Women of the Bible: Hannah

by: Rick B

April 27, 2014

I mentioned in my previous post about Women of the Bible.  (My daughter illustrated these, in case you are not familiar.)  Here’s another story, less well-known, this time from the Old Testament.


HannaHannah was married to a man named Elkanah.  They had no children which made her sad.  One day Hannah went to the temple and wept as she prayed.  She promised God that if he would give her a son, she would have him serve God all his life.  The priest Eli heard her prayer and promised that God would answer it.  Eli also announced another blessing upon Hannah that she would have other children as well.  She gave birth to four sons and two daughters.

After her first son was born, she called his name Samuel “since she had asked the Lord for him” (1 Samuel 1:20). Hannah raised him until he was weaned and brought him to the temple with a sacrifice.  Samuel grew up as a Nazarite dedicated to the service of God.  He later became a prophet.  The books of 1st and 2nd Samuel deal with his life.

As I’ve been learning more about biblical women, it occurred to me that many deal with a childless woman:  Sarah, Rachel, Elizabeth, etc.  (These stories are better known, so I picked Hannah because she isn’t as well known.)  For those of you couples unable to conceive, do you find these stories inspirational, or depressing?  Would it be a good idea to emphasize the miracles of these faithful women?

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13 Responses to Women of the Bible: Hannah

  1. Anonymous on April 27, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    Personally, I find the stories a bit depressing. We read all about faithful women who suffer from infertility who are then blessed with their miracle babies. But we never read about faithful women for whom the baby doesn’t come. So when infertility doesn’t abate, what does that mean for me? Am I unworthy of that miracle? (Note that now I don’t believe I’m unworthy, but during the dark days, it’s really easy for the mind to go there.)

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  2. Thejenonator on April 27, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    I have not experienced infertility. My thoughts are that a couple going through that might find comfort in that OR may benefit from focusing on parts of the bible that deal with HF having a greater plan for us than we have for ourselves (ALTHOUGH I DON’T RECOMMEMD SAYING THAT TO A COUPLE struggling to conceive).

    In any trial whatsoever it is important to remember that God conspires for our benefit. Sometimes it not apparent what the benefit is, but if one looks for one, it’s easier to let go of disappointments.

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  3. dba.brotherp on April 27, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    I too didn’t realize that many biblical stories about women had a childless aspect to them.

    I was talking to a sister awhile back and she was relaying her perspective of growing up as a female in the church and the emphasis of motherhood that was put on her. Looking back, I don’t remember much emphasis of fatherhood for me, but I do recall lots about the priesthood. Maybe that is why I didn’t realize the childless connection. Now I wonder if she realized the childless connection.

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  4. Rick B on April 27, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    I think any stories about miracles can be hard for people who don’t get miracles. Why is one person healed, but another is not? The “inspirational” stories are always talked about because of the miraculous aspect to them. But it isn’t as miraculous to talk about someone who deals without a miracle quietly. I would suspect that for a childless couple, the question of why they don’t get a miracle can be hard to reconcile.

    I’m not aware of any inspirational stories in the bible that talk about someone suffering without murmuring, yet maintaining faith. Perhaps Job, but even he had a miraculous ending. Even Jesus had the miracle of overcoming death.

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  5. EOR on April 27, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    They are neither to me. I don’t have children, but unlike The Church narrative of women my life doesn’t revolve around wanting them either. As a single woman over 30 in The Church I have developed a philosophy that if someone doesn’t have the decency to include me in a talk then I don’t have the decency to pay attention to said talk. This was a genius move on my part. All the talks I find insufferable about families and motherhood=priesthood and on and on never even cross the threshold of my ear drum anymore!

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  6. Winifred on April 27, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    Stop look and listen. Not everything is about you.

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  7. Kristine A on April 27, 2014 at 11:46 PM

    I think I find them neither inspirational nor depressing. I’ve been diagnosed as unexplained infertility, only about 1/3 of all cases cannot find a cause – and as such have less than a .0001 chance of ever conceiving on our own. We had 4 years of infertility before $20k led us to an IVF child, and have had 9 years of secondary infertility since.

    Yes, this is God’s plan for me. But I was so converted to gender roles for 10 years I didn’t accept it, I thought women were only sent here to be mothers; motherhood = womanhood. It wasn’t until 3 years ago that I received a different answer: “we aren’t sent here to fill a role, but to build the kingdom with our individual skills and talents. For many women that is motherhood, for you there is more than that.” I could have never healed from the trial of infertility until I realized that motherhood was one way to be a woman of God. Not ‘the’ way.

    Now, as for the infertile lady bible stories – one I find them kind of depressing, not because they get babies and I don’t — but because we know nothing about women in the bible except for basically their fertility status or their beauty status. That I find depressing.

    Another downer of the stories is that the babies come about as a result of their faith — which leads those mormon mommas with 11 kids to go around saying to me, “I’m just so blessed, the only reason HF sends me this many children is because He trusts me.” Oh gag. Yeah, I’m a foster parent and that’s why he sends children. HF doesn’t send children so we can teach them, but so they can teach us — and all the things He teaches through parenthood can be learned through infertility: longsuffering, patience, knowledge, wisdom, service, love, etc.

    The least inspirational thing you can say to an infertile couple is the story of your second cousin’s first boyfriend’s wife who once couldn’t have kids for 16 years, then adopted triplets and found out they were pregnant. yada yada yada. Yeah, duh, we get it – that happens. But we also have to prepare ourselves for the very real fact that most likely that will NOT happen. I know it makes you feel better like you’re handing them the gift of hope – but just stop. They have enough hope. And do not ever say, “why don’t you just adopt?” or “why don’t you just foster care?” or “why don’t you just __________” just stop. You don’t know what those situations entail, just say, “wow that must be so hard. I wouldn’t know what that would be like. I’m sorry.”

    {putting soapbox away} of course it’s hard to know what to say, and I don’t get offended if you don’t get it right, but we can all do better. I love that women and men are more willing to talk openly about their infertility. It’s nothing secret or to be ashamed of, and it helps each other understand. I’ve learned to embrace it. :)

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  8. Nate on April 28, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    The infertility stories of the Bible demonstrate just how one-dimensional a woman’s role was in Biblical times. This changed in the early Christian era, when Paul celebrated women’s church service, and many powerful women became Saints and martyrs. Paul was telling people not to get married if they didn’t have to, so fertility wasn’t a priority.

    If a woman’s mission is to have children, if they feel that call, like Rachel, “give me children or I die!!!” then I think the Biblical stories would be inspiring, because miracles do occur, especially in our day.

    We live in an age of infertility, but also an age of incredible science, where you can have sperm donors, egg donors, surrogates, carriers, IVF, etc. (If you have the money and patience to do it as many times as it takes to make it work) Prices for all this stuff are going to drop significantly in the next 20 years I believe, making it accessible for anyone, and it is going to be more encouraged because falling birth rates pose a threat to economic survival of 1st world nations.

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  9. Hedgehog on April 28, 2014 at 2:18 AM

    Kristine: “I find them kind of depressing, not because they get babies and I don’t — but because we know nothing about women in the bible except for basically their fertility status or their beauty status. That I find depressing.”
    Nate: “The infertility stories of the Bible demonstrate just how one-dimensional a woman’s role was in Biblical times.”


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  10. Jeff Spector on April 28, 2014 at 11:25 AM


    Your daughter’s work is wonderful and please thank her for that effort to help us discuss this topic.

    We are all dealt a lot in life. that is why we are here. We have to learn to deal with what is and what is not. I know that many seem to object to the Church teaching the ideal situation when many do not have the ideal circumstance.

    Being infertile is a situation like many we encounter in this life. if you are truly born that way, how is any different from any other in-borness? So does the Lord expect you to go to an extreme when he knows it is not possible? Probably not.

    It is a challenge to accept our limitations and shortcomings without murmuring or resentment especially when we are being hit in the face by the ideal each week and the evidence of that shortcoming is all around us.

    Yet, if we are to become parents, Would the Lord not make a way it to happen in some way if we are faithful or make a way for us to find peace if not?

    How much of our own pride and selfishness is wrapped up in the things we cannot have and the resentment and pain we feel?

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  11. Kristine A on April 28, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Jeff, I’ve been blessed to be able to sit with Elder Bednar and discuss this – his own son and DIL have struggled with it . . . and I’m not sure he would agree that the pain of an unfulfilled righteous desire is considered pride and selfishness. Is it pride and selfishness to feel pain and resentment when a child dies? When a marriage falls apart in a hellish way? I’m very concerned that my fellow trial-goers in infertility are categorized as prideful and selfish as they struggle to make it through. Wow.

    Pride and selfishness have to do with when I the pain I felt because the grandma I v-taught had her teen granddaughter having a child out of wedlock and I had to sit and listen to her talk about how they are going to raise the baby together as a family because adoptive parents could never love a baby like they can. And adoptive parents can’t provide this or that or ever attach with a child or love them like their real family . . . {sigh} Yep, there goes my pride and selfishness again.

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  12. Jeff Spector on April 28, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    Kristine A,

    Apparently, you misunderstand me because you to try to extrapolate to things I didn’t write. If our wants are not met, no matter how righteous they may be, are we to accept it or not? I would maintain that God is aware of our righteous desires but is constrained by the biology of His creation. And while miracle can and do happen, mostly, they do not.

    We have to accept that at some point. If we are unwilling, then that is where pride and selfishness may occur.

    I said nothing about dead children, Grandmothers, etc….

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  13. Kristine A on April 30, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    “How much of our own pride and selfishness is wrapped up in the things we cannot have and the resentment and pain we feel?”

    An unfulfilled righteous desire is much different that “things we cannot have”. That could refer to a million things. If you don’t want me to make assumptions then you’ll have to be more specific, because I took one unfulfilled righteous desire and replaced it with a few others. If you weren’t referring to that, what were you referring to? A camaro? Big house on the hill? Stable employment? Health insurance? A child who doesn’t have autism? To not have a chronic disease? To have not lost a child? To wish your marriage had not fallen apart? Not being able to become a parent is a massive emotional and psychological (and in our religion, spiritual and consistent cultural and social) loss. You must go through the grief cycle.

    I didn’t know there was a time frame on the grief cycle that if you don’t make it you are prideful and selfish. Just like if you have lost a child (like my mother) everyone around you will move on but you will always remember. Yes, you have to get better at handling the grief, pain, and anger. I personally have been up and down in 13 years on how well it is to handle, the first 5 years probably the hardest. It’s one of the reasons I’m a mormon feminist, it’s nigh impossible to find peace with all this claptrap gender role stuff in your face all the time. I suppose I was just making a plea for empathy — Yes there are some that become bitter and let it canker and can’t let go. But how do you know you would be handling it any better if you’d been given that cross to carry? You can’t know. All you can do is empathize and love, not judge someone while they are down.

    I suppose your question was by in large, rhetorical; but it lacked empathy.

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