LESSON 1 - 1 Sam. 1:9-18, 26-28 - ANSWERED
INTRODUCTION: This morning we commence a new quarter in the Book of 1 Samuel, starting with Chapter 1. Last week I handed-out an Overview intended to give you the chronology and a basic outline of what we will be covering. The birth of Samuel, who became both a prophet and the last judge of Israel, took place in a period of anarchy and disorder that is fully reported in the final chapters of the Book of Judges, a time in which "there was no king in Israel" and "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judg. 17:6). Just as God, a thousand years later, will start with a baby-Jesus Christ-to redeem the world (Luke 1 & 2), so God will start here with a baby-Samuel-to redeem Israel. The opening verses (1-8) introduce the background for today's lesson: It's about 1050 B.C, and a man named Elkanah, who lived in the hill country of Benjamin (see Map) had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah (vv. 1-3). Hannah, his first wife and his favorite, had never been able to bear him a child, and he married Peninnah as a second wife to preserve the family line. The text reveals that Peninnah had borne Elkanah several sons and daughters and often used this issue to provoke Hannah and make her life miserable. Elkanah faithfully traveled from his home at Ramah every year to Shiloh, where God's Tent of Meeting and Tabernacle were located (see Map), to worship the LORD (YHWH) and offer sacrifice. Before the family went into the Tabernacle, they sat down to eat and drink, but vv. 7-8 report that Hannah was weeping and had lost her appetite, and Elkanah asks her, "am I not more to you than ten sons?" This is where we come into today's story.
Read 1 Sam. 1:9-11 - SHE, GREATLY DISTRESSED, PRAYED
9 Then Hannah got up after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 And she made a vow and said, "LORD of armies, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your bond-servant and remember me, and not forget Your bond-servant, but will give Your bond-servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head."
v. 9a: "Then Hannah got up after eating and drinking in Shiloh." - While Elkanah, Peninnah, and their children were still feasting (remember the fellowship meal connected to "peace offerings" in Lev. 3:1-5?), Hannah, who had declined to participate, got up and moved away by herself.
v.9b: Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD." - The scene now shifts to Eli, a priest of the Tent of Meeting* at Shiloh. Occupying "the seat" was a mark of his authority as the high priest. His Hebrew name, "Eli," literally means "God is High," and he served as both a high priest and judge of Israel for 40 years. He's stationed at the doorposts to observe the peoples' comings and goings to in order to insure that they behaved themselves within the area of the Tent of Meeting. *NOTE: Some translations, refer to the Tent of Meeting as the "temple," as with the NASB; however, Bible historians believe it was still a portable structure that could be dismantled and moved. It would be another 150 years-in 957 B.C-before Solomon's permanent Temple was completed and dedicated in Jerusalem.
v. 10: " She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly." - Being around her husband, his other wife, and their children at this time of celebration only drove poor Hannah deeper into great despair and depression. So, in her misery she turns to the only One who can redeem her otherwise hopeless situation; she turns to the LORD (YHWH)-the giver of all life.
v. 11a: "And she made a vow and said, - When Hannah makes this vow, she's not only asking God to do something for her; she's also promising to do something for Him in return. People experiencing hardships frequently make vows-promises-to God; but, as soon as the crisis ends, they disregard the vow and go back to 'normal.' This is a real serious mistake: Never make a promise to God unless you are fully prepared to carry it out. Solomon said, "It is better that you not vow, than vow and not pay" [i.e., not do it] (Eccl. 5:5). If your fail to do this, you'll suffer the consequences.
v. 11b: "LORD of armies, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your bond-servant and remember me, and not forget Your bond-servant, but will give Your bond-servant a son," - Addressing God as "LORD of armies" (YHWH seba-oth) envisages the all-powerful creator surrounded by a heavenly host. She refers to herself twice as "Your bond-servant," the Hebrew word for slave, thereby placing herself in a position of total self-surrender before God in her heartfelt request.
v. 11c: then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head." - Her vow is that if God will bless her with a son, she will give him back to God as a Nazarite "all the days of his life." (Num. 6:1-21 lists all the requirements for the Nazarite vow.) In terms of her faith, Hannah possibly drew inspiration from the example of Samson's mother, Zorah, a barren woman whom God had commanded to dedicate her child under the Nazarite vow to save Israel from the Philistines (Judg. 13:4-5). You may remember that Samson ended badly for breaking his vow. In any case, Hannah, in return, is genuinely willing to give up her son to a life dedicated to serving God.
APPLICATION 1: A vow (promise) made in exchange for God's blessing is binding. People experiencing hardships frequently make vows-promises-to God; but, as soon as the crisis ends, they disregard the vow and go back to 'normal.' This is a real serious mistake. Never make a promise to God unless you are fully prepared to carry it out. If God keeps his promise and you don't, there will be divine consequences, in this life and the next.
Read 1 Sam. 9:12-18 - MAY THE GOD OF ISRAEL GRANT YOUR REQUEST
12 Now it came about, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli was watching her mouth. 13 As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were quivering, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought that she was drunk. 14 Then Eli said to her, "How long will you behave like a drunk? Get rid of your wine!" 15 But Hannah answered and said, "No, my lord, I am a woman despairing in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16 Do not consider your bond-servant a useless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation." 17 Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your request that you have asked of Him." 18 She said, "Let your bond-servant find favor in your sight." So the woman went on her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
v. 12: "Now it came about, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli was watching her mouth." - Hannah, fully immersed in her prayer, is oblivious to Eli's watchful presence nearby. Observing Hannah's behavior very carefully, Eli can see that she's moving her lips, but he's unable to hear the words she's mouthing.
v. 13a: As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were quivering, but her voice was not heard." - This is a great example of intense, intentional praying-demonstrating a complete surrender of self to the will of God. In Hebrew culture, the "heart" denoted a person's inner-most self-the seat of all their emotions and everything that made them a unique individual.
v. 13b: "So Eli thought that she was drunk." - Because she seemed to be just gabbling a lot of nonsense, Eli reached the mistaken assumption that she must be drunk. And drunkenness was
shameful behavior in God's tabernacle. So, he decides to interrupt her and put a stop to it.
v. 14: "Then Eli said to her, 'How long will you behave like a drunk? Get rid of your wine!'" - Eli sternly accuses Hannah's of drunkenness and, in effect, orders her to sober-up-to clean up her act! Although he's mistaken, he's only doing his job. It was his responsibility to make sure that visitors treated the house of God with proper respect and reverence. The irony here is that this poor woman is now completely misunderstood by both her husband, Elkanah, and the high priest.
v. 15a: "But Hannah answered and said, "No, my lord, I am a woman despairing in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink," - Hannah's reply to Eli's accusation shows that she has more backbone than we might have imagined for a woman in the highly male-dominated, patriarchal culture of her time. In terms of authority, a priest was at the top of the pecking order while an ordinary woman like Hannah was somewhere near the bottom.
v. 15b: "but I have poured out my soul before the LORD." - But not allowing the priest's strong rebuke to pass without comment, Hannah's response is perfect: While she's respectful of Eli's authority, at the same time, she's completely honest about her emotional state-why she appears so overwrought. She's not acting this way because she's inebriated, but because she was in the process of expressing her deepest sorrows and concerns before YHWH, her Almighty God and Creator. In doing this, she provides a great model for you and me: instead of keeping all of her anger, disappointment, bitterness, and anguish on the inside, she "poured out [her] soul before the LORD." She gave all of it over to Him.
v. 16: "Do not consider your bond-servant a useless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation." - Hannah continues to explain her defense. This is a difficult verse. In Hebrew, the word used here for "useless" (beliyyaal [bel-e-yah'-al]) literally refers to an ungodly person who acts without regard for God's laws. She clearly wanted the priest to understand that she wasn't being influenced by evil motives but from a real "concern" (hardship) in her personal life and by the "provocation" (or disappointment) it caused every day. Altogether, her life was miserable. For this reason, she gave it over to the LORD, the only one capable of changing it.
v. 17: "Then Eli answered and said, "Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your request that you have asked of Him." - After hearing her out, Hannah's impassioned plea-relief from her personal hardship-rings true with Eli. He can tell from her speech and reasoning that she's in no way under the influence of alcohol, and he realizes that he's made a serious mistake in his judgment of her. So, he quickly reverses himself and instead offers a blessing. Eli was most likely unaware of it at the time, but when he said, "may the God of Israel grant your request," he was in fact speaking a Word from the LORD directly to her. This is a great picture of receiving and accepting godly counsel.
v. 18: "She said, "Let your bond-servant find favor in your sight." So the woman went on her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. - This verse depicts a changed woman. Hannah had found great comfort in Eli's words. She seems to regard his blessing with renewed optimism. She has regained her appetite and now eats. And where she was dejected, "her face was no longer sad."
APPLICATION 2: The word of God has the power to bring healing. Having laid her case before God and received Eli's blessing, the text reports that Hannah "was no longer sad" (v.18). The point is that God healed her heart before the child Samuel ever materialized in her barren womb.
Summary of skipped vv. 19-25: Upon returning home, when she and Elkanah "had relations...the LORD remembered her," and she became pregnant (vv. 19-20). Then when the baby, a boy, was born, She named him Samuel, whish literally translates "God has heard." Not forgetting her vow to God, she and Elkanah agreed to keep the boy at home until he was weaned (about age 3 at that time in history), and when that time came, she and Elkanah took the boy to Shiloh, along with a bull to be offered as a sacrifice. (This was the most valuable form of sacrifice an Israelite could offer).
Read 1 Sam. 1:26-28 - HE IS DEDICATED TO THE LORD
26 And she said, "Pardon me, my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the LORD. 27 For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my request which I asked of Him. 28 So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD." And he worshiped the LORD there.
v. 26a: "And she said, "Pardon me, my lord!" - Use of the word "lord" (Heb. adon [aw-done']) in lower-case signifies that Hannah is addressing a human official, in this instance, the high priest, Eli.
v. 26b: "As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the LORD." - If you refer back to vv. 15-18, above, you'll notice that in her original encounter with Eli, Hannah never mentioned the specific cause of her unhappiness-her inability to bear children. And since it had occurred nearly four years before, Eli had probably forgotten the entire incident.
v. 27: "For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my request which I asked of Him." - This is another difficult verse in translation. A literal reading of it would be: "the LORD has granted my asking which I asked of Him." It repeats, verbatim, the blessing Eli gave Hannah in v. 17, above. Hannah points to "this boy" (the toddler she's apparently holding up to him) as the answer to her asking. The point she makes is that God has fully performed His side of the bargain between them.
v. 28a: "So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD." - This is another difficult translation. The word "dedicated" (lent in some translations) as used here literally means: I am giving back to the LORD what I asked of Him; in other words, she is keeping her side of the bargain, the Nazarite vow she made in v. 11, above-she is delivering her precious child to the custody of Eli to be trained-up and prepared for a life of service to God! What we see here is a woman giving back to God what God has given to her-giving back to God what belongs to God
v. 28b: "And he worshiped the LORD there." - This phrase refers, not to Eli, but to young Samuel.
APPLICATION 3: When we promise to give something to God in the future, it already belongs to Him. Whatever form this might take-our time, our talents, or our resources-any part of it that we promised to give to God is already His. If we break our word-promises, vows, and oaths-we have sinned against God, and will suffer consequences for it. This principle can apply to individuals, churches, or indeed, entire nations. As one example, consider the divorce rate among Christians who had vowed before God to stay together until death. Consider churches that adopt policies contrary to God's Word, like same-sex marriages. Consider citizens of a country who pledge to be "one nation under God" but don't believe it in their hearts.