord was worshiped. “Eli!”Hannah called out. When the old man appeared, Hannah said, “Remember me? I’m the woman whose prayers you blessed three years ago. I was praying for a baby then. Look how the Lord has answered my prayers.” She smiled down at Samuel.
Samuel knew he was a special boy. He belonged to God. He knew the priest Eli would now take care of him. Samuel was not afraid. His mother had told him God would take care of him, no matter where he was. Samuel trusted her and he trusted the Lord. Besides, she would visit him each year when the family came to Shiloh. Samuel knew he was a big boy. He did not cry. He just looked at Eli, then back at his mother. He waited for her to take her hand out of his. “Then I might cry,” he thought.
Hannah told Eli about her promise to God. Eli nodded. He stooped down and stretched out his arms toward the boy. Samuel looked at the kind eyes of old Eli, the priest. He knew he was safe.