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THE VOW OF HANNA (I Samuel I) / נדרה של חנה ותשלומה (שמו"א, א')

שאול זלבסקי and Saul Zalevsky
Beit Mikra: Journal for the Study of the Bible and Its World / בית מקרא: כתב-עת לחקר המקרא ועולמו
כרך כג‎, חוברת ג (עד‎) (ניסן-סיון תשל"ח), pp. 304-326
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23503851
Page Count: 23
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THE VOW OF HANNA (I Samuel I) / נדרה של חנה ותשלומה (שמו"א, א')
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Abstract

The narration of Samuel's birth contains also an interpretation of his name. However, one is struck by the fact that there seems no connection between the ethymology of his name and the ethymology of its interpretation. This has caused some modern scholars to doubt the exactness of the story concerning his birth, and they wish to transfer it to that of Saul. On deeper reflection of relevant passages we find frequent utilization of the root "שאל", fitting the birth of Samuel. At the time when Hanna, fulfilling the obligation of her vow, brings the child to the Sanctuary at Shilo, she quoted the words of Eli. And also when she confers the name on the child, one notices the influence of Eli's response. This influence can be explained only by the fact that it is Eli himself who had used the word "שאל". It is generally assumed that Eli was aware of the contents of Hanna's prayer and the details of her vow. There are some who believe that the vow derived its power because of Eli's presence. There are others who conclude from 1 :26—28 that Eli's memory was deficient, since Hanna had to repeat this entire matter to him. But Scripture is quite specific that "her voice could not be heard", that "he watched her mouth" and "she spoke in her heart". She was deeply sunk in her private world, even in the presence of Eli. She made her request to God directly, Who looks to the heart without intercession from Eli. Thus it appears that she hides the matter of her vow and the contents of her prayers from him. It is precisely for this reason that he thought her to be drunk. The narration pays much attention to Hanna's vow. What, one may ask, was the part played by her husband Elkana in all this? We are informed that he also went to Shilo to fulfill "his vow" (1 :21). Was it the same vow or another one? From the context of the narration it becomes fairly clear that Elkana intended to "take his whole household" to Shilo, as was his habit in previous years, and to bring this time also Samuel to Eli. Hanna, however, with her surprising announcement to remain home until the child had been weaned, caused a postponement of the fulfilling of the vow, shared by both. The key to the understanding of the first discussion she had with Eli is to be found in the fulfillment of her vow, when she brings the child to Shilo. The expression "I am the woman" is designed to remove from Eli any doubt as to the truth of her words. She reminds him of her prayer at their first meeting in which no one else had been present in the Sanctuary except she and Eli. And it is only then that she reveals to him the contents of her prayer and the secret of her vow.

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