1 Samuel Chapter 1

The books of Samuel cover a period of about 130 years, from the birth and life of Samuel through the life and death of David (see Bible Dictionary: Samuel, books of). In particular, the book of 1 Samuel covers time from Samuel’s birth to the death of Saul. According to the entry for chapter 1, this book is also known as “The First Book of the Kings”. It is the first of four books: first and second Samuel, followed by first and second Kings. According to the Bible Dictionary, “The books of Kings narrate the history from the rebellion of Adonijah to the final captivity of Judah, including the whole history of the northern kingdom from the separation till its disappearance in 721 B.C.” (See Bible Dictionary: Kings, books of) In looking at the Bible Chronology in the LDS edition of the King James Bible, it tells us that Samuel was the last of the judges, and so we can know that the information follows what can be read in the book of Judges.

This book begins, as mentioned before, with the birth of Samuel. His story begins with the following:

1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite:
2 And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
3 And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the Lord, were there.

Hannah was one of two wives of Elkanah, and she had not had any children, because she was barren. Elkanah went to Shiloh every year, to worship and give sacrifice to the Lord. The priests serving there, were two sons of Eli.

4 And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
5 But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb.
6 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.
7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
8 Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?

When Elkanah offered his sacrifice, he gave portions to his family. Despite being barren, Elkanah gave Hannah a good portion, because of his love for her. Hannah felt a great sadness because she had not been able to have children, to the point of feeling jealousy towards Elkanah’s second wife, Peninnah. Hannah would not eat the offering Elkanah had given her. He asked Hannah why she was crying and refusing to eat, wondering if he was not enough for her.

9 So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord.
10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.
11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.
12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth.
13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
14 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.
15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.
16 Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.
17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.
18 And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.

Eli, the priest, was sitting near the post of the temple. Hannah left her family to be alone. She cried as she prayed to God. She made a promise to the Lord, that if He would allow her the blessing of having a son, she would dedicate him to the work of the Lord with a vow, even the vow of a Nazarite. Eli watched her as she spoke in prayer, but words did not come out of her mouth and he thought she was drunk. He chastised Hannah. She told Eli, that she was not drunk as those who followed after wickedness, but was in sorrow and had been pouring out her soul to God, out of grief. Eli told her to go in peace, and promised her that God would give her the thing she had been praying for. She went back to her family, ate and was no longer sad. I can only imagine, but I think that the words and blessing of Eli must have given Hannah comfort to her spirit and peace to her mind.

Hannah did not allow her jealousy to increase to anger or bitterness towards God for not blessing her with children. Instead, she took her sadness to the Lord and prayed earnestly for His blessing to be upon her. Hannah was human, with weaknesses and trials just as we all have. It is important for us to learn from her, that we can and should pray to God for help to overcome our weaknesses and to heal our hearts. We may not always be blessed to receive the things we might ask for, but we can all be blessed with comfort and strength to endure our weaknesses and trials, just as the words of Eli were a comfort to Hannah.

I do not think that this vow made by Hannah would not have been completely unexpected, because Elkanah, her husband, was a son of Levi. The levites were to live their lives in service of the Lord, because they were the tribe in the house of Jacob, which had been given the priesthood authority, to act in the name of the Lord, in His holy temple. The exception to her promise, is that she vowed to give him up as a child, rather than when he was grown to the age of the expected service. This is not the only story of a woman desperate to have a child, who made a promise to allow her first born son live a life in service to the Lord. It is one of the few reasons women are mentioned in the scriptures, and I think the reason for this, is that the role of women as mothers, is an eternal role to be valued as such.

19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her.
20 Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord.
21 And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and his vow.
22 But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever.
23 And Elkanah her husband said unto her, Do what seemeth thee good; tarry until thou have weaned him; only the Lord establish his word. So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him.

The next day, they worshipped in the temple and then returned to their home. Hannah’s prayers were answered and she and Elkanah were blessed with a child. She named the baby Samuel. Hannah did not go with Elkanah to worship in the temple, as they did each year, because she felt she should keep Samuel with her until he was old enough to be given to the service of the Lord. Elkanah allowed her to do this, with the understanding that she was going to fulfill her promise to the Lord.

24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young.
25 And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli.
26 And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord.
27 For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him:
28 Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there.

Once Samuel was old enough, Hannah took him and her offerings to the temple. She made sacrifice and then took Samuel, as a young child, to Eli. She fulfilled her vow and lent her son to the Lord for the rest of her life. Samuel stayed there and worshipped the Lord.

I cannot begin to imagine the strength it would take to make this life-long sacrifice. Her desire just to have a child and become a mother, was so strong, that she was willing to part with him for almost his entire life. I have seen how hard it is for mothers to lend their children to the Lord for missions of only a few years, and that is when a child is grown and already capable of being away from home on their own. It is a hardship and at huge blessing at the same time. I am sure, that this sacrifice of her young son, to the service of God, blessed her greatly for the remainder of her days.

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I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the scriptures, but I am not a scriptorian. I've been told that I'm too "deep" for some, but if you are willing, I'd love to have others join me in my quest for a greater understanding of the gospel. Please feel free to leave me comments and hopefully we can help each other to learn.
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