Peninnah

The First Book of Samuel reveals the story of a man named Elkanah from ramathaim who had two wives. He loved Hannah and wed her with the hope of having many children; however, the Lord kept Hannah barren. So, Elkanah took Peninnah as wife, and she bore him many children. Elkanah made a pilgrimage to Shiloh each year to offer sacrifice to the Lord. According to the Bible, he gave a portion to Peninnah and all of their children, but he offered Hannah a double portion because he loved her so much, and because she remained barren. Year after year, Peninnah used the occasion to taunt Hannah for being childless. Her reproaches caused Hannah to weep and refuse to eat.

On one occasion, after Peninnah had castigated her mercilessly, Hannah wept, prayed, and made a vow that if God gave her a son, she would give the boy to the Lord's work for the rest of his life. Eli, the priest, overheard her praying and told her, “Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him” (1 Samuel 1:17).

The Bible paints the images of Hannah and Peninnah in high contrast. Hannah was sad and disheartened at not having a child, while Peninnah was prideful and provocative in her criticism of Hannah. Their husband endeavored to keep the peace at home between them, while remaining spiritually devoted to God.

Elkanah Reveals His Love for Hannah

Elkanah asked Hannah one day when she was weeping and feeling melancholy about her barrenness, “…am not I better to thee than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8). He showered Hannah with attention and gifts; he showed her love through his faithfulness and tenderness toward her. But the more he focused on Hannah, the more jealous Peninnah became.

Hannah Gives Birth

The Bible states that the Lord heard Hannah's prayer and blessed her with a son. Hannah and Elkanah named their child Samuel. After Hannah had weaned him, she kept her word to God, taking Samuel up to Shiloh and offering him to Eli the priest, so the boy might be brought up to do the work of the Lord for the rest of his life.

Peninnah Blessed Elkanah, Too

The second wife of Elkanah wasn't a mean-spirited woman, and she blessed him with many children. But Elkanah's greater love for Hannah could not be mistaken. The Scriptures do not reveal whether or not the tension between the two women decreased after Hannah bore Samuel. Did Elkanah show more love to Samuel than to Peninnah's children? Peninnah's jealousy may not have subsided, but she could no longer find fault with Hannah or taunt her for being barren. Peninnah fades from the story once Samuel is born.

Hannah Bears Other Children

Hannah didn't forget her son Samuel after giving him to Eli. She went up to Shiloh each year and took him a little coat that she had made. Eli prayed that Hannah and Elkanah might have other children, and Hannah did'three sons and two daughters.

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