1 Samuel 1:1-28

Being a woman in a male orientated culture, is likely to provoke two extreme viewpoints. The first is to accept one’s lot—after all there would be many women in the world that would accept that as the norm. The second, however, would be to rebel against the old guard, and reach out for independence and equality.

Now in Old Testament times, we might be tempted to think that women had to conform to the expectations of the former. Nevertheless, a woman’s role was not always that clear cut. Indeed, even in the very male-orientated society of the Old Testament, an element of flexibility was sometimes practiced. And this couldn’t, perhaps, be made clearer than in the story of Hannah and Elkanah.

Because in Hannah’s relationship with her husband, there was a certain amount of give and take. They both considered the needs and feelings of each other. Hannah may have felt the external pressures of producing a baby boy for her husband, but Elkanah had no such expectation. On the contrary he was perfectly content with Hannah the way she was. Despite that, Hannah succumbed to the pressures of her culture and age. And that wasn’t helped by the taunts of her rival Peninnah.

But when Samuel was born, something else happened. Now at the time it might have been considered normal for the father to make decisions about the child’s upbringing—particularly if the child was a boy. But that didn’t happen here either. Indeed, before Samuel was even conceived, Hannah decided the future of the boy. A decision to which Elkanah willingly agreed. So, in this case, once Samuel had been weaned, they both took Samuel to Shiloh and gave him to Eli, to be trained for work in the Tabernacle.

Now, of course, what this passage illustrates is that marriage is not just about two people—a husband and a wife—even with all the give and take. Rather it is about three people—a husband, a wife and God. Indeed, it suggests that for a marriage to truly work, not only do the two partners have to care and consider one another, but God needs to be part of that relationship too.

The story of Hannah and Elkanah, then, is a story of two people totally committed to one another—they are equal partners in a loving relationship. They also have God at the centre. And that is a very different, and much more positive and uplifting view of expectations, relationships and marriage, that is often viewed today.

Posted: 13th April 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis