DOUBLE PORTION: A Study of Hannah

We often hear of the proverbial “blessing in disguise.” Many times, in fact, I would say every time we are faced with loss and hardship, there will be a blessing attached to it. It’s in our barrenness, our dry times, our wildernesses that we learn things we could not have learned otherwise. But when we come out on the other side, what we learned turns out to be precious stones in our lives. Our study of Hannah begins In 1 Samuel 1. I will be using the New King James Bible and the Blue Letter Bible and Strong’s as references.

1 Samuel 1: 1-2: “Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. And he had two wives; the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Right from the start we get a clue for studying the story of Hannah when we look at the Hebrew word Ramathaim Zophim. The Blue Letter Bible Outline for Biblical Usage gives the definition as “double height of the watchers.” This is where Hannah’s husband is from. It’s in the mountains of Ephraim which means “double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful.” The idea of “double” is definitely emerging.

Elkanah means “God has possessed” or “God has created.” Notice the the theme of double continues in that he has two wives. One of his wives was Hannah or Channah which means “grace.” It is from the root word chanan which means “to be gracious, show favour, pity.” The other wife was named Peninnah which means “jewel.” It is from the root panen which means “a precious stone.”

We are told that Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. The Hebrew word for children is yeled and Strong’s gives the meaning as “something born, i.e. a lad or offspring: —boy, child, fruit, son, young man (one).”

1 Samuel 1:3-5: “This man went up from his city yearly to worship and sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. Also the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD were there. And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the LORD had closed her womb.

Shiloh Shiyloh means “place of rest” and is significant in that this is the place where Hannah finds her rest in the Lord.

The theme of double continues with the two sons of Eli who were the priest there. Their names were Hophni Chophniy which means “pugilist” (boxer), and Phinehas Piynechac which means “mouth of brass.” These guys were double trouble.

Elkanah would give portions to Peninnah and all her sons and daughters. The word portion is manah and means “properly, something weighed out, i.e. (generally) a division; specifically (of food) a ration; also a lot:—such things as belonged, part, portion.” But Elkanah would give a double portion to Hannah because he loved her. Most versions translate this as a double portion. And that certainly fits the theme of double here. The NLT translates it as “choice” and the KJV translates it as “worthy.” The word translated double is aph and means “nostril, nose, face” or “anger.” Strong’s definition: “properly, the nose or nostril; hence, the face, and occasionally a person; also (from lthe rapid breathing in passion: ire:—anger (-gry), before, countenance, face, forebearing, forehead, (long-) suffering, nose, nostril, snout, x worthy, wrath.

The first mention of this word is in Genesis 2: 7: “Then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.”

So what this seems to say to me is that Elkanah loved Hannah and really saw her and her pain. He really looked at her in her plight. I’m sure he gave her a double portion, but I see that that portion may have been doubled, not just in the portion, but in his love and attention to her. And notice the phrase “the LORD had closed her womb.”

1 Samuel 1: 6 “And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the LORD had closed her womb.” Notice the double use of this phrase.

1 Samuel 1: 7 “So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.”

The word rival is tsarah and means “straits, distress, trouble” or “vexer, rival wife.”

Strongs: “tightness (i.e. figuratively, trouble); transitively, a female rival: —adversary, adversity, affliction, anguish, distress, tribulation, trouble.”

How many times does the Adversary use people in our lives to distress and vex us? But we must remember that he is just a pawn in the hands of our Lord. It is ultimately the Lord that allows things in our lives to grow us, to shake things out of our lives things that shouldn’t be there, and to ultimately bless us.

The word provoked is ka ‘ac and means “to be angry, be vexed, be indignant, be wroth, be grieved, provoke to anger and wrath. (Piel) “to provoke to anger.”

The word severely is ra ‘am and means “to thunder, cause thunder, to tremble, cause to tremble.”

Do you get the picture here? Not only was Hannah in a very difficult time in her life due to her own barrenness, but it was made doubly hard by what she had to deal with from Peninnah. She was so upset that, when they went up to the house of the Lord that she wept and couldn’t eat.

The word wept is bakah and means “to weep (in grief, humiliation or joy), to weep bitterly, to bewail.”

1 Samuel 1: 8-11: “Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?’ So Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.’”

We really get the picture of Hannah’s pain here. She was weeping in great pain and bitterness of soul. This obviously had gone on for years and she was in anguish and great pain. But what Hannah did is what we all must do. Though she had bitterness of soul, she took her pain to the Lord. She poured out her heart before the Lord. She asked Him to look on her affliction and here, again, we see this theme of double with the words, “remember me, and not forget.”

1 Samuel 1: 12-17: “And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!’ But Hannah answered and said, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.’ Then Eli answered and said, ‘Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.’”

Here is yet another aspect of Hannah’s plight. She was also misunderstood and wrongly judged. This is something we, too, will experience when we are in a time of trial and testing...being misunderstood...maybe being unjustly accused of something. Many times when we are choosing to walk in the Spirit, to die to ourselves, our actions will be misunderstood. We can be judged in an entirely wrong way. That’s where the real rub comes in. What to do? Take it all to the Lord. Leave it with Him. Entrust it all to Him. He will use it and cause it to work for your good and to conform you into His image.

1 Samuel 1: 18: “And she said, ‘Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.’ So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no long sad.”

Once Hannah had taken everything to the Lord, she was able to leave it with Him and to rest in Him. That’s what we must do, too.

1 Samuel 1: 19-23: “Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked for him from the LORD.’ Now the man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the LORD and yearly sacrifice and his vow. But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, ‘Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the LORD and remain there forever.’ So Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the LORD establish His word.’ Then the woman stayed and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

After Hannah poured her heart and soul out to the Lord, made her request and rested in Him, she arose with her husband the next morning and worshiped before the Lord. The word worship is shachah and means “to depress, i.e. prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God): —bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.”

We don’t know exactly how long it was before Hannah conceived. The New King James translates it in the process of time. I love that. There’s always the process of time that we must go through and wait for the Lord to bring about His appointments. But He does. And they are always in His perfect timing. She conceived and bore a son and named him Samuel Shemuw ‘el which means “his name is El.” Hannah seems to even be naming her son with a name that has a double meaning, in that Samuel is his name, but she is pointing to the Lord. Hannah didn’t accompany Elkanah for the yearly sacrifice until she weaned the child. It’s likely that this would be when the child was 2 or 3, possibly longer. This would give Hannah a lot of time to instill things of God in her child’s life. A mother can speak all kinds of things in her child’s heart and ears that make a deep impact even in a young child’s heart and life. It’s likely that this same thing happened when Moses’ mother was allowed to nurse him in his early years. These mothers probably instilled God’s calling on their son’s lives during these earliest formative years.

Elkanah gave Hannah godly advice when he told her to “do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him. Only let the LORD establish His word.” Then when the child was weaned, Hannah went with him and took the child to the house of the LORD in Shiloh, in order to keep her vow. Remember the house of the LORD is in Shiloh, the place of rest.

1 Samuel 1: 24-28: “Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, on ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, ‘O my Lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the LORD. For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.

Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.’ So they worshiped the LORD there.”

What follows in chapter 2 of 1 Samuel is a beautiful song of worship that Hannah offered the day she left her only child at the tabernacle, never for him to live with her in her home again.

1 Samuel 2: 1-10: “And Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. No one is holy like the LORD, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the LORD is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and those who stumbled are girded with strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, and the hungry have ceased to hunger. Even the barren has borne seven, and she who has many children has become feeble. The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and He has set the world upon them. He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked shall be silent in darkness. For by strength no man shall prevail. The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken in pieces; from heaven He will thunder against them. The LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.”

If this sounds familiar, it is. Mary quoted some of Hannah’s prayer in her beautiful Magnificat.

Hannah is rejoicing in the Lord on what is probably the hardest day of her life. She talks of strength and power and she knows those things are found in the Lord. She knows God is in control and all-powerful and nothing can stop Him.She speaks of her enemies and expresses a strong sense of vindication over her rival and others that had misunderstood her. She says, “The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.” She knew the Lord was responsible for first making her low and then bringing her high. She saw His hand in everything.

This is the time of judges in Israel. Samuel, her son, would be the last judge of Israel and then it would be the time of the kings. So when Hannah says, “He will give strength to His king, and exalt the horn of His anointed,” she is looking ahead to the Messiah. This is actually the first time in the Bible where Jesus is referred to as the Messiah. Also, interestingly, Hannah’s son Samuel will be the one to anoint King David, and begin the royal lineage of David that would set the stage for The Messiah.

There is much more to take from Hannah’s story and this prayer/song of hers. I would encourage you to spend more time studying it. For now, what speaks to me is that it’s how we respond to our times in the valley that is most important. Hannah could have let a root of bitterness grow. She could have nursed her resentments and gone over and over in her mind how she had been mistreated and misunderstood. It’s likely, had she done that, that she would have stayed in her barrenness. But she didn’t do that. She took all of her hurts, anxieties and emotions and laid them before the Lord. She poured out her requests and then she left them there, arose and ate, and worshiped. When we respond this way, we get a double portion. We get to experience joy in the Lord in this life, and then more importantly, we get to enjoy the fruit of that response in the Kingdom. The Lord has all kinds of rewards waiting for us when we stand before the Bema seat, if we get to hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”

Hannah would make her little boy a robe and take it to him year by year when she came up with Elkanah to offer the yearly sacrifice. She was also blessed to have three more sons and two daughters. And Samuel became a wonderful figure in God’s story. She was doubly blessed in that she got to have a fruitful life in the Lord, but she also was richer for knowing the heartache of barrenness and being misunderstood and tortured by others. She could in turn, minister to others that were experiencing the same kinds of things, just as we can. It’s hard to minister to someone if we haven’t gone through something ourselves. May our lessons never be wasted and may we always respond to the hard times in a godly way, so that we can hear one day, “Well done, My good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”


  1. Thank you for this study. I needed to read this today. God bless. X


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