10 December 2014

1 Samuel 1:21-28

“For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him.” (v. 27)

Psalm: Psalm 96


Hannah did not go with her husband for his routine trips to make his sacrifices but stayed behind in order to wean her son (it is not clear which festival Elkanah is attending on this occasion). Elkanah was also going to fulfil a vow made to God which probably involved a promise of a sacrifice in return for the blessing of his crops and general well being.

When Samuel was weaned she took him to be 'presented before the Lord'. This practice is outlined in Exodus 13:2 in which the firstborn son should be dedicated to God in remembrance of the night of the Passover in which the firstborn children and livestock of all Egypt were killed (Exodus 11-12). The firstborn of the children and animals of Israel were not killed as the angel of death passed over their houses.

For Hannah, this presentation has a special significance because she would not be bringing her son home with her. Instead he would be living in the tabernacle with Eli and the priests. He was probably about 3 years old as children were weaned for longer at that time, but this is still very young as verse 24 notes.

It seems certain that Luke was a keen student of these verses as he also mentions the presentation of Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:22-40) and we will explore more parallels in the coming days. With Jesus being a firstborn himself, this would have been a natural thing to do but Luke's Gospel takes the trouble to mention it perhaps because of the encounter that takes place there with Simeon. Like Jesus, Samuel would also be the channel that causes the rise and fall of many in Israel (see Luke 2:34) and this will be seen in the coming stories of Eli and his sons and of the kingships of Saul and David.

We may sense within Hannah's words to Eli a great sense of joy and exaltation that her prayer has been answered and that now she can fulfil her part of the agreement.

To Ponder

  • Hannah was quite straightforward in her prayers and her request was granted. When we say in our prayers 'if it be your will', is this a lack of faith or a submission to God's will? What are your thoughts?
  • The presentation of the firstborn is a powerful ritual about ownership and a reminder of the Exodus. What else might it teach us?
  • Hannah's prayer for a child led to a great spiritual leader being born in Israel. How do your prayers further the kingdom of God? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Mead

Jonathan is a Methodist minister, who works part time in the London NW Mission circuit and part time as a learning and development officer in the London District. He enjoys keeping fit, reading history and visiting Mediterranean destinations..