Today's passage: I Samuel 1
Hannah must have felt lonely in her grief. I have always supposed that Elkanah and Hannah together would have been sorrowful that Hannah's womb had been shut. Elkanah tried to empathize with Hannah as best he could, he did want to have a child with her, but the truth was, he had children. Really, he couldn't relate. He could try. He loved Hannah very much, that is evident, he longed to see her have a child, but he would never really be able to partner with her in the grief she felt, because he was already a father. He knew what it had been like to hold a son, and then another son, and a daughter, and then another daughter. I don't know how many children he and his other wife Peninnah had but verse 4 says sons and daughters plural, so he had at least four. It is clear that Elkanah reserved his deepest feelings for Hannah. I don't know which wife had come first, or if he had taken them together, but we see the natural consequences of bigamy. If Hannah had been the first wife, how much more incompetent would she have felt once Penninah was immediately able to give Elkanah children? Would Elkanah have taken on another wife to produce heirs? I can't believe that Elkanah married Peninnah for her character, because she seems to be heartless, flaunting her fertility in Hannah's face as if she was blessed by God. Then again, I think that was Peninnah's jealousy bubbling forth. She would never have the place in Elkanah's heart that Hannah did, despite all the children, so she felt compelled to lash out at Hannah for this. It was not Hannah's fault that this had taken place, it was Elkanah's. He had put their family in this situation, by taking on two wives.
In recent years, I have seen polygamy become more accepted. A few years back, a former Chicago talk show host who now has her own network invited polygamist families to talk about their experiences. Coinciding with this, was a show on HBO (not one I have ever seen, but have heard about) called Big Love, about a man who takes several wives. I told my husband at the time, this will be the next topic that people will fight to have accepted. On the Chicago talk show, the women of this polygamist husband tried to explain how they thought of each wife as family. They were not jealous of each other, and they helped each other raise the kids and clean house. One big happy family, right? I'm guessing if I went behind the scenes in this home, I would discover something far different than what they would have me believe. The whole purpose of going on the show, was not to expose the practice, but to plead for acceptance. So maybe these particular wives did get along, what happens when husband brings yet another wife home? What happens when she doesn't go along with the program? What an excuse for immorality, at least on the husband's part!
In the Bible we see time and time again how bigamy or polygamy did not work out. It was never God's plan. It always only caused strife. Poor Hannah finds herself the victim of the other wife, and this does not endear Peninnah to Elkanah, I'm certain.
I remember waiting what seemed like a long time to become pregnant. Even longer was the time between my first and second son. But the time I waited was miniscule compared to what some couples wait. I don't know why God has the timeline He has, but am I sensitive to those who are still waiting? I would never want to be like Peninnah, who boasted about her "ability". As if she could commandeer such a thing! Hannah is the champion for women who have not yet had the children for which they are longing. She is the whisper in the ear of the woman who is a mother in her heart. I have met many women who did not have children, but were mothers. Just because they could not claim those children as their own, did not make them any less motherly. I've met aunts, teachers, friends, who though they did not have their own, qualified more as mothers than some who had actually given birth. I know that is a common frustration. Why would God give someone a child, who will not care for it, when there are so many women out there who would sacrifice themselves endlessly for little ones? If I could answer that question, I would be a millionaire.
God will not give every woman a child. Some women are content with this. Other women are not. I have known ladies who were intent on being the favorite aunt, the most sought after godmother, the funnest teacher (no such word, I know, but isn't that how a kid would say it?) in a child's life. Why not? Who knows what special place a woman can hold in the heart of a child? She can have just as big an influence on that child as the mother does. She can hold memories just as special in that child's heart as the woman who gave birth to him. She can spoil him, give him extra time, do things that maybe Mom is not able to do. Do you think Hannah held a cherished place in the hearts of Peninnah's children? Do you think maybe, until Samuel was born, one of the girls would take a book and settle in Hannah's lap while Peninnah tended to her brothers? Maybe Hannah assisted one of the sons with his homework while Peninnah prepared dinner. I don't know if Hannah had that role at all, but if she did, she would have done it well, and she would have been the Godly influence they lacked from their own mother. She could teach them about God, while she was waiting to teach her own. She could give them her time when their own mother's was divided. Let's not underestimate the influence a selfless woman can have in the life of a child. While women are ladies in waiting, they can have a profound effect on the children around them. It can be the most blessed influence in a child's life.