Hannah (fl. 11th c. BCE)

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Hannah (fl. 11th c. bce)

Biblical woman. Name variations: Anna; Hannah is possibly an abbreviation of Hananiah. Flourished in the 11th century bce; one of two wives of Elkanah of Ephraim, the Levite (Elkanah's other wife was Peninnah ); children: Samuel the prophet, as well as three other sons and two daughters.

The better beloved of the two wives of Elkanah, an Ephraimite from Ramathaim-zophim, Hannah (meaning "Grace") was long childless. On an annual visit to Shiloh (an ancient administrative and religious center northeast of Jerusalem, later destroyed by the Philistines), Hannah vowed to God that she would dedicate a son to his service, if only she could conceive. This prayer apparently was answered, and Hannah gave birth to Samuel. Because of her vow, Samuel was raised at Shiloh by the site's chief priest, Eli. In time, Samuel became an influential prophet who anointed the first two Israelite kings, Saul and David. According to the Old Testament's First Book of Samuel 2.1-10, Hannah authored a prayer in which God is proclaimed the source of victory, justice, fertility and legitimacy, as well as the source of humility for the proud and exaltation for the meek. In addition to Samuel, she gave birth to three other sons and two daughters, none of whose names are known. In the Talmud, Hannah is considered one of seven important prophetesses, and her prayer is recited in the first day service of Rosh Hashana as an example of a successful plea put before God.

William Greenwalt , Associate Professor of Classical History, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California

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