David Burge Updates

David Burge updates his journey with leukemia

Elkanah: A Model Father

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1 Samuel 1:1-20

This text could be looked at from the perspective of Hannah (as a model mother) rather than from the perspective of Elkanah (a model father). However I have chosen to follow the story from Elkanah’s perspective while still keeping the figure of Hannah centre stage.

Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs anyone can do. It is also one of the most rewarding. Some things get easier as you go along. I once heard someone say that with their first child every time the child coughed they were in the car and off to Accident and Emergency. The now much more relaxed father said that when his fifth child recently swallowed a five cent piece all he said was, “That’s coming out of your allowance!”

If some things get easier some challenges remain. There are many examples of parenthood in the Bible, some good, some bad. One often overlooked good example is Elkanah, who in many respects was a model father.


Firstly, although not explicit in the text, I believe Elkanah, as a model father, was devoted to his work.

Elkanah seems to have been a relatively well off farmer “in the hill country of Ephraim” (v. 1). He was able to maintain two wives (v. 2)!

I don’t mean to imply that anyone who is rich is righteous, or that the poor are all reprobate. The Bible paints a much more complicated picture. All other things being equal, the Bible says that one who works hard will accrue wealth. The sloth, the lazy person will grow poor. But the Bible also allows that in this fallen world many will work hard and see the fruits of their labour taken away by the oppressor. Wicked men grow rich by oppressing the poor.

In this case, the context shows Elkanah to be a righteous man. His wealth was gained legitimately, through hard work. In this he was a model father. Christians sometimes undervalue so-called “secular work”.  We can tend to see work as a duty that conflicts with our duty to family. Unless taken to extreme this is not the case. Our children learn more (or as much) from our practice as they do from our precepts and they need to see us fulfil our God-given calling to work, if we are to be a model for them.


Second, Elkanah, as a model father, was devoted to his God.

“Year after year” Elkanah went up to Shiloh to worship (1:3, cf. 21). He permitted Hannah’s vow (11 c.f. Num. 30:6ff), and then later he encourages Hannah to keep her vow (23).

All these things show Elkanah, as a model father, to be devoted to his God.

For our children’s sake as well as ours we should be devoted to the worship of God, in public and private settings.


Third, Elkanah, as a model father, was devoted to his wife.

He was dedicated to his wife (vv. 4-7). He spoke out loud tender expressions of love for his wife saying, “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (v. 8)

Hannah did not laugh or belittle his attempts. She was encouraged—she started to eat and drink again (v. 9).


Fourth, both Elkanah and Hannah, as model parents, were devoted to their children.

From the beginning Samuel was dedicated to the Lord. Hannah named her son Samuel in recognition of the fact that she was “Heard of the Lord” (v. 19-20).

My own oldest son Samuel was named both for my Grandfather, Samuel (on my Mother’s side of the family) and for another more “spiritual” reason. Nan and Pop (on my Father’s side of the family) had only one son, my Dad. Mum and Dad, in turn had only one son: me. Pop used to say from time to time (somewhat tongue in cheek) that it was up to me to continue the family name. Pop was very sick when Tarnya was carrying Sam and we did not think he would live to see any future grandchildren. We prayed to God for a boy and God heard our prayer: Hence Samuel.

Hannah said, “I will not go up until the child is weaned” (v. 22). Elkanah allowed her to devote herself to Samuel’s training in those first five years (v. 23). Look at the result. Samuel, perhaps as young as five years of age, was obedient. He slept “where the ark of God was” but did not touch it – he was not struck down (1 Samuel 6:19, 2 Samuel 6:7). No “Uncle Eli’s told you before, don’t touch the ark. Get away from the ark … one … two … Uncle Eli’s getting angry.” Zap! Oops he touched the ark. Samuel was obedient. Samuel was also respectful. Three times Samuel heard a voice in the night (1 Samuel 3:8), thinking it was Eli he ran to do his master’s bidding. No hint of “what does the silly old goat want now?” Lastly, most importantly Samuel was able to hear the voice of the Lord.

Above all, we should desire first and foremost for our children that they are brought up to be obedient, respectful and with hearts prepared to hear the voice of the Lord for themselves. It is this attitude of willing servanthood (1 Samuel 3:10) that is God’s indispensible training for leadership in whatever area of life God calls you to.

This is not an apologetic for “stay at home Mums”. The Proverbs 31 wife and mother combines business interests such as buying and selling real estate (Prov. 31:16a), and plants a vineyard (v. 16b), she sells the produce at a profit (v. 24). She makes her wares and sells them at a profit (v. 24). All this is a part of her managing her household for the good of her husband and her family.


There is a rhythm to life not unlike the passing of the seasons. As the noble wife and mother buys a field to prepare it in time for the planting season, then must await the harvest (she probably makes her tradable goods during the winter), so to the whole of life has its seasons.

A young man who as yet has no family will find in this season of like he is able to devote more time to his chosen career. When a wife and children come along the balance may change. While one should remain devoted to God throughout one’s life, the way is which that devotion is expressed may change through the varying seasons of life. One who has raised his children (and has a proven record of managing his own household well) is better suited for leadership within the church. An older man may be less able to do hard labour but his God given wisdom and experience may equip him to take his place “at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (Prov. 31:23).

A wise father will be devoted to his work, be devoted to his God, to his wife and his children and all with an eye to the seasons of life.


Written by admin

June 23, 2010 at 7:06 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I appreciate your unique take on what I have always heard taught as the ‘Story of Hannah’ and the ‘Story of Samuel’. And I agree with everything you have said. I do want to point out that Elkanah did make a few major mistakes. First, he had two wives, which I know was very common during that time, but more importantly, he favored Hannah above his other wave, Peninnah. You will have to forgive me, but favoritism is a huge soap-box for me. All you have to do is look back though the Old Testament or even at families you know today and see where favoritism has caused so many problems, including the entire religion of Islam!
    Also, when Hannah is distressed over her inability to bear a child, Elkanah’s comment in verse 8 of “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” to me, as a woman who was unable to bear children for several years, was inconsiderate and bordering on conceited. When God gives you ‘Baby Fever’ nothing else will satisfy that but a baby. Especially considering the importance of having a family line during that time, plus a bragging 2nd wife, how could he think that he alone could fill that void in her life? I feel that if he really loved and understood her point of view, he would have been consoling & encouraging her, not belittling her feelings.
    My last concern about Elkanah is that he was whipped by Hannah (not physically, of course). She produces him his first son from ‘the one he loved’ and tells him the child will not be raised in their home, but rather in a church where there are corrupt priest (Eli’s sons), and he says the biblical equivalent to ‘whatever’. I’m sure there was more to the story, but it just struck me as Elkanah did whatever Hannah said because he loved her more.
    Of course, there is some reading between the lines involved when taking a close look at Elkanah, because there is not much written about him. I do agree with you that he was devoted to his work, his God, his wives, and to his children. Today’s fathers especially could learn much from his example, just as we women could learn much from Hannah’s.
    All fathers (and mothers) should make sure to see the new movie coming out in September from the makers of Fireproof called Courageous: Honor Begins at Home. http://www.courageousthemovie.com


    June 29, 2011 at 3:27 pm

  2. Just a few thoughts…As per the First Chronicles genealogy, Elkanah was from the tribe of Levi and hence a Levite. Thus giving up Samuel completely for the work of God was not ‘abnormal’ for him and his family as Levites were primarily meant to serve God in the tabernacle. This would also mean that perhaps Elkanah was not into farming but was serving the tabernacle–whether locally, partially, or occasionally in Shiloh is to be conjectured.


    August 1, 2012 at 3:48 am

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