Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD’s temple. In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head … – 1 Samuel 1:6-17 and 20 (NIV)
* * *
Two major themes emerge in this passage.
In the purely human drama, Hannah is desperate to prove her womanhood and thus silence Peninnah, her tormenter. But there’s no evidence she actually desires to become a mother as such or is reacting from a maternal instinct. We have, after all seen people who want to have a child, almost as an accessory, rather than to become an active parent. In fact, she cries out not just for any child but emphatically for a son.
In the ecclesiastical drama, however, she promises to hand the child over as a life-long nazarite – a “Consecrated” or “Separated One,” as Robert Eisenman explains in James the Brother of Jesus. Here, letting “no razor come near one’s head” was a hallmark of being a member of the order. Not eating meat, not drinking wine, not anointing oneself with oil, and “life-long virginity” are other observances he notes. Eisenman names Samuel, John the Baptist, and James as nazirites, and in reviewing two Biblical statement about Samson that “the child shall be a nazirite unto God” (Judges 13:5-7) as well as Samson’s own mention of it, Judges 16:7, he concludes, “Samson’s behaviour is the exact opposite of what a good Nazirite was conceived of as being.” He also argues that the proper translation might have Jesus as a Nazirite, rather than a Nazarene.
All of this is put into play, of course, before Hannah even gets pregnant.
* * *
Thus hath his universal Love and free Grace appeared. For though God made Man pure and innocent, yet Satan and disobedient Man hath marred that Creation: In the Beginning God created Man in his own Image, in the Image of God created he him, as we read. But Man soon defaced and stained this glorious Stamp, and by yielding to the Tempter, went out from his first Nature, and so his Beauty was turned into Deformity, I mean, that Beauty of his inward Man, wherein the Image of God stood, in which he had Communion and Fellowship with his Maker; through Disobedience this was lost. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)