Elkanah and Hannah:
Fulfilling a Vow Lesson 8 August 25, 2007
Elkanah and Hannah: Fulfilling a Vow
August 25, 2007
In a sense, Hannah and Elkanah are one of the lesser known couples in this quarter’s lessons. They were known, not so much for their own accomplishments, but rather, because of the ministry of their son, Samuel.
The story begins with a godly man who . . . has two wives. The trend of polygamy (or bigamy) in the Old Testament continues. In this instance (as in many of the others), we can see the potential dangers of such a marriage arrangement.
1. In the Old Testament world, the ability to bear children (especially sons) was seen as a sign of God’s blessing and favor.
* In that OT context, then, what did it mean to be childless?
* How would Peninah have viewed herself spiritually as she compared herself to Hannah? Would her assessment have been accurate?
* What is the contemporary equivalent of “bearing a son”? In other words, what “blessing” do we interpret as a reliable indication of God’s favor? Is a “blessing” really a sign that God favors us more than others?
* In what ways might we become spiritually proud as a result of “blessings” that we misinterpret at signs of God’s special favor?
2. One of the fascinating parts of the story of Elkanah and Hannah is their apparent dedication to God and to religious rituals at a place of worship that was corrupt and wicked. In spite of the evil of Hophni and Phinehas, they continued to go there to worship and pray. (1 Samuel 1:13 implies that drunkenness in the temple may not have been uncommon)!
* How should we relate to a religious institution if it is led by corrupt leaders? On what basis could we defend our continued support (through offerings, etc.) of such a institution?
* 1 Samuel specifically mentions that offerings were being mishandled by the sons of Eli. Since this is so, why would godly people continue to bring them? Should they have?
* Eli spoke to his sons about their sin, but they did not stop their practices. What more should Eli have done? Why didn’t God step in to protect the sanctity of the place of worship, as he had done before?
3. The corruption in the temple makes it even more amazing that Hannah and Elkanah would bring their child to the temple and leave them there to serve in such an unholy place. At the time, Samuel would have been a very, very young child.
* Hannah gave birth to Samuel after she had made a vow. Was she bound by this vow, even though the fulfillment of such a vow seemed to put her son in jeopardy? Must even a rash vow be kept?
* Both Hannah and Elkanah made vows (1 Samuel 1:11, 21). Taking vows is not a common practice among many Christians today. Is that a good or bad thing?
* What must it have been like for both Elkanah and Hannah to leave their son Samuel at the temple at such a young age?
4. Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2:1-10) closely parallels the prayer of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:46-55). Her prayer also has similarities to the prayer of David in 2 Samuel 22. It is interesting how these two prayers (of Hannah and David) begin and end the book of Samuel and present the theology of the book in the form of praise.
* What are the key themes presented in both prayers?
* In 1 Samuel 2:3, Hannah says that the Lord is a God who weighs deeds. How is weighing a deed different from watching a deed? Are there some simple deeds that would not gain the attention of the world but would be “heavy” on God’s scale? What sort of deeds would “heavy” deeds?
* What kinds of deeds are we most interested in? Flashy deeds? Noisy deeds? Tall deeds? Heavy deeds?
Department of Theology - Walla Walla College
Zdravko Stefanovic, Professor of the Old Testament, and Carl Cosaert, Professor of the New Testament. Paul Dybdahl, also a member of the School of Theology at WWU, is moderator and author of this study guide.
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