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Elkanah & Penninah:
The Marriage of Convenience

Let me start off by saying unapologetically that Hannah's my girl. I love the way she poured out her heart before God and just laid herself bare at the foot of the cross.

I saw Penninah as the bane of Hannah's existence; that little pinprick that just would not go away. I just imagined her parading her babies before Hannah and saying, "Ooh! Look what I did!"

It wasn't until a few days ago while talking to a friend that it occurred to me that maybe Penninah felt justified in the way she treated Hannah. Let me say that another way: maybe Penninah's treatment of Hannah came from a place of bone-deep hurt, the kind of pain that changes your personality into someone you'd rather not be.   

Penninah's story teaches us that:

Penninah's Silent Cry

Not much is said about Peninnah. By reading I Samuel 1:1-7, we learn that:

  • She was Elkanah's second wife
  • She had children
  • She provoked Hannah and made her miserable

But let's try to put ourselves in Penninah's shoes.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to live in a house where your husband doesn't love you and your rival is paraded in front of you every day?

The Bible says Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion "because he loved her. (I Samuel 1:5)" The unspoken words seem to be "but he did not love Penninah". It's the story of Leah and Jacob all over again. The beloved wife is barren but the secondary wife has a fruitful womb. 

Could it be that Penninah provoked Hannah out of the bitterness of her heart? 

Bringing It Home

Do we treat our partners with grace? Do we recognize that the words we say have long lasting effect? Do we acknowledge that the our behavior towards our spouse are like ripples in a pond?

What we do within the confines of our marriage gets played out in the wider society. It affects our children, our neighbors, our church families, our co-workers. Each of these persons create ripples in their own ponds and the circle becomes ever-widening.

Sow an action and somewhere down the line we reap a character. We need to practice sowing seeds of love, kindness, peace, joy, grace, positive words. If we each concentrated on doing that, then we would reap happiness and the abundant life that Jesus promised us (John 10:10).

Let's Pray

Lord, help us to sow good seeds. Seeds of love and hope and peace. Forgive us where we have treated our partners with less care than they deserved. Help us to practice grace at all times. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Let's Chat

Are there times when you treat your spouse carelessly? Think back to what triggers the behavior and bring it to Jesus. Ask Him to help us fix the underlying factors. Share your action plan in the comments below.

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