Question: "What is the story of Hannah and Samuel?"
Answer: The account of Hannah and Samuel is shared in 1 Samuel 1 and 2. Hannah was one of two wives of a Jewish man named Elkanah. The other wife, named Peninnah, had children, but Hannah was unable to have children.
One year, Hannah traveled to Shiloh where the tabernacle was. At the entrance of the tabernacle, she prayed for a child. 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” (1 Samuel 1:11).
The priest Eli saw her praying intensely but silently and thought she was drunk. Once Hannah explained that she was praying, the priest blessed her and asked God to grant her request. She returned home and was able to conceive. She bore a son and named him Samuel, a name that means “I have asked for him from the LORD” (1 Samuel 1:20).
Once the child was weaned (traditionally between the age of 2 and 5), Hannah took the young Samuel to Eli and said, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27–28). The chapter concludes by saying young Samuel worshiped the Lord there at the tabernacle.
In 1 Samuel 2, Hannah offers a prayer of thanksgiving to God and returns home. It is then revealed that Eli’s sons were wicked men who did evil in the tabernacle. In contrast, “Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, ‘May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.’ Then they would go home” (1 Samuel 2:18–20).
Hannah’s story ends with an answer to this prayer. Verse 21 notes, “The Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.” Samuel would go on to become the spiritual leader of Israel and would anoint the nation’s first two kings, Saul and David.
Hannah’s story offers many important applications for today. First, she turned to God in prayer during her time of need. Second, she praised and thanked God when He did answer her prayer. Third, she kept her commitment to the Lord, even when it was difficult. Fourth, God blessed her beyond what she had asked. In the end, she was the mother of three sons and two daughters. Hannah’s account has often been an inspiration to women who have struggled with infertility or the inability to have children. Though God does not always answer in the same way, Hannah’s attitude of prayer and dependence on the Lord is a powerful example for us today.
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