We know her for her sorrow. She longed for a son, but couldn’t have children. We know her for her faithfulness. She never gave up hope that God would hear her prayer. We also know her for her sacrifice. She dedicated her baby Samuel to the Lord and left him at the temple to serve God “all the days of his life” (1st Samuel 1:11 NIV).
Hannah is one of the most recognizable women in Scripture for all these reasons. Many of us remember her story for her deep anguish over not being a mother. We all most likely recall her time at the temple, taking her request to God in powerful prayer. And what mom wouldn’t be impacted by Hannah’s bold move – leaving her little blessing at the temple to be raised by Eli the priest?
Hannah’s life had significant moments that stand out, but there are other facts about her we often overlook. Are you wondering if there’s more to Hannah’s story than you thought? Here are 5 things you may not know about Hannah in the Bible.
1. Hannah knew how to respond with grace, or not respond at all.
Hannah showed unmatched restraint with her words. She not only knew the right things to say, but also when to say nothing. For years Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, ridiculed Hannah for her infertility. Yet instead of responding to her tormentor, she kept her mouth shut.
During one of the family’s annual trips to the tabernacle, Hannah had enough of the ridicule. She didn’t lash out at Peninnah, but she knew it was time to do something. She left the dinner table and went straight to God with her plea. Her character was tested when Eli accused her of being drunk. And once again Hannah demonstrated grace and humility through her words.
“Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation” (1st Samuel 1:16 ESV). By describing herself as Eli’s servant, she acknowledged his position of authority. When she could have easily mouthed back at him, she chose to display proper respect.
2. Eli the priest asked God to bless Hannah with a child more than once.
Once Hannah explained herself to Eli, his heart softened. He then reassured her of God’s intention to answer her prayer for a son. But that was just the first time Eli went to God on Hannah’s behalf.
Eli was right. God answered her prayer. But the story didn’t end when Hannah gave birth to Samuel. It didn’t end when she took him to the temple either. Each year Eli blessed Elkanah and Hannah again, asking God to give them more children because of her sacrifice.
“Before they returned home, Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, ‘May the Lord give you other children to take the place of this one she gave to the Lord’” (1 Samuel 2:20 NLT).
3. Hannah had 5 more children after Samuel.
God didn’t just honor Eli’s blessing the first time. God continued to answer the prayers for Hannah. She had three more sons and two daughters while Samuel “grew up in the presence of the Lord” (1st Samuel 2:21b NLT).
4. Hannah was the fourth woman in biblical history to suffer through infertility.
Before Hannah, three other women endured the despair of not being able to conceive. Sarah was the first, followed by Rebekah and then Rachel. However, Hannah accepted God’s promise with unwavering faith. The other three did not.
Sarah laughed at the angel’s proclamation that God would give her a child. (Genesis 18:12 NIV) Rebekah questioned, “If all is well, why am I like this?” as her twins struggled in the womb. (Genesis 25:22 NKJV) Rachel gave the responsibility to her husband. (Genesis 30:1 NIV) But Hannah trusted God without doubt or concern. Her reverent fear of the Lord was just one more quality of her godly character.
5. Hannah’s famous prayer may have prophesied the coming Messiah.
As Hannah dedicated Samuel back to the Lord, she fulfilled her commitment. How hard this must have been for her as a mom! I wonder whether I would have been able to go through with it, but Hannah praised God for her blessing. She thanked Him for His sovereignty. And at the end of her prayer, we find evidence of God’s plan for the salvation of all mankind.
“He gives power to his king; he increases the strength of his anointed one” (1st Samuel 2:10b NLT).
Some scholars believe this verse refers to King David, who Samuel would one day anoint as king over Israel. Yet, according to Matthew Henry Commentary, many theologians claim this verse goes beyond King David to the birth of Jesus.
The commentary states, “We have reason to think that this prophecy looks further, to the kingdom of Christ, and the administration of that kingdom of grace… The ancient expositors, both Jewish and Christian, make it to look beyond David to the Son of David.”
These 5 details of Hannah’s life tell us a lot about her as a person – real, humble, passionate. By looking at these details, we can understand her trials and rejoice in her triumphs. And just maybe, we can learn a little something about our own lives as well.