God Hears and God Answers — 1 Samuel 1

1 Samuel is a book of hope and begins with God remembering Hannah's predicament and hears her prayers and answers them by give her a son, Samuel.

God Hears and God Answers — 1 Samuel 1
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Sermon given during the Sunday Equipping Hour for adults and children at Grace Bible Church of Pleasant Hill on September 10, 2023.


  • Have you recently asked, “Where is God?”
  • In a world that is evil, broken, seemingly hopeless
    • Why doesn't God do something? Does He care? Is He listening?
  • 1 Samuel is a book of hope. 1 Samuel shows us that although it may seem like God is distant, He is imminent and near.
  • Without ceasing, He continues to work to fulfill His promises and purposes.
  • 1 Samuel begins its focus not on the father of the final judge of Israel.
    • Rather, the spotlight is placed on his mother.
  • And as we meet this woman Hannah, we see that even in (1) the most dire predicament (2) when nobody seems to understand, God hears, and God answers.


  • 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book.
  • Author: Tradition attributes Samuel as writing the first 24 chapters of 1 Samuel.
    • Perhaps Nathan the prophet or Gad the seer gave significant input to the rest. [CSBSB]
    • "Now the acts of King David, from first to last, behold, they are written in the chronicles of Samuel the seer, in the chronicles of Nathan the prophet and in the chronicles of Gad the seer." (1 Chr 29:29)
    • There is no other internal evidence regarding the authorship of 1 and 2 Samuel.
  • Date of composition:
    • Samuel was written not too long after King David's death.
    • "So Achish gave him Ziklag that day; therefore Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah to this day." (1 Sam 27:6)
    • The final composition was at least 1 to 2 generations after the divided kingdom.
  • Circumstances: (for the events in 1 Samuel)
    • After Israel's conquest of the land led by Joshua, Israel entered a time of apostasy that is recorded in the book of Judges. (1406–1050 BC or 1250–1050 BC)
    • Ruth (1150–1090 BC) and the birth of Samuel (around 1120–1115 BC). [Accordance Conservative]
    • "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (Judg 21:25)

  • It is in this dark, evil time in Israel's history that the story of 1 Samuel 1 takes place.
  • Today's passage is a vivid tutor and reminder that "God Hears and God Answers."
  • We'll divide 1 Samuel 1 into five sections.
  1. Hannah's Predicament (v.1–8)
  2. Hannah's Vow (v.9–11)
  3. Eli's Misunderstanding (v.12–16)
  4. God's Answer (v.17–20)
  5. The Family's Obedience (v.21–28)

1. Hannah's Predicament (v.1–8)

This story begins in Ramathaim-zophim. (v.1)

  • Ramathaim-zophim was a small town in the heart of Israel, about 9 km (5 miles) north of what would later be Jerusalem. [Phillips, REC: p.7]
  • Ramathaim-zophim would later be called simply Ramah beginning in v.19
  • Ramah will be referenced 15 times in 1 Samuel.

We are introduced to a man named Elkanah, and he “had two wives” (v.2)

  • "The first named Hannah and the second Peninnah." (v.2 CSB)
  • It is likely that Hannah was first in chronology and position.
  • Peninnah was second.
  • This parallels Abraham's wife Sarah (first in position), who conceived Ishmael through Hagar (second in position) because Sarah was barren.
  • It was commonly accepted in the ANE culture that should a woman not be able to have children, the man could marry and conceive children with another woman.
  • Elkanah likely married Peninnah because he wanted children, and his first wife, Hannah, could not have children.

Theology: Monogamy

  • Monogamy (being married to one person at a time) has always been God's design for humanity. (Gen 2:18–25)
  • Polygamy is first mentioned with an evil man named Lamech in Genesis 4:19.
  • Polygamy is regulated but not endorsed (Deut 21:15–17)
  • Although we see instances of polygamy in the Old Testament, God has made it clear in Scripture that His original design is for marriage to be between one man and one woman.

A. Hannah's Blessing (v.2–5a)

  1. Hannah was wealthy since her husband was able to support two wives (v.2)
  • “certain man" (v.1) = a man of standing [RBS]
  1. Hannah's husband was a worshipper of God (v.3)
  • Every year, Elkanah traveled with his family north to worship at Shiloh.
    • They likely observed the annual feast described in Judges 21:19.
    • Shiloh is halfway between Shechem and Bethel.
    • It was an important Israelite religious center before the monarchy (Josh 18:1; Judg 21:19)
    • Excavations revealed Shiloh was a "thriving town during the early Iron Age." [RBS]
  • The tabernacle and the ark of the covenant reside in Shiloh. (1 Sam 4:3–4)
  • "Yahweh of hosts" (v.3) occurs for the first time in OT
    • "LORD of hosts" (ESV), "LORD of Armies" (CSB), "LORD Almighty" (NIV)
    • This name for God expresses the Lord's sovereignty over all earthly and heavenly powers. [RBS]
  1. Hannah was loved by Elkanah (v.5a)
  • "To Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah."
  • Parallels to Joseph giving his full brother Benjamin five times more food. (Gen 43:34)
  • The KJV translates "a worthy portion" because the Hebrew could mean "special double portion."

B. Hannah's Hardship (v.5b–7)

  1. Hannah had no children (v.2) for "Yahweh had closed her womb." (v.5b), repeated again in verse 6.
  • There is a parallel between Hannah’s infertility and Israel.
  • “Israel was God’s barren wife, having failed to give Him the children of faith He desired.” [Phillips]
  1. Hannah had a rival, Peninnah (v.6)
  • Peninnah "would provoke her bitterly to irritate her" (v.6)

    • "bitterly", "severely" (CSB), "grievously" (ESV)
    • "irritate" may also mean "humiliate" [H. Hoffner]
  • "year after year" — describes the length of the hardship (v.7a)

  • "so [Hannah] (1) wept and (2) would not eat." — manifestation of Hannah's hardship (v.7b)

  • The chief cause of misery was not Peninnah; it was her state of childlessness.

  • "Yahweh had closed her womb."

  • Elkanah tries to console Hannah with the right motivation, for "he loved Hannah" (v.5)

    • "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad?" (v.8)
    • Obviously, Hannah was sad because "Yahweh had closed her womb."

Application: Dealing with Infertility

  • As a physician, I venture to guess that eight times out of ten, when I acknowledge the private struggle of my female patients undergoing infertility treatment, tears will stream from their eyes.
  • A couple's journey with infertility is lonely and painful.
  • While Mother's Day should be a day of celebration, for some, it can be an annual reminder of childlessness that brings sadness and despair.
  • These annual feasts at Shiloh were Hannah's annual reminder of her barrenness.

Implication: Shame

  • During the time of the ANE, there is embarassment and shame for women who were infertile. You don't need to sin to feel shame.
    • If you have ever felt ugly or unattractive, that is shame.
    • If you come to church feeling awkward because most people your age are married, but you are single, unmarried, or widowed, that is shame.
    • When most married women around you have children, and you don't, it is hard to avoid feeling shame.

So, what was Hannah's predicament? Although she was blessed, God had closed her womb, and her rival irritated her grievously year after year.

2. Hannah's Vow (v.9–11)

"Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh" (v.9a)

  • Remember in verse 7, "Year after year...[Hannah] would not eat."

  • But now, in verse 9, Hannah eats and drinks in Shiloh. Why?

  • Hannah is ready to make a vow.

    • The vows by married women require the husband's responsibility to confirm or nullify. (Num 30:6–15)
  • Sometime between verse 8 and verse 9, Hannah may have finally received her husband's confirmation to make this unprecedented vow before God.

Read verses 10 and 11.

  • "I will give him to Yahweh all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head."

  • The Nazirite vow (Num 6:1–21) was a special, voluntary vow of separation for a limited time.

    • No eating or drinking anything from grapevines (source of physical pleasure).
    • No cutting their hair or beard (signified an abstention from human adornment).
    • Becoming ceremonially unclean for any reason like coming near a dead body (Num 6:7) required prescribed offerings, shaving one's head, and starting the period of separation over again. (Num 6:12)
  • Hannah's vow has similar features to the Nazirite vow, but Hannah's vow goes further. It is for "all the days of his life." The Nazirite vow is generally made for a limited period of time. [RBS]

  • The phrase “and a razor shall never come on his head” means not only that he must never shave his head bald but that he must not even trim (i.e., groom) his hair. [H. Hoffner]

    • The only other person recorded in the OT who was a Nazirite from birth was Samson.

Implication: Parent's Goals for Their Children

  • Parents, what do you aspire for your children?
  • Are you spending most of your time, money, and effort on your child's education and career?
  • Or do you spend the same level of effort to disciple your children to be Christ's followers?

Application: A Prayer of Lament and Consecration

  • Many of us can relate to Hannah. Our prayers may begin in anguish and with tears.
  • We may have enemies and rivals that add to our misery, like Peninnah.
  • We also have friends and companions who try to comfort us, like Elkanah.
  • Notice that Hannah's prayer was not just a prayer of lament. It includes a vow.
  • Christians are not commanded to follow Hannah's example and make a binding vow to God.
  • But we can follow Hannah's example of surrendering herself for God's glory and His kingdom.
  • Are your prayers only a list of requests, or do your prayers involve committing yourself to sacrificial obedience and consecration to God?

So we see (1) Hannah's Predicament: She is childless. We see (2) Hannah's Vow: If you give me a child, he will be dedicated to God for lifelong service.

3. Eli's Misunderstanding (v.12–16)

Read verses 12–14.

  • "[Hannah] was speaking in her heart; only her lips were moving." (v.13a)
    • Why was Hannah praying silently?
    • It was not customary to pray silently; rather, people prayed aloud [UBSH]
    • Eli made a logical but incorrect conclusion to assume that Hannah was drunk.
    • Drunkenness was a serious offense in the Tabernacle and warranted the death penalty. (Lev 10:9)

Hannah corrected Eli's misunderstanding, saying that she was "I am a woman oppressed in spirit...I have poured out my soul before Yahweh."

  • "deeply troubled" (NIV), "troubled in spirit" (ESV), "with a broken heart" (CSB),

"Do not consider your maidservant as a vile woman." (v.16a)

  • "vile woman" is literally a "daughter of Belial" which is an idiom for a worthless person. The word "Belial" is later used of Eli's own sons (2:12).

So amidst Hannah's anguish, she is misunderstood by Eli, the ruling priest "sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of Yahweh."


  • Have you ever been misunderstood? By a family member, a friend, or even a church leader?
  • Amidst his affliction, Job was misconstrued by his wife and his friends.
  • To guard ourselves from misunderstanding others, we would do well to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
  • And we would do well to pray alongside our friends and family faithfully.

After Hannah's predicament and vow and Eli's misunderstanding, let’s look now at God’s answer.

4. God's Answer (v.17–20)

First, we see God answer Hannah’s prayer with Eli’s benediction. Read verse 17.

  • “Go in peace.”
    • It carries the sense of “having a full life with God’s blessings.” [USBH]
    • This whole phrase is a customary blessing that one person wishes for another. [USBH]
    • “And Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of Yahweh…” (1 Sam 20:42a)
    • Priestly blessings are prescribed by God in Numbers 6:22–27 and Deuteronomy 10:8
      • "Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, "Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel." (Num 6:23)
      • "Yahweh set apart the tribe of Levi...to minister for Him and to bless in His name to this day." (Deut 10:8)
    • This is the only place in Scripture where a priest is described as carrying out this duty. [Mackay ESVEC]
  • “May the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.”
    • Notice two things. First, Eli is leaving the outcome in the hands of God.
    • Second, the word “petition” and the verb “ask” are repeated by Hannah a second time in verse 27.
    • “For this young boy I prayed, and Yahweh has given me my petition, which I asked of Him." (v.27)

Notice how Hannah responds. Read verse 18.

  • “And [Hannah] said, “Let your servant-woman find favor in your sight.”
    • Hannah spoke in the third person to show her submissive position. [USBH]
    • Hannah is encouraged by Eli’s blessing, interpreting it as receiving God’s favor.
  • Then something dramatic happens. "So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad." (v.18b)
    • The timing for Hannah’s change in disposition was not when she discovered she was pregnant. They were still in Shiloh.
    • This is an indication of Hannah's faith in God.
    • "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb 11:1)
    • Hannah regains confidence that God will answer her prayer.

Read verses 19–20.

  • Elkanah’s family completed the prescribed rituals in Shiloh before returning home to Ramah.
  • “And Yahweh remembered her.”
    • Hannah prayed, "Look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me and not forget Your maidservant" (v.11)
    • The LORD remembered Hannah.
    • The verb “remember” is a soteriological verb when Yahweh is the subject.
    • When Yahweh remembers, Yahweh delivers and saves.
    • “Then God remembered Noah…and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided.” (Gen 8:1)
    • “God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow.” (Gen 19:29)
  • Several key men were born through God's remembrance of a mother's infertility.
    • God remembered Sarah as she waited for Isaac. (Gen 18:1–15)
    • God remembered Rebekah, and God brought forth Esau and Jacob (Gen 25:21–26)
    • ”Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” (Gen 30:22) {And Joseph was born}
    • Manoah's wife/Samson (Judg 13:2–5)
    • Elizabeth/John the Baptist (Luke 1:5–25)
  • Hannah gives birth to a son, “and she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of Yahweh.” (v.20)
    • God gets the glory. God heard Hannah's petition, and God answered.


  • It's so easy to feel like God isn't there or God doesn't hear.
  • Never doubt God’s remembrance. God knows everything about you and what you are facing. God loves you, and God cares.
  • “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet 5:7)
  • “Ask, and it will be given to you…or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt 7:7a, 9–10)
  • And it’s not just petitioning God for the big things. It’s the little things too.
  • “I woke up early this morning and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.”

Recap: (1) Hannah’s Predicament, (2) Hannah’s Vow, (3) Eli’s Misunderstanding, and (4) God’s Answer. Let’s now look at The Family’s Obedience.

5. The Family's Obedience (v.21–28)

I want us to notice that it was not just Hannah's Obedience. It was Family Obedience: Hannah and Elkanah.

Read verse 21.

  • "pay his vow" (v.21 ref. Lev 7:16)
    • “Fulfill his vow” (NIV) or “make…his vow offering” (CSB)
  • People in dire straits might make a vow promising something. (Jacob in Genesis 28:20–22)
  • Such vows were usually accompanied by a peace offering when first made and then again when the vows were fulfilled. [RBS]
  • We don’t know if verse 21 referred to another vow that Elkanah had made previously or the vow that Hannah had made on their behalf that their first child would adhere to a lifelong Nazarite vow.
  • I personally think it refers to their family vow regarding Samuel.

Read v.22–23

  • In the ANE, it took much longer to wean a child compared to our times today.
    • Children were weaned after three years of breastfeeding. (2 Macc 7:27)
    • Males are counted when they are three years old. (CSB, ESV, NIV 2 Chr 31:16)
  • Weaning may also have been celebrated with a feast (Gen 21:8)
  • Think how difficult this must have been for both Elkanah and Hannah.
    • Remember how much Jacob loved Joseph, the son of his beloved Rachel.
    • How Jacob could not part with Benjamin when Benjamin’s presence was required by Egypt.
    • The weaning process likely took three years. Hannah’s attachment and affinity with little Samuel must have intensified.
  • ”Only may Yahweh establish His word."
    • Elkanah, Hannah's husband, invokes God's assistance in helping them fulfill this costly vow.
    • “His word” (ESV, NIV, NASB) and not “Hannah’s word” (CSB)
      • Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) is “His word.”
      • LXX is “your word.”
      • Possessive pronoun change is only one consonant.
    • Elkanah realizes that everything, including the making and fulfilling of their family vow, was preordained and under the sovereign control of God.
    • Elkanah is saying, “It’s OK, Hannah. Don’t bring the boy this year. But whenever we do bring him, may God’s will be done.”

Read verse 24; note pronoun shift; read verse 25.

  • Hannah and Elkanah obeyed and worshiped God together as a family.

  • "three-year-old bull...jug of wine" brings a larger measure than what is required in Numbers 15:8–10.

    • Required: 3/10 of an ephah of flour
    • Hannah brought 1 full ephah of flour. (1 ephah = 23 liters)
  • Illustration: A reluctant tip at a restaurant is the obligatory minimum. Hannah did not offer the minimum.

  • Not minimal obedience. Not reluctant obedience.

  • Genuine, generous, joyful, worshipful obedience.

Read verses 26.

  • “Oh, my lord” was a polite method of beginning a conversation with a superior. [Mackay ESVEC]
  • “As your soul lives”, “As you live” (ESV), “As surely as you live” (NIV, CSB) - introduce an oath formula.
    • Hannah is solemnly testifying to Eli that she is the same woman who was praying in the courtyard of the Tabernacle three years ago.

Read verses 27–28.

  • “I have also dedicated him to Yahweh” (v.28a)
    • “Give him” (NIV), “give the boy” (CSB), “lent him” (ESV)
    • This verb does not convey any thought of a future return of Samuel. This is an irrevocable dedication. [Mackey ESVEC]
  • “So he worshiped Yahweh there.” (v.28b)
    • The text is not explicitly clear if “he” is Eli, Samuel, or Elkanah.
    • But the most likely worshipper referenced in verse 28 is Elkanah.
    • “Then Elkanah went to his home at Ramah. But the young boy ministered to Yahweh before Eli the priest.” (2:11)
  • What we see here is family obedience and family worship. Elkanah and Hannah obeyed, and both of them worshipped.
    • Their obedience and worship were not the bare minimum. It was generous, exuberant, and genuine.


  • What is your predicament today? Do you wonder, “Does God remember us, and is He listening?”
  • You can rest assured that the God of Elkanah and Hannah is the same God today.
  • Yes, God is watching. God is listening, and God cares.
  • So, let’s continue to pray, privately and corporately, presenting our requests and asking for God’s help.
  • Our prayers should be saturated with submissive obedience.
  • And even if we are uncertain of the timing and details of His sovereign purposes, trust that God remembers, God hears, and God answers.