Summary: As his name seems to suggest, Samuel was a child asked for. The destiny of the faithful was wrapped up in the birth of this child.
A CHILD ASKED FOR
It was still the days of the judges, and still everyone did what they thought was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25). Yet the LORD was at work, shaping man’s destiny according to His plan. The ‘man according to His own heart’ (Acts 13:22) had not yet emerged: but the LORD had already set the stage for the coming of such a one (Ruth 4:17).
It is amazing how the LORD uses ordinary people in ordinary situations to fulfil His purposes. We are now introduced to another family – not one like Naomi and Ruth’s, which has a place in the regal genealogy of Christ: but one which nevertheless has a significant part to play in pointing towards what God was doing in those days. Perhaps the famous first child of Hannah points to the dawn of David’s dynasty in a way similar to John the Baptist’s pointing to Jesus (John 1:29), and to the dawn of the ‘kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 3:2).
The story is told of a man and his two wives, one of whom was childless, and the other prolific (1 Samuel 1:2). It is never a good domestic arrangement for a man to multiply wives to himself: and the few incidents of this occurring in the Bible narrative indicate some of the pitfalls that may occur. Hannah, though childless, was favoured over her rival by their husband (1 Samuel 1:5).
Every year the man would take his family up to Shiloh to worship the LORD and to offer sacrifices. We see something of the freewill nature of this service, in that the details more exactly correspond with a fellowship meal than with any of the annual feasts (1 Samuel 1:4-5). However, a happy family occasion was repeatedly marred by the mocking provocation of Hannah’s adversary (1 Samuel 1:6).
The husband did not help, although he did his best. Favouring Hannah probably made things worse. To say: ‘Am I not better to you than ten sons?’ (1 Samuel 1:8) failed to understand her pain - (perhaps he should have tried, ‘Are you not better to me than ten sons’? – but even that would have missed the mark).
Hannah’s pain may have come from a sense of failure of vocation. What she promised to God (1 Samuel 1:11) may not have been entirely selfish. Maybe Hannah’s greatest desire was not just to give birth to a boy, but to have a boy to dedicate to the service of the LORD. The destiny of the faithful was wrapped up in the hopes and dreams of this childless woman.
Eli’s misreading of the situation added to the aggravation which Hannah was already feeling. There are many sleepy attendants leaning against the pillars of the church, not quite fulfilling their own vocation. Hannah emphatically denied being drunk, and went some way to explaining herself to Eli.
Hannah was somewhat wonderfully transformed when the old priest ‘spoke the peace’ (cf. Luke 24:36) over her, adding his prayer to hers, and his blessing to her petition. Hannah was able to leave Eli in his place of repose, and to rejoin the feast (1 Samuel 1:18).
Hannah’s groaning prayer was heard by the LORD, just as He heard the groaning prayers of His people in captivity in Egypt (Exodus 2:24). The importunity (cf. Luke 18:7-8) of Hannah, who prayed year after year for a son, at last paid off (1 Samuel 1:19).
As his name seems to suggest, Samuel was a child asked for; and also a gift of God’s love (1 Samuel 1:20).