One of the most moving passages of scripture is the story of Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. In the span of two simple chapters, we find such heartfelt themes as the pain and longing of childlessness, the joy of childbirth, and the surrender of a child to God’s service.
In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will … not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life.”
1 SAMUEL 1:10–11
When we first read about Hannah, she has been unable to bear a child and is being taunted for this by her rival, Peninnah, who is the other wife of Hannah’s husband. Hannah’s sorrow and longing lead her to pray earnestly to God for a son, whom she promises to dedicate fully to God’s service (1 Samuel 1).
God answers Hannah’s prayer, and she gives birth to Samuel. True to her word, Hannah brings Samuel to the tabernacle after he is weaned and gives him over to God’s service there. Instead of expressing sorrow at her loss of Samuel, however, Hannah praises God for answering her prayer for a son (1 Samuel 2:1–10).
Hannah eventually bears more children, and Samuel becomes a great prophet and judge over Israel. When Hannah promised to give her son over to God’s service (1 Samuel 1:11), she was probably offering to make him a Nazirite for his entire life. People dedicated as Nazirites were not allowed to cut their hair or drink alcohol (Numbers 6).
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