When anyone teaches the story of Hannah, they tend to focus on the interaction between Hannah, Eli and God. After a discussion of Hannah’s fervent prayer, the teacher will usually fast forward to a few years later when Hannah fulfills her promise to God and leaves little Samuel with Eli. Hannah’s actions have a lot to teach us, but we are missing out on someone else who is just as pivotal in this story in his own way – Elkanah.
Elkanah was Samuel’s father and Hannah’s husband. The scripture actually tells us more about the kind of man Elkanah was than we think. You see Hannah was able to “parent like Hannah” because Elkanah was the husband and father Hannah and Samuel needed him to be. So what can Elkanah teach fathers who want to dedicate their children to God?
1. Elkanah was faithful to God. Right after establishing the heritage of Elkanah, I Samuel chapter one tells us that “year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty..” (NIV) Elkanah didn’t just happen by Shiloh when Hannah was upset about being barren, he went there to worship year after year. Elkanah had been faithful to God for years. Had Elkanah not worshipped God regularly and faithfully, Hannah may not have had the opportunity or inclination to go with him and beg God for a child.
2. Elkanah loved and supported his wife. Elkanah was not expected by the cultures surrounding Israel to even keep Hannah as his wife since she was barren. He could have ignored her concerns or pushed her aside since he had children by his other wife. Yet the passages in Samuel paint the picture of a man who loved and supported his wife in her pain and in her dreams. Perhaps Hannah was strong enough to dedicate Samuel to God in part because she knew her husband loved her no matter what the circumstances.
3. Elkanah backed Hannah in her desire to dedicate Samuel to the Lord. I hadn’t really noticed this one before, but look at verse 21 in the first chapter. It says that he went up to offer his annual sacrifice and fulfill “his vow.” Interesting, isn’t it? Right before that the writer records Hannah’s conversations with Eli, but doesn’t mention Elkanah’s reaction. My guess is that husbands had to confirm any vow their wives may have made. I am assuming Elkanah could have stopped Samuel’s dedication to God if he had chosen to do so. The Bible doesn’t really tell us, but maybe Elkanah wanted to dedicate Samuel to God just as badly as Hannah. Perhaps even more, as it says Hannah had to make a request to Elkanah to wait and dedicate Samuel after she had weaned him. (Samuel would probably have been about three years old when he was weaned according to the custom of the time.)
4. Elkanah supported Samuel in his service to God. Elkanah could have forgotten about Samuel once he left him in Eli’s care. After all, he soon had five more children with Hannah and who knows how many with his other wife. Every year though, he continued to check in on Eli and Samuel when the family made their annual trip to sacrifice. No longer financially responsible for Samuel, Elkanah allowed Hannah to continue to make him a new robe and helped her deliver it. We know this because the Bible says that when they delivered the robes to Samuel, Eli would bless Elkanah and Hannah.
So how can a Dad “parent like Hannah”? By being Elkanah for his wife and children. Are you the spiritual leader in your home? Do you show your children an example of how a godly man should live? Do they see you worship and sacrifice your time and money to God? Do you show your wife that you love her? Are you supportive of her when she is in pain? Do you encourage her to pursue her godly dreams? Do your children see you treat your wife with loving support? Do you want to dedicate your children to God just as badly as your wife does? Do you help train them in spiritual matters? Do you tell them how important it is to you that they always worship and obey God? Do you support your children as they start to grow spiritually, by studying with them, praying for them and helping them in their ministries?
For your wife to parent like Hannah and your children to be dedicated to God, they want and need your help. Is it possible to do it without your support? Yes, but it is so very much harder for everyone to accomplish it without you. So Dads, take another look at Elkanah and help your wife dedicate your children to God.