“The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn.’”

Hannah’s Prayer, 1 Samuel 2:5 (NRSV)

The Last Shall Be First

Actually, after Samuel, Hannah had three more sons and two daughters, six children in all. It is uncertain how many children Peninah had. Elkinah mentioned ten sons, but he might have been speaking metaphorically. The point, though, is that once Hannah began bearing children, late in life, Peninah’s circumstances changed dramatically. When she had been matriarch, Peninah’s practice was to provoke Hannah severely, making her life a misery. Now Hannah, once barren, bore both sons and daughters and as first wife displaced Peninah.

But there is a deeper theological truth, here. All throughout the scriptures, God has made it clear the Lord’s heart is for the humble and God will lift up the lowly. Those who exalt themselves and make sport of those they deem lesser than will ultimately themselves be brought low by God. As Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

Being Creator of all things, this is God’s to ordain.

When Zechariah turned to his soft and vulnerable baby boy, he spoke of a grand destiny. This son from humble beginnings would become a great prophet. In fact, just as Samuel would be the last Judge of Israel, John would be the last prophet before the Christian era, and both would be known for their humility.

Christmas Carol

What child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The babe, the son of Mary

“What Child Is This?” William Chatterton Dix (1865)


In You “all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through You and for You” (Colossians 1:16). We praise You for our bodies, for our world, and for divine new birth.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High.”

Zechariah’s Prophecy, Luke 1:74 (NRSV)
Three Paintings of the Solsona cathedral altarpiece: 1854-1856 Presentation of Mary Marriage of the Virgin, Visitation. Cathedral of Solsona | By JosepBC – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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