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Dare: final I Samuel 1

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I Samuel 1

"There once was a man from Ramathaim-zophim,
	in the hill country of Ephraim..."

I Samuel doesn't quite start out as a limerick, but it begins "as a simple little story", which is nearly the same thing. Once a man had two wives, one barren and one with children. He went annually to worship and sacrifice at Shiloh. And this story isn't really about him, it's about his wife, Hannah, the barren one.

The two wives are rivals, and Hannah is mocked by Peninnah because YHWH has closed her womb. In antiquity, of course, childbearing was simply the course of things for married women, and those not bearing children often both felt shame and were mocked; it might appear that YHWH has some grudge against Hannah, intervening against the course of things (vv. 2, 5-7, 10). (For present-day readers, this seems odd, given the intricate knowledge of reproduction afforded us by sophisticated medical technique. Nonetheless, it is important to understand in chapter 1.) Her husband, nonetheless, keeps her, loves her, and gives her a double portion for the sacrifice (vv. 4-5, 8, 19b).

Hannah, however, trusts in the LORD, and infers that her barrenness is a natural fact, and not the LORD's hostility; therefore, "Hannah rose" (v.9). "In her wretchedness, she prayed to the LORD, weeping all the while" (v. 10). Her prayer asks for vindication (by giving her a son), and promises that the son will be dedicated to YHWH for his whole life (v. 11).

Now, the engines of the story are fired: Hannah has arisen to stand before the LORD, praying with lips and heart, and without a sound -- and the priest thinks she is drunk in the temple (v. 12-14)! This she denies, because she is pouring out her heart to the LORD, in anguish and distress ( v. 15, 16). Eli blesses her, and she departs in hope.

What happens next is pretty well known is pretty well understood by every mother's son's mother, but not by some commentators. Now, I have a theory. In fact, I have a couple of them, but in this context, I have one in particular. To "know" one's wife (or husband) isn't, in any Scriptural example I can think of, a one-shot event. More like a verb of continuing action, if you will. At any rate, after a bit of knowing, matters happen as they usually do after 9 months or so; snippy antitheists have sometimes tried to represent that biblical authors thought the time between coneception and birth took a year, or that the NT Virgin Birth is "nothing more than" (giveaway cheap-shotter's phrase) a rehash of copycat miracle-birth stories, this being one of the prototypes. I think verse 19 spells out the birds-and-bees pretty well; at issue here is not copying or imitation (compare to the story of Sarah, Gen. 15-18, 21; or with Leah and Rachel, Gen. 29-30), but a healing of Hannah's barrenness as an answer to her prayer to the LORD.

Hannah is vindicated, and fulfills her promise; the boy Samuel is brought to the temple to serve God. Her singleness of heart is met in the answer to her prayer.

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