Why did God deliberately close Hannah’s womb? This writing will only focus on the birth of Samuel, who was Israel’s last judge (Acts 13:20) and the first prophet God used to anoint the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David.
Samuel’s name means “His Name is El” or “El (God) hears,” as mentioned in 1 Samuel 1:20. He was born to a mother named Hannah and a father named Elkanah. Hannah itself means “grace.” Samuel was the first of six children, four boys and two girls, as mentioned in 1 Samuel 2:21.
However, like many wives of Bible characters, Hannah was initially described as barren, without a child. The Bible even mentions that God himself closed her womb, as stated in 1 Samuel 1:5 ESV, “but to Hannah, he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb.” It should be noted that the Indonesian version (and even the Bible Basic English) gives a wrong impression by using the word “only.” Even though he loved Hannah, he gave Hannah only one part, because the LORD had closed her womb. In many different translations, it is stated that Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, gave her two portions, a double portion, because of his love for her. In the KJV translation, it is said a “worthy” portion, indicating that although it was only one portion, it was the best portion that her husband gave because of his love for her. Perhaps the word “only” in the Indonesian translation should be removed.
Similar to Sarai, Rebekah, and Rachel, Hannah was also barren and unable to have children. What is even more puzzling is that her inability to have children was part of God’s deliberate act of closing her womb. The reason behind this remains unclear. Furthermore, Elkanah had a reason to remarry because Hannah could not bear him children, as stated in 1 Samuel 1:2. Peninnah, who gave birth to Elkanah’s children, was mentioned only after Hannah. To make things worse, Peninnah always hurt Hannah’s heart and even tortured her cruelly with her words, never letting Hannah forget that God had made her childless. This led to a rivalry and classic competition between the two women.
Samuel belonged to the tribe of Levi, although his family lived in the mountainous area of Ephraim. He was a descendant of Heman the singer, who was from the Kohath clan, the second son of Levi. Heman was the son of Joel, who was the son of Samuel, who was the son of Elkanah, who was the son of Jeroham, who was the son of Eliel, who was the son of Toah. This lineage is recorded in 1 Chronicle 6:26-35. Although the tribe of Levi did not inherit any land in Israel, they were given cities where they could live and raise livestock, as stated in Numbers 35:1-8. Samuel himself came from the descendants of Aminadab (Yizhar), the second son of Kehat, as recorded in 1 Chronicle 6:18, 22. Meanwhile, Eli the priest was a descendant of Itamar, and his son was Harun, who was the son of Amram, the first son of Kehat. Kohath was the second son of Levi, as mentioned in 1 Chronicle 6:16.
Yes, so Samuel was from the tribe of Levi who lived in the mountainous area of Ephraim, not an Ephraimite. Samuel was not a descendant of Joseph (Ephraim’s father), he was only from the mountainous area of Ephraim.
Back to Samuel’s mother, Hannah, why did God deliberately close her womb? 1 Samuel 1:5-6. Isn’t He the God who does not tempt men, James 1:13, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one? Nor did He plan evil against us, Jeremiah 29:11, to give you a future and a hope.
In the translation of The Message James 1:13 reads like this, don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. Yes, the Lord has never harmed us. But He knows exactly how we should be led in His ways.
Hannah’s barrenness in those days was a metaphor for Israel’s spiritual barrenness. The scarcity of God’s Word or revelations during that time was an indication of Israel’s spiritual desolation, a spiritual drought! 1 Samuel 3:1 ESV, And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. No widespread revelation in NKJV translation. This was also due to the corruption in the house of God. The two sons of Priest Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were described as corrupt, evil, destructive, wicked, and even immoral (1 Samuel 2:12). They didn’t know God and even took the Israelites’ offerings for themselves (1 Samuel 2:13-16). They were very sinful before God and had defiled, despised, and insulted the sacrifices. In verse 22, it is mentioned that they slept with the women who served at the door of the tabernacle. Although Eli rebuked them in verses 23-25, they ignored their father’s rebuke. As a father and a priest, Eli should have really disciplined them as a father.
To compound the problem, Eli seemed to enjoy his sons’ wicked behavior (1 Samuel 2:13-16). In 1 Samuel 2:29, a servant of God rebuked Eli, Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’ Eli’s greed for the offering meant for God was evident. He feared his children more than he feared God and valued their honor above honoring God’s Word. He became very overweight (1 Samuel 4:18), and his eyesight began to fail (1 Samuel 3:2, whether due to old age or diabetes is unclear).
To further elaborate, Hophni and Phinehas are first mentioned in 1 Samuel 1:3, where they are described as priests of the Lord. The name Hophni in Hebrew means “pugilist,” which refers to a mercenary boxer. This name suggests that he was a violent person who enjoyed fighting and was motivated by money. Phinehas, on the other hand, means “the mouth of a serpent” or “the mouth of brass.” This name suggests that he was skilled in speaking and had a sharp tongue.
It is remarkable how the House of God at that time was led by individuals who were violent, greedy, lustful, and immoral. The fact that they were priests of the Lord made their behavior even more scandalous. Furthermore, the names of Hophni and Phinehas are Egyptian in origin, which raises questions about their background. Could they have come from the royal house of Egypt? Perhaps Eli’s wife was an Egyptian, as suggested in 1 Samuel 2:27.
These details about Hophni and Phinehas and their names provide insight into the spiritual state of Israel at that time. The corruption and moral decay in the house of God reflected the spiritual desolation of Israel as a whole. It was a time of spiritual drought, and the word of the Lord was rare. However, in the midst of this darkness, God raised up Samuel to be a prophet and judge, and through him, He began to restore the spiritual vitality of His people.
When the House of God was so contaminated with evil and wickedness, you could then imagine how dry the spiritual lives of the Israelites were at that time, how barren were they before the Lord. These are God’s cries and grief, just like the cry and grief of the barren Hannah. 1 Samuel 1:7, 8, 10, 15. Hannah’s cries and grief gave birth to a prayer that went up before the Lord, a prayer of submission asking the Lord’s grace for a child, 1 Samuel 1:11. God answered her cry by giving Samuel, a prophet, an answer to God’s own grief, 1 Samuel 1:19.
One possible explanation for why God deliberately closed Hannah’s womb is that His timing had not yet come for her to have children. By doing so, Samuel’s birth would coincide with his appearance as a prophet of God. However, this answer raises further questions, such as why Hannah had to suffer because of Peninnah and why she needed to make a desperate prayer and Nazarite vow to dedicate her firstborn to God. It also raises the question of whether she would have had children in the future. Thus, this explanation may not fully account for all the complexities of Hannah’s situation.
Indeed, the ways of the Lord are often mysterious and difficult to understand. However, what is unique is that each path of God introduces Himself in a new dimension that can be understood by those who willingly follow Him faithfully. The end of His path is always good and perfectly intertwined with the greater image of His plan of salvation for humankind. This is because He is always good and knows exactly what we need most. As stated in Hebrews 11:40b (TB Indonesia), “without us, they cannot come to perfection.” The perfection of faith is not owned by one person alone but is the fulfillment of the entire faith of God’s children together from beginning to end.
Hannah’s prayer was filled with anguish and sorrow, and she made a vow to God, a Nazarite vow, promising to give her child back to God to live as a Nazarite. A life devoted to spiritual discipline, where his hair would never be cut with a razor. And God did answer her prayer.
Why did God deliberately close her womb? It seems that God was looking for a heart that was willing to dedicate a child’s life as a Nazirite, fully committed to serving the Lord in His holiness. Being a Nazirite of God means being consecrated solely to Him, separated exclusively for His purposes. The Nazirite was forbidden from drinking wine, eating anything unclean, and was required to keep all of God’s commandments. Additionally, the razor was not to touch his hair. (Judges 13:5, 7, 14; 1 Samuel 1:11).
Yes, the state of Israel described above caused great grief to the Lord (just like Hannah), particularly because no one had yet risen up to turn back to God and help restore the situation. This saddened God even further. However, when Hannah prayed her Nazirite prayer, God listened. When Hannah bravely gave the child she had prayed for back to God as a Nazirite after he was weaned (1 Samuel 1:23-24), God found someone who could be used to restore Israel. Hannah had a child, and God had a prophet.
And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.
And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.
1 Samuel 3:19-21, 4:1.
The first verse of 1 Samuel 3 showed the absence of God, Samuel then came to the scene. The last verse of 1 Samuel 3 showed the return of the Lord to Israel!