45. WE ALL NEED A PENINNAH IN OUR LIVES
Felix Ngunjiri Gichuri
Elkanah had Two Wives, One was Graceful and God Fearing while the Other was Malicious
The memorable story of Samuel the son of Elkanah, who became prophet of Israel, must have been written by someone who must have had very close contact with the polygamous family that was characterized by strife between his two co-wives of Hannah and Peninnah. Hannah was graceful while Peninnah was full of malice and hatred.
Ancient tradition among the Jews assigns to Samuel the authorship of the first twenty-four chapters of the first book of Samuel. These chapters contain what may be termed the life of Samuel up to the time of his death. The twenty-fifth chapter begins with the record of his death. It is reasonable that Samuel wrote these opening chapters of the first book which bears his name. That Samuel did write is fully established by 1 Samuel 10:25: “Then Samuel told the people the manner of the Kingdom, and wrote it in a book and laid it up before the LORD.” 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, a dry tree. 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 humbler 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 their 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 the names Hannah and Penninah 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 two characters and personalities depicted by the two women are grace and humility versus malice and resentment.
The more a character we shall call Peninnah belittles you, the more you should encourage yourself. When such characters 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 Peninnahs 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, in our places of work and in the society. Sometimes we need a Peninnah in our lives to be provoking us to wake up and do something. We need a Peninnah to provoke us to get out of our barrenness, ‘unproductiveness’, stagnations and our scarcities and resist to be branded useless, barren, looked down upon or belittled. 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 and those who quit easily 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, you can 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 pray in the spirit because, those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. “But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 [KJV]) Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth concerning how to pray. Before Jesus went back to heaven, He promised His disciples and all that shall believe in Him to ask to be given the spirit of truth who will guide them into all truth. “If you love Me, you will keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you (in form of the Holy Spirit). “In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live too. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you. The one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.” (John 14:15-21 [HCSB]) “However when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” (John 16:13 [KJV]) “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 [KJV])
Hannah Vowed to Give Back to God the Son that God Would Give Her
Hannah, who was barren, decided to pray to God for a child. She went ahead to make a vow that if God blessed her with a child, she would in turn give the child to God to serve Him all the days of his life. This was quite a strange vow especially for a woman who had never had the chance of having a baby. Pray like Hannah who had a Peninnah whose persistent mockery prompted her to tearfully pray with all of her heart and remember to include a vow before the Lord that if He gives you what you want, you will glorify Him with that gift. Hannah prayed and made a vow that if He gives her a son, she will give the son back to Him. “Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the LORD and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, “LORD of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.” (1Sam 1:10-11 [HCSB]) Take the Peninnah positively as she will prompt you to pray and push you down on your knees with her tantrams in the prayer closet and remember to make a vow that if He grants you the request you will ask, you will give Him His glory as you manage that gift. The mistake some people make is to pray to God to “give me, I, Myself ” in what is called the “Me, I or Myself” mentality.” God will not answer that prayer. God will answer a selfless prayer where you vow to glorify Him with the gift He gives you. Talk about giving back 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. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) The moment Hannah was granted her request by God and bore a son, Peninnah stopped oppressing 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 life we have to contend with every day of our lives. That sickness, that misfortune, poverty, frustration, oppression, curse, bondage, addiction that stubbornly stands between you and your destiny, healing, freedom and success is a form of Peninnah. And God is telling you that after He grants you your request, you will never hear Penninah again because Penninahs are meant to push you to do something. The Israelites were told to stop fearing and stand still waiting upon God for the Egyptians who were pursuing them they shall see them again no more forever. “And Moses said unto the people, Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall see them again no more forever. The LORD shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exod 14:13-14 [KJV])
Face Your Challenges Head-on the Way the Eagle Confronts an Oncoming Storm
The challenge Hannah faced continually was her co-wife Penninah who kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 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. Be like the eagle that gets excited by a storm or challenge. When people are being evacuated from an approaching storm, hurricane or strong winds, the eagle confronts the storm and flies towards the storm. When other birds get swept by storms, the eagle gets airlifted by the storm. It uses the principle of aerodynamics which is the science that deals with the flow of air and objects moving through that air. It is the interaction between air and objects moving through it. For the eagle to be uplifted by the storm, it has to position its wings and steady them for takeoff so that it rides on the storm. Pilots use the same adjustment of wings of aircraft so that the aircraft gets lifted by the air the aircraft is riding on during takeoff and when airborne. The eagle knows full well that the greater the storm, the greater the uplifting. Face your challenges head on. Confront your storms like an eagle so that you ride those storms and the storms will uplift you. Once the eagle gets to the top of the skies it glides effortlessly in the high skies seeing the whole world. If it wants to fly from one country to another in search of food, it does not need a visa or passport.
We should learn to fly high like an eagle. Do not get swallowed by any storm like a hen or the way other small birds are swallowed by storms. Once you overcome a storm, that test that you went through is turned into a testimony. The greater the storm, the greater the uplifting and the greater the testimony. Tests come at a certain time to promote you to the next level. Without a test, you will not advance to the next class. Without storms, you will not advance to the next level.
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 for far too long as if all you are acquiring or doing is all by your own effort. “You might say in your heart, “The power and strength of my hands have made this wealth for me. But remember that it is the LORD your God who gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers even to this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18) God can also send you a Peninnah to find out your arrogance and tolerance levels or how strong or weak your temperament is.
The Battles we Face May Appear Physical but are Actually Spiritual
God can send you a Peninnah to test whether you can lose your guard when faced by relentless verbal provocation from your spouse or neighbour or colleague to find out 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. Most verbal confrontations and fights among couples usually happen on Sunday mornings as they prepare to go to church and they end up not going to church and the war goes on to bring down their marriage. The physical battle actually translates into a spiritual battle. The battle between Hannah and Penninah 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 and teach you to stay mum whenever insulted by Penninah. 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. Jesus at the cross was mocked, spit on His face, struck with a stick on His face but remained silent throughout. Just “humble yourself before the Lord when faced by such adversities and God will lift you up” (James 4:10) 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 supremacy and 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.
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. Peninnah forces will push you to the limits, prompting you to pray, wake up or humble yourself until you become the way God wants you to be. We thank God for He gave us His Son to come down here on earth to save us from the burden and power of sin. Jesus “gave himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Galatians 1:4,-5). Let us continue “giving thanks unto the Father, which HAS MADE us qualified to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who HAS delivered us from the power of darkness, and HAS translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we HAVE redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. Col 1:12-14
Hannah Was Given Double Blessing of Son and King
Not only did God give Hannah a son by the name Samuel who became prophet and judge of Israel. And because Israel was being ruled by judges those days, 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 promised God in prayer that if He gave her a son, she vowed give Him back the son to serve him in the temple all the days of his life. And God granted her request. God gave her His favour and Hannah was given not only a son that she prayed for but was also given other children. She was given Samuel the son whom God made priest, prophet and a king of Israel. Peninnah’s tirades to Hannah had pushed Hannah deeper and deeper into the deep things of God until God granted her His favour. Hannah was uplifted by Peninnah’s tirades of being mocked as a barren woman to become a mother of children. God uplifted her from being a despised woman to a mother surrounded by children. God also made her the mother of the ruler of Israel (a king) who was living in the temple judging Israel and serving God. 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 and children but also to her co-wife Peninnah.