FAMILY RIVALRIES

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 1:1-8

“But to Hannah he gave a doublet portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.” (I Samuel 1:5,6)

The opening chapter of I Samuel tells the story of Samuel’s family. His father’s name was Elkanah, who was a very religious man — “Now the man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh” (v. 3). Hannah and Peninnah were his two wives. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none.

I have ministered to many couples over the years who dealt with the same issue. They desperately wanted children but had not been able to have any. It was a great disappointment to them. Some got bitter at the Lord, others faithfully waited. Some adopted children. We can understand the pain and disappointment Hannah faced.

On top of that, she had a sister who would provoke her grievously. This went on for years — “So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat” (v. 7).

It is hard to understand why Peninnah treated Hannah so terribly. Perhaps it was because their husband seemed to show favoritism to Hannah — “But to Hannah he gave a double portions because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb” (v. 5). It may have been that Peninnah was jealous of her sister because of the attention Elkanah gave Hannah.

There is nothing more disappointing to a parent than to see conflict and rivalry between siblings. I’ve witnessed it in several families over the years. I know of families who have siblings who will not speak to one another and who actually hate each other. How sad!

The only hope for healing relationships like these is the gospel. Jesus can break down walls of hostility and bring reconciliation. “For He Himself is our peace, who has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility…and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:14,16). We need to pray for healing within families who are experiencing hostility and conflict.

Lord Jesus, I pray for families who are facing conflict and bitterness among siblings. I pray for healing and I know that You can bring reconciliation even in the most difficult situations. Thank You that You are our peace and that You have made peace with God on our behalf. You can also bring peace to broken human relationships.

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