C. 18. ELI (c.1125-1045 BC.)

Family Tensions
There was a certain man from Ramathaim (‘two hills’), in the hill country of Ephraim. He was a Zuphite from the tribe of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah (‘God created’), son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph. He had two wives. One was named Hannah (‘favour’), the other named Peninnah (‘fruitful’). Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless.

Every year, at the same time, Elkanah would join in the clan feast at Shiloh. He would go up from his town to worship and sacrifice to Almighty YHWH there; each time he would make his sacrifice. He would then give one portion each to his wife, Peninnah, and to her sons and daughters; but he would give a double portion to Hannah. He loved Hannah very much, even though YHWH had closed her womb.

Now Hannah’s rival used to provoke her. Indeed, she used to deliberately provoke and irritate her, because YHWH had completely closed her womb. This continued year after year. Every time Hannah went up to the house of YHWH she provoked her, and Hannah wept so bitterly she was unable to eat.

Her husband, Elkanah, would ask her, ‘Why are you weeping? Why aren’t you eating? Why is your heart so sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?’ But Elkanah was unable to console her.

Hannah’s Vow
Now when the Israelites had first entered the Promised Land, the Tabernacle had been set up at Shiloh. However over the years the Tent had been abandoned, and a more temple-like structure had been built.

Eli was the High Priest in Shiloh, and two of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, assisted him as YHWH’s priests.

One particular year, Elkanah went up to Shiloh, as usual. When they had eaten and drank, Hannah stood up. She was deeply distressed. She prayed to YHWH and wept bitterly.

She made a solemn vow. She said, ‘Almighty YHWH, if only you would look upon the misery of your handmaid and remember me. Do not forget your handmaid, but give her a male offspring.’

Now God had given rules for working in the Tabernacle. They included the need to be a Levite, and between thirty and fifty years of age. Further, to be a priest one also had to be a descendant of Aaron.

Despite that Hannah continued, ‘I will give him to YHWH all the days of his life.’ Then, as a way of indicating that this was some sort of Nazirite vow, and that her child would be totally dedicated to YHWH, Hannah concluded, ‘No razor will come near his head.’

Eli the High Priest was sitting on the seat of honour by the doorpost of YHWH’s Tabernacle. So as Hannah continued praying to YHWH, Eli was able to see her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips were moving. So because her voice could not be heard, Eli thought she was drunk.

By this time, drinking at sacrificial meals had become customary. But for Eli, excessive drinking had become a real problem. So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you continue to get drunk? Turn away from your drinking.’

But Hannah replied, ‘No, my lord, I am a deeply troubled woman. I haven’t drunk any wine or beer. I have been pouring out my soul to YHWH. Don’t mistake your handmaid for a daughter of Belial (queen of the underworld). I have simply been expressing the depths of my anguish and grief.’

Then Eli answered. He said, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant your request—whatever you asked of him.’

She said, ‘May your maidservant find favour in your eyes.’ The woman then went on her way. She then had something to eat, and her face no longer looked sad.

In the morning they got up, and worshipped in YHWH’s presence. They then returned to their home which at the time was in Ramah, in Benjamin.

Posted: 5th May 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis