There is so much to admire in Hannah. She is really a lovely person to write about. However, as I write it’s Mothers’ day in Australia, and she is one of those for whom such a day would have been very difficult for many years. Even after she had Samuel, I would imagine she missed him deeply.

In our care for each other, it is good to be aware that many people really struggle with days like today, and with good reason.

Hannah was a deeply ethical person. There is no sin recorded against her in this story 1, which is not to say she was perfect. It is to say her behaviour under intense pressure is remarkable. There are five people mentioned by name in this narrative, other than her, God, and Samuel. Aside from Peninnah and Elkanah, we meet Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. Eli’s sons were clearly abusive, and Eli’s responses to abuse fell far short. But Hannah shines out.

Hannah’s song in chapter two is remarkable in itself. 2 It follows a form of poetry called “chiasmus” where each stanza has a mirroring pair, all focussed around the centre. (Like, ABCDC’B’A’.) It’s a complex work of art. The text kind of implies she wrote it “on the fly”, although there is room to interpret she had composed it earlier. Either way – it says much about her. She was a gifted, creative, intelligent, probably educated person of great depth. Many people see her song as the Magnificat of the Old Testament, and indeed that Mary may have based her song on Hannah’s. 3

When Hannah is under the most extreme pressure, under continual attack from Peninnah, let down by her husband, and dealing with her own grief about her lack of children, she talked to Yahweh out of the depth of her soul:

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to Yahweh, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Yahweh Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to Yahweh for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

As she kept on praying to Yahweh, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to Yahweh. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 4

Look at how her prayers are described: “deep anguish… weeping bitterly”; “pouring out my soul to Yahweh”; “praying out of my great anguish and grief”.

As we saw in the Songs of Ascents, here also in the midst of intense trauma Hannah cries out to the God who revealed himself to the Hebrews in the midst of the abuse they suffered in Egypt.

There are other parts of the Bible that make it clear we are allowed to have a very turbulent relationship with God. The psalms are one gold mine in this regard. So we don’t all have to respond the way Hannah did. But what we see from her is complete transparency and vulnerability. Her prayers were messy, open, without restraint.

Hannah’s courage in facing down Eli’s attack on her character is disciplined, articulate, and strong. She has boundaries. She even describes herself as not a “Daughter of Belial” 5, (translated “wicked woman” in the NIV), a term used to describe Eli’s sons 6, and other abusive types. I wonder if that was a deliberate rebuke of Eli – that his criticism should have been turned elsewhere? It is no small thing to speak truth to power. I deeply admire her.

1 and 2 Samuel introduce us to the time of Kings. There are many abusers in the chapters ahead. The history could have been told with Hannah’s part in it left out, but here instead we have this remarkable woman, a victim of domestic violence, who, with God’s help, gives birth to a son she will have to give up. She reminds us of Mary – a connection that would hardly have been lost on God.

Steve Wade

Hannah’s courage in facing down Eli’s attack on her character is disciplined, articulate, and strong. She has boundaries. - 1 Sam 1:15-16 Share on X



  1. 1 Samuel 1-2
  2. 1 Samuel 2:1-10
  3. Luke 1:46-55
  4. 1 Samuel 1:10-16
  5. 1 Samuel 1:16
  6. 1 Samuel 2:12


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