Hannah - Wife of Elkanah

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. 10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 1st Samuel 1:9-10

Hannah was the wife of Elkanah, a prosperous man who had two wives. She had been married to Elkanah for a while, but did not have children. Unfortunately, Elkanah's other wife, Penninah (who had several children) constantly provoked Hannah and tried to irritate her, not just because of Hannah's childlessness, but because she knew that their husband loved Hannah more than she.

Pushed to her breaking point, Hannah went to the temple during their usual annual pilgrimage and said a prayer that  gave Israel one of their most powerful prophets.

11 And she made a vow, saying, “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, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 1st Samuel 1:11

In due season, God answered her prayers and she gave birth to a son whom she named Samuel 'Because I asked the Lord for him'. Hannah fulfilled her vow and took Samuel to the temple where he was raised and became the last Prophet-Leader in Israel before the Kings came. He guided Israel in spiritual and political issues and 'God never let his words fall to the ground' (1st Samuel 3:19). Samuel anointed two of Israel's best known kings (for different reasons): Saul and David. He was a very influential leader and a man that God used to steer His people in a time of great turbulence...and he might never have been born, save for the earnest prayer of a desperate woman.

Read an excerpt from Hannah's Story: Re-imagined, written by my friend Toyin Malomo. It's great reading and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Thanks for reading and stay inspired,

Onyih

Hannah's Story: Re-imagined {Excerpt}

Source: Microsoft Images

Source: Microsoft Images

“Surely you are not still clutching onto the false hope that after all these years your withered womb will give my husband a child?”

Peninah was standing in the doorway of Hannah's living quarters, surveying her rival with cold resentment.   Hannah steeled herself for the barrage of insults she knew would be coming her way. Peninah always had a cutting remark ready for Hannah whenever Elkanah went to the younger wife’s chambers.  Although Hannah felt her heart splintering once again, she continued rubbing the almond oil into her thick brown hair in preparation for the evening ahead.

“Our God is able.  I am still of childbearing age”.

Her statement was meant to counter the severe goading that she was now accustomed to, but the years were quickly slipping away. And every time she mentioned El- Shaddai’s ability to grant her request, she felt like she was using lying lips.  Over the years, her conviction had gradually been eroded and she now offered these replies to the enemy of her peace because this was what she was supposed to say and not because this was what she was confident of. Still, she continued to profess her faith. Studiously ignoring her co-wife, she continued brushing her hair and making preparations for her husban’d visit.

Irritated at being ignored, Peninah snorted, flicked her head back and then stalked away.

***

Later on that evening, as Elkanah was reclining on the sheepskin rug in her chamber, he looked at the untouched food on Hannah’s platter.

“My love, you do not eat again? What ailment is troubling you this time?” 

He stroked her hand gently and waited for her answer, but he knew what was wrong already.  It was the same ailment that had troubled him for 4 years of their marriage, until he realized that he needed to accept that Hannah would never bear him children and that he ought to be grateful that his first union with the irksome Peninah had blessed him with abundant fruit.

Hannah sighed.  What was the point of repeating the same words that they had spoken too many times?  She knew he would do his best to encourage her and she could almost hear his voice now, “The God of Israel, Yahweh, the God of our forefathers hears our prayers and will answer us”.  She wasn’t convinced he truly believed the words he spoke. She knew he had made his peace with her childlessness and it was no longer a part of his daily intercession, so which prayers would God answer?  Her own daily prayers had been bludgeoned into a script that failed to capture the one desire of her heart. She was so discouraged that she could not muster the strength to plead any longer. Wasn’t it her ancestor, Rachel, who had said to Jacob “Give me children or else I will die!”? She felt she had already passed that point and there was little gain in wasting more tears on something that God had clearly shut His ears to.  So instead,  it was a long time ago that she  had decided she would pray for the protection of her family, the prosperity of her husband, good health for herself and even God's blessing on Peninah and her children.  But inside, she was deeply grieved.

“I’m fine”, she said placing a slender dark hand on his arm tanned under the hot skies of Ramah.  He stretched forth his fingers to retrieve some fruit from the sumptuous meal she had prepared for him. 

“I’m just not hungry” she continued. Elkanah glanced at his wife’s resigned face. Her eyes were dull and her skin looked wan. Perhaps she was fasting in advance of their yearly visit to Shiloh which was approaching in a few days.  But then it was strange she had not mentioned that she wished to also abstain from their conjugal relations.

“Your hands have labored well,” he said as he tucked into the fresh millet loaf, dipping it into the steaming meaty broth.

A smile brightened her soft face and he was reminded of her youth and how easy she was to please.  Hannah always took compliments and praise well, as if she didn't know just how skilled she was.  Peninah, on the other hand, with age and experience- although as deft as Hannah in such matters-, had a long time ago stopped appreciating her husband. He still obligated himself to spend one night with her at regular intervals, but in recent times, he had become accustomed to eating meals prepared by the servants. 

He was also used to her complaining about the ever growing stature of their children and how she needed gold and cloth for them.  One evening he had returned from inspecting the fruit on his vines which was particularly exhaustive labor.  He hadn’t concerned himself with changing his robes as he knew Hannah would receive him the way he was and massage his aching muscles until he got some respite.  He was most disappointed to have been corrected by Hannah and have her urge him to fulfill his commitment to Peninah.   That night as Peninah abused him for the unkempt state he came to her in, as she roughly scrubbed his feet and as she slammed down what could only be described as old meat and very acidic wine to accompany it, it had overwhelmed him to realize that although he could never put Peninah aside as the mother of his children, Hannah was the woman he wished to grow old with.  Hannah was the one who he still anticipated spending time with.  Hannah was the one who would notice his creased forehead or a bruise on his body. Hannah was the one who would herself, go early in the morning to the local market, to choose fresh ingredients which she used to prepare him treats.  She wouldn’t concern herself with the fact that she would have to dip into her own purse since these things were extra to the household finances. Her finest qualities were her compassion and her fairness.  Sometimes her peacemaking attitude was mistaken for naivety and he was many a time frustrated at the way she allowed Peninah to manipulate situations and cause strife in the household. 

“We will travel to Shiloh in 3 days time.  You need strength for the journey, my dear.  Please, at least join me in eating a little of this meal that you have worked so hard to prepare.”  He wiped his hands on the cloth and then gathered her own slender hands, one by one pressing the calluses on her palms to his lips.

 “If you don't release my hands, how shall I eat, my lord?” she asked teasingly, in an effort to avoid his scrutiny. Deliberately avoiding his gaze, she glanced down at her hands and her long black lashes almost hid her huge brown eyes.

His face took on a mischievous look- “My love, I have a very good answer for that question.” She giggled as he briefly released her hands and then clasped them again as he offered her a small bunch of his own grapes with his mouth alone.

Many hours later as she lay with her head on her husband’s chest, Hannah was unable to stop the tears rolling down her cheeks.  If he treated her badly, was harsh or rough with her- or had even put her out of the house- perhaps she could have found solace in herself for such unfair treatment.  But instead he was always so tender, so gentle and loving towards her. “Please God, hear the cry of my heart” she whispered as the emotional exhaustion of the day overtook her and her eyes closed, succumbing to sleep.

***

Toyin Malomo

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