1There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
(1 Samuel 1:1-2)
Today we are introduced to the family into which Samuel will be born. There was a certain man who was originally from a town called Ramathaim-zophim but who now lived in the hill country of Ephraim.
As is His way, God uses people to accomplish His purposes. At a certain time and place, God chooses a man or woman to help carry out His plans. Of course, God could do whatever He needs by Himself or through His many angels. But He has graciously decided to include us in His plans and that should be considered a great blessing.
Elkanah was not famous. No one outside of his community knew who he was. Such is the way God works. Great characters of the Bible such as Moses and David were born into obscurity and were chosen by God to be raised up to do great things. Even when God Himself came to earth as Jesus, He started life out in an out-of-the-way place born in a manger without any fanfare.
We also see in the very first verse of this book that the Bible is very precise. Unlike other so-called inspired books, the Bible lists people and places by name so that the facts can be verified. This gives the Bible invincible credibility. If these facts had not been true, then this document would have been dismissed by those to whom it was addressed (the ancient Jews) and it never would have survived to be included in our modern Bible.
Not only is the Bible precise about people and place names, it is also very transparent when it comes to people’s behavior. It does not try to clean up anyone’s life – it tells it like it was. In today’s passage we see that Elkanah had two wives, which went against God’s commands.
The man God is going to use to sire a leader for Israel had disobeyed God and the Bible is very open about it. God’s design for marriage was – and still is – one man and one woman.
Bible critics will point out that, since men often had multiple wives in the Bible, God is condoning polygamy. But this is not true. The fact that some people in the Bible did not obey the “one wife” rule does not mean that God is condoning their behavior any more than the New York Times reporting on a murder is condoning murder. The Bible, and the New York Times, are simply recording the facts.
It is likely that Hannah was Elkanah’s first wife. But when she was unable to have children he took a second wife, Peninnah, who provided him children. Having children was considered a great blessing in those days – as opposed to today where they are considered a burden and something to be aborted.
But the inability to have children was seen as a curse back then. Elkanah was well-intentioned. He was trying to create a family and he was doing it the best way he knew how. Unfortunately, taking a second wife was the way of the world around him, not the way of God. Other cultures around Israel practiced polygamy. But God commanded Israel to practice monogamy.
As we’ll see, by disobeying God Elkanah brought trouble into his life that would not otherwise have been there. Such is always the case when we sin.
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