The Birth of Samuel
July 10th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
1 Samuel 1
THE BIRTH OF SAMUEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 1
7-10-60 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you who are listening share with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message on The Birth of Samuel. In our following through these great characters of the Old Testament, we come to a new departure, a new era, a new epoch. There are not many of them, but what there are, are most significant.
The world went along for uncounted years. Then God spoke to Abraham, and the twelfth chapter of the Book of Genesis is a new departure [Genesis 12:1]. Then the history followed through the years, and we come to the first chapter of Exodus, and God speaks in the Book of Exodus to Moses. You have the story of his birth [Exodus 2:1-10], then his call to a great, marvelous, far-reaching ministry [Exodus 3:1-4:31].
Then the Book goes along, and you have the birth of Samuel [1 Samuel 1-28]. And this is the beginning of the prophets and the prophetic institution. Samuel is the first of the prophets [1 Samuel 3:20]. Abraham and Israel and Moses were called prophets, but they were not prophets in the sense of the established school and order that you have beginning with Samuel. The next tremendous new departure is also found in the birth of a child. It will be the births of John the Baptist [Luke 1:57-66] and Jesus the Christ [Luke 2:1-16]. Just a few of those tremendous significant epochal departures.
When we come to the Book of Samuel, we’ve come to one of the great turning points in God’s dealing with men. Now if you will in your Bible, turn to I Samuel, you can follow the message most easily, the first chapter of the first Book of Samuel. “Now there was a certain man of Ramatha-imzophim, of Mount Ephraim. His name was Elkanah, an Ephrathite” [1 Samuel 1:1]. It is an unusual thing that the Book of Ruth [Ruth 1:1-2] and now the Book of Samuel [1 Samuel 1:1] are beginning with the story of an Ephrathite, a man from Ephratah, which is around Bethlehem. The story of Ruth happened somewhat toward the beginning of the Book of the Judges. The Book of Samuel, of course, takes place at the end of the era of the judges.
It is, if I might make this aside, it is encouraging to know that in these days of dark spiritual decline there were such homes as to be found in the home of Ruth and Naomi and such homes as to be found in the life of godly Elkanah and pious, holy, prayerful Hannah. Always, God has His own. Seven thousand said He to Elijah, “seven thousand I have reserved unto Myself who have not bowed the knee unto Baal” [1 Kings 19:18]. And in those days, how wonderful to look upon a godly, pious, Lord-fearing home.
Now, there is a difference, apparently, between these two Ephrathites, between Elimelech [Ruth 1:1-2] and Elkanah [1 Samuel 1:1]. It was the progenitors of Elkanah who left Ephratah [1 Samuel 1:1-4]. Maybe it could easily have been that the same famine that drove Elimelech and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, and his wife, Naomi—the same famine that drove Elimelech’s family away [Ruth 1:1-2], it could have been the same famine that also drove away the grandfather or great grandfather and his family of Elkanah. We do not know. It’s just a surmise. But if so, there was this great difference between them. When the famine so sore fell upon the region round about Bethlehem, Ephratah, Elimelech took his family into an idolatrous land, into Moab [Ruth 1:1-2]. But the forbears of Elkanah took his family and their families and their generations nearer God’s tabernacle in Shiloh in Mount Ephraim [1 Samuel 1:1-3].
You know, that makes a great difference in a man’s life, in a man’s family, and in a man’s generations. For the Book says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” [Matthew 6:33]. There may be trial and famine, but that does not send us into pagan customs and in association with idolatrous and blasphemous people. Elimelech took his family into Moab, and there lost his life, lost his sons, lost his inheritance, lost everything that he possessed [Ruth 1:2-5]. But Elkanah’s family moved toward God and moved toward Shiloh, moved toward the Lord. Didn’t pitch his tent toward an idolatrous company, but pitched his tent and his life toward God [1 Samuel 1:1].
Now, the next verse: “And he had two wives; one Hannah—charis, “grace”—and the other Peninnah—marguerite, “pearl” [1 Samuel 1:2]. The Greek word for pearl is marguerite. The Greek word for grace is charis. He had two wives; makes you pause when you read that verse, doesn’t it? That doesn’t necessarily mean that the man was sensual and gross. Many, many times in those ancient days, a man took another wife because his first wife was barren and sterile, and to be without children was to be without family, without successors, without hope. It was a terrible thing in that ancient day to be without child.
You know, I stood one time at a temple in Calcutta, India. And I noticed that one place, one section of the temple that it seemed to me young women were standing, and were worshiping, and were praying, and were interceding, and were begging. And they offered little gifts, and they tied them on a sacred tree and in other ways in their appeal. And I asked the guide who was with me, “This is a strange thing, all of these worshipers here are young women. There’s not a man in the group, and they seem so full of care and burden. It is so strange.”
And he said to me, “No, not strange at all.” He said, “This god is the god of fertility, and these young women are barren. They are sterile. They are not thus far able to be mothers of children, and in our country,” he said, “if a man marries a girl and she does not become a mother, he puts her away or he takes another wife.” And, he said, “There is no sorrow like unto that sorrow when a wife is put away because she is barren, and the social stigma and the economic hardship when she’s forced to make her own living and is unacceptable in society, it’s a grief beyond description. So they’re here, and they’re begging, and they’re interceding, and they’re asking, and they’re praying.” And the god to whom they were praying was one of the most repulsive to me that I could ever imagine.
Oh, the hurt of a situation like this! And Elkanah is no exception. Jesus said from the beginning, it is not so [Matthew 19:7-8]. One man is made for one woman, and one woman is made for one man. That’s the way God intended it. That is the way the great God Creator arranged it. And two wives open the door to infinite greed and infinite sorrow. Now, when we look into this godly home and into this godly family, you’re going to look upon tears and sorrow and heartache.
Now, let’s begin at the fourth verse and see if it isn’t true:
And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions:
But unto Hannah he gave a double portion; for he loved Hannah: even though the Lord had shut up her womb.
And her adversary—Peninnah—provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.
And as he did so year by year, as [Elkanah] did that year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she [Peninnah] provoked her.
[1 Samuel 1:4-7].
“So Peninnah provoked Hannah; therefore, Hannah wept, and did not eat” [1 Samuel 1:7]. You don’t ever find any exception to that. Sarah thought when she had no child it would be a fine arrangement to present her husband with a child, so she said unto her husband Abraham, “Take unto thy bosom Hagar, my maid, and she will raise up children for me” [Genesis 16:2]. And Abraham was over-persuaded by his wife and did so, and from that moment, and from that moment, there was nothing but bitterness and jealousy in the household of Abraham when Sarah looked upon Hagar and when Hagar looked in superiority upon Sarah [Genesis 16:4-5]. The story is one of endless heartache. It is no different in the life of Israel, in the life of Jacob. First, Leah and then Rachel, then all of the intrigue that lie in the households between those two wives [Genesis 30:1-26], and the story never ends. It was so with David [2 Samuel 13-15]. It was so with Solomon [1 Kings 11:9-13]. It is always so. And it is so here in the story of Elkanah with Peninnah and Hannah. And Hannah weeps [1 Samuel 1:6-7].
Now may I point out to you that when it says here that at the tabernacle, at the temple of the Lord, in the sacrificial worship unto God, she did not eat, that shows you how intimately conversant was Hannah with the law of the Lord [1 Samuel 1:7]. She was a pious woman who knew the Book, who knew the Bible. Every once in a while you will find a godly, godly woman whose Bible is known to her better than it is known to her pastor, a wonderful, wonderful woman who prays and who reads God’s Book. Now, I want to show you how Hannah intimately was conversant with all of the Word of the Lord when it says that she didn’t eat there at the sacrifice, at the sacrificial presentation before the Lord at Shiloh [1 Samuel 1:7].
For example, in the Book of Leviticus, in the tenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, Moses is chiding his brother Aaron because they have not eaten the sacrifice, according to the commandment of God [Leviticus 10:17]. And the tenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, the tenth chapter begins with the story of Nadab and Abihu, who are the children, the sons of Aaron, “and they offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded not. And there went out a fire from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” [Leviticus 10:1-2].
So when Moses asked Aaron about his not eating the sacrifice [Leviticus 10:17], Aaron replied to Moses, “You commanded us not to uncover our heads, nor rend our clothes, nor to cry, nor to weep over the loss of my two sons, but I cannot help but be in mourning even though they died before the Lord. They died at the commandment of God because of their transgression of God’s laws. Nevertheless, they are my sons, and I cannot but grieve over the loss of my two eldest sons [1 Chronicles 6:3]. Therefore,” said Aaron, “if I had eaten the offering today, it would not have been acceptable in the sight of the Lord” [Leviticus 10:19].
Now, let’s take another instance of it. In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, in the prayer that Moses has placed into the hearts and on the lips of the people when they pray, they say as they recount their virtues and their obedience to the commandment of God, “I have not eaten thereof the sacrifices in my mourning” [Deuteronomy 26:14]. Then another instance of it in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hosea and the third and fourth verses, God is prophesying about Ephraim. “Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and shall eat unclean things in Assyria . . . their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourning; all that eat thereof shall be polluted” [Hosea 9:3-4].
When we turn, then, to the story of Hannah, you will see there how intimately she knew the law of the Lord. If one was in mourning, he was not to partake of the sacrifice [Deuteronomy 26:13-14]. Isn’t that a strange thing? If one is in mourning, he is not to eat of the sacrifice. Wait until you’re over that terrible depression of spirit. Wait until you can see the light through the night. Wait. So, this dear, pious woman weeps before God and refuses the banquets [1 Samuel 1:7], refuses the social life, refuses all of the glad bubbling up among the people of the Lord. When they’re laughing, she can’t laugh, and when they are banqueting, she can’t eat. And when they are happy and joyous, it just points up her being cast down and destroyed [1 Samuel 1:7].
Well, all of us understand that. There are a lot of times when you don’t feel like laughing. You just don’t. There are lots of times when you just feel like crying. You just do. There are lots of times when you don’t have the turn to accept the social engagement and to carry on with all of the lightness and gladness of that happy hour. You’re just sad. You’re just brokenhearted. You’re just cast down. So with Hannah. Her adversary provoked her sore [1 Samuel 1:6]. And in those glad hours when somebody speaks of, you know, the church as though you must never eat in the church or be glad or happy in the church, oh, how different from the Bible! Those sacrifices were festival occasions. They were festivities, and the man that sacrificed brought his family and brought his friends, and they ate the sacrifice together with the priest and before God. It was a happy thing and a happy day and a glad occasion. But not always did one feel as though he were permitted in his own heart and his own spirit to enter into those festivities. Once in a while, as the psalmist said, you hang your harp on a willow tree [Psalm 137:1-2]. So did Hannah and was sad.
Now, she prays. Look at the tenth verse:
In the bitterness of her soul, she prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and she said, O Lord of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thine handmaiden, and remember me, and not forget Thine handmaid, but will give unto Thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto Thee all the days of his life, and he shall be a Nazarite separated unto God, to the service of God.
[1 Samuel 1:10-11]
And the sign of the Nazarite, of course, was his hair was uncut, and no strong drink ever passed through his lips, and he was holy unto the Lord [Numbers 6:1-8]. Now what Hannah meant was not, “I want a boy and not a girl.’ When you read that into it, you don’t see at all what this thing was for which Hannah prayed. She was a pious, godly woman, and her soul was highly sensitive to the spiritual dearth and darkness all around her. For example, right there at the door of the tabernacle, Hophni and Phinehas were doing indescribably abominable things in the very presence of the people that came to worship the God of Israel [1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22]. Nor did Eli interdict them [1 Samuel 2:22-26]; he was a soft, easy going, good-natured old gentleman. And when his sons did these vile and unspeakable things, Eli did not interdict them, for which later on, you will see, God brings a judgment upon his house and upon Israel [1 Samuel 4:1-11]. In those dark and tragic days of spiritual decline and gross wickedness, this pious, godly woman is praying God for a deliverer, a savior, a leader, someone to bring the people back again to God.
So, when she prays, she prays, “O Lord, for that man child whom I may give unto Thee as a holy Nazarite, as a holy man of God who shall bring back the people to the Lord” [1 Samuel 1:11]. Now, let me show you the difference between Eli and Hannah:
It came to pass, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth.
Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore, therefore Eli thought she had been drunken.
And he said, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee.
[1 Samuel 1:12-14]
Now, this is Eli: his sons were there doing the most abominable things that I could not even speak of in this pulpit, and doing them—Hophni and Phinehas, doing them—at the very, at the very door of the house of God. But instead of accosting his sons in their villainy and their iniquity [1 Samuel 2:22-26], why, Eli is reprimanding this poor, pious, saintly, holy woman. Now, it would have been very easy for Hannah to reply, “Listen here, you blind bat. Why don’t you look at your sons? You better attend to your own house before you say anything to me as though I were drunken.” It would have been easy to do that.
You know, I marvel at our people. In a long line of traffic yesterday afternoon, in a long line of traffic on one of the main arteries here, I waited and waited and waited and waited and waited, and they were going this way and I couldn’t get across, and it was going that way and I couldn’t get across, and they were going both ways and I couldn’t get across. So finally I found a little opening, and I drove my car out. And of course, when you drive your car out, why, in the heavy traffic like that—why, I wasn’t going to be hit by anybody, I had plenty of room. I had already carefully judged that, but I did drive my car out, I had to if I was ever going to cross. I want you to know when I drove my car there and then made the left turn, there came up a woman who slowed down and stuck her head out the window and cussed me with every vile word that you can think of. I never hurt her; I never slowed her down except as she chose to slow down to cuss me out. I never said anything to her. I had never seen her before. Pray the dear Lord I don’t ever see her again. But I thought, “What a spirit, what a woman, what a shrew!”
Now, Hannah could have been that way—volatile. Look what she says: “No, my lord.” She recognized him as the highest representative of God in earth, and she respected him as such and answered in keeping with the holy piousness of her life and her spirit, “No, my lord. I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink. I have just poured out my soul unto the Lord. Do not count me as a daughter of Belial; for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto” [1 Samuel 1:15-16].
And then as God’s representative, the Spirit of prophecy came upon Eli the high priest, and he said, “Go in peace: and the God of Israel will,” that is the way it ought to be, “will grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him.” And she believed the word of the Lord and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad [1 Samuel 1:17-18]. “By faith Sarah received strength to conceive seed and bear a son when she was past age, because she counted Him faithful that promised” [Hebrews 11:11]. Isn’t that a glorious thing? Ninety years of age, ninety years of age! She counted Him faithful to His promise. And when Hannah hears the word of the prophet of God, the high priest, she believes the promise, and she eats and is glad [1 Samuel 1:17-18]. And in due time, it came to pass she bear a son! This is one of the finest verses in the Book. “And she called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord” [1 Samuel 1:20]. And she called him “Asked of God.” She called him Samuel, “Asked of God.” God answered a prayer. This is God’s answer to prayer.
So when the little child was weaned, three years of age, they went up to the tabernacle. Now, here is that same sweet spirit in Hannah again. “My lord”—she didn’t say, “I’m that woman you falsely rebuked for being drunk” and on and on—“O my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood before thee here, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him: therefore also I have given him to the Lord.” You have it “lent.” “I have given him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall belong to God” [1 Samuel 1:26-28] And the Septuagint reads, and many other ancient manuscripts read, “And they worshiped the Lord there.” Isn’t that a glorious sight that you can just easily see in your mind? That holy family with their friends and those in the tabernacle gathered around that little child, and they worshiped the Lord there. Brings back to your mind the scene that you read in the passage from the second of Luke, the family there gathered round the Child. And old Simeon says, “Now, Lord, let now Thy servant depart, for mine eyes have seen Thy great salvation” [Luke 2:29-30]. This is the beginning of a new day, and a new era, and a new epoch, and a new departure in the story of the house of God, with Samuel, the child of prayer [1 Samuel 1:20].
Could I say one thing about him before we go on, before our service is dismissed? Samuel, “Asked of God.” Not only was his name that, but it was a prophecy of his life. This man was a man of intercession, of petition, and of prayer. In 1 Samuel 7:5, “Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord.” In  Samuel 8:6: “Samuel prayed unto the Lord.” In [1 Samuel] 12:19: “And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord.” In [1 Samuel] 12:23: “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for thee.” In [1 Samuel] 15:11: “And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night.” When we enter the life of Samuel, we are entering one of the great personal sanctuaries that God has built, the tabernacle in the heart and soul of a man [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. This is the prophet of God. I do not belie the deepest part of my own soul when I say to you: these days of preparation and studying the life of this great man of God is like manna to my soul, and I pray shall be food of heaven and bread of life to you.
Now, we sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, somebody you give his heart to the Lord. Somebody you come into the fellowship of the church, a whole family or just one. While we sing this hymn, on the first note of the first stanza, would you come and stand by me? While all of us stand and sing the appeal together.
THE BIRTH OF SAMUEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 1
Birth of Samuel a new era of prophets
Contrast of two families
1. In famine, Elkinah
stays in land, Elimelech goes to pagan Moab
escaped the famine but lost everything
3. Elkanah lost
Hannah barren, Peninnah had many children
More than one wife always causes pain and heartache
Hannah was faithful to God, God blessed her faithfulness
Hannah gives birth to Samuel and dedicates him to God