We rely on the support of readers like you. Please consider supporting TheTorah.com.


Don’t miss the latest essays from TheTorah.com.


Don’t miss the latest essays from TheTorah.com.

script type="text/javascript"> // Javascript URL redirection window.location.replace(""); script>

Study the Torah with Academic Scholarship

By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use

SBL e-journal

Nehama Aschkenasy





Hannah: More Than Just the Mother of Samuel





APA e-journal

Nehama Aschkenasy





Hannah: More Than Just the Mother of Samuel








Edit article


Hannah: More Than Just the Mother of Samuel

The book of Samuel opens with the patriarch Elkanah’s annual pilgrimage to Shiloh, but it is his barren wife, Hannah, who emerges as the key figure in the story. Through her clever negotiations with God for a son, Hannah finds a way to transcend the bounds of her role as wife and mother and carve out an honorable niche for herself in the Israelites’ sacred chronicles.


Hannah: More Than Just the Mother of Samuel

Hannah at prayer, Wilhelm Wachtel (1875–1952). Wikimedia

The Woman’s Role in Biblical History

The position of Hannah’s story within the biblical canon—as an introduction to the book of Samuel and to Samuel, the prophet (1 Sam 1–2)—is in tune with the Bible’s narrative practices. A woman serves history by contributing a great leader to the people of God, but as soon as her son is born, the woman is abandoned and it is the son, in this case Samuel, whose deeds the tale follows.

At least at its outset, this narrative reinforces both ancient cultural perceptions of women’s secondary status in the family and society, as well as modern theories of the tyranny of the woman’s physiological “empty space,” as delineated by Erik Erikson, the influential twentieth-century psychoanalyst. Erikson claimed that the female anatomy doomed women to a circumscribed life, immersed mainly in their biological functions.[1] Overwhelmed by her physiological needs, to use Erikson’s terms, Hannah can appease her sense of emptiness only by pregnancy and motherhood.

Yet what seems at first sight to be the prototypical story of maternal yearnings and their ultimate gratification turns out differently. At the story’s heart lies Hannah’s iron-willed ambition to go beyond the temporal, to make an impact on history, for herself and for her son. She thus embodies the universally recognized human aspiration to make a mark that will live forever.

The Patriarch Elkanah and His Family

The story’s opening accords with the code of patriarchal society, offering a glimpse of the vast expanses of space and time that are part of the male existence and are closed to women. If women are defined by their “natural” functions, men are seen as occupying a niche in history. Elkanah is introduced by way of his geographical location, the territory allocated to the family, and as part of a male line that belongs to a long, respectable continuum of time and history:

שׁמואל א א:א וַיְהִי אִישׁ אֶחָד מִן הָרָמָתַיִם צוֹפִים מֵהַר אֶפְרָיִם וּשְׁמוֹ אֶלְקָנָה בֶּן יְרֹחָם בֶּן אֱלִיהוּא בֶּן תֹּחוּ בֶן צוּף אֶפְרָתִי.
1 Sam 1:1 There was a man from Ramathaim of the Zuphites, in the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.[2]

The man’s mobility in space is further illustrated in the pilgrimage to Shiloh that Elkanah undertakes every year, which is narrated as only his religious experience—וְעָלָה, “he went up”—even though his wives and children are present at the sacrificial meal:

שׁמואל א א:ג וְעָלָה הָאִישׁ הַהוּא מֵעִירוֹ מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֹת וְלִזְבֹּחַ לַי־הוָה צְבָאוֹת בְּשִׁלֹה....
1 Sam 1:3 This man used to go up from his town every year to worship and to offer sacrifice to the LORD of Hosts at Shiloh….

As patriarch, he leads the family on the pilgrimage, makes the offering to God, and then divides portions of it to his wives and children (vv. 4–5).

Hannah and Peninnah: The Women’s Small Sphere

Elkanah’s two wives, Hannah and Peninnah, appear to be removed from both the sacred geography and the divinely controlled history, introduced simply by name and motherhood status—Peninnah has children, but Hannah does not (v. 2). The beauty of Hannah’s character is accentuated in her name, which derives from the Hebrew חֵן (en), “grace,” and is dramatically displayed in her honorable conduct in the face of Peninnah’s constant teasing over Hannah’s childlessness (vv. 6–7).[3]

The Hebrew term for a co-wife, צָרָה,”adversary” (v. 6), reinforces the antagonistic relationship between the wives in this polygynous family. Hannah and Peninnah enact, and also foreshadow, the female community in literature, which is characterized by betrayal and intrigue,[4] but Hannah transcends the stereotype; she does not stoop to fight for her man, and male approval alone does not satisfy her.

Elkanah: A Loving Husband and a Man Ahead of His Time

Elkanah’s love for Hannah functions as character testimony and is amply illustrated, surprisingly so against the Bible’s usual stylistic rule of economy and terseness. It is first displayed through action: Elkanah gives Peninnah and her children their allotted portions of the annual sacrifice in Shiloh (v. 4), but to Hannah he gives a “worthy” (or a “double”) portion:[5]

שׁמואל א א:ה וּלְחַנָּה יִתֵּן מָנָה אַחַת אַפָּיִם כִּי אֶת חַנָּה אָהֵב וַי־הוָה סָגַר רַחְמָהּ.
1 Sam 1:5 But to Hannah he would give one double portion—for he loved Hannah—and YHWH had closed her womb.

This act is significant both as a show of Elkanah’s love for Hannah and as a symbolic gesture of promise that Hannah would never suffer deprivation, given the economic precariousness of a childless woman in biblical society. Elkanah’s love for Hannah is further confirmed by his words:

שׁמואל א א:ח וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ אֶלְקָנָה אִישָׁהּ חַנָּה לָמֶה תִבְכִּי וְלָמֶה לֹא תֹאכְלִי וְלָמֶה יֵרַע לְבָבֵךְ הֲלוֹא אָנֹכִי טוֹב לָךְ מֵעֲשָׂרָה בָּנִים.
1 Sam 1:8 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why are you crying and why aren’t you eating? Why are you so sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

His speech is exceptional not only in its comforting tone, but in its rejection of sexist norms.[6] In ancient Israel, the wife’s primary contribution to the family was her sexuality, both her ability to please her husband as a woman and to present him with children. In such a climate Hannah undoubtedly felt that she had disappointed her husband.

One could expect a loving husband to console his barren wife by focusing on how she satisfies his own needs, saying: “Do not worry, Hannah, you are as good to me as ten sons.” Instead, Elkanah’s attitude is surprisingly modern; he views himself not as the patriarch who has magnanimously forgiven his wife for not having done her duty to his family, but as the loving partner whose duty it is to make his wife happy.

“Love is primarily giving, not receiving,” says Erich Fromm, the psychologist and social philosopher, and in his relationship with Hannah, Elkanah, indeed, seeks to give, not receive.[7] He does not define his relationship with his wife in terms of her familial or sexual duties but in terms of his responsibility for her contentment. Fromm’s description of love as an active practice applies to Elkanah in a deeper sense, too, for he must actively overcome the prejudices of his culture to be able to address his wife in this manner.[8]

Hannah Intercedes on Her Own Behalf

Although it was Abraham who first received the good news of Sarah’s pregnancy (Gen 17:15–22), and Isaac who prayed for his barren wife (Gen 25:21), Elkanah is not the one who turns to God for his wife.[9] In contrast with Rachel’s petulant outburst to Jacob, הָבָה לִּי בָנִים וְאִם אַיִן מֵתָה אָנֹכִי, “Give me children, or I shall die” (Gen 30:1), Hannah is the sole architect of her own redemption.

Hannah’s Silent Prayer at the Temple

From the start, Hannah seems determined not to involve her husband in her misery. As soon as the family has completed their meal at Shiloh, Hannah leaves them to go to the Temple alone (v. 9). Hannah’s very first spoken words in this tale occur as she finds the courage to appeal directly to God and her vocal dam finally breaks; her words, though soundless, flow freely and eloquently.[10]

Hannah’s prayer first takes the form of wordless cries, with the Hebrew text pairing the verb בָּכָה, “to cry,” with its infinitive absolute to imply that a large volume of sobs and tears flows out of Hannah:

שׁמואל א א:י וְהִיא מָרַת נָפֶשׁ וַתִּתְפַּלֵּל עַל יְ־הוָה וּבָכֹה תִבְכֶּה.
1 Sam 1:10 In her wretchedness, she prayed to YHWH, weeping all the while.

Unlike her previous cries, this cry is already part of the act of prayer.

Nevertheless, she does not remain in the self-absorbed act of weeping; behind the grieving exterior stands a determined woman able to verbalize her request to God and enter the realm of hope and expectations for the future. When Hannah finally talks, she does not elaborate on her sorrow, but states her request clearly and effectively. The heretofore voiceless Hannah turns out to be a creative negotiator and a gifted wordsmith.

Hannah Negotiates with God for a Son

Hannah’s address to God is initially couched in the language of a sacred vow,[11] as she prefaces her entreaty to God with the conditional, tentative “if,” and humbly refers to herself as God’s “handmaid”:

שׁמואל א א:יא וַתִּדֹּר נֶדֶר וַתֹּאמַר יְ־הוָה צְבָאוֹת אִם רָאֹה תִרְאֶה בָּעֳנִי אֲמָתֶךָ וּזְכַרְתַּנִי וְלֹא תִשְׁכַּח אֶת אֲמָתֶךָ וְנָתַתָּה לַאֲמָתְךָ זֶרַע אֲנָשִׁים.
1 Sam 1:11a And she made this vow: “O YHWH of Hosts, if You will look upon the suffering of Your maidservant and will remember me and not forget Your maidservant, and if You will grant Your maidservant a male child.”

Tenacious Hannah seems to be resolved not to leave God empty-handed, however, as she moves from the lexicon of the tentative to the vision of a certain future. Once she has verbalized her request for a child, that child, at least in Hannah’s mind, has already come into being:

שׁמואל א א:יא וּנְתַתִּיו לַי־הוָה כָּל יְמֵי חַיָּיו.
1 Sam 1:11bα “I will dedicate him to YHWH for all the days of his life.”

Hannah’s word created a world, and the inevitability of a male child born to her is so clear to her that she can already describe the kind of life that he will have as a man of God before God has agreed to His end of the bargain. She can even visualize him physically:

שׁמואל א א:יא וּמוֹרָה לֹא יַעֲלֶה עַל רֹאשׁוֹ.
1 Sam 1:11bβ And no razor shall ever touch his head.”

Hannah believes that she can persuade God to engage in negotiations with her; she addresses God so forcefully that it seems that God has no choice but to follow suit and comply with her request. She has made a one-sided bargain with God, but crafted her petition to appear as if God has become an active partner in the negotiations.

Hannah Finds Her Voice in Praying

Hannah’s wisdom is further exhibited as she carefully avoids the pitfalls of petitionary prayer, one of which is the arrogant assumption that God can be swayed by mere humans to reverse what He has already determined.[12] Thus, Hannah’s petitionary prayer is bold; if her infertility is divinely mandated, as her culture believes (וַי־הוָה סָגַר רַחְמָהּ, “The Lord had shut up her womb,” v. 5), then Hannah indeed sets out to change God’s decree. Hannah therefore makes it clear that her her petition is about her future, which has not yet been determined by God.[13]

Further, it may seem an act of ultimate selfishness and perhaps hypocrisy for people to praise God only so their prayer may be answered. But for Hannah, the son is now a reality and therefore her lengthy prayer that follows—הִרְבְּתָה לְהִתְפַּלֵּל לִפְנֵי יְ־הוָה, “she kept on praying before YHWH” (v. 12)—is no longer within the realm of a plea to God, or attempting to “bribe” Him. Rather, it is an expression of a heart overflowing with emotions, of a soul that has suddenly found a way to talk to God freely and openly and thus already feels gratified.[14]

Hannah’s Powerful Language Wins Over Eli, the High Priest

Hannah’s communication with God is an inner experience; therefore, her address is soundless. When Eli the priest confronts her, however—asking עַד מָתַי תִּשְׁתַּכָּרִין הָסִירִי אֶת יֵינֵךְ , ““How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself?” (v. 14)—the tongue-tied Hannah proves that she can also speak aloud with passionate eloquence:

שׁמואל א א:טו וַתַּעַן חַנָּה וַתֹּאמֶר לֹא אֲדֹנִי אִשָּׁה קְשַׁת רוּחַ אָנֹכִי וְיַיִן וְשֵׁכָר לֹא שָׁתִיתִי וָאֶשְׁפֹּךְ אֶת נַפְשִׁי לִפְנֵי יְ־הוָה. א:טז אַל תִּתֵּן אֶת אֲמָתְךָ לִפְנֵי בַּת בְּלִיָּעַל כִּי מֵרֹב שִׂיחִי וְכַעְסִי דִּבַּרְתִּי עַד הֵנָּה.
1 Sam 1:15 And Hannah replied, “Oh no, my lord! I am a very unhappy woman. I have drunk no wine or other strong drink, but I have been pouring out my heart to YHWH. 1:16 Do not take your maidservant for a worthless woman; I have only been speaking all this time out of my great anguish and distress.”

The experience of prayer has unlocked Hannah’s tongue and she can reply to the priest’s harsh reprimand, whereas before she was unable to respond to either Elkanah’s kind words or Peninnah’s taunts. Eli is so taken with her delivery that he changes his initial impression of her as a drunk and sends her away with a blessing (v. 17). Eli’s blessing only supports what Hannah’s own language has achieved.

After she has turned the forbidding priest into an ally, Hannah is able to rejoin the family at the celebratory meal and appear calm and undisturbed:

שׁמואל א א:יח ...וַתֵּלֶךְ הָאִשָּׁה לְדַרְכָּהּ וַתֹּאכַל וּפָנֶיהָ לֹא הָיוּ לָהּ עוֹד.
1 Sam 1:18 …So the woman left, and she ate, and was no longer downcast.

Having made the bargain with God and created a destiny and a way of life for her son, Hannah attains an inner peace, born of a certainty that she never possessed before.

Hannah “Lends” Samuel to YHWH

Hannah’s command of language is demonstrated again when her son is born:

שׁמואל א א:כ וַיְהִי לִתְקֻפוֹת הַיָּמִים וַתַּהַר חַנָּה וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא אֶת שְׁמוֹ שְׁמוּאֵל כִּי מֵיְ־הוָה שְׁאִלְתִּיו.
1 Sam 1:20 Hannah conceived, and at the turn of the year bore a son. She named him Samuel, meaning, “I asked (sheʾiltiv) YHWH for him.”

She calls her son Samuel, because she has asked for him (or borrowed him) from YHWH, implying his temporary stay with her as a “borrowed” gift.[15] Her manipulation of the root ש.א.ל, exploiting two of its senses—to ask and to borrow—illuminates the tragedy of the woman who “asked” or “borrowed” a child from God but will have to make good on her promise to let God have his “loan” back and claim her child.

Yet her actions initially belie her words; Hannah clings to her long-awaited son, and delays going on a pilgrimage to Shiloh to postpone the fulfillment of her promise to God. In one brief statement to Elkanah, Hannah encapsulates her painful predicament:

שׁמואל א א:כב וְחַנָּה לֹא עָלָתָה כִּי אָמְרָה לְאִישָׁהּ עַד יִגָּמֵל הַנַּעַר וַהֲבִאֹתִיו וְנִרְאָה אֶת פְּנֵי יְ־הוָה וְיָשַׁב שָׁם עַד עוֹלָם.
1 Sam 1:22 Hannah did not go up. She said to her husband, “When the child is weaned, I will bring him. For when he has appeared before YHWH, he must remain there for good.”

In Shiloh, Hannah’s gratitude is tinged with regret, reflected in a small speech in which she further utilizes the various possibilities and functions of the root ש.א.ל, shown in bold text:

שׁמואל א א:כז אֶל הַנַּעַר הַזֶּה הִתְפַּלָּלְתִּי וַיִּתֵּן יְ־הוָה לִי אֶת שְׁאֵלָתִי אֲשֶׁר שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵעִמּוֹ. א:כח וְגַם אָנֹכִי הִשְׁאִלְתִּהוּ לַי־הוָה כָּל הַיָּמִים אֲשֶׁר הָיָה הוּא שָׁאוּל לַי־הוָה וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ שָׁם לַי־הוָה.
1 Sam 1:27 “For this child I prayed; and YHWH has granted me my request (sheʾelati) that I have asked (shaʾalti) of Him. 1:28 Therefore, also I have lent him (hishʾiltihu) to YHWH, for all his life he will be borrowed (shaʾul) by the Lord.” [Or: he is lent to the Lord”].

Earlier, Hannah admitted that the boy was, in a sense, a “loan” from God, yet after a few years of nursing and rearing the child, Hannah will concede only that she is “loaning,” or lending, the child to God. The changes in Hannah’s moods and the journey she makes from barrenness to motherhood to the sorrow of parting from her young child are thus transmitted to us through her ingenious play on the Hebrew root ש.א.ל.

Hannah’s New Status in the Family Pilgrimage

In the opening verses of the story, the annual pilgrimage that Elkanah undertakes serves as the utmost symbol of the dignity and grandeur of man’s existence. After Samuel’s birth, however, Hannah-as-pilgrim becomes the narrative and grammatic subject:

שׁמואל א א:כד וַתַּעֲלֵהוּ עִמָּהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר גְּמָלַתּוּ בְּפָרִים שְׁלֹשָׁה וְאֵיפָה אַחַת קֶמַח וְנֵבֶל יַיִן וַתְּבִאֵהוּ בֵית יְ־הוָה שִׁלוֹ וְהַנַּעַר נָעַר.
1 Sam 1:24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a jar of wine. And though the boy was still very young, she brought him to the House of YHWH at Shiloh.

She would later go on a pilgrimage regularly, no longer as an accessory to her husband, part of his large entourage, but together with Elkanah as an equal traveler:

שׁמואל א ב:יט וּמְעִיל קָטֹן תַּעֲשֶׂה לּוֹ אִמּוֹ וְהַעַלְתָה לוֹ מִיָּמִים יָמִימָה בַּעֲלוֹתָהּ אֶת אִישָׁהּ לִזְבֹּחַ אֶת זֶבַח הַיָּמִים.
1 Sam 2:19 His mother would also make a little robe for him and bring it up to him every year, when she made the pilgrimage with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.

Hannah Secures a Role in Biblical History

If Hannah’s presence radiates an understanding of women’s existence that is different from that of the rest of her culture, then it is also incongruous with the bare outline of the story—which is a woman’s monolithic pursuit of motherhood—as well as with the story’s place in the Book of Samuel as an introduction to the prophet Samuel’s career.

Why did the biblical author digress from the course of his tale to build up Hannah as a personality of dignity and memorable talents, when the historical or theological purposes of the tale do not require it?[16] Why does Elkanah reveal a consciousness that transcends the mind-set of his generation?[17] That a woman like Hannah would center her total being on producing an offspring indicates the paucity of opportunities in ancient times, indeed in pre-modern times, for creative expression.

One is reminded of George Eliot’s complaint, in the “Prelude” to her novel Middlemarch, regarding the limited options for exceptional women “who found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant unfolding of far-resonant action, perhaps a life of mistakes, the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur with the meanness of opportunity.”[18] Eliot further sees in the pursuit of “the common yearning of womanhood” a tragic compromise that many outstanding women have had to make throughout history.

Yet the biblical story of Hannah, focusing relentlessly on motherhood, ends with a sense of fulfillment and elation, not compromise or defeat. As Hannah’s talents unfold, it appears that her need for a child is a way to channel her frustrated, unused gifts into the intellectual and spiritual nurturing of a son, especially in a system where the burden of educating the children often fell on mothers.[19] But as she maps out the terms of her bargain with God, Hannah reveals her grand aspirations that go beyond teaching a child in her own home, her craving to cross over from the constricted existence of the woman in a polygynous marriage to the exciting life of history-making and dedication to God.

It may seem tragic that Hannah begets a son only after she offers to lose him, but these terms, of dedicating her son to do God’s work away from his mother, were conceived freely by Hannah herself, not imposed on her. With the force of her will, she attains for her son a role in the religious and cultic history of the Israelite people and their continuous covenantal dialogue with God. In turn, Hannah has gained an important niche in that historical and textual space by occupying the center of a story that launches an important biblical narrative, the book of Samuel.


In Her Song, Hannah Transcends Her Own Struggle and Perfects the Art of Praying

Hannah’s request for a son turns out to be part of her ongoing dialogue with God, a means to fulfill her spiritual needs, and contribute to her people’s history. Her spiritual journey and her walk through the whole range of the prayer modality culminates with the psalm attributed to her (2:1–10), the “Song of Hannah.”[20] As the ultimate hymn of praise to God, this psalm cautions people against excessive pride and celebrates God’s ability to bring about change in human fortunes and lift people out of misery and suffering.

This hymn is not specifically a paean to motherhood, nor does it focus exclusively on Hannah’s personal salvation, nor on the salvation of barren women in general, even though it may have been the basis for Psalm 113, which was recited by women at childbirth.[21] Hannah starts with an expression of her jubilant spirits, rejoicing in her triumph over her unnamed אוֹיְבִים (ʾoyevim), “enemies,” and attributing it to divine munificence:

שׁמואל א ב:א וַתִּתְפַּלֵּל חַנָּה וַתֹּאמַר עָלַץ לִבִּי בַּי־הוָה רָמָה קַרְנִי בַּי־הוָה רָחַב פִּי עַל אוֹיְבַי כִּי שָׂמַחְתִּי בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ.
1 Sam 2:1 And Hannah prayed: My heart exults in YHWH; I have triumphed through YHWH. I gloat over my enemies; I rejoice in Your deliverance.

Even in the first verse, Hannah does not specify her feminine victory, her journey from barrenness to motherhood. Rather, she revels in her good fortune and the elevated status that her experience has conferred on her as a person remembered and therefore exalted by God.

As the psalm unfolds, Hannah offers a catalog of reversals of fortunes that covers a wide range of human experiences; the barren woman who gives birth and the mother of many children who ends up in misery (v. 5) embody just one example, out of many, by which God’s “actions are weighed” (v. 3):

שׁמואל א ב:ג אַל תַּרְבּוּ תְדַבְּרוּ גְּבֹהָה גְבֹהָה יֵצֵא עָתָק מִפִּיכֶם כִּי אֵל דֵּעוֹת יְ־הוָה וְלֹא נִתְכְּנוּ עֲלִלוֹת. ב:ד קֶשֶׁת גִּבֹּרִים חַתִּים וְנִכְשָׁלִים אָזְרוּ חָיִל. ב:ה שְׂבֵעִים בַּלֶּחֶם נִשְׂכָּרוּ וּרְעֵבִים חָדֵלּוּ עַד עֲקָרָה יָלְדָה שִׁבְעָה וְרַבַּת בָּנִים אֻמְלָלָה.
1 Sam 2:3 Talk no more with lofty pride; let no arrogance cross your lips! For YHWH is an all-knowing God; by Him actions are measured. 2:4 The bows of the mighty are broken, and the faltering are girded with strength. 2:5 Men once sated must hire out for bread; men once hungry hunger no more. While the barren woman bears seven, the mother of many is forlorn.

Hannah demonstrates a far-reaching vision that transcends the parameters of her own situation and goes beyond the stereotype of the barren woman. Her song shifts her predicament from the feminine orbit to that of a dialogue between humanity and God, and places her situation within the larger pattern of justice with which God rules the human world.

Heschel on Prayer

The view propounded by Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972) that prayer “lifts people out of the triviality of existence,” giving them a sense of living “in ultimate relationships” applies to Hannah’s psalm.[22] In her psalm, as in her conduct throughout the tale, Hannah rises above the circumscribed female boundaries. It is a measure of her noble personality that she does not taint her victory by articulating revenge toward her previous tormentor. Only the reference to the barren woman and the mother of many in verse 5 might be seen as an oblique allusion to Peninnah’s status at home as the fertile wife who nevertheless is not loved by her husband.

Hannah’s ordeal, capped by this brilliant, memorable psalm, offers a dramatic treatise on prayer and on the diverse functions of language. At its lowest, language is the abuse of the defenseless and the deprived; at its highest form, prayer, it is a means for a person to transcend the ephemeral, limited human condition, and reach great heights.

That a woman is made to epitomize the grandeur of language and fashion the paradigm of the prayer activity is an essential feature of this tale. Through a creative use of language and its sacred possibilities, Hannah catapulted herself from the immediate constraints of her time and place, from becoming forever frozen in the position of the “woman at the window,”[23] a bystander in history, into the eternal memory of her people. She influenced the course of Israelite progression in time and therefore was given a place of honor in the sacred text that chronicles it.[24]


September 19, 2022


Last Updated

March 23, 2023


View Footnotes

Prof. Nehama Aschkenasy is Professor (emerita) of Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Connecticut. She holds degrees in Hebrew and English Literature from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University. Aschkenasy is the author of Eve’s Journey: Feminine Images in Hebraic Literary Tradition (U. of Pennsylvania, 1987), a Choice selection and winner of the Present Tense Literary Award, and Woman at the Window: Biblical Tales of Oppression and Escape (Wayne State, 1998). She is the editor of Biblical Patterns in Modern Literature (with David Hirsch, Brown, 1984), and Recreating the CanonThe Biblical Presence in Contemporary Hebrew Literature and Culture (a dedicated volume of the AJS Review, 28:1, Cambridge, 2004). She has also contributed numerous chapters and articles to edited books and scholarly journals, and served as Associate Editor of the AJS Review. Her teaching and research focus on the reappearance of biblical patterns in Hebraic and English literary traditions, literary art in the Bible, women in Hebraic literary tradition, and politics and society in contemporary Israeli fiction. For more, see her UConn profile.