Last week, I published The Story Of David And Goliath: Bullying As An Opportunity To Be Great. I invite you to check that out if you haven’t already. Today, I want to briefly comment on another fascinating Biblical story that addresses the topic of bullying, this time between women. The story of Hannah is recounted in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah is introduced as one of the two wives of a man named Elkanah (polygamy was not uncommon back then). The other wife’s name was Peninnah. Elkanah loved Hannah. However, Hannah was sterile, whereas Peninnah had multiple children. The story goes on to document Peninnah’s bullyish behavior toward Hannah.
The Story Of Hannah In The Bible
And her rival [Peninnah] used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.1 Samuel 1:6-7
Elkanah and his wives used to go to the temple to worship once a year. On one particular occasion, Hannah is recorded as having prayed a prayer so emotional and bitter that the priest Eli thought she was drunk. Hannah promised God that if he gave her a son, she would dedicate him to God to serve in a priestly capacity.
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” 12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.”1 Samuel 1:10-17
Hannah’s Redemption By God
Shortly after this episode, God answered Hannah’s prayer. We don’t know how long the bullying had taken place. The passage says “years,” which means it could have lasted anywhere from 2 years to 4 years to 6 years—to a decade or more.
[T]hen they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”1 Samuel 1:19-20
After he was weaned, Hannah brought Samuel to serve at the temple with Eli and his sons. In the course of time, Samuel ascended to become Judge of Israel, which was the highest leadership position in the country. Samuel ushered Israel into the era of kings. He anointed Saul and David as king, and was present as a divine oracle and advisor throughout the many adventures (and misadventures) of their lives. God didn’t just answer Hannah’s prayer. He answered it in emphatic fashion. Samuel today is remembered as one of the greatest prophets in the entire Bible. And Samuel, according to the story, wasn’t the only blessing in the form of a child that Hannah received.
Indeed the Lord visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.1 Samuel 2:21
Bullying Is The Textbook Definition Of Evil
God hates bullying, because bullying is a manifestation of evil, as I discussed in the article on David. Unlike David versus Goliath, Hannah was repeatedly bullied over a long period of time. Unlike David versus Goliath, the bullying damaged Hannah psychologically, as is so often the case with bullying. (Later in David’s life, he was harassed and pursued by Saul for years, and we can see the psychological damage it did to him as expressed in many of the Psalms.)
The Story of Hannah–and the Story of David–are stories of faith overcoming fear, malice, evil, and poor probabilities of success. Unfortunately, we often cannot keep people doing evil. However, to a person of faith, evil is never the end of the story. Like he did with Hannah and David, God often uses trials and tribulation of various kinds to refine and strengthen our faith.
Faith operates similarly in some ways to our immune system. Adversity enables faith to get stronger, just like regularly being exposed to germs, bacteria, and viruses enables the immune system to develop antibodies and resistance to more serious threats. In fact, they say if we had no exposure to germs, bacteria, and viruses, our immune system would get very weak, and we would be greatly liable to get sick and die.
God, as revealed in the Bible, seems to have an affinity for turning evil into good. We see that pattern repeat itself innumerable times, including the stories of David, Hannah, Joseph, Gideon, and Jesus Christ.
As for you [Joseph’s brothers], you meant evil against me [Joseph], but God meant it for good.Genesis 50:20
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.Acts 2:36
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28
For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.1 John 5:4
For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.