1 Samuel 1:1 There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah.
First and Second Samuel were originally one book, and the author is not identified. They tell the history of Israel from around 1100 BC to 970 BC, highlighting the lives of Samuel, Saul and David. Samuel was an important leader who helped the nation transition from the rule of judges to the rule of kings. The story begins with his birth, which was an answer to prayer.
1 Samuel 1:2 [Elkanah] had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah.
Not many wives want to share their husbands, so the situation was less than perfect. Elkanah may have married Hannah first, but when she did not bear children, he likely married Peninnah. If Hannah felt jealous or inadequate, it only got worse when Peninnah became pregnant. Instead of showing empathy, she flaunted her fertility, provoking Hannah to tears.
1 Samuel 1:11 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.
As Hannah prayed at the tabernacle, she was observed by Eli the priest. She prayed silently, but her lips were moving, and Eli thought she was drunk. She explained that she was not drunk, but was praying out of a broken heart. Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast (1 Samuel 1:18).
Before Hannah prayed she was in deep anguish (1 Samuel 1:10), but after she prayed her face was no longer downcast. From Hannah we learn to give our concerns to God. One of the great benefits of having a heavenly Father is trusting that he cares for us. Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you (Psalm 55:22), wrote David. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7), wrote Peter. God wants us to bring our cares to him and leave them there. When the burdens of life are too heavy for us, we can give them to God.
1 Samuel 1:20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel.
Hannah could have forgotten her vow, as many people do, but she was determined to keep it. When her little boy was around three years old, she brought him to the tabernacle, and gave him to Eli the priest. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:27-28), she said.
From that day forward, Samuel stayed at the house of God, under the supervision of Eli the priest. It must have been difficult for Hannah to leave her son at the house of God, but she was not sad. My heart rejoices in the Lord (1 Samuel 2:1), she said.
Somehow Hannah knew that God had a plan for her son, and that was enough for her. In fact, Samuel would be used by God to anoint the first two kings of Israel. [God] will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed, said Hannah (1 Samuel 2:10).
Anointing was the practice of applying oil to people or things to show they were set apart for God. Many people and things were anointed in the Old Testament, but kings were especially known as the Lord’s anointed.
This reminds us of Jesus Christ, because Christ comes from the Greek word for anointed, and Messiah comes from the Hebrew word for anointed. The words Christ and Messiah are applied to Jesus hundreds of times since he is God’s anointed king.
Jesus was not anointed with oil, however, but with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32, Luke 4:18). The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:18, Isaiah 61:1), he said. Samuel anointed the first two kings of Israel, but Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God.
1 Samuel 2:12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.
Eli’s adult sons (Hophni and Phinehas) were serving in the priesthood, but disregarded God’s word, slept with women who served at the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22), and were bad examples to Samuel.
Tragically, some people of low moral character go into the ministry. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (Matthew 7:15), said Jesus. When ministry positions are held by ungodly leaders, God is not taken seriously, and the people of God suffer. Eli should have dismissed his sons, but he seemed to care more for them than for the Lord. He rebuked his sons (1 Samuel 2:23-25), but let them keep their positions without changing their behavior.
Christian parents may also be tempted to put their children ahead of God. Instead of revolving their lives around God, they revolve their lives around their children. They may even tolerate ungodliness within their home. But anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37), said Jesus. Putting our children ahead of God is a dreadful sin, and a terrible disservice to our children.
Reflection and Review
How can we give our worries to God?
How was Jesus anointed king?
What can we learn about parenting from Eli?