“Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.” 15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 1 Samuel 1.9-16
One thing I learned from seminary was techniques to study the Scripture. It’s really not much different than what English classes learn when examining a great literary passage. I often read and reread the text a few times then I begin to ask questions such as the classic “who, what, when, where, why and how?” As a practice for myself, I will apply this “5 W’s and 1 H” method to this study today. It’s a basic method that can be applied to any study of Scripture.
Who? This part of the story is certainly about Hannah. She is the young, married, barren wife of Elkanah, a man of Israel and the husband of both Hannah and Peninnah.
What? Hannah is petitioning the Lord to give her a son. Son’s meant status, worth and significance. Children bring meaning to parents – both sons and daughters. She desperately wanted to know her worth in God’s eyes and give her husband the gift of having a son from her and not just from his other wife. The story places Hannah inside the Lord’s Temple, weeping, praying while the Priest Eli mistakes her for a drunken mess.
When? This is the pre-birth of the Prophet Samuel for whom the book of 1 and 2 Samuel is written and who is one of the greatest leaders of all of Israel. He is the prophet who raised up not only Saul, the first king of Israel, but also David, the king and man after God’s own heart. The year is roughly 1200 B.C., before Christ was born.
Where? The story takes place in the hill country of Ephraim, just 15 or so miles north and east of Jerusalem. It is west of the Jordan, above the Dead Sea but below the Sea of Galilee. Today it would be in the West Bank, the Palestinian occupied territory, and near the ancient biblical town of Shiloh and Bethel.
Why? The “why” question is one of the most difficult. It depends on what we are trying to solve, discern or exegete from the passage. Why did Hannah go to the Temple? Why did she pray before the Lord? Why did Eli think she was drunk? Why did she want a child? Why did she have to give a reason for her behavior? But really, the question I’d like to ask is why is all this recorded in Scripture? Why would God decide for us to know about a desperate-praying-barren-women who was the mother of one of the greatest prophets the nation has ever seen? The simple answer is this — because God is glorified in her seeking and in her searching.
How? The “how” is about to be realized in the next segment of 1 Samuel when Eli finishes his conversation with Hannah. The “how” comes about through prayer, reliance upon God, and seeking his face above all others.
In this passage we see the heart of Hannah, a women who in her own words is “pouring out her heart to the Lord.” And we know that God honors that kind of a heart.
The question for us today is this — Are we willing to humble ourselves and pour out our hearts to the Lord? Are we willing to seek God’s face in such a way that he has no option but to answer?
Call out to him this very moment. Lift up your prayers to him because he cares for you.
“O Lord God, you are good. In your steadfastness you do not relent. You love your people. You love all who humble themselves before your throne and seek your face. Come now, Holy Spirit, allow me to know your love and promises in full. I praise you Lord that you do not change. The same God in 1 Samuel is the same God in Jesus in the Gospels. Reveal yourself to us! Receive our prayers and our cries of desperation, by your grace and for your glory. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen