The book of 1 Samuel starts by introducing an Israelite family: Elkanah and his two wives. Elkanah himself is introduced in much detail. We read not just where he lived and what his name was, but also who his forefathers were.
Of Hannah and Peninnah, we read only that they were both married to Elkanah and that Peninnah had children but Hannah did not. This is all the information we get about them, but it is sufficient to understand how difficult Hannah’s situation must have been in a society where a woman’s identity was largely defined by her marriage and children, and childlessness was considered shameful.
God ordained marriage as a lifelong covenant relationship between one man and one woman. But Elkanah had two wives — maybe because Hannah was infertile and Elkanah wanted to have children. Having more than one wife was not uncommon in ancient Israel, but it caused much pain and rivalry. The story of Sarai and Haggar in Genesis 16 is one example of this.
The fact that Hannah had no children just made the situation worse. Hannah’s life circumstances were humiliating and demoralizing, but the Bible depicts her as an exemplary, God-fearing woman. Over the next few days, let’s see which lessons we can learn from her life story.