Sermon: The Story Of Hannah’s Pain 1 Samuel 1:1-20 -- By: Robert D. Bergen

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 13:2 (Fall 2016)
Article: Sermon: The Story Of Hannah’s Pain 1 Samuel 1:1-20
Author: Robert D. Bergen

Sermon: The Story Of Hannah’s Pain
1 Samuel 1:1-20

Robert D. Bergen

First Samuel 1:1 is probably a verse you have never preached from, or even wanted to hear a sermon from. But you’ll be glad you did once you’ve had a chance to study it. Let’s do it together today!

¹There was a man from Ramathaim-zophim in the hill country of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. ²He had two wives, the first named Hannah and the second Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless. (1 Sam 1:12, HCSB)

First of all, what are these verses doing in the Bible? These tell us about a guy who has two wives, plus a bunch of relatives with unpronounceable names. Here we have the man Elkanah with ancestors named Jeroham, Elihu, Tohu, and Zuph, an Ephrathite (Ephrathite is what the Hebrew actually says here) in his background. What’s the big deal about a genealogy of four generations of ancestors? What do those names of otherwise unknown ancestors have to do with this story? Well, the answer is—if you’re an Israelite living three thousand years ago in Canaan—a lot. Those names mean that the writer wants you to think of Elihu as a really important guy; listing more than two generations of ancestors in a man’s genealogy signals to the reader that the person is a significant individual. More than that, if you are an ancient Israelite genealogy wonk, the names tell you that the man is a member of the high priestly clan—that he is a descendant of Israel’s first high priest, Aaron the brother of Moses (see 1 Chronicles 6).

Elkanah was an important man and a priest, and yet he had two wives. If he was a godly and important man, why did he have two wives? Can we use the example of Elkanah to justify bigamy today? No—not unless you’re a Mormon! But we can use this statement to learn something about ancient Israel. Within that society, it was considered crucial for every marriage to produce a male offspring to pass along the family name and wealth, as well as to have someone to care for the parents in their old age. If a man’s first wife—and it seems Hannah was that wife—could not produce children, then it was expected that a man would take another wife. We saw a similar situation in the life of Abraham (Genesis 16).

Here’s the probable backstory behind the events of verse 2, as it might have been experienced by Hannah. Like every other little girl in her society, Hannah look...

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