I WILL NOT LET HIM GO UNTIL I WEAN HIM
Three years to make a man of God.
(1 Samuel 1:21 -23)
One year after that amazing day in Shiloh, and Elkanah is getting ready and encouraging his family to hurry in preparing to go with him on his annual trek. He’s off to Shiloh again. This time, however, we have a slightly different scene than the one we encountered twelve months earlier.
So what is similar? What is different? Whether or not Peninnah had yet another child, we are not told. Jewish rabbinical tradition states that Peninnah lost all her children one by one to illness, accident, and pillaging lions, rampant along Jordan’s banks at the time. There is no conclusive source evidence for accepting this. It is not stated in scripture. Always remember that the Talmud oozes the spirit of Judaism from Rabbinical minds. The scriptures come from the Spirit of God. That is two opposite sources. Frankly, God Could not remove children for the sake of their mother’s awkwardness and lack of grace; millions in the world would be reduced to childlessness if that were the case. We shall assume that Peninnah is the same selfish person, though now looking for further reasons with which to taunt her “enemy”, as her previous plank of attack had been divinely removed.
Hannah is beaming. She is the very picture of contented womanhood. She dotes on, but definitely does not spoil little Samuel. Elkanah encourages her to bring the, “little fellah,” with her, to Shiloh. She answers her husband in a startling manner. She declares her plan to finish weaning him, before taking him to Shiloh to present him to the Lord, “that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide forever.”
It is an easy thing to make a vow. It is another thing to faithfully keep that vow, especially when the vow that was made was so costly and, according to what we read, not known by any other human being at that particular moment. She openly explains the vow to her husband, and so stays at home.
It was an explanation that came out of sheer love for God. Why not keep the child? God would not be so unreasonable as to ask for something that no one else had ever been asked for. Isn’t it quite natural and normal for a mother to keep her child close until adulthood? She could hold little Samuel to her bosom all her days, even when he had become, “big,” Samuel, and nobody would guess she had said anything to God that had not been fulfilled. Why should she, “give him away”? But that would not be the way of integrity. Hannah had vowed. She had made a statement to God that if He were gracious enough to grant her a son she would give him back to the Lord, “all the days of his life.” The son had been given, the child had arrived; and how she loved him. She had determined to keep him as long as weaning was necessary. As soon as he was free of his mother’s milk, Shiloh would see him given back to God and His service.
Honesty towards God and herself forbade her to keep him any longer. The selfless dedication of Hannah to God first, even before her children, is a principle simply taught throughout scripture and assumed as the Godly and biblical norm. It is still a marvelous thing to behold. Not that mothers are expected to have their sons take board and lodging elsewhere, as Hannah had imposed on herself and her firstborn. But loving God before all people is the normal Christian life. Children should be dedicated to God, simply because God comes first.
In many ways what Hannah did was utterly unique. In another manner at looking at this account, it is a universal application of a Biblical injunction that addresses us all. Our children are God’s before they are ours. In the days of the book of Maccabees, from the apocryphal inter-testamental period, it seems that Hebrew women suckled their children for the first three years of life. If this evidence is indicative of conduct in Samuel’s day it infers that Hannah had three years to influence and teach her little toddler all she could toward the Nazarite vow and the special nature of the circumstances of his conception and birth. That is, three years to put into him the sort of spirit and attitude that would bind his will and heart to the Lord all the days of his life. That is thirty six months or so to teach him that he was special; he was chosen; he was to be God’s person; that Yahweh Himself would be a father and a mother to him when he was to be placed with God and Eli at the tabernacle in Shiloh. That is one thousand and eighty days to produce the incipient Man of God. What an amazing job she did. Hannah trained her little Samuel to recognise himself as utterly dedicated to God; and as we shall soon see, she did not have long to wait for the child’s personal, wilful and responsible ratification of her vow. All this because of a vow made in the context of earnest prayer and intercession. She surely could have pleaded that she was a little, “out of her normal presence of mind,” to have made such a promise when she was praying that prayer, even the High Priest considered her drunk.
If such a case was put to Hannah, I feel sure she would reason that she had never been in such total control of her volition and frame of mind as she was at that moment of “drunken” prayer in Eli’s full vision. She would undoubtedly consider that the particular prayer made that day with Eli thinking her drunk, and the vow made whilst saying that prayer, was one of the sanest moments of her entire life.
With all the years of reading and soaking in this story I am left with only one problematic area of thought which I find difficult to come to grips with. If Hannah was the down to earth intelligent mother I believe that she was; and if she was aware of life around the Tabernacle and its priests, and I believe she was; and if she was aware of the misconduct and godlessness of Hophni and Phinehas, and I believe she was; how on earth could she trust Eli the man so undisciplined in the role of father, to bring up her first and highly treasured son? He couldn’t even discern whether she was praying or just rambling in a drunken oblivion. Was there no other legitimate way to fulfil her vow? We obviously have here some aspect of faith that transcends her own sense of motherly responsibility. The vow overrode even her most primal maternal instincts. Samuel was, in her purpose, to be reared by an elderly, rotund, nearly blind old man, with two wayward adult sons that would not listen to him, and by inference, never had! How could she do such a thing? Surely such a step was catastrophic for Samuel’s future and irresponsible on the side of Hannah. Even if we could imagine that Hannah did not know of the wickedness’s that went on at the Tabernacle, her husband, a man of the world, and of the priestly group would surely have known.
According to Moses instructions, if on the day that Elkanah discovered the nature of the vow that his wife had made he, as husband, had disapproved of that vow, he was in a position to cancel the vow utterly and have it annulled. Then Hannah would have been honestly, and with integrity, free of her vow. We take it that the account given in verses 21-23 of the first chapter of the first book of Samuel is the first time Elkanah had heard of the vow. However, he rescinded it not at all. In fact he even blessed the words of Hannah and her commitment to God. Samuel’s future was set.
To Elkanah and indeed to the normal significance of language, God had accepted the covenantal vow made by him and his wife. This acceptance of the, “business contract,” inferred God Almighty had accepted the fact that Samuel the treasured son of Hannah, was to serve Him and stand before Him all his life. For this reason, Elkanah pronounces: “The Lord establish His word.” With that paternal response, the last chance saloon had been passed for Samuels’s possible escape from a parental rearing by an elderly man that had, thus far, not exactly achieved a track record of successful parenting. Oh dear!
Faith can turn human logic on its head. If an example of such is needed, here is probably the best. We are talking of long time rearing of a young child by a man who is not a member of the family, excepting by distant joining of forefathers many generations previous. What was Samuel going to turn out like with such a jumbled mixture of primary adult relationships?
Take very special note: God’s purpose overrides all human decisions, wise, unwise, thoughtful or thoughtless. And Samuel was proven, in the long term, to be God’s man for his generation.
None of the characters in this drama had a clue of the blessing that was being unleashed by Hannah’s strong and willful choice. Not Hannah! Not Eli! Not Elkanah! Samuel himself could not possibly be aware of what was ahead, apart from the fact that he obviously loved God with everything he had, as we will see in later pages.
Oh!The awesome wisdom and ways of God in people’s lives! In one woman’s heart and faith was seeded something – somebody – that would bring to order the entire future of Israel into a new vision and a new understanding . Sh’muel ben Elkanah had arrived on planet earth. Jewish tradition tells us that he was here amongst us for one hundred years. It was not the length of the material of his life that really mattered. It was the deep lush spiritual quality of his life in the Spirit that really mattered. Watch out world, Samuel is on the way to your confusion. Stand up and be respectful. Samuel is passing by.
- Provoked to Praise (saltlightandwitnesses.com)
- 1 Samuel 1 (sisterspray4me.com)
- Good Morning Love: Barrenness (dentreciablanchette.com)
- 1 Samuel 1-3 (whatshotn.wordpress.com)
- 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11 – A Mother Named Hannah (genebrooks.blogspot.com)