He was a judge, a priest and a prophet. He was totally committed to serving God. We will begin to learn about him with this first story:
There was a man called Elkanah who had two wives, Hannah and Penninah. Having two wives does not seem to be God’s original intention for humankind and it did seem to cause problems! Penninah had lots of children but Hannah had none. She was heartbroken and Penninah tormented her about it! This made it all so much more painful. Every year they all went worship in the house of God, the tabernacle, at Shiloh and afterwards had a celebration meal. Penninah, surrounded by all her children taunted Hannah all the more. One year, when the meal was over, Hannah went and found a place alone to pour out her heart to God. “Please give me a son,” she said. “I promise you that if you do I will give him back to you, to serve you all his life.” She was so upset and sobbing so much that the priest seeing her, thought she was drunk! “Please don’t think badly of me,” she said “because I am so unhappy” and she told the priest why she was so sad. Eli the Priest said to her, “Go in peace. And may God give you the son you long for.”
So Hannah went home feeling comforted.
And God answered Hannah’s prayer and she had a son whom she called Samuel.” As soon as he is old enough I will take him to serve God in Shiloh,” she promised.
And that is what she did. When he was big enough, but still a young lad of probably 12 years old, she took him to Eli the priest at Shiloh saying,” This is the son I prayed for. God gave him to me and now I give him back to God. Please take care of him and train him to do God’s work.”
She left him there and went home. How hard must that have been.
Every year Hannah and Elkanah returned to Shiloh to worship, but also to visit Samuel. Hannah would make her son a new set of clothes as he would obviously keep outgrowing the last ones! Every year Eli would bless them saying, “ May God give you children as you have given God your son to serve him.”
And God did. Hannah had three more sons and two daughters. Samuel grew up in the temple learning from Eli and living in the presence of God.
This story seems so strange doesn’t it? Can you imagine your parents taking you or a sibling to a church and leaving him/her there to serve God and only see him once a year? It just wouldn’t happen these days in our country and culture would it? I am imagining that Hannah had well prepared her son for what was going to happen but still it must have been hard.
But I have seen the grief of want-to-be- mums who can’t have a baby. It is a terrible thing for them. So Hannah would have been so happy when she had Samuel and then her other children. We will continue with Samuel’s story next time.