First Samuel introduces us to a man named Elkanah. He had a domestic problem. “He 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.” Because the text mentions Hannah first, it is assumed that she was Elkanah’s first wife. Since Hannah could not conceive, Elkanah took a second wife. This was acceptable in those days because children were crucial to the family’s livelihood. I would also argue that children were seen as blessings from God. Everything possible to have children was encouraged. There are significant industries in our country devoted to preventing conception. According to the Grandview Research Company, “The U.S. contraceptive market size was valued at around USD 8.0 billion in 2021 and is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 4.70% in the forecast period.”[1] But what is worse is the abortion statistics. According to another research company, “The last year for which the CDC reported a yearly national total for abortions is 2019. The agency says there were 629,898 abortions nationally that year, slightly up from 619,591 in 2018. Guttmacher’s latest available figures are from 2020, when it says there were 930,160 abortions nationwide, up from 916,460 in 2019.”[2] The most important value in the Bible is life. The most important value in America is personal peace and prosperity.

The book of Deuteronomy records the blessings and cursings pronounced upon the children of Israel as they were about to enter and occupy the promised land. Having children was one of the many blessings that God promised the Israelites. Deuteronomy 7:14 speaks very clearly in this regard. It says, “You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock.” You can understand how a barren woman in the Old Testament economy would feel cursed and plead with God for the blessing of children. But Hannah was not the only woman in the Bible who struggled with barrenness and brought her petition to God for resolution. Sarah was barren. God Blessed her with Isaac. Rebekkah was barren. God blessed her with the twins Esau and Jacob. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, was barren, and God blessed her with Joseph, who became the savior of his people. Samson’s mother was barren, but God blessed her with a son who delivered the people of Israel from the yoke of the Philistines. Woodhouse recognizes the common theme with these barren women. He writes, “Each of these women had shared a sadness like Hannah’s, but in each case, a child was subsequently born who was God’s answer to the crisis of the time.”[3]

The situation in Israel at the end of the book of Judges was critical. There was no king, so every man did what was right in his own eyes, and there was nothing but chaos and confusion. Something had to be done! God begins his work. In answer to prayer, he causes an otherwise barren woman to conceive a child! In each of the cases mentioned above, this was God’s way of dealing with the problems of His people. When Jesus insisted that the Old Testament was about Him, I wonder if this idea was not part of that. Although it might be argued that each of the women above conceived without the intervention of God. That could not be argued regarding God sending His one and only Son into the world, conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.



[3] Woodhouse, John. 2008. 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.