May 14 is Mother's Day. So this month BibleInteract is celebrating mothers in the Bible.
When I was pondering all the wonderful women we have as role models in the biblical narrative, I was drawn to Hannah, who gave away her son! True, her son was a gift to God who became a young novice in training under Eli the priest. However, she gave him away nonetheless after she had weaned him, which was typically at age three. Thus, when the little boy Samuel was only three years old he was removed from the loving home of his parents and was sent to reside with Eli the priest. Furthermore, the household that he was entering included Eli's two adult sons who were "sons of Belial; they did not know the Lord" (1 Sam 2:12). So, not only had the child been separated from his mother, but Hannah also had to live with the knowledge of the immoral household in which her son was living.
So, stop and consider the depth of your own emotions if your three-year old son was taken away and placed in the home of a wicked family. I cannot conceive of any greater tragedy than the loss of a child, and knowing the evil situation he had to endure would have increased the intense heaviness in my heart.
As I considered what appeared to be a tragedy to Hannah, despite the gloss of "giving her son to God," I was struck by the meaning of names in this heartbreaking story. Hannah's name is from the Hebrew חנן (chanan), a word that is often used to describe the loving and compassionate nature of God. So Hannah was gracious and pleasing in the same way that God loves His children.
The father, Hannah's husband, was Elkanah whose name is a construct of אל (El) plus קנה
(kanah). 'El' is a name for God, and 'kanah' means to purchase as a possession. Thus, Elkanah means "God who acquires [a precious son]." When Eve bore her first son she declared, "I have acquired" a son, which is the same word 'kanah'. So, as Eve perceived the miraculous birth of her first child, so also Elkanah celebrated the birth of a son to Hannah, his wife who had previously been barren.
Where did Hannah and Elkanah live? They lived in Israel's hill country in a place called Ramathaim-zophim, which means "to watch from high places." What better place to raise a child? Yet, Samuel was removed from there and sent to the household of Eli in Shiloh.
What have I learned from this story of Hannah? God asks us to make sacrifices on His behalf, and what better model for sacrifice than a mother. God asks us to give from the innermost part of our hearts, not only to Him but also to our family and our neighbors. There is no better model for giving than a mother.
All mothers must face the agonizing experience of parting with a child, first incrementally and progressively as the child grows older and tests the wings of independence. Then, all mothers must ultimately let that child go completely, which creates an empty nest. "Giving" and "letting go" are loving acts. When Hannah gave her son to Eli, this was also a loving sacrifice that honored God's gift of a son.
Let us celebrate our mothers this month as we have never celebrated them before.