In the last couple of blog posts on 1 Samuel, we talked about Elkanah and his family. Today we are going to study more on Hannah beginning with 1 Samuel verse 9. After the family finished their festive banquet meal, Hannah walks over to the Sanctuary Tent and confronts Yehoveh in prayer.
Eli, the High Priest, was sitting in his chair at the front entrance to the Tabernacle and of course noticed her. A chair was an item of furniture reserved for those of higher ranking, and it was considered a position of honor. A chair was not a typical piece of furniture, most people of that age merely sat on the ground or a rock.
Hannah is weeping and begins her praying in front of Eli. We’re told that she made a sort of bargain with God that was in the form of a vow: IF God would relent and open her womb THEN, she would return that child to God by means of dedicating him to Sanctuary work for his entire life.
Let’s carefully examine just what it is that Hannah said to the Lord. First, we need to give much merit to Hannah for coming to the Lord for refuge in her affliction.
Remember: she’s not coming to YHWH asking that He override an accidental biological problem with her body or that the Lord overcome a malicious act by Satan. She’s coming to Him asking Him to relent and to release her from a condition that the Lord has intentionally put upon her for some unknown reason.
Second, the REASON for her requesting this favor from the Lord is to relieve her from her humiliation. In other words, this has nothing to do with anyone but herself. Her husband, Elkanah, has a vibrant bevy of children and at least one heir thanks to the fruitfulness of P’ninah’s womb, so there is no family or inheritance problem that Hannah producing a child would solve.
Rather it is as we read earlier: it was life’s purpose for a female to give birth; thus to be barren brought a never-ending sense of guilt and worthlessness to Hannah that no amount of “double portions” could replace.
Thus for Hannah, it wasn’t necessary that she raise this child, but merely to bring this new life into the world thereby fulfilling her womanly purpose and ending her humiliation.
The bargain was that IF the Lord would do this, THEN she would give that child up to God as the One who gave this child to her. And not merely in a figurative and spiritual sense (as we do at baby dedications), but physically she would remove the child from her loving presence and give him over to the priesthood in service to YHWH, permanently.
Now I don’t want to paint all vows as bargains; many were simply promises to the Father that asked nothing in return. But as we have seen many times, vows often were part and parcel with beseeching the Lord for a special deliverance.
I also think we need to understand that a promise made to God even as a bargain is a serious matter, and Yeshua councils against doing it NOT because it’s sinful, but because there can be unintended consequences.
The vow that Hannah vowed was the vow of a Nazarite, and it was done in a similar mold as Samson’s mother did to have her shut-up womb revitalized. Both Samson and Samuel would be lifelong Nazarites, which was a rather rare occurrence.
A Nazarite vow was usually for a particular temporary time. Now some scholars say Samuel was NOT a Nazarite, and this was due to a couple of lines of thought.
- First, Hannah did NOT say Samuel would be a Nazarite; she only said his hair would not be cut.
- And second, it is questionable that a Levite would ever be a Nazarite.
The whole idea of a Nazarite was that a member of one of the 12 secular tribes (the other Israelite tribes) could assume a special status that enabled him to serve the Lord similarly to the Levites. Levites were automatically born with the right and the requirement to serve God at the Tabernacle in one capacity or another.
So it’s redundant (at the least) for Hannah to make a Nazarite vow on behalf of her Levite son-to-be, Samuel.
However keep in mind that this was a very confused and dysfunctional era and we don’t even see overt mention that Elkanah was a Levite. We also see no evidence of Elkanah performing some sanctuary service at the Tabernacle in Shiloh, which all Levites were technically obligated to do.
So again, using a baby dedication as an example, there is utterly no heavenly need for a parent to stand on a stage and have a Pastor give the baby’s life to the Lord.
Every Believing parent has the right to do that anytime, anywhere, without a formal ceremony or a church authority to preside. But a lot of young Christian parents don’t fully comprehend that so they go through the unneeded (but not at all wrong) a step of participating in a formal baby dedication ceremony.
Hannah may have been doing something similar by dedicating Samuel to the Lord, when in fact his Levite heritage already gave him that special holy status required for sanctuary service.
On the other hand, Levites were not required to begin their full-time sanctuary service until they were 25 years old, and typically they were released from it by the age of 50.
In our case with Samuel, he would be the Lord’s property right away due to Hannah’s vow, and Samuel would begin to serve even as a small child and would not be released until his death. Therefore I have no doubts that this was a Nazarite vow.
We’ll continue with chapter 1 in my next blog post.