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She was a wife, but not a mother; while Peninnah was both. The latter, it would seem, bore herself, at times, towards the former, haughtily, on account of her being more favored in having children; a blessing greatly and universally coveted in ancient, oriental countries. On the other hand, Hannah was equally, and, perhaps, more beloved by Elkanah, their husband, which, to the selfish and peevish spirit of Peninnah, was exceedingly grievous.
Elkanah, being a pious man, was wont to present himself and family at Shiloh, where he sacrificed, and performed such other acts of worship, as were, at that time, observed by the pious. His wives, also, accompanied him to the house of the Lord; but the feverish and fretful temper of Peninnah would often manifest itself even there, in efforts to destroy the spiritual comfort of Hannah, and, perhaps, to weaken the affection of Elkanah for her.
For a time she succeeded. Hannah was oppressed and grieved by her conduct; and, in addition, her life was embittered by the reflection, that she was childless. At length, however, she directs her thoughts to the great source of alleviation in times of trouble-a throne of grace. She repairs to the house of God; and, there, "probably, in some private corner," she pours forth her supplications.
And the burden of her prayer-what is it? That God would espouse her cause, by judgment upon Peninnah? No; but that she herself may become the mother of a son, who should be, by her vow, a Nazarite: whom she would teach to love and reverence his Maker; and whom she would lend unto the Lord, as long as he should live.
It is not needful to dwell upon other incidents, detailed in this narrative. It is sufficient to say, that as Hannah repairs to a throne of grace, with a desire to cast her cares upon the Lord; so she retires with the composure and comfort, which are ever the result of resignation to the will of God. "She went away, and did eat; and her countenance was no more sad."
"Whence comes this sudden, happy change? She had by prayer committed her case to God, and left it with him ; and, now, she is no more perplexed about it. She had prayed herself, and Eli had prayed for her; and she believed God would either give her the mercy she had prayed for, or make up the want of it to her some other way."
Her prayer is graciously answered. Her reproach is taken away. She becomes the joyful mother of a child, whose heart is turned towards the Lord from his very infancy. Faithful to her vows, she trains him up for the sanctuary, where, in due time, she presents him. The heart of Eli reposes itself upon him, though a child, while his own sons are his grief, and a source of constant disquietude. Samuel grows up, indued with great grace and wisdom. He proves an inestimable blessing to Israel, and finally closes a long, honored, useful life, ripe for immortality. What may not a mother's prayers achieve? That prayer of Hannah; that vow unto the Lord; consider their results.
Learn from these incidents:
1. That the true resort for help, in the time of trouble, is a throne of grace.
2. The deeper our trouble, the sorer we should weep, and the more strenuously we should pray.
3. It is right to vow unto the Lord; and this is one powerful means of securing a favorable answer; that we will improve, or consecrate the blessing sought to his glory.
4. Parents should remember that children are God's gift, and that they should "lend them to Him, as long as they live;" and, as far as in their power, prepare them for his service and glory.
5. We should be careful to perform unto the Lord the vows, which, in our "troubles," we have made. Never forget them. Never.
6. When God has answered us favorably, we should be mindful to praise him. Hannah praises him in a song,
"which," says Dr. Scott, "may bear a comparison, or even competition, with the most beautiful and magnificent productions of any other inspired writer." Ch. 2.
PRAYER OF SAMUEL AT MIZPEH.
And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the Lord. And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel: and the Lord heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt-offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel; but the Lord thundered with a great thunder that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them.-1 Sam. vii. 5, 6, 9, 10.
SOMETIME after Samuel was "established to be a prophet," a war broke out between the Israelites and the Philistines. In a battle, which occurred at a place afterwards called Ebenezer, Israel was defeated, with the loss of near four thousand men. This defeat being, by some, ascribed to the want of the ark of God in the army, it was brought into the camp, attended by Hophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli. Great were the rejoicings made at the appearance of this symbol of the Divine Presence, and great anticipations of success were now indulged. But the removal of the ark from Shiloh was unauthorized, and bitterly did the Israelites repent of their rashness. A battle soon after ensued, in which thirty thousand footmen of Israel were killed; the ark was taken, and Hophni and Phineas were slain. 4: 10, 11.
Having thus obtained possession of the ark, the Philistines conveyed it, in triumph, to Ashdod, one of their principal cities, and placed it in a temple consecrated to Dagon, and by the side of an idol of that name. On the following morning, the idol was prostrate on its face; but the Philistines, supposing its fall accidental, set it up again. On the
following morning, however, it had not only fallen, but its hands and feet were off, and lying on the threshold.
These circumstances were too significant to be mistaken, especially as, soon after, the inhabitants of Ashdod were attacked by severe disease, which resulted in the death of many. At length, convinced that the hand of Israel's God was concerned in these matters, the people of Ashdod resolved on the removal of the ark, which they effected by transporting it to Ekron; and, finally, having placed it on a cart, to which were attached two cows, it was sent forward into Judea.
On its arrival at Beth-shemeth, a city of the Levites, some of the inhabitants, having the temerity to look into it, contrary to an express and standing divine prohibition, were slain, to the number of seventy. This circumstance so terrified the rest, that they sent to the people of Kirjath-jearim to convey it to that place, where, in the house of Abinidab, whose son was consecrated to keep it, it remained for twenty years.
The loss of the ark from Shiloh was deeply afflicting to the Israelites. A general sense of their iniquities began oppress them, and a spirit of penitence to prevail. This better feeling, coming to the knowledge of Samuel, whose counsels may have contributed to its existence, he informs them what is essential to their renewed favor with God, and their triumph over their enemies: their idol gods must be relinquished, and they return to the love, service, and worship of the true God.
Such was the import of Samuel's instruction to the Israelites; and, being blessed to them, resulted in their renunciation of their idolatrous practices, and their general acknowledgment of the authority of God.
The way being thus prepared for some more public demonstration of their desire to renounce idolatry, Samuel appointed a meeting of the several tribes, at Mizpeh, where he might offer up supplications for them, and lead them, in a solemn
and impressive manner, to a formal renewal of their covenant with God.
At the appointed time, Israel was gathered to Mizpeh. And here were observed a series of religious services, consisting, among other things, of fasting, and pouring out water before the Lord, significant of their humiliation and contrition for sin, and especially of their renunciation of idolatry, the fruitful source of calamity to the nation.
To Samuel, whose affections for Israel were those of a father, the occasion was most delightful. Israel is repentant! Israel has once more acknowledged their rightful sovereign! Happy was this prophet, as he lifted his voice in prayer for them! And how he did pray!-with what fervency, faith, and affection, that God would not cast off his people!
The enemies of Israel were not, however, inactive. They heard of the gathering at Mizpeh, and, deeming it a fit occasion for a sudden attack, soon appeared in formidable numbers, and in hostile array. Great consternation pervaded the camp of Israel. The people were without arms, and, therefore, exposed to become an easy prey to the enemy. But Samuel was present; and, with their improved religious views, they soon learn to repose greater confidence in his prayers, than in any military efforts.
Nor did Samuel fail them in this emergency. He felt a deeper interest in their welfare than ever; and, in their present condition, he could repair to a throne of grace for them with confidence. They had renewed their covenant, and now covenant-promises could be pleaded. Samuel was not a priest; but the case was extraordinary, and, doubtless, he was divinely moved to the course he pursued. He sacrificed a lamb, as a burnt-offering, which he followed by special and fervent prayer, that Israel might be preserved from the power of their enemies.
God heard and answered. As the offering was laid upon the altar and the smoke rose, the Philistines drew near, and