DAY 1 - Who is Hannah?
Although Hannah’s story covers only a small slice of scripture, it remains both impactful and relevant for us today. As you read the following passage, imagine that you are present and watching as the story unfolds. Allow yourself to experience what Hannah might have been experiencing.
Please read I Samuel 1:1-28
Elkanah, was a Levite and had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. We know from other accounts that polygamy was common in the Old Testament but surely not sanctioned by God. In fact when we read in other books we can see the havoc often created with more than one wife.
It isn’t clear in the scriptures which wife Elkanah married first, but we are told that Hannah had no children, while his other wife, Peninnah, had many.
The ability to bear children was an important part of the culture, yet Hannah’s infertility didn’t matter to Elkanah. The Bible makes it clear how deeply he loved her. Yet she endured pain as the ‘other wife’. Peninnah mocked and ridiculed her.
Hannah isn’t the first woman described as ‘barren’ in scripture. It’s a terrible thing to be labeled for what you can or can’t provide. Imagine the stigma she was under. There is mention of others who suffered infertility such as Sarah, Abraham’s wife, Rebekah who was married to Issac and Rachel the wife of Jacob. These women dealt with their inability to conceive in various ways - a concubine to provide an heir, angry questioning and blaming. However, Hannah accepted God’s promise with a strong faith, a sign of her godly character. The other three did not. This doesn’t mean Hannah didn’t struggle.
We read in I Samuel 1 that Hannah was reduced to tears because of Peniniah’s taunting. How difficult this must have been for her. Can you imagine struggling to come to a place of acceptance while at the same time being tormented by another? Her pain must have been unbearable. She had no support. Even Elkanah’s attempt to console her was to convince her that having him as a husband was better than 10 sons - a poor comfort for his heartbroken wife. Hannah’s suffering was also prolonged. As we read of Hannah’s experience we also see how it was compounded by the lack of compassion and misunderstanding from Peninnah, Elkanah and even Eli the priest. This brings up the question for us as to how we might respond to others in their suffering. Interestingly the Hebrew word for compassion, ‘rachamim’, comes from the root ‘rechem’, which literally means ‘womb’, a quality that God desires to birth within each of us. We see this in the New Testament as well.
Ephesians 4:32a tells us, "Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding]" (Amplified Version)
Is there someone you know who has been experiencing a season of suffering? Have you been able to empathize with them in their heartache and struggle? How does God desire for you to demonstrate compassion? Have you grown impatient with them?
Do you know of someone who desperately wants a child? What ways could you support them in their pain and longing?
Please take time to journal your thoughts. Offer a prayer of confession to God for areas of your life where you lack compassion and kindness.
Listen to the following song. As you do, ask God to birth His compassion in you.