And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!” But 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.” (1 Samuel 1:12-16)
Misjudgments And Misrepresentations
In the final days of the judges in Israel, Eli was high priest in the sanctuary at Shiloh and also served as a judge to the people for forty years. The story of Eli is always secondary to other stories revolving around him. When the scriptures introduce Eli it is to frame the story around the birth of Samuel and the beginning of the final days of a judge ruling the people of God. A certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, named Elkanah had two wives. The first was Hannah and the other was Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was barren as the Lord had closed her womb. Elkanah would always give Hannah a double portion when it came time to make an offering. The rivalry between Peninnah and Hannah was severe as Peninnah taunted and made fun of Hannah as they went to the tabernacle year after year. Hannah would be reduced to tears refusing to eat.
On one occasion as Hannah came to the tabernacle to pray, she was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. Eli, sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle, watched Hannah as she prayed. The priest was struck by the mood of Hannah as he watched her lips move but hearing no sound. Eli assumed that Hannah was drunk because of the manner of her disposition. Had the high priest seen others come to pray before the Lord in an inebriated condition? Did he think such a righteous woman would come before the Lord in a drunken state? Eli assumed by what he saw that Hannah had too much to drink and rebuked her to throw away her wine and be sober. He misjudged her actions by what he thought he saw.
Hannah was shocked by the affront of Eli proclaiming her innocence that she was a woman of sorrowful spirit. She had come to the place of God to plead for a son to dedicate to the Lord his entire lifetime. The childless years had left her destitute and discouraged. Her only hope was in the grace of God to grant her a son so that he could serve the glory of the Father. She tells Eli she is not drunk but rather a woman pouring out her heart to the Lord. Hannah would never present herself before others as a wicked or worthless woman who got drunk. Her soul was lamenting her childless condition and her actions were pure and holy as she prayed before the Lord. Eli blessed Hannah and the Lord granted her prayer for a son when she conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel.
It is easy to make misjudgments when all the facts are not known. Eli assumed he knew what Hannah was doing when he looked upon her face but he wrongly judged her without first inquiring of her. The Lord warns against unrighteous judgments that defame the character of others before taking the beam out of one’s own eye. False charges given by evil hearts have ruined many a righteous soul. The Jewish leaders accused Jesus of being a glutton and a winebibber and a friend of the tax collectors and sinners. They were only partially right because Jesus was a friend to the downcast but how they could accuse the Son of Man to excessive eating and drinking was an incredible stretch even for them. Eli erred when he assumed a truth that was a lie. The child of God should always be ready to see the good in people and to assume the best before making final judgments of character assassination. There are many misjudgments made when men hastily assume what they do not know.
Hannah defended her character by saying that she would never leave the impression that she was a worthless woman. Her definition of a wicked woman was a person who got drunk. It may be a cultural reaction to have more disdain for a drunken woman than a drunken man but Hannah made the distinction about a holy person engaging in unholy things. It was an affront to her desire to live a holy life to have Eli accusing her of being worthless. The apostle Paul would exhort the saints at Corinth to abstain from every form of evil. Hannah knew the power of example. She did not want Eli or anyone to think of her as being wicked. Everything in her life was given to God’s glory and His praise. It would seem a good lesson for men and women today to follow the example of Hannah to refrain from those things that show their hearts as worldly and carnal. Social drinking never convinces a non-believer that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. So much of the life of a Christian reflects either a godly attitude or a character compromised on the altar of worldliness. Hannah did not want to present anything that would damage her example of godliness.
A final lesson is to know that even when the heart is doing all that can be done for the glory of God; a wicked and sinful world will accuse and charge impropriety of character. This is exemplified in the life of Jesus. He lived a sinless life and the Jews hated Him, despised Him and had Him murdered on a Roman cross. He taught His disciples if the world hated Him the world would hate them also. Everyone who desires to live a righteous life will enjoy the blessings of the heavenly Father and may have to endure the suffering of persecution from others. Like Hannah, the only person that mattered was God. Live a pure example. Answer the critics. Ignore the false charges. Serve the Lord. Keep praying. Someone will realize you are praying and want to know more.