Friday, December 9, 2011


Hannah Dresses Samuel for the Temple
Hello My Friend and Welcome.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
Rather than A Tale of Two Cities, this is A Tale of Two Mothers — Hannah of the Old Testament and Mary of the New Testament. Interestingly enough, the words Charles Dickens wrote about the French Revolution describe the circumstances of these earlier times quite well.
Hannah lived at a time of uncertainty and transition. The children of Abraham left Egypt and wandered in the desert forty years before Joshua led them into the Promised Land. There they established themselves as a nation, a nation ruled not by Kings, but by Judges. Now, after 350 or more years of life under the Judges, the Israelites are beginning to grow restive. They look around and see Kings at the head of every other nation and say, “Give us a king to govern us.”
Mary, a virgin in Nazareth betrothed to a man named Joseph, lived a thousand years after Hannah. But she, too, lived in an era of uncertainty and transition. The remnant had come back from Babylon and rebuilt their nation only to see it fall under the control of the Seleucids. A revolt by the Maccabees established an independent Jewish nation for a time, but now the Romans and their client king, Herod, ruled the Jews. Despite these dire circumstances a feeling of expectancy bubbled beneath the surface, animating the nation. The time in Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks was nearing fulfillment; the day of restoration would soon be at hand.
It was the Judge Samuel who anointed Saul the first King of the Jews and later, when Saul faltered, he anointed a young shepherd boy, David, to replace him. Clearly Samuel had a special place in God’s plan for Israel. Samuel, son of Hannah, instituted great changes that affected the lives of all Jews.
We first meet Elka’nah and his two wives, Penin'nah and Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. Penin'nah had borne him many children and Hannah had none. Consequently, when they went to Shiloh Elka’nah gave Penin'nah many portions to make offerings for herself and all her children. Hannah, meanwhile, got only a single portion. To add to Hannah’s pain, Penin'nah ridiculed her because of her inability to conceive.
Desperate, Hannah offers the Lord a deal: Give me a son and I will give him back to you for all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head. (A reference to the Nazarite vow.) Eli the priest promises her that the Lord will answer her prayer. Sure enough, Hannah’s prayer is answered and she names the boy Samuel —I have asked him of the Lord.
When Samuel is weaned, she takes him to the Temple as promised and gives him to Eli to raise and mentor. It is at this point, 2 Samuel 2:1, that we hear her prayer of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation.
There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful ones; but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.
Mary Visits Elizabeth in Judea
We first encounter Mary at prayer in her Nazareth home. (Luke 1:26) The angel Gabriel appears to her and tells her she is to become the mother of the Messiah. Afterwards, Mary travels to Judah where she visits her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. Elizabeth greets her with the cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” She goes on to say, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Mary responds with what has come to be known as the Magnificat…the opening word of the prayer in the Latin version.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.
Types and archetypes are found throughout the Bible. People and events in the Old Testament find their counterpart in the New Testament. The life of Christ is particularly rich with such comparisons. Throughout his Epistles, Paul develops corollaries between Jesus and various events and figures from the Old Testament. Jesus is the new Adam, the Paschal Lamb, we are all members in the Body of Christ, and on and on. Though longer, the parallels between Hannah’s Song and Mary’s are impossible to miss. The tone, the imagery, her references to the poor and down-trodden…they’re all there.
Nestled within the stories surrounding these two women are many other interesting points and counterpoints. Yet on closer inspection we begin to see that while there is congruence between the Song of Hannah and Mary’s, Samuel is not an archetype for Jesus, but for John the Baptist. For instance, Hannah was unable to conceive. Elizabeth, too, had reached an advanced age and never had a child. We are told before he is born that Elizabeth’s son, John, will take the Nazarite vow just as Hannah promised Samuel would before his birth. Since Samuel was given to the Lord and raised by Eli, one might say his father was a priest. John’s father, Zechari'ah, was also a priest.
The Hebrew word Mashiach means the Anointed One. Samuel, as Judge, identified and then anointed David to become king of Israel. It is David who is the archetype for Jesus, and, like Samuel, John identified Jesus and anointed him through baptism. In retrospect we find that what began as a tale of two mothers expands to become a tale of three mothers, their sons, and the leaders these sons anointed.
The next time we’ll examine the last of the Wise Men’s gifts, Myrrh
Until then, we wish you Peace an Blessings

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