Lighthouse Leader Study Guide

Date: January 8, 2017

Series: The kings & the King: A Study of 1 Samuel

1 Samuel 1:1-2:11

This Week’s Printable Resources:

Special Resource:

Overview of this Lesson

This week we begin a new study of the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. This study will carry us through to the end of our Spring Lighthouse Semester in May. This summer, our teaching series will take us through a survey of Doctrine we are calling “Doctrine That Goes the Distance,” and then next fall, we will finish our series on “The kings & the King” by looking at 2 Samuel.

The focus of this week’s lesson is on Hannah and the trial she experienced in not being able to get pregnant and have a child. We are calling this week’s teaching “The Intersection” because in 1 Samuel 1 we get to look into the life of a godly woman who is at the intersection where God’s sovereignty and Hannah’s situation intersect. Like Hannah, we have a choice between bitterness and resentment, which leads to destruction, or trust and obedience to the Lord, which leads to a life of peace and joy, even in the midst of difficult situations.

The focus of our group lesson is on the bitterness that gripped Hannah. We will look at the causes of bitterness and how we can navigate our way out of bitterness, or help a loved-one overcome bitterness.

Memory Verse for This Week

And Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the LORD;
my horn is exalted in the LORD.

My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
–1 Samuel 2:1

This Week’s Core Virtue

Hope (Hebrews 6:19-20): I can cope with the hardships of life and with death because of the hope I have in Jesus Christ.


This Week’s Take Home Truth

“God’s sovereignty and my situation are continuously connected, and a posture of trust before God is necessary in my life’s journey under his authority.”



  1. Why does there seem to be competition and division between family members?
  2. In our culture today, do you think there is a stigma attached to being a childless woman? Why?
  3. Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?

Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead into one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.

Read the Text (1 Samuel 1:1-2:11)

1 Samuel 1 introduces us to the family of Elkanah. While Elkanah is a devoutly religious man who worships the Lord faithfully, he has a dysfunctional family. The lens of Scripture focuses in on one of Elkanah’s wives, Hannah, who has reached a point of deep depression and bitterness because of her inability to have a child. The Bible also shows us how Hannah responds in this time of great trial, and through this, we find tremendous lesson for all of us. Read 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11.

1 Samuel 1

1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. 2 He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

3 Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the Lord. 4 On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. 6 And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. 8 And Elkanah, her husband, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

9 After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” 17 Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” 18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”

21 The man Elkanah and all his house went up to offer to the Lord the yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow. 22 But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, so that he may appear in the presence of the Lord and dwell there forever.” 23 Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you; wait until you have weaned him; only, may the Lord establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

1 Samuel 2

1 And Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation.

2 “There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

3 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.

4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble bind on strength.

5 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.

6 The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.

8 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.

9 “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.

10 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 horn of his anointed.”

11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah. And the boy was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest.

Digging Deeper

In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have to time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.

  1. How would you describe the family life in the home of Elkanah?

Perhaps the best word is dysfunctional. Elkanah has two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. While the text doesn’t explicitly say this, we know from other biblical texts that it was not uncommon in this culture for a man who was unable to have children with his first wife to take a second wife (or even a concubine) in order to have children.

It is likely that Hannah was Elkanah’s first wife, whom he loved, but when she was unable to have children, he married Peninnah.

This leads to the source of conflict in his home. Just as in the case of Abraham’s wife Sarah, when her maidservant, Hagar, conceived and gave birth to a son for Abraham and it created strife in Abraham’s home, the same happens here.

As the first wife, Hannah would have more prestige and significance in the home than Peninnah, but because she was unable to have children and Peninnah had many, Peninnah’s perceived value in the home would be greater than Hannah’s. Hence, the rivalry that is described.

Bottom line, this is a miserable situation not only for Hannah, but for the entire family.

  1. How would you describe Hannah’s life based on the first part of 1 Samuel 1?

I think the Scripture does a good job of describing the misery of Hannah’s life. Not only does she suffer from the pain of not having a child (how many couples do we know today who suffer from this pain), but she must endure the antagonistic relationship with Peninnah. The Bible tells us that this agony went on year after year (v. 7). She was clearly experiencing deep sorrow and grief to the point that her agony turned to bitterness and she would no longer eat. Even though her husband tried to console her, his encouragement came across as artificial. (“Am I not more to you than ten sons?”)

  1. What is bitterness and what are the causes of bitterness in our life?

Bitterness is a deep, harbored hurt that poisons the soul. It eats away the vitality of your spiritual life like a cancer of the soul. It is the opposite of forgiveness.[1]

The book How To Beat Burnout suggests that bitterness is “a hidden root of burnout,” and isolates five reasons why people tend to grow bitter:

  • Wrong motives or jealousy. In counseling Christians, we frequently see bitterness associated with jealousy. The examples include successful attorneys who envy the abilities of their colleagues, Bible college and seminary students consumed with jealousy toward fellow students … pastors or missionaries envious of others who have seen more outward evidences of success.
  • Wrong response to irritations; conditional love. In Colossians 3:19 Paul instructs husbands to “love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” The Greek word pikroi used here (for the word bitter) demonstrates “resentment or an incensed and angry attitude of mind.” Conditional love produces harshness and bitterness both in husbands and wives frequently, that can lead to marital burnout.
  • Wrong response to adversity. In Hebrews 12:15, we discover a warning against “any root of bitterness springing up,” instead of enduring hardship as a discipline.
  • Misplaced strife. We have seen churches that have been crippled in their effectiveness for years because of bitter envying and strife on the part of church leaders.
  • An unforgiving spirit. Ephesians 4:31–32 draws a clear connection between bitterness and what is perhaps its most basic underlying cause, a refusal to forgive. “Let all bitterness be put away from you … Be kind to one another … forgiving one another.…”[2]
  1. Based on the causes of bitterness we discuss in the previous question, what do you think was the cause of Hannah’s bitterness?

As in many cases where bitterness has taken root in the life of a person, there are probably elements of all of the causes in Hannah’s life: jealous of Peninnah, sensing conditional love from her husband, a wrong response to adversity, and an unforgiving spirit.

Yet, of the five causes, I would tend to lean more heavily into #3, a wrong response to adversity. Clearly, life had dealt Hannah a difficult hand, and her response to it had slowly eaten away at her spirit to the point that her discouragement drowns out any hope.

  1. Can you think of another example of a woman in the Old Testament who encountered great trials, but did not allow bitterness to take root in her life?

Ruth is a prime example of one who refused bitterness. She lost her familiar homeland, her language, the religion in which she had been reared, the freedoms of citizenship, and the familial network in which she had lived all her life. She made new commitments, assumed new responsibilities, and that within a land in which she was considered an alien and enemy. Yet her faith enabled her to move forward against overwhelming adversity and thus to experience the amazing providence of Yahweh, the God of Israel. Ruth paid a great price. She did indeed suffer hurt and hardship, but she was rewarded for her faithfulness by being part of the lineage of the Messiah.

Naomi, on the other hand, returned to a familiar land and people and once again found herself under the protection of Yahweh. She did lose a husband and two sons, but she gained an incomparable daughter-in-law (Ruth 4:15) whose loving devotion became a model unto the generations (Ruth 1:16, 17). She went through a cycle of bitterness (Ruth 1:20, 21), but through her faith Naomi was cleansed from bitterness and restored to a right relationship with the Lord and others. She, too, experienced again joy and usefulness as she looked beyond her circumstances and said “no” to bitterness and “yes” to God’s sovereign grace and plan for her life (Ruth 4:13–17).[3]

  1. How can we overcome bitterness, or help a loved-one overcome bitterness?

We see the example of overcoming bitterness in the last part of 1 Samuel 1. In v. 10 the Bible tells us Hannah was in “bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.”

This is the turning point for Hannah. It would be easy to read this chapter and assume that Hannah’s bitterness left her when she gave birth to Samuel, but that’s not what the Scripture tells us. The Bible tells us that Hannah started eating again and her face was no longer sad (v. 18) before she became pregnant with Samuel.

Some could argue that Eli prophesied in v. 17 when he told Hannah to “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him.” But that doesn’t fit the character or reputation of Eli or the spiritual times described. 1 Samuel 3:1 tells us that the word of the Lord was rare in those days and that there no widespread revelation. So, at best, Eli was simply blessing Hannah. His words have the form of a benediction: “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him” (1 Samuel 1:17 (NASB)).

I believe in this time of worship and prayer, Hannah surrendered her will and desire for a child to the Lord.

Here are some practical steps we can take when we find bitterness taking root in our life on in the life of a loved-one:

  1. Stop pretending you are not bitter. The presence of bitterness is not a sin, but harboring bitterness can easily lead us to sin and self-destruction. Acknowledge that a hurt in your life has taken root as bitterness.
  2. Allow the grace and kindness of God to work in your heart. This is not a matter of will or determination. It is the work of the Holy Spirit and His mercy in our life that allows us to begin to see beyond our current hurt and walk towards the hope found in our salvation. When we spend time in God’s word (and read of the examples of women like Hannah and Ruth), the Spirit begins to minister to us through the Bible. God’s grace and mercy allows us to take the next step.
  3. Offer forgiveness. It is a simple fact that forgiveness and bitterness cannot co-exist. It’s like light and darkness. You can have one, but not the other. The light overcomes the darkness and forgiveness overcomes bitterness. It is impossible to walk in forgiveness and carry bitterness at the same time. If you still sense bitterness in your life, then go to the next step.
  4. Offer forgiveness again. Somehow we get the picture that forgiveness is a once-and-done event. I forgave, so I’ll never struggle with that again. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Satan is called the accuser of the brethren because his demons are constantly looking for was to defeat us, and one of the best ways is to let guilt, anger, and bitterness take root in our life again after we have experienced a time of forgiveness. Something triggers an emotional reaction and suddenly we are back in the throes of anger and bitterness. It’s at that moment that we must stop, pray for God’s grace and mercy, and verbally forgive again. This may be a process we will see throughout the rest of our life, because forgiveness is an ongoing work of grace.
  5. Seek forgiveness. If bitterness has ruled in your life for many years, you have likely hurt many in your circle of influence. Bitterness shows itself as anger, criticism, nit-picking, and a myriad of other “relationship busters” that can create havoc in the lives those who life with us. One step in the healing process is to go to your loved-ones and seek forgiveness for being such a tyrant. As we noted above, this may not be a once-and-done step. You may need to seek forgiveness multiple times.
  6. Cast all your cares upon Him. The Apostle Peter gives us a tremendous lesson in bitterness and forgiveness when he states so eloquently, “Cast all of your cares upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Like Hannah, we can take our hurts, our pains, our agony, our anger, our bitterness to the Lord in prayer and surrender them all to Him. Why? Because our Lord cares for you.[4]

Concluding Thoughts

These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.

  1. Has the Lord used this week’s Bible text to put a finger on an area of bitterness in your life?
  1. Who are the Peninnah’s in your life who have repeatedly hurt you that you struggle to forgive? To what degree will your happiness or bitterness over the next five years depend on whether or not you forgive these people? If this applies to you, by faith pledge yourself to forgive these people their sins against you.
  1. Who are the people you suspect you have wronged who may have bitternesses built up against you (think “within twenty-five miles of home”)? Why not pledge yourself to go to these people, apologize, and ask their forgiveness? If you find that idea difficult, why do you think you resist it? If going to them physically is not practical or wise, seek God’s forgiveness and let it go.

[1]  Edward E. Hindson, God Is There in the Tough Times (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1999), 160.

[2] Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 69.

[3] Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Woman’s Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995).

[4] The Steps to Overcoming Bitterness are adapted from Second Half for the Man in the Mirror by Patrick Morley.