Hannah, Elkanah’s first wife, was childless. But his second wife bore him many sons and daughters. Yet Elkanah had a profound affection for Hannah that Peninnah did not have from her husband. When they went on their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the great celebration with all of Israel, Elkanah would show Hannah favoritism before all the people. This did not sit well with Peninnah. 1 Samuel 1:6-7 tells us, “And her rival (Peninnah) used to provoke her (Hannah) grievously to irritate her because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore, Hannah wept and would not eat.”

The treatment that Hannah received from Peninnah caused great consternation. Commentators observed that Hannah’s “irritation” was as severe as a storm with thunder and lightning. One commentator says, “The Hebrew word used here literally ‘means ‘to thunder’ or ‘to roar,’ like a storm. This is the sort of word that would be used to describe being caught in a hurricane. In other words, Hannah’s emotions were thundering and roaring like a hurricane. The text even tells us that Peninnah’s harassment was continual. There was no relief for Hannah from the relentless reminders of her barrenness. To say that Hannah was a deeply distressed individual is an understatement. Verse 7 indicates that her depression was so intense that she even refused to eat. Hannah must have lain awake many nights in despair, feeling like a broken, hopeless failure.”[1] That Hannah would not eat is an interesting remark because it follows the comment that Elkanah, her husband, gave her double portions of the sacrifices because he loved her so much. Hannah’s sorrow was so severe that food couldn’t help her in the least. The only thing she wanted was a child.

Many people know what it is like to have an antagonist in their life that they can do nothing about. It’s terribly disruptive in life. One cannot sleep or eat without the nagging presence of the one that strives to cause you pain. David lived with Saul, the King of Israel, as his antagonist. He found himself in such a predicament that it grieved his soul, yet there was nothing he could do about it. It drove David to write many songs. We call them the “Imprecatory” Psalms because David dumps his problems on God. He refused to take retaliatory action himself. Instead, he trusts God to deliver him from his antagonists. He trusts in the goodness and fairness of God and looks to God to take care of His problem. In Psalm 69, we read, “Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.  Hide not your face from your servant, for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies!” David trusted God to set things right. Hannah did the same thing.

[1] Greear, J. D., and Heath A. Thomas. 2016. Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Samuel. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference.