12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”
(1 Samuel 1:12-16)
Year after year Hannah had to endure the caustic remarks from her rival, Peninnah, because she (Hannah) had no children. On this particular occasion it became too much for her so she goes to the tabernacle to pray. To add insult to injury, Hannah gets accused of being drunk in today’s passage as she continued praying to the Lord. Eli, the high priest, saw her praying and he observed that only her lips moved; her voice was not heard. Here we see another fine character trait of the godly Hannah. She was speaking to God in her heart.
In contrast to the Pharisees a few hundred years later, Hannah did not make a show of her prayers [Matthew 6:5]. When we speak to God we do not need an audience. Now certainly there is nothing wrong with public corporate prayer – where someone prays over a group of people (often called a “benediction”). Nor is there anything wrong with an individual praying in public – Hannah was in the tabernacle during one of the most crowded times – during one of the annual festivals. Yet she was not trying to call attention to herself or demonstrate her piety to another human being. She was conversing with God because she was troubled in spirit for reasons we learned over the past couple of days.
It’s actually a sad commentary on the spiritual state of affairs in Israel at this time when the high priest thinks that someone is drunk in the tabernacle. Notice Eli just assumed she was drunk. It’s not hard to imagine that public drunkenness, even in the tabernacle and even among women, was common in these days of spiritual darkness in Israel. Such an understanding makes Hannah’s dedication to God even the more remarkable.
Also remarkable is Hannah’s response to Eli. Eli had probably seen drunk people in the tabernacle before and therefore assumed Hannah was just another. His assumption would have been insulting to Hannah.
As any psychologist will tell you, we are in control of our emotions. Being angry is a choice. Being offended is a choice. No one can control our emotions except for ourselves. Whenever we are angry, or offended, or happy it is because that is how we choose to react to a given situation (albeit sometimes subconsciously).
As opposed to Peninnah, who chose to be angry at Elkanah and to show that anger through her caustic speech, Hannah never gets angry. She didn’t get angry when Peninnah called her names. Nor did she get offended when Eli accused her of being drunk.
Sadly, we live in a world where people refuse take ownership of their emotions. They instead choose to be offended and to respond in anger, blaming others for their emotions, like children do. Even our leaders, such as the Supreme Court, condone such erroneous conclusions which only encourages more childish behavior. The result is we have a society comprised of immature people who take no responsibility for themselves and who are intolerant of others.
By the way, it should not go unnoticed that Hannah is a woman. So many Bible critics mistakenly believe that the Bible claims women are weak, second-class citizens. But there is not one woman in the Bible who is portrayed that way. There are many strong women in the Bible from whom we learn a great deal; Hannah being just one of them.
We could all learn from Hannah. Her answer to the high priest is a model of gentleness and dignity. She simply refuted his claims calmly and truthfully. She did not respond with anger or harsh language or a law suit. Eli made an honest mistake for the reasons stated above and Hannah excused it without responding in-kind.
This is exactly how Jesus responded when He was mocked at His trial and on the cross. He understood the ignorance of those mocking Him and asked God to forgive them [Luke 23:34].
That is tolerance.
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