THERE IS A HANNAH AND A PENINNAH IN EACH ONE OF US
Preacher: Felix Ngunjiri
Reading: 1 Samuel 1:1-7
In the first chapter of the first book of Samuel, we read of a bitter rivalry between two women Peninnah and Hannah who were wives of Elkanah. The Bible says that “There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat” (1 Samuel 1:1-7). Peninnah remained at home every time her husband Elkanah went to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty in the temple at Shiloh. On the other hand, Hannah was God fearing and she used to accompany her husband Elkanah to the temple to worship and sacrifice to the Lord God Almighty. Peninnah used to mock and irritate Hannah, calling her names, reminding her that she was barren, belittling her that she was less of a woman and reminding her that she was abnormal. Hannah never responded to Peninnah’s tantrums, insults, provocations and name calling. Sometimes Hannah could be irritated to tears by Peninnah to the extent that she could not even eat. “…Her rival (Peninnah) provoked her till she wept and would not eat” (1 Samuel 1:7). The more Hannah was taunted, the more humble she became. But Hannah never accepted any of the tantrums Peninnah used to throw at her. She used to cancel them with the words of her mouth especially during her prayers to God.
When They Throw Mud at You, Just Let it Dry and It Will Just Fall Off
Hannah and Peninnah are two personalities jostling for supremacy in our lives, marriages and positions and their mention should not be misconstrued to belittle, malign or offend people who have those names or who have their beloved ones with those names. Furthermore most of the people I know who bear that name are God fearing people who do not offend others. The insight into the deep message portrayed by the Hannah and Peninnah personalities is meant to reveal to ourselves who we are and how to see ourselves in the Hannah and Peninnah of the Bible. The more Peninnah belittles you, the more you should encourage yourself. When they throw wet mud at the clothes you are wearing, don’t lose your temper or react. Just let it dry and it will fall off. You can never outdo Peninnah in insults. She is an expert in unleashing the bitterest of insults. She has in stock the latest of insults gathered from the neighbours. Peninnahs do not get tired of throwing tantrums at you at the slightest opportunity. They provoke you for a fight. They keep in store the latest most updated insults up their sleeves in case you try to outdo them in one or the other insult. When you reply to their accusations, it is like you have fanned that fire. Peninnah is portrayed in the story as a sadist; one who enjoys you as you suffer. You can never win in a shouting match with Peninnah. If you want to frustrate Peninnah when they are in full gear at the peak of their insults and when they are shouting themselves hoarse in their long tirades directed at you, just keep mum. Ignore Peninnah. They get extremely offended when you do not respond to them.
Peninnahs Prompt us to Wake up and Do Something
That personality called Hannah who is being belittled, despised, and insulted for no reason is you. We all have Peninnahs in our lives, in our families and in the society. Sometimes we need a Peninnah in our lives to be provoking us to wake up and do something. A Peninnah to provoke us to get out of our barrenness, ‘unproductiveness’, stagnations and our scarcities. A Peninnah to prompt us to be bold and courageous to take a risk and undertake a project. It might sometimes be advisable for procrastinators to kneel down on their knees and ask God why He has forgotten them by denying them a Peninnah to be prompting them to wake up and do that which they have been postponing for the umpteenth time. If you do not have a Peninnah in your life, pray for one to prompt you to wake up and do something. Pray to God to help you with a Peninnah who will push you to the wall to pray for a breakthrough. Pray for a Peninnah to prompt you to wake up and do something. Pray for a Peninnah to prompt you to pray in the spirit because, those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth concerning how to pray. Pray for a Peninnah who will prompt you to pray so that you will make a vow that if He grants you the request you asked, you will give Him His glory as you manage that gift. The mistake some people make is to pray to God to give either “Me, I, Myself or Us.” God will not answer that prayer. Talk about giving and you attract God’s attention and His ear to prompt Him to grant your request immediately.
We all Need a Peninnah
As you read and internalize the above revelation, you will realize that Peninnah did not oppress Hannah forever. The moment Hannah was granted her request by God and bore a son, Peninnah stopped oppressing her. This gives a very clear distinction that at no time should a Peninnah be equated with a demon as some people may be tempted to stereotype her. We need Peninnahs as challenges for our lives as we compete for favours, promotions, rewards, possessions and power from our spouses, bosses, employers and the government. We need Peninnahs to challenge us and by extension catapult us into celebrations after achievements so that we give all the glory back to God for helping us overcome such challenges and such storms. Peninnahs are actually the storms and challenges of live we have to contend with every day of our lives. That sickness, that misfortune, poverty, frustration, oppression, curse, bondage, addiction that has stubbornly stood between you and your destiny, healing, freedom and success is a form of Peninnah that you will never hear again after you receive your breakthrough and blessing. And remember that life without challenges is not thrilling. It is not exciting. There is a lot of joy when we overcome a challenge and when we manage to ride over a storm. Sometimes we need a Peninnah to prompt us to wake up and pray to God. God can send you a Peninnah if He determines that you have taken things for granted far too long as if all you are acquiring or doing is all by your own effort. God can also send you a Peninnah to find out your tolerance limits or how strong your temperament is. God can send you a Peninnah to test whether you can lose your guard when faced by relentless verbal provocation or whether you can keep your cool. Peninnah used to accelerate her tirades to Hannah during the occasions when Hannah was accompanying her husband to the temple. It had turned into a spiritual battle. “Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat” (1 Samuel 1:1-7). The forces of wickedness and righteousness were at play in a single family where the husband took sides and favoured the righteous side. It was a battle of supremacy between good and evil, arrogance and humility. Sometimes we try to sort out our issues with other people physically forgetting that most of the wars we fight with others are spiritual. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:11-12). The choice is yours to decide whether to give ascendancy to good or to evil in your heart. Let Hannah increase in your heart the way John the Baptist said that “Jesus Christ must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30) and you shall overcome all your Peninnahs. There is a Hannah and a Peninnah in each one of us. Hannah and Peninnah were like two worlds that were conjoined together by fate in the same family. Two forces are in opposition within us trying to outdo each other to gain control over you. Sometimes Hannah softly reminds you to read a Bible verse each day but Peninnah convinces you to postpone it until another day. Hannah tries to keep you awake in church as the preacher delivers the Word of God but Peninnah encourages you to close your eyes because it is very hot inside the church. Then you end up sleeping in church throughout the sermon. How distressing life can be when one finds himself or herself torn between two forces operating in that person but pulling in different directions, towards good and towards evil? That is the same situation Paul found himself when he confessed that “… what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:19-25) [NIV]. When the carnal man is calling the shots in a person, his lusts and body urges increase while the spirit man decreases. The carnal man is seduced by the lusts of the body and rebels against the righteous authority. Paul chose to fall back on Jesus to be released from that trap the same way Elkanah decided to fall back on Hannah, the God fearing wife. In every situation, in every home or family, there is always a Hannah and a Peninnah factor but Peninnah forces should all the time be countered by the Hannah forces positively. You will be prompted to pray, wake up or humble yourself the way God wants you to be. Remember that “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Hannah poured her heart out to God and got her breakthrough the moment she made a vow and promised God that if God gave her a son she would give the son back to God to serve Him. “So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head” (1 Samuel 1:9-11).
Hannah Given Double Blessing of Son and King
Not only did God give Hannah a son but God gave her a son who became a prophet of God from birth. And because Israel was being ruled by judges, Samuel became a ruler of Israel. “And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 7:15). Hannah’s breakthrough came after she vowed in her prayer to give her son back to God. And God granted her request. God gave her His favour and Hannah was given not only a son, not only other children, but a king. Peninnah’s tirades to Hannah pushed Hannah deeper and deeper into the deep things of God until God granted her His favour. Hannah was uplifted by Peninnah’s tirades from a barren woman to a mother of children. God answered her prayers and granted her His favour. God uplifted her from being a despised woman to a queen mother with a king in her home. The king had come to her home to be dwelling with her. Hannah’s home had been converted into a palace. Through prayer and faith in the Lord, Hannah became a member of the royal family, and she became a blessing to not only her husband but also to her co-wife Peninnah.