The Story of Samuel | Hannah and Peninnah | 1 Samuel 1.1-8 |

by | Jun 20, 2020

“There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite[a]from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters.But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb.Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” 1 Samuel 1.1-8

I love rereading these Old Testament stories. Today begins a day when I begin to work through 1 Samuel. According to “Insight for Living,” — “Together, 1 and 2 Samuel form one book in the Hebrew Bible. The Greek translation of the Bible, the Septuagint, was the first version to divide the material into two parts. Though named after its main character, the prophet Samuel, the book does not claim an author. However, Samuel may have written, and he certainly supplied, the information for 1 Samuel 1:1–24:22, which is a biography of his life and career up to his death. First Chronicles 29:29 notes that Samuel, along with Nathan and Gad, recorded the “acts of King David.” Evidence in the writing suggests that the books of 1 and 2 Samuel were compiled by someone from the prophetic school who used documents from Samuel, Nathan, and Gad.” (

This examination of 1 Samuel is a time of my own interaction with the text in what I call a devotional-commentary style. I hope you enjoy exploring, discovering and wrestling with the Scripture as much as I do.

1 Samuel begins with the story of “Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah.” It begins with what was accepted in that day, polygamy. Now we since know the Lord does not support polygamy (see Paul’s writings in 1 Timothy 3.2-12) but in that time, the Lord allowed for some men to have more than one wife (one is enough for me!).

Elkanah is one of those men. His wives are Hannah and Peninnah. We learn from the reading that Peninnah was blessed with many children but Hannah was barren. And Elkanah loved Hannah more. He even asked Hannah — “Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Now children, both then and now, are such a great blessing. Back in those days having sons brought stature, wealth, prominence and was a sign of God’s blessing. Being barren was an indication of a lack of blessing, perhaps even a sign that someone had sinned or was cured by the Lord. Today we would say there is something wrong medically or that God had not chosen to bless a woman for a reason.

Hannah wanted children for her husband and for herself. Which brings us to the rivalry between Hannah and Peninnah. The latter would provoke the former. Peninnah would rub Hannah’s face in the fact that God had closed Hannah’s womb while blessing Peninnah with many children.

So Hannah would pray. She would go up “to the House of the Lord” and there she would pray. Year after year Hannah would pray to the Lord until finally the Lord chose to answer your request and open her womb.

Yet before we move on to the rest of the story it’s important to talk about the faithfulness of Hannah in light of disappointment, disgrace and sadness. She could not control her situation. He had a loving husband but the rival wife, who had children, was seemingly jealous of the love Elkanah showed for Hannah. Day after day Hannah would come to worship the Lord, pouring out her requests to the Lord in persistence and faithfulness.

This is the focus for today. Seeking the Lord in our own time of barrenness of struggle. Just as Hannah returned for years to worship and sacrifice to God, with our results mind you, it did not prevent her from going to Shiloh to the place of worship.

I wonder if you have been asking the Lord for healing, blessing, favor or redemption? Has God been silent? Have your prayers gone unanswered? I would ask what is God doing in your heart is these times of petition and longing? As we know from Scripture, our prayers do not go unanswered. 1 Peter 3:12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 

Even in the midst of years of praying, petitioning and appealing before the Lord, he is doing a conditioning work in our hearts and upon our character. This was the same for Hannah and I believe it is true for us.

So whatever godly desire the Lord has laid upon your heart, do not stop asking the Lord to fulfill it. He will hear your prayers, just as he heard Hannahs, and his ears will be attentive to your prayers.

“O Lord God, don’t we all suffer at some point in life? Don’t we all find anguish waiting in our hearts? Let us turn to you to discover freedom, peace and grace. Help us know that you are the God who answers prayers. You have even placed those in our hearts so we might find our love and our dependence upon you. Come now, Holy Spirit, find me willing and waiting for you to answer. I want to be yours and for you to be mine. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen