It’s happened a few times that I have watched a news story about someone and asked, “What was that person thinking?” I remember the video clip of Michael Jackson dangling his infant son over a hotel balcony. Then there was a story about students violently beating another student and posting it on social media. And of course there are the cases of unnecessary police brutality. But lastly, I can’t forget the young fellow that escaped a shoe store wearing new tennis shoes without paying for them. Of course, he decided to go back to the scene of the crime to collect his old shoes that he had mistakenly left behind. His reward, two silver bracelets and a free ride to the police precinct. I just wanted to ask, “Why?”Another question arose as I read the story of Hannah and Peninnah. Scripture recounts that Peninnah said some awful and insensitive things to Hannah because she had no children. The Message Bible recounts their story saying, “But her rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children.” Peninnah’s comments brought Hannah a lot of pain.
- So, I let my imagination take me on a fact-finding mission.
During my backward time travel, I had the opportunity to sit down with Peninnah and ask her a few questions. The first one was, Why you gotta be so mean? Things are going well for you. You’ve got a godly husband. You’ve borne him children. You’re well taken cared of. So why are you giving Hannah such a hard time?
She responded, “Look I don’t feel sorry for Hannah. She’s had a charmed life. My little words aren’t going to hurt her. If so, she needs tougher skin.”
I see. Well tell me about your life.
“Not much to tell,” she said. “I had to fight for everything I got. I dreamed of having a family. Everyone else was getting chosen, so I had to put myself out there for Elkanah to notice me. And he did, but for Hannah, it came easy. He went after her. I guess it’s just my way of making myself feel more important. I am being fruitful, living my purpose.”
But do you have to hurt Hannah?
“I guess my wishful thinking is that she’ll get tired of it and leave. Then I will have Elkanah all to myself. We’ll be one big happy family, without the blight of her barrenness. It’s obvious that God must be punishing her for some reason. I think she should go live in exile.
Now, back to the present. I don’t agree with Peninnah’s philosophy on life, but I think she was being honest. She basically believed that Hannah’s presence was taking Elkanah’s attention away from her and hindering the picture she had in her head of what her life was supposed to look like. In her mind, Hannah’s barrenness represented God’s punishment. She had convinced herself that she was helping God by attempting to get rid of someone that God was not pleased with.
Later, we find that God is indeed pleased with Hannah, and she does give birth to a son. Perhaps Peninnah should have spent more time in God’s presence instead of provoking Hannah.
This story reminds me of the danger of basing our actions on a faulty premise or a vision that we did not get from God.
We must be careful when we get that self-righteous feeling. If we begin to justify speaking unkind words because we believe that we are “right,” look out. Someone may soon be asking us, “Why you gotta be so mean?”
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Cassandra Woods is an inspirational writer and speaker who has seen God’s word become real in her own life. She finds great joy in sharing God’s love with other women and encouraging them to develop an intimate relationship with God. Cassandra is married to Christopher and is the mother of a teenager and three young adults. To read more about her, click here.