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Hannah (חנה, also occasionally transliterated as Chana; pronounced /ˈhænə/ )) is a prophet and the wife of Elkanah mentioned in the Books of Samuel. According to the Hebrew Bible she was the mother of Samuel. The Hebrew word "Hannah" has many meanings and interpretations, including "beauty" and "passion".
In the Biblical narrative, Hannah is one of two wives of Elkanah; the other, Peninnah, who bore children to Elkanah, but Hannah remained childless. Nevertheless, Elkanah preferred Hannah. Every year Elkanah would offer a sacrifice at the Shiloh sanctuary, and give Penninah and her children a portion but he gave Hannah a double portion because of his love for her and because she did not have any children. One day Hannah went up to the temple, and prayed with great weeping (I Samuel 1:10), while Eli the High Priest was sitting on a chair near the doorpost. In her prayer she asked God for a son and in return she vowed to give the son back to God for the service of the Shiloh priests. She promised he would remain a Nazarite all the days of his life.
Eli thought she was drunk and questioned her. When she explained herself, he sent her away and effectively said that her prayer would be heard and her desire granted. As promised, she conceived and bore a son. She called his name Samuel, saying , Because I have asked him of Jehovah. She raised him until he was weaned and brought him to the temple along with a sacrifice. The first 10 verses of 1 Samuel 2 record her song of praise to the Lord for answering her petition. Eli announced another blessing on Hannah, and she conceived 3 sons and 2 daughters. (From the text it is unclear whether she had five children total, or five in addition to Samuel. See In Samuel 2:21.)
Hanna or Chana is also the name of another woman found in the Talmud. The narrative is commonly referred to as "Chana and her seven sons". In 165 BCE, King Antiochos demanded that Chana's seven sons bow down to him, and proclaim him as God. Each of the sons refused to bow down to His Highness, and they were each executed in front of their mother Chana, one by one. When Chana's last son was executed, the pain was unbearable, and she committed suicide. She is remembered with high regard for her religious stead-fastness, teaching her sons to keep to their faith, even if it means execution.
Chana is a commonly used name in today's Jewish traditional culture, as remembrance of the women illustrated in the Bible. Children born with the name Chana are usually nicknamed "Chanie", as it is a child-friendly pronunciation, while keeping the root of the name "Chana" intact.
In contemporary Biblical criticism
It has been suggested among Biblical critical commentaries that the name "Samuel" in the story of Samuel is a better etymological reference to the name Saul, and because of this it has been posited that the stories may have been displaced at one time in the narrative's transmission history. Peake's Commentary on the Bible explains:
- Hannah named her son Samuel. The name, in the narrative, is interpreted as meaning "I have asked him of the Lord," but this interpretation belongs, etymologically, to the name Saul. It has therefore been suggested that the etymology, and probably the whole birth story with it, has been displaced from Saul to Samuel in the course of compilation or transmission.
The editors of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia presented but disputed this view, arguing that interpreting Hannah's "asked of God" answer as referring to the etymology of Samuel's name, the basis of the displacement theory, is "not tenable":
- The name "Shemu'el" is interpreted "asked of Yhwh," and, as Khimih suggests, represents a contraction of "M'El Shaul", an opinion which Ewald is inclined to accept ("Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Sprache," p. 275, 3). But it is not tenable. The story of Samuel's birth, indeed, is worked out on the theory of this construction of the name (i. 1 et seq., 17, 20, 27, 28; ii. 20). But even with this etymology the value of the elements would be "priest of El" (Jastrow, in "Jour. Bib. Lit." xix. 92 et seq.). Ch. iii. supports the theory that the name implies "heard by El" or "hearer of El." The fact that "alef" and "'ayin" are confounded in this interpretation does not constitute an objection; for assonance and not etymology is the decisive factor in the Biblical name-legends, and of this class are both the first and the second chapter. The first of the two elements represents the Hebrew term "shem" (= "name"); but in this connection it as often means "son." "Shemu'el," or "Samuel," thus signifies "son of God" (see Jastrow, l.c.).
- ↑ Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 324. ISBN 0582053838. entry "Hannah"
- ↑ (From the Book of Maccabees, II,7)
- ↑ Tractate Gittin 57b
- ↑ Most nicknames end the name with "ee", "ie" or "y", see "Nickname"
- ↑ Root of Chana/Channy is "Chan", Hebrew for "Favor" or "Beauty"
- ↑ Mathew Black, Peake's Commentary on the Bible. Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-26355-7, p. 319
- ↑ "Samuel", Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-1906.