ELKANAH: SOMETIMES THE FEMINIST HERO IS A MAN
I Samuel 1:1-1:8
(1) There was a man from Ramathaim Tzofim in the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Tzuph, an Ephraimite. (2) He had two wives, one named Hannah and the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless. (3) This man used to go up from his town every year to worship and to offer sacrifice to ADONAI Tzvaot at Shiloh.—Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of ADONAI there. (4) One such day, Elkanah offered a sacrifice. He used to give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; (5) to Hannah he would give a double portion—though Hannah was his favorite—for ADONAI had closed her womb. (6) Moreover, her rival, to make her miserable, would taunt her that ADONAI had closed her womb. (7) This happened year after year: Every time she went up to the House of ADONAI, the other would taunt her, so that she wept and would not eat. (8) Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why are you crying and why aren’t you eating? Why are you so sad? Am I not more devoted to you than ten sons?”
I Samuel 1:19-24
(19) Early next morning they bowed low before ADONAI, and they went back home to Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah and ADONAI remembered her. (20) Hannah conceived, and at the turn of the year bore a son. She named him Samuel, meaning, “I asked ADONAI for him.” (21) And when the man Elkanah and all his household were going up to offer to ADONAI the annual sacrifice and his votive sacrifice, (22) Hannah did not go up. She said to her husband, “When the child is weaned, I will bring him. For when he has appeared before ADONAI, he must remain there for good.” (23) Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do as you think best. Stay home until you have weaned him. May ADONAI's word be fulfilled.” So the woman stayed home and nursed her son until she weaned him. (24) When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a jar of wine. And though the boy was still very young, she brought him to the House of ADONAI at Shiloh.
I Samuel 2:11
(11) Then Elkanah [and Hannah] went home to Ramah; and the boy entered the service of ADONAI under the priest Eli.
I Samuel 2:18-21
(18) Samuel was engaged in the service of ADONAI as an attendant, girded with a linen ephod. (19) His mother would also make a little robe for him and bring it up to him every year, when she made the pilgrimage with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. (20) Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May ADONAI grant you offspring by this woman in place of the loan she made to ADONAI.” Then they would return home. (21) For ADONAI took note of Hannah; she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. Young Samuel meanwhile grew up in the service of ADONAI.
Questions related to Part 1
What is the explanation given for Hannah’s barrenness and for her subsequent fertility?
The text seems sympathetic toward Hannah, especially in contrast to the portrayal of Peninah. But take a minute to imagine the story from Peninah’s perspective. How might she see her own situation and explain her own behavior?
Look carefully at Elkanah’s question in verse 8. How would you put it in your own words? Why do you think Hanah doesn’t respond?
Questions related to Part 2
Elkanah’s other spoken line is in verse 23.
How do you understand his deferral to Hannah’s plans? (Please answer this before looking at the question below!)
Does the addition of “May Adonai’s word be fulfilled” affect your understanding of his position?