Hannah. I like Hannah; she is an older woman, who feels betrayed by life because Godde has not granted her her deepest wish: to have a child. Elkanah, her husband can do everything in his power to show her his love: to no avail, she remains desperate. She cannot have a child. Penninah, the other wife, has a field day teasing her. It works every time, keeping the wound open.
Once again, Hannah accompanies her husband to Shiloh to present her prayer to Godde. The silent One. Today, she implores Her one more time for the coming of a child. She pours her heart out; she grieves, she pleads, she appeals. On her knees, in prayers, rocking back and forth from sorrow, she utters silently all those prayers accumulated over the years. The sadness, the despair.
Eli, the priest, is there, watching her, with a certain repulsion: the woman is drunk to behave this way. How does she dare coming this way to the holy space?
To his order, Sober up!, she explains what she has been doing, and why. Eli understands her situation. He will pray for her; she may go in peace.
The well-known story unfolds. She returns home with her husband; they have an intercourse; she becomes pregnant. Finally.
At this point, the story surprises me. Hannah puzzles me. Her shame has been taken away. She finally expects and gives birth to a child — to hand him over to Godde and Eli Her servant. To thank Godde for her honor regained, she gives Her her son, Godde’s gift to her… She gives her child away…
Of course, Samuel, her son, becomes a great prophet. All this may have been written from the beginnings of the time. She longs for a son, finally becomes pregnant, gives birth to him to lose him three years later. Of course, as a Jewish mother, she may be very proud to see her son entering the temple of Shiloh. Pregnancy may have been just a step toward respectability, and Hannah’s heart is finally at peace.
It brings questions to me: what is about her world which considered a barren woman sinful, unlovable, and disposable? In which way is my world similar to hers? What would have she done had she had a daughter? Would that birth have counted at all?, I doubt it.
This passage brings up more vague questions about the place of women in our world today; how we are seen by the Catholic Church. So often our importance seems to stem from our womb…
An answer to these would take me to places of conflict. Right now, I just want to stay with Hannah.
Illustration: Hannah and Samuel at the temple, found here.
Note: As I looked for an illustration, I stumbled upon a Jewish blog, Chabad, well-worth reading. It describes Hannah as a Jewish matriarch, who offered her son to Godde the way Abraham had done before her. Of course, Abraham did not lose his son the way she did.
Hannah, the matriarch, the model…
Apparently, Hannah had other children, something which Jewish mothers may know. I did not. Is this true, or was this added later so that women would find Hannah’s decision more bearable?