The pilgrimage to Shiloh (1 Sam 1:1-1:8)

There was a certain man of Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah. The name of the other was Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man used to go up year by year from his town to worship and to sacrifice to Yahweh of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of Yahweh.”

Now we begin the story of Samuel in the Book of Samuel. There was a man Elkanah who had two wives. One gave him children and the other did not. The barren wife is like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and the mother of Samson. Luke also has Elizabeth with the John the Baptist in this tradition within the New Testament. Important people had unusual births. This is much like Leah and Rachel with Jacob who has one wife childless. Elkanah went to Shiloh to offer sacrifices on a yearly basis. Elkanah was also the name of the 2nd son of Korah. Zuphite is only mentioned here and nowhere else. Jeroham and Elihu are common biblical names, but Tohu and Zuph are unique to here. Eli had two priestly sons at Shiloh. The temple at Shiloh was an important place of sacrifice to Yahweh and his armies or hosts.

“On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah, he gave a double portion, because he loved her even though Yahweh had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because Yahweh had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of Yahweh, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her. ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Shiloh was a clear place of worship in Ephraim as it was called the house of Yahweh. Obviously there was tension between the 2 wives. Elkanah liked Hannah, the sterile wife with the closed womb, more than Peninnah who had sons and daughters. Peninnah would provoke Hannah. Thus Hannah got upset. Elkanah tried to console her by saying that he himself was more than the equivalent of 10 sons.

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