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Depression in the Bible: Hannah

The Story of Hannah

1 Samuel 1 Summary     

Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah. He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah.

Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Every year Elkanah and his family went to the appointed holy city in their district to their temple to worship God with their tithes, offerings, and sacrifices as was the custom of their time.

The officiating Priest there was Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas.

When people brought the tithe, offerings, and sacrifices they accomplished several things all at once. For one, the priests came from the tribe of Levi. The Levites as the serving priesthood were given no inheritance or land. They were to focus on their dedication to the Lord and they relied 100% on the faithfulness of the people to honor God with the first and best of their livestock and their crops. When the people brought their tithe and offering to the temple the priests officiated the ceremony and the rituals and the prayers that the Jewish Law dictated. This is how they were cleansed from their sins in those days. This is also how the priests were supplied with food for themselves and their families. The priests and the families who brought their tithes and offerings ate what was brought in a time of unity and praising and worshipping God.

As a good husband, Elkanah would give his family portions of the food that was sacrificed so they could feast and enjoy the festival and time of praise and worship.  Whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah.

The Lord had closed Hannah’s womb. In those days and according to their customs and traditions, a woman’s worth to her husband, her extended family, and her community rested in her ability to procreate. To supply healthy children that would grow up strong to represent them in battle and to help bear the load of working the land. A father’s pride and joy was his children, especially robust boys.

Elkanah was in love with Hannah. Elkanah was with Hannah because of his love for her, not just as a means to bring more children into the world. Peninnah knew Elkanah felt this way and it hurt her heart. Peninnah knew that no matter how many children she could bear for Elkanah, he was never going to love her the way he loved Hannah. Her jealousy caused her to provoke Hannah severely. She made Hannah miserable.

Peninnah would have had her own quarters, tents, land where she raised her children. She didn’t see Hannah every day but it was sure that when Elkanah gathered his family to go to the worship festival both wives were going to be together. Peninnah took full advantage of this every year. She would use a time that should have been joyful and full of praise to God to focus not on God but on how she could humiliate and embarrass Hannah. Hannah dreaded it and she would get into such a state that she would cry and not eat. Hannah’s heart was broken and she was distraught. Her self-esteem was low and she felt so inadequate.

Hannah’s distress really bothered Elkanah. It just tore him up to see her so distressed. He would say to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

Hannah would go through the ritual but she would have rather been just about anywhere but there. She did the bare minimum and then she would leave as soon as possible to get away. Hannah felt as if her heart would burst right through her chest. All of her hurt and shame and feelings of inadequacy bore down on her to her very soul and she couldn’t cry enough to ease her pain. It was a very dark time for Hannah. She was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.

Hannah cried out to God with this vow, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” This meant she would give him over to the priesthood in service to God.

Eli the priest was standing nearby and watching the people. He noticed Hannah. It was probably hard not to. This woman was in distress. She was crying so hard she didn’t even have sounds with her words. Only her lips were moving as she cried out to God. Eli thought she had done a little too much worshipping at the wine table and that she was drunk. He called out to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”

Hannah answered and said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.”

Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.”

And she said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the Lord.”

The Plight of Hannah

What do we know?

Hannah was loved
Hannah could not have children. 
Hannah was provoked severely and made miserable
Hannah cried all the time
Hannah would not eat
Hannah’s heart was grieved
Hannah had bitterness of soul
Hannah was in anguish
Hannah did not enjoy her life
Hannah wanted to hide from the world

Why could Hannah not have children?

I Samuel 1:5  The Lord had closed her womb.

What?!?!  Would anyone have the sheer gall to suggest that God was behind all of this?

 But wait.  There’s more to the story.

Take a few steps back.  Broaden the camera angle.  What can we see?

The sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas,were behaving wickedly and Eli was doing nothing about it. Hophni and Phinehas were taking for themselves all the prime cuts of meat from sacrifices and committing adultery with the women who served at the sanctuary entrance.

Eli is the high priest of Shiloh, the last Israelite judge before the rule of the kings, therefore, the Shiloh tradition will become an old and lost tradition.

Hannah’s womb is closed.  Hannah is not just barren, she is tormented.  Hannah gets to the point that she is so miserable she is willing to do ANYTHING.


Anything.  Including making a vow to God.  

What was the vow?

To give her son to God in His service as a priest.

Hophni and Phinehas certainly weren’t carrying on any Holy sacraments.  They were abusing their positions and basically spitting in the face of God with their unspeakable behavior.  The people were not happy having God as their leader.  They wanted a king.

As it turns out:

Samuel was the first of the major prophets who began to prophesy inside the Land of Israel.

Samuel anointed the first two kings of the Kingdom of Israel: Saul and David.

During Samuel’s youth at Shiloh the Philistines inflicted a decisive defeat against the Israelites at Eben-Ezer, placed the land under Philistine oppression, and took the sanctuary’s Ark for themselves.

After 20 years of Philistine oppression, Samuel summoned the Israelite people to Mizpah where he organized them into an army and led them against the Philistines ultimately winning the victory and defeating the Philistines. Samuel then erected a large stone at the battle site as a memorial and a long period of peace fell on the land.

We get insight into the life of Samuel and the man he turned out to be in the book of Jeremiah and the Psalms. Here we see that:  Samuel had a high devotion to God.

Samuel is considered more than an equal to Moses because we know that God spoke directly to him.

Samuel is described by the Rabbis as having been extremely intelligent.

Could it be?  Dare we say?  Did God cause Hannah to be barren and provoked to the point that she was desperate?  Is this how God used Hannah for His will to be done?  And if we say that, are we casting God in a bad light?

Let’s see how Hannah felt about God:

She cried out to God in her distress.

Obviously, even if she believed God had caused her barrenness she also must have believed He could reverse it.

She must have trusted God.

She must have still thought God was a good and loving God.

She prayed and waited with expectation.

She Believed.

Hannah’s Prayer

1 Samuel 2
And Hannah prayed and said:

My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the Lord is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty men are broken,
And those who stumbled are girded with strength.

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
And the hungry have ceased to hunger.
Even the barren has borne seven,
And she who has many children has become feeble.

The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to the grave and brings up.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
He brings low and lifts up.

He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
To set them among princes
And make them inherit the throne of glory.

For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He has set the world upon them.

He will guard the feet of His saints,
But the wicked shall be silent in darkness.
For by strength no man shall prevail.

The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven He will thunder against them.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.
He will give strength to His king, And exalt the horn of His anointed.

Is Hannah saying that God is watching to see who will honor Him by trusting Him to be a fair and just God?

Talk no more so very proudly; Let no arrogance come from your mouth, For the Lord is the God of knowledge; And by Him actions are weighed.

Is Hannah saying that God is ultimately in control and we should defer to His will even when we don’t fully understand it or when we wished certain life circumstances were different?

The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.  The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.  For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He has set the world upon them.


There are six Greek words from the Bible that translate into the equivalent modern day English words that we associate with light, moderate, and severe depression.  They range from sadness to acute mental anguish, loss of hope, despair, the inability to enjoy life.


Depression is real.  It ranges from discouragement all the way to despair and hopelessness.  

From a modern day medical point of view, if a person experiences at least five of these symptoms for one month they have major depression. Mild depression would typically be defined as having two to four of these symptoms for over one month:

  • deep sadness or emptiness
  • apathy, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • agitation or restlessness, physical hyperactivity or inactivity
  • sleep disturbances
  • weight/appetite disturbances
  • diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • feelings of excessive guilt, self-reproach or worthlessness
  • feelings of fatigue or loss of energy
  • morbid thoughts of death or suicide

Often times children of God are afraid to admit they are suffering because they feel it will be seen as a spiritual problem. Depression CAN be the result of a spiritual problem, of sin in one’s life, and of disobedience to God, but it does not always follow it IS a spiritual problem just because you are a believer.

There are many factors that cause depression and usually there are more than one at work. These are common factors known to contribute to depression:

  • not having proper nutrition whether eating too little, too much, or not eating the right foods for your body
  • chemicals such as prescription drugs, illicit drugs, or common accepted substances such as caffeine and sugar
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can leave you feeling exhausted, depleted, lacking energy and mental clarity
  • hormonal imbalances
  • allergies
  • heavy metals
  • mental, physical, and sexual abuse from your past that you have not dealt with and overcome the emotional scars
  • microbial over-growths/toxins
  • any number of medical conditions (stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, thyroid)
  • natural light deprivation as sunlight is a key factor not only in mood but also in natural production of key vitamins your body needs to function properly
  • imbalances of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain along with other neuro and psychological disorders
  • life trauma such as severe loss as the death of a loved one, close friend, family member, also the loss of a job, or of the support of a church or group of friends

There is a huge difference between having the “blues” or the “blahs” or having a bad day or even having a bad week, and severe clinical depression.  There is no shame in admitting you are weak or have need of help.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10    And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Many of the Bible’s most faithful suffered from bouts of depression, including Jesus.  As in anything, if you are struggling, or sense that you have or may have some level of depression, always, go to God first.

Proverbs 3:5-6    Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

If you even remotely suspect it is a spiritual problem then talk to God about how you can make it right.

1 John 1:9    If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

But also remember that if you fell off your roof and your arm was broken you would get in the back of the ambulance without thinking twice about it.  It is doubtful you would sit around worrying if you fell off the roof, or down the stairs, [or slipped on ice on a winter’s day, or whatever misfortune befell you that would render you in a situation that called for an emergency room visit], whether or not sin in your life got you to that point.  Maybe it did or maybe it did not but if your arm is broken you need a doctor to set it.  Likewise, if your mental state is broken, seek professional help.

Proverbs 1:5    A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel

Proverbs 2:6    For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding

Proverbs 16:22    Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it. But the correction of fools is folly.

God calls us to have life and to have it more abundantly.  Letting pride or embarrassment prevent you from being able to have and enjoy your life is as much of a sin as any sin you may think you have committed to get you to the point of depression in the first place.

The Cure for Hannah’s Depression

Hannah cried out to God.

Hannah had bitterness in her soul because she was so hurt but she did not harbor bitterness toward God nor did she harden her heart to Him.

Hannah humbled herself before God.

Hannah trusted God to be just.

Hannah trusted God to be good.

Hannah trusted God to hear.

Hannah trusted God to answer.

Hannah EXPECTED God.

Hannah kept her vow.

God blessed Hannah with many more children after Samuel.

Hannah honored God so God honored Hannah.


Proverbs 13:12    Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.

Psalm 62    
Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.

He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved.

My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.

He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.    Selah

God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.

Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;
For You render to each one according to his work.

Psalm 69:20

Psalm 69
Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in deep mire, Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters, Where the floods overflow me.
I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God.

But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, in the acceptable time;
O God, in the multitude of Your mercy,
Hear me in the truth of Your salvation.
Deliver me out of the mire, And let me not sink;
Let me be delivered from those who hate me,
And out of the deep waters.
Let not the floodwaters overflow me,
Nor let the deep swallow me up;
And let not the pit shut its mouth on me.

Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good;
Turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.
And do not hide Your face from Your servant, For I am in trouble; Hear me speedily.
Draw near to my soul, and redeem it; Deliver me because of my enemies.
You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; My adversaries are all before You.

Reproach has broken my heart, And I am full of heaviness;
I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none;
And for comforters, but I found none.

For they persecute the ones You have struck,
And talk of the grief of those You have wounded.

But I am poor and sorrowful; Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high.
I will praise the name of God with a song, And will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

For the Lord hears the poor, And does not despise His prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise Him, The seas and everything that moves in them.

Psalm 130:5    I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope.

Proverbs 14:13    Laughter might hide your sadness. But when the laughter is gone, the sadness remains.

Micah 7:7    Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.

Micah 7:8

Micah 7:8    Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me.

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Depression in the Bible: Moses
Depression in the Bible: King Saul
Depression in the Bible: Hannah
Depression in the Bible: Jonah
Depression in the Bible: Elijah

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This entry was posted on June 8, 2012 by in All Sufficient God, Benefits of Serving God, Bible Stories, Christianity, Comfort, Compassion, Deliverance, Depression, Faith, Faith, Faithfulness, Favor of God, Favorite Prayers, God, God, God Hears Our Prayers, God of Restoration, God Our Refuge, God Our Salvation, God Rules, Heart, Help, Historical Old Testament Books, Hope, Humble, I Samuel, Immutable, Infinite, Inspiration, Joy, Justice, Life, Love, Micah, Minor Prophets, Offering, Old Testament, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Peace, Power, Praise, Prayer, Promises, Proverbs, Psalms, Rejoice, Relief, Seek, Servant, Soul, Sovereign, Spirit, Spirituality, Strength, Thanks, Trust, Truth, Understanding, Victory, Waiting on God, Wisdom Books, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .



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