ELKANAH (Heb. אֶלְקָנָה; "God has created"), father of *Samuel. i Samuel 1:1 names four generations of Elkanah's ancestors, thereby suggesting his important lineage. He lived in Ramathaim-Zophim (ibid.), which was apparently Ramah in the land of Zuph, at the southern end of Mount Ephraim. The genealogical lists in i Chronicles 6:7–12, 17–23, trace Elkanah's line to *Kohath, the son of Levi, i.e., the levites who dwelt in Mount Ephraim. But the text in i Samuel 1:1 calls him an Ephraimite, and there are some who believe that this suggests that he was a descendant of Ephrath, Caleb's concubine, whose line is associated with Beth-Lehem in Judah. Possibly the claim to his descent from Kohath was added by later sources, which concluded from Samuel's priestly service that he was a levite. Elkanah has often been praised for nobility of character attempting to comfort his barren wife Hannah (i Sam. 1:8), but in fact he negates the legitimacy of her feelings, and she is not comforted as the ensuing verses make clear. In the genealogical lists in i Chronicles several ancestors of Samuel are mentioned by the name of Elkanah.
[Samuel Ephraim Loewenstamm]
In the Aggadah
The good deeds of Elkanah are compared with those of Abraham (Agg. Ber. 50). He was the only pious man of his generation, and was able to overcome the problem of having two wives who hated each other (ibid.). He did not marry Peninah until he had been married to Hannah for ten years without offspring (pr 43, 181a). He used to encourage his fellow men to accompany him on pilgrimages to Shiloh, and himself always made four annual pilgrimages instead of the obligatory three. Because he always traveled with his kinsmen and household, his caravan invariably roused the interest of the inhabitants of the towns through which he passed. Elkanah informed them of the purpose of his journey and encouraged them to join him. By taking a different route to Shiloh every year, he was eventually responsible for all Israel going on pilgrimage (ser 8).
Noth, Personennamen, 172; Levi Della Vida, in: jbl, 63 (1944), 8; W. Rudolph, Chronikbuecher (1955), 56. add. bibliography: S. Bar-Efrat, i Samuel (1996), 52.