Samuel – Prophet, Priest and King-maker.
As we set out to consider the life of Samuel – both a Priest and a Prophet – we look first at the family background and his early life. The attitudes and values absorbed in childhood surely begin to shape the adult. How often have you heard it said about a young man ‘He’s just like his father’? And that is more than just a matter of physical appearance; you can pick up the same phrases as he talks and the similar responses to various situations. The parents do nothing to train the child to behave that way, it usually just happens. Now, of course, there have always been youngsters who have rebelled against that kind of background, but not so with Samuel. You can only admire the admirable qualities in both parents, Elkanah and Hannah, and begin to see the development of Samuel as one of the more significant people in the history of Israel.
v 5 And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion because the Lord had given her no children.
The husband who loved his wife and worshipped God.
Elkanah was in a difficult position! He had two wives (not uncommon in that day and age – remember Jacob with Rachel and Leah), and experienced the dawning realisation that one of them was unable to conceive a child. This was heart-breaking for both of them, especially as we read the poignant words in verse 2 – Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not.
To add to the problem, Peninnah was given to mocking Hannah for her infertility. Whilst Hannah wept and suffered loss of appetite, Elkanah’s generous and gentle love revealed in verse 8 might perhaps have been of little compensation for her apparent inability to conceive.
This sadness in the family did not, however, prevent Elkanah from going to worship and offer his sacrifices regularly, and Hannah stuck with him in that. In spite of the heartache and mocking by Peninnah she joined the family for these occasions and continued faithfully in worship.
So we start with a woman experiencing inner tension and yet persevering in worship and, as we shall find later, bringing her problems into the presence of God. That steadfastness of character shown through both her and Elkanah provided a great foundation on which Samuel would later build a life with God.