|Today’s reading is taken from 1 Samuel 1.
Out of the materialism and ruthlessness of Israel during the period of the judges, Hannah emerged as a woman of faith. From her home in the hills north of Jerusalem, she had traveled to Shiloh, the national place of worship. Her sadness of heart and persistence in prayer contrasted sharply with the prevalent corruption in worship led by Eli’s sons (1Sa 2:12-17).
Hannah’s personal life was one of despair in her childlessness as she recoiled from Peninnah’s pestering reproach. Her prayer exhibits selflessness as she pleads for a son whom she might present to God for his use (1Sa 1:11). Clearly, Hannah was loved and valued for herself by her husband, Elkanah, but even the intensity of a devoted husband’s love could not penetrate her inner disquiet nor overcome her yearning for a child (v. 8). The throbbing emotions of her despair were so evident in Hannah’s prayers that the aged Eli accused her of drunkenness. But beyond her prayers and tears, a vow erupts. Hannah, in effect, makes a pact with God; she pledges to give back to him the precious life he might give to her. God honored her bold and decisive act.
Hannah’s faith is rewarded, and her son is named Samuel (Heb., shemu’el, “Heard by God”) because she “asked the Lord for him” (1Sa 1:20). According to custom, she probably nursed him several years, giving time for her to convey to Samuel her own spirit of deep reverence and piety and also to knit her heart with his through maternal bonding. Nonetheless, she kept her word to the Lord. Into the defiled worship center, she placed her very young, impressionable son. Although humanly it seemed to border on foolishness, this was an act of saintly sacrifice. Her commitment was to God; her gift was prearranged with him. With prophetic insight, she planted the next generation just as promised.
Samuel grew up to become the last judge, an outstanding and gifted prophet and the one who would anoint the first two kings of Israel. Samuel was the pivotal spiritual leader who turned the nation toward Yahweh. His mother Hannah played her part in this spiritual awakening as she trusted God, leaving for all posterity an example of determined devotion in her motherhood.