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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!

  1. The Elkanah Family

    1. 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).)

    2. Let's skip ahead and read 1 Samuel 1:6-7. Would you have expected things to be this bad?

      1. 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.)

      2. Would you say that Hannah was having an emotional breakdown?

    3. 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.)

    4. 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 "unfair" situation.)

    5. 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 everything right.)

      1. 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.)

        1. 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 fault.)

    6. 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.)

  2. The Promise

    1. 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?

      1. 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)

      2. 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?

      3. Who is watching Hannah pray? (Eli, the High Priest.)

    2. 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.)

      1. What does Eli conclude? (That she is drunk.)

      2. 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!)

  3. Eli

    1. 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 have asked.)

      1. Is this the type of response you would expect from a man?

      2. 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.)

    2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    4. 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.)

  4. Samuel

    1. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    2. 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?"

      1. Would you choose Eli to raise your son?

      2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

    4. 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 example.)

    5. 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?

  5. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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