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HANNAH hăn’ ə (חַנָּ֖ה, grace, favor). One of the two wives of Elkanah, who lived in Ramathaim-zophim, in the hill country of Ephraim (1 Sam 1; 2). Although she was Elkanah’s favorite wife, she had no children, and was consequently unmercifully taunted by the other wife, Peninnah, who had children. Hannah prayed for a son year after year, vowing that if her prayers were answered she would give him to the Lord. One day, during the annual pilgrimage to Shiloh with Elkanah, as she prayed in the Tabernacle the high priest Eli observed her lips moving and mistakenly took her to be a drunken woman. She denied the accusation and explained to him that she had been silently praying for a son.

In due time Hannah bore a son, and named him Samuel. When the boy was weaned, she fulfilled her vow and took him to Shiloh, where she gave him to the Lord. In a beautiful psalm of praise to God (1 Sam 2:1-10), which has many echoes in the Magnificat of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:46-55), she exulted in the power of Jehovah, who raises up the poor and needy, and casts down the rich. Hannah was in the habit of bringing to Samuel a little robe on her yearly visits to Shiloh. She later became the mother of other sons and daughters.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

One of the two wives of Elkanah, an Ephraimite who lived at Ramathaim-zophim. Hannah visited Shiloh yearly with her husband to offer sacrifices, for there the tabernacle was located. She was greatly distressed because they had no children. She therefore prayed earnestly for a male child whom she promised to dedicate to the Lord from his birth. The prayer was heard, and she called her son’s name Samuel ("God hears"). When he was weaned he was carried to Shiloh to be trained by Eli, the priest (1Sa 1). Hannah became the mother of five other children, three sons and two daughters (1Sa 2:2). Her devotion in sending Samuel a little robe every year is one of the tenderest recorded instances of maternal love (1Sa 2:19). She was a prophetess of no ordinary talent, as is evident from her elevated poetic deliverance elicited by God’s answer to her prayer (1Sa 2:1-10).

Byron H. Dement