Our imaginations are another tool we can use to help us understand the Holy Bible more.
Some people are nervous of using their imaginations, but that is a bit like being nervous of thinking. Naturally we need to take control of our thoughts. It is the same with our imaginations.
It is also true that we can never completely accurately feel or think the same as the people in the bible. Even if we visit modern-day Palestine or Israel, we can never return to the time. But with the help of our imaginations, and the Holy Spirit, we can immerse ourselves in the events which have been recounted in the Scriptures.
Hannah's Story from 1 Samuel
There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.
Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LORD Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD.
Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters, but to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the LORD had closed her womb.
Because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.
Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”
Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the LORD’s house. In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk
and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” She said, “May your servant find favour in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.
Early the next morning they arose and worshipped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.”
I Samuel 1 v 1 - 20
We can see from the first few verses of the chapter what a patriarchal society they lived in. We are told about Elkaneh's family history on his father's side, going back four generations, but we know nothing of the origins of his two wives, just whether they were a mother or not.
In such a society a woman's status is enhanced by the birth of children, particularly if they are male, but this was not the cause of Hannah's anguish. She just longed for a baby, as many women, and men, do. She felt desperate to get pregnant.
It is helpful if we know something of the context of a story, the history of the times, the culture, the religion and even the geography. We can research all these things to inform our study of the bible and clothe our imaginings. However we don't need to do this to sympathise with the characters in this tale.
The events of this story happened 3000 years ago, in about 1050 BC, in a very different society to ours, but they still have the power to move us and to help us, because they speak to the human condition, and that is universal.
They are about true events that happened to real people. They are also about how Almighty God intervened in their lives, and so they teach us abut the nature of the divine.
The Main Characters
A husband of 2 wives, religious, loved Hannah, but didn't empathise with her pain.
He wondered why his love wasn't enough for her
Hannah's rival, provoked Hannah and irritated her,
but maybe she was jealous of the love her husband had for Hannah. Maybe she resented that she wasn't appreciated enough or given the status she felt she deserved
Eli, the Priest
A very fat man, who indulged his wayward sons by not disciplining them.
Misunderstood Hannah, didn't show discernment, but meant well & cared about the Lord.
A woman whose life was full of disappointment and who was miserable
She felt all she could do was strike a bargain with God
Who do you identify with most?
Reread the passage, imagining it from the perspective of the person you have chosen.
What would you have felt?
What would you have thought?
What would you have done?
Ask God to speak to you about His love shown in this story.
Hannah's Prayer - Jason Silver
This sweet, acoustic version is faithful to the original words of Hannah's song from 1 Samuel. Jason Silver has decided to put all the Psalms, as well as other scriptures, to contemporary music, as an aid to make them more accessible.
Hannah's song is melodic and easy to listen to.
Echoes of Hannah's prayer are found in The Magnificat, the inspirational Song of Mary.
The ancient calligraphy at the top of the page is from The Lindisfarne Gospels, copied and illustrated in eighth century AD in Northumberland, UK