The Text That Teaches

Samuel’s birth is a turning point in Israel’s history. As Hannah acknowledges in her song of praise, her deliverance from her oppressed condition foreshadows what God will do for the nation in the years that immediately follow (2:10). Through Hannah’s son, Samuel, God will once again reveal his word to his people, give them military victory over hostile enemies, and establish a king who will lead the nation to previously unrealized heights. The final canonical context of the Former Prophets is the exile (2 Kings 25). The exiles are enduring the consequences of their ancestors’ and their own rebellious deeds and suffering oppression under foreign rule, but they can find hope in the realization that the Lord is just and eventually vindicates those who are loyal to him. They can confidently look to the future, anticipating God’s intervention in the life of the covenant community and the arrival of an ideal Davidic king, through whom God will bring about the fulfillment of his ancient covenant promises.

Teaching the Text

This story has two main themes, the second of which has various dimensions:

  1. Even when the Lord’s covenant community is spiritually deficient and plagued by a leadership void, his commitment to his people prompts him to provide leadership. Ancient Israel needs a king (Judg. 21:25)—not just any king, but the kind of king envisioned in Deuteronomy 17:14–20. This king, in contrast to the typical king of the ancient world, is not to build a powerful chariot force, have a large harem, or accumulate great wealth. Instead, he is commissioned to promote God’s covenant through his policies and practices. In response to Hannah’s loyalty, the Lord gives her a son, Samuel, and sets in process a sequence of events that will culminate in the anointing of David, a man after God’s own heart, as king of Israel.
    In many ways David proves to be a tragic failure, and his dynasty fails to live up to God’s standards. But God’s covenantal commitment to David stands firm: eventually Jesus, the son of David par excellence, arrives on the scene as Israel’s king (John 1:49; 12:13; 18:37). He eventually establishes his kingdom on earth, fulfilling God’s promises to David (2 Sam. 7:16; Pss. 2:8–9; 72:1–19; 89:19–37) and completing what God has started with the birth of Samuel (Matt. 16:28; Rev. 17:14; 19:16).
  2. Though the sovereign Lord may allow his people to endure trials and even oppression, he is just and will eventually deliver them from distress when they cry out to him for vindication. Hannah’s story is a reminder to God’s suffering people that (a) even though the reason(s) for trials may be shrouded in mystery, our sovereign God is just; (b) our compassionate God puts a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark and terrifying that tunnel may be; and (c) our just God delivers those who trust him. Because the same God who intervenes on behalf of Hannah and Israel still reigns, we can be confident that he will vindicate his church when he establishes the rule of his Son, Jesus Christ.

The kind of king envisioned in Deuteronomy was not a typical king of the ancient world, like Ramesses the Great (shown here). This thirteenth-century BC ruler of Egypt led his army into battle, had close to one hundred children, and commissioned many elaborate building projects.

This text does not promise or even imply that God will give children to a childless couple if they just pray hard enough or promise to God they will dedicate the child to his service. The text affirms that God is a just King, who vindicates his people. Hannah experiences that truth in a particular way that is relevant to her situation; others may experience it in different ways that are appropriate to their own circumstances. Though there is room for personal application of the text’s theme, the passage is most naturally applied corporately to the covenant community: Hannah’s experience foreshadows Israel’s coming deliverance from foreign oppression and gives hope to the exiles, who are experiencing humiliation in a foreign land.

written by Robert B. Chisholm Jr.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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