Declaring the Lord’s Grace

Explore the Bible Series

September 7, 2008


Background Passage: I Samuel 1:1-2:11

Lesson Passage: I Samuel 1:1-2, 6-7, 12-18, 20, 24-28


Introduction: We return, in our study, to the Old Testament, and we will make a three-month survey of I and II Samuel.  These wonderful books detail the history of Israel from the birth of the Prophet Samuel to the last years of King David’s reign, a period of about one hundred years.  Conservative Bible scholars date Samuel’s birth around 1100 B.C. (perhaps somewhat later), and David’s reign lasted until about 970.  This is a critically important period in Israel’s history.


The Book of Judges ends with a dismal, twofold observation: Israel had no king, and every man did what was right in his own eyes.  The judges provided periodic leadership of the Lord’s people, for about 350 years (c. 1400-1050). Samuel, as we shall see in I Samuel, was a transitional figure, the last of the judges and the first of the prophets.  Furthermore, he helped inaugurate the United Monarchy by anointing both Saul and David as the first two kings of Israel. The book falls into three major sections:

1.      The early life of Samuel (Chapters 1-7)

2.      The reign of King Saul (Chapters 8-16)

3.      The rise of David and the demise of Saul (Chapters 17-31)


I and II Samuel were apparently written as a single document. In time, Jewish scribes divided the book into two sections, perhaps to facilitate the study of these lengthy scrolls.  The translators of the Septuagint called the two scrolls The First and second Books of the Kingdoms (no to be confused with I and II Kings). No one knows who wrote I and II Samuel.  The narrative may come from several historical sources, and one of these sources may have originated with the Prophet Samuel.  The great prophet could not have written the entire document because the text records Samuel’s death in I Samuel 25:1.  Some scholars have speculated that the Prophets Nathan and Gad may have written other sections of the text (See I Chronicles 29:29). 


In this first study we will consider the birth of the Prophet Samuel.  The Bible recounts several stories of barren women who, through the gracious intervention of God, bore promised sons (Sarah, Rachel, Samson’s mother, and Elizabeth).  I Samuel begins with a heartrending story of a dear woman named Hannah.  This godly woman, barren for several years, endured the cruel mockery of Peninnah, and, in a period of desperation, turned to the Lord for help.  God heard her prayer, and Hannah bore Samuel, a precious son who served Israel for a generation. This lesson outlines several important features of Christian life: the presence of hardship and persecution, the Lord’s sovereignty over the affairs of life, the essential nature of earnest prayer, and the value of heartfelt thanksgiving and worship.



Lesson Outline:


I.                   The Family Background and Birth of Samuel (1:1-20)

A.    The family of Elkanah (vv. 1-2)

1.      Elkanah: This man’s name means “God created’, and he is one of seven Old Testament characters known by this appelation.  He lived in the Palestinian hill country, in the city of Ramathaim-zophim (“twin peaks”), and he descended from a family that must have been well known at the time Samuel was written (notice the genealogical references). Elkanah had two wives, Peninnah and Hannah. 

2.      Peninnah: Determining the meaning of this woman’s name proves a bit difficult.  Some think the name refers to a person with beautiful hair, while others speculate that it may mean "fruitful."  The text later reveals that she had several children, and treated Elkanah’s other wife, Hannah, with cruel distain.

3.      Hannah: Elkanah deeply loved Hannah, a woman whose name means “grace.”  Sadly, Hannah had no children.

B.     Elkanah’s worship of the Lord (vv. 3-5): Elkanah’s family made an annual pilgrimage to Shiloh to worship the Lord. Shiloh, situated about thirty miles north of Jerusalem, served as Israel’s worship center for more than a century after the Conquest of Canaan.  The Israelites erected the tabernacle on a broad, elevated plain.  By this time the people must have added somewhat permanent structures to the tent (See 1:9), and Eli, an aged priest, served at Shiloh along with his wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas.  When Elkanah came to Shiloh he gave portions of the offering for his wives and children to offer to the Lord, and, because of his great love for Hannah, the devoted husband gave a double portion to Hannah.

C.     Peninnah’s cruelty to Hannah (vv. 6-8): Spousal rivalry spoiled the worship experience for everyone involved.  Peninnah, jealous of Hannah’s favored status, taunted her rival.  The mockery broke Hannah’s heart, and she wept and refused to eat.  Elkanah, apparently helpless to stop Peninnah’s spiteful actions, ineffectively sought to console his barren, beloved wife.


II.                Hannah’s Prayerful Plea to the Lord (1:9-20)

A.    Hannah’s vow to the Lord (vv. 9-12):  After breaking her fast, Hannah went to the tabernacle to pray about her barrenness.  Her heart-felt need troubled her deeply, and the distressed woman wept and prayed earnestly. As she concluded her petition Hannah made a two-fold vow: she would give the child to the Lord, and she would impose a Nazarite vow on the boy (See Number 6:1-21).  

B.     Eli’s misinterpretation of Hannah’s prayer (vv. 21-18): Hannah’s devotions give helpful insight into the nature of prayer.  In this case, Hannah did not voice her prayer; instead, she expressed her desires in the silent recesses of her heart.  God “heard” her prayers.  Eli, however, thought Hannah was drunk.  Perhaps this episode also reveals the sad, restricted nature of Eli’s experience with prayer.  Hannah’s earnestness led the old priest to conclude that her intense supplication was the result of drunkenness.  Hannah assured Eli that she had not touched alcohol; rather, her silent prayers arose from her broken heart.  Confident of the Lord’s favor, Hannah went her way, encouraged that God had heard her petitions.


III.             Hannah’s Faithfulness to Her Vow (1:19-2:11)

A.    The conception and birth of Samuel (1:19-20):  After returning to Ramathaim-zophim, Elkanah had relations with his wife, and Hannah conceived a son.  When the boy was born, his mother named him Samuel, “heard of God.” 

B.     Elkanah’s family’s return to Shiloh (1:21-28): After a year, Elkanah returned to Shiloh to worship the Lord, but Hannah asked that she might remain behind to care for her newborn son.  When she weaned the child, she took the little boy to Shiloh to serve the Lord under Eli’s tutelage. In thanksgiving to the Lord, Hannah took a generous offering to Shiloh, and she worshipped the Lord. Her adoration took the form of a song of praise.

1.      the strength of the Lord (2:1)

2.      the holiness of the Lord (2:2)

3.      the knowledge and judgment of the Lord (2:3-10)

C.     Hannah’s return to Ramathaim-zophim (2:11): Elkanah and Hannah, as they had pledged, left Samuel with Eli, at Shiloh, and the boy served the Lord faithfully throughout the rest of Eli’s ministry in the tabernacle.