“Skinny bones, skinny bones,” the boy taunted. “Stick,” another chimed. In return, I could have chanted “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But even as a little girl, I knew the popular rhyme wasn’t true. Unkind, thoughtless words did hurt—sometimes badly, leaving wounds that went deeper and lasted much longer than a welt from a stone or stick.
Hannah certainly knew the sting of thoughtless words. Her husband, Elkanah, loved her, but she had no children, while his second wife, Peninnah, had many. In a culture where a woman’s worth was often based on having children, Peninnah made Hannah’s pain worse by continually “provoking her” for being childless. She kept it up until Hannah wept and couldn’t eat (1 Samuel 1:6–7).
And Elkanah probably meant well, but his thoughtless response, “Hannah, why are you weeping? . . . Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (v. 8) was still hurtful.
Like Hannah, many of us have been left reeling in the wake of hurtful words. And some of us have likely reacted to our own wounds by lashing out and hurting others with our words. But all of us can run to our loving and compassionate God for strength and healing (Psalm 27:5, 12–14). He lovingly rejoices over us—speaking words of love and grace.
When have you been hurt by unkind words? What helped you to heal? Who needs to hear your grace-filled words?
The historical setting of 1 Samuel 1 is critical to understanding the events recorded in this book. As 1 Samuel opens, it’s the end of the time of the judges, but it’s not yet the time of kings. Bridging that gap will be Samuel, the son who would be born to Hannah after her season of prayer at the tabernacle in Shiloh (1:9–20). Samuel’s role in the transition from judges to kings will include the fact that he’s the last of the judges and the first of the prophets. As a prophet, he would be responsible for anointing Israel’s first two kings: Saul, the kind of king the people wanted (10:17–24); and David, a man after God’s own heart (13:14).