Monday, November 29, 2004

1 Samuel 1

Chapter 1 deals with the birth of Samuel and his dedication to the priesthood. There are a number of interesting aspects: the competition between the wives Hannah and Penninah over childbearing, the spiritual blindness of the priest Eli, the introduction of Eli's worthless sons Phinehas and Hophni, the narcissism of Hannah's husband Elkanah, and the power of prayer when uttered in the spirit of sacrifice. But the most interesting is the parallel of Hannah to Mary, wife of Joseph and mother of Jesus, which emerges in the next chapter.

First to Elkanah. We know he was a man of some stature because he had a well-established genealogy, was able to support two wives, and he was able to afford portions of meat for his entire family. Accordinng to Mathew Henry, he was from the Kohathites ( and had ties to Bethlehem, connecting Elkanah's home Ramathaim to Joseph's Arimathea.

Yet he was narcissistic, imaging that he could serve as a substitute for a child to Hannah. Since being childless was the equivalent of self-extinction, this was an astonishing piece of arrogance on the part of Elkanah. Furthermore, he was clearly a poor peacemaker in the home, allowing Peninnah to taunt Hannah. Still, he was apparently compassionate and devout.

Next to Hannah. She serves as an example of prayer. She prayed "in bitterness of soul," so intent on he object that she "prayed in her heart," with her lips moving but no sound emerging, offering (as was proper for a first-born son) to yield him to the Lord.

Next is Eli. As Henry points out, Eli accuses Hannah of the sin which the disciples of Christ were accused at Pentecost-- of drunkenness. For a priest, he is remarkably disconnected from the Spirit. Still, he is not a wicked man and he joins her in praying that God may grant her wish.

And last is Samuel, whose name means "heard of God." Henry points out that Hannah cherished Samuel, that she fed him from her own breast rather than from that of another woman. After weaning, she delivers to the priesthood Samuel with his own larder, consisting of 3/5 bushel of flour and a bull, not to mention some wine. And so, Samuel is made a living sacrifice to God, handed over freely and irrevocably by his mother.


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