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Hannah Is Childless

There was a man from Ramathaim Zophim,[a] from the hill country of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah. He was the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives;[b] the name of the first was Hannah and the name of the second was Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. This man would go up from his city year after year[c] to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies at Shiloh.[d] (It was there that the two sons of Eli,[e] Hophni and Phinehas, served as the Lord’s priests.) The day came, and Elkanah sacrificed.

(Now[f] he used to give meat portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double[g] portion because he loved Hannah,[h] although[i] the Lord had not enabled her to have children. Her rival used to aggravate her to the point of exasperation,[j] just to irritate her,[k] since the Lord had not enabled her to have children. This is how it would go[l] year after year. As often as she went up to the Lord’s house, Peninnah[m] would offend her in that way.)[n]

So she cried and refused to eat. Then her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why are you crying and why won’t you eat? Why are you so upset?[o] Am I not better to you than ten[p] sons?” So Hannah got up after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh.[q]

At the time[r] Eli the priest was sitting in his chair[s] by the doorpost of the Lord’s sanctuary.[t] 10 As for Hannah, she was very distressed.[u] She prayed to the Lord and was, in fact, weeping.[v] 11 She made a vow saying, “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you would truly look[w] on the suffering of your servant,[x] and would keep me in mind and not neglect[y] your servant, and give your servant a male child,[z] then I will dedicate him to the Lord all the days of his life. His hair will never be cut.”[aa]

12 It turned out[ab] that she did a great deal[ac] of praying before the Lord. Meanwhile[ad] Eli was watching her mouth. 13 As for Hannah, she was speaking in her mind.[ae] Only her lips were moving; her voice could not be heard. So Eli thought she was a drunkard.[af]

14 Then he[ag] said to her, “How much longer do you intend to get drunk? Put away your wine!”[ah] 15 But Hannah replied, “Not so, my lord! I am a woman under a great deal of stress.[ai] I haven’t drunk wine or beer. But I have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Don’t consider your servant a wicked woman.[aj] It’s just that,[ak] to this point, I have spoken from my deep pain[al] and anguish.”[am]

17 Eli replied, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the request that you have asked of him.” 18 She said, “May I, your servant, find favor in your sight.”[an] So the woman went her way and got something to eat.[ao] Her face no longer looked sad.[ap]

19 They got up early the next morning. Then they worshiped[aq] the Lord and returned to their home at Ramathaim.[ar] Elkanah was intimate with[as] his wife Hannah, and the Lord called her to mind.[at] 20 Then Hannah became pregnant.

Hannah Dedicates Samuel to the Lord

In the course of time she gave birth to a son.[au] And she named him Samuel, thinking, “I asked the Lord for him.”[av]

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  1. 1 Samuel 1:1 tc The translation follows the MT. The LXX reads “a man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite”; this is followed by a number of recent English translations. It is possible the MT reading צוֹפִים (tsofim) arose from dittography of the מ (mem) at the beginning of the following word.
  2. 1 Samuel 1:2 sn We do not know how Elkanah came to have two wives. A man whose brother had died without leaving children had, by custom, to marry his sister-in-law to raise up a son in his brother’s name (Deut 25:5). Childlessness, more than one wife, and rivalry are recurrent themes in the stories of Genesis. Sarai gave her servant Hagar to Abraham in an arrangement that would consider the child to be Sarai’s (Gen 16:2). Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, but then also married Rachel, who initially could not have children (Gen 29:23-25; 30:1). This situation recalls the stories from Genesis and the dysfunction of the Patriarchs’ families.
  3. 1 Samuel 1:3 tn Heb “from days to days.” In this phrase “days” idiomatically means a year, as a set of days.
  4. 1 Samuel 1:3 sn From the book of Judges we know that Israel often struggled with idolatry during this time period. This introduction to Elkanah portrays him as a faithful worshiper of the Lord (whatever his faults may have been) at a time when “each man did what he considered to be right” (Judg 17:6; 21:25).
  5. 1 Samuel 1:3 tc LXX “Eli and his two sons.”
  6. 1 Samuel 1:4 tn The word “now” does not appear in the Hebrew. It is used here to signal that the narrator makes an aside. This begins an extended parenthetic remark which extends to the end of verse 7. sn The narrator supplies background information about the behavior patterns in this family which would routinely occur when they went to the tabernacle to worship on holy days.
  7. 1 Samuel 1:5 tn The exact sense of the Hebrew word אַפָּיִם (ʾappayim, “two nostrils” or “face”) is not certain here. The form is dual and is most likely used with the preceding expression (“one portion of two faces”) to mean a portion double than normally received. Although evidence for this use of the word derives primarily from Aramaic rather than from Hebrew usage, it provides an understanding that fits the context here better than other suggestions for the word do. The meaning “double” is therefore adopted in the present translation. Other possibilities for the meaning of the word include the following: “heavily” (cf. Vulg., tristis) and “worthy” or “choice” (cf. KJV and Targum). Some scholars have followed the LXX here, emending the word to אֶפֶס (ʾefes) and translating it as “but” or “however.” This seems unnecessary. The translators of the LXX may simply have been struggling to make sense of the word rather than following a Hebrew text that was different from the MT here.
  8. 1 Samuel 1:5 tn Heb “because Hannah he loved.” The Hebrew places the direct object, “Hannah,” first as a means of emphasis (topicalization). The emphasis on Hannah shows she was his favorite and may leave the audience wondering whether or how much he loves Peninnah. In turn this may typologically recall the ancestral story of Jacob loving Rachel more than Leah (Gen 29:30, 32), whom he was tricked into marrying.
  9. 1 Samuel 1:5 tn Or “and [because] the Lord had closed her womb.” So also in v. 6.” The conjunction, commonly “and,” could represent a second reason for giving her a double portion. Or because it is a noun first clause, it simply provides background information to be read in light of the statement that he loved The act of giving Hannah a double portion portrays Elkanah as having compassion on Hannah but also demonstrating favoritism. Exod 21:10 forbids diminishing the food of a second wife. This act is not the same as diminishing Peninnah’s food, but surely contributes to the tension between the women. While the extra food for Hannah may seem insignificant for the pain of childlessness, it was probably significant to Peninnah.
  10. 1 Samuel 1:6 tn The Hebrew construction is infrequent, employing גַּם (gam; “also”) and the noun כַּעַס (kaʿas; “grief, vexation, provocation”), which is a cognate to the verb (Hifil of כָּעַס; kaʿas, “to give grief, to provoke, to offend”). Both גַּם (gam; “also”) and use of the cognate noun strengthen the idea of aggravating her. A similar but negated construction appears in Jer 8:12. It suggests that this syntax speaks of attaining the notion in the verb to a significant level, in this case to the point of provocation or exasperation.
  11. 1 Samuel 1:6 tn Heb “for the purpose of troubling her.” The word “just” has been added for English idiom. The Hiphil form of the verb רָעַם (raʿam) may mean to disturb, humiliate, or provoke to anger. The picture seems to be that Peninnah would deliberately choose ways to irritate Hannah, for no other purpose except to see her provoked, humiliated, or depressed.
  12. 1 Samuel 1:7 tc The MT has a Qal masculine imperfect form of the verb here (יַעֲשֶׂה; yaʿaseh) “thus he used to do.” The imperfect form gives past habitual meaning and is modified by כֵּן (ken, “thus, so”). The subject would presumably be Elkanah, but this is an abrupt change of subject during a description of how Peninnah would aggravate Hannah. One approach is emend the first consonant and read the feminine form (תַּעֲשֶׂה; taʿaseh) “she used to do so.” The approach taken here is to retain the consonants and revocalize as a Niphal (i.e., יֵעָשֶׂה, yeʿaseh) “thus it would be done.” Cf. Gen 29:26.
  13. 1 Samuel 1:7 tn Heb “she”; the referent (Peninnah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  14. 1 Samuel 1:7 tn This concludes the background material of what used to happen. The next two verbs are preterites, which resume the main action line of the story from verse 4. Preterite verbs (also called vayyiqtol, or waw consecutive with imperfect) move the main line of actions forward in a story. The verbs in the main clauses from “he used to give” in vs. 4 to this point are perfect consecutives (also called veqatal or waw consecutive plus perfect) and second position imperfects used for past habitual actions. This is confirmed by the modifiers “year after year” and “as often as.” The story must at some point switch from telling what would happen on many occasions to what did happen on one occasion. Though the background statement is lengthy, it seems best to divide the habitual pattern from the particular occasion based on the known values of the verb forms.
  15. 1 Samuel 1:8 tn Heb “why is your heart displeased?” Here the heart (לֵבָב; levav) represents the emotions. The verb (רָעַע; raʿaʿ) can refer broadly to something bad or harmful and in this context may mean to be displeased, sad, or resentful. Presumably Hannah’s behavior was in opposition to the behavior expected at the worship festival.
  16. 1 Samuel 1:8 sn Like the number seven (cf. Ruth 4:15), the number ten is sometimes used in the OT as an ideal number (see, for example, Dan 1:20, Zech 8:23).
  17. 1 Samuel 1:9 tn Heb “after eating in Shiloh, and after drinking.” Since Hannah had refused to eat, it must refer to the others. The Hebrew also sets off the phrase “and after drinking” probably to prepare the reader for Eli’s mistaken assumption that Hannah had had too much too The LXX adds “and stood before the Lord.” This is probably a textual expansion due to the terseness of the statement in the Hebrew text, but we do know from context that she went up to the tabernacle.
  18. 1 Samuel 1:9 tn The words “at the time” come from the syntax. As a noun clause (instead of having a preterite verb) it does not advance the time line of the story. It provides background information which is true at the same time as another event or, as in this case, is part of the setting for a new scene.
  19. 1 Samuel 1:9 tn Or perhaps, “on his throne.” See Joüon 2:506-7 §137.f.
  20. 1 Samuel 1:9 tn The term הֵיכָל (hekhal) often refers to the temple (so ASV, KJV, ESV, NASB, NIV), however, this story happens well before Solomon built the temple. The Sumerian word “E.GAL” means “big house” and came into Akkadian as “ekallu” referring to a “palace,” “temple” (the god’s palace), or the main room of a private house (CAD E, 52). The term later came into Hebrew as “palace” or “temple.” Considering it’s origin, it is appropriate for the tabernacle which is pictured as God’s dwelling. “Sanctuary” is preferred over “temple” to avoid confusion with Solomon’s temple.
  21. 1 Samuel 1:10 tn Heb “she was bitter [in] soul.” Here “soul” (נֶפֶשׁ; nefesh) represents “the center and transmitter of feelings and perceptions” (HALOT, s.v. נֶפֶשׁ). Elsewhere (Isa 38:15; Ezek 27:31) the phrase refers to heartache. The noun first clause is making a contrast between her and Eli as part of the new setting before starting the main line of action in the following preterite verbs.
  22. 1 Samuel 1:10 tn Heb “and weeping, she was weeping.” A paronomastic infinitive absolute (from the same root as the verb it precedes) highlights the modality of the main verb. In this case the indicative mood is emphasized because this weeping was unexpected at the religious festival (see Brian L. Webster, The Cambridge Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, 288). Another view is that for indicative verbs the infinitive absolute emphasizes the lexical meaning of the verb, such as “weeping greatly.” The imperfect verbal form emphasizes the continuation of the action in past time.
  23. 1 Samuel 1:11 tn Heb “looking you look.” The expression can refer, as here, to looking favorably upon another, in this case with compassion. The paronomastic infinitive absolute, emphasizing the modality of the verb is rendered here as “truly.”
  24. 1 Samuel 1:11 tn Heb “handmaid.” The use of this term (translated two more times in this verse and once each in vv. 16, 17 simply as “servant” for stylistic reasons) is an expression of humility.
  25. 1 Samuel 1:11 tn The verbs זָכַר (zakar) and שָׁכַח (shakhakh) are often translated “remember” and “forget.” But their meaning is not as narrow as the English terms. Hannah is not concerned with God’s memory capacity but about keeping her in mind to grant her request. tc The LXX omits “and not neglect your servant.”
  26. 1 Samuel 1:11 tn Heb “seed of men.”
  27. 1 Samuel 1:11 tc The LXX adds “wine and strong drink he will not drink.”tn Heb “a razor will not go up upon his head.”sn This alludes to the vow of the נָזִיר (nazir) in Num 6:5. A Nazirite, or consecrated person, would make a vow for a time or for a lifetime. Among the outer signs of consecration were abstinence from alcohol and not cutting the hair for the duration of the vow. Sampson was also dedicated as a Nazirite from birth (Judg 13:7).
  28. 1 Samuel 1:12 tn This verb form, waw plus Qal perfect of הָיָה (hayah; “to be”), is rare in narrative. Most often this appears in direct speech indicating a future event or a purpose (as types of propositional or event modality respectively). However, the form can also convey other modal meanings and here probably indicates result (a type of event modality). For other cases of this syntax see Judg 19:30; 1 Sam 10:9; 13:22.
  29. 1 Samuel 1:12 tn Heb “she made numerous to pray.” The Hiphil from of the verb רָבָה (ravah; “to be many”) means to “make numerous, plentiful, or continuous” (HALOT s.v. 1 רָבָה)
  30. 1 Samuel 1:12 tn The noun first syntax of this clause means that it indicates circumstances that are simultaneous to other actions in the story. The adverb “meanwhile” was chosen to represent this syntax. It shows that Eli was watching her, apparently mumbling, for some time during her praying before he approached her.
  31. 1 Samuel 1:13 tn The Hebrew word לֵב (lev) can refer to the seat of the emotions, will, and intellect and may be translated as “heart” or “mind.”
  32. 1 Samuel 1:13 tn The Hebrew term שִׁכּוֹר (shikkor) can refer to being drunk or being a drunkard. Slurred speech is a symptom of drunkenness, but because there is no audible speech Eli may be inferring confusion associated with alcoholic dementia, a result of long term drinking.
  33. 1 Samuel 1:14 tn Heb “Eli.” The pronoun (“he”) has been used in the translation in keeping with contemporary English LXX “Eli’s servant.”
  34. 1 Samuel 1:14 tc The LXX adds “And go away from the Lord’s face (i.e., presence).”
  35. 1 Samuel 1:15 tn The idiom קְשַׁת רוּחַ (qeshat ruakh) is unique to this passage. The adjective קְשַׁת (qeshat) may mean “hard, difficult, or distressed” and the noun רוּחַ (ruakh) may mean “spirit, or breath.” It could possibly refer to a “distressed spirit” (NIV, ESV “troubled;” NASB “oppressed;” KJV “sorrowful”) or “difficult of breath.” An appeal to some sort of shortness of breath could fit the context. The LXX has “for whom the day is difficult,” either mistaking the Hebrew word “day” יוֹם (yom) for “spirit” or choosing a way to communicate stress. The phrase has also been compared to “hard of face,” “hard of heart,” and “hard of neck” and understood to mean “obstinate” (Graeme Auld, I & II Samuel [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011] 31). Claiming to be obstinate seems an unlikely defense to present the high priest, but if this latter suggestion is on the right track, perhaps the idiom could be bland enough to mean “determined.”
  36. 1 Samuel 1:16 tn Heb “daughter of worthlessness.”
  37. 1 Samuel 1:16 tn Heb “for” or “indeed.” The English “It’s just that” is a colloquial expression that can express a reason.
  38. 1 Samuel 1:16 tn The term שִׂיחַ (siakh) can also refer to a lament or complaint.
  39. 1 Samuel 1:16 tn It is also possible for the term כַּעַס (kaʿas) to refer to provocation or anger.
  40. 1 Samuel 1:18 tc The LXX reads as an affirmation: “Your servant [has] found favor in your sight.”
  41. 1 Samuel 1:18 tc Several medieval Hebrew mss and the Syriac Peshitta lack the words “and got something to eat.” The LXX reads: “went her way. She entered her guest room. She ate with her husband, and drank.”
  42. 1 Samuel 1:18 tc NET follows the LXX: “her face was no longer fallen.” The MT reads: “her face, it did not belong to her any more.” The Hebrew is difficult to interpret; we may wonder if it is idiomatic for her expression having changed.
  43. 1 Samuel 1:19 tn Or “bowed before the Lord.” The posture of bowing often represents the act of worshiping.
  44. 1 Samuel 1:19 tc Heb “to Ramah;” LXX “Ramathaim.” Ramathaim, used in verse 1, is the dual form of Ramah.
  45. 1 Samuel 1:19 tn Heb “Elkanah knew his wife.” The Hebrew expression is a euphemism for sexual relations.
  46. 1 Samuel 1:19 tn The verbs זָכַר (zakar) is often translated “remember.” It does not simply mean the ability to recall (as “forgetting” does not simply mean the inability to recall). It means the decision to recall or to bear in mind, here with regard to her previous request. The Hebrew verb is often used in the OT for considering the needs or desires of people with favor and kindness.
  47. 1 Samuel 1:20 tc The translation follows the sequence of the LXX. The MT says: “It happened at the turning of the days. Hannah conceived. And she gave birth to a son.” The phrase “at the turning of the days” might refer to the new year or to end of the term of pregnancy.
  48. 1 Samuel 1:20 tn Heb “because from the Lord I asked him.” The name “Samuel” sounds like the Hebrew verb translated “asked.” The explanation of the meaning of the name “Samuel” that is provided in v. 20 is not a strict etymology. It seems to suggest that the first part of the name is derived from the Hebrew root שָׁאַל (shaʾal, “to ask”), but the consonants do not support this. Nor is it likely that the name comes from the root שָׁמַע (shamaʿ, “to hear”), for the same reason. It more probably derives from שֶׁם (shem, “name”), so that “Samuel” means “name of God.” Verse 20 therefore does not set forth a linguistic explanation of the meaning of the name, but rather draws a parallel between similar sounds. This figure of speech is known as paronomasia.