During Advent we are treated to a series of stories of the near-miraculous births of the Old Testament forerunners of Jesus. We have the story of the conceptions of Sampson, of John the Baptist, and today we have the story of how Hannah conceived Samuel.
The story takes place back around 1150 B.C. at Shiloh in the hill country of Ephraim. It was there that the care of the Ark of the Covenant had been entrusted to an old priest named Eli. It happened that a man named Elkanah who lived some way south of there, would once a year, accompanied by his two wives, travel to Shiloh to offer a sacrifice before the Ark.
Elkanah preferred his wife Hannah, but she was childless; and that led to his other wife, Peninnah, to constantly scoffing at Hannah.
On one of their visits to Shiloh, Hannah slipped quietly into the shrine; and she was praying for a child when Eli, taking her murmuring to have been brought on by early morning drinking, told her that was no way to behave before the Ark. After Hanna told Eli the cause of her pleading, he assured her that by the following year’s visit, she would have a son.
Hannah brought forth a son she named Samuel, and when she had weaned him, she brought him to Shiloh, leaving him there, dedicated to the Lord. Thereafter, every year on her visit to Shiloh with Elkanah, Hannah brought Samuel a slightly larger robe she had knitted for him that year.