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.
2 Maccabees tells the story of a mother whose seven sons are killed before her eyes because they refuse to violate Jewish mores. The mother recalls the woman of seven sons and her bereft counterpart found in Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2), and perhaps also the mother in Jerusalem described in Jeremiah 15, but offers a new theological twist on Jewish suffering: the promise of resurrection.
Malka Z. Simkovich