As was said, to teach Hannah to pray, the Lord closed her womb and raised up unto her an adversary—this Peninnah, the other of Elkanah’s two wives—to taunt Hannah in her childless condition. Peninnah, as was explained, was the unloved wife. To compensate her for the want of her husband’s affection, the Lord opened her womb, so that she bore Elkanah several children, sons and daughters. Still she was dissatisfied and fretful, as it was only too evident to her that Elkanah’s heart was with his barren wife. She wanted, besides children, her husband’s love, to which she was also entitled. Had she been a God-fearing woman, she would have strengthened herself in the Lord and become reconciled to her lot and suffered in silence. Besides, she herself, was also to blame for her unhappy lot. Elkanah had married Hannah first, for her name is first mentioned in the text that tells us that Elkanah had two wives. Doubtless it was Hannah’s barrenness that had finally induced Elkanah to take to himself another wife. He wanted children but not another woman to love and to cherish. Peninnah knew that she was marrying a polygamist. And she also must have known that she married a man already devoted to a wife. But Peninnah would take no blame. Neither could she become reconciled to her lot, the reason being that she was a wicked woman. This is the fundamental reason, of her tormenting Hannah on account of the latter’s being childless. She was a godless woman and Hannah feared the Lord. And it was especially at Shiloh, when they ate their free will offering, according to law, that Hannah was made miserable by the cruel taunts of the unprincipled Peninnah. For in his indiscretion Elkanah would give to Peninnah and her sons and daughters portions such as were due to them but to Hannah he gave a double portion: for he loved her, chap. 1:4, 5. Just how Peninnah on those festive occasions, when the hearts of all true Israelites rejoiced in the Lord, behaved toward Hannah is not revealed in detail. But Hannah’s song of salvation tells us something. This statement occurs, “Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of thine mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed, chap. 2:3. Reference here in the first instance is to Peninnah, to the proud and boasting speech that came out of her mouth. Doubtless she boasted of her fruitfulness which she interpreted as an indication of the Lord’s favor over her, discoursed on the dreadful meaning and implication of maternal barrenness that Hannah might hear anew that God was against her for reasons known best to Hannah. This is certain, “her adversary provoked her sore, for to make her fret.” And this had been going on for several years. For we read, “And so he did year by year namely, year by year Elkanah made an open show of his preference for Hannah, “from the time of her going up to the house of the Lord, she—Peninnah—provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.” She was in bitterness of soul. She knew she was not wicked and that God was for her; yet she bore on her person the mark of God’s disfavor, which exposed her to the taunts of the enemies and persecutors of God’s believing people as represented in this story by Peninnah. For so this woman must be regarded, in order to have a right understanding of the sacred narrative in these first chapters of the book of Samuel. A married woman remaining childless was a real calamity in Israel, the reason being that, as has already been explained, Canaan in the Old Testament dispensation was God’s country in a very peculiar sense. Canaan, was heaven then for there dwelt the God and Father of Christ with His people. Hence, the one desire of every believing Israelitess was to bear children, sons and daughters, in order that in her generations, she and her house might continue to have a name and a place in God’s country. When an Israelite died without an issue, his inheritance went to another and his place knew him no more. That was equivalent to his being banished from God’s presence even in death. Thus a childless marriage caused bitterness of soul if those so afflicted were true children of God, as was Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Being God-fearing, it amazed and perplexed them, as it did her. The childless state of such people naturally brought them under a cloud of suspicion and they were looked askance at by their brethren, and despised and held in visible contempt by their enemies. Thus it was truly an infliction in Israel to be barren. It was an affliction for the God-fearing Hannah. And when, in her jealous rage, the malicious Peninnah would speak proudly, and mock with her plight, placing upon it the worst possible construction, her grief would be full, and she could not eat of the offering, and spent the time weeping. That was what Peninnah wanted. She grieved her, so the text reads, uttered in her hearing cruel words, for the very purpose of wounding her soul; and that in Shiloh, God’s house. Peninnah was wicked, exceedingly so. Such malice as she displayed, rises from a hatred of God’s people. Her fundamental grievance against Hannah was that she was God-fearing and thus not that she was the favored wife. Though reviled, Hannah did not revile again. She did not even expose Peninnah to Elkanah. As to Elkanah, seeing his wife in tears, he was troubled. He knew why she was sad, but he either was unwilling or unable to understand why, seeing that he loved her, she could not be happy, though barren. So he said to her, “Hannah, why weepest thou? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?” These were foolish words as spoken to the disconsolate Hannah. They did not in the least assuage her grief. Elkanah was a poor comforter. The Lord had brought her down to the grave and the enemy rejoiced. It was God that she needed, His salvation, the token of His favor over her. As her husband, Elkanah should have interceded for her in the sanctuary before God’s face. This he had never yet done, there is reason to believe. Instead, turning bigamist, he had taken himself another wife—this unprincipled Peninnah—for he needed children, and he got what he wanted but not in the way of prayer but in the way of a forbidden marriage; and all along he imagined that the whole void in Hannah’s life was being filled by himself, and it vexed him to learn that she was still crying for children. His pride was hurt, it seems, “Hannah, why weepest thou? . . . . Am I not better to thee than ten sons?” We do not read of Hannah replying. It would have been of no use. He would not have understood. This is what she did. After they had done eating and drinking in Shiloh, she went to the sanctuary and there poured out her heart before God, something that she had never done before, it seems. Not that it must be assumed that previously she had not been praying for a man child, but not here, ins God’s temple, right before His face. And never before, it must be, had she prayed so long and earnestly and in such bitterness of soul, and with such weeping. And never before had she prayed the prayer that she now uttered. It reveals, does this prayer, that her grief is full and that the lowest depth of her longing that the Lord look on her affliction has been reached. For she vows a vow, “O Lord of hosts,” she said, “if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man-child, then will I give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” This is a prayer worthy of most careful consideration. She wants a man-child, yet not for herself, not for her own carnal enjoyment and advantage, but that he may be wholly consecrated unto the Lord not only from his thirtieth year on but all the days of his life. She can thus vow because what she needs and prays for is not a man-child as such, but the salvation of her soul, the removal of her reproach, the token of God’s favor over her, in order that her mouth may be praising God for His salvation. Her is a woman who truly, in that hour, sought God and Him only. But if she would have God, she must be saved. And therefore she prayed, “Look upon the affliction of thine handmaid”. And if she was to be saved, she must bear. Therefore she prayed, “Give unto thine handmaid a man-child.” But it was God upon whom all her affections in that moment were firmly set. So she went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no longer sad. It can only mean that she was confident that the Lord would look upon her affliction and save her out of all her troubles. And that confidence was a saving faith in His word of promise as made to dwell in her heart by God’s Spirit, this word, “Offer unto God thanksgiving and pay thy vows unto the Most High: and call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” Ps. 50:14, 15. In this vein God spake to His people through all the ages of the old dispensation and through all the ages of the new. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, was in great trouble. Seizing the promise, she called upon the Lord. Certainly He would now deliver her, according to His word, deliver her by hearing her prayer for a man child, for in no other way could she be saved, girded with strength brought up, lifted up, than in the way of God’s hearing her earnest petition for a man-child, the reason being that it was the dispensation of shadows. In that day earthly prosperity including the fruit of the womb was the reward of covenant fidelity, as want and pestilence and war were the reward of covenant infidelity. Deliverance from ail these troubles was the reward of a return to the Lord. In Israel therefore a barren wife was under a cloud, however godly she might be. The God-fearing Hannah was under a cloud. And her grief was greatly augmented by the taunts of Peninnah. But in the way of her prayer God will save her, according to His word. He will give her a man-child. Judging from statements occurring in Hannah’s song, Peninnah will be severely punished. She will wax prematurely old. Her children will die a premature death. But Hannah will continue fruitful. “The barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.”