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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 8: Elkanah and Hannah: Fulfilling a Vow *
Introduction: How is your life right now? Is something missing that
only God can supply? Are friends and family making life difficult?
Is your spouse trying to be helpful, but does not really understand
your needs? If you can say "yes" to any of these questions, this
study is for you. If you are trying to help someone who is sad, this
lesson may help. Let's jump right into our study of the Bible!
- The Elkanah Family
- Read 1 Samuel 1:1-2. Knowing what you do about the Hebrew
culture, tell me what feelings you would expect to find in
a family like this? (The wife without children would feel
inferior to the one with children. The husband would
prefer the wife who bore him children (especially sons).)
- Let's skip ahead and read 1 Samuel 1:6-7. Would you have
expected things to be this bad?
- We don't have the whole picture yet. What does this
tell you about Peninnah, the wife who had children?
(For some reason, she feels inferior so she wants to
make life difficult for Hannah.)
- Would you say that Hannah was having an emotional
- Read 1 Samuel 1:3-5. Why is Elkanah doing just the
opposite of what we would expect? (This suggests Elkanah
is a religious. I think that explains much of his
conduct. The Bible tells us that he feels sympathy towards
his wife because she does not have any children. He also
loves Hannah. Thus, Elkanah wants to "make up" for
Hannah's lack of children.)
- Now that we have the larger picture, tell me why Peninnah
is feeling so hostile towards Hannah? (In her mind she
deserves greater love and respect because she is the one
who has all the children. Thus, she is being cheated of
what is due to her. She will punish Hannah for this
- Read 1 Samuel 1:8. Wives, tell me what you think about
Elkanah as a husband? He asks what is wrong, does he know
what is wrong? Is he doing a good job of comforting his
wife, or is he a "bumbler?" (Guys like to be logical - and
he thinks his love (and that double portion) should make
- Why doesn't Elkanah's love and generosity make things
right? (The issue is not him, it is her. He may be
worth "ten sons," but she knows she is not. (She does
not have even one.) Worse, she no doubt thinks that
God shares Peninnah's opinion - she is unworthy.)
- Does Elkanah feel inadequate? (Yes. He cannot
"fix" the problem. He thinks his love and logic
should be enough to cure Hannah's sadness. It
does not. Who enjoys a wife who is weeping and
sad all the time? It must be partially his
- Step back a minute: what is the root problem in this
family? (The root problem is having two wives. You do not
want to introduce the spirit of rivalry in your marriage.
Your spouse has to be number one - and know it.)
- The Promise
- Read 1 Samuel 1:9-11. What do you think about Hannah's
promise? Have you ever promised the Lord that if you won
the lottery, you would pay off the church's debt?
- What is the significance of the "no razor" part of
the promise? (Recall two weeks ago we discussed
Samson and the Nazirite vow? Hannah is promising that
if she has a son, he will be a Nazirite - one set
apart for service to the Lord. See Numbers 6:1-8)
- Let's consider this just a moment: Hannah is
promising to give God something she does not have and
dedicate the life of someone else! What does Hannah
give up here? How many of your promises to God are
like that - you give me something and I will give you
something I do not presently have? What about giving
God something you do have?
- Who is watching Hannah pray? (Eli, the High Priest.)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:12-14. You have seen people who move their
lips when they are reading silently, Hannah is moving her
mouth when she is praying silently. What does this tell
us about the nature of her prayer? (Generally, people who
move their lips when they read are not good readers. Thus,
they are concentrating on what they are reading and do not
realize their lips are moving. Hannah is concentrating
very deeply on her prayers and is paying no attention to
how she looks.)
- What does Eli conclude? (That she is drunk.)
- What does this suggest about drunkenness around the
temple? (It suggests that this was common enough that
Eli would conclude a person was drunk instead of
first considering that they were distressed!)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:15-17. What do you think about Eli's
response? (He does not ask her any details about her
problem, he just says: go in peace, may God grant what you
- Is this the type of response you would expect from a
- Are there any reasons why this is a good response? (I
do not register very high on the "considerate scale,"
but I would at least inquire about the nature of her
problem. My reason for doing that would be to see if
I could come up with some "smart idea" to "fix" the
problem. The defect in that approach is that I am
relying on myself to come up with a solution. Eli
left the matter entirely to God.)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:18. How did your prediction compare with
the results obtained? (Eli's remark must have been the
right thing because Hannah is cheered.)
- Read 1 Samuel 2:12, 22-24. How would you rate Eli as a
father? (He has the same "non-interventionist" approach to
his sons as he did to Hannah. Long ago he should have
actively intervened in the lives of his sons to require
right behavior. If they did not behave, he should have
banned them from serving in the temple.)
- Is it clearer now why Eli's first thought is that
Hannah is drunk? (He was used to bad behavior around
the temple because of the influence of his sons.)
- Read 1 Samuel 2:13-17. Are Eli's sons just immoral? Are
they just "party guys?" Or, is there a deeper problem?
(This text shows that they are abusing the worshipers at
the temple. Thus, they are interfering with the worship
service. The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that
when the sons had sex with "the women who served at the
entrance" ( 1 Samuel 2:22), they were engaging in Canaanite
worship practices. These guys were not just immoral, they
were corrupting the temple worship system.)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:19-22. Hannah's prayer to God and Eli's
invocation of God's mercy result in God giving Hannah a
son. Why did she not want to go to the temple and thank
God for giving her this son? (It says that Samuel was not
yet weaned, but I've got to believe that Hannah did not
want to be reminded of her vow by revisiting the temple.)
- Notice that verse 21 says that Elkanah went to
"fulfill his vow." What vow did he make? (A wife
could not just promise to "give away a man's son."
This suggests that Elkanah agreed completely with
Hannah and entered into the same vow. He went back to
the temple and confirmed that they were going to
dedicate Samuel to God.)
- Read 1 Samuel 1:24-28. Hannah keeps her part of the
bargain with God, reminds Eli of who she is, and drops
little Samuel off to live at the temple. How do you think
Eli reacted to this "drop-off?"
- Would you choose Eli to raise your son?
- These two questions that I just asked you - do you
think they went through the mind of Hannah? (Hannah
was faithful in keeping her vow to God. She could
have said "Eli will forget or not want my son." She
could have said, "Eli is unfit to 'parent' my son -
look at how his sons turned out!" I think she
thought those thoughts and rejected them.)
- Read 1 Samuel 2:18-21. How did this gift of Samuel turn
out for Eli, Hannah and Elkanah? (Eli was happy, because
he gave Samuel's parents a special blessing. Hannah and
Elkanah had several more children. Samuel, I note, "grew
up in the presence of the Lord." It seems that Eli has
learned from his mistakes with his own sons.)
- Read 1 Samuel 2:26. What does this teach us about those
who have been raised in less than a great environment?
(Eli was old. His sons were a terrible influence. Yet the
early training of Samuel by his mother, coupled with the
presence of God in the temple, gave Samuel the opportunity
to grow up in the right way. We are personally responsible
for the choices that we make. Samuel had different
examples set before him, he chose to follow the right
- Friend, God came through for Hannah. He vindicated her, He
answered her prayers in a favorable way, He "defeated" her
enemies. In the scheme of things, Hannah was just one,
relatively unimportant woman. However, her son Samuel
turned out to be one of God's very best leaders. What a
blessing it is when God can say "yes," to our personal
prayers and at the same time use His answer to bless many
others. Will trust God's answers, whatever they might be?
- Next week: The Jobs: Living With Losses.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.