Peninnah: 2nd Wife of Elkanah

Seeds of Promise Series by Shenica Graham

Peninnah: 2nd Wife of Elkanah

Women of The Bible

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Seeds of Promise Women of the Bible Peninnah: 2nd Wife of Elkanah
I Samuel 1 Audio
Devotional Reading: I Samuel 1:1-6
1 There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill country of Ephraim, named Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, one named Hannah and the other named Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. This man went from his city year by year to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were the Lord’s priests. When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give to Peninnah his wife and all her sons and daughters portions [of the sacrificial meat]. But to Hannah he gave a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had given her no children. [This embarrassed and grieved Hannah] and her rival provoked her greatly to vex her, because the Lord had left her childless.
According to Rabbinical tradition, Hannah was the first wife of Elkanah [1]. She was most beloved by her husband. However, after a decade of marriage, she had not born Elkanah any children. Jewish law provided for the right and requirement of a husband to take a second wife if a ten-year union had produced no offspring [2]. When therefore Elkanah had no heir of Hannah’s womb, he took a second wife – whose name was Peninnah. According to the Jewish Women’s Archive, it may have been Hannah’s idea that he take another wife in order to produce an heir – similar to the stories of Sarah and Hagar and Rachel and Bilhah [3] – the first named in each comparison were the head wives of their husbands, who when they knew themselves to be barren, convinced their husbands to conceive a child with their handmaids.
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Peninnah birthed ten sons and an 2 daughters [4] before Hannah had any children. Peninnah was a thorn in the flesh and a mocker of Hannah. Peninnah would taunt her with embarrassing and depressing statements each day, magnifying the subject of Hannah’s barrenness and the reality of her grief in ways that vexed Hannah’s mind to rob her of any peace. Peninnah was not overtly insulting, but covertly annoying – destroying Hannah’s heart in small pieces from day-to-day, rather than doing something that would bring action against her from her husband. In effect, she was an emotional bully. Peninnah must have used this mode to soothe her own ego, to lessen her own distress at the fact that Hannah was unequivocally more loved by their husband Elkanah – whose preference for Hannah was displayed every time the family traveled to Shiloh to make the yearly sacrifice to God, where Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion of the meat whilst Peninnah and her sons and daughters each had one portion.
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After Hannah’s prayer, when God opened her womb, Peninnah was apparently punished for her vexation of Hannah; and each time that Hannah bore children, a child or children of Peninnah’s was buried. According to the Midrash, after Hannah’s fifth child, Peninnah asked Hannah to pray that her last two living sons be spared [5]. Hannah prayed and God changed the names of the sons, for he called them by Hannah’s motherhood as if she had borne them. Thus, ultimately, the one who was barren birthed five sons and was attributed two son as if she were their mother; and the one who bore twelve children was grieved and no child was acknowledged of her body.
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Footnotes

[1], [3], [4] Kadari, Tamar. “Peninnah: Midrash and Aggadah.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. (Viewed on April 13, 2015) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/peninnah-midrash-and-aggadah&gt;.
[2] Jewish Women’s Archive. “Mishnah.” (Viewed on April 13, 2015) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/glossary/mishnah&gt;.
[5] Jewish Women’s Archive. “Midrash.” (Viewed on April 13, 2015) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/glossary/midrash&gt;.

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