Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Hmph! (03/04/10)
- TITLE: Samuel, heard of God
By Lu-Yee Millar
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It was that time of the year again. Time to make the pilgrimage to Shiloh. Time to worship and make sacrifices to the Lord. Time to endure close proximity with her husband’s other wife and her children…
Time to be acutely reminded of her barrenness.
At home she could shun herself away from Peninnah’s presence. She could busy herself with the household affairs and not think about the humiliation. In her own home she had plenty of space to escape to when her rival’s taunting became unbearable. At Shiloh, however, they shared a tent – there was nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide, no way of hiding her pain from Peninnah. The irony was that the yearly pilgrimages were suppose to remind her people of the Exodus from Egypt, where their ancestors found freedom.
“And when will I have my freedom Lord…?” She whispered softly. Tears rolled down Hannah’s grief stricken face.
Yet, year after year she summoned the courage to go on this journey to Shiloh. One look into Elkanah’s deep comforting eyes told her that he loved and cherished her above all else. There was no doubt about it – she was his favoured wife. One embrace from him was enough to melt her fears, if ever so momentarily. She could not let him down.
At Shiloh, Hannah sat solemnly at a corner of the tent. It was Elkanah’s turn to make the sacrifices, and the many activities in the tent distracted her. Suddenly from the corner of her eye, she felt a cold piercing glare from Peninnah, sending shivers down her spine. Hannah looked around and quickly identified the source of the hostility – Elkanah had given the favoured wife the choicest meat as well as the biggest portion of the offering. He had done so without exception every time he distributed the sacrifice amongst his wives and children.
Carrying her own tray of meat with one arm and her youngest child with the other, Peninnah paraded pass Hannah unhurriedly as she headed towards the exit. She paused fleetingly as paths crossed.
“Hmph.” was the only sound Peninnah uttered, as she deliberately glared at Hannah’s torso, and then cunningly lowered her gaze to the child she was holding. She smirked, and made her exit.
Hannah felt the blood drain from her face. Instantly she knew her tormentor had won again. A thousand arrows piercing her heart and her dreams once again being shattered to pieces.
Her rival might as well have voiced it out loud:
Hmph. You may have a bigger portion of meat, but I have his children to prove his love!
Hmph. What a shame you cannot bear children to return his love!
Hmph. How obvious it is that I, with many children, am the favoured of the Lord!
Appetite sapped, Hannah was inconsolable. Her womb had been like a field in a perpetual winter season – empty, dry, fruitless. What was the point of having the choicest meat when there was no one to share it with? Tears welled up in her eyes as she pictured Peninnah laughing and sharing her portion of meat, albeit small, with her many children.
She wept bitterly. And prayed. In anguish she asked the Lord to vindicate her misery. In desperation she promised the Lord that if a son were granted to her, she would offer him back to the Lord for His glory. She dared not be greedy and ask the Lord for a child to keep all her life. All Hannah sought was a brief loan for a time – to grasp those tiny hands and feet, to feel that warmth on her bosom, to hear a soft voice whispering “mama”. Just for a short time.
And the Lord of hosts – the God who created the Heavens and the Earth, the God who opened the Red Sea and led the Israelites into freedom, the God who is worthy of worship from all creations…heard her prayers.
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