Eli was Israel’s chief priest. He was an old man, and he was a weak man.
In fact, he was weak in many different ways. His eyes were weak (3:2) and his legs were probably weak (1:9). He was too weak to stop his sons who were behaving wickedly (3:13). Also, although he genuinely served God, his own relationship with God seemed weak (2:29).
Eli was unable to recognise the true nature of Hannah’s prayer. People usually prayed aloud. Hannah was praying to God silently, but in a sincere and desperate manner. However, Eli thought that she had merely drunk too much alcohol. So he spoke severely to her.
Eli had misunderstood, but Hannah explained her situation. She had been praying to God in that strange manner because she was so desperate and so sad. Eli realised his mistake and he replied politely.
Perhaps Eli only intended a polite reply, but his words had special meaning to Hannah. Because he was Israel’s chief priest, he had authority to speak on God’s behalf. He had said: ‘May the God of Israel give you what you have asked for.’ Eli had authority from God to speak those words, so Hannah accepted those words as a promise from God. She believed that God had answered her prayer. That is faith: in other words, active belief and trust in God.
Hannah’s sad feelings left her immediately. She had no reason to be sad when she was trusting God. She returned home and God helped her to have a baby by her husband. After the usual time, her son was born. She called him ‘Samuel’; his name means ‘God hears’. She prayed silently, but God still heard her prayer.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.