The period from about 1200 to 900 BC is known as the Ancient Dark Ages. Many events conspired to cause all the great powers of the Mediterranean to collapse, some never to be seen again. That history is only significant to the passages in Samuel to explain why Israel was able to establish a kingdom. Before that time, God’s Chosen lived mostly in the mountains and tried to avoid the mighty powers.
With no one telling them what to do and how much to pay in taxes, they wanted to form a proper nation. With that in mind, God provided a leader to make it possible: Samuel.
Samuel was the go-between. God spoke to him, and he relayed the messages to the kings. He had to tell Saul that he was sinning and that he was going to lose his throne. He relayed the news to David that he would soon replace King Saul, and he advised David in his early years.
Samuel, like Abraham, Moses, David, and so many others, was a forerunner of Jesus. He performed some of the roles that the Messiah would copy and improve on a millennium later.
Like Samuel, Jesus is our go-between. Unlike Samuel, Jesus is Prophet, King, High Priest, and much more.
At first glance, Samuel and Jesus were born to this world in different circumstances, but we must not overlook the role of God in each. While Hannah was unable to conceive, Mary conceived a bit early according to the moral code. We do not know how long Elkanah and Hannah were married except that it was “years,” but no child arrived. Only after Eli intervened did she finally give birth to Samuel.
Or was it Eli? He was clearly out of the loop when we read 1:9-18, though Eli did trust God and told Hannah to do the same. Likewise, Mary trusted God, but in her case, that trust covered becoming pregnant without the presence of a man. The Biblical texts do make it clear that God was the power behind both births.
Why is that important? We know God can tap anyone for any job. Why go to the trouble of causing Hannah to remain barren and suffer the humiliation heaped on her by Peninnah? Why not allow her to birth several children before Samuel’s birth as happened in the case of King David? Put that on your list of questions to ask God in the next life. God does not work in the ways of humans, and He does not have to explain everything to us, or anything for that matter. What we should learn from Hannah is that God does His work in His way. We should not second-guess Him, and we should stay out of His way.
Notice Eli. He did not know what was going on and he did not try to get God to do what Eli thought He should do. He quickly realized that a woman wanted a baby and there was nothing within his powers to take care of the problem, so he turned it over to God.
Think about this in the modern setting. A church leader discovers a woman weeping in a dark corner of the church. She tells him/her that she wants a baby but can’t conceive. We know that some women can’t conceive for all kinds of reasons. The leader could try to reconcile the distraught woman with her condition. “You just have to forget it and be strong.”
The leader could call a committee to counsel the woman in her medical options. There’s always a test tube option.
Or the leader could pray with the woman to allow God to have his way. Even in the Bible, Samuels are born only once and to only one woman. The rest of us must “be strong.”
There are only a few people who are not common or average. We know that, but still strive to be one of the few. It has become a national obsession. We want to be stronger, more intelligent, more beautiful, etc., but we forget that the only exceptional people are those chosen by God and we have no control over His choices.
Hannah could not bear a child, so God chose her to produce a son. Moses could not speak clearly, so God chose him to speak for the nation. Mary had not had sexual relations with any man, so God chose her to be the mother of the Son of God.
No matter where we are or what we do, we need to be happy to have God in our lives. I may be common, but I’m God’s common.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here.
Be righteous and do good.