God answers the prayers of a childless HannahThe mother of the prophet Samuel. More with the birth of SamuelThe judge who anointed the first two kings of Israel More, who will minister to Israel during its painful transition to monarchic rule.
These verses, which come in a story already begun, are best understood in their immediate context (1:1-2:11):
A Pilgrimage from Ramah to Shiloh (1:1-8)
B Hannah’s prayer (1:9-11)
C Hannah weeps with EliPriest at Shiloh who cared for young Samuel. More (1:12-18)
D Return to Ramah from Shiloh (1:19a)
X Hannah’s prayer answered; Samuel is born (1:19b-22)
D′ Pilgrimage from Ramah to Shiloh (1:23)
C′ Hannah rejoices with Eli (1:24-28)
B′ Hannah’s hymn (2:1-10)
A′ Return to Ramah from Shiloh (2:11)
Our text comprises the first half of this introduction to Samuel–the sad half. Hannah’s sad situation at home arises out of her childlessness (vv. 1-8). She only receives a single portion of the sacrificial meal (v. 5-a “double portion” in NRSV; the Hebrew is uncertain). Overcome with grief after years of being reminded of her situation at these annual celebrations, Hannah “took it to the Lord in prayer.” The sad songs of lament are what we would call “prayers,” because the characteristic of the lament is its request, its petition of God. In this case, Hannah asks God for a son (vv. 9-11). A third element of sadness appears in the clumsy pastoral care of Eli, the priestA priest is a person who has the authority to perform religious rites. In New Testament times priests were responsible for daily offerings and sacrifices in the temple. More at Shiloh, who misinterprets her remorse as drunkenness (vv. 12-14). Upon Hannah’s protestation, however, Eli realizes his mistake and prays that her prayer might (better: announces that her prayer will) be answered, relieving Hannah’s sadness (v. 15-18). At the heart of the above structure, God answers Hannah’s prayer; she conceives and gives birth to a son whom she names “Samuel” because she “asked him of the LORD” (vv. 19b-22). Hannah’s hopes for the future lay in the birth of her son. Israel’s future also will be tied to the birth of this son, given as a gift in answer to prayer.