Samuel and Hannah: A Great Man, a Great Mother

Posted on May 12, 2019


This is a repost. However, today being Mother’s Day, I figured it is well worth the doing.

By David Ettinger

It is unfortunate that Samuel is not as highly regarded as other biblical luminaries. When considering the great men and women of the Bible, we think of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, and Daniel. On a second tier, perhaps, we may include Kings Hezekiah and Josiah, and Elisha, Job, and a few women, Deborah and Esther.

mom son

What about Samuel? Why does he get short shrift? Samuel is one of the all-time greats of the Bible and should be included among the upper-echelon heroes. He was a giant in Israel who bridged the gap between the dark years of the Judges and the dawn of the nation’s monarchy. Samuel was the “man of the hour” and was there when the country needed him most.

Samuel was a young man working at the Tabernacle, then located in the town of Shiloh (about 20 miles north of Jerusalem), when the Philistines attacked Israel,[1] killed the two priests Hophni and Phinehas,[2] caused the death of the high priest Eli,[3] and destroyed Shiloh.[4] With the death of Eli, Israel was left without a spiritual leader, and without Shiloh, the people had no place at which to worship. The nation could have descended into chaos had not God provided a dynamic leader.

That leader was Samuel. Before the terrible events listed above occurred, Samuel was already making an impact on his nation: “And Samuel’s word came to all Israel” (1 Samuel 4:1). He was a steady presence when the nation needed him most. In 1 Samuel 7, we see the extent of the great leader’s influence. He was a prophet, serving as God’s spokesman (vv. 3-4). He served as an army commander of sorts (v. 5). He was also a priest, praying and offering sacrifices to God on the people’s behalf (v. 9).

When Samuel became old, however, though the people still honored him, they sought a king to rule over them. God instructed Samuel to anoint Saul as that king. Saul got off to an excellent start, but eventually fell into pride and disobedience, and God rejected him. The Lord then commanded Samuel to anoint David as Israel’s new monarch. Samuel had a major impact on both men’s lives.

Despite all of Samuel’s accomplishments, it is doubtful they would have been possible if not for the influence his mother Hannah had on him. The story of Hannah is a familiar – and loved – one to Bible readers. Married to a man named Elkanah, she was one of two wives, the other being Peninnah.[5] Bigamy was common in biblical days, especially when the first (and loved) wife was barren. A second was taken to provide children. This was likely the case here.

Because Elkanah evidently loved Hannah more than Peninnah,[6] the fruitful Peninnah was insanely jealous and made Hannah’s life miserable by provoking and ridiculing her.[7] In her distress, Hannah pleaded with God to give her a son, promising that if the Lord did so, Hannah would return the child to the Lord to serve Him for life. God answered Hannah’s prayer and gave her Samuel. After Hannah weaned him (Samuel would have been about age 3), Hannah kept her promise and took him to Eli to serve in the Tabernacle at Shiloh.[8]

We can only imagine Hannah’s grief as she had to surrender her precious and long-awaited son to God’s service. But the Lord was merciful, giving Hannah three more sons and two daughters.[9]

With that, the story of Hannah ends and Samuel’s continues. However, I would love to know what became of the relationship between mother and son. We do know that every year Hannah would come to the Tabernacle with a new robe she had sown for Samuel.[10] We also know that when Samuel was grown, he made his permanent home in his birth city of Ramah.[11] I would like to believe that Hannah and Samuel shared many joyous times together before her death.

Whether this happened or not, there is one thing we are certain of: Samuel was among Israel’s all-time greats, perhaps one of the primary reasons being that he was the son of one of the most godly and beloved women in all of Scripture.

[1] 1 Samuel 4:1-11

[2] 1 Samuel 4:11

[3] 1 Samuel 4:18

[4] Psalm 78:60; Jeremiah 26:9

[5] 1 Samuel 1:2

[6] 1 Samuel 1:5

[7] 1 Samuel 1:6

[8] 1 Samuel 1:24

[9] 1 Samuel 2:21

[10] 1 Samuel 2:19

[11] 1 Samuel 7:17