“On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (I Samuel 1:4-8)
Elkanah knew what grieved Hannah. But there was nothing he could do. He was not insensitive to what his other wife, Hannah’s “rival” was doing. And I would imagine when they were home Hannah’s “rival” kept her comments to herself. But away from home, when they were not being heard or watched by the rest of the household, Peninnah could not and did not resist.
“After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.” As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk.” (Verses 9 to 13)
It seems to be Hannah’s curse to be made fun of and be misunderstood. How far from fulfilling a priestly role must Eli have been if he misunderstood silent pray as drunkenness.
“So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” (Verses 14 to 16)
And bless Hannah for gently and humbly setting him straight. It speaks a great deal of her character that she did not become insulted by his misinterpretation of the situation.
“Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer. They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.” (Verses 17-20)
How good it is to pour out one’s heart to God, and to those who listen with compassion, care and support to our woes. It makes even the saddest heart shake off the tears and seek out joy. It is a good story, this story of Hannah, to remind us of the benefits of recommitting and renewing our relationship with God. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our sadness that we think no one, not even God can understand how we feel. But we forget that God knows our heart and spirit, and is waiting for us to come to the Divine and speak from our heart to God.
May you, beloved reader, open your heart to God and let all that is there spill out. Selah!