1 Samuel 1
“Infertile” Hannah has a boy
One man, two wives1Elkanah lived in the town of Ramah,  in the hills of Ephraim’s tribal territory. His dad was Jeroham, Granddads on his father’s side were Grandpa Elihu, Great-Grandpa Tohu, and Great-Great-Grandpa Zuph. They were all part of Ephraim’s tribal family.
2Elkanah married two women: Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah was a mom. Hannah was not. 3Once a year, Elkanah went to Israel’s worship center in Shiloh to offer sacrifices and to worship the LORD.  Priests on duty there were Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas.
Hannah, the sad favorite wife4After Elkanah cut up the sacrificial meat, he shared it with his wives. He gave a share to Peninnah and to her sons and daughters. 5But he gave twice as much to Hannah. He did this to assure her that even though she couldn’t give him children, he loved her.
6Peninnah tortured Hannah by ridiculing her for not having any children. 7Year after year, the family traveled together to Shiloh to offer sacrifices. When they did, Peninnah harassed Hannah so much that Hannah couldn’t eat. Instead, she cried.
8On one of those tough days, Elkanah said to Hannah, “My dear, why are you sad? Why do you cry so much and refuse to eat? Can’t you be happy with me? Don’t you think I’m better than 10 sons?”
Eli thinks Hannah is drunk9After the family ate their sacrificial meal  and drank, Hannah went to the worship center to pray to the LORD. Eli the priest was resting on a seat beside the doorway into the worship center.  10Hannah was an emotional wreck. She started sobbing as she prayed to the LORD.
11She made a promise that day: “LORD, this pain is too much. I need your help. If you will give me a son, I’ll give him back to you. I’ll dedicate him as a Nazarite  for life. He’ll never cut his hair. And he’ll never drink wine or anything else intoxicating. "
12Hannah prayed silently, with her lips moving. Eli saw her mouth at work but didn’t hear anything coming out. 13So, he jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. 14Eli confronted her: “How long are you going to keep it up, this drunken pantomime? You need to sober up, lady.”
15Hannah said, “Please, sir, I haven’t been drinking. I’m not drunk. But I am miserable, and I’m telling the LORD about it. I’m pouring my heart out. 16Please don’t think I’m a bad person. I’m just someone in pain. I can’t help but show it when I pray because I don’t know what to do.”
17Eli told Hannah, “Go in peace. I pray that the God of Israel will give you what you ask.”
18Hannah said, “Thank you. I hope I’ll not disappoint you on that.” No longer upset, she went back to her family and ate with them.
Happy Hannah and son19The family woke early the next morning and worshiped at the LORD’s temple. Then they went home to Ramah. Elkanah and Hannah had sex, and the LORD gave Hannah what she asked for. 20Hannah got pregnant and delivered a son. She named him Samuel.  She said it was an appropriate name because she had asked the LORD for a son.
21Later in the year, Elkanah got ready to take his family up to the LORD’s temple for the annual sacrifice. And he wanted Hannah to honor her promise to the LORD. 22Instead, Hannah told her husband, “I’ll take him once he’s off breastmilk  and he’s able to eat solid food. Then, he’ll be old enough for me to leave him at the worship center, permanently in the care of the priests. That’s when I’ll dedicate him as a Nazirite for life.”
23Elkanah said, “Do what you think best and wait until he’s off the breastmilk. Just be sure to keep your promise to the LORD.” Hannah stayed home and nursed Samuel instead of going on the trip.
24When Samuel was off the breastmilk and still young, Hannah took him up to Shiloh. She took sacrificial offerings, too: a three-year-old bull, a bushel  of flour, and a wineskin full of wine. 25There, they slaughtered the bull. Then they took their boy to Eli.
26Hannah said to Eli, “Remember me? I’m the woman you saw praying at the temple. 27This child is the LORD’s answer to my prayer. 27I promised to give him back to the LORD, to serve the LORD for the rest of his life.” They all worshiped the LORD together.
Ramah was a short version of the city’s full name, Ramathaim—a bit like LA is short for Los Angeles and KC is short for Kansas City. Ramah is usually linked to ruins called Al-Ram. It’s about 5 miles (8 km) north of Jerusalem and about 15 miles (24 km) south of Shiloh. That’s almost a day’s walk to Shiloh. Some scholars link Ramah to another ruin about five miles southwest, Nabi Samwil. At the time, Jerusalem was still a generation away from when King David would capture it and turn it into his capital, the City of David.
The writer never says what the occasion was for the annual trip. Maybe it was a personal family retreat, a voluntary spiritual time of worship. But Jewish law did require men to take offerings to the place of worship three times a year: Passover (Feast of the Yeast-free Bread) in the spring, Shavuot (Harvest Festival) in the summer, and Sukkot (Late Harvest Festival/Festival of Booths) in the fall (Deuteronomy 16:16).
Not all sacrifices required worshipers to burn the entire animal on the altar. Some sacrifices were simply to thank God for something. A peace offering is one of several prescribed offerings in Jewish tradition (Leviticus 3). When Jewish people wanted to give thanks to God for something, such as good health or safety, they would sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow, or bull. They would burn part of the animal, including the kidneys and fat covering the intestines. They would eat the rest in celebration, often with family and friends. It takes a fair number of hungry people to eat a cow. But people were eager to eat meat because it was rare in Bible times for common folks to eat meat, many Bible scholars say.
The description of the doorway into the worship center hints that the Israelites had upgraded the tent worship center they built during the Exodus out of Egypt. Yet they still called it a tent (2:22).
Some Israelites took a vow perhaps a little like vows that priests, monks, and nuns take today. They dedicate themselves to God and they express their devotion by obeying unique rules. Leviticus 6 preserves a to-do list for Nazirites. Or a don’t-do list. They can’t drink anything from a vineyard. They can’t even eat grapes. And they’re not supposed to cut their hair, either. Samson, a lifelong Nazirite, lost his hair to a Philistine gold-digger, Delilah. She turned him in for a huge reward.
The name “Samuel” sounds like the Hebrew words for “ask God.” The last syllable, El, is Hebrew for “God.”
Women in Bible times generally breastfed their children for two or three years, according to ancient sources such as 2 Maccabees 7:27. The Talmud, an ancient collection of Jewish tradition and laws, recommended limiting breastfeeding to two years. Some sources say mothers sometimes breastfed their children to age five.
Literally an ephah, which is an ancient measure that’s a little more than half a bushel. An ephah held about 20 quarts (22 liters) of grain, compared to 32 quarts (35 liters) in a bushel.
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